Archbishop of Dublin Condemns the Messages of Maria Divine Mercy

16 April, 2014 at 9:07 am

It has come up in the comments a number of times as the discussion of the alleged locutions of Maria Divine Mercy has unfolded here over the past few weeks: only the Archbishop of Dublin has the jurisdiction and authority to condemn her messages.

It now appears that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has done exactly that:

STATEMENT OF ARCHDIOCESE OF DUBLIN

ON THE ALLEGED VISIONARY “MARIA DIVINE MERCY”

Requests for clarification have been coming to the Archdiocese of Dublin concerning the authenticity of alleged visions and messages received by a person who calls herself “Maria Divine Mercy” and who may live in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin wishes to state that these messages and alleged visions have no ecclesiastical approval and many of the texts are in contradiction with Catholic theology.

These messages should not be promoted or made use of within Catholic Church associations.

 

I have already offered my own opinion that these were false, but now the competent authority has drawn a line in the sand. Some will no doubt point out that Saint Faustina’s Diary and the Divine Mercy devotion were once condemned by the CDF, and are now among the most popular approved private revelations in the Church. That something like this could happen does not mean that it will happen. For now, the spirit of obedience and docility to Church authority that is demanded of the faithful means that Catholics need to distance themselves from the messages of “Maria Divine Mercy”.

There are enough indications in the Church of some form of coming chastisement without resorting to false messages from heaven that tell us things we want to hear, even if we only want to hear them because they confirm our fears.

Truth is what matters. God’s truth, not the idea of truth we want to impose on Him.

Keep praying. Keep asking for discernment. The enemy is laying traps to ensnare those of us who are seeing his sabotage of the Church. Don’t get pulled in.

 

A Word About “Maria Divine Mercy”

10 April, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Since we’ve been waxing apocalyptic here of late, it’s not at all surprising that certain private revelations have come up which warn of dire things to come in the immediate future.

Foremost among these in the comment boxes has been “Maria Divine Mercy”, whose “messages” from on high can be found here.

I admit, I read with interest certain of her prophecies, particularly after she predicted the departure of Pope Benedict from the papal office a year in advance (and repeatedly so) and certain other messages that seemed interestingly timed, like warnings of coming earthquakes just a few days before LA, Yellowstone, Chile, Oklahoma, and others started experiencing earthquakes of and unusual seismic activity.

There are things I can’t explain about these “messages”, things that were predicted which seem unlikely without foreknowledge of some kind. And while most of the dozen or so I read seemed compatible with Catholic life, they almost always made me feel uneasy. I certainly have no authority to confirm them or, for that matter, to condemn them.

Since I know it will come up, I’ll say this: I don’t discount them because of what they say about Pope Francis; he may not be the false prophet that MDM’s “messages” say he is, but he’s doing plenty of damage either way, and I am forced to admit that if he were revealed to be this “false prophet”, my most likely reaction would be, “Well, that explains some things.” Nor do I discount them because they claim that Pope Benedict was forced out of office. I’m afraid that that’s a possibility I haven’t yet been able to fully discount — and logic demands we admit that if he was coerced, he would hardly confess it when asked if whatever danger he had been threatened with still existed.

But this is all speculation. If we’re going to personally accept or reject private revelation that the Church has not yet spoken definitively on, it should be for more substantive reasons than things which can neither be proven or disproven within the contents of those “revelations”.

There are certain aspects in some of the MDM messages which force me to conclude that they are most likely not genuine. The messages are supposed to be dictations from Mary, God the Father, and Jesus, but the messages themselves do not, in my opinion, reflect the sense of the way any of these heavenly figures would speak or have spoken (when taking other approved apparitions into account).

Further, I find the messages like this deeply troubling, and entirely outside the realm of Catholic thought. My analysis is lifted directly from the comment boxes:

The big problem with that message … is this:

“Never interfere with the Power of the Holy Spirit for this is a very serious sin.

In these messages the Voice of the Holy Spirit is being poured out to save mankind from eternal damnation.

You may deny Me, your Jesus, or the Divine messages given to you by My Beloved Mother and you will be forgiven.

For all of you have the right to discern such Holy Messages because of your gift of free will.

However, when you reject the Holy Spirit and publicly blaspheme against it this is an eternal sin and only a miracle, sanctioned by God the Father, can save your soul.”

I have been skeptical since I first encountered the messages, but some of them confirmed my own suspicions or predicted things that seem impossible to have predicted. But it was when I read the words above that I felt strongly for the first time that these messages are fake. The Church never demands that we follow private revelation. Instead, she teaches:

“Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium[collective sense of the faithful] knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such ‘revelations’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 67).

God would never demand that people believe what the Church — to which He has given the power to “bind and loose” — does not compel them to believe. Nor would He say that those who are skeptical of private revelation are “blaspheming” against the Holy Spirit. This is a major red flag.

First, because this is not the Church’s understanding of the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The Church believes (see Aquinas/Augustinehttp://www.newadvent.org/summa/3014.htm ) that the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is actually the act of “final impenitence” — namely, that a person has so cultivated a habit of malicious sin that he is unable to be repentant at the hour of death. It has also at times been understood to mean suicide, because again, final penitence for the mortal sin of taking one’s own life is impossible. (You could argue that these are both sins against hope, especially hope of eternal salvation, which is a virtue strongly associated with the Holy Spirit).

Secondly, because this seeks to squash criticism or critical analysis of these private revelations. Truth bears every scrutiny and stands unscathed. Trying to create the fear of hell in those who might be critical of private, non-binding revelation is simply not in line with any Catholic conception of God.

As much as there is something interesting happening here, I am growing very wary of it’s nature and source. That it could bear good fruit in your life may have nothing to do with the messages themselves and everything to do with God rewarding your faith in Him, even if these are not real messages *from* Him. He can certainly draw good from evil, so the experience you’ve had is not outside the realm of possibility.

Also germane to the discussion is something pointed out by a commenter named Tim, who says:

Visions are not like sacraments, which produce their effect by their own power (that is, the power of Christ working through them) in those who do not place an obstacle. One of the most approved series of visions are those of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary. On one occasion, He had told her to do something, but her Superior did not approve. When He came again, she asked Him about this, and He replied: “Therefore not only do I desire that you should do what your Superior commands, but also that you should do nothing of all that I order without their consent. I love obedience, and without it no one can please me” (Autobiography of St. Margaret Mary # 47).” That’s quite a contrast from the “Jesus” of mdm who says” Obedience to Me at all times is expected of you.” (message of Oct. 13, 2011)

It always comes back to obedience. To the visible structure of the Church that God left us. We simply can’t trust any private revelation that seeks to circumvent or supercede the Church’s God-given authority. I believe that it’s possible for the man everyone thinks is pope to not truly be pope, and thus give the appearance of promulgating error, but I also believe that the only man who has the authority to address or correct this would be a legitimate successor of Saint Peter — whether he says it from Rome or from a catacomb somewhere. We don’t know what will befall the Church before Christ comes again, but there’s enough biblical prophecy and approved private revelation out there telling us it may not be pretty that it’s not unreasonable to believe that it…may not be pretty.

I’m really not interested in starting a flame war in the comments, but I feel it’s important for me to address this issue since I brought it up by quoting Dr. Bowring’s work.

For the time being, I’m forced to conclude that Maria Divine Mercy’s messages — whether in their entirety or in part — should not be trusted. I’ll leave it to the Church to put the nail in that coffin or not.

 

UPDATE (4/16/2014): The Archbishop of Dublin has now released a statement condemning the messages of Maria Divine Mercy. You can read his statement here.

Lines of Division and Convergence

2 April, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Yesterday, several people sent me this article by Thomas McDonald, which makes it sound as though if you’re listening to guys like me and my apocalyptic musings, you’re somewhere between a crazy person in the making and a pitiable apostate. I had some back and forth with the author on Twitter, and it got contentious, but in the end I tried to salvage the debate. I knew that there would be people who would disagree with and even malign me, and I said in advance that I don’t doubt the sincerity of their faith even if I think they’re reaching the wrong conclusions. There is no surprise here.

What is surprising is this.

Posted in the comments today or yesterday, this article is strikingly similar in its analysis and conclusions to what I wrote in “Something Wicked.” Certain specific insights — like the relationship between Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s prophecied concession that “could not be granted” with the possible move to admit the divorced and remarried to communion — are things I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Then I looked at the date, and it was written a solid two weeks before I wrote mine. But today is the first time I’ve seen it.

The author, Dr. Kelly Bowring, has seemingly solid credentials. Certainly stronger bona fides than my own:

Dr. Kelly Bowring, a theologian, author and popular speaker, received his pontifical doctorate from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Rome), his licentiate from Dominican House and the John Paul II Institute (Washington DC), and his masters from Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), and has the Church’s mandatum to teach theology.

Dr. Bowring has been Dean of the Graduate School of Theology & Program of Catholic Studies (GST) at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Dean of Spiritual Mission and a professor of sacred theology at Southern Catholic College and an institute director and theologian at St. Mary’s College of Ave Maria University.

He has been featured as a Who’s Who among America’s teachers. He has traveled widely to international Catholic and Marian libraries and shrines and has spent years researching solid sources to utilize in his presentations, writings and books.

Known for his dynamic yet understandable teaching style, his books are sure to please any reading audience. Dr. Bowring and his wife, Diana, have eight children.

Dr. Bowring cites certain sources that are questionable, including Maria Divine Mercy (which he attempts to assess for veracity here) and reaches some bold hypotheticals. In fact, despite his obvious caution, he takes my concerns about Pope Francis further than I have felt comfortable doing:

As a Catholic theologian, I say this with great trepidation, and I ask the reader to hear me out before drawing your own conclusion. It is apparent to faithful Catholics today, and more and more so as the past year progressed, that some of Pope Francis’ actions and teachings have raised legitimate and serious concerns. This article asks you to look at the disconcerting actions and statements of Pope Francis and the “Francis effect” in the light of the potentially related prophecies about him. Of course, time will make things clearer as to his plans and agenda, as he moves beyond his now famous rhetoric toward implementation. So for now, I withhold any conclusions, instead giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, always remaining obedient to the Church as a faithful Catholic theologian. But, alert and investigative I shall remain, and I think that if he is a valid Pope, and the prophecies are wrong and his disturbing rhetoric is just for effect, he will be glad for my vigilance on behalf of the Church.

Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon me to present to you the reader some of the reasons that have led me to this current supposition. First, I will present the credible heavenly prophecies about the False Prophet, then what to expect from the False Prophet according to the prophecies, and finally how Catholics should respond to the possibility and growing concern that Pope Francis might be the False Prophet.

He gives extensive citations from private revelation and prophecy. He applies these to some of the disturbing things we’re seeing happening in the Church today, and it’s impossible not to see that they could fit. It’s a very compelling read. He also gives the reason why we should be talking about these things, which some people (like McDonald, cited above) can’t seem to understand:

Catholics believe that by the will and teaching of Christ, the Magisterium of the Church is protected with the charism of infallibility such that by the power of Holy Spirit the Pope cannot ever err in his official teaching on matters of faith and morals. The true Church will never err in faith and morals. As Catholics, we know this is true. So let no one tamper or interfere with the Word of God.

On the other hand, if a Pope personally embraces a heresy (false doctrine or immorality), even in secret, then he is de facto no longer Pope. So then, if a Pope teaches a false doctrine (or changes doctrine), then this is the sure “sign” he is not a valid Pope, as I have addressed in another article. In such a case, his teachings should not be obeyed and he should not be followed. Faithful Catholics must be attuned to this possibility, especially given the heavenly prophecies related to this and given the serious concerns Pope Francis continues to raise, as well as the path he seems to be leaning toward. But, due to our required obedience to the Magisterium, we cannot decide exclusively for ourselves whether he is in heresy and thus invalid. We must wait until the Church’s otherwise highest authority (like Pope Emeritus Benedict) declares it so and presents the clearest evidence.

[...]

Remain alert and investigative. Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope it will all blow over. Given both the prophecies and the Pope’s track record of troubling statements, it is permitted and even proper given these circumstances to be evaluative and even somewhat critical of Pope Francis’ actions and teachings. As Catholics, it is permitted to consider the possibility that he may be the False Prophet, while not yet concluding it. Thus, at this point, it is not helpful to excessively praise everything he says and does, mistakenly thinking that this will make you a better or more faithful Catholic in the process. Instead, we should look at what he is saying and doing with a critical eye of reason, as the times call for it, while keeping our faith intact. Indeed, this situation that is brewing may scandalize us. But, let us recall St. Thomas Aquinas who quotes Gregory saying: “If people are scandalized at the truth, it is better to allow the birth of scandal, than to abandon the truth.” Remember, suspicion does not mean a conclusion of guilt, only the possibility of guilt, and thus the need for an investigation. And, as far as what we should do, just share these prophecies and papal concerns – “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Just let it loose. It will defend itself,” says St. Augustine. So be watchmen of the Church’s morals and doctrine and ambassadors of these heavenly prophecies. For a time still, even if things get worse, do not be surprised if even good Bishops and theologians are confused and misdirected in their leanings and enthusiasms. Soon enough, if things are as prophesy indicates, they will become clearer to them and to large numbers of the faithful. Be patient and persevering.

There’s much more. I recommend reading the whole thing.

So. What to make of all this? Well, I pass this along solely for your consideration, but it strikes me that multiple people may be reaching the same, unlikely conclusions for a reason. I don’t know this for a fact, but it is possible that there are certain…promptings at work. 

And it really is time for us to be critical thinkers. We should apply a healthy skepticism to everything under the guise of religious truth right now, whether it’s coming from the Vatican or from prophecy and private revelation. We know what the Church teaches, so if we stay close to the source, we shouldn’t come unmoored. Any theory (and of course, I apply that to my own) should be taken as just that. At the same time, I think it’s important to know that when there is an absence of definitive facts, we should also listen to our instincts. They’ve been given to us for a reason. We should be praying daily to God for guidance and discernment in all things. We should be spiritually preparing ourselves for battle.

All of that being said, one thing I agree with McDonald about is this: 

Those who have faith don’t fear the future. We already know the end: we win.

It’s true. But the parts between now and then get pretty dicey. Souls will be led astray, and ultimately lost. Whether the final battle is next week or next century, it’s not going to be a picnic. My faith could be a lot stronger, and so could my sacramental life.

To be perfectly honest, I’d really rather not face the Eschaton right now, or I’m in big trouble. How about you?

UPDATE 4/10/14: I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t believe the messages of Maria Divine Mercy (MDM) are genuine. You can read more about that here.

Putting the Torch to Straw Men

31 March, 2014 at 11:36 am

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In some of the discussions I’ve been having subsequent to the post that went nuclear, there have been certain allegations of this or that thing that I must believe because of what I am saying. Then people argue with me based on those things, instead of anything that I actually believe.

There’s little I dislike more than when people tell me what I am thinking. Especially when I’m not thinking those things.

So, I’d like to address a few items:

 

On the Question of Papal Criticism

I hear it all the time these days: “Are you more Catholic than the pope? Who are you to criticize him? The Holy Spirit picked the pope, and I trust God!!!”

God does not pick the pope. The college of cardinals does. (And this includes men like Kasper and Mahoney and Danneels, etc.) There is nothing in Catholic teaching to even indicate this. On the contrary, we have no less an authority than a certain Cardinal-who-became-pope, Joseph Ratzinger, on this very topic (from NCR/John Allen):

Perhaps the classic expression of this idea belongs to none other than the outgoing pope, Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:

“I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”

Then the clincher:

“There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!”

Secondly, even a pope is not above criticism. St. Catherine of Sienna certainly knew that when she was trying to encourage her own pontiff (Gregory XI) to man up and leave Avignon to come back to Rome. She wrote:

“Since [Christ] has given you authority and you have accepted it, you ought to be using the power and strength that is yours.  If you don’t intend to use it, it would be better and more to God’s honor and the good of your soul to resign….If I were in your place, I would be afraid of incurring divine judgment.”   Later in her letter she continued, “Cursed be you, for time and power were entrusted to you and you did not use them!”

Of course, it was a good deal easier to get the pope to read your letters back then. (I’ve never had a pope respond to my emails or tweets. Nor do I expect one to.)

Though not by name, Dante went so far as to put  Pope Celestine V in hell. (Anecdotally, it is believed that he wrote him into the Inferno because he abdicated — the last pope to do so before Benedict XVI — and his abdication cleared the path for Boniface VIII, who Dante was not so fond of.)

Personal correspondence and literary condemnations are two forms of papal criticism which were appropriate for their times. But theologians knew it as well. The 16th century yields us this pearl of wisdom:

“Peter has no need of our lies or flattery. Those who blindly and indiscriminately defend every decision of the Supreme Pontiff are the very ones who do most to undermine the authority of the Holy See—they destroy instead of strengthening its foundations”

– Fr. Melchior Cano O.P., Bishop and Theologian of the Council of Trent.

Of course, if you want to go all the way back to the beginning, Paul rebuked Peter “to the face”.

You get my point. It’s not unprecedented to be critical of a pope. And I would argue that our situation is really quite unique. Unlike any time in history, a man’s words can reach the four corners of the Earth instantaneously. We live in a very public world, and this papacy has found global resonance through the megaphone of our massive media apparatus.

This means that when the pope says something erroneous — or something that leads people to an erroneous conclusion, even if it’s not what he’s really saying — it spreads like wildfire. One needn’t change the doctrines of the Church to convince people that they’ve been changed. And really, all that matters in practical terms is the convincing. That’s what prompts changes in behavior and belief.

Because of this, it would seem that those Catholics who know their faith well enough to detect the problems have an obligation to speak up and to make sure that errors, perceived or real, are clearly refuted somewhere. Even if it’s somewhere as lowly as a blog or a Facebook post, it tends to get seen by at least a few folks who might need to know. Evangelization happens the same way: one soul at a time. You might tell a thousand people about your beliefs and only one converts. That’s effort well spent. In the same way, it seems only right that we help our fellow Catholics (especially those who are not as well catechized) to know that they should be on the lookout for certain errors, even from the highest prelates of the Church. Pope Francis and his inner circle have been saying enough that is, if not outright wrong, close enough to being wrong that it distorts the truth. Unless we know to turn up our filters, we may well imbibe some of that ourselves.

All of this doesn’t make me very popular in a faith filled with people who believe that orthodoxy and papistry are synonymous. It really is understandable that many would have reached the conclusion that something just shy of papolatry is the hallmark of faithful sons of the Church. In the turmoil that followed the Second Vatican Council, the only rock in the storm was the rock of St. Peter. Still high on the relatively-new doctrine of papal infallibility, the person of the pope became seen as the beacon of divinely-protected truth in the theological darkness and confusion. Clinging to him was safe. Defending him typically meant you were staring down someone who was no friend of Christ.

But like the Novus Ordo, the reverence of which is almost entirely dependent upon the personal piety of the celebrant, this false equivalence between ultramontanism and orthodoxy depends entirely on the character of the man on Peter’s throne. Put a Cardinal Mahoney in the papacy and suddenly everything is different. (And let’s remember that Cardinal Mahoney was specifically told to vote in the conclave, so he had his say, and he is a noted Francis fan.) Being put in this position leaves reflexive papists floundering. What do you do when you believe being a good Catholic means defending every word and action of the pope, but the pope starts doing or saying things you’re not sure you should defend? Bit of a quandry, that. It makes people cranky.

So it’s also not surprising that someone insinuated I (or at least the kind of people who would write what I wrote) needed to be told:

“[T]o claim that there is no valid pope or that Vatican II was an invalid council or that the sacraments celebrated according to the current missal as invalid is heresy and schism. And all the more satanically ironic for the fact that it’s people who claim to take a very strict view of extra ecclesiam nulla salus who are putting themselves outside of that very Church.”

I respond:

Now of course a case could be made, (cf. Bellarmine) that a pope who embraces heresy excommunicates himself and thus no longer has a valid office. It has always been theoretical, and popes who have done things along these lines have usually for various reasons been later discovered to be antipopes.

Canon law does come to bear:

“Canon 1325, §. 2 of the 1917 Code stated: “If a baptized person deliberately denies or doubts a dogma properly so-called, he is guilty of the sin of heresy,” and Canon 2314, § 1 stated: “Such a person automatically becomes subject to the punishment of excommunication.” (1) These two articles are still in force in the new and concessive 1983 Code (cc. 751, 1364).”

It is historically true that there have been antipopes; it is also theoretically possible that a reigning pope could, by attempting to teach heresy, vacate his own seat. I haven’t gone so far as to suggest that, but I do feel strongly that Francis is testing those waters. (Whether formally or only materially is up for debate.)

But as I recently said to a sedevacantist I was arguing with, “Even if he’s not the real pope, it’s outside our competence to judge him so. Only a successor to St. Peter can.”

This is important. We can and should be critical of and resist what’s being said and done that we believe is wrong; we can personally not like the man who holds the office;  we can even privately believe he’s a raging heretic if that’s where our research leads us. But until another vicar of Christ says otherwise, Pope Francis is the pope. My pope. Your pope. Full stop. We owe him our prayers, and we owe our assent to any authoritative teaching he makes.

 

On to the second point: I don’t make the case that Vatican II was an invalid council; I do think it was a damaging and unnecessary council. Pope Paul VI conceded that it was pastoral council. It introduced nothing new to the deposit of faith, and was only dogmatic where and when it reaffirmed existing dogma. It’s non-essential, and problematic, and its dangerous ambiguities could be addressed and corrected by a subsequent council. Just for clarity’s sake, let’s trot out the well-worn quotes:

Pope Benedict XVI (while Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) clearly stated the nature of the Second Vatican Council was pastoral, as the council defined no doctrine infallibly, and sought to maintain a lower profile than previous ecumenical councils….

The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI
given July 13, 1988, in Santiago, Chile

This echoes the words of Pope Paul VI, who concluded the Second Vatican Council, and also stated it was purely pastoral in nature, having not applied the “note of infallibility” to any particular document….

In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium which must be accepted with docility according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document.

Pope Paul VI
General Audience, 12 January 1966

 

Third point: I don’t make the case that the sacraments celebrated according to the current missal are invalid (though it can more easily occur because of the loss of structure and ease of improvisation in the new rubrics, as well as the general loss of belief in the real presence among priests, which could nullify intent). I instead find that the validity of the new Mass is precisely what makes it so problematic: it can’t simply be dismissed as an abuse, so it instead lingers as a Trojan horse for a protestantized anthropology of worship, horizontalism where there should be verticality, and an intentional diminishment of the sacrificial aspect of the Mass. Like tainted water, it paradoxically both nourishes and makes us sick.

 

Now, people do make compelling arguments in favor of all these positions I don’t actually hold. Compelling, but not convincing. Sedevacantism, for example, is a dead end, but they do their homework. Some of them are very nice people, but I get the feeling sometimes that they’ve crossed the line from sanity into a terrible, hopeless world from which they see no exit. Never get in a prooftexting fight with a sede. As Chesterton wrote:

If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane. Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

 

The final charge that I will deal with is this: the assumption that if not a sedevacantist-in-the-making, I must at least be in schism. Which for most mainstream Catholics is synonymous with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

The truth is, in my ten years of “traditionalism” I have never darkened the doorstep of an SSPX chapel, let alone any of the independent ones. It is important to me to maintain visible continuity with the Church, and insofar as the Church has maintained access to her own tradition, however sparsely, I see no reason to change that.

That said, the SSPX are really not that problematic other than (at least in my experience) their grumpiness; there is not an authentic Catholic teaching to which they do not adhere, and (depending on what week it is or who you talk to at the Vatican) they are aren’t it’s so confusing might or might not be in actual schism. Personally, I strongly dislike their opinion that disobedience to a sovereign pontiff was the only way to accomplish God’s will and retain what is sacred. I think that bespeaks a lack of trust in their own argument: that God wants the Tradition of his Church preserved. If He does (and I believe it) He’ll provide a way that doesn’t involve a direct violation of the orders of the Church’s supreme legislator. (All of that being said, I am growing increasingly sympathetic to their position. There are times when obedience demands too much, and we are never bound to violate our conscience out of obligation to a superior.)

So there you have it. Just saying that you’re “Catholic” these days means very little, considering the diversity of belief within the Church. There are lots of labels floating around, but there are subcategories even within those. I think it’s important to make my positions on these things clear. I believe it’s possible to be highly critical of what is happening within the Church without ever stepping outside of the Church to do so, and still recognizing the authority structures that exist. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk, but it’s doable.

 

Some Resources for (Spiritual) Battle

29 March, 2014 at 3:10 pm

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After yesterday’s post, and many comments and emails,  I now know there are a surprising number of you who share my concerns about what is to come. There is also a lingering sense of “Okay, but what can I do about it?”

I’m probably the wrong guy to ask. Just because I’m yelling “fire” doesn’t mean I have an extinguisher. As I muddle through, I think it’s increasingly important, though, to take stock of the weapons at our disposal for spiritual warfare.

It should go without saying that you should get to Mass and confession as often as possible. As I find going to the Novus Ordo any more than necessary rather…problematic, I haven’t been to daily Mass in a long time. I miss it. If you’ve got a good Mass you can get to, go. Make confession at least monthly. More often isn’t bad.

At home is where you’ll expend most of your efforts. If you can, try saying Saint Patrick’s Breastplate with your morning prayers. (If you’re not doing morning prayers, start. Even if it’s in the shower while you’re getting ready. That’s what memorized rote prayers are for.) I started saying this one after working for an exorcist for a while and seeing first-hand the reality of demonic activity in the world. The version I’ve always said uses the “I arise today” language, but I’ve recently become aware of a different version that says, “I bind unto myself today“.  This change may seem insignificant, but “binding” is a powerful concept in spiritual warfare, so I’m intrigued. Either way, invoking God’s power against the forces of darkness that exist in the world and are actively seeking the destruction of souls is of paramount importance. So make sure you say the long version, not the short one.

Speaking of long versions, did you know there’s one of those for the Saint Michael prayer too?

Pope Leo XIII, who wrote the Saint Michael prayer, also wrote an exorcism that can be said by the laity in their homes to keep them safe.

The rosary, as much as I find it a chore to say, is also absolutely critical. Our Lady keeps asking for it, so I’m going to have to start making myself do it. (Also the three Hail Marys devotion, asking, “Mary my Mother, Mary Immaculate, please preserve me from all mortal sin this day/night” is a big one.) 

Rounding out the catalog of prayers I take recourse to would be many found on this page. In addition to prayers renouncing particular sins that can encourage spiritual attacks and entanglements are prayers to reclaim ground from Satan, the renunciation of ancestral sins (which can have effects into the present time, thanks to the effects of covenants and curses, etc.), and prayers for the protection of self, family member, household, etc. There are even specific prayers for things like destroying occult objects (yes, these are real, and yes, they cause problems), rebuking particular spirits affecting a person or the household, etc.

In terms of sacramentals, if you don’t have them, get some Saint Benedict crucifixes. The ones that look like this:

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We have them in all the bedrooms of the house, and some small ones that can be worn when needed. These are particularly powerful sacramentals, and I’d rather have them than any other kind when dealing with spiritual warfare. The reason is that the Saint Benedict medal has a secret weapon:

The back of the medal is dominated by a large cross. The letters on the cross are actually the initials for the Latin phrases: Crux Sacra Sit Mihi Lux (The Holy Cross be my light) and Non Draco Sit Mihi Dux (Let not the dragon be my guide).

In the four corners are circles with the letters CSPB. These letters are the initials for Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (The Cross of our holy father Benedict).

At the top is the word Pax (peace). Around the edge are the initials for the exorcism prayer: Vade Retro Satana, Nunquam Suade Mihi Vana - Sunt Mala Quae Libas, Ipse Venena Bibas (Begone, Satan, do not suggest to me thy vanities – evil are the things thou profferest, drink thou thy own poison).

Scapulars are good. They’re cheap. And they’re awesome. I have worn one for most of my life. Miraculous medals are good too.

Have blessed candles, especially those made of beeswax, in the home. Lighting them for specific intentions or during the family rosary is a good idea.

Make sure to have some holy water on hand at all times. Not just any holy water, mind you. You want some created using the old rite of blessing. You may think this is just my personal preference, but it isn’t. Just as sacramental forms, gestures, and words have meaning to us, they do similarly in the supernatural realm. I know a priest who was at a “healing Mass” when a woman began manifesting something that was clearly demonic. Another priest there ran and got water and quickly blessed it, then threw it on the woman. A voice that was clearly not hers came out and said:

FAITHLESS PRIEST!!! THAT’S NOT HOLY WATER!!!”

My priest friend got himself an old book of blessings real quickly after that, and used nothing else to make holy water from that point forward.

Another powerful weapon is the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart. Give this one some serious thought. Read about it. It’s a big deal.

Finally, make sure you have your home blessed. Get it done by the most knowledgeable, thorough priest you know. Someone who will get all the nooks, crannies, and dark corners with holy water. I wish more priests would offer to bless homes, but most will do it if you ask them. Give them a nice dinner as a thank you.

That’s all that I have that immediately comes to mind. Many of you no doubt have devotions of your own that you would recommend. Please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Something Wicked

28 March, 2014 at 1:59 am

 

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

- Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1

 

Is there a part of you that aches when you feel a storm coming? An old injury, a creaking joint, maybe your sinuses? For me, it was always my left arm. Could be a bright, sunny, cloudless day, but if it started throbbing in just that certain way, I knew: before too long, the dark clouds would be rolling in.

I don’t know if it’s possible for our souls to feel something similar, but I’ve talked to a number of people who have serious spiritual aches.

There’s just this feeling that something bad is coming. Nobody can put their finger on it. It could be spiritual, or temporal, or possibly even both. All I can say is that it’s as if we’re watching the world stage, and the house lights have gone down, and we can just barely make out that the scenery is being rearranged by people dressed all in black. We can’t see them with any clarity. There’s just the sense of deliberate and hasty movement, as pieces are being put into place for a big scene.

I’ve never been given to apocalyptic fantasies, but it’s hard not to wonder if when the curtain comes up, we will be witnessing the beginning of the final act.

In this essay, I hope to try to stitch together some of the disparate factors I see coalescing, and others I merely suspect. I have no special gift for divining the course of the future; I receive no private revelations. But I have a sense that something is very much not right in the world, and I am trying to address that for myself. I have chosen to also share my attempt to make these connections with you.

I apologize in advance for the length, but I didn’t see any way to break this up and keep all of the moving pieces in context.

So get comfortable. Maybe grab a stiff drink. If you’re feeling like it, it might be a good time for some music to set the mood.

 

Inauspicious Portents: Fears, Dreams, and Apparitions

The feeling I mentioned has been building for a while, but it’s grown stronger in the past year.

A friend of mine who has always been blessed (if you can call it that) with a strong, almost tangible, spiritual awareness called me some time last fall. He was driving back from an evening appointment, and it was dark out. He told me, “I don’t know what’s going on, but something is up. They’re very…active tonight. I just want to get home.” (Whenever he says “they” in that way, I know what he means. It’s always a reference to demonic activity, something with which he was very familiar before his conversion.)

I’ve been having more conversations with people lately who are having terrifying dreams. Not typical nightmares. Dreams of soldiers, attacks, persecution of the faithful, ominous warnings about evil. I had one just the other night. I woke up, heart pounding, and I had to pray for the better part of an hour before I could calm down enough to get back to sleep. One woman I know has been having them every night, for weeks on end. She is not easily intimidated, but she confessed to me that she is terrified for her children. “They’re so vivid.” She says. “They feel so real.” Of course, it’s dangerous to read too much into dreams, but we know that they can sometimes serve a spiritual purpose. In other instances, they can be a subconscious manifestation of what our minds are picking up on in our waking hours.

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The world is obviously in turmoil. Among the many geopolitical and economic dangers we face, the situation with Russia right now is particularly foreboding. I have never taken a side on the question of the Blessed Mother’s urgent request for the consecration of Russia, but it grows more apparent by the day that the fruits of that consecration are not in evidence. In the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917, Mary warned of what might come:

Then Our Lady opened Her hands, as during the previous apparitions, and the light that was God streamed forth. In this light they were given, on this occasion, a vision of Hell so horrible and gruesome that the children shrieked aloud with fear. After showing them Hell Our Lady said to the children: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will beak out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.

Can anyone seriously suggest that Russia converted? That there has been peace? That the errors of Marxism have not been spreading?

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And of course Our Lady has appeared in various ways to various people to warn us of things to come. Apparitions approved by the Church filled with grave prophecy of future terrors — not just in the world, but within the Church:

As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.

The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

“The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them.

Our Lady of Akita, October 13, 1973

How can anyone read these words and not see a reflection of our current Church? Fatima and Akita are more recent apparitions, but warnings about our present age are hardly new. In the 16th century, Our Lady of Good Success described our times with frightening accuracy:

“The sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with the Church, will be thoroughly attacked and profaned. Masonry, then reigning, will implement iniquitous laws aimed at extinguishing this sacrament. They will make it easy for all to live in sin, thus multiplying the birth of illegitimate children without the Church’s blessing….

“Secular education will contribute to a scarcity of priestly and religious vocations.”

“The holy sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed, and despised, for in this both the Church and God Himself are oppressed and reviled, since He is represented by His priests.

“The devil will work to persecute the ministers of the Lord in every way, working with baneful cunning to destroy the spirit of their vocation and corrupting many. Those who will thus scandalize the Christian flock will bring upon all priests the hatred of bad Christians and the enemies of the One, Holy, Roman Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This apparent triumph of Satan will cause enormous suffering to the good pastors of the Church…and to the Supreme Pastor and Vicar of Christ on earth who, a prisoner in the Vatican, will shed secret and bitter tears in the presence of God Our Lord, asking for light, sanctity, and perfection for all the clergy of the world, to whom he is King and Father.”

“Unhappy times will come wherein those who should fearlessly defend the rights of the Church will instead, blinded despite the light, give their hand to the Church’s enemies and do their bidding. But when [evil] seems triumphant and when authority abuses its power, committing all manner of injustice and oppressing the weak, their ruin shall be near. They will fall and crash to the ground.”

Notice that again and again, the warnings intermingle the threats existent in the world with those which will attempt to destroy the faith from within. Our Lady leaves little doubt that there will be a conspiracy within the Church that will allow heterodoxy the upper hand, at least for a time.

Though the veracity of the text has been (inconclusively) disputed, in the 1879 message of Our Lady of LaSalette the future is put in absolutely succinct and candid terms:

“Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.”

Impossible? Doesn’t either proposition in this statement work against the indefectibility of the Church? I don’t think so on either count.

 

The Antichrist and the Loss of Catholic Faith

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The reason I think that the preceding line is quite possible indeed is that scripture also tells us of certain specifics regarding the coming of the Antichrist:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

- 2 Thessalonians 2:2-12, RSV (Emphasis mine)

In the highlighted passage above, we see certain assertions that are critical for us to understand:

  1. Christ will not come again until “rebellion” comes (in some versions, this is translated as “apostasy”).
  2. Christ will not come again until the Antichrist comes.
  3. The Antichrist will take his seat in the temple of God, claiming this very title of “god” for his own.

Whether or not the 1879 vision of Our Lady of LaSalette is real, or a product of the visionary’s imagination (she was said to have been reading some pretty apocalyptic stuff after the original and fully approved visions) is something we may never know. But scripture is telling us that the statement, ”Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist” has some real merit. In fact, this seems to be exactly what is being predicted in 2 Thessalonians.

 

Time Out. This is Getting Morbid. Why Write About This?

Apostasy. Antichrist. A liar, a divine impostor reigning from the “temple of God”, which we can only take to mean the Church that Christ established: the Catholic Church. Why am I waxing apocalyptic?

Well, I didn’t mean to wind up here. This is something that has been itching at the back of my mind for some time, and I wanted to try to understand it. As I sat down to start writing, I found these themes coming to the surface, and I felt compelled to explore them. It was as if I was seeing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle spread out over a large table. I wasn’t sure what the picture was supposed to look like, but as more pieces made their entrance, I was getting a better sense of the picture.

I’m not writing this today because I have some reason to believe that the Antichrist is among us (although it wouldn’t surprise me at this point). In fact, it’s not because I believe he’ll be here next week, next month, or next year. It’s because I believe, as a matter of faith, that he will come, and when he does come, the only way he will be able to deceive those who call themselves Catholics will be because they no longer know what it is that a Catholic is supposed to believe.

And one of the big picture elements coming into focus is exactly that: Catholics, by and large, don’t know what the Church teaches anymore. They would have no way of resisting an imposter who chooses to reign from the Temple of God if they were unable to identify his false doctrines. We are coming closer and closer to that level of desolation in the faith.

And I don’t think that’s an accident.

 

“Holy Mother Church has the Power to Overcome any Enemy. But they have Her Drugged and Tied Up in the Back Room.”

- Father Joseph (Name Changed), Diocesan Priest; February 17, 2014 (Personal conversation)

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There was a time, not long ago, when Catholicism was synonymous with clear, unequivocal teaching. Like her or hate her, people knew where the Church stood on every important issue. The Baltimore Catechism, the precepts of the Church, Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma, the Code of Canon Law, the various papal teachings that upheld truth and condemned error in no uncertain terms…people who had never darkened the doorstep of a Catholic Church were not ignorant of her most basic teachings. Catholic schoolchildren, on the other hand, could recite many of these core beliefs from memory.

Over the course of the 20th century, however, that began to change. Particularly in the latter part. It would appear that the forces of hell made a play for the Catholic faith unlike any attempt before.

There is a popular story that at the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII had an apparition at Mass whereupon God allowed Satan a hundred years to do his worst to the Church, which terrified the holy father and in turn resulted in his composition of the Prayer to St. Michael. In 1886, he made this invocation a part of the Leonine prayers said at the conclusion of every low Mass. Pope Leo also composed prayers of exorcism that could be said by clergy or by the faithful, so concerned was he about the intrusion of the demonic into the life of the faith.

In his 1907 encyclical against modernism (the “synthesis of all heresies”), Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Pope St. Pius X warned of another evil he saw arising — an attack on truth from within the Church herself:

“That We should act without delay in this matter is made imperative especially by the fact that the partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Church’s open enemies; but, what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom, and are the more mischievous the less they keep in the open. We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, and, what is much more sad, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, animated by a false zeal for the Church, lacking the solid safeguards of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, put themselves forward as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the Person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious audacity, they degrade to the condition of a simple and ordinary man.

[...]

[A]s We have said, they put into operation their designs for her undoing, not from without but from within. Hence, the danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain from the very fact that their knowledge of her is more intimate. Moreover, they lay the ax not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fibers. And once having struck at this root of immortality, they proceed to diffuse poison through the whole tree, so that there is no part of Catholic truth which they leave untouched, none that they do not strive to corrupt. Further, none is more skillful, none more astute than they, in the employment of a thousand noxious devices; for they play the double part of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error; and as audacity is their chief characteristic, there is no conclusion of any kind from which they shrink or which they do not thrust forward with pertinacity and assurance. To this must be added the fact, which indeed is well calculated to deceive souls, that they lead a life of the greatest activity, of assiduous and ardent application to every branch of learning, and that they possess, as a rule, a reputation for irreproachable morality. Finally, there is the fact which is all but fatal to the hope of cure that their very doctrines have given such a bent to their minds, that they disdain all authority and brook no restraint; and relying upon a false conscience, they attempt to ascribe to a love of truth that which is in reality the result of pride and obstinacy. (emphasis mine)

Nor was Pope St. Pius the only one to warn about what was on the horizon. The encyclicals Mortalium Animos and Mediator Dei, by popes Pius XI and XII, respectively, proscribed certain nascent developments in the Church (these regarding liturgy and ecumenical prayer) that were contrary to authentic Catholicism. Nonetheless, many of these things would come to pass, almost as if to specifically adopt what had earlier been forbidden, and then were treated as perfectly orthodox manifestations of Catholicism in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

In the 1950s, Bella Dodd, the leader of the Communist Party America in the 1930s and 1940s, testified before Congress about the planned infiltration by communist agents of Catholic seminaries.

“In the 1930s we put eleven hundred men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within.” The idea was for these men to be ordained and progress to positions of influence and authority as Monsignors and Bishops. A dozen years before Vatican II she stated that: “Right now they are in the highest places in the Church” - where they were working to bring about change in order to weaken the Church’s effectiveness against Communism. She also said that these changes would be so drastic that “you will not recognise the Catholic Church.

Mrs Dodd, who converted to the Faith at the end of her life, was personally acquainted with this diabolic project since, as a Communist agent, part of her brief was to encourage young radicals (not always card-carrying Communists) to enter Catholic seminaries. She alone had encouraged nearly 1,000 such youngsters to infiltrate the seminaries and religious orders! One monk who attended a Bella Dodd lecture in the early 1950s recalled:

“I listened to that woman for four hours and she had my hair standing on end. Everything she said has been fulfilled to the letter. You would think she was the world’s greatest prophet, but she was no prophet. She was merely exposing the step-by-step battle plan of Communist subversion of the Catholic Church. She explained that of all the world’s religions, the Catholic Church was the only one feared by the Communists, for it was its only effective opponent. The whole idea was to destroy, not the institution of the Church, but rather the Faith of the people, and even use the institution of the Church, if possible, to destroy the Faith through the promotion of a pseudo-religion: something that resembled Catholicism but was not the real thing. Once the Faith was destroyed, she explained that there would be a guilt complex introduced into the Church…. to label the ‘Church of the past’ as being oppressive, authoritarian, full of prejudices, arrogant in claiming to be the sole possessor of truth, and responsible for the divisions of religious bodies throughout the centuries. This would be necessary in order to shame Church leaders into an ‘openness to the world,’ and to a more flexible attitude toward all religions and philosophies. The Communists would then exploit this openness in order to undermine the Church.”

This conspiracy has been confirmed time and again by Soviet defectors. Ex-KGB officer Anatoliy Golitsyn, who defected in 1961 and in 1984 forecast with 94% accuracy all the astonishing developments in the Communist Bloc since that time, confirmed several years ago that this “penetration of the Catholic and other churches” is part of the Party’s “general line [i.e. unchanged policy] in the struggle against religion.”

Similar infiltrations were suspected by the Freemasons, which our lady specifically warned about. (Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who was the principal author of the preparatory schema of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy at Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, as well as its interpreter as composer of the Novus Ordo Missae, was suspected of being a possible Freemason, and ended his tenure in virtual exile as nuncio to Tehran.)

We can see by these premonitions and attempts to pull down Catholicism from within that serious problems in the Church had already asserted themselves before Vatican II. But it was through the council that they came to a head. Catechesis was faltering. Theological and liturgical revolution was fomenting. The same zeitgeist that was bringing us growing moral relativism, the sexual revolution and the hippie drug culture that went with it was the one that blew in when Pope John XXIII decided it was time to “open the windows of the Church and let in some fresh air.” The Church decided to have a dialogue with the world at the precise moment when the world had decided it had nothing worth saying. 

There are histories of the council that could give much greater detail on the agendas that were made manifest there than I have space or time for here. (I recommend Michael Davies’ Liturgical Timebombs in Vatican II; I hear that Fr. Fritz Wiltgen’s The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber is even better, though I haven’t read it yet.) It is certainly true that many of the council fathers came to Rome in 1963 with the intention of substantially transforming the Catholic faith. It is manifestly true that they got their way.

The 1969 promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae was the crowning accomplishment of the progressive council fathers, and a masterwork of modernist genius. On an objective theological level, there was no compelling argument against its validity, though questions of liceity when it came to simply making up a new liturgy out of whole cloth and supplanting one in existence for over a thousand years were certainly on the table. The subsequent suppression of the vetus ordo was illegal, but it happened nonetheless (a fact that wouldn’t be remedied until Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, in 2007) and a wholesale change in ecclesiology and the anthropology of worship drastically altered the relationship of not only Catholics, but non-Catholics, with the teachings and understanding of the True Faith. The liturgical destruction that was wrought following the council would need volumes (and many have been filled on the topic) to fully explain. For many years, good and faithful priests and theologians have tried to make sense of the liturgical revolt that suddenly and unceremoniously deconstructed the Church’s ancient liturgy and replaced it with something inferior and, in fact, “a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product”, as Cardinal Ratzinger once referred to it. Even pioneers in the “reform of the reform” movement have recently reached the conclusion that the liturgical shipwreck is unsalvageable; one went so far as to say that in the development between the two liturgies there “are significant ruptures in content and form that cannot be remedied” through even the most substantive alterations.

The abuses that have followed in the wake of the Novus Ordo – some of which, like altar girls and communion in the hand (which I will speak more of later)  – have Vatican approval, and these continue to erode at priestly vocations and belief in the Real Presence.

Echoing the vision of Leo XIII, Pope Paul VI stated, somewhat mysteriously, in his homily of June 29, 1972“From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.”  It is hard not to wonder at reasoning behind the decision made 8 years earlier in 1964, in which the Sacred Congregation of Rites promulgated the instruction Inter Oecumeniciwhich suppressed the Leonine prayers after Mass — including the prayer to St. Michael and the prayer for the “Liberty and exultation” of the Church. On this matter, the instruction simply says:  ”[T]he Leonine Prayers are suppressed.” (This applied to the 1962 Missal, since the Novus Ordo had not yet been slapped together.) 

 

The ‘Brake’ has Failed: Humanae Vitae and a Half Century of Dissent

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If Paul VI unleashed a great deal of turmoil in the Church by capitulating to the liturgical revolutionaries, he made a tremendous stand — perhaps the one example in his papacy of real courage — with the promulgation of Humanae VitaeWhen John XXIII called the Pontifical  Commission on Birth Control, I don’t know if anyone expected a particular outcome. I think many people’s expectations, regardless what side of the issue they were on, were very much not met. In a grumbling 2011 essay in the National Catholic Reporter, Gerald Slevin describes the controversy within the commission and the unexpected move by Pope Paul to oppose them:

The commission, called by Pope John XXIII in 1963 and later working on the aegis of Paul VI, eventually ended its tenure with a report asking that the church’s ban on all forms of artificial birth control be lifted.

Immediately, a second report, objecting to the commission’s final report, was called for by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and a powerful church conservative at the time. [Steve's note - Ottaviani also intervened two years later in an attempt to stop the promulgation of the Novus Ordo. Sadly, in that instance, he failed.]

The commission’s final report was leaked to and published in the National Catholic Reporter and appeared in other publications in 1967. A year later, after widespread expectations Paul VI would take the commission’s report to heart, he issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae, affirming the church’s official ban on all forms of artificial contraception.

That last part is important: “leaked to and published”. Though Humanae Vitae served as a bulwark against the crushing tide of sexual licentiousness to follow, the poison of the misinformation let loose in the world during the intervening time between the commission’s report and the encyclical’s publication would create a chronic infection in the life of the faith. The dissent of the majority of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control was widely publicized, creating anticipation that the Church was about to change course and allow Catholics to practice artificial contraception. When Humanae Vitae arrived, it met strong opposition from Catholics — priests, bishops, and laity alike — who had already made up their mind that artificial contraception was just fine.

With the watered-down (and at times outright sacrilegious) liturgical experience, the softening of both Church discipline and teaching that came after the council, the “dialogue as ecumenism” approach to non-Catholics (as opposed to evangelization in pursuit of conversion), a number of syncretistic actions during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, and the absolute lack of discipline for wayward bishops, the faith was already taking heavy damage. But the division over the Church’s sexual teachings that had gained a beachhead in 1967 was where the the wounds that would diminish the Church’s strength really started to fester.

In 2003, 35 years after Humanae Vitae, Kenneth C. Jones published a book entitled: Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II. In an article for Latin Mass Magazine, the author summarized his many disturbing findings. Among these, the numbers on sacramental life are telling:

In 1965 there were 1.3 million infant baptisms, in 2002 there were 1 million. (In 1965 there were 287 infant baptisms for every 10,000 Catholics, in 2002 there were 154 — a decline of 46 percent.) In 1965 there were 126,000 adult baptisms in 2002 there were 80,000. In 1965 there were 352,000 Catholic marriages, in 2002 there were 256,000. In 1968 there were 338 annulments, in 2002 there were 50,000.

Mass attendance: A 1958 Gallup poll reported that 74 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1958. A 1994 University of Notre Dame study found that the attendance rate was 26.6 percent. A more recent study by Fordham University professor James Lothian concluded that 65 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1965, while the rate dropped to 25 percent in 2000.

The decline in Mass attendance highlights another significant fact — fewer and fewer people who call themselves Catholic actually follow Church rules or accept Church doctrine. For example, a 1999 poll by the National Catholic Reporter shows that 77 percent believe a person can be a good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday, 65 percent believe good Catholics can divorce and remarry, and 53 percent believe Catholics can have abortions and remain in good standing. Only 10 percent of lay religion teachers accept Church teaching on artificial birth control, according to a 2000 University of Notre Dame poll. And a New York Times poll revealed that 70 percent of Catholics age 18-44 believe the Eucharist is merely a “symbolic reminder” of Jesus.

Over a decade later, the early results are back from the Vatican questionnaire in preparation for the Synod on Marriage and Family this coming October. And they show continued erosion of core beliefs.

America:

In an unusually blunt report to the Vatican, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., said that even most regular churchgoing Catholics in his diocese find the church’s teaching on artificial contraception no longer relevant.

“On the matter of artificial contraception, the responses might be characterized by saying, ‘That train left the station long ago,’ ” he wrote in a Feb. 7 blog about his report. “Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium [the sense of the faithful] suggests the rejection of church teaching on this subject.”

Germany and Switzerland:

[T]he German dioceses reported that “‘pre-marital unions’ are not only a relevant pastoral reality, but one which is almost universal,” since between 90 percent and 100 percent of couples who seek a Catholic wedding are already living together, despite church teaching that sex outside of marriage is sinful.

“Many, in fact, consider it irresponsible to marry without living together beforehand,” the report said.

Ireland:

“Many … expressed particular difficulties with the teachings on extra-marital sex and cohabitation by unmarried couples, divorce and remarriage, family planning, assisted human reproduction, homosexuality. The church’s teaching in these sensitive areas is often not experienced as realistic, compassionate, or life-enhancing.”

Europe overall:

 “Belgian Catholics expect the Church to welcome everyone, regardless of differences or mistakes made. This especially true when it comes to gay people and remarried divorcees,” SIR says.

 “Belgian Catholics, inspired by Francis, are calling for a mother Church that embraces all: hence the need to grow in the faith and form lively communities,” SIR highlights. The questionnaires also placed an emphasis on the essential role women can play in Church life: “It is they who pass on the faith to children and guide them,” Belgian Catholics point out.

[...]

According to Luxembourg’s Catholics, the Church does not offer a suitable solution to problematic family situations. “The doctrine on marriage, responsible fatherhood and the family is rejected in non-ecclesial circles (sometimes even in ecclesial ones),” because the Church is seen as a stranger and as not competent in these areas. In their answers Luxembourg’s Catholics refer to “the suffering caused by the exclusion from the sacraments, particularly in terms of reconciliation.” The rule the Church has regarding access to the sacraments appears inadequate.  They urge the Church “to put the pastoral mission of mercy into practice and create environments where it can be introduced and experienced.” But Luxembourg didn’t express any precise position or offer any concrete indications as to the issue of gay couples. There was simply an appeal to the Church to “accept reality as it is and not try to change it with moral models” and to be welcoming and merciful.

The Religious Information Service also highlights the difference in viewpoint between the German Church and its faithful on issues such as couples living together before marriage, birth control and contraception. The exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments is seen as unjustified and cruel discrimination. German Catholics also ask for same-sex unions to be legally recognised and seen on equal terms as marriage “as a commandment of justice”.

The number one request Swiss faithful made was for remarried divorcees to be granted the right to receive communion. Although Swiss Catholics fully agree on the importance of sacramental marriage and the Christian education of children, they say it is “difficult to accept the Church’s doctrine on the family, marriage and homosexuality.” “An approximately 60% majority is in favour of the Church recognizing and blessing gay couples.” There is also “strongly disagreement over with the [Church’s] rejection of artificial contraception methods.”

Pope Francis recently said of Paul VI’s and Humanae Vitae:

“His genius proved prophetic: he had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a ‘brake’ on the culture, to oppose [both] present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing doctrine, but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s situations, and that, which it is possible for people to do.”

The idea that Humanae Vitae slowed the cultural descent is, I think, appropriate. But it is now indisputable that this ‘brake’ has failed, and the world’s Catholics have careened at high speed off the cliff of mass apostasy. They no longer believe what the Church believes, or even that the Church has any right to believe it.

The pope says “the question is not that of changing doctrine,” which is the kind of thing one might say when one is readying to make the appearance of doing exactly that.

 

Anti-John the Baptist(s)? Making the Path Crooked

dark-crooked-path

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.”

- Matthew 3:1-3, RSV

Up until this point, I have endeavored to validate my feeling of something ominous on the horizon by summarizing a brief history of the drastic, rapid progression of the Church down a path that has lead us to the present moment of crisis.

But I believe that things are about to get much worse.

I have already mentioned that over the past year the feeling that something is coming has grown stronger. I can’t say for certain that this feeling is tied to the present pontificate, but since Pope Francis first stepped out on the loggia I have been deeply unsettled.

While it is far from the only issue in play, the “change in tone” coming from Pope Francis is the lightning rod in this storm. Multiple camps of faithful Catholics, all interpreting the things he says in different, opposing ways.

Critics point out that some things — like stating, “Christ became sin for me! And my sins are there in his body, in his soul!” seem openly heretical. Similarly, when referencing the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, “This is the miracle: rather than a multiplication it is a sharing” — this is not an orthodox interpretation. On the latter interrpetation, Fr. Dwight Longnecker recently wrote (making no reference to the pope):

“This familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand is full of extra meaning, but first we need to ask whether it really happened. Those who doubt miracles like to give anodyne explanations like, ‘The real miracle was that everyone shared their lunch.’ What nonsense! If that is all it was why would Mark have bothered to record it?”

The statements about homosexual civil unions, the “who am I to judge” comments about homosexual Christians and/or priests (echoed endlessly by gay marriage advocates), the concern that Catholics are obsessed with sexual teachings that come across as little more than a “disjointed multitude of doctrines” (echoed by pro-abortion advocates), the endless string of papal insults of otherwise faithful Christians, the suggestion of Atheists getting to heaven through primacy of conscience and his own intention not to convert them (an interview the pope read and agreed with, despite the spin), the welcoming of known Marxist groups in the Vatican despite government protest…the list goes on and on. There always seems to be some fresh outrage that needs to be reinterpreted by someone telling everyone to “calm down” that everything is “completely orthodox” or maybe even that it’s all “lost in translation.”

It’s a mess. I have mentioned that in order for the Antichrist to one day find a seat in the “Temple of God,” there must be no substantive resistence to his false doctrines. If the confusion and misunderstanding of doctrine that plagues the majority of the world’s Catholics continues to deepen, this will make the process of transition that much easier. In a sense, this pope, and those in the Church who would further muddy the waters of established teaching, are acting as anti-John the Baptists. By creating confusion where there was clarity, they are not making the way straight for the Lord, but crooked. Which only helps His enemies.

The fighting that has set in among faithful, obedient Catholics is deeply troubling, and is evidence enough of the problem. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The hallmark of the current pontificate is division — not between those on one end of the ideological spectrum or the other, but between the kind of folks who should be running in the same circles. Pro-life, pro-family, pro-Church teaching, rosary-praying, Catechism-reading, politically conservative Catholics. In the ever-shrinking group of the faithful who should be on the same team, fault lines are busting out all over.

Those who are deeply concerned about what the pope and his inner circle are saying put the blame on the shepherds of the Church who are saying these things for being irresponsible stewards of Catholic teaching (and at the very best, poor communicators). They are also wary of those Catholics who reflexively support the pope and his cohorts uncritically. They see their fellow Catholics as little more than papolaters; blind “ultramontanists” and defenders of the defenseless.

On the other side, the full-throated supporters of everything coming out of the Vatican (regardless of its incongruence with Church teaching) have taken to using scare quotes around the word “faithful” when referencing those who have become openly critical of the current pontificate or the direction in which the Church seems to be heading. They do mental gymnastics to show how all of the confusion is in the fault of the hearer. They build up false doctrines that forbid the faithful from criticizing error if it comes from the pope. They also treat non-Catholics with far greater charity than their own fellow Catholics who — even if they turn out to be wrong — are in good conscience questioning what they see as the dangerous situation in the Church. (I will most certainly be vilified for what I’ve written here today. As a general rule, I won’t stoop to their level and question the sincerity of their faith just because they disagree with me. If they didn’t care about the Church, they wouldn’t be confused and afraid. If they weren’t confused and afraid, they wouldn’t be angry.)

Whatever the cause, the fighting is real, and it is damaging the Church in ways that will have long repercussions. Catholic against Catholic, brother against brother. People who profess the same creed — and mean it — at total odds over the meaning of the events and statements that are unfolding almost every day.

While our internecine squabbles continue, the world is largely under the impression that either the Church is changing what is unchangeable, or that it is simply more irrelevant than ever before. Many are taking a positive view of Catholicism insofar as they think it is becoming more like their vision for the world, but in reality, souls are not being won. Francis is not effecting conversions. The Body of Christ is rapidly becoming a house divided. We squabble over doctrine which should be clear but has instead become anything but. This looks a lot less like a “New Springtime” and a lot more like neverending winter.

 

Something Wicked This Way Comes

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Over the six months since I wrote my first (and now infamous) post about Francis’s first moment on the loggia and my subsequent concerns, I have been scorned and ridiculed by some noteworthy Catholic figures. Fortunately, I have been validated by many more than have attacked me.

I have heard from people who work at Catholic institutions of all stripes: lay people, school teachers, writers, diocesan staff, diocesan priests, editors, and college faculty. The messages are typically variations on this theme: “Glad you’re saying what I can’t. Keep it up. People are worried. It’s too risky still for me to speak openly about this. Watching carefully all that is going on.”

In one particularly reassuring episode, I recently received a phone call from a professor of theology at a Catholic college of solid reputation. This individual confirmed me not only in the concerns I have expressed about this pontificate, but in the feelings of terror I experienced at the moment of his announcement. (I have now heard from far too many people who felt what I felt that day to allow myself to discount it as a mere feeling.) This professor assured me that there are others in the world of Catholic theological academia who are also deeply concerned, and many are at work to try to understand how to best counter the errors — whether real or perceived — that seem to be issuing forth from this papacy, and from the prelates whom Pope Francis has surrounded himself with.

The most problematic of these would seem on the surface to be Cardinal Maradiaga, and he is certainly not to be underestimated. But I believe he is a distraction. The real danger comes instead from Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Cardinal Kasper — hand-picked by Pope Francis as an advisor after the holy father called him “a superb theologian” known for “serene theology” — is known for anything but superb theology:

“[D]uring a five-day visit to the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Cardinal Kasper was interviewed by Denis O’Hayer of WABE 90.1 FM, the local PBS radio station.

O’Hayer: Again, as I recall, at the beginning [of the ecumenical movement], the idea was that the other denominations would accept or somehow come to realize that the Church was the One True Church — the Catholic Church was. Is that accurate? … First of all is that perception accurate, and secondly, is that still the premise for the Catholic Church’s approach to ecumenism?

Kasper: Well, we have given up this ecumenism of return.”

 

And more:

“They’ve attacked me as a heretic,” he said with a smile.

Asked why the ultra-traditionalists opposed ecumenical dialogue so strongly, he said: “Some people feel threatened in their Catholic identity when we speak with Protestants.

“We need to have a Catholic identity,” he said. “But we need an open and mature identity, not a closed one. That’s not a mature identity.”

But then, when it comes to internal Church dialogue: 

“The main problem with them [the SSPX] is not the Mass in Latin,” he said, referring to the SSPX’s insistence on the pre-Council liturgy, “but the concept of tradition. Do we want a living tradition or a petrified one?”

“I’m for a dialogue, but on our conditions, not on the traditionalists’ conditions,”

 

 And one of my old favorites:

“The only thing I wish to say is that the Document Dominus Iesus does not state that everybody needs to become a Catholic in order to be saved by God. On the contrary, it declares that God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all. Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises.

This touches the problem of mission towards Jews, a painful question with regard to forced conversion in the past. Dominus Iesus, as other official documents, raised this question again saying that dialogue is a part of evangelisation. This stirred Jewish suspicion. But this is a language problem, since the term evangelisation, in official Church documents, cannot be understood in the same way it is commonly interpreted in everyday’s speech. In strict theological language, evangelisation is a very complex and overall term, and reality. It implies presence and witness, prayer and liturgy, proclamation and catechesis, dialogue and social work . . . which do not have the goal of increasing the number of Catholics. Thus evangelisation, if understood in its proper and theological meaning, does not imply any attempt of proselytism whatsoever.

There’s that word again. Proselytism. Used interchangeably by Kasper with the concept of an evangelization that seeks converts, it is the same word that Pope Francis, the theological admirer of Kasper, described as “Solemn nonsense.”

Cardinal Kasper is a man who has a problem with the central truths of the Catholic faith and her most venerable traditions, but not the errors one finds outside of the Mystical Body of Christ. He disputes her claims of exclusivity, and the necessity of her sacraments for salvation.

More to the point: his current, ongoing push to find pastoral solutions to provide communion to the divorced and remarried is, I submit, not about marriage at all.

It is about the final destruction of the remaining belief in the Real Presence and the authority of the Magisterium. It is about treating all religions as equally and sufficiently efficacious for eternal salvation and denying the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. 

This, at last, is the coup de grâce in the century-long onslaught against the Catholic faith that has been waged from within the Church. It is about modernism’s final, momentous triumph.

What the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control could not accomplish in 1967 appeared to be a great victory for the Church. But I have come to believe that Satan and his co-conspirators, so actively at work in the Church, accepted what seemed to be a crushing defeat at the time, knowing that the seeds for a much greater victory had been planted. Dissent blossomed in the Church, with no few bishops leading the charge. Contraception destroyed marriage. Worldwide, it has irrevocably separated the sexual act from procreation, and thus has ushered in the age of virtually ubiquitous extra-marital sex, abortion, pornography, and now same-sex marriage. As the institution of marriage has weakened, the frequency of divorce has increased exponentially. The apparent victory that was Humanae Vitae was not enforced from the pulpits. The faithful were not sufficiently catechized. And now the state of marriage — including Catholic marriage — is in such a bad way that it’s impossible to know how many marriages within the Church were ever valid in the first place. (Ask anyone going through required diocesan marriage prep how many of their classmates are already sleeping together. They’re not shy about it.)

The pastoral situation that the bishops are now facing as they consider the question of communion for the divorced and remarried is of their own making. And I submit for your consideration the idea that this happened not by accident, but by design. With marriage all but destroyed, finding a “pastoral” solution is necessary. It just so happens that this pastoral solution razes the infallible teaching of the Church on the Eucharist as it is implemented.

Fr. Brian Harrison writes:

The German bishops have devised a pastoral plan to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, whether or not a Church tribunal has granted a decree of nullity of their first marriage. Cardinal-elect Müller, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has not only published a strong article in L’Osservatore Romano reaffirming the perennial Catholic doctrine confirmed by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio; he has also written officially to the German Bishops’ Conference telling them to rectify their heterodox pastoral plan. But the bishops, led by their conference president and by Cardinal Kasper, are openly defying the head of the CDF, and predicting that the existing doctrine and discipline will soon be changed!

Think of the appalling ramifications of this. If German Catholics don’t need decrees of nullity, neither will any Catholics anywhere. Won’t the world’s Catholic marriage tribunals then become basically irrelevant? (Will they eventually just close down?) And won’t this reversal of bimillennial Catholic doctrine mean that the Protestants and Orthodox, who have allowed divorce and remarriage for century after century, have been more docile to the Holy Spirit on this issue than the true Church of Christ? Indeed, how credible, now, will be her claim to be the true Church? On what other controverted issues, perhaps, has the Catholic Church been wrong, and the separated brethren right?

And what of Jesus’ teaching that those who remarry after divorce commit adultery? Admitting them to Communion without a commitment to continence will lead logically to one of three faith-breaking conclusions: (a) our Lord was mistaken in calling this relationship adulterous – in which case He can scarcely have been the Son of God; (b) adultery is not intrinsically and gravely sinful – in which case the Church’s universal and ordinary magisterium has always been wrong; or (c) Communion can be given to some who are living in objectively grave sin – in which case not only has the magisterium also erred monumentally by always teaching the opposite, but the way will also be opened to Communion for fornicators, practicing homosexuals, pederasts, and who knows who else? (And, please, spare us the sophistry that Jesus’ teaching was correct “in his own historical and cultural context”, but that since about Martin Luther’s time that has all changed.)

Let us make no mistake: Satan is right now shaking the Church to her very foundations over this divorce issue. If anything, the confusion is becoming even graver than that over contraception between 1965 and 1968, when Paul VI’s seeming vacillation allowed Catholics round the world to anticipate a reversal of perennial Church teaching. If the present Successor of Peter now keeps silent about divorce and remarriage, thereby tacitly telling the Church and the world that the teaching of Jesus Christ will be up for open debate at a forthcoming Synod of Bishops, one fears a terrible price will soon have to be paid.

The stakes of this issue cannot be overstated.

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, herself a German Catholic, envisioned something terrible befalling the Church:

942284_603714012973540_699497759_n

“I saw also the relationship between two popes … I saw how baleful would be the consequences of this false church. I saw it increase in size; heretics of every kind came into the city of Rome. The local clergy grew lukewarm, and I saw a great darkness…

“I had another vision of the great tribulation. It seems to me that a concession was demanded from the clergy which could not be granted. I saw many older priests, especially one, who wept bitterly. A few younger ones were also weeping. But others, and the lukewarm among them, readily did what was demanded. It was as if people were splitting into two camps.

“I see the Holy Father in great anguish. He lives in a palace other than before and he admits only a limited number of friends near him. I fear that the Holy Father will suffer many more trials before he dies.

“I see that the false Church of darkness is making progress and I see the dreadful influence it has on the people. The Holy Father and the Church are verily in so great a distress that one must implore God night and day…”

Let us return now to Cardinal Kasper’s speech to the consistory on the family in February with this idea in mind: 

He claimed that in the early Church, when someone entered a new relationship even though their spouse was still alive, “after a period of penance had available … a life raft through admission to Communion.”

Suggesting a “way of conversion” involving the sacrament of confession, he asked, “is it also the path that we could follow in the present question?”

When someone who is divorced and remarried “repents of his failure in the first marriage”; if he cannot return to the first marriage; if he “cannot abandon without further harm” the responsibilities of his second marriage; if “he is doing the best he can to live out the possibilities of the second marriage on the basis of the faith and to raise his children in the faith”; and if “he has a desire for the sacraments as a source of strength in his situation,” Cardinal Kasper said, then “should we or can we deny him, after a period of time of a new orientation (metanoia), the sacrament of penance, and then of Communion?”

[...]

“Life is not just black or white; there are, in fact, many nuances.”

Cardinal Kasper emphasized the need for “discretion, spiritual discernment, sagacity, and pastoral wisdom” in these cases. “This discretion is not an easy compromise between the extremes of rigorism and laxity, but, as is every virtue, a perfection between these extremes.” (emphasis mine)

The serpent is a creature who moves with careful tact. Eve was not coerced, she was…seduced. It was the slow, slippery insinuation of ideas that led her to The Fall. The devil is in the nuances:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;  but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked… (Genesis 3:1-7, RSV)

Although we know that Pope Francis found Kasper’s presentation “beautiful and profound”, we now hear the opposition. Cardinals and theologians are turning on Kasper. They oppose his solution.

While we may be tempted to see in this a sign of hope, it would not be the first time that the Church has followed this process to change a long-standing matter of essential discipline. The “pastoral” circumstance that led to the widespread practice of communion in the hand — an abuse — came about in much the same way:

The practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand first began to spread in Catholic circles during the early 1960s, primarily in Holland. Shortly after Vatican II, due to the escalating abuses in certain non-English speaking countries (Holland, Belgium, France and Germany), Pope Paul VI took a survey of the world’s bishops to ascertain their opinions on the subject. On May 28, 1969 the Congregation for Divine Worship issued Memoriale Domini, which concluded: “From the responses received, it is thus clear that by far the greater number of bishops feel that the present discipline [i.e., Holy Communion on the tongue] should not be changed at all, indeed that if it were changed, this would be offensive to the sensibility and spiritual appreciation of these bishops and of most of the faithful.” After he had considered the observation and the counsel of the bishops, the Supreme Pontiff judged that the long-received manner of ministering Holy Communion to the faithful should not be changed. The Apostolic See then strongly urged bishops, priests and the laity to zealously observe this law out of concern for the common good of the Church.

Despite the vote, in 1969 Pope Paul VI decided to strike a compromise with his disobedient bishops on the continent. Given “the gravity of the matter,” the pope would not authorize Communion in the hand. He was, however, open to bestowing an indult – an exception to the law – under certain conditions: first, an indult could not be given to a country in which Communion in the hand was not an already established practice; second, the bishops in countries where it was established must approve of the practice “by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority.” Beyond this, the Holy See set down seven regulations concerning communion in the hand; failure to maintain these regulations could result in the loss of the indult. The first three regulations concerned: 1) respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice (of receiving kneeling and on the tongue), 2) maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist, and 3) strengthening the laity’s faith in the real presence. (emphasis mine)

Communion in the hand began as an abuse opposed by the world’s bishops and the pope himself. But insofar as it was rampant (in the Germanic countries, again, which seems to be a fountainhead of heterodoxy for the Church) it was allowed, by indult, in the hope of containment. Those who failed to honor the mentioned conditions were supposed to lose the indult. But they didn’t.

Communion in the hand is now the dominant practice of the entire Church. It has spread like wildfire.

Do we really doubt that if the German bishops forge ahead with their plan for communion for the divorced and remarried — even if, by some chance, Pope Francis does not find some way to acquiesce to it — that they will not be given a similar allowance?

Do we really believe that the abuse could be contained?

 

Concluding Thoughts

There are many troubling signs in the Church today. The damage stemming from the theological confusion and division which are hallmarks of this papacy is not to be underestimated. The recent attacks on the Traditional Latin Mass and those who are devoted to it seem like trial balloons for further suppression.

But it is the desire to allow communion for the divorced and remarried that will set the stage for what follows.

If the October synod allows this — and the pope affirms it, or the German bishops proceed regardless and are granted an indult — we are in grave danger. Fr. Brian Harrison is correct. It would call everything that Catholics believe about Christ, about the Eucharist, and about the Church’s infallible authority on faith and morals into question. The interconnectedness of all the essential truths of the Church comes tumbling down if the most central truth — the truth of the Eucharistic Christ — can be undermined.

An October synod with such an outcome would mean a November Schism. Could this be the “concession … which could not be granted”, that will nonetheless “readily” be acquiesced to by many of the clergy? Will the Church split “into two camps”? Is this what so many of us have been sensing amidst the turmoil?

Would this loss of belief in the Real Presence and magisterial authority thus pave the way for the reign of the Antichrist, if Rome indeed becomes the seat of apostasy?

Only God knows. But we must be alert.

At the time of the conclave that elected Francis, Robert Moynihan, founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican, ran into a cardinal he knew on the streets of Rome. Moynihan felt compelled to talk to him about what was happening:

“Your eminence,” I said.

In his eyes he was saying to me that he could not answer any questions.

But he was not excluding all conversation. And so I ventured…

“I only wanted to tell you one thing,” I said. “That I loved Pope Benedict.”

He stood still.

“I did too, and I do love him,” the cardinal said.

“And so I have been troubled and a bit off balance since February 11,” I said.

And then, as if filled with a sudden emotion, I saw the cardinal’s face grow dark and sad, and he said, forcefully: “I love him, but this should never have happened. He never should have left his office.”

I was silent.

“It is like a man and a woman, a husband and wife, a mother and father in relation to their children,” he said. “What do they say?” It seemed he was asking me the question.

I was silent.

“They say, ‘until death do us part!’ They stay together always.”

So I understood him to be saying that he felt a Successor of Peter should not step down from the throne, no matter how weary and tired, but continue until death.

I felt the words he was speaking were the words of an argument that may have been used even among the cardinals, but of course, that may not be the case.

But I felt that I was catching a glimpse of how at least one cardinal was thinking about the Pope’s renunciation.

“Your eminence,” I said, “I’ve forgotten. Are you already above age 80, or not?

“I am not yet 80,” he told me.

“So you will be voting tomorrow.”

He nodded, and a look passed over his eyes which seemed filled with shadows and concerns. I was surprised at his intensity. I was surprised by the whole conversation.

He squeezed my hand. “Is there anything else I can do?” I asked.

“Pray for us,” he said. “Pray for us.”

He turned as if he needed to go.

“I have to go.”

He took a step away from me, then turned again.

“It is a dangerous time. Pray for us.”

I think we should do as he asked.

Pray. Pray more than you’re used to. It’s hard. I’m bad at it. Ask God for wisdom, for discernment, for guidance. Ask Him to help you see the truth of what is going on, and what you must do. Try your hardest to stay in a state of grace. Live your vocation. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

This is my own advice for myself. I am not a prophet, but I am trying to read the signs. I hope that you also find my thoughts here worth your consideration.

 

UPDATE: 3/31/14

In the comments, CJ says: “The broad patristic consensus on the Antichrist is that the “Temple” refers not to the church but to the synagogue.”

And indeed, as I’ve done some additional reading in Fr. Vincent Miceli’s book, The Antichrist, that does seem to be the favored interpretation. He cites Ireneaus, Cyril of Jerusalem, and others in support of this. As I said at the outset of this post, “I have no special gift for divining the course of the future; I receive no private revelations.” I should add that I’m no scripture scholar, either. I’m just a guy trying to piece this together. There does seem to be evidence that apostasy in Rome to some degree is certainly within the realm of possibility. I know that Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions of a syncretistic Church that does great damage to the faith has Rome at the center. I’m sure there’s probably a great deal more out there. Researching this isn’t my full-time job, though, so I have to find what I can in the time I can scrape up.

If I didn’t make it clear enough before, I’ll say it with more force here: THIS IS ALL MY OWN INTERPRETATION AND THINKING AND NOTHING MORE. It could all very well be wrong. Take it with a big grain of salt. Do your own homework. I’m not an authority of any kind on the matters discussed herein.

My Latest at CatholicVote

25 March, 2014 at 12:52 pm

In which I argue that Libertarianism is a remedy, not a panacea.

A snippet:

It seems to me that Catholics who wish to counter this compulsory charity and the growth of an overbearing state can embrace a sort of libertarian impulse in good conscience — provided they understand the danger of the atomized, radically individualistic anarchy that lies at the far end of that spectrum.

Similarly, Catholics who believe that social justice demands a certain level of statism to fill in where private charity fails must understand the danger of fascism or communism that result when we hand too much power to the government and outsource works of mercy that should voluntary to bureaucrats who trade handouts for votes.

As we strive for balance and the protection of the liberty that allows us to thrive and prosper as citizens, we must all be wary of being drawn to extremity, simply out of the feeling of a need for ideological purity or unquestioning affiliation to the political group of our choice.

 

“Silence Encourages the Tormentor, Never the Tormented”

12 March, 2014 at 9:45 am

I recently received an email from someone I’ve known for quite a few years now. We’ve sparred theologically over that time, and I think it’s fair to say that we share a mutual respect.

He asked me, “What good does it do to publicly complain online? How is the mystical body of Christ built up by internet venting?”

And it’s a fair question. There is a real danger that comes when one crosses the line from alerting people to danger to delighting in scandal. This danger is intensified when it seems that only the tiniest minority of people see what you believe to be manifestly true. You wish to exonerate yourself. You want to provide examples. Every time you read a news story that confirms what you believe, you want to publish it and point to it and tell the world, “SEE??! I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU!”

Yes, it’s a dangerous game. But it’s one that must be played.

We live in a very public world. People with power have always been attempted to abuse that power. The only thing we can do to combat the abuse of power is to change the way the game is played. Power-abusers hide from the light.  When I saw this quote yesterday from Elie Wiesel, it struck me as tremendously appropriate for our times:

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I remember clearly the way the Legionaries of Christ would try to turn my own friends against me, or would warn their prospective recruits not to talk to me, because I had no qualms about revealing the abuses of power, the manipulation, the deceit, the corruption that I saw rampant in that organization — and this long before the depth of Maciel’s depravity was revealed.

I am reminded of that when I see the gag order filed against the parents of Justina Pelletier, forbidding them from speaking out about the medical abduction of their daughter by Boston Children’s Hospital. And when her father finally defied the order and went to the press, the power structure holding them hostage began to crumble.

There are a number of recent examples that one could call to mind on the geopolitical and ecclesiastical stage. The important thing is that we have reached a point of asymmetry in the historical distribution of power. The Internet is 25 years old this week. And it has changed…everything. People, no matter how small, have a voice. A voice that can be amplified exponentially when others catch wind of the truth.

The Catholic Church is no less subject to these new forces. There was a time, not long after the Second Vatican Council, when the bishops who wanted to suppress the Church’s ancient liturgy or desecrate her traditions could do so with impunity.

That time is over. This is an age of accountability. When something sacred is treated as disposable, when communities of believers are punished with forced allegiance to Modernist changes they have legitimately and prudently chosen to avoid, that’s a place where the light should shine.

I don’t know about you, but I want my Catholicism back. I want a Church I can be proud of, a Church that remembers what it believes in. A Church that doesn’t scandalize so deeply that it damages or even destroys the faith of its own members and makes no effort to appeal to those outside her bosom except when creating the false appearance that non-negotiable things have become negotiable.

If this isn’t the foretold time of apostasy, it must be the precursor. Pope St. Pius X warned us, with great urgency:

“[T]hey put into operation their designs for Her [the Church’s] undoing, not from without but from within. Hence, the danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain from the very fact that their knowledge of Her is more intimate. Moreover, they lay the ax not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fibers.”

Pascendi Dominici Gregis

Fight back. Please. Don’t let the virtue of docility you have cultivated out of a love of God and His shepherds make your voice falter. If you care about your faith, stand up for it - not just against enemies outside the Church, but against those within. As Pope John Paul II always reminded us, “Do not be afraid.”

For some, this fight will come through contemplative prayer. For others, the living of their vocation in their homes, their parishes, or in the world. For those who can, for those with a voice, we should cry out. (For many of us, it should be some combination of the three.)

I am not advocating rash thought or careless speech, and I am certainly guilty of both at times. I am often angry when confronted with the “Devastated Vineyard”. I often fail to show charity when it is most needed. I will confess it to anyone: I am a wretched sinner. I don’t say this to burnish my rough edges with a facade of humility. I say it because I am so deeply aware that it is true, as are the poor priests who hear my confessions.

It’s not my place to judge souls, but I do feel an obligation to judge words and actions. Especially public words and actions. The Roman Catholic Church is perhaps the most scholarly institution in the history of the world. Everything she believes is written down for us to read and understand. There is no mystery concerning what she teaches. It only becomes confusing if one avoids this knowledge and listens only to those who are in ecclesiastical authority today. We are fortunate, however. If we are not the most literate generation of Catholics in the history of the world, we are very close. And because of technology, we have access to so much more of the Church’s wisdom and thought than anyone who came before us. We have the criteria to make comparisons. We have the tools to prudently discern.

We do not have the authority to make real, formal accusations of heresy. That is for the hierarchy alone — and we should pray that God will send us prelates who will speak the truth. But what we can do is point out the contradictions. As Chesterton said, “The only sin is to call green grass gray.”

The Church’s guarantee of indefectibility is not a guarantee of general orthodoxy. It is not a guarantee that most of the Church will not fall into heresy and decay. It is a guarantee of survival, by whatever margin Our Lord wills. In this respect, I can’t help thinking of Abraham pleading for Sodom: “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?”  Is that enough? How many faithful are required for the Church to remain standing at the time of judgment?

There’s too much at stake. I won’t take it quietly. I can’t.

Will you?

Suppressing the Traditional Latin Mass is Not a Disciplinary Option

4 March, 2014 at 10:10 am

Yesterday, I came in from shoveling snow for the better part of two hours and checked my phone. I had several emails from a friend whose oldest child has been involved with Fisher More Academy/Fisher More College in Fort Worth, Texas.

The news was bleak. Bishop Olson of Fort Worth had ordered the school to stop offering the TLM. Completely. No exceptions.

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The announcement of Mass cancellation as appears on the college website.

We had been considering FMA’s online courses as an alternative to homeschooling our oldest, who is a junior in high school. One of the most appealing aspect of Fisher More is that they offer the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments to their students, and in fact study and understand the traditional thought and teaching of the Church.

This approach is noteworthy to me. As someone who earned a theology degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville — a college with a brand name reputation for “dynamic orthodoxy” — I have grown troubled over the years to realize that with the exception of certain writings of the Church Fathers, I studied virtually nothing from the pre-conciliar Church. I certainly was exposed to none of the warnings in documents like Pascendi about the coming distortion of Church doctrine from within. I had no framework with which to even begin to approach the Church’s historical thought on the thorny issues of ecumenism and religious liberty, both of which are issues of significant contention among my peers in the “traditionalist” movement.

Fisher More has been a bubbling cauldron of controversy lately. I don’t know all the details, but I do know they’re under fire for being too traditionalist, whatever that means. And there’s a discussion to be had around that. It’s clearly affecting the administration, the student body, and the financial solvency of the institution.

But the issue in play right now is whether a Roman Catholic bishop can just up and on his own authority forbid the celebration of the TLM while still allowing the Novus Ordo. I say no. And I make my case in a guest post at Rorate Caeli today:

[T]hese issues, while important on their own and relevant to the future of Fisher More, are distractions from the larger — and dare I say, more dangerous – ecclesiastical action that took place, which sets a precedent for the larger Church. In the wake of the situation with the FFI, it is, in fact, strikingly inauspicious. Bishop Olson chose to target the Extraordinary Form — and onlythe Extraordinary Form — as an apparent disciplinary action in violation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.
 
While I do not represent myself as an expert in such matters, the Canon Law Center has issued a canonical opinion on the matter that cuts to the quick:
 
With the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, the diocesan bishop no longer has the discretion either to permit or restrict the celebration of Mass according to the usus antiquor, a prerogative he previously enjoyed. Thus, no bishop has the authority to arbitrarily restrict the celebration of Mass according to the traditional Roman Rite. While the diocesan bishop has “all ordinary, proper, and immediate power which is required for the exercise of his pastoral function” (CIC/83, c. 381, §1), his authority is not absolute.
 
The faithful have a right, enshrined in ecclesiastical law, to have access to the Mass and sacraments celebrated according to the usus antiquior. Celebration of the traditional Roman liturgy is no longer a privilege extended to the faithful on an individual basis but rather a right that can be properly vindicated if requests for such celebrations are not satisfied (cf. SP, art. 7).
 
[...]
 
For several years following the promulgation of Summorum, the legal mechanisms for the vindication of rights relative to the proper implementation of the motu proprio left much to be desired. With the promulgation of the InstructionUniversae Ecclesiae of April 30, 2011, the universal law of Summorum was effectively given teeth: the process of hierarchical recourse may now be utilized by faithful who believe their rights have been violated by a decision of an Ordinary which appears to be contrary to the motu proprio. (cf. UE, 10 § 1)
 
The recent letter of Bishop Olson to Fisher-More College certainly appears to represent such a decision. Insofar as it has unlawfully restricted the rights of the faithful, the bishop’s administrative act can and ought to be challenged.
 
The canonical opinion above validates my own understanding of the matter, namely: the authority for a bishop to forbid this Mass which was “never abrogated” (SP, art. 1) does not exist. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in the accompanying letter toSummorum, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”
 
Contrast these words with those of Bishop Olson, who wrote (after forbidding the Extraordinary Form and making provision only for celebration of the Ordinary Form), “I make these norms out of my pastoral solicitude and care for the students of Fisher-More College as well as for your own soul.”
 
These words imply that continuing to offer the Traditional Latin Mass at Fisher More would be substantively harmful to the souls who attend it. Bishop Olson also makes the draconian threat that any violation of his proscription would result in “withdrawal of permission to celebrate the Eucharist in your chapel along with withdrawal of permission to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel.”
 
What it seems Bishop Olson disregards is the critical phrase, “Never abrogated.” Had it been abrogated, no priest would licitly be able to celebrate it. Since it has not been abrogated, every priest of the Roman Rite has the *right* to say it. It is, in fact, a completely licit and authorized Mass of the rite in which he received his ordination. There is no legal suppression of one Mass in favor of the other. This is the very situation Summorum sought to address. A bishop has authority over sacramental jurisdiction, and can at his discretion order that no Masses be said in a certain chapel. What he does not have the authority to say is, “You may have only the Ordinary Form of Mass, but not the Extraordinary Form.” This creates a false dichotomy between the forms, and violates the rights and freedom of the faithful.

You can read the whole thing here.

An Insight Into Writerly Procrastination

18 February, 2014 at 1:47 pm

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At The Atlantic, Megan McArdle has a piece entitled “Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators.” It’s begins by plunging immediately into the eerily familiar.

Like most writers, I am an inveterate procrastinator. In the course of writing this one article, I have checked my e-mail approximately 3,000 times, made and discarded multiple grocery lists, conducted a lengthy Twitter battle over whether the gold standard is actually the worst economic policy ever proposed, written Facebook messages to schoolmates I haven’t seen in at least a decade, invented a delicious new recipe for chocolate berry protein smoothies, and googled my own name several times to make sure that I have at least once written something that someone would actually want to read.

Lots of people procrastinate, of course, but for writers it is a peculiarly common occupational hazard. One book editor I talked to fondly reminisced about the first book she was assigned to work on, back in the late 1990s. It had gone under contract in 1972.

I once asked a talented and fairly famous colleague how he managed to regularly produce such highly regarded 8,000 word features. “Well,” he said, “first, I put it off for two or three weeks. Then I sit down to write. That’s when I get up and go clean the garage. After that, I go upstairs, and then I come back downstairs and complain to my wife for a couple of hours. Finally, but only after a couple more days have passed and I’m really freaking out about missing my deadline, I ultimately sit down and write.”

But where things really get interesting is in McArdle’s analysis of the phenomenon. I feel it necessary to excerpt her at some length:

Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writerly habit of putting off writing as long as possible.) At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion. Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project. It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.

This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent. Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not—indeed, probably won’t—be the best anymore.

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are. As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good. Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package. By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.

[...]

“Exactly!” said Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, when I floated this theory by her. One of the best-known experts in the psychology of motivation, Dweck has spent her career studying failure, and how people react to it. As you might expect, failure isn’t all that popular an activity. And yet, as she discovered through her research, not everyone reacts to it by breaking out in hives. While many of the people she studied hated tasks that they didn’t do well, some people thrived under the challenge. They positively relished things they weren’t very good at—for precisely the reason that they should have: when they were failing, they were learning.

Dweck puzzled over what it was that made these people so different from their peers. It hit her one day as she was sitting in her office (then at Columbia), chewing over the results of the latest experiment with one of her graduate students: the people who dislike challenges think that talent is a fixed thing that you’re either born with or not. The people who relish them think that it’s something you can nourish by doing stuff you’re not good at.

“There was this eureka moment,” says Dweck. She now identifies the former group as people with a “fixed mind-set,” while the latter group has a “growth mind-set.” Whether you are more fixed or more of a grower helps determine how you react to anything that tests your intellectual abilities. For growth people, challenges are an opportunity to deepen their talents, but for “fixed” people, they are just a dipstick that measures how high your ability level is. Finding out that you’re not as good as you thought is not an opportunity to improve; it’s a signal that you should maybe look into a less demanding career, like mopping floors.

This fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you “really” are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome. A shocking number of successful people (particularly women), believe that they haven’t really earned their spots, and are at risk of being unmasked as frauds at any moment. Many people deliberately seek out easy tests where they can shine, rather than tackling harder material that isn’t as comfortable.

[...]

“Work finally begins,” says Alain de Botton, “when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.” For people with an extremely fixed mind-set, that tipping point quite often never happens. They fear nothing so much as finding out that they never had what it takes.

“The kids who race ahead in the readers without much supervision get praised for being smart,” says Dweck. “What are they learning? They’re learning that being smart is not about overcoming tough challenges. It’s about finding work easy. When they get to college or graduate school and it starts being hard, they don’t necessarily know how to deal with that.”

Reading this, I feel as though she cut the top of my head and started poking around inside.

I remember sitting outside after half-day kindergarten, waiting for the older kids to walk past my house on their way home from school so I could impress them by reading a story out loud. While the kids in my class were doing phonics, I was tearing through books from the library.

I plowed through the entire SRA reading box in 2nd grade, going all the way to the end of the 7th grade reading level until I finally ran out of color coded glossy cards to be proud of finishing while everyone else was in my dust.

In high school, I had a history teacher who once showed off my test essay to his classes and said, “This is an example of college-level work.” (I hadn’t done that much with it…I more or less reworded the essay question and handed it back in.)

I studied for my SATs for maybe an hour, and wound up getting a perfect score on the verbal section, and a decent enough score on math. Even though I forgot my calculator.

I graduated college with honors, even though I double-majored and rarely studied and almost never bought the books for class.

This isn’t a pat-on-the-back fest. It was just how things worked. It wasn’t that I never struggled in school. I did. Math began defeating me by the end of 7th grade. Certain scientific subjects didn’t work well for me either. In college, I had to take a class on biblical exegesis twice, from two different professors. I dropped it the first time, but the second professor was easier and more congenial. In both cases, though, I found it incredibly boring (read: challenging) and barely made it through.

It wasn’t until I got to work that I realized I couldn’t just coast on my natural aptitude to understand things and sound smart. Suddenly, I was being judged on output, not aptitude. As I faced more and more tasks I didn’t want or know how to do, the procrastination factor ramped up considerably. Social media entered the scene and I was done for.

I’ve been out of college for 13 years this summer, and I still struggle with it. Right now, I have a project I should be working on that will actually help me build a new and important source of revenue, but I can’t get myself to tackle it. It isn’t just unfolding itself in my brain. I don’t know how to proceed, and the effort is proving just enough that I’m avoiding it. I’m about to force myself to go back to it right now.

McArdle’s article goes on to tie in the problem with Millennials, but I really think that’s a different subject. What I’d love to see more about are best practices in how to overcome this “fixed-mindset” problem. I’m tired of allowing myself to be defeated by it.

I’ve gotten much better about my writing. I can produce even when I don’t feel like it, or even when I’m worried about the outcome. I can’t say I’ve become completely prolific yet, but I haven’t been stopped by writer’s block in a while. Even when I’m writing about something I couldn’t care less about. (More challenging is writing about something I do care about, but I’m afraid the end result is going to be badly done.) But I have the “fixed-mindset” problem in every area of my life.

If I’m not already good at something, I often avoid it entirely. I hate making mistakes. I know that failing is learning, but I don’t feel like that’s true, so I instinctively stay as far away from it as I can. I absolutely will forgo trying something I think I’ll be bad at. (My wife calls this “shooting myself in the foot.”) And when I do take on something new and challenging, I expect extreme proficiency within an unreasonably short amount of time. I’ve often been told that I pick up on how to do a job faster than anyone in the position before me, but I never take that with me the next time. I always feel that pressure that I’m not getting up to speed fast enough. Some have accused me of laziness, of not wanting to put in the work to get there. But it’s not laziness at all – it’s terror about not being perceived as being good enough. Of looking like a fool. Of having people say, “You’re obviously smart, so why can’t you do this?” Or worse yet, “Maybe you’re not so bright after all…”

And imposter syndrome? Oh yeah. That’s so me. I hesitate to tell people I’m a writer, because I don’t feel like I’ve earned it. And the realization I had several years ago that “everyone is faking it” to a certain degree helped with my self-consciousness, but I find myself falling back into the mindset that I’m the only one who doesn’t know what I’m doing, and everyone else around me is a pro, so they’re going to find me out. I can’t tell you what that does to you on a job interview.

There’s much to consider in this piece. I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting these concepts — and looking for answers on them — for some time to come.

 

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