Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Enough Already by Anthony Esolen

Let us hear no more from priests, prelates, and Catholic writers dissenting from the truth – from reason, from Scripture, from the constant and clear teaching of the Church in the matter of the creation of mankind male and female, the one-flesh union willed by God from the beginning, the raising of boys to be men and girls to be women, made for one another, the goodness and the reality of sex and its natural expressions in human culture, the created nature of marriage which is as obvious to the old pagan as to the Christian, the inadmissibility of severing the pleasure of the sexual act from its biological aim and its bodily meaning, the indissolubility of marriage, and the warnings by the last several popes, of loneliness and confusion and unhappiness that result from the evil of all kinds of mockery of marriage, including consensual and habitual fornication.
Let us hear no more about softening the sense that acts that violate the structure of the sexes themselves are perverse. Let us have no more ungrateful denigration of genuine masculinity and femininity. Let us see no more of the craven submission to all of the foul lies of mass entertainment and mass education, so that a Catholic school is but a year or two behind the times – the New York Times.
Let us hear no more about pronouns from you priests, prelates, and Catholic writers who perpetrated outrages upon the souls and bodies of young priests and seminarians, and you who covered for them, for reasons best known and kept to yourselves, but for no reason sufficient to excuse you, and to prevent you from doing the honorable thing. If you have a position of authority, and you did nothing, you should resign. You may be replaced. You are not indispensable. Enough already.
Several years ago, the bishop of the Canadian diocese where we live in the summer was caught in a routine check at an airport. He had pornographic images of children in his possession. The Canadian media would not be more specific than that. He had to resign in disgrace, and he did a little bit of time, not much, in prison. He is now, according to word I have from an orthodox priest, living with another man. No surprise to anyone. He had made a habit of flying to peculiar destinations across the world, destinations that had no connection whatever to the ethnic or cultural character of his largely rural diocese. In those places flesh is cheap.
If it is true that he has settled down now to a comfortable elderly life of sin, it is an example not of repentance but of contumacy and defiance. Where is the shame? This diocese was not rife with homosexual priests preying upon adolescent boys, but it had a few, and the parishes, hardly flush with money, have been reduced to penury by the costs of the settlements. He knew that at the time and he knows it still. An elderly lady in our village bequeathed $165,000 to her beloved neighborhood church to keep it open, and the parishioners sweat blood to do work on the building themselves rather than hiring a contractor. All of that money was rifled.
Dancing with Demons by David Rijckaert III
Every single parish was picked clean, and now the diocese has no seminarians, and still there is no shame from the chancery.
I do not pretend that the faithful in the pews are without sin. In part, we have gotten even worse leadership from our shepherds than we deserved, but we did not deserve much. Everyone has been scorched and smudged and smutted up by the sexual devolution. Everyone has made a habit of winking and turning away. No one is blameless. “The Church is a harlot in the stews because I helped put her there” – that is what every Christian ought to say, because it is no more than the truth.
Yet some Christians, some Roman Catholics, have been fighting a thankless fight not only to repent of their wrong but to heal what they have hurt, and rebuild what they have knocked down.
Now it is that we need our shepherds to lead us in that fight, not to check us at every pass, to weigh our spirits down with the smog of their bureaucratic verbiage, and to smile at those in the know and give them the tacit sign that nothing will change. 
I lead no battle against the episcopacy, which was most to blame for the scandals of the last fifteen years and which administered to itself no punishment at all, but instead laid a flattering unction to their collective episcopal souls.
I want to believe in the bishops. I certainly accept the authority of the office. But if you do not want to fight the fight that is before us, you need to get out of the way and let a man who is willing to do it be the general. No more blandness and tea. 
Every single prelate, priest, or Catholic author who knew about the spiritual incest and the creepy perversions of the now disgraced former bishop of the nation’s capital and who did nothing should, for just this once, own up to the failure and leave.
Please, leave. Retire, pray, read, think, do anything at all that the Lord may smile upon, but do not any longer for one moment burden the Church with your dead weight. You are an embarrassment to both believer and infidel. Leave.
Let us give a chance, meanwhile, to the true young men, priests of God who are young enough to be under no illusions about what has happened in the generations before theirs. How could they possibly fare worse than have their never-maturing elders?


Friday, August 3, 2018

What About the Rest of It?

We are angry because bishops, who should be leading the flock rather than roasting them on a spit, winked and smiled at sexual misbehavior in their peers. This is the same kind of thing we ourselves have been doing for a long time now. Every one of us, without exception. It is almost impossible to live in this whatever culture without compromising yourself at every step. You say nothing about fornication, nothing about cohabitation, nothing about divorce, nothing about obscenity, nothing about sins against nature, and nothing about contraception, and you are shocked to find that your bishops are bad, your president is a pig, his opponent was a sow, the entertainers you watch on television grunt and squeal, and the ordinary banter at your middle school is fouler than the graffiti on the wall of a Roman bathhouse.
We may also ask how it is that a man like McCarrick rose to the status of chief boar in the bog. What signal accomplishments of the intellect, what conspicuous acts of holiness, or what merely worldly successes in building up institutions qualified him to rise so high? Anyone who has ever worked in a bureaucratic setting, whether in private industry, in education, or in government, will be able to provide the answer. You rise by giving the “right” people what they want. It is another neat trick. You draw down the capital of your institution, whether it is monetary, cultural, or intellectual, in order to reward a certain group of people, often the most worldly and vocal and ambitious, rather than others—the old-fashioned, that is, the people who want mainly that things be sane and decent. Thus do you harm the institution itself while firming up your position in it. You rise by means of the right kind of managed failure.
As long as the “right” people are with you, you may give the others the whistle. Again, the habit of looking at Other People’s Sins stands you in good stead. We are all censors when it comes to those. Thus you claim a success when the congregation at your church, Our Lady of Perpetual Motion, fills the pews and is chatty and noisy with its semi-Christian sing-along that follows the bouncing dotted eighth-note ditties, but you do not ask whether that is a confessional in back or just the broom closet, and you do not inquire too closely into the age of the parishioners or whether they actually believe all that the Church teaches. You yourself do not believe all. You at least are not grimly traditional and censorious, like the people over there. Or you do as I have just done, and see those sins against orthodoxy, good taste, and even grammar, which sins are many, and fall to a sinister temptation, namely, to be animated more by scorn for the wrong than by love for the right.
We may have worse bishops than we deserved, but not much worse; we certainly have not deserved good and wise and holy bishops, because we have not been a good and wise and obedient flock. It is time to see to our own corners of the bog. McCarrick was not only the cause of misery. He was a product of it and a symptom of it. For someone who contributed his or her share to the cause, look in the mirror.
It is time to get to work, cleaning.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Archbishop Sheen’s Warning of a Crisis in Christendom

With a saintly long-ranging spiritual vision, Bishop Sheen saw the roots of today’s crisis firmly planted and growing in 1974, but gave us an antidote.

Joseph Pronechen

“First of all, we are at the end of Christendom,” Bishop Fulton Sheen solemnly said during a television show in 1974. “Now not Christianity, not the Church. Remember what I am saying.”

Then he defined what he meant. “Christendom is economic, political, social life as inspired by Christian principles. That is ending — we’ve seen it die. Look at the symptoms: the breakup of the family, divorce, abortion, immorality, general dishonesty.”

That was 1974. Today we know it’s even worse with the definition of marriage and gender drawn into the picture. And the crisis within the Church.

He reminded that of 22 civilizations that have decayed since the beginning of the world, 19 rotted and perished from within.

“We live in it from day to day, and we do not see the decline.” Remember, that was in 1974. “We take it for granted—we get used to things, and almost accept them as the rule.” Despite the decline blaring today, isn’t that a rule? How many Catholics accept the counter message to Humanae Vitae?

Sheen pointed out “the press that we read, the television that we see, is in no instance inspired by Christian principles. As a matter of fact, there is, on the part of many of us, the tendency to go down to meet the world — not to lift the world up. We are afraid of being unpopular — so we go with the mob.”

The good bishop noted we were living in the fourth 500-year period of Church history, explaining “the Church is not a continuing thing — it dies and rises again. It proceeds on the principle of Christ himself as priest and victim.

“And there comes the defeat, the seeming decay, we are put in the grave, and then we rise again. We have had four deaths in our Christian history.”

First Three Falls and Rises

The first time the Church was in dire straits was in the fall of Rome, the first 500-year period. It had a rebirth when great saint missionaries like Augustine in England and Patrick in Ireland spread the faith.

Then came a second “decay” around the year 1,000 with the Moslem invasions and the split of the Church with a schism in Constantinople.

“It seemed to be the end of everything. And then we came to life again,” Sheen said.

In the third 500-year period he said the Church became “rotten” as nuns and priests were defecting. Then came the reformers who “almost always reform the wrong things. And they began reforming the faith, and there was nothing wrong with faith — it was the morals that needed to be reformed. It’s not renewal — it’s really a moral reformation that is needed today, too.” Remember, that was 44 years ago.

All the more so in our day. On just one point, how many listened to, and took to heart, Humanae Vitae? Even theologians defected from it.

After that period the Church came to life again, Sheen said.

“And now we’re at the fourth period, and we’re rotting — we’re spoiled — no great zeal, no great learning, no great fire.” Yet there’s hope because “anyone who knows history is not particularly disturbed.”

Church’s Enemies

“But the enemy in each of the 500-year periods has been separate and distinct,” he continued. “We had, and here I am speaking generally of enemies within the Church, in the first 500 years, false doctrine centering around the person of Christ…the Christological heresies. So the Church was just split open, and that was one of the reasons that made it possible for the Moslems to develop.”

The next period saw attacks on the head of the Church, leading to the Eastern Church breaking away.

By the 16th century the attack was on “the body of Christ, the mystical body, the Church.” It was Reformation time.

Today’s 4th Enemy

“Our enemy today is the world — the spirit of the world,” Sheen made clear.

“Today we have to conform to the world or we’re branded” he said. Must be politically correct. “Our Lord said, I have taken you out of the world. We say, ‘No we have to win the world, and to win it you have to be one with it.’ Our Lord says, I pray not for the world. He was praying for the spirit of the world. And this is the easiest kind of way to fall off the log — worldliness. It’s so simple, and it can be justified for a thousand reasons; namely, the Vatican Council said we have to go into the world — indeed, but not to be world, which is quite a different matter. So this is our attack today.”

Sheen saw this as “one of the basic causes of our degeneration, of our death. We’re dying. What about it? What’s the answer?”

“The answer is: these are great and wonderful days in which to be alive. I thank God… that I can live in these days, because these are days of testing.” Since 1974 the testing pressure has increased.

Sheen explained it was easy to be Christian in the three decades before his talk. “The atmosphere was Christian; morals were Christian; there was no great problem in adapting ourselves to a Christian society. But now, when everything is turned around, these are days when the masks have got to come off, and we reveal ourselves just as we really are.”

“Today the current is against us. And today the mood of the world is, ‘Go with the world, go with the spirit.’ Listen, dead bodies float downstream. Only live bodies resist the current. And so the good Lord is testing us.”

“And he is testing Western Christians with worldliness, and how many of us are falling?” Would Bishop Sheen be surprised on how far the decadence and corruption have piled up?

He gives the example of the Israelites being tested by God in the desert. “That is what he is doing to us. We are showing what we really are now,” Sheen said. “St. John says in his Epistle: ‘They did not love us really from the beginning. That is why they left us.’ And so the souls that are falling away have just failed to meet the test. It is very much like the test that the Jews had.”

The farsighted bishop highlighted how the majority of Israelites scouting the Promised Land told the people they couldn’t enter because the dwellers there were too strong. But “the majority is not always right!” Only Caleb and Joshua, “the minority report,” disagreed. They were right.

Sheen warned “what we are going to have in the Church is a minority report: a minority report of sisters, a minority report of priests, a minority report of laity — not the minority that is aggressive and troublemaking, but the minority that like Caleb and Joshua, trusts in God. So we are tested just as the Jews were tested.”

He went on, “not far after our time, and perhaps in the time of some, then will come the battles and the testing. Our Lord said, Satan would sift you as wheat. And we are being sifted as wheat. So we can all thank God that we live in these days. Really, it’s beautiful. Now we can say, ‘aye’ or ‘nay,’ and we can bear up under assault, criticism and ridicule, because this is the lot of the Christian in the days of the spirit of the world.”

Surprising, Unexpected Advice

The saintly bishop made clear the situation was really not “gloomy.”

Why? Because “it is a picture of the Church in the midst of increasing opposition from the world. And, therefore, live your lives in the full consciousness of this hour of testing, and rally close to the heart of Christ.” Be the “minority.”

He really had ears perked up with his next revelation and recommendation.

“And if there is anything that has to be restored in our day, I would say it would be violence. Violence! The kingdom of heaven is won by violence. And only the violent shall conquer it.”

Shouldn’t it be about peace? Let’s hear the great Bishop Sheen explain. And Biblically too.

He observed how when the Church drops things, the world picks them up but twists them in the wrong way. For example, mysticism drops, and the young turn to pharmaceuticals and drugs.

“And we drop violence, discipline, commitment to the Cross, and the world picks it up…That’s why there’s no stopping the violence of this country. We just have to…hire more police guards, build more hospitals for the addicts. Why? Because there’s no moral reason on the inside why they should stop.”

Isn’t he right on today’s beam? What’s the usual first response? More government spending and more laws will fix the problem. Uh huh.

Sheen explained, “Our Blessed Lord said I have come to bring the sword. Not peace! We are always talking about peace, peace, peace! Yes, because that war (World War II, Korean War, etc.) happened — but we aren’t making war in ourselves — and there’s not going to be any peace in the world until we make war. Our Lord said, I came not to bring peace, but the sword! He never used the word ‘peace’ until after Easter.”

“The Lord brought a sword. It’s not the sword that’s thrust outward against the enemy. It’s a sword that’s thrust against ourselves, cutting out the seven pallbearers of the soul: pride and covetousness and lust and anger, envy, gluttony and sloth. And we’ve given up the sword — someone else has taken it up, and we have to restore it! Then we’ll get peace! And peace is never corporate — it’s never social — until it’s first individual.

Social peace, world peace, is the extension of individual peace in our hearts. When we are right with God, then we will be right with our fellow man. When are not right with God, then we will be wrong with everyone else.”

He told everyone to take seriously spending an hour before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament every day “not only for our own souls, but for the world, and to strengthen our minority.” It’s “violence” to ourselves, easily enough understood.

Archbishop Sheen emphasized, “The Lord is keeping reserves. He is training us. We’ll make the entry. We’ll prepare for a new Church. And he is with us — we just simply can’t add rules — only we’ve already won as a matter of fact, only the news has not yet leaked out — and so it’s violence that has to be restored.”


Friday, July 27, 2018


by Lucetta Scaraffia
From “L'Osservatore Romano” of July 25, 2018

Fifty years after its publication, the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” of Paul VI presents itself in the eyes of the men of today in a completely different way. In 1968, it was a courageous document - and therefore controversial - that went against the climate of the time, that of the sexual revolution, the realization of which required a reliable contraceptive and also the possibility of abortion. It was also the era in which economists were talking about the “population bomb,” meaning the danger of overpopulation that threatened wealthy countries and could reduce their prosperity.

Two powerful forces, therefore, were aligned against the encyclical: the utopia of happiness that the sexual revolution promised for every human being, and wealth, which would be the logical result of a reduction of the population on a vast scale.

Today, fifty years later, we see things in a completely different way. These two utopian visions have been realized, but they have not brought the hoped-for results: neither happiness nor wealth, but instead new and dramatic problems.

If the collapse of the the population in developed countries is having trouble coping with the arrival of masses of immigrants that are necessary but at the same time unacceptable for many, medical birth control has led to the invasion of procreation on the part of science, with ambiguous results that are often worrying and dangerous.

Today, when we are paying all the costs of a sharp and steep drop in birth rates, when many women after years of chemical birth control are unable to conceive children, we are realizing that the Church was right, that Paul VI had been prophetic in proposing a natural regulation of births that would safeguard the health of women, the relationship of the couple, and the natural character of procreation.

Now that young women in love with environmentalism are turning to natural methods for the regulation of fertility, without even knowing that “Humanae Vitae” exists, now that governments are trying to implement policies that encourage childbirth, we should reread the encyclical with new eyes. And instead of seeing it as the great defeat of the Church in the face of the onslaught of modernity, we can assert its prophetic lucidity in grasping the dangers inherent in these changes and celebrate, we Catholics, the fact that once again the Church did not fall into the enticing trap of the utopias of the twentieth century, but was able to grasp immediately their limitations and dangers.

But few are able to do this: for many, it is still difficult to give up the old opposition between progressive and conservative, within which the encyclical has been torn to pieces, without grasping its critical spirit and innovative power. Even now, no one seems to recall that for the first time a pope accepted the regulation of births and invited physicians to study effective natural methods.

It is very important, therefore, to be able to look at “Humanae Vitae” with new eyes, the eyes of human beings who live in the twenty-first century, now aware of the failure of many utopias and of many economic theories that had been presented as infallible.

It is only in this way that we can we face the problems of the family today, the new role of women, and the difficult relationships between ethics and science, the roots of which lie - even if unwittingly in some regards - in that text from way back in 1968.

(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

From a letter to a hermit.


April 1997 Vol. 3 No. 3


Sounding Solitude

There are many people who do great things for God and are very successful at what they do. We hear about their stories on the news and read about them. They advance the kingdom of God on earth. What is our vocation as hermits compared to them? What do we have to show for all our efforts and sufferings? Ours is the most foolish of all vocations. We specialize in failure, that is our mark in the world. But we may have the most important job of all. There are always those who will be willing to move mountains for God but very few who are willing to explore the depths of their own poverty. This poverty is shared by all humanity.

We enter this life full of hope of finding the One Great Love. As time passes all we find is our own poverty and through God's mercy we will be ever plunged deeper into this poverty. It is enough for us just to stay alive. Our lives are made up of the most mundane preoccupations and even in these we need God's mercy and constant help to carry them out.

In time all pretenses of prayer slips away and we are left alone with our thoughts which snap at the heels of our consciousness like little dogs. At one point we find that we are just empty tin-cans. This is the starting point. In this state we find that God loves this little empty space that we used to call "me" with an infinite love.
It is as if, in creating us, God took a part of emptiness and gave it the parameters which we call a human being. God looks on this little nothing and loves it dearly. At the center we are empty, nothing and this is the unknowable image of God planted in us. It is only through utter poverty/humility that we come to this blessed place of rest. Here nothing can disturb us for nothing can enter. We rest in this emptiness with the God of love, the God who is our Love.

Even in this state we do not see what is going on. The only thing we have is an unshakeable conviction that God is Love. This Love that purifies. We become a living temple of Love and we do not know it, we cannot know it; it is not for us to know. I cannot speak of what happens next or how God uses us for I do not know.

From a letter to a hermit.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Gnosticism Today

Gnosticism Today

There is much discussion today concerning the presence of a new Gnosticism within the Catholic Church.  Some of what has been written is helpful, but much of what has been described as a revival of this heresy has little to do with its ancient antecedent.  Moreover, attributions of this ancient heresy to various factions within contemporary Catholicism are generally misdirected.  To bring some clarity to this discussion of neo-Gnosticism first demands a clear understanding of the old form.

Ancient Gnosticism came in various forms and expressions, often quite convoluted, but some essential principles are discernible:

♦ First, Gnosticism holds a radical dualism: “matter” is the source of all evil, and “spirit” is the divine origin of all that is good.

♦ Second, human beings are composed of both matter (the body) and spirit (which provides access to the divine).

♦ Third, “salvation” consists in obtaining true knowledge (gnosis), an enlightenment that allows progress from the material world of evil to the spiritual realm, and ultimately communion with the immaterial supreme deity.

♦ Fourth,  diverse “Gnostic Redeemers” were proposed, each claiming to possess such knowledge, and to provide access to this “salvific” enlightenment.

In light of the above, human beings fall into three categories: 1) the sarkic or fleshly people, are so imprisoned in the material or bodily world of evil that they are incapable of receiving “salvific knowledge”;  2) the psychic or soulish, are partially confined to the fleshly realm and partially initiated into the spiritual domain. (Within “Christian Gnosticism,” these are the ones who live by mere “faith,” for they do not possess the fullness of divine knowledge.  They are not fully enlightened and so must rely on what they “believe.”); 3) finally, there are people capable of full enlightenment, the Gnostics, for they possess the fullness of divine knowledge.  By means of their saving knowledge, they can completely extricate themselves from the evil material world and ascend to the divine.

They live and are saved not by “faith” but by “knowledge.”

Compared to ancient Gnosticism, what is now being proposed as neo-Gnosticism within contemporary Catholicism appears confused and ambiguous, as well as misdirected. Some Catholics are accused of neo-Gnosticism because they allegedly believe that they are saved because they adhere to inflexible and lifeless “doctrines” and strictly observe a rigid and merciless “moral code.”  They claim to “know” the truth and, thus, demand that it must be held and, most importantly, obeyed.  These “neo-Gnostic Catholics” are supposedly not open to the fresh movement of the Spirit within the contemporary Church.  The latter is often referred to as “the new paradigm.”

Admittedly, we all know Catholics who act superior to others, who flaunt their fuller understanding of dogmatic or moral theology to accuse others of laxity.  There is nothing new about such righteous judgmentalism.  This sinful superiority, however, falls squarely under the category of pride and is not in itself a form of Gnosticism.

It would be right to call this neo-Gnosticism only if those so accused were proposing a “new salvific knowledge,” a new enlightenment that differs from Scripture as traditionally understood, and from what is authentically taught by the living magisterial tradition.

Such a claim cannot be made against “doctrines” that, far from being lifeless and abstract truths, are the marvelous expressions of the central realities of Catholic faith – the Trinity, Incarnation, the Holy Spirit, the real substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Jesus’ law of love for God and neighbor reflected in the Ten Commandments, etc.  These “doctrines” define what the Church was, is, and always will be.  They are the doctrines that make her one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

Moreover, these doctrines and commandments are not some esoteric way of life that enslaves one to irrational and merciless laws, imposed from without by a tyrannical authority.  Rather, these very “commandments” were given by God, in his merciful love, to humankind in order to ensure a holy god-like life.

Jesus, the Father’s incarnate Son, has further revealed to us the manner of life we are to live in expectation of his kingdom. When God tells us what we must never do, he is protecting us from evil, the evil that can destroy our human lives – lives he created in his image and likeness.

Jesus saved us from the devastation of sin through his passion, death, and resurrection, and he poured out his Holy Spirit precisely to empower us to live genuinely human lives.  To promote this way of life is not to propose a new salvific knowledge.  In ancient Gnosticism, people of faith – bishops, priests, theologians, and laity – would be called psychics. Gnostics would look down upon them precisely because they cannot claim any unique or esoteric “knowledge.” They are forced to live by faith in God’s revelation as understood and faithfully transmitted by the Church.

Those who mistakenly accuse others of neo-Gnosticism propose – when confronted with the nitty-gritty of real-life doctrinal and moral issues – the need to seek out what God would have them do, personally. People are encouraged to discern, on their own, the best course of action, given the moral dilemma they face in their own existential context – what they are capable of doing at this moment in time.  In this way, the individual’s own conscience, his or her personal communion with the divine, determines what the moral requirements are in the individual’s personal circumstances.  What Scripture teaches, what Jesus stated, what the Church conveys through her living magisterial tradition are superseded by a higher “knowledge,” an advanced “illumination.”

If there is any new Gnostic paradigm in the Church today, it would seem to be found here.  To propose this new paradigm is to claim to be truly “in-the-know,” to have special access to what God is saying to us as individuals here and now even if it goes beyond and may even contradict what He has revealed to everyone else in Scripture and tradition.

At the very least, no one claiming this knowledge should ridicule as neo-Gnostics those who live merely by “faith” in God’s revelation as brought forward by the Church’s tradition.

I hope that all this brings some clarity to the present ecclesial discussion over contemporary “Catholic” Gnosticism by placing it within the proper historical context. Gnosticism cannot be used as an epithet against those “unenlightened” faithful who merely seek to act, with the help of God’s grace, as the Church’s divinely inspired teaching calls them to act.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018