Sedevacantism? Sedevacantists? No, not a great idea.

Sedevacantism describes the situation when the See of Peter is vacant. This happens during the interregnum once one Pope dies (or abdicates) and another is elected.

There exists a minority of Catholics who are convinced (in varying degrees) that since some date (which also varies) in the past, Papal Succession has ceased and that the See of Peter is vacant.

Put like that, to some, it may seem laughable, but it is no laughing matter. These Catholics have often reasoned their positions out very thoroughly, and have become so convinced that this is the case, that it is almost impossible for them to recant.

There is a lengthy article on Sedevacantism on Wikipedia, which is a good (if not lengthy) read. Always bear in mind, that with Wikipedia, you don’t know who the author is, or his authority on the matter.

Suffice to say Sedevacantism is a problem, and it needs to be dealt with. The main problem is around the liturgical reforms of the 20th Century and Vatican II. Goes like this:

  1. The liturgy and Church teaching was changed
  2. The liturgy and Church teaching should not have changed
  3. The Church can’t err (see my post on the Indefectability of the Church)
  4. Therefore the current visible Church is not the real Church (or a variation which says the Pope who is responsible is to blame, therefore, he is a manifest heretic and therefore there is no Pope)

Simple, clear reasoning. But they have omitted one very important factor; human beings. We’re not machines, it’s not black or white. We live in a world of shades of grey. The Church can’t err, but she can certainly, in her human aspect, forget. Like forgetting, that if anyone violates the truce of God (making War on any other day than Mondays to Wednesdays during Summer and Autumn)  and after the third admonition does not make satisfaction, shall be anathematized (First Council of the Lateran)… well, so much for all the Catholics during every war that has ever happened since 1123…

Go ahead, look through the Ecumenical Councils that have been convoked, read their promulgations, see how much has been forgotten.

If a person forgets to leave his handbrake on and the car kills a child, the person will not be charged of murder. It is a terrible horrendous thing, but truthfully they are innocent (and likely to be their own judge, jury and punisher). To err, is to know one is doing something wrong, and to do it anyway. Just like any sin, it requires, matter, knowledge and forethought.

Some conspiracy theorists, posit that the Popes knew that messing around with the Liturgy was wrong and maliciously chose to do it with forethought. Well, if that was the case, there would be very serious implications for the person who occupies the office (not the office itself).

The problem, is that these conspiracy theorists are not psychic, they cannot prove the level of culpability of those they accuse (how much did they know, how much forethought was given, was there malicious intent? etc), and those that they accuse cannot defend themselves because they have gone to their Eternal Judgement. So based upon these two problems, we, as followers of Christ, we must adhere to “innocent until proven guilty” and de mortuis nil nisi bonum (“speak well of the dead or not at all”). Then we must wait until our lives are over to see who’s in heaven and who’s not. Only then will we know with certainty (bar the case of Miracles – more in another post another time).

Which means that the only position a Catholic can take in good conscience is that the See of Peter is occupied. Sure the Liturgical demolition and the loopy liberalisation which followed in “the spirit of the Vatican Council” were horrendous. And anyone who disagrees with that is suffering from some serious…

…to the facts. It’s been a disaster, of almost Protestant Reformation scale. But while it is an ontological tragedy, it is a very human disaster, deriving from very human mistakes.

Someone pointed out something which I believe is very insightful;
The majority of modern Popes have been treating their Pontificate like temporal despots, they can do as they will, create this, do that, go here, go there. They have lost the understanding that the Pontificate is a Stewardship, that they are charged to keep things, to look after them and not to act in a self-willed manner, for they are the steward of something which is not theirs. And not ours either, for that matter.

Consider the Papacy in the light of this Parable:

A certain man planted a vineyard and made a hedge about it, and dug a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it to husbandmen; and went into a far country.

The Holy Gospel according to St Mark (12:1-5)

Now imagine the Man comes home, and finds that the husbandmen have dug up the hedge, destroyed the winevat, taken down the tower, and made the vineyard into a dairy farm. It might be a great dairy farm, the lead Steward may be very proud of his work, “look how great a dairy farm I have made for you”. But the Man says “But I wanted a vineyard…”.

This is the world we live in, where people, ordinary human beings, no greater, no less, than you or I, think they know best. They are often unaware of the subtle voice which says “choose your own way” which I mentioned in the post Habemus Papam – Pope Francis – Gift of the Holy Ghost? is not the voice of God. Christ constantly calls us to be Stewards, to “observe all things whatsoever I have commanded” (Mt 28:19-20).

The Liturgy is part of Sacred Tradition, not the Magesterium, the Magesterium is not called to innovate, discard, or lay waste to Sacred Tradition, the Magesterium is called to be a Steward of Sacred Tradition, and therefore also the Sacred Liturgy.

But just because the human occupants of the Magesterium of the Church, forget this mandate, and start doing things which they probably shouldn’t, it is not justification for accusing that the See of Peter is vacant.

Sedevacantism is bunk. Get back in the Ark and start helping to repair the holes, bail out the water and moor the Ark to the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady.

Vision of St John Bosco of the Church


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Habemus Papam – Pope Francis – Gift of the Holy Ghost?
Indefectibility of the Church

On Pope Francis – Challenging us to become more like the poor?

Is the Pope challenging us to become more like the poor?

Well, we have to be very careful, firstly the Pope is speaking in Italian (not his native Spanish, despite how similar the two languages are), which we then translate into English by a translator. In any case of translation, the simultaneous translator will always perform poorly in comparison to a translation done over time. Even then, our reliance on someone else to translate what the Pope says, always means that we must be careful to weigh everything carefully and not give way to fanatical “yes-man”isms (Incidentally, this is related to the inherent weakness caused by abandoning Latin – more another time).

So we have to be careful here; If he has challenged us to “becoming more like the poor” as we understand those words in English, then we need to be aware of some things. His understanding, and use of these words depends upon his personal Theology (something that is not subject to Papal Infallibility). And we must be cautious here, because “become more like the poor” smacks of Liberation Theology… St Francis may have divested himself of all his personal wealth, but he never said that we all should do the same.

If, however. he is challenging us to be more like what is outlined in these two meditations, then great!

Forgiving Love (1 of 2 – 45 min runtime)

[audio http://centerforchristiannonviolence.org/data/Media/BTL_14_The_Lamb_of_Forgiving_Love.mp3]

Serving Love (2 of 2 – 45 min runtime)

[audio http://centerforchristiannonviolence.org/data/Media/BTL_15_The_Lamb_of_Serving_Love.mp3]

Now what I am not saying, is that we should set ourselves up as mini-Popes judging every word our present Supreme Pontiff says, picking this, ignoring that. We are not pick-and-choose cafeteria catholics. The Supreme Pontiff deserves our filial trust and obedience. What I am saying is that we have, by the Supreme Good that Is God, been given the gift of reason, and that we should use it. We have to trust in God. We have to reflect on what is said to us. As Our Lady “pondered within herself” the words that the Angel Gabriel bore to her (Cf 1:26). And once pondered, discerning the spirit to be good, do obediently.


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Is love blind?
Habemus Papam – Pope Francis – Gift of the Holy Ghost?

Is love blind?

We all know the great treatise by St Paul on love (Greek: Agape, Latin: Caritas)

If I speak with the tongues of men, and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries, and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely; is not puffed up; Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known. And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

Epistle of St Paul to Corinthians 13

Is love blind though? The problem is rooted in the modern misconception that love is a feeling. Love is not a feeling, love is a doing. Love is an action, a “do” verb. The root of the misconception comes from the problem of translating the Greek (and even Latin) word for “love” into English. There are some people who will read Saint Paul’s great treatise on Love in the sense of “eros” reciprocative love, or the emotional feeling that the mainstream media propegandises as “love” (as represented by the Cupid, or the lovey-dovey couple or whatever the media throws at us in this regard).

The emotional feeling, is often blind, because it can be more powerful than reason. “Eros” is also often blind, because the reciprocal satiation (pleasure) is very “more-ish” (addictive). But neither these are the “love” that saves, neither of these are the “love” that Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ talks about. In fact neither of these forms of “love” are actually used in the New Testament, at all.

The love of the New Testament is in Greek; “Agape”. Agape represents the willingness to serve without the desire for reciprocation and the willingness to suffer without the desire for retaliation. This kind of love is never blind. It is summed up in this symbol


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Habemus Papam – Pope Francis – Gift of the Holy Ghost?

Habemus Papam – Pope Francis – Gift of the Holy Ghost?

God bless our Pope. Thanks be to God that the Church is no longer sedevacante (the See of Peter is no longer vacant).

Our Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis

I confess, my initial reaction to the election was, uncharitable. I became aware my wrong, and I have subsequently corrected it (cf. Mt 7:1-5). But continually among Catholics and media alike there has been a clamour of “the Holy Ghost has chosen…“, “this is the work of the Holy Ghost…” or variations thereof. These statements are assumptions at best and outright lies at the worst.

Let me explain…

Our Catholic Faith teaches us that we possess Free Will. Our Catholic Faith also teaches us that God absolutely respects Free Will. He does not manipulate, He does not force.

So in all things, there are two things in action; our own Free Will, and Gods Will.

Our Will is subject to the stains of Original Sin (so we have a natural tendency to sin, and a natural aversion to the good), it is also subject to the world, and it is the predation of Satan (who has no qualms about messing with Free Will).

Gods Will is not subject to anything, bar our free consent. (cf. Lk 1:38)

So the Cardinals voting had to make a choice (use their Free Will).

On one hand they may have been deeply pious and holy men, who were prayerful, reflective and open to the Holy Ghost, Who, in turn, expressed His Will to them. They may have voted according to this Holy inspiration. But, we will only know if that was the case, at the End of Time, when all things shall be revealed (cf Mt 10:26).

Alternatively, the Cardinals may have had mixed motives, tended to selfishness, envy, pride (ambition) or any number of personal sins. They may have been influenced by the media, or peer-pressure or any number of the means of the world. They may have been tempted by Satan to follow their own will and not God’s (Satan is far too clever to just suggest following his will…).

But, while it is likely that our Supreme Pontiff was elected by a mix of the latter,
God is not limited in using what sinful man has chosen.

Sinful man chose to Crucify our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and by that choice, God redeemed the world.

O felix culpa, quæ talem ac tantum méruit habére Redemptórem!

O happy fault, that was worthy to have such and so great a redeemer

– Exsultet from the Easter Vigil

So evil, never has the last laugh. Thanks be to God, for straightening with crooked lines. Thanks be to God, that He now has a subject to infuse His Holy Ghost into. Please God, Pope Francis will be open to the Holy Ghost and whatever He desires.

Of course, just as a matter of completion, Pope Francis is still free. God forbid, he can choose, if he wish, to fall to any of the same motives that may have caused his election. He is free to choose not to do Gods Will. Things could “go horribly wrong” (as many Traditionalists are worrying), but rest assured victory is assured (cf 1 Cor 15:54-57), no matter how dark, how terribly dark, things may become, the Dawn is coming.

Have Hope!


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Sedevacantism? Sedevacantists? No, not a great idea.

Simple explanation of Catholic Doctrine 6

Part Six

The Holy Bible

That part of Divine Revelation which has been committed to writing by persons inspired by the Holy Ghost, is called Holy Scripture, or the Holy Bible; the Book of Books. Holy Scripture is composed not only of all the Books received by Protestants as divinely inspired, but also of some other Books which were written after the Jewish List or Canon of Scripture was made, but which nevertheless are held in great veneration by the Jewish Synagogue, and by many Protestants themselves.

Such are the Books of Tobias, Judith, Esther, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (or the Son of Sirach), the Prophecy of Baruch and the two first Books of Machabees. These Books, though not registered in the Jewish Canon, were nevertheless held by many Fathers of the early centuries as canonical and forming a part of the deposit of revealed truths entrusted to the Church.

In the schismatic Greek Church, and in other separated Churches of the East, the Canon, or the authorised list of the books of Scripture, agrees with that of the Roman Catholic Church. The efforts made by early Protestants to induce the Greek Church to reject that inspired portion of Scripture, called by the Catholic Church Deutero-canonical, and by the Protestants, the Apocrypha (that is, hidden), only served to call forth repeated from the Greeks assembled in council new synodical declarations that those Books are inspired.

So long as the Church had not testified with her authority to the Divine inspiration of certain Books, some of the Fathers may have hesitated about the inspiration of them, and reasonably thought that such books could not be quoted to establish revealed truth, until the Church had first cleared away all doubts, by inserting them in the Canon, and thus established the inspiration and canonical authority of those Books.

This the Church did in the celebrated Council of Hippo in Africa, in the year 393, attended by all the Bishops of Africa, at which also the great Doctor and Father of the Church, St. Augustine, was present*.

In Statute XXXVI. Of this Council (393) it was decreed (see Labbe, Vol. IV) ‘That nothing be read in the Church under the name of Divine Scripture, except the Canonical Scriptures’, and the Canonical Scriptures are:

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Josue
Judges
Ruth
Four books of Kingdoms
Two books of Paralipomenon
Job
The Psalter of David
Five Books of Solomon
The books of the Twelve (Minor) Prophets
Isaias
Jeremias
Ezechiel
Daniel
Tobias
Judith
Esther
(Two books of Esdra) (Ezra and Nehemiah)
Two books of Machabees
And of the New Testament
Four books of the Gospel
One book of the Acts of the Apostles
Thirteen letters of St. Paul the Apostle
One letter of the same to the Hebrews
Two of St. Peter the Apostle
Three of St. John
One of the Apostle St. Jude
One of St. James
One book of the Apocalypse of John

This list of Canonical Books issued by this great Council agrees in substance with the list of divinely inspired Books held by Catholics to the present day. This anyone  can see by comparing this list with that prefixed to the Catholic English Bible, called the Douay Bible, and with that of the old Latin Vulgate, or any other Catholic version of Holy Scripture, and likewise with the Canon of Scripture given by the Ecumenical Councils of Florence and of Trent.

The Council of Hippo in 393, and the 3rd of Carthage in 379, was followed by the Sixth Council of Carthage in 419, attended by two hundred and eighteen Bishops, and by two Legates sent by the Roman Pontiff. The list or Canon of Books of Scripture decreed in the 29th Decree of this Council agrees with the list given by the two previous Councils just mentioned, and ends with these words: ‘Quia a Patribus ita accepimus in Ecclesia legendum’ i.e. ‘Because we have received from the Fathers that these are the books to be read in the Church’.

These words should not be passed unnoticed by those who allow themselves to be led astry by the assertion that ‘in the name of Holy Scripture we do understand those books of whose authority there was never any doubt in the Church’ (See article VI of the Established Church of England). Let such persons reflect what an assumption it is to suppose that they themselves are, or that their leaders in the sixteenth century were,  more competent to judge of the Tradition of the Church of the first four centuries than the Council of Hippo and the third of Carthage, both held in the fourth century, and the Sixth Council of Carthage held in the beginning of the fifth century; and better judges than all the Bishops of Christendom of that age; for the above list of Canonical Books sanctioned by these three Councils was thenceforward received by the whole of Christendom.

Before the decision of these three Councils was given, some of the Fathers doubted the divine inspiration of the Epistle of the Hebrews, and of some other Books of the New Testament. Protestants, however, hold them as canonical. For respecting these Books they justly say: ‘This dissent of some of the Fathers moves us not. This dissent of a few, before the Canon of Scripture was finally settled, should not be taken into account, especially after the adoption of these Books as divinely inspired by all Christendom in the end of the fourth century. The Bishops of that time were in a better position to judge of the Tradition of the Church about these Books’.

This observation is just. Protestants, however, should be consistent, and apply the same reasoning to certain Books of the Old Testament known by them under the name of Apocrypha. Although the inspiration of some of these Books was held to be doubtful by the same Fathers ceased to have any doubt upon it after the decision of these Councils; so that, whilst some of the Apocrypha have been considered uninspired, as the 3rd and 4th of Esdras, and 3rd and 4th of Machabees, some other of these Books have been recognised as inspired, and are called by Catholics Deuterocanonical. These have, therefore, the very same sanction and authority that all the Books of the New Testament have, in addition to the long-standing veneration of the Jewish Church for them.

St. Jerome himself, before the said two Councils of Carthage, seemed to doubt the inspiration of the Books of the Old Testament not inserted in the Jewish Canon; yet afterwards, when the declaration made by those two Councils came to his knowledge, he ceased to doubt with regard to those Apocryphal books which were by them declared inspired, and consequently called, no more Apocryphal but Deutero-canonical, and freely quoted from those same books to uphold Catholic doctrine.

About the importance, and indeed, the necessity of a decision of the Catholic Church to establish the inspiration, canonicity and authenticity of the Holy Scripture, the saying of the great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, is well known: ‘For my part, I should not believe the Gospel (meaning the written Gospel) where I not moved thereto by the authority of the Catholic Church’. ‘Ego vero evangelio non crederem nisi me Catholicae Ecclesiae commoveret auctoritas’-(Against the Epistle of Manes, called Foundation, chapter v).

*Possidius in the Life of St. Augustine, referring to this Council of Hippo, thus writes:- ‘About the same time Augustine, when yet only a priest, argued (disputavit) about Faith and the Creed in the presence of the Bishops of all Africa gathered in council, being desired by them so to do’. And this he did with such praise and admiration of all, that all wished him a Bishop; and Valerius, for fear of losing him from his diocese, asked and obtained that he should be installed Bishop of Hippo in his stead, though he was yet alive. This was done in the year 394.


SIMPLE EXPLANATION OF CATHOLIC DOCTRINE

Part 5 – Jesus Our Only Mediator Of Redemption
Part 4 – The Incarnation of God the Son
Part 3 – Original Sin
Part 2 – The Most Holy Trinity
Part 1 – God and His Perfections

Indefectibility of the Church

Is this you?

So we believe the Church is Indefectible, which means, she cannot by her very nature, err from the Truth. This is true, in that the Church has taught that Jesus Christ, is “the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. She has continued to proclaim his Gospel for all to hear every day, at every Mass, since the beginning.

Does the Indefectibility of the Church mean that the Gospel Truth cannot be obscured? No, the dogma is clear, She can’t defect from the Truth, that’s all.

It is true, Cardinals have to take oaths, Popes have preached Crusades, the Gospel is not lived out literally in the lives of Catholics (in Holy Orders or not), but that does not mean that the Church has defected from the Truth.

I think it is fair to say that on the whole we have ceased to practice the Faith as it is presented in the Gospels. I can certainly list the times today that I have not loved my neighbour as myself. My sin is always before me. But, the grace is, in knowing that I do not do the good which I ought, I know, and therefore I can do something about it. I have can begin to change, to turn around, away from, the old way, and towards the only Way.

Despair begins when we deny the mystery of things, and I can certainly vouch for the baffling mystery of how the Lord has permitted the Truth to be so obscured.

But I know that my job is to work on myself and not to worry about the wider workings of the world.

Guest Article – A Cardinal Evil

The following is another guest article by Rev Fr Emmanuel McCarthy. It follows my battle plan wanderings – “why do you call me Lord, Lord?…”. I find Fr Emmanuel at times absolutely inspiring and at others, incredibly challenging. This particular guest article falls in the latter category. I can’t deny the truth of the article, although it makes me wish I could find fault in it.

He points out the age old problem summed up by the murmuring of Jesus’ disciples “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” – Jesus is uncompromising on the Truth, it is hard, and people have made compromises. If you can sympathise with me, leave a comment.

A CARDINAL EVIL: 

GOD MY WEAPON, MY AGENT OF VIOLENCE,

MY INSTRUMENT OF FEAR AND TERROR

Rev Fr Emmanuel Charles McCarthy 

The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand fold. —Aristotle 

Ipsissima Verba of Jesus

Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but make good to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from evil the one (Mt 5:33-37; Jas 5:12).

In his exegesis of the Gospel of according Matthew in The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Imprimatur, 1968), John L. McKenzie, S.J. writes in regard to Matthew 5:33-37, “The oath is a reflection of the evil condition of man. It is intended to secure truthfulness. In the new ethic of Jesus truthfulness will be secured not by an oath but by the inner integrity of the person.”

Vatican City, March 4, 2013, Vatican Information Service “The gathered cardinals swore to keep secret the deliberations for the election of the future Pope, after which the Cardinal dean, Angleo Sodano, read the oath in Latin, everyone present reciting along with him. After that, each cardinal, according to his order of precedence came forward and took the oath before a Crucifix and with their hand on the Gospels. This process occupied a good portion of the meeting’s time.”

This is only the first of three oaths that must be sworn before a Cardinal is permitted to participate in the conclave in which he can be considered for the position of being the next infallible Vicar of Christ and/or of being an elector of the next infallible Vicar of Christ.

Means and Ends

The Vicar of Christ, then, is chosen by the most visible Catholic Prelates in the world via a process that directly defies the explicit teaching of Jesus and they all agree to a man to participate in it.

If the teaching of Jesus is the will of God for His followers, and what is the opposite of the will of God is evil, can evil means produce good ends?

Of course, if Jesus’ unambiguous, unconditional, negative command, “Do not swear at all,” can be set-aside by Cardinals when it serves their purposes, then what else that Jesus commanded cannot be cast aside? If a command—not a suggestion—spoken this clearly by God Incarnate can be so easily countermanded by Christians, then Jesus might just as well have said nothing about good and evil or anything else for that matter.

Deliberately refusing to follow a straightforward negative command of Jesus hardly seems the way to select the next Rock of Faith in Jesus as “the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This seem  especially incoherent when you are choosing exclusively from among your own “I will not obey” group. It is contrary to reason and to the entire Judeo-Christian spiritual tradition to believe that such cavalier overriding of the ipsissima verba of Christ-God will result in restoring to consonance the radical disharmony within the Church.

Oaths and the Soil They Grow From

An oath is either a statement of fact or a promise calling upon God as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines it as “a solemn appeal to the deity to witness one’s determination to speak the truth, to keep a promise.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines an oath in these words: “Taking an oath or swearing is to take God as a witness to what one affirms” (#2150). However, as precise as these definitions, and most others, are, they are incomplete in the context of the Old Testament and the uses of oaths by Christians. To illuminate this point I will quote directly from Rev. John P. Meier monumental and magisterial four volume scholarly work on Jesus, A Marginal Jew (Imprimatur, 2008). The excerpt is from his fifty-two page chapter on Matthew 5:33-37, titled, The Prohibition of Oaths:

“Interestingly none of these definitions mentions an element that was sometimes explicitly stated but was always implicitly present in the Old Testament understanding of oaths, i.e., that to take an oath was to invoke a curse upon oneself. The oath “worked” not only by calling on God as witness to the truth of one’s assertion or promise but also by invoking upon oneself a curse that God would execute if the oath should be violated.”

An oath in the Old Testament and in Christianity, then, calls upon God to witness to the truth of what a person is saying, with dire consequences at the hands of the Almighty for the oath-taker if he or she intentionally breaks the oath or lies. For example, in the procedures of U.S. courts a person puts his or her hand on a Bible and is asked by a court officer, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” He or she then answers, “I do.” The understanding behind this is that a person would not—and better not—lie to the court and thereby make Almighty God a participant in and witness to a lie masquerading as truth.

The person “better not” do this because the unspoken understanding of oath-taking is that God will harm the person if he or she now lies. Oath-taking is calling down a temporal and/or eternal curse from God on oneself, if one intentionally does not do what one has promised under the oath. This in turn requires that God be a God of violence. No wonder governments and religions employ it. It raises significantly the probability that that they will get from the person what they want because the fear of God’s violent wrath has been planted in him or her.

Perjury is the state crime of intentionally lying under oath. It carries with it the distinct possibility that pain will be inflicted on the person who lies after taking an oath. In this case, however, fellow human beings instead of God administer the violence, the pain. The state here acts as God supposedly acts, if a person lies under oath. The state in suggesting that it is imitating what God does, necessarily morally validates the pain those working for the state do to their fellow sons and daughters of the “Father of all.” What God does cannot be evil.  Case closed!

But What If?

“Case closed” that is, unless the premise on which all oaths depend for their validity and for their utility is false, a non-existent reality, an illusion. Specifically, if God is not a God of violence, if God is as proclaimed in the opening prayer of the Catholic Mass for Peace and Justice, “God of perfect peace, violence and cruelty can have no part with you,” then taking an oath for a Christian is not even a rational act, let alone a moral one. If Holy Violence is a piece of humanly contrived self-deception, in an effort to make the Nonviolent God in the image of violent human beings instead of making violent men and women in the image of the Nonviolent God, then taking an oath is as meaningless and as much a false witness as giving a pinch of incense to Caesar as God. It is a Christian calling on an idol, a non-existing being, as God, thereby communicating to other Christians and to all humanity that what is false is true.

Now in some people’s view of reality Caesar is believed to be God, and in other people’s view God is believed to be as violent as Caesar. But, neither belief is possible if a person is a believer in and a follower of Jesus as his or her Lord, God and Savior. Why? Because Jesus reveals to humanity by His words and deeds that God who actually IS God is a God of Nonviolent Love of all, at all times and forever—no exceptions. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God” (Rm 8:39)

Jesus is Nonviolent Love Because God is Nonviolent Love

Jesus of the Gospels is a person of Nonviolent Love (Agapé) of friends and enemies because God is a God of Nonviolent Love of all. Jesus is the Word (Logos) of God “made flesh,” the Incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity. This means He is consubstantial, one in Being, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Father and the Holy Spirit are Nonviolent since there are no contradictions in the One God, no contradictions among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“The Father and I are one,” “I come not to do my own will but the will of the Father,” “The one who sees me sees the Father.” These declarations by the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels and His life lived in Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies unto execution by crucifixion, completely invalidate for the Christian the “truth” of the presumption in which swearing oaths is rooted; namely, that God is a God of violence who will employ violence against people in holy wars, holy executions and holy torture for lying under oath.

False Witness or Glorify God

Christian oath-taking can easily give false witness to many Gospel truths simultaneously: that Jesus is God, that His teaching is true, that God is a God of nonviolent, suffering and forgiving Love towards all and for all—always. In short, the premises, presuppositions and dynamics behind and within oath-taking are the antithesis of what Jesus explicitly taught, not just by one command but also by His entire life given to obey and glorify (magnify) the Father. Oaths emerge from and are saturated in the spirit of fear, which is the antithesis of the spirit of love (1 Jn 4:16-20). Or, to use the words Jesus employs in Matthew 5:33-37, oath taking is from “the evil one.”

So Jesus command, “Do not swear at all,” is not just a throwaway line, an irrelevant one-liner that has no relation to who He is or to anything He taught or did. On the contrary, it flows directly from and is an explicit witness to the heart and souls of the Gospel, namely, that “God is love (agape),” “Abba,” “from whose love made visible in Christ Jesus, our Lord, nothing can separate us” (1 Jn 4:8, 16; Rm 8:15; Gal 4:6-7; Mk 14:36; Rm 8: 31-39).

Ipsissima Verba of Jesus?

But perhaps, Jesus’ teaching, “Do not swear at all,” is not really His teaching but rather something Matthew or some subsequent scribe of the Gospel added. The best answer to that suggestion I can offer within this limits of this essay is from Rev. John Meier, who in his previously referred to 3000 page, four-volume magnum opus, A Marginal Jew, concludes that he must “award the palm of authenticity” as “ipsissima verba Jesu,” to “swear not at all,” “come, follow me,” “let the dead bury the dead,” “Whoever looses his life will save it,” “you cannot serve God and Mammon,” “what God has joined together let no one separate,” “This is my body,” and “Love your enemies.”

Finally, Meier notes that there are Christians who endeavor to modify “the absolute prohibition of oaths by Jesus,” by referring to Paul’s use of oaths. Meier says they are “guilty of apologetic harmonizing…It would be much better to admit honestly and without apologetic explanations that Paul often uses oaths and curses invoking God (the Father), Christ, or the Holy Spirit…and that at times he falls short of the lofty Christian morality he himself inculcates (e.g., see for example his polemical statements against his Christian adversaries in Galatians and 2 Corinthians which hardly measure up to Jesus’ command to love and bless one’s enemies.)”

A Little Thing?

But, a Christian swearing an oath is such a little thing, compared to all the other big things going on in the world, isn’t it? What harm can it do? What’s the big deal? But is not each human life within the immensity of time and space a little thing? Is not every act of every little life a very, very little thing? Is not a mustard seed, a grain of yeast or an atom a very little things? Is it possible that the distinction between big and little acts, significant and insignificant acts, worthwhile and worthless acts, is not what culture, the state or the media foist upon human beings from the cradle onward?

“The greatest use of life,” wrote the philosopher-psychologist William James, “is to spend it on something that will outlast us.” Fair enough, but outlast us for how long? A day? A generation? A thousand years? What, if all acts lead only in one direction, to eternal extinction? An act within a series of acts that ends in everlasting annihilation is ultimately intrinsically meaningless. It is neither big nor little. It is just the act of a poor player who struts and frets his time upon the stage, lights some way or another to a dusty death, and then is heard no more. Such an act is the sound and fury signifying nothing. The problem of the content of “outlast us” is illuminated less prosaically but far more forcefully by the unmatched poetic prowess of Shakespeare:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, 

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day.
To the last syllable of recorded time, 

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle! 

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 

Signifying nothing.

Returning to the prosaic, the acts of a person can be as “big” as those of Ozymandias and the legacy of a person can last as long as that of Ozymandias and be ultimately intrinsically worthless and meaningless. An act either has eternal significance or it has no significance. As a human being cannot bestow eternal life on himself or herself (auto-salvation) or on their loved ones, so also a human being cannot bestow eternal significance on his or her acts or the acts of anyone else.

I AM the Way and the Truth

Only God can say, “I AM.” I am, because God, through whom everything was created, including me, gave me existence. For what purpose did God give me existence? God gave me, and all His sons and daughters, existence in order to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him and to be happy with Him in this world and in the next. To that end, after the Fall—after human beings began to sin and suffer the innate, disordering consequences of sin and its generation to generation encrustation on the minds and hearts of people—the Father sent the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, His Word (Logos), to communicate to humanity how to fulfill the purposes for which life was given and to offer to human beings the power to do this—if in their freedom they choose to do so.

“If You Love Me,” Then What—and Why?

Jesus makes it clear: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15, 14:21, 14:23; 1 Jn 5:3; 2 Jn 1:6). Equating love of Him with keeping His commandment is not an artificial, arbitrary test imposed on Christians by Jesus. Jesus in this overarching commandment is not selfishly setting-up a form of servile relationship to show He is the boss by demanding slavish obedience to His whims of vanity. This all-encompassing command is the proto-directive that points and leads to the center of that process that saves and liberates each and all from evil and death and their consequences forever. For, in loving Jesus by keeping His commandments, a person is living in unity with and in communion with God and the design of God for the salvation of all His infinitely loved and valued sons and daughters. It is loving the Father of all and the Brother of all, who are suffering because His sons and daughters and His brothers and sisters are suffering. By doing what must be done, the only effective thing that can be done—“keep my commandments”— to eliminate the source of the pain and suffering loved ones are enduring, namely, a Christian is at the same time loving Jesus and His Father. For, the person who cares for a suffering person, loves those who love the sufferer.

God is love. God and all His designs are love. To choose “to obey all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20), to “keep my commandments,” in regard to the ways and means of the Plan of God for the salvation of all as revealed by Jesus, is to simultaneously and to authentically love God and neighbor, neighbor and God. Any thought, by any Christian of any rank, of loving God and/or neighbor by refusing to “keep my commandments,” is intrinsically self-contradictory—a moral absurdity and false witness.

Thus, the Christian believes that he or she lives in a moral universe where freely choosing to do the will of the Creator, once it is known, is the only way to live, is an imperative of human existence, because it is the only way that will allow each and all the fullness of life in time and in eternity. For, it is the Creator and only the Creator who knows the entire structure of existence. Therefore, what the Creator communicates as the way to do things is The Way. The distinction—between big acts and small acts, worthwhile acts and worthless acts, significant acts and insignificant acts—lies in their conformity or non-conformity to The Way announced by Him “through whom all things were made.”  

For the human creatures to employ his or her Creator-given freedom and consciousness to defy the Creator is not only tragic, it is irrational. And, it is pain inducing beyond the scope of human comprehension, as the ripples of so-called “little” or so-called “big” infidelities, evils, expand indefinitely outward in all directions into the human community, present and future. It is the great deception of evil that, it persuades people to believe that once they have chosen it, they can know and control its consequences. “The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand fold.”

Dominical Origin of the Ipsissima Verba of Jesus

“In the beginning was the Word (Logos), the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing would have been made…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:1ff). And, then He said, “Do not swear at all” (Mt 5:33ff).

Cardinals taking required oath before the Papal Conclave


OTHER GUEST ARTICLES

Pope Benedict XVI’s Last Word to the Church
St Joan of Arc

Simple explanation of Catholic Doctrine 5

Part Five

Jesus Our Only Mediator Of Redemption

Catholics believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is alone the great Centre of the Christian Religion, the Fountain of all grace, virtue, and merit, as in the natural world, if the comparison may be allowed) the sun is the centre and enlivening created source of light, heat, and growth.

This grand truth they believe to be the vital, essential part of Christianity, ‘For other foundation no man can lay but that which is laid; which CHRIST JESUS’. (1 Corinthians iii. 11).

They hold that to be united to JESUS CHRIST is the highest and noblest aim of man, and that only the Holy Catholic Church supplies the means for the closest union with JESUS CHRIST; and they are convinced that the yearning to possess this closer communion with Christ has, by Divine attraction, drawn thousands of earnest minds to seek in the Catholic Church this the highest happiness to be enjoyed on earth.

They believe that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, because He has redeemed us from the bondage of Satan, with the ransom of His most Precious Blood; that He alone is our Saviour because He saves us from the stain, the guilty, and the curse of sin; that He is our only Mediator of Redemption and Salvation, because He alone, by His own merits, has efficiently interposed between God and man, to obtain the full pardon of our sins through the sacrifice of Himself: ‘There is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ JESUS; Who gave himself a redemption for all’. (1 St. Timothy ii. 5, 6). ‘Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved’. (Acts iv. 12).

They believe that Jesus died on the Cross to purchase mercy, grace, and salvation for all men-‘Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth’. (1 St. Timothy ii. 4). And that since Adam’s fall, mercy, grace, and salvation can be obtained by man only through the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.

Believing that Jesus Christ is truly God, they hold that the homage of supreme adoration is due to Him, the God-man, as well as to God the Father, and to God the Holy Spirit.


Simple explanation of catholic doctrine

Part 4 – The Incarnation of God the Son
Part 3 – Original Sin
Part 2 – The Most Holy Trinity
Part 1 – God and His Perfections

Pope Benedict XVI’s Last Word to the Church – Guest Article

by Rev Fr Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Sixty years ago this year I was confirmed by His Excellency, Archbishop Richard J. Cushing of Boston. After the Confirmation Liturgy, seventy or so people, myself included, went to the priests’ parking area behind the rectory to see the Archbishop’s Cadillac. Most of the folks in my parish, including me, had never seen a Cadillac up close. When I got home to the little Confirmation party my Irish relatives were having for me, I asked an aunt -loudly enough so that most of the people could hear me- whether Archbishop Cushing should have a Cadillac, since he was supposed to be the top Catholic in Boston representing Jesus and Jesus was poor? Another Irish aunt who overheard my question responded to me: “And if the Archbishop rode around in a Ford, what respect would the Protestants have for him?”

I did not answer her because I knew she was right. The important and powerful people of this world rode in a Cadillac; the unimportant people rode in a Ford. If the Archbishop was an important person, who he clearly was in my mind, then he was supposed to have a Cadillac, and if he did not ride in a Cadillac, people -most especially non-Catholics- would have a much lower opinion of him. The logic of my aunt’s position, i.e., that the Archbishop of Boston needed a Cadillac, was to me self-evident, airtight, and unassailable.

Number “1”

Needless to say, the Episcopal Cadillac is a non-essential of the Episcopal ministry. But in 1952, in my Catholic community, both the Cadillac per se and the Episcopal Cadillac were symbols that contained implicit and explicit layers of mythology about reality, the Christian life, and the Church. This mythological conception of the Gospel, the self, and the Church was by no means merely an abstract notion, something people thought: Rather, it was lived illusion, lived by everyone from the Archbishop and his advisors right down to my aunt and me. Parenthetically, this particular mythological understanding of God, of self, and of the Church—so acceptable to all that only an uninformed boy of twelve could even conceive of questioning its Christian validity—was not limited to my Irish-Italian Catholic ghetto outside Boston. In Chicago, the Cardinal Archbishop flexed his political muscles and the Illinois legislature passed a law that gave his Cadillac the license plate number “1,” a number that hitherto had belonged exclusively to the Governor of Illinois.

I mention these little pieces of U.S. Catholic history in order to illustrate and illuminate a solemn and sombre issue lurking behind Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the Papacy. I personally experienced the resignation of Benedict as a melancholy moment. It should not have happened or, more accurately, it should not have been necessary. A Successor of Peter, capable of authoring the “trilogy” on Jesus of Nazareth published during his Papacy, as well as composing the lectures and weekly reflections on the Christian spiritual life that he delivered right up to the end of February 2013, should not have to be leaving the Chair of Peter, even if frail.

The Supreme Law of the Church

The telling issue that Pope Benedict’s resignation rationally raises is the need for an earnest assessment of the modus operandi of the Petrine Ministry. Benedict’s renunciation of the Petrine office and ministry is sober evidence that the structures, policies, procedures, and protocols presently governing its operation need serious evaluation, specifically in terms of their capacity to effectively translate into reality the “supreme law of the Church, which is the salvation of souls” (CODE OF CANON LAW #1747). Concomitant with this need is the equally important discernment as to whether the present operating structure of this ministry is a substantial help or a serious hindrance for any Pope “keeping before his eyes” (CODE OF CANON LAW #1747), as his highest priority, “the supreme law of the Church.” What I am suggesting here is not meant to question, in any way, the Vatican I declaration on Papal infallibility and universal jurisdiction. It is meant to question, because reason demands it under the circumstances, whether the present organization and processes of the Petrine Ministry are serving Jesus and His people as well as they should be.

Except for a few elements, the structures, policies, procedures, and protocols of the contemporary Papacy are entirely man-made and not demanded by the Gospel. The power that erected these structures, enunciated these policies, put these procedures in place, and choreographed these protocols could alter them or remove them tomorrow if it chose to do so. To use a metaphor, the Petrine Ministry could decide to dispense with its Cadillac at any time.

The office of the Papacy has inherited a myriad of structures, policies, procedures, and protocols, from which the Church and its Popes in different eras have selected various pieces they thought suitable for executing the Petrine Ministry in their particular time. Whether these are efficacious today—or even at the time selected—as means for achieving the end for which the Petrine Ministry exists (Canon #1747) is a matter of evaluation and judgement But, no one should think—simply because some pieces survive—that these non-essential surviving components of the Petrine Ministry are any longer proficient pastoral means for realizing the end which the Petrine Ministry is meant to serve.

A Surprise?

Pope Benedict’s “surprise” decision was, as indicated in his resignation “letter,” a necessary rational step given the circumstances: “I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine Ministry… In order to govern the Bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary. I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

Surprise? Perhaps to the press and to the world it was a surprise. But a man of Benedict’s rational competence, theological acumen, and concern for the Church would never make a decision like this without extensive reflection, consultation, and prayer. His decision should not, however, have been such a surprise, at least to the press, after April 29, 2009, when he visited the Abruzzi region of Italy after an earthquake in the L’Aquila province killed 294 people. On this journey, Pope Benedict stopped at the Church of Santa Maria di Collemaggio and prayed at the glass coffin in which the bodily remains of Pope St. Celestine V (1219-1296) have been placed. After praying there, he made a striking gesture. He removed his Papal pallium, which he had first worn on the day of his inauguration as Pope. He placed it on the coffin, then left. Later that year he declared August 28, 2009 to August 29, 2010 the Year of Celestine V. On July 4, 2010, Pope Benedict again went to Pope St. Celestine V’s place of bodily internment to pray. Celestine V was the last Pope to resign for personal reasons.

Unable to Rule

Pope St. Celestine renounced the Papacy after five months in office because he felt he was incapable, under the circumstances, of properly executing the duties it prescribed that he undertake. Celestine was a 76-year-old hermit before becoming Pope, renowned for his holiness and Christ-likeness. The ordinary people of Rome cheered his election as Pope. He was well prepared to carry out the essential obligations as the Successor of Peter. But, he was utterly incapable of carrying out all the non-essential obligations that had become attached to the Papacy Encyclopaedias, Catholic and secular, record that he resigned because he recognized his political and administrative incompetence. This is correct. But, no one suggests that he resigned because, as the Successor of Peter, he was unable to faithfully proclaim the Gospel by his words and his deeds. Celestine freely renounced the Chair of Peter, not because he was unable to authentically announce the Good News or unable to be the rock that confirmed and upheld people’s faith in Jesus Christ and His Way. Rather, it was because, to use the word from Celestine’s resignation declaration, he was unable to “rule.” However, as the renowned Catholic Biblical scholar, John L. McKenzie, S.J., stated and in his book AUTHORITY IN THE CHURCH (Imprimatur, 1966): “The vocabulary of both Greek and Aramaic is ample enough to permit Jesus, if He had wished, to say that those in authority in the Church should rule with justice and kindness; there are dozens of ways in which this could have been said. But such words as “rule” are exactly the words which He did not use.”

The Non-essentials

Pope St. Celestine V laying aside his Papal Tiara.

A Successor of Peter can be as helpless and as weak as a man being crucified upside down and still be completely fulfilling the Petrine Ministry. The essential nature of the Petrine Ministry can be carried out completely by silent prayer in the “closet of infirmity” and/or by suffering love lived in anonymity. However, to have to daily walk-through the physical and moral gauntlet of non-essentials that have become de rigueur for the person serving in that Ministry, can undermine attention to and execution of the primary service to which Jesus commissioned Peter and his Successors. Such non-essentials include, but are not limited to, being head of state, head of government, head of a bank, head of a militia; having to meet, daily and perfunctorily, with other heads of states, heads of governments, ambassadors, diplomats, and celebrities; having to personally appoint every Catholic bishop in the world; having to oversee the vast bureaucracy created to supposedly assist in managing the superfluity of the non-essentials; having constantly to preside at Pontifical High Liturgies that last hours, et al.

I submit that Pope Benedict’s decision to resign, like Pope Celestine’s decision to resign, was made rationally necessary, not by the essential and intrinsic responsibilities that the Successor of Peter is called upon by Jesus to fulfil, but rather because of the plethora of non-essential trimmings and trappings that have been added over the centuries and that today encrust the Petrine Ministry. To return to our metaphor, spending a large part of everyday attending to the Papal Cadillac is not an inherent, essential, or necessary element of the Petrine Ministry. Indeed, it can easily become a major impediment to wholeheartedly concentrating on the Petrine Ministry’s raison d’être.

The Essentials

The Petrine Ministry exists to be the rock of faith in Jesus upon which “I will build My Church” (MT 16:18), and to “Feed My lambs” (JN 21:15). But to feed what to His lambs? The Petrine Ministry exists to feed the members of Jesus’ flock with the Bread of Life, by teaching them by word and deed to become what they receive in the Eucharist—the Lamb of God—and to receive in the Eucharist what they are, the Lamb of God. The flock of Jesus learns what it means to become the Lamb of God, whom they receive in the Eucharist, and to receive the Lamb of God, which they are by Baptism, when Peter and his successors faithfully follow the Commission explicitly given to them by Jesus immediately before His Ascension: “Baptizing them…and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (MT 28:19-20).

Jesus, the Word (Logos) of God Incarnate (JN 1:1FF) is the Bread of Life (JN 6:35, 51, 58) Therefore, what He teaches by word and deed and offers to humanity in the Eucharist is the life-giving nourishment. Every human being ultimately hungers for this nourishment, namely, the Way and the Truth unto Eternal Life with God forever—the Way to eternal salvation. The commission to Peter is to give people that nourishment which is needed for “the salvation of souls.”

It is not without eternal significance that Peter is to prove his love of Jesus—not his faith—by fidelity to the commission given him by Jesus: “Feed My lambs.” Peter proves his faith when he confesses Jesus to be “the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God” after which he is made the “rock” upon which Jesus will build His Church (MT 16:13-19). But authentic faith in Christ must be manifested, incarnated, by every Christian in acts of Christ-like love. It cannot be otherwise for the legitimate Successors of Peter. “Feed My lambs” is the imperative equivalent of “Attend to the supreme law of the Church. Attend to the salvation of souls by being and doing what I commission you to do and be. And by this you will show that you love Me.”

Effectiveness

The question must be asked: Is being the head of state, head of government, etc., intrinsically required to fulfil the command, to “Feed My lambs”? Or, are they contemporary attempts to irrationally cling to non-essential structures, policies, procedures, and protocols from another age, that are today only minimally viable, if that, as supportive of the dual commission given to Peter and His Successors by Jesus: Be the “rock” “upon which I will build My Church” and “Feed My lambs”?

A Pope who enters into the worlds of “heads of states, heads of governments, heads of banks, etc.,” can be assured of being a newsmaker. He will, no doubt, “make news” and “make the news.” But will “My lambs” be fed the Bread of life in this way? Will the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Will of the Father as revealed by Jesus, genuinely enter into the minds and hearts of the people of the world via a Petrine Ministry operating through the appurtenances and frills, cymbals and gongs that are the bread and butter of heads of states, heads of governments, heads of banks and heads of news corporations who decide what news is fit to print, to hear and to see?

The Temptation

Just prior to his election as the Successor of St. Peter, Benedict published a book, ON THE WAY TO JESUS, in which he wrote:

Let us return to the temptation [of Jesus in the desert when He is offered by Satan power over the kingdoms of the world]. Its real contents become apparent when we realize that over the course of history it keeps taking on new forms. The Christian emperors after Constantine immediately tried to make the faith a political factor that would be conducive to the unity of the empire. The Kingdom of Christ was now expected to assume the form of a political kingdom with its splendour. The importance of the faith, the earthly powerlessness of Jesus Christ, was supposedly compensated for by political and military might. In every century, in many forms, this temptation to secure the faith with power has arisen again and again, and over and over the faith has come close to being suffocated in the embrace of power. For the price to be paid for fusing faith and political power, in the final analysis, always consist of placing faith at the service of power and bending it to political standards.

On April 22, 2011, six years into his reign, Pope Benedict proclaimed:

It could be expected that, when God came to earth, he would be a man of great power, destroying the opposing forces; that he would be a man of powerful violence as an instrument of peace. Not at all! He came in weakness. He came with only the strength of love, totally without violence, even to the point of going to the cross. This is what shows us the true face of God: that violence never comes from God, never helps bring anything good, but is a destructive means and not the path to escape difficulties. He is thus a strong voice against every type of violence. He strongly invites all sides to renounce violence, even if they feel they are right…This is Jesus’ true message: seek peace with the means of peace and leave violence aside.

Ends and Means and Illusion

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that a means that cannot achieve its end is an illusion. To live in and by an illusion, a non-reality, is ipso facto to live untruth and meaninglessness as a way of life and as a way to eternal life. This is what is at stake when Pope Benedict speaks about the perennial post-Constantinian temptation of the Church to seek secular power in order to carry out the mission of Jesus and His Church: “The Kingdom of Christ was now expected to assume the form of a political kingdom with its splendour. The importance of the faith, the earthly powerlessness of Jesus Christ, was supposedly compensated for by political and military might.”

Any group of people who wishes to accomplish anything as a group must organize itself teleologically, according to the ends it desires to achieve. It must choose means that can accomplish those ends. If the end desired is to build cars, a group does not set up an assembly line operation that makes and bakes bread. The means have to be capable of achieving the ends desired. The end determines the means that the group must choose.

The end for which the Church exists is the same end for which God became Incarnate in Jesus, namely, the eternal salvation of all people. The Church, which is to be “an extension of Christ in time and space,” therefore must structure itself in accordance with this end. It must select means that will in fact accomplish this end.

The end for which the state exists is its own temporary physical survival, and possibly the temporary physical survival of those who populate it, or at least some of those who populate it. If this end cannot be achieved, no other goals are achievable for the state. The group of people called the state therefore must organize itself according to this end, which requires selecting means that will accomplish it.

The power of violence is the means the state resorts to when it thinks it is a necessary means to accomplish its ends, or even just the most expeditious or expedient means by which to achieve its ends. But, violence, as Benedict XVI has taught, is rejected by Jesus as His Way to achieve the end He desires,—eternal salvation for one and for all. Love, a Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies as He taught it by word and deed, is His means. No state need survive for anyone to employ the means of Jesus for the ends of Jesus. There is a self-evident abyss between the means and ends of the state and the means and ends of Jesus. To choose one is to instantly abdicate the other.

A Real Danger

Is there any Church ministry that over the last 1700 years has been placed more at the service of political power and relied more on the means of political power than the Petrine Ministry? The aforementioned Biblical theologian, John L. McKenzie, S. J., can say with scholarly certainty in his work, AUTHORITY IN THE CHURCH “The greatest danger pointed out by Jesus to inhibiting the incalculable resources of the Spirit in the Church is the creeping secularization of authority.” But, for Benedict and Celestine, because they were serving the Church in the Petrine Ministry, this Gospel truth was an immediate, urgent, everyday spiritual and moral issue with eternal salvation of self and all at stake.

When the world saw the content of the so-called ‘Vati-Leaks’ documents, did the world in general and Catholics in particular not see up-close the traditional and inevitable results when a secular modus operandi is adopted as the means to fulfil the Supreme Law of the Church? Is this not faith and love being suffocated in the service of power? Is this not the very same situation with which St. Celestine V was confronted seven hundred years earlier? (See THE STORY OF A HUMBLE CHRISTIAN: POPE CELESTINE V, by Ignazio Silone.)

A Flight of Fantasy

Any thought that secular power, secular ways of doing business or secular mass media could be an effective means for reaching humanity with the Gospel truth stated by Pope Benedict that Jesus “came in weakness; came with only the strength of love; came totally without violence [because] violence never comes from God,” is a flight of fantasy. The General Electric Corporation owns NBC Universal with 14 television centres, nine of which are in top ten markets, and 14 Spanish language television stations, eight of which are in top ten markets. General Electric also owns CNBC, MSNBC, the Sci-Fi Channel, USA Network, Universal Pictures and Universal Studios. Is it reasonable to think that General Electric’s communications empire is going to spread this message of Jesus and His understanding of God, reality and morality, when the General Electric Corporation has been for decades one of the top five most profitable military contractors in the U.S. with sale running into the billions of dollars per year?

But, General Electric’s media operation will miss no opportunity to publicize ad nauseam Christians, Christian leaders and Christian Churches that have acted contrary to the teachings of Jesus. It will also hype far and wide Christians, Christian leaders and Christian institution, e.g., universities, that adopt and thereby religiously validate General Electric’s value system. The notion of secular mass media as a means to “Feed My lambs” the Bread of life is farfetched. So also is this the case with any person or institution that operates through structures that require activities that are in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus.

He, Who Lives by the Media, Dies by the Media

What the secular media builds up, when it serves its purposes, the media can tear down when it ceases to serve its purposes. He, who lives by the media, dies by the media. A non-pacific ocean of unpleasant, indeed cruel, words concerning Pope Benedict XVI’s moral rectitude have been published because of the manner in which he handled the long standing Church problem of sexual child abuse by priests, that came to light during his tenure as head of the Congregation of Doctrine and Faith and as Pope. So much of what at first glance were very reasonable critiques of his response to the problem—critiques with which I often agreed—eventually turned into demeaning ad hominem castigations of him as a person.

The child abuse of war, Iraq, 2005

Yet Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, is, as are we all, a sinful, struggling human being. With his one and only life he laboured long and hard as a Christian and as a theological scholar in the service of Jesus Christ. A person can disagree with his theology on this or that—even publicly—as did Cardinal Walter Kasper, and as I myself have done. A person can believe that in the execution of his various ministries in the Church some of the decisions he made were acutely wrong—as I and others do. But, the efforts in print and in electronic media, even by some Catholics, to vilify him as if he were a moral degenerate are humanly reprehensible, and for a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, they are unconscionable.

After all, it was not Pope Benedict XVI who placed an embargo on Iraq that resulted in 500,000 children under twelve years old being destroyed. He did not send troops and drones into Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, killing hundreds of thousands of human beings and maiming millions more, half of whom were children under fifteen years of age.

These are escapades of child abuse in the extreme; war is well documented as always being an event that throws the doors wide open to child abuse on a grand scale. But, immediately prior to the invasion of Iraq then Cardinal Ratzinger said publicly in answer to a reporter’s question as to whether the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. would be a just war: “Well, just look in the catechism where it teaches about just war and if you can say it is a just war then you really don’t know the Catechism…There’s no such thing in Catholic teaching as a pre-emptive war that could ever be justified…There are not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq.”

Does this public stand morally count for nothing? Is this the activity of a moral reprobate? Secular news reports and commentaries on Benedict’s resignation evidently think so. They all but ignore it, focusing myopically on his handling of the sexual abuse of children by priests, while simultaneously lionizing those who unleashed and those who continue to unleash the dogs of war on the children of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Of course very few in the U.S. media had the courage in 2003 to publicly take the moral position on the invasion of Iraq that Benedict publicly took in early 2003.

The same journalistic double standard holds true in terms of Benedict’s unequivocal insistence that the innocent child in the womb has an inalienable moral right to life. He is cleverly, and often brutishly, disparaged for speaking out unambiguously on this critical moral matter. But, those who promote and profit handsomely—politically, financially, or otherwise—from supporting the pre-emptive violent invasion of the womb in order to destroy innocent human life there, are treated in the media as celebrity moral heroes. And of course, there is no child abuse problem to see here, even if the child is partially born.

The Nonviolent Jesus

To my mind, however, the most important and most ignored spiritual, theological, and moral contribution that Pope Benedict XVI has made to the wellbeing of the Church and the world is that he has had the moral integrity and courage to state many times over in many settings and in many ways that Jesus, the Word (Logos) of God Incarnate is, was, and forever will be Nonviolent. Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, broached the subject with declarations such as the following: “Violence is not the Christian Way. Violence is not the Catholic Way. Violence is not the Way of Jesus.” But Pope Benedict XVI, as the Successor of Peter, embraced it and announced it as the unequivocal truth of Jesus. Consider the following statements by this Pope:

The truth is that it is impossible to interpret Jesus as violent. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God. It is an instrument of the Antichrist” (3/11/12).

Jesus—the King of the universe—did not come to bring peace to the world with an army, but through refusing violence. This way is the one followed not only by the disciples of Christ, but by many men and women of good will, courageous witnesses of non-violence” (3/29/09).

What Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount, he now does [in His Passion]: he does not offer violence against violence, as he might have done, but puts an end to violence by transforming it into love. Violence is defeated by love. This is the fundamental transformation upon which all the rest is based. It is the true transformation which the world needs and which alone can redeem the world.”
EUCHARIST, COMMUNION SOLIDARITY (2002)

‘Love your enemies’ (LUKE 6:27; MT 5:44) was something of a “manifesto” presented to everyone, which Christ asked his disciples to accept, thus proposing to them in radical terms a model for their lives. But what is the meaning of his teaching? Why does Jesus ask us to love our very enemies, that is, ask a love that exceeds human capacities? What is certain is that Christ’s proposal is realistic…This page of the Gospel is rightly considered the “magna carta” of Christian nonviolence; it does not consist in surrendering to evil—as claims a false interpretation of “turn the other cheek” (Luke 6:29)—but in responding to evil with good (ROMANS 12:17-21), and thus breaking the chain of injustice. It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God’s love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone. Loving the enemy is the nucleus of the “Christian revolution,” a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. God does not oppose violence with a stronger violence. He opposes violence precisely with the contrary: with love to the end, his cross. This is a way of conquering that seems very slow to us, but it is the true way of overcoming evil, of overcoming violence, and we must trust this divine way of overcoming” (2/18/07).

The “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” Phenomena

I would submit without fear of contradiction that Saint Peter, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Dorothy Day, four pretty good sinners in their own right, that the culture and press at the moment hold in almost reverential esteem, could have spoken these words—and did speak this truth. I present the issue in this fashion not as an apologia for Benedict XVI. I present it as an example of the difficulty, which approaches an impossibility, of convincingly teaching people that smoking cigarettes is lethally dangerous while simultaneously personally smoking and enjoying two packs a day in public.

Photomontage of heads of state, including Pope Leo XIII, 1889. Yohannes IV (Emperor of Ethiopia), Tewfik Pasha (Khedive of Egypt), Abdülhamit II (Sultan of the Ottoman Empire), Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (Shah of Persia), Christian IX (King of Denmark), Dom Luís I (King of Portugal), Willem III (King of the Netherlands), Dom Pedro II (Emperor of Brazil), Milan I (King of Serbia), Leopold II (King of the Belgians), Aleksandr III (Emperor of Russia), Wilhelm I (German Emperor & King of Prussia), Franz Joseph I (Emperor of Austria & King of Hungary), Victoria (Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland & Empress of India), Jules Grévy (President of France), Leo XIII (Pope), Meiji (Emperor of Japan), Guangxu (Emperor of China), Umberto I (King of Italy), Don Alfonso XII (King of Spain), Oscar II (King of Sweden and Norway) and Chester A. Arthur (President of the United States)

If the Pope were simply a spiritual leader in the model of Jesus or Peter, he could reject war, reject abortion, reject capital punishment and proclaim by word and deed that Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies is the Way of Jesus and the Will of the Father of all. His communication of the truth could be accepted or rejected exclusively on the evaluation of the validity of what he is saying.

But, the Pope is not a spiritual leader in the model of the “earthly powerlessness of Jesus Christ,” or in the model of the Nonviolent Jesus of the Gospels, “who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone.” The Pope, within the Petrine Ministry as it now is constructed and operates, is literally a sovereign controlling great earthly wealth and political power, as well as, possessing all the perks, trappings and trimmings that attend to such a status.

The Medium Is the Message

When Saint Peter, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Day say the equivalent of Pope Benedict’s statement, “It is thus understood that nonviolence, for Christians, is not mere tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is convinced of God’s love and power, who is not afraid to confront evil with the weapons of love and truth alone,” it is heard by most people differently than when stated by the Pope. The same words are spoken, but to call upon what has become in the last sixty years a truism of communications theory, “The medium is the message.”

Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King, Dorothy Day

The communicator of a message, whether human or non-human, becomes part of the message. The medium of a message affects the reception of the content of a message, the evaluation of the content of a message, the persuasiveness or dissuasiveness of a message, the acceptance or rejection of a message. Peter, Gandhi, King and Day, each of whom rejected unto death violence as an option, saying, “The Christian revolution is not based on strategies of economic, political or media power. God does not oppose violence with a stronger violence. He opposes violence precisely with the contrary: with love to the end.” are heard differently than the head of a state, a militia, a bank, etc. speaking the same words. Why? Because, all their organizations have violence as an available means to be accessed as a key component of their tactical operations. One cannot effectively teach that Cadillacs are not of God if one is continually choosing to purchase them as his or her means of getting around the world.

The Celestine V Symbol

Pope Benedict XVI—hardly a man of whimsy—places his original Papal pallium on the glass coffin of Pope St. Celestine V; later he declares August 28, 2009 to August 29, 2010 the Year of Celestine V; then he makes a second pilgrimage on July 4, 2010, to the Church where Celestine’s earthly remains lay and where Celestine was crowned Pope. How can these acts be understood except as signs and communications that Benedict XVI was experiencing an intense unity and empathy with Celestine and with Celestine’s spiritual and moral ordeal as Pope? How can they not be interpreted as gestures by a human being in need of a “friend” in the Communion of Saints who truly grasped why he has to do the unthinkable—resign as the Successor of Peter? How can these chosen Celestine-oriented public activities not be seen as Benedict purposely leaving a collage of specific signs and symbols to the Church for the good of the Church and humanity?

And, what message does this series of Benedict-Celestine signs and symbols present to the contemporary Church? I do not think their message is abstruse or complicated. Someone once said, and I paraphrase, “The difference between a good symbol and the perfect symbol is the difference between a lightning bug and lightning!” What Benedict XVI is communicating symbolically, with Celestine V always visible in the background, is straightforward and in thoroughgoing conformity with the centrality of truth in his life. It is lightning:

Peter was not Caiaphas, is not Caiaphas, and must not be Caiaphas. The Church is in urgent need of new forms and new structures for an entirely new operating model for the Petrine Ministry. The new forms and new structures called for must be in maximal conformity with the end for which the Petrine exists—the eternal salvation of all people. They must be in maximal conformity with the only means, power and ‘modus operandi’ the Petrine Ministry has to participate in the achievement of that end, namely, Christlike love, fidelity to Jesus and His ‘new commandment’ to ‘love one another as I have loved you.‘

Pope Benedict places Papal Pallium on coffin of Pope St. Celestine V.

Lest it be thought, that I am manufacturing ex nihilo an interpretation of the Benedict-Celestine symbolic symbiosis, consider these strong words of Pope Benedict from his book, Call to Communion, published before beginning his time as the Successor of Peter:

The more administrative machinery we construct, be it the most modern, the less place there is for the Spirit, the less place there is for the Lord, and the less freedom there is…We ought to begin an unsparing examination of conscience on this point at all levels of the Church.” In a later collection of essays titled, Images of Hope, he observes, “the saints were all people of imagination, not functionaries of apparatuses.

Before accepting the Petrine Ministry on April 19, 2005, Benedict is cognitively well aware of the thorny dilemma posed by the questionable acceptability of the present forms and structures of the Petrine Ministry. After April 19, 2005 that dilemma becomes his spiritual and moral crown of thorns. Benedict’s intentional integration of his Papacy with the Papacy of Pope Celestine V is not merely an act of personal piety. It is equally a public symbolic act communicating that something is seriously wrong and what that something is. It is a Biblically prophetic act consistent with the central place that truth holds in his theology. It is an act consonant with the Episcopal motto he chose from 3 John 8 when he was consecrated a Bishop in 1977: cooperatores veritatis, “co-workers of the truth.”

Perhaps by the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Love and Truth—Pope Benedict XVI’s last message to the Church, his last call to conversion to the Church, his most important service to the Church and his ultimate witness to the truth of Jesus and His Way for the good of the Church and all humanity will be his resignation from the Petrine Ministry. Perhaps, it is for this genuinely needed prophetic communication and warning that he and Celestine V were chosen—albeit seven hundred years apart—by the Holy Spirit to be Successors of Peter.

—EMMANUEL CHARLES MCCARTHY
www.centerforchristiannonviolence.org


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