CatholicScout Ponders: Traditional Mass attendance plateaued – Over focus on the Mass

Continuing the series of posts CatholicScout Ponders: Traditional Mass attendance plateaued – really? and why?. I originally commented briefly on the reasons why Mass attendance in the UK seems to have plateaued. I pointed to our historical response to threat, and how there seems to be a mass instinctual response which is hindering growth.

In the next post, CatholicScout Ponders: Traditional Mass attendance plateaued – Elitism, I commented on some of the different manifestations of Elitism within Traditional Circles. Young Fogies, Supremacists, Misers and Old Money Catholics.

This article focuses on, what I believe is, the third cause of the stagnation that seems to be occurring;

Over focus on the Mass

I have often witnessed, it’s all about the Mass. Mass. Mass. Mass.

Montage of photos of the Latin Mass

 

People, Priests, groups and organisations attached to the Traditional Rite can often suffer from this over-focus.

What is this over-focus? Partly, I think may be the vestiges of the pre-Vatican II clericalism. That negative clericalism, a mindset that put the Priest as a career. His job; to offer Mass. This clericalism was also a mindset in the laity, saying his job is to say Mass. The focus was the action of the Mass.

Partly, I think it may be connected to my first point, an instinctual reaction. The Mass is the Public Worship of the Church. It is the single most visible action that she conducts. The attack on the Traditional Mass after the Second Vatican Council provoked a reaction. The reaction was an over-focus on protecting the Mass.

What are the consequences of these actions? Well, the loss of the things that surrounded the Mass. Devotionals, the other Sacraments, Spiritual Direction, the list goes on and on.

The problem is, that the Mass by itself, is not enough. And here I come to a theory of mine. I repeat, a theory. I theorise that the implementation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum in Diocesan Churches (in England and Wales) has had an inoculating effect.

Wikipedia to the rescue: Inoculation “Inoculation was a historical method for the prevention of smallpox by deliberate introduction into the skin of material from smallpox pustules. This generally produced a less severe infection than naturally-acquired smallpox, but still induced immunity to it.”

The smallpox we are talking about is Catholic Tradition. Not just the Mass, the whole thing. The way of life.

Translated: The implementation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum in Diocesan Churches (in England and Wales) worked for the prevention of the spread of the Traditional Catholic way of life, by the deliberate introduction into Novus Ordo parishes, selected material from Catholic Tradition (i.e. The Mass). This generally produced a less severe infection, than exclusivity to the Traditional Catholic way of life, but still induced immunity to it.”

Of course, His Holiness Benedict XVI never intended Summorum Pontificum to be used as a tool in this way. But Satan whispers in the ears of those that don’t want to hear Truth. I think that the selective manner of implementation in English and Welsh Dioceses, has been shrewdly and maliciously turned into a tool for immunisation to the “disease” of Tradition.

Just offering the Mass is not enough. It’s all or nothing. You can’t do all of Novus Ordo and all of Vetus Ordo. It’s one or the other. As the Lord says:

No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other.

Matthew 6:24

Of course, back in the day, they understood that. Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Mediator Dei pointed out:

It should be clear to all, then, that God cannot be honoured worthily unless the mind and heart turn to Him in quest of the perfect life, and that the worship rendered to God by the Church in union with her divine Head is the most efficacious means of achieving sanctity.

The Pope says it’s the full thing. Conversion of mind and heart, and the worship rendered to God by the Church in union with her divine Head. Notice, he doesn’t say “the worship rendered to God by the Church in the Mass…”. It’s the full thing. Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Eucharist, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Extreme Unction. Along with, Divine Office, preaching, catechesis, education, devotions, Rosary, Prayer, parish life, family life, priest life, religious life, spiritual direction, and on. EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING according to Tradition.

That and only that is as the Pope says “is the most efficacious means of achieving sanctity“.

The Mass by itself, is an island. It is stark, naked and cold. And if it is parachuted into a Diocesan parish alongside Novus Ordo Mass, with all the sacraments and parish life according to the “spirit of Vatican II” it’s no wonder that people will wonder “Sure, the Traditional Mass is beautiful, but I feel so alone”.

So what is the solution? The solution to the instinctual response, the solution to elitism, the solution to over-focus?

These I will answer in the next post.

P.s. If you can think of other reasons that put you or other people off the Traditional Mass, list them in the Comments box below!

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CatholicScout Ponders: Traditional Mass attendance plateaued – Elitism

Continuing on from the post CatholicScout Ponders: Traditional Mass attendance plateaued – really? and why?. I commented briefly on the reasons why Mass attendance in the UK seems to have plateaued. I pointed to our historical response to threat, and how there seems to be a mass instinctual response which is hindering growth.

This article focuses on, what I believe is, the second cause of the stagnation that seems to be occurring;

Elitism

This is a hard subject to put into concrete terms. There are different manifestations

Young Fogeys

There are the “young fogeys”

Yes, there is even a handbook! This is a group of young (usually male) Catholics who spend a little too much time (and money) copying the other young fogeys, that they see at certain Churches that attract a young fogey audience.

Audience is the right word here, for “show” is fundamentally what it is all about. The Churches which attract these people put on a “show”. The young (usually male) Catholics put on “show” too.

The problem is that if you are not putting on a “show” according to the young fogey criteria, then “your not in the club”, chap. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of very good and kind young fogeys, who do are very “inclusive”. What I am pointing out however, is that I suspect that the elitism that is actively and passively projected by this group can put people off the Mass. “I don’t have tweeds and speak “Rah” – I don’t feel welcome“.

Traditional CAtholic supremacists

There are the “Supremacists”, or the “old boys club”. In some way, they could be the modern “Traditional Catholic Scribes and Pharisees”.

What am I not talking about here is the group described in Leviticus 19:32

Rise up before the hoary [meaning: gray] head, and honour the person of the aged man: and fear the Lord thy God. I am the Lord.

I am not talking about our many, many good, holy and much needed brothers and sisters who are advanced in years.

I am talking about a strata of Traditional Catholics who perceive the Traditional Mass as their patrimony, their property to defend (and advocate) as they understand it. This is the group of Traditional Catholics who think that if they are not involved, the world is going to collapse and the Traditional Mass is going to disappear.

I have heard of people calling them “Rad Trads”, the “Fruits and nuts”, but I think that’s probably a bit unfair, and probably isn’t quite the group I am describing. And I need to be careful, I’m not on some anti-intellectual agenda here. It’s okay to be an intellectual, it is okay to be well read. It’s not okay to use those things as a separator between “us and them”.

A lot of people, me included, have taken offense at Pope Francis’ pointed remarks about Traditionalists, but maybe this is the group within Traditional circles that he is referring to. The modern day Traditional Catholic Scribe and Pharisee.

Traditionalist Supremacists have a difficult time stepping down from their pedestals and helping a newcomer through the Mass. The Traditional Supremacist will use “high Church language”, which the average Catholic won’t understand in the slightest.

Our Lord preached against this group in Luke Chapter 14: 8-11

When thou art invited to a wedding, sit not down in the first place, lest perhaps one more honourable than thou be invited by him: And he that invited thee and him, come and say to thee, Give this man place: and then thou begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when thou art invited, go, sit down in the lowest place; that when he who invited thee, cometh, he may say to thee: Friend, go up higher. Then shalt thou have glory before them that sit at table with thee. Because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.

They tend to be quite homogeneous and often will be found in groups, associations and even some organisations. Some symptoms of this group can be (any combination or all);

  1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
  2. Unquestioned belief in the morality of “the cause”, which causes such Supremacists to ignore the consequences of their actions.
  3. Rationalising warnings that might challenge the Supremacist assumptions.
  4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the Supremacist position as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent, or stupid.
  5. Self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent Supremacist consensus.
  6. Illusions of unanimity among Supremacist members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  7. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the Supremacist group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”
  8. Self-appointed members who shield the Supremacists from dissenting information.

The elitism projected by this group can put people off the Mass. “my thoughts are not appreciated here, I’m not welcome

Misers and OLD MONEY CAtHOLICS

Money is an age old problem, and no group is free of it. Despite Our Lord pointing out;

You cannot serve God and mammon

Matthew 6:24

Here I am not talking about the necessary steps one needs to take to make a living. I am talking about two groups: Misers and Old Money Catholics.

I probably don’t have to explain why misers can put people off – there is nothing quite so off putting as someone who does have money, but does not give of his excess to support his Parish or help his fellow poorer parishioners.

Old Money however, needs some explaining. Wikipedia on Old Money: “The term typically describes a class of the rich who’ve been able to maintain their wealth over multiple generations, often referring to perceived members of the de facto aristocracy in societies which for historical reasons lack an officially established aristocratic class.”

So in England and Wales, for around 500 years it was illegal to be Catholic. The only publicly professing Catholic families that remained were rich land owners who could pay the fines. This effectively wiped out de jure Catholic aristocracy in England and Wales, apart from some very wealthy families (like the Stonors and the Fitzgerald-Howards).

There is today a class of rich Catholics who have been able to maintain their wealth over multiple generations, and are perceived as members of a de facto aristocracy (because formally it was illegal). My concern is, that there are examples of this de facto aristocracy in Traditional circles, which I think may be contributing to why people are put off the Traditional way of life.

How? Well, it’s one thing to have the blessing of inheritance, it is another thing to live off the fat. In some way I think that people can perceive these individuals as doing nothing for their bread. St Paul talks about them in 2 Thessalonians 11-12:

For we have heard there are some among you who walk disorderly, working not at all, but curiously meddling. Now we charge them that are such, and beseech them by the Lord Jesus Christ, that, working with silence, they would eat their own bread.

It goes back to the command issued to Adam as he was cast out of the Garden of Eden – Genesis 3:19:

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.

Now I’m sure some Old Money Catholics will have some beef with what I say here. “But I sweat hard working for the SVP, or the Order of Malta, or this that and the other” – I hear them say. The problem is, that while they are doing plenty of volunteering. That volunteering isn’t paying for their bread. They are observed by others who are earning a wage, which is paying for their bread, and that is off putting.

The Old Money Catholic may well indeed say “ah, those plebs, they are just resentful, that is their problem, not mine”. Well, yes and no. Our Lord talks about being an occasion of sin, and condemns the misers, and just remember Second Thessalonians…

Miserliness and Old Money often go hand-in-hand, and for some reason miserly people and Old Money Catholics seem inordinately attracted to the Old Rite. I don’t know why. Maybe something to do with prestige?

But I do think that these two money issues are a major stink in Traditional Catholic circles. The elitism projected by this group can put people off the Mass. “Over there seem to be the Rich people, who don’t give a penny. Over there seem to be the people who have never sweated for their bread. No place for me here.

N.B. Don’t get me wrong I am not a Communist, putting forward the idea of revolution to redistribute the wealth of the rich to the poor. I am a staunch Distributivist. Not heard of Distributivism? Then you probably have never read Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical Rerum Novarum, which condemned both Communism and Capitalism.

I will give my thoughts on the solution to these problems in a future post.

Catholic Laws on Marriage and Divorce

Recently I made this response to the LMS Chairman’s “we’re not facing a heretical Pope”:

Dear Dr Shaw,
Thank you for your post.

I feel that you have omitted something important:

For the Church to say “sorry everyone it seems we’ve been wrong all along” it may also entail saying “sorry everyone it seems that Jesus has been wrong all along”.

This is particularly the case with the Indissolubility of Marriage, since it is not something that the Church has defined using her Ordinary or Extraordinary Magisterial Authority (such as in the case of the Assumption, or the Immaculate Conception).

An attack on Indissolubility of Marriage is an attack on the Person of Jesus Christ, and the Inerrancy of Sacred Scripture.

Of course if the Church has permitted a perversion or betrayal to the teachings of her Divine Lawgiver (as given in the Gospels), then the Church, should, and must repent.

In the case of the sin of Sodomy, the present attack, is not so much on the Person of the Divine Lawgiver, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Nor is it so much an attack on the Inerrancy of Scripture. It is more an attack on the Tradition of the Church.

The law regarding the sin of Sodom comes from the Old Testament, and unlike certain other Old Testament Laws, the Divine Lawgiver did not give any further clarification (such as in the case with Indissolubility of Marriage), so it remained as is.

That which remains, such as that which is passed down through oral tradition, is in the custody of Sacred Tradition.

I think that these are important points to weigh in on your considerations.

Yours respectfully,
CatholicScout

To which Dr Shaw added:

The teaching on sodomy is reiterated by St Paul. Rom 1:27

The problem is that with marriage a new teaching will always be presented as an interpretation, not denial, of Scripture. The reason Catholics are more secure in how we understand Our Lord’s words on divorce is because we have an authoritative interpretation through Tradition.

These subjects have brought to my attention the issue of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Saints.

Dr Shaw is correct, St Paul does condemn sodomy in Romans 1:27, thus showing that the law regarding the sin of Sodom is continued in the Church (and for all time).

Dr Shaw rightly points out the issue of “a new teaching will always be presented as an interpretation“. In researching my response to this, I came across an excellent article titled “Catholic Laws on Marriage and Divorce by Monsignor Matthew Smith, 1921” – posted on catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com which I copy here in its entirety for your convenience:


Catholic Laws on Marriage and Divorce

by Monsignor Matthew Smith, 1921

The Catholic attitude on marriage is not debatable for anyone who is really willing to live by the doctrine of the Scriptures. Here are some of the Biblical references to marriage: “Whilst her husband liveth she shall be called an adulteress if she be with another man” (Romans vii, 3). “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her” (Mark x, 11). “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder” (Matt. xix, 6). “Everyone that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” (Luke xvi, 18). “To them that are married, not I, but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband: and if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife (I Cor. vii, 10-11). “A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but, if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will: only in the Lord” (I Cor. vii, 39).

The reason why Christian marriage is monogamous is because Jesus has made it a figure of the union of Christ with His Church. The union of the Master with the Church is extraordinarily close. We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, to use the striking words of St. Paul in Ephesians. The Church is the bride of Christ. Marriage is defined in the Scriptures in this fashion: “A man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be two in one flesh” (Genesis ii, 24). Christ merely restored marriage to the pristine condition God intended it to have from the very beginning. Because of the hardness of men’s hearts, God permitted divorce to the Jews; but there is absolutely nothing in all the Christian dispensation that gives the Church permission to grant any divorce in Christian marriage with the right to remarry.

All the loose legislation on divorce in the dissenting denominations rests upon the assumption that it is impossible to live a happy or decent single life. Separation has to come in some marriages. If a man is always abusive, a drunkard, or a libertine; or if a woman is an adulteress or a spendthrift who cannot manage a home; or if there are other grave reasons, a divorce without the right to remarry is permissible. But it is possible for these people to live both happily and virtuously without remarrying. The Catholic Church knows; she has had plenty of experience with celibates, far more than any other organization. God never commands what He does not give the strength to accomplish; there is no question about the fact that He has definitely commanded the Catholic legislation on Matrimony.

Many arguments can be brought forward to show that, from a social welfare standpoint, the Catholic legislation is ideal. But the reason why we obey it is not particularly for these reasons, but because Christ commanded it. Our chief concern is to save souls. We are not running after mere earthly goals. We are not conducting a Church simply as a sociological experiment. We are glad, indeed, that Catholicity in action turns out to be the best sociology; but that is incidental.

We obey Christ because we deem Him to be God. We are here for a brief space on probation, and then we are to be judged. Our happiness or sorrow throughout eternity depends on the way we now obey Him. Hence the argument that we hold before the man or woman struggling with the question of obedience or disobedience to the Christian law of marriage comes down simply to this: Are you willing to jeopardize eternal happiness for a few brief years of tarnished happiness in this world? That, after all, is the only question that must be answered.

Those who oppose our marriage legislation try to make out that the Church has no right to interfere in such delicate and purely personal matters. Inasmuch as Christ is God, and Christ said that she has, we side with Christ. Modern man did not make the world; God made it; God made the laws, natural and supernatural, by which we will be judged. Christ taught that we should center our attention on the next world, not on this. He did not make Christianity a worldly religion in any sense; He often declared that it is wholly opposed to the spirit of the world. He compared the living of a Christian life with His carrying of the Cross to Calvary. We do not promise easy salvation to anybody. It is far easier to damn one’s soul than to save it; but, nevertheless, a sincere attempt to save one’s soul brings such peace that Christ was able to call the yoke sweet and the burden light.

Matrimony is the sacrament that unites a Christian man and woman in lawful marriage. God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden (Gen. ii, 24) and Christ raised the contract among baptized people to the dignity of a sacrament. The primary object of marriage is the procreation and education of offspring; the second purpose is mutual assistance and the remedy for concupiscence. Large numbers of people outside the Catholic Church put the secondary purpose above the first, and this explains why marriage is falling more and more into contempt among them. The essential qualities of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage receive their peculiar firmness by reason of the sacrament.

St. Paul in Ephesians v tells what a Christian marriage should be like. “So also,” he says, “ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever hateth his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ does the Church, because we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. ‘For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.’ This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular love his wife as himself: and let the wife fear her husband.”

Jesus Christ Himself said, when asked (Matt. xix) whether divorce was to be permitted by Him (it had been allowed by Moses because of the hardness of the Jews’ hearts), “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” When His questioners argued with Him, He went on to say that anybody who put away his wife and married another committed adultery, and whoever married her that was put away committed adultery. In Matt. v, Jesus also warned that whoever put away his wife, except for good reasons, was to be held equally guilty of whatever adultery she might commit. “Whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away committeth adultery.”

The Catholic Church holds that a married couple can separate when grave spiritual or temporal good of either party demands it. Christ mentions only fornication in the instance above, because it is the chief reason for which this separation is permitted. But remarriage of either before the other’s death is not allowed.

Owing to the exceptions made by Christ in regard to fornication, in Matt. xix and v, many non-Catholics hold that absolute divorce with remarriage is permitted to the innocent party in a case where adultery has occurred. But this has never been the teaching of the Catholic Church. Other texts in the Bible prove that Christ did not intend the permission of absolute divorce in any consummated Christian marriage. The Council of Trent has settled this matter for Catholics. Christ was referring to simple separation, not to absolute divorce, when speaking of fornication.

If the texts are to be used in justifying remarriage of the innocent party in divorce cases growing out of fornication, remarriage of the guilty person would also have to be legalized. But this is so foreign to all other texts about divorce in the New Testament, and to the spirit of Christianity in general, that the question is not debatable. Furthermore, the saving phrase in the text “excepting for the cause of fornication,” refers only to the first clause, not to the second.

Jesus, in Mark x, 11, 12, made the unqualified statement that absolute divorce is not allowable. “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” Again in Luke xvi, 18, Jesus is quoted as absolutely forbidding divorce with remarriage. “Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put from her husband committeth adultery.”

St. Paul in I Cor. vii, 10-11, also makes it clear that divorce of Christians with remarriage is forbidden. No exception whatever is made. “But to them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife.”

Again, in verse 39, St. Paul declares the same truth, making no exception whatever: “A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but, if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord.” In Romans vii, 2, 3, St. Paul again explicitly states that a woman who is fulfilling marital relations with another man while her husband is living is an adulteress, but a wife is free to marry again when her husband dies.


Separation of Married Couples

Married persons are obliged to live together in conjugal relations, unless a just cause frees them from this obligation. If one of the two commits adultery, it is reason for the other to live apart, unless the party that wishes to leave consented to the crime, or was the cause of it, or committed the same crime himself or herself. Tacit condoning of the crime means living in marital relations with the guilty person, without bringing legal accusation or leaving the person within six months.

Other reasons that justify separation are: If one party joins a non-Catholic sect; educates the offspring as non-Catholics; leads a criminal and despicable life; creates great bodily or spiritual danger to the other party; or if through cruelties he or she makes living together too difficult; and for other such reasons, which are to the innocent party so many legal causes to leave the guilty party by authority of the Bishop, or also by private authority, if the guilt of the other party is certain beyond doubt, and there is danger in delay.

Except in case of adultery, the common life must be restored when the reason for the separation ceases. But, if the Bishop pronounced the separation for a certain time or indefinitely, the innocent party is not obliged to return during this allotted period or until the Bishop orders it. In case of adultery, the innocent party is not under compulsion ever to readmit the sinner. The innocent one, however, has the right to take back the sinner, and even compel him or her to return, unless the sinner in the meantime has, with the consent of the innocent party, embraced a state of life contrary to marriage, like going into a religious community.



Catholic Sources in Defense of the Indissolubility of Marriage

“The union of husband and wife has from the very beginning had stamped and impressed on it two peculiarly striking characteristics in order that it might more adequately correspond with the wise counsels of God; these are unity and perpetuity. . . . This we see declared and patently confirmed in the Gospel by the Divine authority of Jesus Christ Who testified to the Jews and to the Apostles that Matrimony, even from the time of its institution, ought to be only between two, a man and a woman, that of those two were made one flesh, and that the marriage bond was by God’s will so intimately and closely knit that it can be neither dissolved nor broken by any man: ‘A man . . . shall cleave to his wife and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two but one flesh’ (Mt. xix, 5-6).

“Christ restored marriage to its state of primitive excellence when He condemned the morals of the Hebrews who had many wives and who misused the permission to put away their wives; for He sternly forbade anyone to dare dissolve what God had bound by a perpetual bond of union. When He had solved the difficulties alleged from the decisions given by Moses, He, in the Person of the Supreme Lawgiver, laid down this law for married people: ‘And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery, and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery. (Mt. xix, 9).

“A Christian marriage which has been consummated is complete in every respect, and should therefore possess more firmness and more stability than any other. If God had so willed, it could have been made dissoluble by adultery, as the Greeks and Protestants claim it is. But the Catholic Church has always maintained that there is no evidence of any such divine disposition, and consequently the principle holds good: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

“The Church is the best interpreter of the law of Christ and when she teaches that a ratified and consummated marriage, and this alone, is absolutely beyond human power to dissolve, it is a certainty. The ultimate reason must be sought in the Divine Will. Its sacramental character alone would not give it this firmness, but in addition the contract must be consummated. The Church has defended this doctrine always even against powerful princes and in the face of serious temptation.”

(Excerpts from Leo XIII, Arcanum divinae Sapientiae, Feb. 10, 1880).


St. Augustine, De Adulterinis conjugiis, i, 9:

“If, then, we were to say: “Whosoever marries a woman put away by her husband for any other cause than fornication commits adultery, we should certainly be saying what was true; yet it does not therefore follow that we can pronounce him innocent who marries a woman who has been put away because of her fornication; we have not the remotest doubt but that they are both of them adulterers. And in the same way we pronounce him an adulterer, who for some other cause than fornication, puts away his wife and marries another; yet we do not on that ground pronounce innocent of adultery a man who puts away his wife because of her fornication, and then marries another. We regard both of them as adulterers, although the sin of one is graver than that of the other.” (P.L., xl, 456.)

St. Augustine, De Nuptiis et Concupiscentiis, i,10:

“Now since not only fecundity, whose fruit is offspring, nor chastity, whose safeguard is fidelity, but also a certain nuptial Sacrament is set before the married members of the faithful, for the Apostle says: ‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church’ (Ephes. v, 25), it follows that the ‘thing’ of this Sacrament consists in husband and wife remaining inseparable for the rest of their lives once they have been joined in wedlock, and in the unlawfulness of separation between partners except it be because of fornication (Mt. v, 32). But if a man has done so (taken another wife during the lifetime of his former partner) then by the Gospel law he is guilty of adultery, as also is the wife if she marries another (Mt. xix, 8-9), though not so by the law of this world whereby, owing to divorce, marriage can be added to marriage and no legal crime incurred; in fact, as the Lord Himself testifies, even holy Moses conceded this to the people of Israel owing to the hardness of their hearts. Between married people, then, there remains, so long as they live, a certain conjugal bond which neither separation nor subsequent union with another can remove. But this bond then remains, not as a bond of fidelity, but as the penalty of a crime; just as the soul of an apostate who withdraws from Christ’s espousals, even though his faith has gone, does not lose the Sacrament of faith which he received in ‘the laver of regeneration.'” (P.L., xliv, 420.)

“No one is permitted to know a woman other than his wife. The marital right is given you for this reason: lest you fall into the snare and sin with a strange woman. ‘If you are bound to a wife do not seek a divorce’; for you are not permitted, while your wife lives, to marry another.” (St. Ambrose–A.D.387)”Do not tell me about the violence of the ravisher, about the persuasiveness of a mother, about the authority of a father, about the influence of relatives, about the intrigues and insolence of servants, or about household financial losses. So long as a husband lives, be he adulterer, be he sodomite, be he addicted to every kind of vice, if she left him on account of his crimes he is still her husband still and she may not take another.” (St. Jerome–A.D. 396)

“The practice is observed by all of regarding as an adulteress a woman who marries a second time while her husband yet lives, and permission to do penance is not granted her until one of them is dead.” (Pope Innocent I.– A.D. 408)

“Just as a woman is an adulteress, even though she seem to be married to a man, while a former husband yet lives, so also the man who seems to marry her who has been divorced does not marry her, but, according to the declaration of our Saviour, he commits adultery with her.” (Matthew 14:24–Origen A.D. 248)

“That Scripture counsels marriage, however, and never allows any release from the union, is expressly contained in the law: ‘You shall not divorce a wife, except for reason of immorality.’ And it regards as adultery the marriage of a spouse, while the one from whom a separation was made is still alive. ‘Whoever takes a divorced woman as wife commits adultery,’ it says; for ‘if anyone divorce his wife, he debauches her’; that is, he compels her to commit adultery. And not only does he that divorces her become the cause of this, but also he that takes the woman and gives her the opportunity of sinning; for if he did not take her, she would return to her husband.” (Clement of Alexandria–A.D. 208)


Trent, Sess. xxiv, De Sacramento Matrimonii:

“Can. v.     If any one shall say that the bond of matrimony can be dissolved for the cause of heresy, or of injury due to cohabitation, or of willful desertion; let him be anathema.”

“Can. vii.     If any one shall say that the Church errors when she has taught, and now teaches, that according to the doctrine of the Gospels and of the Apostles the bond of Matrimony cannot be dissolved owing to the adultery of one of the partners, and that neither party, not even the innocent party who has not by committing adultery given any ground (for separation), is free to contract another marriage during the lifetime of the other partner, and that he who after putting away his adulterous wife marries another, commits adultery, or the wife who after putting away an adulterous husband marries another, let him be anathema.”

Pius IX, The Syllabus, Condemns the following assertion:

“The marriage bond is not indissoluble by the law of nature, and in various cases divorce strictly so-called can be sanctioned by the civil authorities.”–Condemned

(Acta Pii IX, I, iii, 703)

Explanation of Canon 1069 of the 1917 Code of Cannon Law:

Persons who attempt marriage while bound by the impediment of the bond of previous marriage are declared to be infamous by the Code; after due warning they are to be punished by the ordinary with excommunication or personal interdict.(30) By a decree of the III Plenary Council of Baltimore,(31) automatic excommunication is visited upon those who dare to attempt marriage after a civil divorce. One guilty of this offense is also suspected of heresy as if denying the dogma defined by the Council of Trent regarding the unity of marriage.(32) If he actually thought he was free to enter the second marriage and contumaciously affirmed this, he would be a heretic and subject to the penalties visited upon heretics in canon 2314. Such a criminal is also irregular.(33) Unless his action is occult, he is also a public sinner, to be denied admission to the sacraments(34) and to associations of the laity,(35) as well as Christian burial.(36) Outside the case of urgent necessity the delinquent cannot be given absolution merely on the promise to put away the person with whom he is living in adultery; actual reform and cessation of concubinage is required.

30. Cf. can. 2356.
31. Acta, no. 124. Cf. II Plen. Council of Baltimore, Ada, nos. 326-27.
32. Gasparri, op. cit., no. 559; ct. Conc. Trident., sess. XXIV, de matrimonio, can. 2;
Schroeder, Council of Trent, p. 181.
33. Cf, commentary on can. 985, 3.
34. Cf. commentary on can. 855.
35. Ct. commentary on can. 693, 1.
36. Ct. commentary on can. 1240, 1, 6.

Prayer in an Unhappy Marriage

O God, Lord and Director of my life, You have placed me in the state of marriage. In it I hoped for joy and happiness, but alas! I experience only tribulation upon tribulation. But this is Your will. O Heavenly Father, may Your will be done! You place before my eyes Your only, Your well-beloved Son, Whose whole life here below was the hard way of the cross. You call upon me to follow Him. I will do, 0 Lord, what You demand of me. I thank You from my heart for Your love in treating me as You treated Your well-beloved Son, eternal with Yourself, and equal to You in essence. But behold my weakness! Have pity on my cowardice! I know that, without Your special grace, I shall be unable to bear my cross as I should. Give me what You demand of me, and then ask what You will. Give me Your most amiable Son, as You gave Him to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, that He may be always with me, to counsel and assist me, to preserve and daily confirm me in Your love. Place me in the open wound of His Heart. Fill me with His meekness and humility.

Grant me a share in His fortitude, and I shall be able to endure all things. Lord, send me sufferings, trials, and tribulations as numerous and as heavy as seems good to You; but, at the same time, increase my patience and resignation. Teach me, after the example of my sweet Savior, to repay evil with good, angry words with silence or gentle replies; to merit Your favor by a strict fulfillment of duty, and, by ready obedience and constant, faithful love, gain my husband’s (wife’s) heart for You. Preserve us, Almighty God, from the deceits of the evil spirits and from the malicious, or perhaps well-meant, though foolish language and counsels of silly people. Grant us peace and harmony, true affection and forbearance, devout sentiments and holy fear, that we may cheerfully labor, pray, and suffer with and for each other. May we tread together the way of Your holy Commandments and together reap the reward of our good works for an endless eternity! Grant us this, Heavenly Father, for the love of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, as also of all the saints who, in the married state, sanctified themselves and attained eternal life. Amen.


Other related links to the Sacrament of Matrimony from catholicharboroffaithandmorals.com

CatholicScout Ponders: Traditional Mass attendance plateaued – really? and why?

There has been much talk of the second springtime for the Church since the Second Vatican Council. Much talk, but little to no concrete evidence. I have heard people talk of the vibrancy of the Church in Africa, the Far East and in Central and South America. But here in the UK things are grim, to say the least.

joke about people leaving after "opening up the Church"

Mass attendance in the Novus Ordo is declining sharply (along with vocations, marriages, baptisms etcetera). But what about the Traditional Mass? Surely the stalwart Traditionalists are increasing, and people are being attracted to the depth and spiritual richness of the Traditional Rite?

Well, in the United Kingdom, the answer is “not really”. Sure, since the promulgation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum by Pope Benedict XVI, there are a lot more Masses in England and Wales. Mass attendance at the Traditional Rite, rose slightly after the promulgation of the Motu Proprio, but it is common knowledge that it has now largely plateaued.

One thing for sure is that the Traditional families attached to the Traditional Rite, are far more observant of Holy Mother Church’s teachings, such as those regarding fecundity. So there is a phenomenal fecundity in the Traditional communities, in comparison to Novus Ordo communities.

And there is a trickle of people being attracted from the Novus Ordo to the Traditional Rite, which, for sure, is the working of the Holy Ghost. But it is also fair to say, that logically, there isn’t the “boom” of attendance and appreciation that many Traditionalists expected.

In the UK, I think we are blessed with the Latin Mass Society (LMS) which organises many public events with the Traditional Rite, but from what I can see is that a lot of them are very poorly attended. Why? Where are all the Trads? What can be done to change this?

One thing which struck me, was how often I have come across people saying “with Summorum Pontificum, the LMS should not need to exist”. For sure, after Summorum Pontificum the LMS had to rethink it’s existence, and I think (correct me if I am wrong) they changed their constitution to reflect that. But I think that public organisations like Federatio Internationalis Una Voce, or the Latin Mass Society, do have an important role to play.

So why do I think that Traditional Rite Mass attendance has plateaued in the UK?

  1. Recusant mentality
  2. Elitism
  3. Over focus on the Mass

Recusant Mentality

Recusant mentality is two things: It is an instinctual response to a perceived threat, and it is a historical pattern in British Catholicism.

So firstly, instincts. What is the threat? We live in an age of unprecedented information. We find out what the Pope has said, quicker than the Vatican dicasteries themselves.

We get information (news) almost instantaneously, the problem is that the information comes directly to us, leaving us with the temptation to interpret those ourselves. Or worse, listening/reading other people’s private interpretations of events.

Of course, because we Baptised Catholics suffer from concupiscence, the tendency in our private interpretations is towards to pessimistic. There is all kinds of catastrophic interpretations of current events within and outside the Catholic Church.

The threat is our negative, or catastrophic, interpretation of the information fed to us by media. This perceived threat triggers our instinctual response. Fight or flight. For us British, we hunker down (flight) and fight off all comers (fight).

Let me be the first to say however, that I am not saying that we should walk around whistling in the dark, pretending everything is okay. Things are definitely not okay. For this reason I keep reminding my readers:

poster saying "keep calm and be holy"

What I am pointing out, however is that there seems to me to be a mass instinctual response to the signs of the time. Instinctual responses are not rational responses. I will address my thoughts on how to correct this problem in a future post.

More on Elitism in the next post!

Synod on the Family 2014 – Déjà vu?

Hans Memling's Painting of St John's Apocalypse

I have been living by some sage advice given to me: “Stop worrying about what is happening in Rome, and get on with being holy in your day-to-day life”.

Being holy in my day-to-day life is about trying my best to live by the Commandment that Christ left us recorded in the Gospels (John 13:34). I fail regularly. Thanks be to God for Confession!

That being said, I commented on a post by Dr Shaw, and would like to share it here. I think that this is important.

Dear Dr Shaw,

Thank you for your thoughts on the matter of the Synod, the attempts to undermine the perennial teaching of Christ and the likelihood of further attempts in the future.

I would like to highlight a little statement that you wrote which I think is very important – “But it is possible that, with the approval of the Supreme Legislator, Canon Law could cease to say what it says today about the reception of Communion, which gives the teaching on indissolubility some practical implications. It could cease to implement Divine Law in this respect.”

You then go on to hypothesise how that could manifest, but I would like to add one for your consideration. The introduction of a “theory of a just communion for divorced and remarried couples“. This method already exists in both canon law and the catechism, to get around perhaps the most difficult subject that Christ taught authoritatively – violence.

The future synod could produce a theory. In doing so, the Theory, while being just a Theory, would in effect override the original perennial and immutable teaching of Christ.

And I agree, doing this has horrendous effects on the Church and her efficacy in the world.

Respectfully,
CatholicScout

 

Joseph Shaw
Can you give an example of how this method has been used in the past?

 

catholicscout
Dear Dr Shaw,
Thank you for asking.
I am aware of only one example of the introduction of a theory as a means to mitigate the teaching of the Divine Lawgiver.
The theories found in Cicero’s work De Officiis were imported by Saint Ambrose in his work De Officiis Ministorum, to mitigate the teaching of Christ (in particular His teaching during the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5, Lk 6), the questioning of the Pharisees regarding the greatest Commandment (Mt 22, Mk 12, Lk 10), and most importantly the New Commandment given to the Disciples at the Last Supper (Jn 13)).
The theory put forward in De Officiis Ministorum, was developed further under Saint Augustine in his work De Civitate Dei. The theory continued to grow and develop. Saint Thomas Aquinas writes about it in the Summa Theologica (Secunda Secundae Partis, Q.40).
That theory now finds it’s place in all the Catechisms (usually referencing De Officiis Ministorum). For example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2307-2317).
It is unique because it is the only theory (that I am aware of), that appears alongside dogmatic declarations.

I find it interesting that these two issues are found within the same chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The issue of violence and enmity is dealt with by the Divine Redeemer as born testimony in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 5:21). The issue of the Indissolubility of Marriage is dealt with almost immediately after (Mt 5:31).

There are quite a few interesting coincidences between the introduction of Just War Theory, and the latest attempt to undermine the Indissolubility of Marriage.
In the first case of the introduction of a Theory to undermine Divine Teaching;
There was an outside pressure (Roman Society), and a corresponding interior “lobby” (of which we only have Saints Ambrose and Augustine recorded).
The “loophole” was introduced covertly, not by a Papal exhortation, but rather by an Archbishop (ref: De Officiis Ministorum.

I hope that helps.

Respectfully
CatholicScout

This isn’t a Vatican II repeat, although there are elements of the tactics used. Anyone who knows their history will know that the Second Vatican Council was undermined by a predetermined effort from a minority group. I’m not going to analyse all of the tactics used. But the Synod on the Family is strikingly similar to the events of the Second Vatican Council and the introduction of De Officiis Ministorum into the corpus of Catholic teaching.

We need to be aware, that we can’t claim that this hasn’t happened before.

Christ’s teaching regarding violence and enmity has been buried. By a theory from an Archbishop.

Christ’s teaching regarding the Indissolubility of Marriage is being threatened with being buried, by very similar means.

Mass. Prayer. Rosary.

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression” – part four

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression”

(Part Four)

Ambiguous signq

I had not intended to begin Part Four with the following story but it segues perfectly from what was communicated in Part Three. Two days after I sent out Part Three I received an email from a woman who did not have my reflections on Pope Francis’ words on intervention against “unjust aggressors.” I thought she might be going to ask me what the Pope’s statement meant in terms of stopping the ‘unjust aggression’ of Russia against the Ukraine. Instead, she informed me that she was part of a Catholic adult continuing religious education fellowship. Her problem was that everyone in the gathering is “convinced that the Pope has said stop ISIS regardless.” As one member emailed her, “I think the Pope is addressing airstikes by the US alone as unwise, but I do not think he is against stopping ISIS by whatever means the international community (U.N.) evaluates as acceptable. I find nowhere that the Pope has stated that we must “stop” but not kill…I have read several articles from several different sources (including what I consider to be some objective sources), and they all indicate the same thing.”

This woman, obviously a sincere and serious Catholic, is not wrong. She cannot be wrong. As noted in Part Three, the planned ambiguity of the Pope’s statement makes it a Rorschach statement in which everyone can see what he or she wants to see. The Boston Globe had this as the headline over an article by its religion columnist: “Pope offers cautious yellow light for US airstrikes in Iraq.” He is not wrong, because in the world of planned ambiguity, no one is wrong and no one is right. The headline could have said with equal certainty of not being inaccurate, “Pope puts red light on US airstrikes.”

The Petrine Ministry exists to be the Rock of faith for Christians by having and proclaiming a rock-solid faith in Jesus and His Way.  Jesus, however, tells Peter in the most severe language imaginable—and by extension tells all Peter’s legitimate successors—not to think as the world thinks and that when Peter does this he is “an obstacle” to Jesus. “You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”(Mt 16:23). Therefore, the servant of Jesus in the Petrine Ministry, if he is to be a good and faithful servant, must stand firm in his acceptance of and compliance with Jesus’ farewell command and commission to Peter and to all the Apostles, “teach them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19).

How sorrowful, that in relation to Christians confronting human violence, all that the Petrine ministry has again been able to say, as its “message that goes out through all the earth,” is another moral bromide of planned ambiguity. The history of the Petrine Ministry and the institutional Church’s administering of worldly moral bromides of planned ambiguity is that it always results in thousands or millions of human beings on all sides trying to kill each other and sharing—instead of Christlike love and the fruits of Christlike love—sharing of only a charnel house. And, those Christians on all sides who killed but are not killed spend their Christian lives offering the Nazi Nuremburg self-exculpatory defense to themselves and to others: “I did nothing wrong. I was following the moral law of my Church leaders. I find nowhere that they said I must not kill and maim in this situation. I realize there are 500,000 human beings now dead and maimed, but I was just following the moral orders given to me as the will of God by my Church’s bishops, priests and ministers. I am not responsible!”

Every Pope, except St. Peter, entered into his ministry in a Church that already had a history. So also, was the case when Pope Francis began his fifteen minutes of earthly notoriety as the Successor of Peter. And, such was the case on the day that he made his ambiguous statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors” to an international press corps. He knew and his advisers would have to have known, that his statement would be interpreted by most people according to whatever consciousness, cognitive and affective, they had hardwired into their brains from their Christian cradle days on forward. All connected with composing the Pope statement would have been well aware that Catholics and people in general would necessarily be evaluating the his statement through the intentionally blurred lenses of that always referred to, never taught and never implemented, moral blank check called the Christian Just War Theory.

How blurred are the lenses of the CJWT, how morally wide-open is the CJWT through which most Christians would be interpreting Francis’ words on intervention against “unjust aggressors?” The following is an excerpt from a Commencement address given in May 2014 at Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college in California, by Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, a former Catholic military chaplain and the former Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of the US Military for ten years before being named a Cardinal.

One of my greatest challenges and responsibilities was persuading 19-year-old Catholics, who instinctively feel that there is some conflict between the Catholic faith and bearing arms, that they need not feel that way. I use the example of the Good Samaritan. The story is of a fellow who is beaten half to death, left dying. Two pass by, and they are big shots in the religious organizations of the time, and the third is a stranger, a Samaritan, who stops and pours oil on and bandages the wounded man. We all know the story well. Well, I say, ‘What would have happened a half hour before, if that Samaritan saw that this man was being pummeled half to death’? Would he have a right to step back and say, ‘I will become a Samaritan about a half hour after this is over,’ or would he not have a right and obligation to step in and do what he had to do—and only what had to be done—to bring about justice there? That is what the military is.

Military service is a Christian vocation, if only our people were conscious of the potential to adopt it as a Christian vocation. That is the role of the Church, to remind them that there need be no conflict, and that the Church considers—and always has considered—military service to be a lofty call: an act of love. Christ defined Himself as one who came to serve and not to be served. ‘No greater love than this, to give one’s life for a friend.’ Our kids are giving their lives for perfect strangers. Peace I leave you.”

Now, whatever one may think of Cardinal O’Brien’s statement of the truth of the Gospel, this is what he has been presenting for over forty years as the truth of the Gospel, as a US Catholic military chaplain in Vietnam, as a chaplain at West Point, as a Rector of the premier Catholic seminary in the world, the North American College in Rome, as a Rector of the major seminary of the Diocese of New York, as Archbishop of the US Military Diocese, as Archbishop of the Diocese of Baltimore. All this was well known before he was honoured by the power players within the institutional Catholic Church with the red hat (zucchetto and biretta) of a Cardinal.

So to be clear, Cardinal O’Brien is not the problem. He is only a little contemporary symbol and witness to a problem as immense as the institutional Church that has legions of symbols and witnesses such as he is, that go back 1700 years. He did not make himself a priest, bishop or cardinal. Those who understand the Church to be the birth place and incubator of a never ending supply of violent Rambo “Good Samaritans” made Edwin O’Brien what he is today, and what over a billion and a half other Catholics are today and for 1700 years of yesterdays.

Edwin O’Brien, however, is a master at creating and spouting, via the institutional Catholic Church’s channels of communication, the needed Orwellianization of the teachings of Jesus to keep the Catholic kids (his word) from acting on their Christian instinct (his word) that is telling them that “there is some conflict between the Catholic faith and bearing arms.” He thereby enables and empowers Catholic kids to come with religious zeal to join the US Military and be Johnson’s, Ford’s, Reagan’s, Bush’s, Clinton’s, Bush’s and Obama’s “Good Samaritans” to the world—a world in which 150 of the 196 countries on the planet have the US military deployed in them.

Half of the propaganda battle in convincing people that untruth is truth, that evil is good, is to get them to ask the wrong questions and thereby get them to fight the wrong fight. The secondary question that O’Brien artificially presents as the primary one in order to persuade the kids to join the US military and not be worried about the instinctive religious conflict they feel in becoming paid, competent killer for those who control governments is not what some, many or most members of the institutional Catholic Church say non-infallibly e.g., slavery is in conformity with the teaching of the Catholic Church, burning Jews and heretics at the stake is in conformity with the teaching of the Catholic faith, Crusades against Muslim to recapture the Holy Land are in conformity with the Catholic Church, torture is in conformity with the Catholic Church. The primary question is what Jesus—who is the Incarnation of God, who does not lie and who can only communicate infallible truth—says. The question is whether the non-infallible teaching of the Church is in logical conformity with the infallible teaching, communicated by the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospels. By all means detour the kids away from considering this question as the primary one when they are trying to resolve an instinctive moral conflict within themselves whether they as Christians can become agents of homicide for any one or any group. Manipulate the kids or the adults so that they ask the wrong question and they will fight the wrong fight.

So, is the institutional Catholic Church’s profession of faith—indeed is the profession of faith of most of Christians and most Churches of Christianity—of a Rambo Good Samaritan Jesus? Is a violent Good Samaritan as a Way of following the Jesus of the Gospels a truth or a falsehood, a leading of people into good or into evil? Is Pope Francis’ planned and ambiguous statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors”—which is wide open to supporting Cardinal O’Brien theology—and which was spoken to a Constantinian Church rife with a history, past and present, of Catholics, and Christians in general, participating in and supporting violence on all sides of every issue from abortion to atomic war, worthy of the Successor of Peter? A different question, however, is this, “Why was Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio elected to the office?

Let me conclude Part Four of this reflection on Pope Francis’ statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors” with a thought from a fellow Jesuit, who was ordained the year Jorge Bergoglio was born, the late Bernard Lonergan, S.J., Generally speaking, Lonergan was a philosopher and theologian of consciousness. His magna opera are Insight: A Study in Human Understanding and Method in Theology. TIME magazine wrote that he was “considered by many intellectuals to be the finest philosophic thinker of the Twentieth Century.” In Insight he says, “When human activity settles down into routines of partial, vague or ambiguous truths, unconcerned with concrete specifics, then initiative becomes the privilege of violence.” Quite an indictment of planned ambiguity and its most destructive Christian offspring, the 1700-year-old vague and ambiguous Christian Just War Theory and its recent expansion.

—Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression” – part three

Pope Francis and Protecting People from “Unjust Aggression”

(Part Three)

Christians and people in general who justify homicidal violence as the way to stop “unjust aggression”—whatever that is, e.g., the unjust aggression of the US against the people of El Salvador or an abortionist against a child in utero—are forever running to the analogy that “if there is a fire the first job is to throw water on it to extinguish the fire and save what is being destroyed, and then later fire prevention systems can be discussed and put into place.” How does one argue against such a self-evident and reasonable common sense truth such as this? One doesn’t! It would be irrational and callous to sit in Antium and fiddle around with esoteric ideas on the nature of fire while Rome is burning. “Start throwing water on the fire now,” would be the only reasonable, as well as compassionate, course of action. Wouldn’t it?

No! It would not! Throwing water on a fire can extinguish a fire, but throwing water on a fire can also exacerbate a fire. Water is a fuel for some types of fire. Used on many categories of fires it can produce a ferocious eruption of heat and flame, and in many instances leave smouldering beneath the ashes for extensive periods of time residue that has the potential to cause further destruction. One has to know the content that initiated and sustains the fire before one is in a position to stop the fire from spreading its destruction.

Pope Francis recognizes this and therefore concludes his statement on stopping “unjust aggressors” by saying, “And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

‘Means’ are always evaluated in terms of ends desired and norms that transcend or exist prior to the immediate situation, e.g., God’s will, the maintenance of power and wealth, the Pythagorean Theorem if one is a carpenter who plans to build a set of stairs, etc. Means that cannot achieve the ends they were chosen to achieve are illusionary means. They may achieve other ends, but if they cannot achieve the ends they were chosen for they are fanciful means.

To stone a chronically disobedient teenager boy to death as a way of disciplining him so he will be obedient is obviously the choice of illusionary means, since the boy is no longer around to obey. To kill the evil one to stop evil is equally a choice of fanciful means. Jesus made this quite clear: “How can Satan drive out Satan?” (Mk 23:4 ff; MT 9:34, 12:24: Lk 11:15) Or, as Mahatma Gandhi stated it, “The means are the ends in embryo. As you choose your means, you get your ends. That is the iron law of the moral universe.” Or, as W.H. Auden wrote in his poem, September 1, 1939, which has been so often quoted in relation to the Twin Towers’ tragedy, “I and the public know/What all schoolchildren learn, /Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return.” Evil perpetuates itself by deceiving people into choosing evil to stop evil.

Many, perhaps, most people who have ever lived, including most moral theologians, regardless of religion, ignore or reject what Jesus and Gandhi are communicating as truth here. For example, such Twentieth Century theological notables as Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., obsessed with his quixotic view of the nobility of the military man and glories of battle, and Martin Buber, obsessed with a desire for a piece of geography, publicly rejected Jesus and Gandhi teaching on the consequences of choosing evil to drive out evil. Indeed most of those whom people consider “the greats” of history, Christian or otherwise, have utterly rejected, perhaps more accurately ignored, this truth by which Jesus and Gandhi lived and for which and in which they gave their lives.

Previously in Part Two of this series on Pope Francis’ words to journalist on intervention, when I was speaking about his nebulous, non-defined term “unjust aggressor,” in his statement, I wrote, “Ambiguity here reduces this statement to a banal platitude. Francis’ statement on intervention is a Rorschach answer into which each person or group can project anything it wants to see or put anything into it that it wants to do, and do it all under a Papal or Church moral canopy. His statement functions in the human condition exactly as the perfidious Christian Just War Theory does. Its ambiguity serves as a moral carte blanche for doing what Jesus taught must not be done.” Well, so also is this the case with Francis’ sentence, “And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

Again, who can disagree with the need to evaluate means in any area of endeavour, including intervention to stop “unjust aggression?”  But, evaluate by whose standard, by what value system? Jesus’?; The Project for a New American Century’s?; The EU’s?; The Arab League’s?; or by the value system of the “Gang of 192,” the United Nations? All serious discussion of whose system of right and wrong, whose standard of good and evil is to be employed to evaluate the means that can be used to stop ‘unjust aggressors” and why it is to be chosen is left in the moral twilight zone of ambiguity. Francis’ statement reminds one of the piece of oratory with which Dwight Eisenhower, knowing that voting Americans are big on God, often closed many of his speeches during his campaign for the Presidency: “I don’t care what God you believe in, just so long as you believe in God!”

When it comes to God, His way and His will nothing sells in the public domain of politics and mass media, and nothing bring more peace of mind in the salons of the political, military and ecclesiastical power elites, as does ambiguity. Just think, Christian rulers and Christians on both sides of every European war and every American war, north and south, for over 1700 years have declared themselves to be conducting a just war against unjustified enemy violence. And moreover, no national hierarchy has ever told the Christians of its Church that the war in which their nation is presently involved is unjust and that they may not participate in this mass murder operation. The Christian Just War Theory (CJWT), which is open to an indefinite number of interpretations of each and every aspect of its content, which is ambiguous in each and every aspect of its content, is nothing but a Christian license to engage in mass murder with impunity—and with a clear conscience. Nothing in the history of Christianity has poured more evil into the hearts of Christians and into the operation of their various institutional Churches as CJWT.

The king’s bishops, priests, ministers and theologians with chameleon dexterity color CJWT one way and then another in order to wrongly reassure the local Christians that if they kill for the local Grand Poobah in this particular situation they will be living in conformity with the teaching of the Church, and need not feel conflicted about whether they are living in conformity with the teaching of Jesus.

Pope Francis’ brief equivoque to a world press on stopping “unjust aggression” by means yet to be decided upon by the power elites of nations—power elites who make every decision as if the Incarnation never occurred—is a misuse, if not an outright abuse, of the Petrine Ministry as instituted by Jesus. He could have proclaimed the Gospel but chose instead to dabble, while in Papal robes, in realpolitik in the strict sense, and I would add, that in the perception of a large part of the non-Western world in power politics in the pejorative sense. When the Pope enters the world of realpolitik and power politics with anything other than the teaching of Jesus and with anything other than the salvation of souls as his primary objective, he is then only speaking as a man among other human beings voicing his opinion on who is the unjust aggressor and who should decide the means to stop that unjust aggressor. He is functioning as a philosopher and as a partisan politician, two commissions never given by Jesus to Peter or to Peter’s successors.

Basically, what Frances and what his two alter ego Cardinals have done with his statement is misuse the Petrine Ministry to designated one unkempt and brutalized Mafia gang an unjust aggressor while designating the other well attired Mafia gangs—who have killed a thousand time more children and innocent human beings than the now “unjust aggressor’ and who are responsible for the brutalization of the people in the other Mafia gang —as agents of peace to use their power, which is not the power of Christlike love, to stop the newly designated “unjust aggressor” gang. This is morally bizarre, to say the least. But if this is how Francis wishes to spend his time on earth, that is his decision. What I vigorously object to is his using the Petrine Ministry of the Church, the Church in which I have an eternal stake, to give a Christian flavour to Western power politics, with its insatiable and savage self-interest, by sprinkling it with Papal anodynes, whose possible serpentine interpretations are left wide open for the Snake to access and publicizes as only the Snake can do.

As noted in Part One, in 1983 the US Catholic Bishops voted overwhelmingly for a Pastoral addressing the issues of war and peace that had as one of its guiding composition points planned ambiguity. And, the fruits of that Pastoral and its planned ambiguity over the last thirty years have been what? US Catholics at every level of the Church and society, minus a few Catholic peace and justice groups, have totally ignored it and run off by the tens of millions to follow and support the murderous US political and media pied piper of the day—and, while in the process of following someone other than Jesus, killing and maiming tens of millions of men women and children across the globe. US Catholic military chaplains being always on duty and on call to assure Catholics so engaged that this is morally AOK with the Church and therefore with Jesus.

And so also is this already taking place with Pope Francis’ calculated off-the-cuff statement on intervention by other nations with its inherent planned ambiguity. The power elites of the US for the last two weeks have been bombing the bejesus out of Muslims in Iraq whom they say are ISIS members. US Catholics are now supporting the bombings and US Catholic prelates are answering all objections by quoting the Pope and two Cardinals, as if they were quoting Jesus Himself.

US Catholics of every ilk and rank now believe that the US and they have a duty to intervene militarily in Iraq today (and who knows where tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow) because the Pope says Catholics “can” (the two talking Cardinals say “must”) intervene, but left the means of intervention ambiguous and wide open. So if intervention requires the military to engage in the” humanitarian killing” of more Iraqis and Muslims to put out the fire, to stop the “unjust aggression de jour, so be it. Deus vult. “It’s God will.” The Church says so. Where have we heard that before.

The planned ambiguity of this statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors” is as insidious and destructive as the planned ambiguity of that mirage of Christian morality of which it is but an extension, namely, the nefarious CJWT. It will be employed by Catholics, and those who want Catholics as their canon fodder, exactly as CJWT has been employed for the last 1700 years, as a moral sound bite without Gospel content that will operationally result in giving the political and economic power mongers of the world free rein to pre-emptively drone, to assassinate, to sabotage, to invade, to kill people in any nation anywhere on the planet at any time self interest dictates.

For the good of the Church, for the good of humanity and for the salvation of souls, Pope Francis has to unequivocally and publicly retract his statement on intervention against “unjust aggressors,” not because those in need of help should not be helped, they must be. He must renounce it because his statement in its planned ambiguity is not an extinguishing agent that can help quench the immediate fire but is rather an agent that will fuel the present fire and in the hands of the wicked will fuel untold numbers of infernos long into the future.

-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy