Benedetto XVI Forum


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On April 16, Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI turned 92.


The borrowed testimony
that convicted George Pell

by Keith Windschuttle

April 7, 2019

Quadrant is an Australian literary and cultural journal founded in 1956 and is considered conservative. It reviews literature, publishes articles on politics, history and the arts, as well as short stories and poetry. George Pell iss among the prominent names among its contributing writers.

Billy” was a 10-year-old student at St. Jerome School in 1998, and an altar boy just like his older brother before him. A sweet, gentle kid with boyish good looks, Billy was outgoing and well-liked. One morning, after serving Mass, Rev. Charles Engelhardt caught Billy in the church sacristy sipping leftover wine. Rather than get mad, however, the priest poured Billy more wine. According to the grand jury, he also showed him some pornographic magazines, asking the boy how the pictures made him feel and whether he preferred the images of naked men or women. He told Billy it was time to become a man and that they would soon begin their “sessions.” A week later, Billy learned what Engelhardt meant. After Mass, the priest allegedly fondled the boy, sucked his penis and ordered Billy to kneel and fellate him – calling him “son” while instructing him to move his head faster or slower – until Engelhardt ejaculated. The priest later suggested another “session,” but Billy refused and Engelhardt let him be. — Sabrina Rubin Erdely, “The Catholic Church’s Secret Sex-Crime Files”, Rolling Stone, 15 September 2011

What is the difference between this account of child sex abuse in a Catholic church in Philadelphia and the evidence given by the sole accuser in the Victorian court case that convicted Cardinal George Pell of sexually abusing a thirteen-year-old choir boy at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, in 1996? Not much.

The American case allegedly occurred in 1998 and the perpetrator was a Catholic priest, not an archbishop. There were two boys in the Melbourne sacristy after Mass, not one, as in Philadelphia. However, the rest of the accusation that condemned Pell bears uncanny similarities to that given by “Billy Doe” and reproduced by a journalist in the American magazine, Rolling Stone. The Reverend Charles Engelhardt, also prosecuted, was convicted and sent to prison, where he died.

No transcript of the evidence given by Pell’s anonymous accuser has been released and the evidence itself was given in camera, but part of the address to the jury by the Victorian Crown Prosecutor is reproduced by ABC journalist Louise Milligan in her book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (2017, revised edn. 2019). It contains the details of the sexual abuse the alleged victim – who Milligan calls “The Kid” in the excerpt from her book below – described to the court.

In December 1996, as the choir from a Sunday Solemn Mass presided over by Archbishop Pell was leaving the cathedral, two choir boys left the procession and headed for the sacristy “in search of some hijinks”. They found some communion wine there and started swigging it. Milligan continues:

But not much time passed before they were sprung in the act. The Kid would tell the police that it was the Archbishop, who asked them what they were doing and indicated that they were in trouble. He said Pell then approached them. He took out his penis … “He pulled [The Choirboy, i.e. the other boy] aside and had him crouch in front of him. Cardinal Pell was standing,” Crown Prosecutor Mark Gibson would later explain … “So according to [The Kid] Cardinal Pell had his hand on the back of [The Choirboy’s] head and his other hand at his own genital area. [The Kid] saw [The Choirboy’s] head being lowered towards the genital area of Cardinal Pell. This all occurred over no more than a minute or two. Cardinal Pell then moved on to [The Kid] … Cardinal Pell was standing and he pushed [The Kid’s] head down to a position where [The Kid] was crouching or kneeling. [The Kid] was then pushed onto Cardinal Pell’s erect penis so that Cardinal Pell was in [The Kid’s] mouth. This act of fellatio or oral sex lasted for a short period which [The Kid] estimates to be a couple of minutes. You will hear that Cardinal Pell then stopped and told [The Kid] to remove his pants. [The Kid] stood upright. [The Kid] pulled down or dropped his pants and his underwear in accordance with the instruction. … Cardinal Pell then started touching [The Kid’s] genitalia … While touching [The Kid’s] genitalia, it’s alleged that the Cardinal was touching his own genitalia.” After a couple of minutes, the Archbishop stood up. The boys went back to their robing room.

The Philadelphia case was written up in Rolling Stone in September 2011, well before Victoria’s police began what they called their “trawling operation” against George Pell, hoping to find someone to testify against him.

As Detective Inspector Paul Sheridan of Victoria Police told Pell’s committal hearing, they began their activity in 2013 to see whether he had committed serious crimes that had gone unreported, but the complainant only came forward in June 2015. In other words, the Rolling Stone story had been in circulation for two years before an Australian version was provided to the police.

So, what is the probability that the evidence given in Australia was not an authentic account of what happened in Melbourne but, rather, a copy of a story that had already been aired in print and online? Here are the similarities between the American and the Australian allegations:
- Both cases of sexual abuse occurred in the sacristy after Sunday Mass.
- In both cases, the victims had been drinking wine they found in the sacristy.
- Both boys assisted in the celebration of the Mass.
- The priest fondled both boys’ genitals.
- Both boys were made to kneel before the priest.
- Both boys were made to perform fellatio on the priest.
- Both the alleged victims were the only witnesses who testified for the prosecution in court; it was their word against that of the priests.

The only difference between the American and Australian evidence was the account of a second alleged meeting, which the boys said took place “a few months later” in Philadelphia and “a month or so later” in Melbourne. In the American version, it was a different priest involved this time, who led the same boy to the sacristy, told him to undress and then fellated him. In the Australian version, Pell allegedly found the boy in the back corridor of the cathedral, forced him up against a wall and fondled his genitals.

Nonetheless, the two accounts are so close to being identical that the likelihood of the Australian version being original is most implausible. There are far too many similarities in the stories for them to be explained by coincidence. The conclusion is unavoidable:

“The Kid” was repeating a story he had found in a magazine – or repeating a story someone else had found for him in the media – thereby deriving his account of what Pell did from evidence given in a trial in the United States four years earlier. In short, the testimony that convicted George Pell was a sham.

This does not mean the accuser was deliberately making it up. He might have come to persuade himself the events actually happened, or some therapist might have helped him “recover” his memory. But no matter how sincere the accuser’s beliefs were, that does not make them true, especially when there is so much other evidence against them.

There is little doubt that if members of the jury in Pell’s case had been informed of the surprising similarities between the two versions, some of them must have had serious questions about their witness’s veracity. The result would have been either a second hung jury or a not guilty verdict.

So why has none of this been made public in Australia before? Although I am a reasonably thorough browser of the Australian media, I had not heard the details of the American story until a Quadrant reader, Richard Mullins, alerted me to the Rolling Stone article. However, that article was not buried away in some forgotten archive. Rolling Stone is an American magazine devoted to popular culture, targeted at teenagers and young adults. It published an Australian edition from 1970 until its closure in January 2018.

In the United States the allegations made by “Billy Doe” made national headlines in 2011. Under his real name of Daniel Gallagher,he was identified as an accuser whose testimony sent two Catholic priests and a school teacher to prison, as well as Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s secretary for clergy.

The jailing of this senior Catholic administrator for protecting clerical offenders under his charge was seen by American newspapers as proof that corruption extended to the heights of the Catholic hierarchy. The police and district-attorney’s office who investigated and prosecuted the case emerged as heroes in the American mainstream news media.

However, in 2016, Newsweek devoted a 5000-word feature article by Ralph Cipriano to the scandal. This was partly designed to expose the activist journalism of Rolling Stone author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, in the wake of her equally notorious story about a University of Virginia student who claimed in 2014 she was gang-raped by seven men at a college party. That ‘toxic masculinity’ story dominated press and television headlines for weeks, until the purported victim’s hoax was exposed. Rolling Stone was subsequently hit with defamation suits by several of the accused young men.

Cipriano of Newsweek was also keen to reveal the local politics behind the subsequent legal clashes over the proceedings of the church sexual abuse cases between the state of Pennsylvania’s higher judiciary and Philadelphia’s District Attorney.

The trials of the clergy had remained front-page news in the state for three years because multiple appeals in the cases had overturned the original convictions, resulting in retrials, reversals of convictions, and ongoing disputes between courts and government.

Newsweek also said it had reliable information that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had paid Gallagher compensation of $5 million. By this time, Gallagher’s status as a reliable witness was dubious. The magazine found a wide range of inconsistencies between the evidence he gave to police and his eventual testimony in court. He was a drug dealer and petty thief well-known to police and had been arrested six times on charges of this kind.

Catholic defence lawyers argued the District Attorney had given Gallagher “red-carpet treatment” because he was one of the few alleged victims of sex abuse whose allegations fell within the local statute of limitations, which meant charges against the church could be filed.

In other words, it is very unlikely that the story of “Billy Doe” was unknown to those in Australia involved in the prosecution of George Pell. The police in Victoria who were pursuing Pell, and whose minds were no doubt finely tuned to anything that would support his prosecution, must have been aware of the success their counterparts in Philadelphia had enjoyed from both the support of District-Attorney Seth Williams, later sentenced to five years in prison on unrelated bribery charges, and their extensive media coverage. The American example told the Victorians they were on a winning track.

What about the Australian media? They gave a lot of coverage to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse but made little mention of the fact that the findings and interpretation of events in Australia were following a well-worn track of investigations overseas, as I showed in my column in the April edition of Quadrant.

The current heroine of the news media pursuing this story is Louise Milligan, who has a best-seller with her book Cardinal, and her own special reports on ABC television’s 7.30 and Four Corners programs. The latest edition of her book lists the number of awards this work has won her: the Walkley Book Award, two Quill awards from the Melbourne Press Club, the Sir Owen Dixon Chambers Law Reporter of the Year award, the Civic Choice award in the Melbourne Prize for Literature.

The new edition also carries accolades from an impressive array of left-wing journalists and authors: Annabel Crabb, David Marr, David Armstrong, Peter Fitzsimons, Kate McClymont, Quentin Dempster, Michaela Bond, Derryn Hinch, Yvonne Rance, Gerard Windsor and Anton Rose, plus a foreword by novelist/historian Tom Keneally who says Pell got what he deserved because he was “a notable neo-conservative”, who “had questioned climate change” and “has raised only muted opposition to the federal government’s heinous asylum seeker policy”.

Did Milligan know about the similarities between the evidence of “Billy” and “The Kid”? There is nothing in her book, or anything else she has written that I know of, to indicate that she did. She seems to be completely in the dark about the American connection. So, as far as I can see, she cannot be accused of suppressing information to make her own case more plausible.

However, a real investigative journalist would not have left out of reckoning the overseas dimension to this story. So the most that Milligan can be accused of in her single-minded pursuit of her quarry, is incompetence in not investigating the full dimensions of the story over the many months she worked on it. This must eventually be a source of embarrassment for those who have showered her with prizes, and for all those on the list of writers who adulate her journalistic skills in the early pages of her book.

The Victorian police, however, are in a different position. They had every reason both to know about the American connection and to keep it quiet, lest it ruin their case. Catholic lawyer Frank Brennan and Pell himself in the early stages of this drama both suggested that the police were leaking information to the news media.

The philosopher and theologian, Chris S. Friel, in an impressive, forensic examination of the case on the UK site Academia, has suggested the police engaged in a long-term strategy to slowly undermine Pell’s public reputation and to entwine it with the publicity attracted by the Royal Commission. Friel is judicious in what the available evidence showed at the time he wrote:

It will be countered that the very idea that the Victorian police deliberately created a distraction is just a conspiracy theory. It’s true that it is merely a hypothesis, one based on circumstantial evidence, and I would not argue that it is proven beyond reasonable doubt. But it does fit the facts, and so provide a reason to doubt whether the complainant is telling the truth beyond reasonable doubt …

As to the issue of “conspiracy,” we recall that Milligan herself hints at one: for, according to The Kid, Pell is not the only menace; some unnamed and dangerous man is searching for the informant, and that is why he pleads with the journalist that she should continue her investigation.

If Australia still has any genuine investigative journalists, there must be one somewhere willing to follow these leads into the bowels of the Victorian police operations to find out what was really going on all this time. Meanwhile, George Pell remains in prison until his appeal in June, unjustly convicted and unjustly defamed.

NB: Not a few of those who used the combox to comment on this article noted the striking juxtaposition of 'Billy', the nickname used in the Rolling Stone article, and 'The Kid' used by Milligan for Pell's accuser. Mere coincidence? More likely, Milligan had read the Rolling Stone article despite Windschuttle charitably ruling this out... In any case, the other consequence most to be desired out of this whole farce - other than the cardinal's irghtful acquittal - must be a fullblown exposure of the Victoria police's obvious manipulations to manufacture a case against Pell.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/19/2019 8:43 PM]
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4/9/2019 1:00 PM
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Cardinal Sarah and proselytism

April 9, 2019

His Eminence Cardinal Sarah does not rant. He does not take PF to task directly by name.

He just tells the Truth.. When PF has taught error, as he so frequently does, Sarah does not tactfully wait a few weeks and then tactfully tell the Truth. He tells it straight away. Calmly, humbly, elegantly.

PF is no fool. He knows that if you slam 'proselytism' without defining the term, non-Christians and non-Catholics will hear what they want to hear. But he will have a bolt hole enabling him to deny, if it suits him, that he ever condemned seeking to bring to their Redeemer souls whom Christ died to save.

I wonder what further attacks upon our Lord PF will make, taking advantage of the Mysterium Paschale.

I do not have Cardinal Sarah's gentle and saintly gifts. I find it difficult to conceal the fact that, in my own opinion and speaking only for myself, this pontificate has moved from being an embarrassment to being a problem, and, now, to being something far worse.

Tomorrow I will offer a concrete example of what I regard as Proselytism.

Because the following was my last post on the preceding page, added at 1 o'clock in the morning, I am re-posting it on this box.

The French title of Cardinal Sarah's third book-length interview with journalist Nicholas Diat comes from Luke's account of the risen Christ's encounter with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, on the night of the first Easter Sunday, when the two men ask their unrecognized traveling companion to “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” The title for the English edition uses the last clause which it translates as 'The day is now far spent".

‘As a bishop, it is my duty to warn the West’:
An interview with Cardinal Sarah

The Vatican cardinal discusses his hard-hitting new book
in an exclusive interview with La Nef

Translated by Zachary Thomas for

April 5, 2019

Cardinal Robert Sarah is publishing the third of his book-length interviews with Nicolas Diat: The Day is Far Spent. An unflinching diagnosis, but one full of hope in the midst of the spiritual and moral crisis of the West.

In the first part of your book, you describe “a spiritual and religious collapse.” How does this collapse manifest itself? Does it only affect the West or are other regions of the world, such as Africa, also affected by it?
The spiritual crisis involves the entire world. But its source is in Europe. People in the West are guilty of rejecting God. They have not only rejected God. Friedrich Nietzsche, who may be considered the spokesman of the West, has claimed: “God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him…” We have murdered God. In view of God’s death among men, Nietzsche would replace him with a prophetic “Superman.”

The spiritual collapse thus has a very Western character. In particular, I would like to emphasize the rejection of fatherhood. Our contemporaries are convinced that, in order to be free, one must not depend on anybody. There is a tragic error in this.

Western people are convinced that receiving is contrary to the dignity of human persons. But civilized man is fundamentally an heir, he receives a history, a culture, a language, a name, a family. This is what distinguishes him from the barbarian. To refuse to be inscribed within a network of dependence, heritage, and filiation condemns us to go back naked into the jungle of a competitive economy left to its own devices.

Because he refuses to acknowledge himself as an heir, man is condemned to the hell of liberal globalization in which individual interests confront one another without any law to govern them besides profit at any price.

In this book, however, I want to suggest to Western people that the real cause of this refusal to claim their inheritance and this refusal of fatherhood is the rejection of God. From Him we receive our nature as man and woman. This is intolerable to modern minds.

Gender ideology is a Luciferian refusal to receive a sexual nature from God. Thus some rebel against God and pointlessly mutilate themselves in order to change their sex. But in reality they do not fundamentally change anything of their structure as man or woman. The West refuses to receive, and will accept only what it constructs for itself. Transhumanism is the ultimate avatar of this movement. Because it is a gift from God, human nature itself becomes unbearable for western man.

This revolt is spiritual at root. It is the revolt of Satan against the gift of grace. Fundamentally, I believe that Western man refuses to be saved by God’s mercy. He refuses to receive salvation, wanting to build it for himself.

The “fundamental values” promoted by the UN are based on a rejection of God that I compare with the rich young man in the Gospel. God has looked upon the West and has loved it because it has done wonderful things. He invited it to go further, but the West turned back. It has preferred the kind of riches that it owes only to itself.

Africa and Asia are not yet entirely contaminated by gender ideology, transhumanism, or the hatred of fatherhood. But the Western powers’ neo-colonialist spirit and will to dominate pressures countries to adopt these deadly ideologies.

You write that “Christ never promised his faithful that they would be in the majority” (pg. 34), and you go on: “Despite the missionaries’ greatest efforts, the Church has never dominated the world. The Church’s mission is a mission of love, and love does not dominate” (pg. 35). Earlier, you wrote that “it is the ‘small remnant’ that has saved the faith.” If you will pardon a bold question: What is the problem exactly, seeing that this “small remnant” does in fact exist currently and manages to survive even in a world hostile to the faith?
Christians must be missionaries. They cannot keep the treasure of the Faith for themselves. Mission and evangelization remain an urgent spiritual task. And as St. Paul says, every Christian should be able to say “If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16).

Further, “God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). How can we do nothing when so many souls do not know the only truth that sets us free: Jesus Christ? The prevailing relativism considers religious pluralism to be a good in itself. No! The plenitude of revealed truth that the Catholic Church has received must be transmitted, proclaimed, and preached.

The goal of evangelization is not world domination, but the service of God. Don’t forget that Christ’s victory over the world is…the Cross! It is not our intention to take over the power of the world. Evangelization is done through the Cross.

The martyrs are the first missionaries. Before the eyes of men, their life is a failure. The goal of evangelization is not to “keep count” like social media networks that want to “make a buzz.” Our goal is not to be popular in the media. We want that each and every soul be saved by Christ. Evangelization is not a question of success. It is a profoundly interior and supernatural reality.

I’d like to go back to one of your points in the previous question. Do you mean to say that European Christendom, where Christianity was able to establish itself throughout the whole of society, was only a sort of interlude in history; that it should not be taken as a model in the sense that in Europe Christianity “dominated” and imposed itself through a kind of social coercion?
A society permeated by the Faith, the Gospel, and natural law is something desirable. It is the job of the lay faithful to construct it. That is in fact their proper vocation. They work for the good of all when they build a city in conformity with human nature and open to Revelation.

But the more profound goal of the Church is not to construct a particular model society. The Church has received the mandate to proclaim salvation, which is a supernatural reality. A just society disposes souls to receive the gift of God, but it cannot give salvation. On the other hand, can there be a society that is just and in conformity with the natural law without the gift of grace working in souls?

There is great need to proclaim the heart of our Faith: only Jesus saves us from sin. A society inspired by the Gospel protects the weak against the consequences of sin. Conversely, a society cut off from God quickly turns into a dictatorship and becomes a structure of sin, encouraging people toward evil. That is why we can say that there can be no just society without a place for God in the public sphere.
- A state that officially espouses atheism is an unjust state.
- A state that relegates God to the private sphere cuts itself off from the true source of rights and justice.
- A state that pretends to found rights on good will alone, and does not seek to found the law on an objective order received from the Creator, risks falling into totalitarianism.

Over the course of European history, we have moved from a society in which the group outweighed the person (the holism of the Middle Ages) – a type of society that still exists in Africa and continues to characterize Islam – to a society in which the person is emancipated from the group (individualism). We might also say, broadly speaking, that we have passed from a society dominated by the quest for truth to a society dominated by the quest for freedom. The Church herself has developed her doctrine in the face of this evolution, proclaiming the right to religious liberty at Vatican II. How do you see the position of the Church toward this evolution? Is there a balance to be struck between the two poles of “truth” and “freedom,” whereas so far we have merely gone from one excess to the other?
It is not correct to speak of a “balance” between two poles: truth and freedom. In fact, this manner of speaking presupposes that these realities are external to and in opposition to one another. Freedom is essentially a tending toward what is good and true. The truth is meant to be known and freely embraced. A freedom that is not itself oriented and guided by truth is nonsensical. Error has no rights.

Vatican II recalled the fact that truth can only be established by the force of truth itself, and not by coercion. It also recalled that respect for persons and their freedom should not in any way make us indifferent in relation to the true and the good.

Revelation is the breaking in of divine truth into our lives. It does not constrain us. In giving and revealing Himself, God respects the freedom that He Himself created. I believe that the opposition between truth and freedom is the fruit of a false conception of human dignity.

Modern man hypostatizes his freedom, making it an absolute to the point of believing that it is threatened when he accepts the truth. However, to accept the truth is the most beautiful act of freedom that man can perform.

I believe that your question reveals how deeply the crisis of the Western conscience is really in the end a crisis of faith. Western man is afraid of losing his freedom by accepting the gift of true faith. He prefers to close himself up inside a freedom that is devoid of content. The act of faith is an encounter between freedom and truth. That is why in the first chapter of my book I have insisted on the crisis of faith. Our freedom comes to fulfillment when it says “yes” to revealed truth. If freedom says “no” to God, it denies itself. It asphyxiates.

You dwell at length on the crisis of the priesthood and argue for priestly celibacy. What do you see as the primary cause in the cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, and what do you think of the summit that just took place in Rome on this question?
I think that the crisis of the priesthood is one of the main factors in the crisis of the Church. We have taken away priests’ identity. We have made priests believe that they need to be efficient men. But a priest is fundamentally the continuation of Christ’s presence among us. He should not be defined by what he does, but by what he is: ipse Christus, Christ Himself.

The discovery of many cases of sexual abuse against minors reveals a profound spiritual crisis, a grave, deep, and tragic rupture between the priest and Christ.

Of course, there are social factors: the crisis of the ‘60s and the sexualization of society, which rebound on the Church. But we must have the courage to go further. The roots of this crisis are spiritual. A priest who does not pray or makes a theatre out of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, a priest who only confesses rarely and who does not live concretely like another Christ, is cut off from the source of his own being. The result is death. I have dedicated this book to the priests of the whole world because I know that they are suffering. Many of them feel abandoned.

We, the bishops, bear a large share of responsibility for the crisis of the priesthood. Have we been fathers to them? Have we listened to them, understood and guided them? Have we given them an example? Too often dioceses are transformed into administrative structures. There are so many meetings. The bishop should be the model for the priesthood. But we ourselves are far from being the ones most ready to pray in silence, or to chant the Office in our cathedrals. I fear that we lose ourselves in secondary, profane responsibilities.

The place of a priest is on the Cross. When he celebrates Mass, he is at the source of his whole life, namely the Cross. Celibacy is a concrete means that permits us to live this mystery of the Cross in our lives. Celibacy inscribes the Cross in our very flesh. That is why celibacy is intolerable for the modern world. Celibacy is a scandal for modern people, because the Cross is a scandal.

In this book, I want to encourage priests. I want to tell them: love your priesthood! Be proud to be crucified with Christ! Do not fear the world’s hate! I want to express my affection as a father and brother for the priests of the whole world.

In a book that has caused quite a stir [In the Closet of the Vatican, by Frédéric Martel], the author explains that there are many homosexual prelates in the Vatican. He lends credibility to Mgr Viganò’s denunciation of the influence of a powerful gay network in the heart of the Curia. What do you think of this? Is there a homosexual problem in the heart of the Church and if so, why is it a taboo?
Today the Church is living with Christ through the outrages of the Passion. The sins of her members come back to her like strikes on the face. Some have tried to instrumentalize these sins in order to put pressure on the bishops. Some want them to adopt the judgments and language of the world. Some bishops have caved in to the pressure. We see them calling for the abandonment of priestly celibacy or making unsound statements about homosexual acts. Should we be surprised? The Apostles themselves turned tail in the Garden of Olives. They abandoned Christ in His most difficult hour.

We must be realistic and concrete. Yes, there are sinners. Yes, there are unfaithful priests, bishops, and even cardinals who fail to observe chastity. But also, and this is also very grave, they fail to hold fast to doctrinal truth! They disorient the Christian faithful by their confusing and ambiguous language. They adulterate and falsify the Word of God, willing to twist and bend it to gain the world’s approval. They are the Judas Iscariots of our time.

Sin should not surprise us. On the other hand, we must have the courage to call it by name. We must not be afraid to rediscover the methods of spiritual combat: prayer, penance, and fasting. We must have the clear-sightedness to punish unfaithfulness. We must find the concrete means to prevent it. I believe that without a common prayer life, without a minimum of common fraternal life between priests, fidelity is an illusion. We must look to the model of the Acts of the Apostles.

With regard to homosexual behaviors, let us not fall into the trap of the manipulators. There is no “homosexual problem” in the Church. There is a problem of sins and infidelity [to priestly vows]. Let us not perpetrate the vocabulary of LGBT ideology. Homosexuality does not define the identity of persons. It describes certain deviant, sinful, and perverse acts. For these acts, as for other sins, the remedies are known. We must return to Christ, and allow him to convert us.

When the fault is public, the penalties provided for by Church law must be applied. Punishment is merciful, an act of charity and fraternal love. Punishment restores the damage done to the common good and permits the guilty party to redeem himself. Punishment is part of the paternal role of bishops.

Finally, we must have the courage to clearly apply the norms regarding the acceptance of seminarians. Men whose psychology is deeply and permanently anchored in homosexuality, or who practice duplicity and lying, cannot be accepted as candidates for the priesthood.

One chapter is dedicated to the “crisis of the Church.” When precisely do you place the beginning of this crisis and what does it consist in? In particular, how do you relate the “crisis of faith” to the crisis of “moral theology.” Does one precede the other?
The crisis of the Church is above all a crisis of the faith. Some want the Church to be a human and horizontal society; they want it to speak the language of the media. They want to make it popular. They urge it not to speak about God, but to throw itself body and soul into social problems: migration, ecology, dialogue, the culture of encounter, the struggle against poverty, for justice and peace.

These are of course important and vital questions before which the Church cannot shut her eyes. But a Church such as this is of interest to no one [other than those who want such a church, an who have their priorities all wrong, like the reigning pope].
- The Church is only of interest because she allows us to encounter Jesus.
- She is only legitimate because she passes on Revelation to us.
- When the Church becomes overburdened with human structures, it obstructs the light of God shining out in her and through her.
- We are tempted to think that our action and our ideas will save the Church. It would be better to begin by letting her save herself.

I think we are at a turning point in the history of the Church. The Church needs a profound, radical reform that must begin by a reform of the life of her priests.
- Priests must be possessed by the desire for holiness, for perfection in God and fidelity to the doctrine of Him who has chosen and sent them.
- Their whole being and all their activities must be put to the service of sanctity.
- The Church is holy in herself. Our sins and our worldly concerns prevent her holiness from diffusing itself.
It is time to put aside all these burdens and allow the Church finally appear as God made Her.

Some believe that the history of the Church is marked by structural reforms. I am sure that it is the saints who change history. The structures follow afterwards, and do nothing other than perpetuate the what the saints brought about. [An idea that was often expressed by Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI.]
- We need saints who dare to see all things through the eyes of faith, who dare to be enlightened by the light of God.
- The crisis of moral theology is the consequence of a voluntary blindness. We have refused to look at life through the light of the Faith.

In the conclusion of my book, I speak about a poison from which are all suffering: a virulent atheism. It permeates everything, even our ecclesiastical discourse. It consists in allowing radically pagan and worldly modes of thinking or living to coexist side by side with faith. And we are quite content with this unnatural cohabitation! This shows that our faith has become diluted and inconsistent! The first reform we need is in our hearts. We must no longer compromise with lies. The Faith is both the treasure we have to defend and the power that will permit us to defend it.

The second and third parts of your book are about the crisis in western societies. The subject is so vast, and you touch on so many important points–from the expansion of the “culture of death” to the problems of consumerism tied to global liberalism, passing through questions of identity, transmission, Islamism, etc.–that it is impossible to address them all. Among these problems, which seem to you to be the most important and what are the principal causes for the decline of the West?
First I would like to explain why I, a son of Africa, allow myself to address the West. The Church is the guardian of civilization. I am convinced that western civilization is passing at present through a mortal crisis. It has reached the extreme of self-destructive hate. As during the fall of Rome, elites are only concerned to increase the luxury of their daily life and peoples are being anesthetized by ever more vulgar entertainment.

As a bishop, it is my duty to warn the West! The barbarians are already inside the city. The barbarians are all those who hate human nature, all those who trample upon the sense of the sacred, all those who do not value life, all those who rebel against God the Creator of man and nature.
- The West is blinded by science, technology, and the thirst for riches.
- The lure of riches, which liberalism spreads in hearts, has sedated the peoples.
- At the same time, the silent tragedy of abortion and euthanasia continue and pornography and gender ideology destroy children and adolescents.
- We have become accustomed to barbarism. It doesn’t even surprise us anymore!

I want to raise a cry of alarm, which is also a cry of love. I do so with a heart full of filial gratitude for the Western missionaries who died in my land of Africa and who communicated to me the precious gift of faith in Jesus Christ. I want to follow their lead and receive their inheritance!

How could I not emphasize the threat posed by Islamism?
- Muslims despise the atheistic West.
- They take refuge in Islamism as a rejection of the consumer society that is offered to them as a religion.
- Can the West present them the Faith in a clear way? For that it will have to rediscover its Christian roots and identity.

To the countries of the Third World, the West is held out as a paradise because it is ruled by commercial liberalism. This encourages the flow of migrants, so tragic for the identity of peoples. A West that denies its faith, its history, its roots, and its identity is destined for contempt, for death, and disappearance.

But I would like to point out that everything is prepared for a renewal. I see families, monasteries, and parishes that are like oases in the middle of a desert. It is from these oases of faith, liturgy, beauty, and silence that the West will be reborn.

You end this beautiful book with a section entitled “Rediscovering Hope: The Practice of the Christian Virtues.” What do you mean by this? In what way can practicing these virtues be a remedy for the multifarious crisis we have spoken about in this interview?
We should not imagine a special program that could provide a remedy for the current multi-faceted crisis.
- We have simply to live our Faith, completely and radically.
- The Christian virtues represent the Faith blossoming in all the human faculties. They mark the way for a happy life in harmony with God. We must create places where they can flourish.
- I call upon Christians to open oases of freedom in the midst the desert created by rampant profiteering.
- We must create places where the air is breathable, or simply where the Christian life is possible.
- Our communities must put God in the center.
- Amidst the avalanche of lies, we must be able to find places where truth is not only explained but experienced.

In a word, we must live the Gospel: not merely thinking about it as a utopia, but living it in a concrete way.
- The Faith is like a fire, but it has to be burning in order to be transmitted to others.
- Watch over this sacred fire! Let it be your warmth in the heart of this winter of the West. “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom 8:31).
- In the disaster, confusion, and darkness of our world, we find “the light that shines in the darkness” (cf. Jn 1:5): He who said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6).
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I have waited a few days before posting this translation, in case Cardinal Bassetti or his office would issue a statement about it, but none has come so far. Which could mean that 1) none of the cardinal's staff or friends read Marco Tosatti at all, nor do any of their friends and familiars who might have called their attention to it, and so they have had no occasion to protest it; 2) Bassetti and his staff couldn't care less what Tosatti writes; or 3) Bassetti and his staff understand it for the irony/sarcasm that it is and are happy to just let it be. [What, not even any of the staff at Bassetti's house organ, Avvenire, will go to bat against Tosatti? I am pretty sure they read him!]

Tosatti's concoction - his or somebody else's (he hints in one of his replies to his combox commentators that it was originally written by a very frustrated priest) - reminds me of what I have often conjectured about Jorge Bergoglio's thinking when he knowingly edits Jesus's words from the Gospel or gives them the wrong spin to push his personal agenda. But this letter pushes the argument to its absurdest limits to explain just how and why Jorge Bergoglio thinks he knows better than Jesus 'how to be God' and what a church ought to be...

An exclusive: We publish a private letter
from Cardinal Bassetti to Jesus Christ

Translated from

April 4, 2019

Dear friends, foes, and trolls (habitual and occasional) of Stilum Curiae. Today, we are pleased to offer you a journalistic treat - something exceptional, extraordinary, beyond common – in short a true scoop. Don’t ask how, but we have come into possession of a letter sent by the president of the Italian bishops' conference (CEI), Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti. As you can see, the letter is preceded by an epigraph. Enjoy!

‘Learn how to be God as as God ought to be” (John B Keating)

Letter of the CEI President to Our Lord

To Jesus of Nazareth
Way of Eternity
Kingdom of Heaven
Personal and Confidential

I am constrained to write you because I note that, despite our repeated warnings, your pastoral action is not in line with that of the Newchurch. Or is it that you take your position to be legibus solutus [above the law]? You have said that you are meek and humble. Therefore, you must obey the authorities who lead the Newchurch.

I want to be frank. You are obstinately divisive. We have sought in every way to hide this embarrassing characteristic of yours but now it is no longer possible. Some of your faithful, who are retrograde and conservative, hie themselves behind your gestures and your words in order to accuse us of our supposed betrayal of you. This has become intolerable and it is therefore time to clear things up. And to come to an inevitable compromise.

I am leafing through the Gospels and at every page, I find you making excessive statements, carrying out rash if not violent acts. That’s not good, my Lord. Not goo at all. Whether you siad and did certain things, or whether they were simply attributed to you by your accomplices Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Who, by the way, have already been reported to the Commission for Inter-Religious Dialog.

1) You cannot say that you are the only way leading to the Kindgom f oHeaven. This presumption of uniqueness is unacceptable. Let it suffice you to be one of so many ways that lead to God. Like Mohammed and Buddha, for example. And do not tell me that messages other than yours cannot lead to the same God. Such childish protests do you no honor.

Please uphold the principle of non-contradiction. Or do you wish to continue trusting in that Dominican from Aquino? And do you wish to go on being a ’sign o contradiction’? To promise that you will set everyone against each other, or announce that you bring a sword and that you will light fires? Have you considered the seriousness of such statements? Unity, synthesis, inclusion, concord, community – a serious God would instead announce all this! Yet they say you were a carpenter. A carpenter puts together different pieces. With nails and paste. Well, nails are too definitive,and you have already made use of them excessively (see below). But paste is good. Use paste. Be the God of Pasting Together.

2) You, as I said earlier, are a violent man. Verbally and in deed. How could you have offended the Pharisees with an address full of insult and metaphors – ‘whited sepulchers’ and the like – which mark in you a will for rupture and rending apart with whoever does not agree with you? Who do you think you are? God?

Even if you were, this does not allow you to do as you please. You need discretion, tact, carefulness. For example: “My Pharisee friends, respecting every exegetic option, I maintain that your interpretation of the Torah is too literal”. Would it not have been better that way? Would you not have said the same thing you said and meant without offending so many good men? Not to mention that scene in the Temple against the dove sellers and the moneychangers. Don’t you know the law of supply and demand? Do you know how many families depended on that innocent commerce outside the Temple?

3) Now we come to your non-appealable condemnations. There is always an appeal! Remember that if you, as God, are good, we in the Newchurch are even better.
- How then could you condemn adultery? Sexual morality is changeable and must be discussed with discernment. Not imposed with the threat of hell. That’s easy. Far too easy to compel obedience that way.
- You obviously have no idea about the pastoral ministry of accompaniment, especially of those who are farthest away. And of those who are ‘different’. A pedophile is also a person, one who suffers because he is ‘different’. But you would advise him to tie a millstone around d his neck and go drown himself? Excuse me, but that is scandalous.
- What about Judas? Don’t you believe even your beloved John that he is a thief? Obviously, you ignore what oscillations of conscience pushed that unfortunate man to accept thirty pieces of silver. Perhaps he was in need.Perhaps because you had excluded him from the circle of your intimate,s and the poor man felt that he was set aside. In order to convince him to give up his intentions.

But why say, “Better for him if he had not been born!” It is an unforgivable statement that shows your insensibility towards sinners, or better, towards those who unconsciously make an error. I hope that after 2000 years, you have had the opportunity to repent of a statement that does not do you honor!

4) Now I come to a very sensitive point. You see, the fruitful collaboration between theology and psychoanalysis have convinced us that you not only suffered from sadistic impulses towards those who did not think like you, but also nurtured masochistic tendencies .

Let me say it clearly: You did go out of your way to get to Golgotha and all that business about carrying a cross. To the High priest who asked you, “Are you the Messiah, son of the living God?”, you don’t bluntly say, “That I am”! Instead, you should have referred to the diverse Messiahs that arose everywhere in the Israel of your time and taken the discussion to a higher dialectical plane. “I consider myself the Messiah, but a purely spiritual dimension which nonetheless does not interfere in any way with the monotheism of which you are the custodian”. That’s how one answers a High Priest.

But instead, what? You added that you would thereafter appear in the heavens at the right hand of God. Allow me to say that was an unpardonable provocation. And then, regarding that heavenly cloud and your second coming, what’s with the statement “I will come like a thief”? A thief? It is your duty to warn us. You cannot just come when you want and judge each man by yourself. You must give us notice, and we will then name a commission which, together with you, will evaluate your judgments with discernment.

I’m coming to the end of my letter. I am sorry that I have been harsh in some respects, but as president of the Italian bishops’ conference, it was my duty to inform you of the grave errors you had committed and which bore bitter fruit during the recent so-called World Congress of Families in Verona, during which difficult, complex, problematic and intricate questions like abortion, divorce, surrogate wombs, homosexuality and child adoption were confronted in your preferred and easy way out: with a Yes or a No.

I don’t even wish to tell you how much that event offended Pope Francis. I will confess that I have written this letter against his will. “Let’s not have anything to do with Him,” he told me. I hope that it is not so. I greet your Mother – but without any of her titles in order not to offend the Lutherans – and I hope that these lines will urge you to reflect and teach you how to be God as you should be.

Obedience, my dear Lord. Obedience. This is the virtue we must all exercise. Obedience to us.

Gualtiero Cardinal Bassetti
President of the CEI

A Bergoglian P.S., sort of, to the above - a tweet with video from and by the CEI's own TV network:

New papal utterance:
"Being Angry with Christ is a Kind of Prayer!"

April 9, 2019

No, no, we are not making this up. It is what the reigning Bishop of Rome really said this past Sunday in a visit to the Roman parish of St. Julius:
"Even getting angry at Jesus can be a kind of prayer. Jesus likes seeing the truth of our heart. Don't pretend in front of Jesus."

P.S. In fact, when following a link which I thought would be something else, I came upon the following report from ZENIT,
which is an English translation of the pope's necessarily brief interaction with various parish groups at St Julius. His closing words to each
group (old people, sick and disabled, young people, children, participants of a yearlong (?) living Nativity scene, etc), though it ends with
a prayer, sound like he is hurrying up to meet the next group. Nonetheless, to each group, he said quite a number of Catholic and Christian
statements to them that were generally unexceptionable. Even the 'getting angry at Jesus can be sort of a prayer', irreverent as it sounds,
is in the context of prayer as a conversation with the Lord, before whom, of course, there is no sense pretending anything. At one point, he
even says that his duty as a Successor of Peter is to confirm his brothers in the faith - imagine that! - which surprised me as much as his
Angelus remarks later about the adulterous woman Jesus saved from stoning, because for the first time, he went on to cite how the story
ends, that Jesus tells the woman to 'Go and sin no more' - which was always the biggest omission in his reading of the story as though God's
mercy were completely unconditional... And I rather liked the bit about "I don't have Peter's mobile [phone], but all of us have Jesus's
mobile - we can call him any time, etc". Jorge Bergoglio can play the part of avuncular Christian pastor when he chooses to.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/10/2019 6:33 PM]
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A social network post Tosatti screen-captured (plus my translation of it). Bergoglio's ignorance of the derivation and origin of Mafia, the word and the organizations
so-named, cannot be called shameful, as only scholars and anyone who specifically looks it up would know it.

Obviously, what I remarked in the preceding post about the pope being able to say Catholic statements when he wants to
does not apply to his habitual recklessness in spouting out about many thing he really has no firm knowledge of...

The pope, the Mafia and the obvious
embarrassment of Vatican communications

Translated from

April 9, 2018

Because Stilum Curiae has its moments of misplaced benevolence, I had intended to pass over the reigning pope’s most recent statements about immigration, the mafia, etc. If only because I was out of town attending to unhappy matters and had not really followed that report attentively. But an article by my friend Giuseppe Rusconi on his site Rosso Porpora – which I would advise you to read in its entirety – has prompted me to speak out on this matter. Rusconi writes:

On Saturday, April 6, the pope gave an audience to teachers and students of the Collegio San Carlo of Milan. Rather strange (besides being offensive to the truth of facts and Italian history) was his reply to a question about a multi-ethnic society and identity. Especially since what the Vatican daily news bulletin reported about it does not correspond to the video shown originally by Vatican News [the official Vatican ‘news agency’ in the new Dicastery of Communications].

Jorge Mario Bergoglio had answered four questions, including that of Prof. Sivlia Perucca on multi-ethnicity and identity. Here is what he answered, according to a transcription from the 2:07-minutes video of Vatican News on April 6, 2019, with the title ”Pope: No to fear of migrants. We are all migrants”, accompanied by an article by Debora Donnni with citations having to do also with the title of the full video: “Pope: Those who sell arms have the deaths of many children on their conscience” [Why only the deaths of children, why not of everyone who gets killed by those weapons?]

Here is what the pope says on the video:

Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of migrants. [Some might object] ‘But, Father, migrants are…’ Migrants are us. Jesus was a migrant. [One really has no answer to why Bergoglio is so obstinate about saying this obvious falsehood again and again!] So don’t be afraid of migrants. “But they are delinquent”, you may say.
- But we, too, have many delinquents, yes? The Mafia was not invented by Nigerians – it’s a ‘national value’, yes? The Mafia is ours, made in Italy, yes? It is ours.
- We all are… we all have the possibility to be delinquents.
- But migrants are those who bring us riches [ricchezze], always.
- Even Europe was made up of migrants.[You'd think there were no native European peoples at all, that Europe was unpopulated before 'migrants' came.] The barbarians, the Celts, all those who came from the north, and brought us their cultures.
[What were the barbarian ‘cultures’ and was any of it assimilated? Obviously not! It was the other way around. And what were the barbarians and the Celts but native European peoples who each had their own pagan cultures? ]
- Europe grew that way, through the juxtaposition of cultures.
[I will not comment further on everything that is wrong with the above statements (which I have separated into thought units for easier appreciaiton), historically and factually. Except to point out that Bergoglio truly seems to think that Christianity had nothing to do with the formation of Europe, that it was not Christianity that gave Europe its identity in the first 16-17 centuries since Christ was born on earth, that the very barbarians who caused the final fall of the Roman empire assimilated the culture they had come to replace!]

Remember this well today. There is the temptation to build a culture of walls, to erect walls, walls in the hearts, walls on the earth to prevent these encounter of cultures, with other peoples. Whoever puts up a wall, whoever constructs a wall, ends up being a prisoner behind the walls he built, without horizons.
[Really, he says this so often one would expect that he would logically announce to the world that in view of this, he is ordering the walls enclosing the Vatican to be demolished once and for all! Will he dare, one of these days?]

But this is what the pope said, according to the official Vatican news bulletin published April 7, 2019:

Do not be afraid. And here I touch a wound: do not be afraid of migrants. Migrants are those who bring us riches, always. Even Europe was made up of migrants. The barbarians, the Celts – all those who came from the north and brought their cultures with them. That is how Europe grew, through the juxtaposition of cultures But today, be mindful of this: today, there is the temptation to build a culture of walls, to erect walls, walls in the heart, walls on earth to prevent this encounter with other cultures, with other peoples. An whoever erects a wall, whoever builds a wall, ends up a slave behind the walls he built, without horizons.


Even to the naked eye, one sees immediately an obvious reduction in the official ‘transcript’ of what he actually said. The main differences? Statements that are no longer there:
- Jesus defined as a migrant.
- The substantial comment that the Mafia was ‘not invented by Nigerians” but rather ‘made in Italy’, a ‘national value’.
- The subsequent remark that ”We all are, we all have the possibility to be delinquents”.

It’s easy to see the political and religious reasons that led the Secretariat for Communications (perhaps in collaboration with the Secretariat of State and probably others) to take out their robes as prestidigitators, robes kept conveniently on hand to abjure the unwary when necessary.

For someone who continually and hieratically admonishes the mass media to report facts correctly – and therefore, avoiding any manipulation of them – this is truly a great example to set! Secretly, the ex-catholic newspaper Avvenire [Rusconi uses ‘ex-Catholic’ ironically, since that the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference has become, to all intents and purposes, the principle mouthpiece advocating open borders and indiscriminate immigration, not to mention anti-Catholic positions on life issues] must be rejoicing. We can imagine the malignant joy of Avvenire’s Editor-Thurifer-in-chief and his fellow thurifers: “So, they want to rob us of our copyright to fake news? Good for them. People will understand that they must be suspicious of imitators and drink directly from the original spring which is Avvenire”.

How nice, right? Speaking of migrants, there is an Arab saying which I have always liked:"àdaa Alìma ià iadatihà al kadìma" (Alima has returned to her old habits), and for a Vatican communications outfit that sought to misrepresent a letter from the Emeritus pope not too long ago, I would say that the old habit can be too strong to resist, sometimes.

But we understand. We also understand how it has become increasingly difficult to manage – and render more plausible - some papal statements that are desolating for the panorama of ignorance, genericness and superficiality that they reveal. Statements that seem more like bar chatter, than something from the Sala Clementina.

To begin with, to speak of the Mafia as a ‘national value’ for Italians is a colossal stupidity. Perhaps the pope has never heard of – to cite just a few [that have adopted the name as well as the rules] - the Russian Mafia, Chinese Mafia, the Irish Mafia, the Jewish Mafia and the secret societies of Western Africa (many of them impregnated with black magic and esotericism, with rituals that are often bloody) which have transmitted their legacy to the Nigerian Mafia (or mafias, since there appear to be many). And being Argentine, he must know about the Zvi Migdal, the organization led by some Argentine Jews who in the early part of the 20th century set up the most extensive traffic for prostitution in Latin America.

In the second place, persons more erudite than me have pointed out that – surprise! – the term ‘mafia’ itself comes from Arabic: “Some theories trace the term farther back in time and space to the Arabic influence: maḥyāṣ (blustering) and its corresponding noun maḥyaṣa (blusterer). Perhaps more convincing is the idea that the word is really derived from the Arabic mo’a-fiah, which literally describes an arrogant action or behavior.”

So, look! it is the pope’s ‘chosen people’’ themselves, those whose unrestricted mass migration to our country he defends daily, who gave us the term. Even on the social media, some people have pointed this out (see photo above).

Moreover: to ignore that the Sicilian Mafia (like the Canorra of Naples and the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria) have a historical and social origin that was regional and circumscribed to certain parts of Italy is offensive, not just to intelligence but to the other cultures and regions of the country.

We understand that the recent collapse of financial affairs in the Church of Italy was caused by the current Italian government’s blockage of the human trafficking that used to bring tens of thousands onto our shores [and money to Italian Church coffers through some arcane connection] as we can see from the enraged actions of Cardinal Bassetti and company. But let’s not get into that now.

Nonetheless, the reference to the Mafia by someone who was elected to Peter’s Chair thanks to the work of the ‘Sankt Gallen Mafia’ – the term used by the late Cardinal Danneels of the group he was part of – seems to be in poor taste.

Those who have been to visit the Emeritus Pope all say that despite his growing and devastating physical frailty [he will be 92 in a few days], his mind remains lucid and acute – which is a great gift, a grace from God. But experience shows us that unfortunately, advancing age has not borne the same fruit for others.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/10/2019 6:02 PM]
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The core of the M87 galaxy 55 million light years away from earth, and the black hole at its center (better appreciated in the inset).

Time out from Church affairs and the latest Bergogliades to share this immense bit of scientific news, to which we have been alerted by Fr. Z, an inveterate aficionado on space matters....

First image of a 'black hole' ever
by Elizabeth Landau
NASA Hedquarters, Washington,DC
April 10, 2019

Using the Event Horizon Telescope, scientists obtained an image of the black hole at the center of galaxy M87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon.

A black hole is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape. Anything that comes within a black hole’s “event horizon,” its point of no return, will be consumed, never to re-emerge, because of the black hole’s unimaginably strong gravity. By its very nature, a black hole cannot be seen, but the hot disk of material that encircles it shines bright. Against a bright backdrop, such as this disk, a black hole appears to cast a shadow.

The stunning new image shows the shadow of the supermassive black hole in the center of Messier 87 (M87), an elliptical galaxy some 55 million light-years from Earth. This black hole is 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun. Catching its shadow involved eight ground-based radio telescopes around the globe, operating together as if they were one telescope the size of our entire planet.

“This is an amazing accomplishment by the EHT team,” said Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Years ago, we thought we would have to build a very large space telescope to image a black hole. By getting radio telescopes around the world to work in concert like one instrument, the EHT team achieved this, decades ahead of time.”

To complement the EHT findings, several NASA spacecraft were part of a large effort, coordinated by the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group, to observe the black hole using different wavelengths of light. As part of this effort, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory space telescope missions, all attuned to different varieties of X-ray light, turned their gaze to the M87 black hole around the same time as the EHT in April 2017. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was also watching for changes in gamma-ray light from M87 during the EHT observations. If EHT observed changes in the structure of the black hole’s environment, data from these missions and other telescopes could be used to help figure out what was going on.

While NASA observations did not directly trace out the historic image, astronomers used data from NASA’s Chandra and NuSTAR satellites to measure the X-ray brightness of M87’s jet. Scientists used this information to compare their models of the jet and disk around the black hole with the EHT observations. Other insights may come as researchers continue to pore over these data.

There are many remaining questions about black holes that the coordinated NASA observations may help answer. Mysteries linger about why particles get such a huge energy boost around black holes, forming dramatic jets that surge away from the poles of black holes at nearly the speed of light. When material falls into the black hole, where does the energy go?

“X-rays help us connect what’s happening to the particles near the event horizon with what we can measure with our telescopes,” said Joey Neilsen, an astronomer at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, who led the Chandra and NuSTAR analysis on behalf of the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group.

NASA space telescopes have previously studied a jet extending more than 1,000 light-years away from the center of M87. The jet is made of particles traveling near the speed of light, shooting out at high energies from close to the event horizon. The EHT was designed in part to study the origin of this jet and others like it. A blob of matter in the jet called HST-1, discovered by Hubble astronomers in 1999, has undergone a mysterious cycle of brightening and dimming.

Chandra, NuSTAR, Swift and Fermi, as well as NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) experiment on the International Space Station, also looked at the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, in coordination with EHT.

Getting so many different telescopes on the ground and in space to all look toward the same celestial object is a huge undertaking in and of itself, scientists emphasize.

“Scheduling all of these coordinated observations was a really hard problem for both the EHT and the Chandra and NuSTAR mission planners,” Neilsen said. “They did really incredible work to get us the data that we have, and we’re exceedingly grateful.”

Neilsen and colleagues who were part of the coordinated observations will be working on dissecting the entire spectrum of light coming from the M87 black hole, all the way from low-energy radio waves to high-energy gamma rays. With so much data from EHT and other telescopes, scientists may have years of discoveries ahead.

I cannot resist saying how a figurative black hole exists in the Vatican from which no light will ever emerge about Mons. Vigano's accusations regarding Theodore McCarrick and the massive blanket cover-up about his sinful double life by everyone in the Church who learned about it.
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Left, Benedict XVI as Pope in 2010; right, as emeritus Pope today.

The Emeritus Pope breaks his silence
on the Church's sex-abuse crisis

Benedict analyzes the situation but says that despite the sins of her members,
the 'indestructible Church' remains the very instrument through which God saves man,
so she must oppose the devil's lies and half-truths with the whole truth

by Edward Pentin

April 10, 2019

VATICAN CITY — In his most significant pronouncement since he resigned the papacy in 2013, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written a lengthy essay on clerical sex abuse in which he explains what he sees as the roots of the crisis, the effects it has had on the priesthood, and how the Church should best respond.

Running at just over 6,000 words and to be published April 11 in Klerusblatt, a small-circulation Bavarian monthly, Benedict XVI places the blame mainly on the sexual revolution and a collapse of Catholic moral theology since the Second Vatican Council. This resulted, he argues, in a “breakdown” in the seminary formation that had preceded the Council.

Benedict criticizes canon law for initially being insufficient in dealing with the scourge, explains the reforms he introduced to deal with abuse cases, and asserts that “only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ” can lead the Church out of the crisis.

The pope emeritus begins his essay, entitled “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse,” by noting that the “extent and gravity” of the abuse crisis has “deeply distressed” priests and laity and “driven more than a few to call into question the very faith of the Church.”

Recalling the Vatican’s Feb. 21-24 summit on the protection of minors in the Church, he says it was “necessary” to send out a “strong message” and seek a “new beginning” so the Church could again become “truly credible.”

Benedict writes that he compiled notes from the documents and reports from that meeting that culminated in this text, which he says he has shown to Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state.

The essay is divided into three parts. The first is an examination of the “wider societal context” of the crisis, in which he says he tries to show that an “egregious event” occurred in the 1960s “on a scale unprecedented in history.”

A second section deals with the effects of this on the “formation of priests and on the lives of priests.”

And in a third part he develops “some perspectives for a proper response on the part of the Church.”

‘1968 Revolution’
To give an idea of the wider societal context, the Pope Emeritus recalls the “all-out sexual freedom” that followed the “1968 Revolution.” From 1960 to 1980, he says “standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely,” resulting in a “normlessness” that, despite “laborious attempts,” has not been halted.

Drawing primarily on examples from German-speaking Europe, he remembers state-sponsored graphic sex education, lascivious advertising and “sex and pornographic movies” that became a “common occurrence” after 1968. This, in turn, led to violence and aggression, he says, and pedophilia was “diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.”

He wondered at the time how young people would approach the priesthood in this environment and says the collapse in vocations and “very high number of laicizations” were a “consequence of all these processes.”

At the same time, Catholic moral theology also “suffered a collapse,” he says, rendering the Church “defenseless against these changes in society.”

He explains that, until the Second Vatican Council, moral theology was largely founded on natural law, but in the “struggle for a new understanding of Revelation,” the “natural law was largely abandoned, and a moral theology based entirely on the Bible was demanded.”

In consequence, Benedict says, no longer could anything be “constituted an absolute good,” but only the “relative” could be “better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.”

This relativistic perspective reached “dramatic proportions” in the late 1980s and 1990s, when documents emerged such as the 1989 “Cologne Declaration,” which dissented from Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching, prompting an “outcry against the Magisterium of the Church.” He recalls how John Paul II tried to stem the crisis in moral theology through his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor and creating the Catechism.

But dissenting theologians started applying infallibility only to matters of faith and not to morals, even though, Benedict writes, the Church’s moral teaching is deeply linked to the faith. Those who deny this, he continues, force the Church to remain silent “precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake.”

Formation Breakdown
Turning to the second part of his essay, Benedict says this “long-prepared and ongoing process of dissolution of the Christian concept of morality” led to a “far-reaching breakdown” in priestly formation.

He notes how “various seminary homosexual clubs” had a significant impact on seminaries, resulting, in the U.S. at least, in two apostolic visitations that bore little fruit.

But he also underlines how changes to the appointment of bishops after Vatican II put an emphasis on “conciliarity,” leading to a “negative attitude” toward tradition — so much so that Benedict says even his own books were “hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.”

Pedophilia did not become “acute” until the late 1980s, he says, but canon law at that time “did not seem sufficient” for dealing with the crime. Rome believed “temporary suspension” was sufficient to “bring about purification and clarification,” but this was not accepted by U.S. bishops dealing with the emerging American clergy abuse crisis, because the alleged abusers were still “directly associated” with their bishop. A “renewal and deepening” of the “deliberately loosely constructed criminal law” of the 1983 Code of Canon law then “slowly” began to take place.

Benedict also pinpointed another canonical problem: the Church’s perception of criminal law which so fully guaranteed the rights of the accused that “any conviction” was “factually excluded” — something he describes as “guarantorism.”

But Benedict argues that a “properly formed canon law” must contain a “double guarantee” — legal protections for both the accused and the “good at stake,” which he defines as protecting the deposit of faith. The faith “no longer appears” to be a good “requiring protection,” he says, adding it is an “alarming situation” that pastors must take “seriously.”

To help overcome this “guarantorism,” Benedict decided with John Paul II to transfer abuse cases from the Congregation for Clergy to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) — a move, he says, that was crucially important to the Church, as such misconduct “ultimately damages the faith” and that enabled “the maximum penalty” to be imposed.

But he adds that an aspect of guarantorism rightly remained in force, namely the need for “clear proof of the offense.” To ensure this, and that penalties were lawfully imposed, Benedict says the Holy See would take over investigation of cases if dioceses were “overwhelmed” by the need for a “genuine criminal process.” The possibility for appeal was also provided.

But all of that was “beyond the capacities” of the CDF at the time, leading to delays. “Pope Francis has undertaken further reforms,” Benedict notes.

What Must Be Done
Turning to what needs to be done, Benedict argues that trying to “create another Church” has “already failed” and proceeds to give a catechesis on how the “power of evil arises from our refusal to love God.” [He may be too polite to say so, but isn't his successor trying to put the finishing touches on precisely 'another church' that his fellow Vatican II 'spiritists' had tried so hard to set up in the post-Vatican II years before this pontificate?]

He teaches that a world without God “can only be a world without meaning,” without standards of “good or evil,” where “power is the only principle” and “truth does not count.” A society without God “means the end of freedom,” he continues, and Western society is one where “God is absent” and has “nothing left to offer it.”

“At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course,” Benedict writes. “That is the case with pedophilia. It was theorized only a short time ago as quite legitimate, but it has spread further and further. And now we realize with shock that things are happening to our children and young people that threaten to destroy them. The fact that this could also spread in the Church and among priests ought to disturb us in particular.”

Pedophilia reached such proportions, he says, because of the “absence of God,” and he notes how Christians and priests “prefer not to talk about God” who has “become the private affair of a minority.”

Therefore, the “paramount task” is to once again place God in the “center of our thoughts, words and actions,” he says, to be “renewed and mastered by the faith” rather than be “masters of faith.”

He says the Second Vatican Council “rightly” focused on returning the real presence of Christ to the center of Christian life, but today a “rather different attitude is prevalent,” one that destroys the “greatness of the Mystery.”

This has resulted in declining participation in Sunday Mass, the devaluation of the Eucharist to a “ceremonial gesture,” and the reception of Holy Communion simply as a “matter of course.”

“What is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament,” Benedict says. “In conversations with victims of pedophilia, I have been made acutely aware of this.”

The Indestructible Holy Church
He also observes that the Church today is “widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus,” spoken of in “political categories” as something we must “now take into our own hands and redesign.” But a “self-made Church cannot constitute hope,” he says.

Noting that the Church today is and always has been made up of wheat and weeds, of “evil fish” and “good fish,” he says that to proclaim both “is not a false form of apologetics, but a necessary service to the Truth.”

But the devil is identified in the Book of Revelation as “the accuser who accuses our brothers before God day and night” because he “wants to prove there are no righteous people.” Today, the accusation against God is “above all about disparaging His Church as bad in its entirety and thus dissuading us from it,” he says.

But he stresses that, also today, the Church is “not just made up of bad fish and weeds,” but continues to be the “very instrument” through which God saves us.

“It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth,” Benedict says. “Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible.”

And he recalls the “many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us,” as well as “His witnesses (martyres) in the world.”

“We just have to be vigilant to see and hear them,” he says, adding that an “inertia of the heart” leads us to “not wish to recognize them” — but recognizing them is essential to evangelization, he says.

Benedict closes by thanking Pope Francis “for everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which has not disappeared, even today. Thank you, Holy Father!”

[It is very sad - tragic to me - that Benedict XVI has to abide by these ritualistic head-bowing in the direction of the reigning pope especially when the head-bows are to some things that are rather fictional, and the head-bowing appears to indicate total approval of what his successor says and does.

Yet he bound himself by having volunteered, on February 28, 2013 in his last address to the College of Cardinals, a vow of obedience and respect to the next pope, whoever he might be. But surely such a vow should not mean ignoring the anti-Catholic words and actions of the reigning pope. And unless he leaves behind a memorandum documenting his denunciation of such words and actions to be made public only upon his death or that of Jorge Bergoglio, then history will record him as complicit to the latter. It is certainly not what one expects of someone who until six years ago was widely considered even by his enemies and worst critics to be a potential Doctor of the Church.]

Sex, scandal, the Church, and a general atmosphere of disintegration: That’s the main focus of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s unexpected intervention into today’s unhappy Church politics. Benedict, after contacting Pope Francis, has written a statement on the Church and its sex abuse scandal that he plans to publish in a Bavarian periodical.

The tone of the document is his usual one, that of calm and matter-of-fact statements. Overall, it’s more testimony than analysis, testimony from a man who lived through cultural convulsions and theological betrayals. And it’s a faithful man’s testimony of God’s enduring love.

The Revolution of ’68 has always loomed large in Benedict’s accounts. The events of that fateful year were felt much more acutely in Western Europe than the United States. The war-smashed continent took a deep breath in 1945, and the next fifteen years saw determined efforts to rebuild. The object was not just material reconstruction, but moral and spiritual restoration as well.

Somehow the West succeeded, but at a cost. It took steely resolve to turn back communism in France and Italy. Germany and Austria had Russian divisions on their borders. Everyone felt the ominous threat of nuclear annihilation.

In retrospect, it was not the young people who changed so much in ’68. It was their parents, many of whom had neither the will nor inclination to resist. Perhaps they were spiritually exhausted, first by the civilizational catastrophe of the first half of the twentieth century, and then by the two long decades of painstaking efforts to bring back prosperity, decency, and normal life.

Whatever its causes, Benedict is surely correct. The Revolution of ’68 shattered the prohibitions, inhibitions, and stable norms that are necessary to restrain man’s appetites, and thus contributed to the conditions in which clerical sexual malfeasance and abuse festered. But it is important to realize that ’68 unchained more than just sexual desire.

It unleashed pleonexia. The enduring content of that historical moment was an imperative of release that ministered to a voracious desire for sensual experiences and material consumption.

The social transformations wrought by that imperative are ongoing. They are so powerful that, in the politics of the West, they have fused left and right into a neoliberal consensus that seeks maximal release for the sake of wealth creation (the economic de-regulatory right) and maximal release for the sake of personal fulfillment and self-acceptance (the cultural de-regulatory left). It’s no surprise that the Church was swept up in the imperative of release that flies the false flag of freedom.

Benedict gives ample attention to the ways in which leading moral theologians baptized the imperative of release, recounting the pathetic pledge of Franz Böckle to resist with all his resources the only evil he recognized: the limitation on release that comes with acknowledging the notion of intrinsically evil acts—things that cannot be done. Böckle was typical. To one degree or another, since Vatican II the majority of theologians in the West have shrunk from the implications of the Church’s affirmation of the objectivity of truth.

He provides anecdotes about seminary training in the 1970s and 1980s that indicate that an insouciant dismissal of the Church’s magisterium was not the sole province of moral theologians. A certain “progressive” mentality predominated, and it drove out anything that had the slightest smell of the authority of revelation.

During the pontificate of John Paul II there were entire sectors of the Church in quasi-open rebellion, loyal to the imperative of release rather than the bishop of Rome. To this Benedict adds detailed observations about the inadequacies of the Church’s own legal code that made the official mechanisms for disciplining clerical sexual abuse ineffective. The overall impression: Overwhelmed by the Revolution of ’68, riddled with dissent, and structured by institutional and canonical assumptions ill-suited to present realities, the Catholic Church has become an ungovernable mess. The picture gives one sympathy for the men trying to master her present, grave challenges.

Benedict sees the influence the Revolution of ’68 exercised over the Church. As one of the last survivors of the heroic generation, the men who in the mid-twentieth century reshaped the Church with bold new intellectual projects, culminating in the Second Vatican Council, I wish he would reflect on the ways in which the lines of influence went the other way as well.

There can be little doubt that Vatican II functioned as a triggering mechanism during the explosive 1960s. It signaled to the West that the epitome of unchanging truth was reconsidering, rethinking, reframing—in a word, revising. [I think that in Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI's many analyses of Vatican-II, he more than enough demonstrated - and lamented - the tremendous synergistic effect of the Revolution of '68 and the progressive hermeneutic of Vatican-II on the entire Catholic panorama. A negative super-synergy that resulted in all the major negative consequences that Benedict XVI recounts anew in this essay.]

All of this revising was said to re-express the same, unchanging truths. They were simply being restated with an eye toward greater openness. But of course “openness,” while not a synonym for release, is a close cousin. If the Pope Emeritus wishes to give an adequate account of the historical context for the failure of moral discipline among the clergy, he needs to reckon with the Church’s profound role in the Revolution of ’68, not just her fate in its aftermath. [I disagree that the Church had a profound role in the '68 Revolution - she was very much a victim. The major movers of the '68 Revolution were not in any way 'influenced' by the Church - or even how Vatican II came to be interpreted within the Church - because the '68ers were were primarily Marxist, nihilist and therefore atheistic and anti-religion. It was the 'spirit of Vatican-II' progressivists who used the Revolution of '68 to fuel and justify their ultra-liberal positions and their concomitant 'anything goes' permissiveness in matters of faith (doctrine and liturgy) and of morals (priests leaving the Church in the tens of thousands to get married - an exodus that did not start until after 1968 - while some of their colleagues who stayed behind unleashed their sexuality to abuse minors and children, though this scandal was not apparent at the time).]

This is not just a task for Benedict; it something we all need to undertake. As he warns, we can’t escape our problems by creating another Church. I’d add: We can’t escape by pretending we live in another era, one undefiled by ’68 and the imperative of release. As we seek the way of faithfulness in the twenty-first century, we need to keep our eyes on Christ, as Benedict rightly reminds us. But we also need to take the full measure of the twentieth century, and do so while keeping in mind that the Church was an agent in those tumultuous decades as much as it was a victim. [The 'Church' became an agent insofar as her internal degradation due to Vatican-II progressivism reflected the top-to-bottom moral and cultural corrosion brought about by the Cultural Revolution, in effect, making common cause with it.]

Former Pope Benedict blames Church’s
sex scandals partly on the ‘60s

By Sohrab Ahmari
Op-Ed Editor

April 10, 2019

When Pope Benedict XVI resigned the papacy in 2013, he vowed to live the rest of his days in seclusion, to serve the Catholic Church “through a life dedicated to prayer.” But the church’s spiraling abuse crisis prompted him this week to ­return to the limelight.

The retired pontiff has drafted a 6,000-word document in his native German and aims to publish it in a monthly periodical for clergy in his home region of Bavaria. Benedict says the document, an English translation of which I’ve reviewed, is meant to assist the Church in seeking “a new beginning” and making her “again truly credible as a light among peoples and as a force in service against the powers of ­destruction.”

In the preface, he makes it clear that he is “no longer directly responsible” for the church and that he consulted Pope Francis before ­resolving to make the document public.

Nevertheless, Benedict’s “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse” has the unmistakable ring of a papal document. You might even call it a post-retirement encyclical.

It’s written with his signature precision and clarity of insight and offers a piercing account of the origins of the crisis and a ­vision of the way forward.

The church’s still-radiating crisis, Benedict suggests, was a product of the moral laxity that swept the West, and not just the church, in the 1960s. The young rebels of 1968, Benedict writes, fought for “all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.”

Benedict adds: “Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of 1968 was that pedophilia was now also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.” This might strike contemporary readers as puzzling. But those who lived through that wretched decade will remember that some of the leading ’68ers also advocated “anti-authoritarian education,” which involved some pretty ­unsavory interactions between adults and children. Hippie communes weren’t child-friendly places, either.

“I have always wondered how young people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications,” Benedict writes. “The extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were consequence of all these processes.”

The church, in other words, was no more immune to the disorders of that decade and its aftermath than the rest of society.

How come? Benedict blames clerics and theologians who, in the ­aftermath of Vatican II, abandoned natural law — the notion that morality is written into ­human nature itself and can therefore be grasped by human reason — in favor of a more “pragmatic” ­morality.

Under the new dispensation, “there could no longer be anything that constituted an ­absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; there could only be relative moral judgments.”

The real world result was that “in various seminaries, homosexual clubs were established, which more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in seminaries.”

The new morality also encouraged a “critical or negative attitude toward hitherto existing tradition,” he writes, in favor of a “new, radically open relationship with the world.”

For one bishop, the German pontiff says, that meant going so far as screening porn for seminarians. In many seminaries, meanwhile, students caught reading his own books, written while he was still a cardinal and known for their doctrinal rigor, would be “considered unsuitable for the priesthood.”

The looseness of those years also affected how the church ­handled cases of abusive priests, who we now know targeted mostly boys and young men. In church proceedings, “the rights of the accused had to be guaranteed” above all else, “to an extent that factually excluded any conviction at all.”

Such absolutism in defense of the accused was ­incorrectly seen as a “conciliar” requirement — anything less was a betrayal of Vatican II. Hence the cover-ups and shuffling around of abusive priests.

It’s impossible to miss Benedict’s bitterness toward what he sees as distortions of Vatican II, a council he helped shape as a young theologian.

So what is to be done now? Benedict recommends reforming church law, to give as much emphasis to protecting the faithful, not least the faith of ordinary Catholics, as to safeguarding the procedural rights of accused priests. But no amount of procedural reform, the pope notes, can substitute for the recovering Catholicism’s absolute moral standards. “Why did pedophilia reach such proportions?” he asks. “Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”

Yet he ends on an optimistic note: “Yes, there is sin in the church and evil. But even today there is the holy church, which is indestructible.” Amen.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/11/2019 4:31 PM]
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CNA presented the full text fof Benedict XVI's essay in an English translation by Anian Christoph Wimmer..

The Church and the scandal of sexual abuse
Emeritus Pope

Translated from KLERUSBLATT
by Anian Christoph Wimmer

On February 21 to 24, at the invitation of Pope Francis, the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences gathered at the Vatican to discuss the current crisis of the faith and of the Church; a crisis experienced throughout the world after shocking revelations of clerical abuse perpetrated against minors.

The extent and gravity of the reported incidents has deeply distressed priests as well as laity, and has caused more than a few to call into question the very Faith of the Church. It was necessary to send out a strong message, and seek out a new beginning, so to make the Church again truly credible as a light among peoples and as a force in service against the powers of destruction.

Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as shepherd of the Church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, and during the run-up to it, I had to ask myself – even though, as emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible – what I could contribute to a new beginning.

Thus, after the meeting of the presidents of the bishops’ conferences was announced, I compiled some notes by which I might contribute one or two remarks to assist in this difficult hour.

Having contacted the Secretary of State, Cardinal [Pietro] Parolin and the Holy Father [Pope Francis] himself, it seemed appropriate to publish this text in the Klerusblatt [a monthly periodical for clergy in mostly Bavarian dioceses].

My work is divided into three parts.

In the first part, I aim to present briefly the wider social context of the question, without which the problem cannot be understood. I try to show that in the 1960s an egregious event occurred, on a scale unprecedented in history. It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose that has by now been the subject of laborious attempts at disruption.

In the second part, I aim to point out the effects of this situation on the formation of priests and on the lives of priests.

Finally, in the third part, I would like to develop some perspectives for a proper response on the part of the Church.

(1) The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality. In Germany, the then-Minister of Health, Ms. (Käte) Strobel, had a film made in which everything that had previously not been allowed to be shown publicly, including sexual intercourse, was now shown for the purpose of education. What at first was only intended for the sexual education of young people consequently was widely accepted as a feasible option.

Similar effects were achieved by the “Sexkoffer” published by the Austrian government [A controversial ‘suitcase’ of sex education materials used in Austrian schools in the late 1980s]. Sexual and pornographic movies then became a common occurrence, to the point that they were screened at newsreel theaters [Bahnhofskinos].

I still remember seeing, as I was walking through the city of Regensburg one day, crowds of people lining up in front of a large cinema, something we had previously only seen in times of war, when some special allocation was to be hoped for. I also remember arriving in the city on Good Friday in the year 1970 and seeing all the billboards plastered up with a large poster of two completely naked people in a close embrace.

Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.

The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers. And since the clothing of that time equally provoked aggression, school principals also made attempts at introducing school uniforms with a view to facilitating a climate of learning. Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.

For the young people in the Church, but not only for them, this was in many ways a very difficult time. I have always wondered how young people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications. The extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were a consequence of all these developments.

(2) At the same time, independently of this development, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered the Church defenseless against these changes in society. I will try to outline briefly the trajectory of this development.

Until the Second Vatican Council, Catholic moral theology was largely founded on natural law, while Sacred Scripture was only cited for background or substantiation. In the Council’s struggle for a new understanding of Revelation, the natural law option was largely abandoned, and a moral theology based entirely on the Bible was demanded.

I still remember how the Jesuit faculty in Frankfurt trained a highly gifted young Father (Bruno Schüller) with the purpose of developing a morality based entirely on Scripture. Father Schüller’s beautiful dissertation shows a first step towards building a morality based on Scripture. Father Schüller was then sent to America for further studies and came back with the realization that from the Bible alone, morality could not be expressed systematically. He then attempted a more pragmatic moral theology, without being able to provide an answer to the crisis of morality.

In the end, it was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed. While the old phrase “the end justifies the means” was not confirmed in this crude form, its way of thinking had become definitive. Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; (there could be) only relative value judgments. There no longer was the (absolute) good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.

The crisis of the justification and presentation of Catholic morality reached dramatic proportions in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. On January 5, 1989, the “Cologne Declaration”, signed by 15 Catholic professors of theology, was published. It focused on various crisis points in the relationship between the episcopal magisterium and the task of theology.

(Reactions to) this text, which at first did not extend beyond the usual level of protests, very rapidly grew into an outcry against the Magisterium of the Church and mustered, audibly and visibly, the global protest potential against the expected doctrinal texts of John Paul II (cf. D. Mieth, Kölner Erklärung, LThK, VI3, p. 196) [LTHK is the Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, a German-language "Lexicon of Theology and the Church”, whose editors included Karl Rahner and Cardinal Walter Kasper.]

Pope John Paul II, who knew very well the situation of moral theology and followed it closely, commissioned work on an encyclical that would set these things right again. It was published under the title Veritatis splendor on August 6, 1993, and it triggered vehement backlashes on the part of moral theologians. Before it, the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” already had persuasively presented, in a systematic fashion, morality as proclaimed by the Church.

I shall never forget how then-leading German moral theologian Franz Böckle, who, having returned to his native Switzerland after his retirement, announced in view of the possible decisions of the encyclical Veritatis splendor that if the encyclical should determine that there were actions which were always and under all circumstances to be classified as evil, he would challenge it with all the resources at his disposal.

It was God, the Merciful, that spared him from having to put his resolution into practice; Böckle died on July 8, 1991. The encyclical was published on August 6, 1993, and did indeed include the determination that there were actions that can never become good.
The pope was fully aware of the importance of this decision at that moment and for this part of his text, he had once again consulted leading specialists who did not take part in the editing of the encyclical. He knew that he must leave no doubt about the fact that the moral calculus involved in balancing goods must respect a final limit.

There are goods that are never subject to trade-offs. There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value and even surpass the preservation of physical life. There is martyrdom. God is (about) more than mere physical survival. A life that would be bought by the denial of God, a life that is based on a final lie, is a non-life.

Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence. The fact that martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the theory advocated by Böckle and many others shows that the very essence of Christianity is at stake here.

In moral theology, however, another question had meanwhile become pressing: The hypothesis that the Magisterium of the Church should have final competence (infallibility) only in matters concerning the faith itself gained widespread acceptance; (in this view) questions concerning morality should not fall within the scope of infallible decisions of the Magisterium of the Church.

There is probably something right about this hypothesis that warrants further discussion. But there is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim to concrete life.

All this makes apparent just how fundamentally the authority of the Church in matters of morality is called into question. Those who deny the Church a final teaching competence in this area force her to remain silent precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake.

Independently of this question, in many circles of moral theology, the hypothesis was expounded that the Church does not and cannot have her own morality. The argument being that all moral hypotheses would also know parallels in other religions, and therefore a Christian property of morality could not exist. But the question of the unique nature of a biblical morality is not answered by the fact that for every single sentence somewhere, a parallel can also be found in other religions. Rather, it is about the whole of biblical morality, which as such is new and different from its individual parts.

The moral doctrine of Holy Scripture has its uniqueness ultimately predicated in its cleaving to the image of God, in faith in the one God who showed himself in Jesus Christ and who lived as a human being. The Decalogue is an application of the biblical faith in God to human life. The image of God and morality belong together and thus result in the particular change of the Christian attitude towards the world and human life. Moreover, Christianity has been described from the beginning with the word hodós (Greek for a road, in the New Testament often used in the sense of a path of progress).

Faith is a journey and a way of life. In the old Church, the catechumenate was created as a habitat against an increasingly demoralized culture, in which the distinctive and fresh aspects of the Christian way of life were practiced and at the same time protected from the common way of life. I think that even today something like catechumenal communities are necessary so that Christian life can assert itself in its own way.

Initial Ecclesial Reactions
(1) The long-prepared and ongoing process of dissolution of the Christian concept of morality was, as I have tried to show, marked by an unprecedented radicalism in the 1960s. This dissolution of the moral teaching authority of the Church necessarily had to have an effect on the diverse areas of the Church.

In the context of the meeting of the presidents of the episcopal conferences from all over the world with Pope Francis, the question of priestly life, as well as that of seminaries, is of particular interest. As regards the problem of preparation for priestly ministry in seminaries, there is in fact a far-reaching breakdown of the previous form of this preparation.

In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries. In one seminary in southern Germany, candidates for the priesthood and candidates for the lay ministry of the pastoral specialist (Pastoralreferent) lived together. At the common meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and on occasion by their girlfriends. The climate in this seminary could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely. As a first step, an Apostolic Visitation was arranged of seminaries in the United States.

As the criteria for the selection and appointment of bishops had also been changed after the Second Vatican Council, the relationship of bishops to their seminaries was very different, too. Above all, a criterion for the appointment of new bishops was now their “conciliarity,” which of course could be understood to mean rather different things.

Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the hitherto existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new, radically open relationship with the world.

One bishop, who had previously been seminary rector, had arranged for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith.

There were — not only in the United States of America — individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern “Catholicity” in their dioceses. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk.

The Visitation that now took place brought no new insights, apparently because various powers had joined forces to conceal the true situation. A second Visitation was ordered and brought considerably more insights, but on the whole failed to achieve any outcomes. Nonetheless, since the 1970s the situation in seminaries has generally improved. And yet, only isolated cases of a new strengthening of priestly vocations came about as the overall situation had taken a different turn.

(2) The question of pedophilia, as I recall, did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s. In the meantime, it had already become a public issue in the U.S., such that the bishops in Rome sought help, since canon law, as it is written in the new (1983) Code, did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures.

Rome and the Roman canonists at first had difficulty with these concerns; in their opinion the temporary suspension from priestly office had to be sufficient to bring about purification and clarification. This could not be accepted by the American bishops, because the priests thus remained in the service of the bishop, and thereby could be taken to be (still) directly associated with him. Only slowly, a renewal and deepening of the deliberately loosely constructed criminal law of the new Code began to take shape.

In addition, however, there was a fundamental problem in the perception of criminal law. Only so-called guarantorism (a kind of procedural protectionism), was still regarded as “conciliar.” This means that above all the rights of the accused had to be guaranteed, to an extent that factually excluded any conviction at all. As a counterweight against the often-inadequate defense options available to accused theologians, their right to defense by way of guarantorism was extended to such an extent that convictions were hardly possible.

Allow me a brief excursus at this point. In light of the scale of pedophilic misconduct, a word of Jesus has again come to attention which says: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42).

The phrase “the little ones” in the language of Jesus means the common believers who can be confounded in their faith by the intellectual arrogance of those who think they are clever. So here Jesus protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment to those who do it harm.

The modern use of the sentence is not in itself wrong, but it must not obscure the original meaning. In that meaning, it becomes clear, contrary to any guarantorism, that it is not only the right of the accused that is important and requires a guarantee. Great goods such as the Faith are equally important.

A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus’s message must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith, which is also an important legal asset. A properly formed canon law must therefore contain a double guarantee — legal protection of the accused, legal protection of the good at stake.

If today one puts forward this inherently clear conception, one generally falls on deaf ears when it comes to the question of the protection of the Faith as a legal good. In the general awareness of the law, the Faith no longer appears to have the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the Church.

I would now like to add, to the brief notes on the situation of priestly formation at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, a few remarks regarding the development of canon law in this matter.

In principle, the Congregation of the Clergy is responsible for dealing with crimes committed by priests. But since guarantorism dominated the situation to a large extent at the time, I agreed with Pope John Paul II that it was appropriate to assign the competence for these offences to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the title Delicta maiora contra fidem [major rimes against the faith].

This arrangement also made it possible to impose the maximum penalty, i.e., expulsion from the clergy, which could not have been imposed under other legal provisions. This was not a trick to be able to impose the maximum penalty, but is a consequence of the importance of the Faith for the Church. In fact, it is important to see that such misconduct by clerics ultimately damages the Faith.

Only where faith no longer determines the actions of man are such offenses possible. The severity of the punishment, however, also presupposes a clear proof of the offense — this aspect of guarantorism remains in force.

In other words, in order to impose the maximum penalty lawfully, a genuine criminal process is required. But both the dioceses and the Holy See were overwhelmed by such a requirement. We therefore formulated a minimum level of criminal proceedings and left open the possibility that the Holy See itself would take over the trial where the diocese or the metropolitan administration is unable to do so. In each case, the trial would have to be reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in order to guarantee the rights of the accused. Finally, in the Feria IV (i.e., the assembly of the members of the Congregation), we established an appeal instance in order to provide for the possibility of an appeal.

Because all of this actually went beyond the capacities of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and because delays arose which had to be prevented owing to the nature of the matter, Pope Francis has undertaken further reforms.

(1) What must be done? Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed. Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way. So let us first try to understand anew and from within (ourselves) what the Lord wants, and has wanted with us.

First, I would suggest the following: If we really wanted to summarize very briefly the content of the Faith as laid down in the Bible, we might do so by saying that the Lord has initiated a narrative of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil.

The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.

Let us now try to unpack this essential content of God’s revelation a little more. We might then say that the first fundamental gift that Faith offers us is the certainty that God exists.

A world without God can only be a world without meaning. For where, then, does everything that is come from? In any case, it has no spiritual purpose. It is somehow simply there and has neither any goal nor any sense. Then there are no standards of good or evil. Then only what is stronger than the other can assert itself. Power is then the only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist. Only if things have a spiritual reason, are intended and conceived — only if there is a Creator God who is good and wants the good — can the life of man also have meaning.

That there is God as creator and as the measure of all things is first and foremost a primordial need. But a God who would not express Himself at all, who would not make Himself known, would remain a presumption and could thus not determine the form (Gestalt) of our life.

For God to be really God in this deliberate creation, we must look to Him to express Himself in some way. He has done so in many ways, but decisively in the call that went to Abraham whch has given people in search of God the orientation that leads beyond all expectation: God Himself becomes creature, speaks as man with us human beings.

In this way the sentence “God is” ultimately turns into a truly joyous message, precisely because He is more than understanding, because He creates – and is – love. To once more make people aware of this is the first and fundamental task entrusted to us by the Lord.

A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure. In our day, the catchphrase of God’s death was coined. When God does die in a society, it becomes free, we were assured.

In reality, the death of God in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the purpose that provides orientation. And because the compass disappears that points us in the right direction by teaching us to distinguish good from evil.

Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course.

That is the case with pedophilia. It was theorized only a short time ago as quite legitimate, but it has spread further and further. And now we realize with shock that things are happening to our children and young people that threaten to destroy them. The fact that this could also spread in the Church and among priests ought to disturb us in particular.

Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God. We Christians and priests also prefer not to talk about God, because this speech does not seem to be practical. After the upheaval of the Second World War, we in Germany had still expressly placed our Constitution under the responsibility to God as a guiding principle. Half a century later, it was no longer possible to include responsibility to God as a guiding principle in the European constitution. God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a whole. This decision reflects the situation in the West, where God has become the private affair of a minority.

A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase. I will never forget the warning that the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote to me on one of his letter cards. “Do not presuppose the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but present them!”

Indeed, in theology God is often taken for granted as a matter of course, but concretely one does not deal with Him. The theme of God seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us. And yet everything becomes different if one does not presuppose but present God. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as the center of our thoughts, words and actions.

(2) God became man for us. Man as His creature is so close to His heart that He has united himself with him and has thus entered human history in a very practical way. He speaks with us, He lives with us, He suffers with us and He took death upon Himself for us. We talk about this in detail in theology, with learned words and thoughts. But it is precisely in this way that we run the risk of becoming masters of faith instead of being renewed and mastered by the Faith.

Let us consider this with regard to a central issue, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern. The Second Vatican Council was rightly focused on returning this sacrament of the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the Presence of His Person, of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, to the center of Christian life and the very existence of the Church. In part, this really has come about, and we should be most grateful to the Lord for it.

And yet a rather different attitude is prevalent. What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ’s death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery. The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.

The way people often simply receive the Holy Sacrament in communion as a matter of course shows that many see communion as a purely ceremonial gesture. Therefore, when thinking about what action is required first and foremost, it is rather obvious that we do not need another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.

In conversations with victims of pedophilia, I have been made acutely aware of this first and foremost requirement. A young woman who was a (former) altar server told me that the chaplain, her superior as an altar server, always introduced the sexual abuse he was committing against her with the words: “This is my body which will be given up for you.”

It is obvious that this woman can no longer hear the very words of consecration without experiencing again all the horrific distress of her abuse. Yes, we must urgently implore the Lord for forgiveness, and first and foremost we must swear by Him and ask Him to teach us all anew to understand the greatness of His suffering, His sacrifice. And we must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.

(3) And finally, there is the Mystery of the Church. The sentence with which Romano Guardini, almost 100 years ago, expressed the joyful hope that was instilled in him and many others, remains unforgotten: “An event of incalculable importance has begun; the Church is awakening in souls.”

He meant to say that no longer was the Church experienced and perceived as merely an external system entering our lives, as a kind of authority, but rather it began to be perceived as being present within people’s hearts — as something not merely external, but internally moving us. About half a century later, in reconsidering this process and looking at what had been happening, I felt tempted to reverse the sentence: “The Church is dying in souls.”

Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their conception of the church of tomorrow almost exclusively in political terms. The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope.

Jesus Himself compared the Church to a fishing net in which good and bad fish are ultimately separated by God Himself. There is also the parable of the Church as a field on which the good grain that God Himself has sown grows, but also the weeds that “an enemy” secretly sown onto it.

Indeed, the weeds in God’s field, the Church, are excessively visible, and the evil fish in the net also show their strength. Nevertheless, the field is still God’s field and the net is God’s fishing net. And at all times, there are not only the weeds and the evil fish, but also the crops of God and the good fish. To proclaim both with emphasis is not a false form of apologetics, but a necessary service to the Truth.

In this context it is necessary to refer to an important text in the Revelation of St. John. The devil is identified as the accuser who accuses our brothers before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). St. John’s Apocalypse thus takes up a thought from the center of the framing narrative in the Book of Job (Job 1 and 2, 10; 42:7-16). In that book, the devil sought to talk down the righteousness of Job before God as being merely external. And exactly this is what the Apocalypse has to say: The devil wants to prove that there are no righteous people; that all righteousness of people is only displayed on the outside. If one could hew closer to a person, then the appearance of his justice would quickly fall away.

The narrative in Job begins with a dispute between God and the devil, in which God had referred to Job as a truly righteous man. He is now to be used as an example to test who is right. Take away his possessions and you will see that nothing remains of his piety, the devil argues. God allows him this attempt, from which Job emerges positively. Now the devil pushes on and he says: “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (Job 2:4f)

God grants the devil a second turn. He may also touch the skin of Job. Only killing Job is denied to him. For Christians it is clear that this Job, who stands before God as an example for all mankind, is Jesus Christ. In St. John’s Apocalypse the drama of humanity is presented to us in all its breadth.

The Creator God is confronted with the devil who speaks ill of all mankind and all creation. He says, not only to God but above all to people: Look at what this God has done. Supposedly a good creation, but in reality full of misery and disgust. That disparagement of creation is really a disparagement of God. It wants to prove that God Himself is not good, and thus to turn us away from Him.

The timeliness of what the Apocalypse is telling us here is obvious. Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us.

It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them.

The word martyr is taken from procedural law. In the trial against the devil, Jesus Christ is the first and actual witness for God, the first martyr, who has since been followed by countless others.

Today’s Church is more than ever a “Church of the Martyrs” and thus a witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering. It is an inertia of the heart that leads us to not wish to recognize them. One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them.

I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.

At the end of my reflections I would like to thank Pope Francis for everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which has not disappeared, even today. Thank you, Holy Father!

Forgive me, Your Holiness, but I really find this last sentence gratuitous and completely unnecessary - unless you meant to be ironic, if not directly sarcastic - especially in the light of your criticisms in the body of the essay about the Church today being perceived as no more than a political apparatus, and against creating 'a new church' in response to the abuse crisis. That last sentence could have been omitted totally because it really has nothing to do with your arguments.

If your successor 'shows the light of God' at all, it is because he has to appear to be doing so - occasionally, not again and again - just because he happens to be pope. And yet 'the light of God' is certainly absent from all of his questionable statements and actions.

With that unnecessary last sentence, you have just given all your detractors - who will certainly not read it as irony - all the ammunition they will ever need to defame you indefinitely, not just for having made the Bergoglio pontificate possible with your resignation, but for being really one with him in spirit.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/11/2019 5:34 PM]
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I googled the President of South Sudan right away to check if he had done anything or had anything done to him to merit such a papal obeisance, which this pope does not even render to the Body and Blood of our Lord during the solemn act of Consecration at Mass. If anyone finds something, please let me know, because I didn’t.

This story comes just a few days after Fr Hunwicke chose to excuse Jorge Bergoglio for this habitual omission at Consecration (also habitually omitted at any papal liturgy honoring the Blessed Sacrament). On the grounds that the pope may have a valid physical reason for not doing so because he himself, Fr.H, though 10 years younger than the pope, only approximates a genuflection at Consecration (he bends his knee as if to genuflect but does not lower his body all the way down so that the knee touches the floor) because of age-related impairment.

But PF does not even do that, as we saw in the close-up Consecration sequence filmed when he said Mass recently at the Holy House of Loreto. In the past, CTV cameras carefully panned away to the congregation or something else to avoid showing the pope not genuflecting at Consecration.

Strangely, however, Fr H appears to have forgotten that for the past six years since he became pope (and probably several more years before that when he was in Argentina), Jorge Bergoglio has had no apparent difficulty whatsoever in kneeling down 12 times in succession to wash, dry and kiss the feet of whoever his chosen objects of token service are for the day.

Maybe he does not believe in the Real Presence at Consecration and at Benediction and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, because why else would he kneel in front of living persons and but not for the Eucharist? [Incidentally, here is one major reason why the traditional Mass is anathema to Jorge Bergoglio: How could he possibly carry out all the kneeling and bowing to the unseen Lord in the tabernacle and to the consecrated Bread and Wine that is called for while celebrating the usus antiquior?]

And no, the President of South Sudan is not a nonagenarian Italian priest who has spent his life advocating for homosexuals and their lifestyle, as someone whose ring and hand Bergoglio bent to kiss in veneration after a Mass concelebrated at the Casa Santa Marta chapel.

One could well remark that at least PF is not being a hypocrite in consistently failing to reverence the Eucharist as priests are expected to do, but we cannot argue that because he also consistently kneels at will to reverence some humans. So why not the Eucharist? Maybe this is explained in one of those 11 booklets on Jorge Bergoglio's theology that Mons. Dario Vigano sought in vain to have Benedict XVI endorse?

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/20/2019 7:16 AM]
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Benedict’s powerful message —
and the bid to suppress it

By Phil Lawler

April 11, 2019

After six years of public silence, broken only by a few mild personal comments, Pope-emeritus Benedict has spoken out dramatically, with a 6,000-word essay on sexual abuse that has been described as a sort of post-papal encyclical. Clearly the retired Pontiff felt compelled to write: to say things that were not being said. Benedict thought the subject was too important to allow for his continued silence.

Vatican communications officials thought differently, it seems. Benedict’s essay became public on Wednesday night, but on Thursday morning there was no mention of the extraordinary statement in the Vatican’s news outlets. (Later in the day the Vatican News service issued a report summarizing Benedict’s essay; it appeared “below the fold” on the Vatican News web page, below a headline story on relief efforts for cyclone victims in Mozambique.)

For that matter it is noteworthy that the former Pope’s statement was not published by a Vatican outlet in the first place; it first appeared in the German Klerusblatt and the Italian secular newspaper Corriere della Sera, along with English translations by the Catholic News Agency and National Catholic Register.

Benedict reports that he consulted with Pope Francis before publishing the essay. He does not say that the current Pope encouraged his writing, and it is difficult to imagine that Pope Francis was enthusiastic about his predecessor’s work on this issue.

The two Popes, past and present, are miles apart in their analysis of the sex-abuse scandal. Nowhere does Benedict mention the “clericalism” that Pope Francis has cited as the root cause of the problem, and rarely has Pope Francis mentioned the moral breakdown that Benedict blames for the scandal.

The silence of the official Vatican media is a clear indication that Benedict’s essay has not found a warm welcome at the St. Martha residence. Even more revealing is the frantic reaction of the Pope’s most ardent supporters, who have flooded the internet with their embarrassed protests, their complaints that Benedict is sadly mistaken when he suggests that the social and ecclesiastical uproar of the 1960s gave rise to the epidemic of abuse.

Those protests against Benedict — the mock-sorrowful sighs that we all know sexual abuse is not a function of rampant sexual immorality — should be seen as signals to the secular media. And secular outlets, sympathetic to the causes of the sexual revolution, will duly carry the message that Benedict is out of touch, that his thesis has already been disproven.

But facts, as John Adams observed, are stubborn things. And the facts testify unambiguously in Benedict’s favor. Something happened in the 1960s and thereafter to precipitate a rash of clerical abuse. Yes, the problem had arisen in the past. But every responsible survey has shown a stunning spike in clerical abuse, occurring just after the tumult that Benedict describes in his essay.

Granted, the former Pontiff has not proven, with apodictic certainty, that the collapse of Catholic moral teaching led to clerical abuse. But to dismiss his thesis airily, as if it had been tested and rejected, is downright dishonest.

Facts are facts, no matter who proclaims them. The abuse crisis did arise in the muddled aftermath of Vatican II. Benedict puts forward a theory to explain why that happened. His theory is not congenial to the ideas of liberal Catholic intellectuals, but that fact does not excuse their attempt to suppress a discussion, to deny basic realities. (Come to think of it, this is not the first time that the public defenders of Pope Francis have encouraged the public to ignore facts, to entertain the possibility that 2+2=5.)

That message — the message of Pope-emeritus Benedict — is a striking departure from the messages that have been issued by so many Church leaders. The former Pope does not write about “policies and procedures;” he does not suggest a technical or legalistic solution to a moral problem. On the contrary he insists that we focus our attention entirely on that moral problem and then move on to a solution which must also, necessarily, be found in the moral realm.

As background for his message, Benedict recalls the 1960s, when “an egregious event occurred, on a scale unprecedented in history.” He writes about the breakdown in public morality, which was unfortunately accompanied by the “dissolution of the moral teaching authority of the Church.” This combination of events left the Church largely defenseless, he says.

In an unsparing analysis, Benedict writes of the problems in priestly formation, as “homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in seminaries.” He acknowledges that a visitation of American seminaries produced no major improvements. He charges that some bishops “rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole.”

He sees the turmoil as a fundamental challenge to the essence of the faith, observing that if there are no absolute truths — no eternal verities for which one might willingly give one’s life — then the concept of Christian martyrdom seems absurd. He writes: “The fact that martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the theory advocated [by liberal Catholic theologians] shows that the very essence of Christianity is at stake here.”

“A world without God can only be a world without meaning,” Benedict warns. “Power is then the only principle.” In such a world, how can society guard against those who use their powers over others for self-gratification? “Why did pedophilia reach such proportions?” Benedict asks. He answers: “Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”

It is by restoring the presence of God, then, that Benedict suggests the Church must respond to this unprecedented crisis. He connects the breakdown in morality with a lack of reverence in worship, “a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery.” Mourning the grotesque ways in which predatory priests have blasphemed the Blessed Sacrament, he writes that “we must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.”

In short Pope-emeritus Benedict draws the connection between the lack of reverence for God and the lack of appreciation for human dignity—between the abuse of liturgy and the abuse of children. Faithful Catholics should recognize the logic and force of that message. And indeed Benedict voices his confidence that the most loyal sons and daughters of the Church will work are already working — toward the renewal he awaits:

If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering.

Still the renewal will not come easily; it will entail suffering. For Benedict, that suffering will include the waves of hostility that his essay has provoked, the dismissive attitude of much lesser theologians, the campaign to write him off as an elderly crank.

No doubt the former Pope anticipated the opposition that his essay would encounter. He chose to “send out a strong message” anyway, because suffering for the truth is a powerful form of Christian witness.

Benedict’s analysis:
What impressed me most

by Jeff Mirus

April 11, 2019

There are several things which I found particularly intriguing about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s analysis of the roots of the contemporary Church’s problem with clerical sexual abuse. And there is one thing that I found most impressive going forward.

First, it was both intriguing and gratifying to me that Benedict locates the particular cultural roots of the abuse problem in the massive cultural shift of the 1960s. That’s gratifying because I have long argued that the crisis in the Church that exploded in the second half of the twentieth century was primarily the result of the collision of a Church in intense need of interior renewal prior to that period with an enormous historical-cultural circumstance —namely, that the long slow secularization of Western culture finally reached the point, in the period following World War II, when that culture no longer recognized the reasons for the public moral restraint which had mostly characterized the West in the past.

The result was that in the matter of a few years — the 1960s — the sexual taboos were swept away, not in terms of private avoidance, which had long since generally disappeared, but in terms of a vanishing public “respectability”. This was a game-changer for a Church that was thoroughly entwined among the respectable institutions of the West and far too dependent on the surrounding dominant culture for its public posture of righteousness.

The result was that when this massive public cultural shift occurred, bishops and priests very often simply continued to follow the dominant culture from which they tended to take their cues. It is precisely this analysis, for example, which explains why Modernism was frequently underground in Catholic universities in the first half of the twentieth century, only to burst into brazen dominance almost overnight.

Second, I found it very intriguing to see how much Pope Benedict knew about the problems in the Church. Sometimes faithful priests and laity wondered whether Rome really knew how bad things were, say, in the 1970s and 1980s, considering how little public acknowledgement and public discipline there was.

The tip-off for me was the Pope Emeritus’s admission that the first American seminary visitation was pretty much a failure because so much had been hidden (even though things did get better over time partly as a result).

He also remembered key details, such as that “one bishop, who had previously been seminary rector, had arranged for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith”. This was Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan — who was, almost inconceivably, appointed over the well-justified opposition of faithful laity.

The third thing that intrigued me was a matter about which I was almost completely ignorant. Pope Emeritus Benedict discusses the inadequacy of the 1983 Code of Canon Law when it came to the ability to investigate, judge and impose significant ecclesiastical sanctions on wayward priests. It was partly this that led to Pope John Paul II’s decision to put the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in charge of the investigation of clerical abuse, for apparently only violations under the authority of the CDF could, as a matter of normal course, result in expulsion from the priesthood.

Various revisions to the Code have been made since that time, but it is pretty obvious that the Church’s codified judicial processes can still be difficult to use effectively in at least some situations. The portions of Benedict’s analysis which touch on Canon Law are very interesting indeed.

What impressed me most, however, is what has always impressed me most about Pope Benedict and, indeed, Cardinal Ratzinger as was — namely, his wonderful spiritual depth. Pope Emeritus Benedict knows that the root crisis, not only for clerical abuse but for the entire problem of Catholic secularization, is the profound absence of God in the minds and hearts of far too may Catholics. He explores this problem in theology, in liturgy, even in the spiritual life, and he has much to say about it. But put generally, the main point is this:

A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase.

The entire text of The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse is fairly brief, only about five times the length of one of my own typical commentaries, or about seven to eight times as long as this brief introduction. Everyone should read it, not for anger and recrimination, but for greater understanding and spiritual growth.

Other than the 'headline' that not surprisingly made of it, I am happy to note I seem to be the only one who has cavilled at the final sentence in Benedict XVI's essay, other than a 'headline' in Mine is out of an excess of concern that, as I daily pray, Joseph Ratzinger may be spared further unnecessary controversy subjecting him to more than the opprobrium he already gets from outspoken orthodox Catholics who blame him for Bergoglio.

It seems one can classify the reactions to his essay broadly into four groups:
1) those who approve of the entire essay unconditionally such as the two commentators above of [and those who might be called Ratzingerian among Italian Vaticanistas today - Antonio Socci, Marco Tosatti, Aldo Maria Valli and Riccardo Cascioli, whose eactions I have yet to translate]
2) those who approve partly, but fault Benedict for being 'incomplete' in many ways (e.g., Carl Olson of Catholic World Report) chiefly by failing to address specific issues such as homosexuality in the clergy and how to deal with bishops who condone and/or cover up clerical sex abuse. Yet B16 himself describes his essay as 'notes' he made in the wake of the February 2019 Vatican summit, which was supposed to deal with those specific issues but did not. B16's notes, though far more organized and coherent than even his successor's formal documents, are far from constituting a post-papal 'encyclical' - which would necessarily be far more encompassing - as some admirers have described it. More importantly, he studiously avoids giving the impression that he still has anything to do with the governance of the Church as he would if he made any 'practical' recommendations on specific issues.
3) those who claim it says nothing new nor adds anything to the discussion (e.g., Steve Skojec of 1Peter5), namely, those who have also dismissed Benedict XVI as totally worthless and irredeemable, because 'it is unforgivable' that any pope should resign [Would they say that if Jorge Bergoglio ever resigned???] consigning him to a circle of Dante's Hell for having resigned and made it possible for Bergoglio to be pope, and
4) the Bergoglio courtiers who would never find anything good to say anyway about any pope but Bergoglio (and his forerunner, Paul VI).

P.S. And then there's someone like Michael Matt, editor of The Remnant - one of those 'traditionalists' who consider Benedict's resignation as 'disastrous' and will forever hold that against him - but who does find 'some merit' in the former Pope's April 11 'notes' and does not seem to share the anti-Benedict progressivist view - which is really preposterous - that the Emeritus Pope has no business writing anything like this at all because he is being divisive and setting himself against the reigning pope.

So, you see, Benedict's to-me-very-problematic last sentence in the article was something they decided to ignore either because they recognize it as irony, or saw it as mere window dressing to hide the criticisms of his successor implied by much of the truths of the faith Benedict reiterates here, as he has always done throughout his life in the Church.

Moreover, just because he resigned as Pope does not deprive him of his Canon 212, Section 3 right and duty to speak out when the faith is threatened, something he manages to do in this article without having to go ad hominem, literally, if only because he does not have to, since everyone, friend or foe, knows exactly what applies to those positions fervently held in this pontificate.

Benedict XVI speaks
(Despite the wolves)

by Michael J. Matt

April 12, 2019

Benedict XVI’s April letter on the crisis in the Church is not easily critiqued or, indeed, categorized. First of all, he’s not the pope, and so it's natural for one to wonder what the point of the exercise actually was. [The point of the 'exercise' is to reiterate to the faithful that the Church as a whole, in its visible components from the pope down, needs to return to God and put him once more in the center of our lives, not as a mere token one refers to once in a while to lend a semblance of righteousness to what we say and do. One does not need to be pope to do that, but it helps if it comes from an ex-pope who knows and lives whereof he speaks.]

On the other hand, as Francis continues to severely undermine what’s left of the Catholic Church, should Benedict be faulted for trying to do something meaningful in the face a crisis no one in Rome seems ready to even adequately address, much less seriously confront?

If Benedict’s intervention is to be evaluated on the basis of the gush of vitriol it received from his liberal critics, it certainly can't be all bad.

“Embarrassingly wrong”, screams the USA Today headline. “Benedict blasted for blaming homosexuality, sexual revolution for church abuse crisis”, claims columnist John Bacon.

Here’s the problem for the Cupich types: Benedict did the very thing the Vatican went to great lengths not to do during the recent sham summit on clerical sexual abuse — he brought up the “H” word:

"In various seminaries, homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries.”

[Of course, Skojec and the entire holier-than-Benedict brigade mock him for having used the word only once in the 6,000-word essay. But homosexuality in the clergy and the resultant sex abuses it fueled is only one of the severe manifestations of the virtual absence of God from Christian life today. The analysis was not meant to tackle the specific issues that the February summit avoided - imagine the extent and the decibel level of the protests against him if he had done that: "Shut up, you're no longer pope, and how dare you set yourself up as a one-man council against the work that was done by the pope and 350 bishops from around the world" - but to underscore how, in being fixated on specific issues, even the most well-meaning of Catholics misses the broad picture and forgets to put God in it at all.]

It’s no wonder the Lefties — in the Church and out — are seeing red. The former Pope Benedict XVI was supposed to shut up and say his prayers after the bizarre 2013 abdication. But now he's out there claiming that homosexuality in the priesthood fueled the crisis.

Way to go, Your Emeritusness! That's a finger in the eyes of a lot of powerful people, including the three amigos (Blase, Jimmy and Jorge).

But that's not all. The former Pope dared to suggest that the Church of Vatican II was “ill-equipped to combat the crisis,” and that a “crisis of supernatural faith” was at work in the Church in the late 1960s which had come about from the “absence of God”.

The “absence of God”… in the immediate aftermath of the bestest, greatestest and most awesomest Council in the history of the Church? Impossible!

Benedict’s intervention was “neither accurate nor helpful”, scolds former CNS reporter, John Thavis: "When a retired pope issues statements on these kinds of issues, it undercuts the efforts of the current pope." [But just what was wrong with the statements - other than Mr Thavis's objections to a retired pope speaking his mind while not neglecting to 'genuflect' before the reigning pope with a cringeworthy hosannah if that was what it took to be 'permitted' to publish his notes? Undercuts the current pope's efforts in what way? By restating certain truths of the faith? Bergoglio should be thankful Benedict is doing it while he, the reigning pope, prioritizes UN development goals and the virtual delivering of Europe to Islam.]

You’ve got us there, Mr. Thavis. In fact, if the former pope is truly “undercutting the efforts of the current pope,” perhaps we should all get down on our knees and pray he picks up his pen more often.

This will only “divide the Church,” whines Andrew Chesnut, chair of the Catholic Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University, “at a time when Francis has been calling for unity.” Indeed! But, then again, who is he to judge?

And Fordham’s David Gibson called Benedict’s letter "deeply problematic and damaging at a crucial time", adding that “he is not the Pope. Just acting like one.” [Gibson, who capitalized on Benedict XVI's election as pope in 2005 to put out a most unflattering biography of the then-new pope, without ever talking to Joseph Ratzinger, on the basis of having worked at Vatican Radio for a number of years - never agreed with anything Benedict XVI said or did when he was pope. He has even more reason to be 'disapproving' now.]

Well, somebody has to!

Nothing new here. The Left will always pitch a hissy fit whenever someone in clerical attire says something even remotely Catholic. These are the same folks, by the way, who lost their collective mind when the “archconservative”, staunch “traditionalist”, one-time peritus at Vatican II ascended the throne of Peter in the first place.

Ratzinger believed in God and the Church's moral authority, which for some of these folks made "God's Rottweiler" nothing less than an insufferable "rad trad".

So, what are we to make of it all? Well, it’s Benedict, which means it’s a little of this and a little of that. [I think this is the first time I have ever read anyone characterize Benedict's thinking or writing as 'a little of this and little of that', as if the man recognized by many authoritative Catholic and secular intellectuals as the greatest living mind in the Church of the late 20th century and the start of the 21st century we no better than a dilettante or amateur dabbler!]

Some of it reads like the words of a kindly and sincere old man attempting to convince himself of something of which he's no longer quite so sure. His is a genuine attempt to address the root cause of the crisis in the Church, obviously, which puts him leagues ahead of his hapless successor, but he's still unwilling (or unable) to see the bare nakedness of the Council.

In some passages, Benedict shines light on the fundamental problem; while in others, the thinking of a man nearly as conflicted as the new Church he helped build comes to the fore. [The problem with all the holier-than-Benedict trads who see nothing but evil in Vatican-II is that they fail to see that as popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI had no choice but to uphold Vatican-II as they saw and interpreted it - which, as Benedict XVI rightly described it, could only be through a hermeneutic of continuity with what went before. It was a valid ecumenical council whose teachings and decisions a pope cannot change by himself because the Magisterium of an ecumenical council is superior to a pope's.

The final documents of Vatican II - the letter of the law, not the false 'spirit' the progressivists claimed and continue to claim - were such that even Mons. Marcel Lefebvre, who was a council Father, signed them, starting to protest only when the liturgy became the first victim of the progressivists. What did Michael Matt and his fellow 'rad trads' expect John Paul II and Benedict XVI to do? Unilaterally - and 'illegally' - abrogate or amend any Vatican II document they found deficient in any way? Or call a new council to 'clean up the mess'?

Benedict XVI was able to promulgate Summorum Pontificum only because the Vatican II Constitution on the Liturgy did not, in fact, abrogate the traditional Mass at all. Bear in mind this was the first Vatican document approved, at the very first session of the four-year Council. If it had provided for the abrogation of the traditional Mass, it would never have passed at all, and we would have heard from Marcel Lefebvre back in December 1962, not in 1975, when Paul VI suppressed the FSSPX that Lefebvre founded in 1970, forbidding Lefebvre from ordaining any priests, a prohibition Lefebvre ignored. But it would be 1988 before Lefebvre would defy another pope, this time John Paul II who forbade him from consecrating bishops not named by the Vatican.]

The one-time revolutionary appears to be looking back over his once-cherished Revolution with a more critical (or at least realistic) eye. He seems to be longing to rediscover the promise that Revolution once held for him, but can't quite get past the nightmare of a Church fighting for its life in a world in which God is dead.

[Joseph Ratzinger was always realistic about Vatican II and how it had been hijacked during the Council by the progressivists who used the media to foist 'the Council of the media' on public opinion. To accuse him now of seeming to realize all this too late is to ignore THE RATZINGER REPORT, the book-length interview with Vittorio Messori in 1984, all of 35 years ago, that was his wide-ranging critique of how Vatican-II was mis-implemented and mis-interpreted by too many in the Church. A book that firmed up media depiction of him as 'God's rottweiler' and inflamed all those in the Church who felt alluded to.

Published just before the Extraordinary Synod John Paul II called to mark the 20th anniversary of the Conclusion of Vatican II, and discuss its reception by the Church thus far, it got so much publicity that Cardinal Godried Danneels, who was the relator of the synod, complained to the media at its start, "This not a synod about a book; it is a synod about a Council".

Unfortunately for all of us, although that synod produced the contemporary Catechism of the Catholic Church, necessarily incorporating the teachings of Vatican II in a way no one questioned until this pontificate, the reigning pope himself unilaterally changed the Catechism to declare the death penalty 'unacceptable' under any condition whatsoever, and the man who chaired the editorial board of the Catechism, Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna, has become a major advocate of homosexual unions, in direct opposition to what the Catechism says about homosexual acts being sinful.]

He suffers from the same kind of dilution [delusion?] that plagues many of the more conservative bishops and cardinals of that era — brought on now by years of wishful thinking, I suppose, and decades of habitually denying the obvious, and where an imaginary Second Vatican Council had to eclipse the one clearly tearing the Church apart. [See comment above! I guess Mr Matt really never heard of THE RATZINGER REPORT, much less read it.]

And so for the few men who at least will admit there's a problem, it’s always the bishops’ fault or the ‘Council of the Media' or the ‘Virtual Council'. But the Council itself is beyond reproach. Our beloved Cardinal Burke, it would seem, suffers from a similar affliction.

[Mr Matt's sarcasm is misplaced here, and like the other rad-trads of his ilk who see Vatican II as nothing but sheer unmitigated evil, they ignore that Mons. Lefebvre - whose opposition to Vatican II was the most concrete and best documented of all - took all of 23 years to consolidate his four objections to Vatican II. Four!

The first and most familiar was not an objection to the Vatican II document that provided the basis for a Novus Ordo, but the form this new Mass took, which went far beyond the guidelines of Sacrosanctum Concilium - a Novus Ordo that Lefebvre and the FSSPX defied from the beginning.

The other three issues are: 1) 'false' or 'aberrant' ecumenism to the detriment of Catholic mission; 2) the principle of religious liberty espoused by the Vatican-II document Dignitatis Humanae (which Leebvre voted against in the Council, but to which he signed his agreement afterwards, though he claimed that what he signed was simply an attendance sheet); and 3) the promotion of collegiality in place of strict papal supremacy.

He didn't appear to take issue with Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution on 'The Church in the Modern world', a favorite of John Paul II but a document that Joseph Ratzinger has always criticized for failing to offer an adequate definition of the "essential features that constitute the modern era". Nor with Nostra aetate, the brief document that acknowledges that other major religions like Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism do contain something good in each of them that the Church an ought to be partners in doing things for the common temporal good. Lefebvre's successors have been far more outspoken in denouncing Nostra aetate as undermining the Church's missionary task.]

They look to the Sexual Revolution, bad bishops, wayward priests —anything other than the cold, hard fact that the fundamental problem in the Church today is the Revolution of Vatican II itself — a disastrous affair that gave rise to the most devastating crisis in the Church since the Protestant Revolt.

[Mr Matt is mixing up causes and effects, and altogether missing Benedict XVI's point that the entire climate of the 1960s was already so marked by the absence of God in modern man's reckoning that it inevitably produced the laissez-faire of an amoral me-myself-and-I-centered society bent only on the satisfaction of its desires and pleasures. That this amorality infected even men of the Church who were the ultimate implementers of Vatican II and implemented it according to the Zeitgeist of '68. A Zeitgeist that was foreshadowed in the deliberate ambiguities of some Vatican-II documents that sought a compromise between traditional conservative thinking and the progressivist worldview.]

The Council and its evil Spirit, along with its New Mass, decimated the Catholic Church, turned the priesthood into a gay profession, emptied seminaries and pews alike, and has done more to discredit the Catholic Church in the eyes of the world than all of the Protestant revolutionaries combined.

Perhaps, a Benedict well advanced in years is beginning to abandon hope of rescuing his precious Council. I don’t know...we'll likely never know. But do read his letter. See if you can make out what's between the lines, and then you make the call.

We’ve made several pull quotes out of those passages which, if nothing else, are like nothing any of us will ever hear from the lips of Pope Francis -- passages, by the way, which make Benedict’s final paragraph so astonishingly perplexing as to leave one wondering if the man's being blackmailed.

Whatever you think of it, pray for Benedict XVI. Even his mixed-bag intervention makes it clear to the careful reader that they got rid of this man for a reason. He needs our prayers, more than our criticism and derision — our prayers and our forgiveness for having indeed fled for fear of the wolves.

Only God and Joseph Ratzinger know what demons conspired against the 265th successor of St. Peter to induce him to do the disastrous thing he did.

[WHAT CONDESCENSION! I imagine Bergogliacs must have the same extreme reaction to critiques of the reigning pope by those of us in what I should call, in all fairness, the holier-than-Bergoglio brigade, as I have to the relentless broadsides by the holier-than-Benedict platoons.]

His unedited letter follows, with pull quotes to draw the reader's attention to the type of observations which were so conspicuous by their absence at Francis' Summit on clerical sexual abuse last February--a Summit which I attended and so can testify to how assiduously Francis & Co tried to avoid the very conclusions Benedict's letter, despite its obvious flaws, has now brought to the fore.

There can be little doubt that Francis had no knowledge of this letter's existence before it was released...else, surely, it would never have seen the light of day. {So, Mr Matt not only ignores or feigns not to remember THE RATZINGER REPORT, but also what Benedict XVI states in his introduction to the essay- that he cleared the project with Cardinal Parolin and through him, with the pope. Of course, we don't know if the Vatican asked to see the manuscript first before it was published so it could give an informal nihil obstat, or whether the Emeritus Pope, out of punctilious courtesy, provided the manuscript before he sent it out to be published. In any case, given the egregious presence of that last sentence in the letter, I would like to think Parolin and/or the pope read the 'notes' and found it unexceptionable because its chosen frame of reference is all in the past, even if it was written as a reaction to a recent event.

I am omitting Matt's reprint of the essay. I do not know why he keeps referring to it as a letter - it is not an encyclical nor was it meant to be nor could it be.]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/13/2019 9:53 AM]
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Before the day is over, I wanted to post this on her feast day today about one of the five Teresas whom, in addition to the Virgin Mary (as my
baptismal and formal name is Maria Teresa) I consider my other patron saints, in order of canonization: Teresa de Avila, Therese of Lisieux,
Teresa Benedetta della Croce (Edith Stein), Teresa de los Andes, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The Carmelite from Chile is the least-known of them and the youngest.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/14/2019 6:04 AM]
4/15/2019 3:24 PM
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Jesus's entry into Jerusalem, Pietro Lorenzetti, 1320. Fresco, Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi.

Palm Sunday: The Passover of flowers
Sermon by the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
April 14, 2019

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

It is with a suggestive name that our forefathers called this day: Palm Sunday, or also Hosanna Sunday, and Pascha Floridum, that is to say Flowery Passover. There are now only eight days left separating us from the solemnity of solemnities, the Lord’s Passover.

Today, this holy day must first blossom before it can bear its fruit. Nature shares in our impatience. The fog and cold that went with the first days of Lent are now making way for colours, smells, the whisperings of spring. After the silence of winter, nature comes alive again. The Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, sitting on a colt, amid an enthusiastic crowd, doesn’t strike a false note in this bucolic context. What a fine forerunner to the joy of Easter!

How tempting it would be to follow Jesus on the easy path that is profiling, and which would lead us in a quiet way to our own Passover.

But Jesus did not don our humanity to receive kingship or glory in this world. What a contrast between the thoughts of men and the thought of God! Jesus does possess glory and kingship, and they come from the Father. His true glorification before men took place before a handful of disciples, a few days before, during His Transfiguration. His glorification will take place once more, for those who may understand, when He is lifted up on the Calvary.

Jesus enters Jerusalem so as to die there. It is the hour of the supreme dispossession of His humanity. It is also the hour of the crowning of His mission. It is His hour. He Who is without sin has weighed Himself down with our own sins’ burden of hatred: hatred against God, hatred against our brothers and sisters in humanity, hatred against the creation.

In His death, a supreme injustice, He doesn’t allow Himself to be overcome by hatred, but He pours out over the world an immeasurable love.

At the end of the way, after He has vanquished and crossed the gates of death, He opens up man’s misery to God’s mercy, and offers us to don a transfigured humanity.

Let us begin this Holy Week as a path of communion with Jesus, a path on which to walk in truth. If we die with Him, with Him we shall live. If we die with Him, God will recognise in us His Son’s image, and will resurrect us with Him.

How can we die with Christ? Let us die to our own sin through the sacrament of penance. Let us die to our bad habits, our steadfast hatreds. Let us convert, so as to live consistently with our faith and the promises of our baptism. Let us at all times become children of light.

Whereas the holy mysteries are nearing by, let us prepare with seriousness to the renewal of our baptismal promises. Have a Holy Week, in the school of Mary, Mater dolorosa. May the Passover flower in our souls before it bears its fruit.


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Sorry - I have a raft-full of articles to translate from the Italian - Valli, Tosatti, Cascioli and even Luigi Accattoli - reacting to the dismissive and mocking reactions even by 'orthodox traditionalists' to Beneict XVI's notes on clerical sex abuse and its ultimate cause. And a couple, only a couple, of more or less positive reactions in English. But I have been overwhelmed by some writing deadlines in my day job, so I apologize for the failure to post anything new in the past two days and even today... Hope to be able to make up tonight.

No, didn't make it - but this box is reserved for the fire that damaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, in which, thanks be to God and his Mother, it appears that the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle and the Crown of Thorns which is the Cathedral's most sacred relic, were promptly rescued by a chaplain aided by firemen, and that all of the significant works of art within the cathedral are reportedly undamaged. But perhaps not at least one of its great rose windows and perhaps more stained glass panels on the sides.

And the central Crucifix appears intact and resplendent in the after-fire gloom.

Once again, let us give thanks to the Lord that he has spared much of this great cathedral which will be restored for the continuing enjoyment and edification of visitors, believers and non-believers alike, as it has done for over 900 years, AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM.

Fire is such an unforgiving and devastating phenomenon when left to itself that it is small wonder almost everyone thought 'This is the end of the Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris as the world has known and heard of for almost 900 years". But minus the steeple )which was a 19th century replacement for the one destroyed by the French Revolution) and a wooden roof hat apparently had withstood the centuries, the structure stands

Here are two first reactions from French Catholics, one a priest, the other a lady journalist, to a tragic event that seemed in the first few hours to be of unmitigated devastation but which has gradually shown itself to be far from irredeemable. Again, Deo gratias!

Notre-Dame de Paris:
A Supernatural Intervention of
the Mother of God for France?

Its night of fire

by Fr. Guillaume de Menthiere
Post and English translation by

April 16, 2019

This night was not made for sleeping. At the sight of Notre-Dame in flames, emotion was too strong, sadness too intense, prayer too needed. And to think that just on the previous day I was still preaching under these millenary vaults where I had been ordained almost thirty years ago! I cannot express the sorrow that fills me when thinking of this archive of so many of our joyful memories disappearing in smoke...

Would you believe, however, that my consternation gave way quickly within me to a kind of enthralled gratefulness? Words that I have always wanted to hear seemed to spring miraculously from this deadly event. During these anguished hours, I seemed, in fact, to feel the old Gaul rooster wake up from his torpor.

How many magnificent unanimous words the media relayed in a persistent and uninterrupted way! By tourists, onlookers, journalists, politicians, churchmen, aesthetes, firemen, ... people of all ages, from all backgrounds, from all backgrounds and from all beliefs... A mysterious communion finally seemed to reign over this people of France, who in the past few months had so sadly shown the world division and fractures. This unity, which a presidential message, planned for the same evening, would probably not have succeeded in renewing, Our Lady, the Holy Virgin, was fulfilling before our stunned eyes. And what if it was once again the supernatural intervention of the Mother of God who restored to our dear and old country the rush of hope?

Of course, there is the infinite pain of seeing these desolate ruins, the irreparable loss of so many works of art, and the despondency of facing the colossal task of reconstruction. And yet, in this Holy Week, leading to the victory of Easter, Christians love again being able to say that God can bring good out of evil. This disaster is the promise and the beginning of what rebirth? Are these still smoking stones, of which the Lord told us yesterday that they would cry, if we would not hear them, calling out for a sudden change and for faith?

Father de Menthière is a priest of the Archdiocese of Paris -- he preached the Lent Conferences of Notre-Dame in 2019. His text was made available to Rorate caeli through different sources. Ms Smits, a veteran reporter and commengator on Church affairs, is the Paris correspondent for LifeSite News

Notre Dame Cathedral:
An unrepeatable treasure of faith and culture

by Jeanne Smits

April 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Paris is in shock. As I start to write, the cathedral of Notre Dame is in flames, and has been burning for two and a half hours. It is the heart and soul of Catholic France, a shrine of incredible beauty built 850 years ago for the glory of God. Whatever the cause of the fire – and an investigation has already been launched – the French are devastated.

Those who believe are praying, and considering the terrifying symbol of the destruction of one of the most important places of worship of the “Oldest daughter of the Church,” at the beginning of Holy Week.

Notre Dame is not the geographical center of France, but it is from here that all distances are calculated on the road network. It is here that the precious Relics of the Passion brought to France by Louis the IXth have been kept since 1806. It was the cathedral of the kings of France when they still had their main residence in the medieval palace of the Louvre.

It is… it was a living symbol of French history that is so intertwined with the history of Salvation: here, throughout the centuries, the Sacrifice of the Mass was offered, and the Blessed Sacrament kept. When the fire broke out, Mass was being said at the main altar.

Even those who do not believe are deeply touched and saddened. Not even the French Revolution was able to destroy Notre Dame de Paris – although the sanguinary Robespierre would have liked to pull it down. Later, it would survive the Second World War, when Paris was preserved from the bombings that obliterated so many towns and historic buildings in Europe.

The bishop of Paris, Mgr Michel Aupetit, tweeted two hours after the start of the fire: “Firefighters are still battling to save the two towers of Notre-Dame de Paris. The frame, the roof and the spire have burnt down. If you wish, you can ring the bells of your churches to call to prayer.”

Several hours later, at 11 pm French time, official statements from the Interior ministry and the firefighters of Paris – truly an élite corps – saidvthe structure of the cathedral “is safe and has been preserved in its totality.” Mgr Aupetit said the courage of the firefighters, who risked their lives throughout the operations, the two towers and the façade were saved. But the 700 year-old wooden frame that supported the roof has been destroyed.

My daughter was a direct witness to the beginning of the fire, happening to be across the Seine on the Left Bank when the first flames showed at the base of the XIXth century spire built to replace the original medieval spire that was brought down during the Revolution. The base of the spire was surrounded by scaffolding; first reports say the fire was probably set off accidentally during renovation works.

She described to me the shock of the onlookers, many of whom were crying or looking on in dismay. As the fire slowly spread to the whole of the roof, thousands of Parisians and tourists converged to the banks of the Seine to witness the disaster. Groups formed and started singing canticles or praying the rosary. They are still there as I write. Every church in Paris opened this night for prayers.

One horrified message followed the other on my cell phone. “Smoke and flames coming from the spire.” “It’s burning all over now.” “Everywhere.” “You can see right into the choir now,” wrote my daughter.

She said the moment the spire fell over was almost too much to bear and even frightening.

A daily mass takes place on weekdays at 6:15 pm at the main altar, the new altar facing the faithful from the middle of the transept, directly under the spire where the fire broke out. The cathedral was evacuated at first when a fire alarm went off, after which the public returned, thinking it was a false alert, my daughter told me, having spoken to a person who assisted at that mass. Then the reality of the alert became apparent and all were again requested to leave the building.

It was on this very altar that Dominique Venner, a pagan “new right” historian committed suicide six years ago, allegedly to call attention to the destruction of Western civilization. It was a sacrilege as Notre Dame has known during its long history, when it was turned into a Temple of Reason in 1793…

But mainly, Notre Dame is known for the role it played in France’s Catholic history, with its Te Deums, its glorious Masses, the coronations of several French kings but also of Napoleon.

The sight of the magnificent building convinced a French traditional artist and sculptor brought up in secularism, Henri Charlier, then an atheist, that the Middle Ages were not Dark Ages, but a time of great beauty and civilization. This set him on his road to conversion.

A century later, no one would nowadays dare question the sheer artistic value of the medieval cathedral. It was always a sign of the importance of God, pointing to heaven and reminding passers-by that there is a reality beyond that which can be seen. Saint Louis, king of France, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Thomas Aquinas and so many others knew the building as it stands now, lovingly built by masters of the building arts.

Were the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Crown of Thorns and the many treasures kept there saved? Reports say they are “safe.” But it was only a few hours after the start of the fire that my daughter heard that the Treasure of the Cathedral was being evacuated. Now night has fallen witnesses say that they can see lights from the inside of the building, which seems to indicate that firefighters are within the building. Pictures were taken of the salvage.

French president Emmanuel Macron was to have given a national speech on television following the yellow vest crisis. He decided to postpone his speech and a form of miracle occurred when he spoke of the sadness of Catholics “at the beginning of this Holy Week,” adding that the rebuilding of Notre Dame is a duty born of France’s “profound destiny.”

Since the separation of Church and State in 1905, church buildings in France belong to the State and are conceded to the Catholic Church to be “used for religious purposes.” It can only be hoped that the medieval splendor of Notre Dame will not be spoiled by modernist reconstruction projects.

The renovation project is thought to be responsible for the fire of Notre Dame – which bears similarities with those of the cathedral and Saint-Donatien church in Nantes in 1972 and 2015, both linked to renovation works, as well as that of the historic Parliament of Brittany in 1994. In all these cases, a fire was accidentally set off and then smoldered unnoticed before breaking out with such force that it was too late to quench it.

Many French church buildings are in a sorry state of repair as cultural budgets are used for contemporary art projects.

The cathedral of Paris badly needed renovation but the budget set aside for it was hopelessly inadequate. Several dozen million euros would have been necessary; current works were being done for 2.5 million euros.

A wave of desecrations and attacks against Catholic churches and buildings over the last 18 months, including the desecration of the basilica of Saint Denis which was the necropolis of French royalty and arson at Saint-Sulpice in Paris a month ago have lead to speculation that the fire at Notre Dame was criminal and perhaps even terrorist in nature. The supposed starting point of the fire, in the roof space under the “forest” of the roof frame at the base of the spire, has not been open to the public for many years. An accidental origin appears to be more probable at this point.

Perhaps the flames of Notre Dame will rekindle the faith of the French people, who have felt in their very flesh what it means to lose the treasure of Christianity!

Just two days earlier, Smits had written a beautiful story about the Crown of Thorns which is Notre Dame's most precious relic, and which was the second thing after the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle that the Paris fire chaplain went in to rescue after the fire started.

A Spanish video - 'Hundreds sing the Ave Maria in front of Notre Dame in flames'...

Here's one of the best early reactions I read, even if the writer, too, took it for granted initially that,in effect, all was lost:

Signs of hope amid the flames
Through the intercession of the Mother of God,
may this tragedy remind us of Notre-Dame’s true purpose.

by Father Seán Connolly

April 16, 2019

First commissioned by King Louis VII in 1163, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris took nearly 200 years to build. Since its completion in 1345, it has stood as a monument to the glory of French, European, and Western civilizations. Twelve million visitors or more are drawn to the Cathedral every year to admire its Gothic architecture, flying buttresses, and majestic rose windows.

But, in just a few shocking hours, the shrine was almost completely destroyed. Its near obliteration in a fire yesterday is front page news the world over. It was devastating to watch the live video of the billowing smoke, searing flames, and collapsing spire. Though the worst has been avoided, as it now appears the stone vault and interior remain largely intact (along with the two bell towers of the Cathedral’s iconic facade), the world still mourns the damage done, the full measure of which is yet to be determined.

The photo served to create the impression that ineed the whole structure including its interior was burning.

As the eyes of the world turned to Paris yesterday in concern for the survival of a monument of unique importance in the history of art and architecture, what did they see? As Sohrab Ahmari noted yesterday on Twitter, the world was looking at a cross. A burning cross at the center of Paris for the Notre-Dame Cathedral is cruciform in shape.

Let us pray that what rises from the ashes of this tragedy is a recognition that the heritage of France, Europe and the West is cruciform, for Notre-Dame is a monument in stone to the Christian Faith that built these civilizations.

One can readily see in the fire a metaphor for the state of the Faith in Europe in this increasingly secular age. But after the Cross comes Resurrection—and yesterday provided signs of hope.

The first sign came in the immediate concern expressed for the Blessed Sacrament. That the tabernacle was emptied and Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist was saved from harm is a consolation. The priests and firefighters who facilitated this reminded the world that the whole purpose for the construction of Notre-Dame in the first place was to be a worthy dwelling place for God.

I am reminded of Cordelia’s conversation with Charles in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. She tells him about the closing of the chapel at their family estate after the funeral of her mother and explains having to watch the priest empty the tabernacle, leaving its golden door ajar. “I suppose none of this makes sense to you, Charles, poor agnostic.” she said. “I stayed there till he was gone, and then, suddenly, there wasn’t any chapel any more, just an oddly decorated room.”

Indeed, without the Blessed Sacrament the Notre-Dame Cathedral would be just an odd-looking building in the heart of a cosmopolitan city. It is the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that makes it a church. It was to provide a worthy dwelling place for the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that inspired our ancestors in the Faith to spend their lives building such a glorious edifice. That same faith was on display yesterday when the Blessed Sacrament was rescued.

The second sign of hope was the concern given to also saving one of Christendom’s most cherished relics — the Crown of Thorns. When King Saint Louis IX acquired this instrument of Our Lord’s Passion and brought it to Paris in 1239, he removed his own crown and royal robes to walk barefoot behind the relic as it was carried in procession through the city streets. That same faith was on display yesterday when the Crown of Thorns was saved amid and through the flames.

Finally, the “living stones” of the Church took to the streets of Paris to remind us that the Church is more that just stones but is Christ’s Mystical Body on Earth. It was deeply moving to see the crowds kneeling in prayer in the shadow of Notre-Dame singing the Ave Maria. Why were their tears in the eyes of so many Parisians? Were they crying simply over damage done to a building of grand art and architecture? Or were they crying over something more? Perhaps it was over the lost Catholic identity of their nation symbolized in the flames engulfing Notre-Dame.

And when the French President, Emmanuel Macron, made a solemn promise to rebuild the Cathedral, it should be asked, why? Why bother with such an investment of time, money, and effort? It only makes sense if it is for the same reason it was built in the first place.

It must be rebuilt for the glory of Jesus Christ and His Mother. The beauty and meaning of Notre-Dame lies in the religious beliefs, principles, and culture that inspired its construction. The same faith that inspired its builders 800 years ago was on full display yesterday in the uplifting sounds of the Ave Maria being sung by the crowds on the streets of Paris.

Through the intercession of the Mother of God, may this tragedy remind us of Notre-Dame’s true purpose. And may we see this wonder restored along with Faith that built it.

Fr Z today shares a video of the interior of Notre Dame after the fire that had received more than 3 million views at the time he posted it:


And a video of what was one of the last services on Passion Monday before the fire:

Other images:

Left inset: The Descent from the Cross, French sculptor Nicolas Costou's 1725 Pieta commissioned for Notre Dame, amid the fire rubble, appears unscathed
like the crucifix above it; right, the centar-altar as it was.

A New York Post item today gives the best after-the-fire assessment so far of the damage to the Cathedral's treasures and is very encouraging:

France’s culture minister Franck Riester said the main items in the 12th century Gothic monument’s treasury were safe.

They included its most prized relic — the crown of thorns said to have been placed on Jesus’ head before his crucifixion, which was saved by the Paris Fire Brigade’s heroic chaplain.

Other relics saved included a piece of wood and a nail purported to be from the cross on which Jesus was crucified, along with the tunic of Saint Louis — worn by 13th-century French King Louis IX, who brought the crown of thorns to Paris and was later made a saint, he said.

The items were moved from Paris City Hall to the Louvre Tuesday, he said.

Incredibly, a metal rooster that sat atop the 300-foot spire did survive the disaster.

A worker found the cock while combing through the debris, and the item is “dented but properly restorable,” a Ministry of Culture source told Le Parisien newspaper.

However, the fate of three other holy items that were in the rooster that collapsed in the roaring flames remained in doubt, because the sculpture was smashed in, the source added.

They included a fragment of the crown of thorns and relics from Saint Denis and Saint Genevieve — two of Paris’ most cherished saints.

“They were placed at the summit of the church in 1935 by the archbishop of Paris, to protect the building,” Laurent Ferri, the former heritage conservator at the French National Archives, told USA Today.

Thirteen large paintings of religious scenes dating from between 1630 and 1707 known as “The Mays” hung in the cathedral. At least some have been saved — alongside one of the most prized works in the house of worship, a 1716 piece called “The Visitation” by Jean Jouvenet, according to Le Monde.

But Maxime Cumunel, the secretary general of France’s Observatory for Religious Heritage, said that four of the Mays paintings had been damaged.

“We have avoided a complete disaster. But some five to 10 percent of the artwork has probably been destroyed,” Cumunel said.

Riester said the paintings in the building weren’t torched in the inferno, but suffered water and smoke damage. They will also be sent to the Louvre for restoration, he said.

The cathedral’s three famed stained-glass Rose windows, which date back to the 13th century, also “had apparently not suffered catastrophic damage,” Riester said.

Also “affected” was the cathedral’s largest pipe organ — the Great Organ, which was completed in 1868 and features almost 8,000 pipes, he said.

Longtime Notre Dame organist Philippe Lefebvre told AFP the instrument wasn’t burned, but had been showered with water and rubble, which could cause problems.

To see the cathedral with its structure intact, one cannot help admire all over the doubtless divinely-inspired genius and talent of the unknown architects, engineers and artisans who built
Notre Dame in the Middle Ages. Compare this to the fate of the 19th century steeple built to replace the original steeple destroyed by the French revolutionaries:

Apart from the steeple, the fire apparently was contained to the cathedral's wooden roof which is said to have been the original.

We cannot under-estimate the human capacity to rebuild, as Father Z reminds us of two familiar instances in Church history, in Montecassino and in Rome:

Left, the great Benedictine Abbey in Montecassino was reduced to rubble by German bombs in the closing days of World War II; right, St Paul Basilica outside the walls was
destroyed by a fire in 1823. Yet visitors to both sites today who are unaware of this history would never suspect it.

We can all read signs and symbols, even miraculous ones, in the Notre Dame fire that have been commented on or will be commented on, but through it all is the sign of faith, our living faith in Christ and in Catholicism, occasionally and maybe habitually flickering, but alive and always ready to be kindled to ardency. Mysterium fidei!

The Ave Maria of Notre Dame
by Julia Meloni

April 16, 2019

It was a video that brought so many of us to tears: a crowd kneeling and singing “Ave Maria” while Notre Dame burned. “Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu,” they beautifully sang as the camera panned to a shot of raw fire.

The juxtaposition between the two images was surreal: at the very moment when devastating flames scorched the body of the cathedral, the bystanders seemed to snatch up its soul with their heavenly song to Our Lady. In that moment of recourse to Mary, they salvaged the faith symbolized by the soaring stones; their song seemed to rise above the fire, in place of the now collapsed spire.

And yet the residual symbolism of the blazing Gothic cathedral remains deeply haunting. As Fr. Kevin Cusick put it: “Today God has allowed us to be reminded of what can be taken away, a symbol of something far greater and infinitely more precious that many have voluntarily forsaken or rejected: our holy Catholic Faith.”

It is a profoundly painful image: a soul’s voluntary torching of a treasure even more exquisite than a rose window or Nicolas Coustou’s Pieta. We in postmodernity have set fire to faith itself — and it is hard to hear an ethereal, imploring “Ave Maria” amid the flames. A brilliant golden altar cross may have glowed intact, transcendently, in Notre Dame’s interior — but that is no guarantee of what will be left when we survey our own wreckage.

Cardinal Burke commented:

[di=10pt]Viewing the ravage of the Cathedral of Notre Dame by yesterday’s fire, men and women of faith are led to consider the attacks upon the infinite beauty of the faith by the grievous sins and crimes of our day[.] …

Yesterday’s event is a sobering reflection upon the destructiveness of man’s rebellion against the beauty, truth, and goodness with which God has created us and our world and has redeemed us and our world by the Redemptive Incarnation of His only-begotten Son, the very event celebrated in the building of the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

And so we must turn, like the French bystanders, to the “Ave Maria” of Notre Dame. In The Secret of the Rosary, the great Frenchman St. Louis de Montfort recalls how St. Dominic discovered the “weapon which the Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world” — that is, the Holy Rosary.

As Our Lady explained:

My son, do not be surprised that your sermons fail to bear the results you had hoped for. You are trying to cultivate a piece of ground which has not had any rain. Now when Almighty God planned to renew the face of the earth He started by sending down rain from heaven—and this was the Angelic Salutation. In this way God made over the world.

A heaven-sent, renovating rain — this is what the “Ave Maria” signifies both at Notre Dame and in the life of the soul. The Secret of the Rosary calls the prayer “a blessed dew that falls from heaven,” watering “the garden of the soul.”

If the “Ave Maria” is our hope for extinguishing personal and civilizational fires, it is also our great consolation in the face of transience and death. Tremulously watching the smoldering cathedral, the soul of the crowd rose up — and when it spoke, it sang, “Holy Mary, Mother of God / Pray for us, sinners / Now, and at the hour of our death.” In The Secret of the Rosary, we meditate on these same lines with aching cries:

Thou who art always filled with compassion
For those in need—
Thou who wilt never despise sinners
Or turn them away…
Pray for us

During this short life
So fraught with sorrow and uncertainty.
Pray for us now,
Now — because we can be sure of nothing
Except the present moment.
Pray for us now
That we are being attacked night and day
By powerful and ruthless enemies …
Pray for us now

So terrible and full of danger,
When our strength is waning
And our spirits are sinking
And our souls and bodies
Are worn out with fear and pain
Pray for us then
At the hour of our death…

any have described having goose bumps after watching the “Ave Maria” video — perhaps because it registers spiritual realities almost too strong to bear. We saw, in thirty-seven compressed seconds, a haunting image of soul-death, of faith in flames — transcended by the soul’s irrepressible turning to Mary in this vale of tears.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2019 12:25 PM]
4/16/2019 5:36 PM
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I love this affectionate cartoon of Benedict XVI by an admirer whose name I will never know, and I used it occasionally in some posts while he was pope. He needs that
protective umbrella even more, now that he is no longer pope, when detractors like Faggioli, Frank Walker, Mundabor and Louie Verrecchio, to name just a few holier-
than-Benedicts, treat him today as if he were a disgraceful cur unworthy of the least respect, who never did anything right or good in his 92 years. For all his human
failings - including, if you wish, his decision to renounce the papacy - he probably has more holiness in one strand of his hair than all of his detractors combined.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/19/2019 9:24 PM]
4/17/2019 7:19 PM
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In Magister's original title, the Italian word he uses for 'rupture' is 'frattura' which he encloses in quotes. I choose to enclose in quotes his reference to 'two popes' as though there were two popes.

Despite the birthday/Easter visit
'Rupture' between the 'two popes':
Francis's silence on Emeritus notes

His typical reaction when seriously put to the test

April 17, 2019

In the week that followed the explosive publication of Joseph Ratzinger’s “notes” on the scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, there are at least seven essential elements that have come into the open, which are to be kept in mind in view of future developments.

1. The first concerns the genesis of the publication of the “notes.” In the introductory paragraphs, Ratzinger says that he wrote them “in the hiatus between the announcement of the meeting of the presidents of the episcopal conferences and its real and proper beginning,” or between September 12 2018, the day of the announcement, and February 21 2019, the opening day of the summit.

But Ratzinger also says that he wrote them to “contribute one or two remarks to assist in this difficult hour.”

From which one deduces that he wrote them in order to offer them, first of all, to the leaders of the Church gathered at the Vatican by Pope Francis to discuss the question.

This was confirmed on April 13 by Corriere della Sera, the most widely read secular Italian newspaper, one of the press outlets that two days before had published the full text of the “notes”:

“Benedict sent the eighteen-and-a-half pages on pedophilia ‘to the gracious attention’ of the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, before the global meeting of the episcopal conferences, to make them known also to Francis.”

What happened however is that none of the participants at the summit received Ratzinger’s text. Francis thought it better to keep it to himself, locked away in a drawer.

And no one would have known anything about it if Ratzinger himself, about forty days later, had not decided to make it public, formally in a little-known Bavarian magazine [for priests in the dioceses of Bavaria], Klerusblatt, but practically in a dozen major publications, Catholic and not, all over the world and in several languages, after alerting the highest Vatican authorities to this, as he himself has revealed:

“Having contacted the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and the Holy Father himself, it seemed appropriate to publish this text in the Klerusblatt.”

2. A second element is the initial reaction of the Vatican media. Frosty.

The official portal “Vatican News” covered Ratzinger’s text several hours after it had been made public, among the second-class news items, with a brief and bureaucratic summary and with no link to the complete text.

And the same was done by L’Osservatore Romano printed on the afternoon of April 11, with the same concise summary buried at the bottom of page 7, without any lead on the front page and beneath a much more prominent article by the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica and the main adviser and ghostwriter of Pope Francis.

Since it is known how close the pope is to the highest officials of the Vatican media - the prefect of the dicastery for communication Paolo Ruffini and editorial director Andrea Tornielli, in addition to Fr. Spadaro - this chill in reporting Ratzinger's text cannot help but reflect strong irritation on the part of Francis.

3. A third element is the behavior of the Vatican media over the following days, entirely taciturn on the contents and repercussions of Ratzinger’s text, and instead bent on giving distracting and justifying emphasis - with two successive editorials by Tornielli and by OR editor Andrea Monda - to a concomitant gesture of Francis that was as disconcerting as it was spectacular, his kissing the feet of the two rival leaders in the ferocious war between tribes in South Sudan that has already claimed 400,000 lives.

4. A fourth element is the silence of Francis. Not only practiced, but also theorized. In the homily for Palm Sunday, on April 14, the pope took as a basis for comparison the “silence of Jesus throughout his Passion,” a silence that “overcomes the temptation to answer back, to act like a ‘superstar’.” Because “in moments of darkness and great tribulation, we need to keep silent, to find the courage not to speak, as long as our silence is meek and not full of anger. The meekness of silence will make us appear even weaker, more humble. Then the devil will take courage and come out into the open.”

Silence is the typical reaction of Jorge Mario Bergoglio every time he is seriously put to the test. He adopted it with the DUBIA of the four cardinals, with the uncomfortable questions of ex-nuncio in the United States Carlo Maria Viganò, and now with the contribution of the pope emeritus.

That Francis, with this last apologia pro silenzio suo, was alluding “to the tensions and poisons connected to the ‘notes’ of Benedict XVI” is not the fruit of fantasy, seeing that it has been set down in black and white by a reporter very close to Santa Marta like Domenico Agasso, the current coordinator of the website Vatican Insider directed until a few months ago by Tornielli and still under his supervision.

[Does that explain why Bergoglio looked grim in the only photograph the Vatican chose to release of his courtesy visit to Benedict XVI on April 15? They might have chosen one that shows him smiling.]

That exegesis of the papal homily on Sunday April 14,followed two other articles by Agasso with very eloquent titles:
> Francis and the shadow of Ratzinger, the coexistence that weighs on the Vatican
> Coexistence between the two popes is possible only if the emeritus is able to remain invisible

5. And with these two articles there came into the open a fifth element of the story: the radically negative judgment that Pope Francis has developed on the publication of Ratzinger’s “notes.”

Francis is keeping this judgment of his to himself. But the striking vocal harmony of persons very close to him allows an interpretation of what he thinks.

The most diligent in taking a position has been Stefania Falasca, an editorialist for the newspaper of the Italian episcopal conference, Avvenire, but above all a longtime friend of Bergoglio, together with her husband, Gianni Valente, director of the Vatican news agency Fides and another leading writer for Vatican Insider.

It is useful to recall that Bergoglio’s first telephone call after his election as pope, on the very evening of March 1,3 2013, was to none other than Stefania Falasca. And a good two times, in the days that preceded that conclave, the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires had been to dinner at her house, where Tornielli was also present.

So then, with two tweets shortly after the publication of Ratzinger’s “notes”, Falasca accused the pope emeritus of having violated two requirements that the 2004 directory “Apostolorum Successores” imposed on all bishops emeritus: “not to interfere in any way” with the reigning bishop, and not to “even hint at some kind of parallel authority.”

The first of the two articles by Agasso on Vatican Insider cited above takes its cue from here to maintain that the publication of the “notes” has broken an equilibrium between the two popes, and that this has even come to “a fracture.” And therefore “a ‘constitutional’ question is raised on the role of the pope emeritus.” A role that in effect is an unresolved tangle, but that Bergoglio’s apologists are now taking advantage of to order Ratzinger to remain silent and “hidden from the world.”

And the second article reiterates the same concept, in an interview with [the unspeakably odious pretend-intellectual] Massimo Faggioli, a disciple of what is called the “school of Bologna” and a professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia, he too convinced that “the problem is raised of regulating the figure of the [pope] emeritus for the future” and that in the meantime, at present, it is necessary that Benedict XVI “remain invisible.”

Both articles also fantasize over an external manipulation of the text and of the very person of Ratzinger, on the part of unspecified aides of his. [Considering that the Emeritus's only aides are Georg Gaenswein and the Memores, does anyone really think they would 'manipulate' B16 even if they could? That preposterous accusation also makes it seem that B16 is no longer 'all there'. Which clearly is not the case. As we should know by the very fact that he took the initiative to write the 'notes' - and did so in an unmistakably Ratzinger language and style, despite doubts incredibly raised about this, even by someone like John Henry Westen, LifeSite editor.][

In any case, without saying a single word that is not one of disdain toward the contents of the “notes,” in spite of their extreme seriousness, which are in continuity with what Benedict XVI wrote in the memorable 2010 letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

But there are also those who state: “They want to silence Benedict XVI because he is telling the truth.”

6. And this brings us to the sixth element of the story: the interview of Cardinal Gerhard Müller by Riccardo Cascioli in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana' of April 15.

The whole interview is worth reading. But here are three passages in which Müller vindicates the freedom of the pope emeritus to “speak the truth”:

“Of course bishops emeritus must stay out of the everyday governance of the Church, but when it comes to doctrine, morality, faith they are obligated to speak by divine law. All have promised during episcopal consecration to defend the ‘depositum fidei.’ The bishop and great theologian Ratzinger has not only the right but also the duty to speak and give testimony of revealed truth.” ...

“The apostles Peter and Paul, the founders of the Roman Church, gave their lives for the truth. Peter and Paul did not say: ‘Now there are other successors, Timothy and Titus, let’s let them speak publicly.’ They gave testimony right to the end of their lives, all the way to martyrdom, with blood.” ...

“A bishop emeritus, when he celebrates a Mass, in the homily must he not speak the truth? Must he not speak of the indissolubility of marriage only because other active bishops have introduced new rules that are not in harmony with the divine law? It is instead the active bishops who do not have the power to change the divine law in the Church. They have no right to tell a priest that he must give communion to a person who is not in full communion with the Catholic Church. No one can change this divine law, if one does so he is a heretic, he is a schismatic.”...

And these are the final remarks of the interview:
Cardinal Müller, what consequences do you expect from the publication of these “notes” by Benedict XVI?
I hope that some will finally begin to address the problem of sexual abuse in a clear and correct way. Clericalism is a false response.

“Clericalism” being the mantra that for Pope Francis would be the cause of all the evils of the Church.

7. Finally, the seventh but not last element of the story: Francis’s visit to Benedict, on the afternoon of April 15, for Easter and birthday greetings, as shown in the photo released by the Vatican press office.

During those same hours there came out on the front page of OR an editorial by Tornielli entitled “That ‘penitential way’ which unites the two pontificates” which insists on the harmonious appeal of the two popes - in the major documents of the respective pontificates and most recently also in the “notes” - to prayer, penance, and the conversion of hearts as the master path for overcoming the scandal of abuse. [In other words, Tornielli - a most admirable Ratzingerian reporter/commentator during Benedict XVI's pontificate - seeks to ride on the primarily spiritual content of the Emeritus's notes to play "me, too" for and in behalf of Pope Francis. In 2010, Tornielli, with fellow full Ratzinger-to-Bergoglio turncoat Paolo Rodari, wrote a book ATTACCO A RATZINGER, in which they systematically chronicled and refuted all the media attacks up to that point against B16. He cannot now simply obliterate his Ratzingerian past just because he is serving another pope. BTW, not even he - nor anyone else - could or would even attempt to do a similar defense of Bergoglio because even sticking only to the major anti-Bergoglio objections by the media and commentariat, they would need the rest of their lives to write what can only be a losing argument, unless one accepts and espouses the Rosica premise that Bergolio does and says what he wants to do or say because he is the only authority in the Church, above Scripture, Tradition and prior Magisterium.]

The two things together sound like a signal of truce, at the beginning of Holy Week.

But once again, not a single word from Francis and his spokesman on the contents of Ratzinger’s “notes” concerning the ultimate root of the scandal.

On this the divergence between Francis and Benedict remains intact. And unpredictable in its developments.

A word about the 'traditionalist' critics of Benedict's notes

What infuriates me most about the considerable anti-Benedict XVI flak – which is far-from-friendly fire – from persons like Carl Olson, Christopher Altieri and Steve Skojec, to name three off the top of my head, is when they scoff that “He is not saying anything new, nothing that we don’t already know”.

But is that not the essence of preaching the Gospel to the faithful? To reiterate Christian principles as often as one can, even to those who are presumably well verse in it, and if possible, in a way that catches the attention of the faithful. These very writers themselves functionally have to reiterate themselves and what they believe in order to consistently carry across their point of view.

I say this in great sorrow about commentators whose words I have often posted on the Forum because they have usually represented both common sense and Catholic orthodoxy. But not this time. The only valid question they should address is not whether Benedict XVI was saying anything new but whether he said anything that was wrong factually and contextually, and more importantly, whether he said anything contrary to the faith and therefore damaging to it.

Benedict XVI was not claiming to say anything new, nor, as a Christian and as a priest ordained to be in persona Christi, has he ever claimed to, because he cannot - no one can - 'improve' on the Word of God, nor edit it, nor alter what it means.

In the notes, he was, in fact, simply restating – marshaled together in the context of the February summit on clerical sex abuse (or rather, on ‘protection of minors’) – what he has been saying and writing all his life, as a professor, priest, theologian, cardinal and pope. One born into a 20th century soon engulfed by the atheistic totalitarian ideologies of fascism, Nazism and Communism, not to mention two world wars, the Cold War that followed based on the preventive principle of mutually assured destruction (with the appropriate acronym MAD), and the even worse Reign of Terrorism that has marked the past four decades of human history.

The facts as he tells them are known to ‘everyone’, or at least, to everyone who has an active ongoing concern for the situation of the one true Church of Christ. But other than someone like Cardinal Sarah who has written a book about the contemporary ‘absence of God’ in the world, almost all the critics of the church of Bergoglio and of clerical sex abuse in general – for all their rightful concern - have focused on topical ‘practical’ issues surrounding it, and the causes they attribute it to have largely been sociological rather than spiritual.

Yet they wax scornful and dismissive when a former pope writes as a pastor, not as some incidental commentator or even as a 'professional analyst', about the problem. These same critics of the ‘notes’ were in the past admiring of anything Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI wrote in his tireless analyses since the 1960s of what is wrong in the Church today, not just clerical sex abuse; and in terms of this particular issue, of what he as CDF Prefect and as pope had personally done to help cleanse the Church of Christ from the ‘filth’ he had so dramatically denounced in his 2005 Good Friday meditations less than a month before he was elected pope.

But they have forgotten all that to mock him for ‘saying nothing new’. Not for saying anything wrong or harmful to the faith, but for 'saying nothing new'.

Two commentaries on Benedict XVI’s letter

April 17, 2019

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s brief letter to German priests, which was released last week, has generated a flood of commentary, both because it was unexpected from a figure who has maintained almost total silence since his resignation, and because it presented sharp observations about developments inside and outside the Church that led to the steep rise in sexual abuse. That text warrants extensive consideration, but for now two commentaries by TCT regulars: Fr. Gerald Murray, a theologian and canon lawyer; and Michael Pakaluk, a philosopher. – Robert Royal

Left, 'Prayer', by Stanisław Dębicki, c 1887 [National Museum, Wrocław, Poland]. Right, 'At the Elevation', Jean Benaud, c 1890 [Private collection].

God’s absence enabled the offenses
by Fr. Gerald E. Murray

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his surprise letter on the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, examines the root causes of the criminal immorality of an astounding number of Catholic clerics.

He identifies as a prime factor the collapse of sound moral theology, the result of the rejection of natural law reasoning. Underlying this theological chaos is a deeper crisis, what Benedict calls “the absence of God.” He writes: “Only where faith no longer determines the actions of man are such offenses possible.”

This calls to mind Robert Cardinal Sarah’s book God or Nothing. When God ceases in fact to be the motive, the center and the hope of the Church’s teaching and activity, innovators very quickly create clever substitutes that in fact turn out to be nothing more than self-worship.

Benedict writes that, after the Council, “it was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed.” Since each man determines his purposes, each man creates his own morality, making himself the determinant of right and wrong for himself, pushing God and His law aside.

Man is to be honored in place of God as the source of his own moral truth. This is the apostasy of the autonomous man of “conscience” who recognizes God’s law only when it is in agreement with what he has decided he already wants to do.

In the strange world of a Church without God at its center, what about other doctrines of the Faith? Benedict examines the loss of faith manifested by how many in the Church treat the Most Holy Eucharist: “Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern.”

The generalized loss of a sense of awe and respect for Christ’s Real Presence is undeniable. Benedict writes: “What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ’s death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery.” His use of the word “destroy” is telling.

The new thinking about the Mass and the Eucharist that largely prevailed after the Second Vatican Council resulted in various changes that have diminished the reverence expressed by the average Massgoer:
- Holy Communion is no longer received kneeling but standing, no longer on the tongue alone but now also in the hand;
- the tabernacle was moved off of the main altar, and the priest now stands, or sits in a chair, in the location where the Blessed Sacrament was formerly reserved;
-the tabernacle containing the sacramental presence of God made man is placed off center on a side altar or in some instances in a location not visible from the church pews;
- silence in church before Mass has been replaced by casual banter in audible tones;
- many, many parishioners no longer genuflect when entering or leaving the church;
- venerable liturgical forms, the Latin language and sacred chant were cast out and replaced by generally inadequate and uninspiring replacements;
-almost everyone at Mass goes to Communion, while very few people go to Confession, indicating that people no longer have a consciousness that one must not receive Communion is a state of mortal sin, because most people no longer think that mortal sin is still mortal sin.

Benedict identifies the signs of this breakdown of faith and worship:

“The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence.

“The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons
“The way people often simply receive the Holy Sacrament in communion as a matter of course shows that many see communion as a purely ceremonial gesture.”

The temptation to make religion into a kind of folkloric experience celebrating man’s attempt to build a community of benevolence and good feeling is seen when a priest invites everyone at a Funeral Mass or Nuptial Mass to receive Holy Communion.
- Why would a priest invite people who do not believe in the Real Presence to come forward to receive, saying to them ”The Body of Christ” in response to which the non-believers are asked to say “Amen,” signifying belief in what they do not believe?
- Why would a priest communicate to non-practicing Catholics that they should feel free to receive Holy Communion without previous confession?
- How did we get to this point of treating the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ as a mere token of participation in a ritual?

Benedict calls us all to renewed faith: “What is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.”

It is obvious that a profound disorientation entered into the Church that has manifested itself in doctrinal confusion and an attitude of laxity regarding immorality and even criminal sexual abuse.
The remedy that Benedict indicates is to return to a deep appreciation of the Faith according to its true nature, which includes being ready to die for Christ as the price of fidelity to him.

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City. He is a frequent contributor on radio and television, including EWTN’s Papal Posse.

A practical way for pastors –
and the laity

by Michael Pakaluk

Benedict was the universal pastor of the Church, but his essay on sex abuse and the crisis is written not as pope but as a priest, to priests, in Germany (specifically, to the journal Klerusblatt). Therefore, although it raises large questions in passing – and no one who publishes today can claim to be addressing only a restricted readership – it is valuable mainly as showing a practical way for pastors. In doing so, it also shows ordinary Catholics how humbly to serve the Church in these troubled times.

We see its limited purposes in its opening sentence: “The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality.” He is referring to how, in Germany in 1968, the Ministry of Health under Käte Strobel published a “sex atlas” (Sexualkundeatlas), and produced a movie called Helga, both ostensibly “educational,” but calculated to subvert the authority of local governments and churches over sexual mores.

One could raise deep and universal questions on this basis. Walker Percy, for instance, pleaded with us to consider how America almost overnight became a society in which people streamed to see a pornographic movie in their neighborhood theater. He meant Deep Throat (1972), which became the highest grossing movie of its time.

Or one might ask why libertinism gets introduced under the guise of objective science.

Or whether a sexually permissive society doesn’t, as a society, set itself against the welfare of children – abandoned in divorce, instrumentalized by in vitro conception, or killed by abortions.

But it’s clear that Benedict gives the example simply to appeal to the memories of his readers, mainly elderly German clerics, to shock them once again into seeing that “what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course.”

Even his reference to Veritatis splendor has a limited purpose. It’s an open secret that Veritatis splendor is not a favorite reference source of the magisterium of Francis. In particular, Amoris Laetitia ignores it, while seeming, to many interpreters at least, to re-introduce all the errors that the encyclical rejected – the “fundamental option,” conscience as subjective not objective, the denial of intrinsically evil acts.

So how is it possible to refer to Veritatis splendor without at least asking whether any current hesitancy, today, in dealing firmly with sexual abuse, is a consequence of a dalliance among influential bishops in those old errors?

And yet Benedict, now devoted primarily to a life of prayer and contemplation, obviously avoids asking this. He does not even write in the manner of someone who thought to raise the question, but then thought better of it. In his essay, Veritatis splendor was important in putting an end to the Church’s vulnerability in teaching, in the face of the sexual revolution.

That vulnerability led to a collapse in seminary formation. Veritatis splendor proved a necessary piece in the reform of seminaries, which has mainly been successful. [Really???] This again reflects the viewpoint of a priest, who wonders “how young people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications.”

I said that Benedict’s essay shows a humble path. So it is, here, in its engagement with Veritatis Splendor. He refers to just one teaching of the encyclical, “There [are] actions which [are] always and under all circumstances to be classified as evil.” His essay clearly assumes that that claim, although once controversial, is now taken for granted by everyone.

Why? Because everyone has come to judge, correctly, that sexual abuse of minors is intrinsically evil. Philosophy professors know that certain stock examples have always been able to confound relativists in the classroom: What about rape? What about dashing out the brains of infants?

Well, what about sexual abuse of minors? For Benedict it’s a secondary point that that logic has not, yet, been universally extended to other intrinsically wrong sexual acts, such as sodomy.

That he is writing humbly, for priests, is shown in the Eucharist’s being the focal point of the essay. John Paul II used to write a humble letter to priests, as a fellow priest, on Holy Thursday. Benedict does something similar just before Holy Week.

Benedict gives a wonderful précis of the gospel: the universe is meaningless without God; but a loving God would reveal himself; and he showed the depth of his love by taking on our nature.

Just as the source of evil is flight from God, so the remedy for evil is found in the presence of God. “Let us consider this with regard to a central issue,” he next says, “the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse concern.”

Note the “our”: he means priests. It’s within the power of any parish priest to address the abuse crisis just here.

The letter closes, “I would like to thank Pope Francis for everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which has not disappeared, even today.” Here, too, is an example of great humility, since it is clear from Benedict’s essay that, the differences noted above notwithstanding, he has allowed himself to be influenced by Francis. [Excuse me????]

Consider that a couple of paragraphs in the essay are on the theme of the devil as the great accuser. That was not a big theme of Benedict’s pontificate but it has been for Francis, long before Viganò. [I beg to disagree. 'The great accuser' part only came with Viganò. Before that, his references to the devil were generic and general - namely, he exists, do not think he does - without ever once getting into specific aspects of Satan. Extremely biased as I have become over Bergoglio, cannot help think that everytime he is anti-Church and anti-Christ, he is, in effect, acting as Satan's agent and surrogate.]

Or the theme that, although it’s good to foster communities of Christian life, the Church catches up the good and bad in its dragnet.

The most beautiful paragraphs in the essay perhaps those on martyrdom, “Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them.” [Is Pakaluk really suggesting that Benedict XVI was reflecting Bergoglio's influence in pointing out these things? As if he had not been writing on 'stuff' like this since he became a priest!]

Michael Pakaluk, an Aristotle scholar and Ordinarius of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, is acting dean of the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America. He lives in Hyattsville, MD with his wife Catherine, also a professor at the Busch School, and their eight children. His latest book, on the Gospel of Mark, The Memoirs of St Peter, is out now from Regnery Gateway.

One of the most commendable reactions to Benedict XVI 'notes' was from Rod Dreher, who had earlier expressed his gratification that Benedict XVI wrote "something like catechumenal communities are necessary so that Christian life can assert itself in its own way". Which is the brunt of the 'Benedict option' after St. Benedict of Norcia's monastic communities in the 5th century. The term has been popularized in current Church discourse by Dreher's book with that title. Which, in itself was a book-length treatment of an idea expressed by Joseph Ratzinger often and in many ways - that the survival and eventual re-flourishing of the Catholic faith would come from small groups of genuine Catholics he called 'creative minorities' (after Toynbee's coinage) who would keep the faith alive in a universally secularized world.

Further reflections
on Benedict XVI's essay

by Rod Dreher

April 13, 2019

There has been a lot of poking fun at Benedict XVI for “blaming the Sixties” for the sex abuse crisis. But at least one progressive Catholic — Pope Francis’s biographer — says that BXVI has a point:

It does. BXVI is not “blaming the Sixties” entirely for what happened. He’s not a stupid man. He is saying — accurately — that there was a general collapse in sexual morality across the West in that time, and that the Church was not immune to it at all.

Is he saying that there was no pederasty in the Church prior to the 1960s? Of course not! But something happened in the late 1960s and through the 1970s that changed things dramatically. It was a release from old bonds, and the idea of bonds. As one of this blog’s readers wrote in a comment about the modern era:

”No, we’ve submitted to ourselves. You’ve argued modern secularists are committed to doing what they each believe will make them happiest. That is submission”

Another measure of the submission to ourselves in the same era:

This is the broader context in which the clerical sex abuse scandal became much worse. Society really was falling apart on sexual morality. The Church, which ought to have held firm, fell apart with it. BXVI is not using this as an excuse, but as part of an explanation.

In his letter, Benedict is harsh on the failures of the institutional Church on this front. He mentions a seminary rector who screened porn for his seminarians. That rector was eventually made a bishop. In this blog post, quoting from Michael S. Rose’s book Goodbye, Good Men, Lee Podles outs this bishop as Kenneth Untener of Saginaw:
Rose points out — this is in Untener’s Wikipedia entry too — that Untener was called to the Vatican to defend the porn movies strategy to Pope John Paul II. With the help of Detroit’s Cardinal Dearden, he must have been successful, because the Pope approved his consecration. One glaring omission in Benedict XVI’s account is the terrible management of the episcopate by John Paul II and, in some cases, by himself.

The Catholic actor Kevin O’Brien has a good reflection on the Benedict letter. Excerpt:

In fact, the theologians Benedict refers to in his essay (some of whom he names) who are intent on denying the objectivity of Goodness; who insist that morality is whatever works best for us in any given situation; who become indignant at any check on the culture of “release” – these theologians are leading the little ones astray. And this includes such armchair theologians as (perhaps) your music minister, your “liturgist”, your CCD teacher, and any other heterodox Catholics who proudly bear wild grapes in what used to be a vineyard but is now a mixture of briar patch and trash heap. In fact, chances are you are being led astray by your pastor and your bishop, as well.

But we have a right to the Faith! And canon law should protect this right. Benedict insists upon this. “Canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus’ message must therefore … also protect the Faith, which is also an important legal asset.”

However …

In the general awareness of the law, the Faith no longer appears to have the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the Church.

What astonishes me about this essay is that Benedict is speaking with the voice of the Church – a voice that has been silent on this matter for at least seventeen years.

The Abuse Scandal grew up in a clerical culture that was anti-christian. That’s a fact. That’s obviously not the whole explanation for the Scandal, and it is certainly not an excuse, as some are portraying it – and orthodox and traditionalist clergy have been abusers as have heterodox and liberal ones. But the encouragement of indulgence is a problem. Such an atmosphere does not breed saints.

The gardeners were deliberately destroying the garden. They were sowing and cultivating weeds. They still are, many of them.

And yet Benedict, in this essay, has at least repaired the hedge – if only by pointing out where it once stood – and where (with our hard wor and with God’s grace) it will stand again.

This, I believe, is why these short bits from BXVI’s missive are so important:

Faith is a journey and a way of life. In the old Church, the catechumenate was created as a habitat against an increasingly demoralized culture, in which the distinctive and fresh aspects of the Christian way of life were practiced and at the same time protected from the common way of life. I think that even today something like catechumenal communities are necessary so that Christian life can assert itself in its own way...

Today’s Church is more than ever a “Church of the Martyrs” and thus a witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering. It is an inertia of the heart that leads us to not wish to recognize them. One of the great and essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them...

I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our Faith time and again.

Of course the author of The Benedict Option is going to be drawn to those passages, especially in light of the extraordinary speech BXVI’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, delivered about the Ben Op last autumn in Rome. (An Italian present there told me afterward, “You can be confident that every syllable of that speech was seen first by Benedict.”) Here, Benedict XVI is telling us that we need small communities of believers who are really convinced, not only for our own formation, but as part of our evangelization efforts. BXVI says in his essay:

If we really wanted to summarize very briefly the content of the Faith as laid down in the Bible, we might do so by saying that the Lord has initiated a narrative of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God. Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption....

A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him. Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow ineffective phrase. I will never forget the warning that the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote to me on one of his letter cards. “Do not presuppose the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but present them!”

Indeed, in theology God is often taken for granted as a matter of course, but concretely one does not deal with Him. The theme of God seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us. And yet everything becomes different if one does not presuppose but present God. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as the center of our thoughts, words and actions.

As I write in The Benedict Option, this is what we lay Christians have to re-learn. We have to orient our entire lives around God, and do so in communities of Christians who share the same commitment. We can no longer presume God; we have to present him, first of all to ourselves. Remember what church historian Robert Louis Wilken said:

Nothing is more needful today than the survival of Christian culture, because in recent generations this culture has become dangerously thin. At this moment in the Church’s history in this country (and in the West more generally) it is less urgent to convince the alternative culture in which we live of the truth of Christ than it is for the Church to tell itself its own story and to nurture its own life, the culture of the city of God, the Christian republic. This is not going to happen without a rebirth of moral and spiritual discipline and a resolute effort on the part of Christians to comprehend and to defend the remnants of Christian culture.

What Benedict XVI is saying here is that in a time of corruption and widespread loss of faith both outside the institutional Church and within it, believers need to rediscover God, the God who is Love, and make Him present in their own lives, and in the communities where they live. They — we — need this concrete encounter with God’s love, manifest in the lives of fellow believers.

Think about it: the greatest theologian who ever sat on the Petrine throne is telling the world that he himself finds the strength to carry on through this crisis by his daily encounters with the tiny group of faithful believers who live with him in his retirement quarters. It really is that simple. It’s what Joseph Ratzinger himself is doing!

Benedict says this is a “church of the martyrs” now. He’s talking about people willing to suffer for the faith, but he’s also talking about martyrs in the literal sense of “witnesses.” I think he’s saying that those who are going to hold on to the faith, and not succumb to the collapse around us, are those who have habituated themselves to seeing the faith (“a way of life”) made concrete around them.

In my case, it is hard to express how much hope and encouragement I take away from seeing communities of really-believing believers — for example, the Tipi Loschi, as well as a tiny community of Catholic families coming together now near Milan, and the French Catholic agrarians, and the community growing up around St. Benedict Classical Academy in suburban Boston — who are coming together because they can read the signs of the times, and know that they need each other.

Men have forgotten God. Ultimately, says BXVI, that is the reason for the crisis. It is the reason for every crisis of sin. We must begin to remember Him. We need each other as fellow pilgrims and rememberers. We must remind ourselves that God is not an abstraction, but is alive, and with us, because He is in us, if we will have Him.

As you well know, I’m not a Catholic any longer, but I remain a great admirer of Benedict XVI, and I believe that there is wisdom in his essay not only for Catholics, but for all Christians. This is a time of winnowing. This is a time of ark-building. This is a time of decision.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2019 11:59 AM]
4/18/2019 1:04 PM
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I ought to have done this earlier, but failed to do so in my frantic efforts to catch up with my posts after 2-3 days of falling back... This is my post in PAPA RATZINGER FORUM on September 12, 2008, when Benedict XVI visited Notre Dame de Paris to end the first day of his Apostolic Visit to France. I reproduce it in its entirety because it captures the magnificence of the occasion and the exhilarating spirit of the four-day visit which also took him to Lourdes... His words are, of course, timeless...

September 12, 2008


The Holy Father travelled by Popemobile from the College des Bernardins on the Left Bank to Notre Dame for Vespers with the clergy of Paris, a meeting with ecumenical Church leaders, and later, an address to the youth outside Notre Dame to start their nightlong prayer vigil and a midnight torchlight procession towards the Invalides, site of tomorrow's papal Mass, where they will spend the night.


Here is the English translation of the Holy Father's homily at the Vespers celebration today, from Vatican Radio:

Notre Dame Cathedral

Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Reverend Canons of the Cathedral Chapter,
Reverend Chaplains of Notre-Dame,
Dear Priests and Deacons,
Dear Friends from Non-Catholic Churches and Ecclesial Communities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Blessed be God who has brought us together in a place so dear to the heart of every Parisian and all the people of France!

Blessed be God, who grants us the grace of offering him our evening prayer and giving him due praise in the very words which the Church’s liturgy inherited from the synagogue worship practised by Christ and his first disciples!

Yes, blessed be God for coming to our assistance – in adiutorium nostrum – and helping us to offer him our sacrifice of praise!

We are gathered in the Mother Church of the Diocese of Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral, which rises in the heart of the city as a living sign of God’s presence in our midst.

My predecessor, Pope Alexander III, laid its first stone, and Popes Pius VII and John Paul II honoured it by their presence. I am happy to follow in their footsteps, a quarter of a century after coming here to offer a conference on catechesis.

It is hard not to give thanks to the Creator of both matter and spirit for the beauty of this edifice. The Christians of Lutetia had originally built a cathedral dedicated to Saint Stephen, the first martyr; as time went on it became too small, and was gradually replaced, between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, by the great building we admire today.

The faith of the Middle Ages built the cathedrals, and here your ancestors came to praise God, to entrust to him their hopes and to express their love for him.

Great religious and civil events took place in this shrine, where architects, painters, sculptors and musicians have given the best of themselves. We need but recall, among so many others, the architect Jean de Chelles, the painter Charles Le Brun, the sculptor Nicolas Coustou and the organists Louis Vierne and Pierre Cochereau.

Art, as a pathway to God, and choral prayer, the Church’s praise of the Creator, helped Paul Claudel, who attended Vespers here on Christmas Day 1886, to find the way to a personal experience of God.

It is significant that God filled his soul with light during the chanting of the Magnificat, in which the Church listens to the song of the Virgin Mary, the Patroness of this church, who reminds the world that the Almighty has lifted up the lowly (cf. Lk 1:52).

As the scene of other conversions, less celebrated but no less real, and as the pulpit from which preachers of the Gospel like Fathers Lacordaire, Monsabré and Samson transmitted the flame of their passion to the most varied congregations, Notre-Dame Cathedral rightly remains one of the most celebrated monuments of your country’s heritage.

Following a tradition dating back to the time of Saint Louis, I have just venerated the relics of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns, which have now found a worthy home here, a true offering of the human spirit to the power of creative Love.

Beneath the vaults of this historic Cathedral, which witnesses to the ceaseless dialogue that God wishes to establish with all men and women, his word has just now echoed to become the substance of our evening sacrifice, as expressed in the offering of incense, which makes visible our praise of God.

Providentially, the words of the Psalmist describe the emotion filling our souls with an exactness we could hardly have dared to imagine: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Ps 121:1). Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: the Psalmist’s joy, brimming over in the very words of the Psalm, penetrates our hearts and resonates deeply within them.

We truly rejoice to enter the house of the Lord, since, as the Fathers of the Church have taught us, this house is nothing other than a concrete symbol of Jerusalem on high, which comes down to us (cf. Rev 21:2) to offer us the most beautiful of dwelling-places.

“If we dwell therein”, writes Saint Hilary of Poitiers, “we are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God, for it is the house of God” (Tract. in Ps. 121:2).

And Saint Augustine adds: “This is a psalm of longing for the heavenly Jerusalem … It is a Song of Steps, not for going down but for going up … On our pilgrimage we sigh, in our homeland we will rejoice; but during this exile, we meet companions who have already seen the holy city and urge us to run towards it” (En. in Ps. 121:2).

Dear friends, during Vespers this evening, we are united in thought and prayer with the voices of the countless men and women who have chanted this psalm in this very place down the centuries. We are united with the pilgrims who went up to Jerusalem and to the steps of its Temple, and with the thousands of men and women who understood that their earthly pilgrimage was to end in heaven, in the eternal Jerusalem, trusting Christ to guide them there. What joy indeed, to know that we are invisibly surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses!

Our pilgrimage to the holy city would not be possible if it were not made in the Church, the seed and the prefiguration of the heavenly Jerusalem.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (Ps 126:1). Who is this Lord, if not our Lord Jesus Christ? It is he who founded his Church and built it on rock, on the faith of the Apostle Peter.

In the words of Saint Augustine, “It is Jesus Christ our Lord who himself builds his temple. Many indeed labour to build, yet unless the Lord intervenes to build, in vain do the builders labour” (Tract. in Ps. 126:2).

Dear friends, Augustine goes on to ask how we can know who these builders are, and his answer is this: “All those who preach God’s word in the Church, all who are ministers of God’s divine Sacraments. All of us run, all of us work, all of us build”, yet it is God alone who, within us, “builds, exhorts, and inspires awe; who opens our understanding and guides our minds to faith” (ibid.).

What marvels surround our work in the service of God’s word! We are instruments of the Holy Spirit; God is so humble that he uses us to spread his word. We become his voice, once we have listened carefully to the word coming from his mouth. We place his word on our lips in order to bring it to the world. He accepts the offering of our prayer and through it he communicates himself to everyone we meet.

Truly, as Paul tells the Ephesians, “he has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (1:3), for he has chosen us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, and he made us his elect, even before we came into existence, by a mysterious gift of his grace.

God’s Word, the Eternal Word, who was with him from the beginning (cf. Jn 1:1), was born of a woman, born a subject of the law, in order to redeem the subjects of the law, “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (cf. Gal 4:4-5). The Son of God took flesh in the womb of a woman, a virgin.

Your cathedral is a living hymn of stone and light in praise of that act, unique in the annals of human history: the eternal Word of God entering our history in the fulness of time to redeem us by his self-offering in the sacrifice of the Cross.

Our earthly liturgies, entirely ordered to the celebration of this unique act within history, will never fully express its infinite meaning. Certainly, the beauty of our celebrations can never be sufficiently cultivated, fostered and refined, for nothing can be too beautiful for God, who is himself infinite Beauty.

Yet our earthly liturgies will never be more than a pale reflection of the liturgy celebrated in the Jerusalem on high, the goal of our pilgrimage on earth. May our own celebrations nonetheless resemble that liturgy as closely as possible and grant us a foretaste of it!

Even now the word of God is given to us as the soul of our apostolate, the soul of our priestly life. Each morning the word awakens us. Each morning the Lord himself “opens our ear” (cf. Is 50:5) through the psalms in the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. Throughout the day, the word of God becomes the substance of the prayer of the whole Church, as she bears witness in this way to her fidelity to Christ.

In the celebrated phrase of Saint Jerome, to be taken up in the XII Assembly of the Synod of Bishops next month: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Prol. in Is.).

Dear brother priests, do not be afraid to spend much time reading and meditating on the Scriptures and praying the Divine Office! Almost without your knowing it, God’s word, read and pondered in the Church, acts upon you and transforms you.

As the manifestation of divine Wisdom, if that word becomes your life “companion”, it will be your “good counsellor” and an “encouragement in cares and grief” (Wis 8:9).

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword”, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us (4:12).

Dear seminarians, who are preparing to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders and thus to share in the threefold office of teaching, governing and sanctifying, this word is given to you as a precious treasure.

By meditating on it daily, you will enter into the very life of Christ which you will be called to radiate all around you. By his word, the Lord Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrament of his Body and Blood; by his word, he healed the sick, cast out demons and forgave sins; by his word, he revealed to us the hidden mysteries of his Kingdom.

You are called to become stewards of this word which accomplishes what it communicates. Always cultivate a thirst for the word of God! Thus you will learn to love everyone you meet along life’s journey. In the Church everyone has a place, everyone! Every person can and must find a place in her.

And you, dear deacons, effective co-workers of the Bishops and priests, continue to love the word of God! You proclaim the Gospel at the heart of the Eucharistic celebration, and you expound it in the catechesis you offer to your brothers and sisters.

Make the Gospel the centre of your lives, of your service to your neighbours, of your entire diakonia. Without seeking to take the place of priests, but assisting them with your friendship and your activity, may you be living witnesses to the infinite power of God’s word!

In a particular way, men and women religious and all consecrated persons draw life from the Wisdom of God expressed in his word. The profession of the evangelical counsels has configured you, dear consecrated persons, to Christ, who for our sakes became poor, obedient and chaste.

Your only treasure – which, to tell the truth, will alone survive the passage of time and the curtain of death – is the word of the Lord. It is he who said: “Heaven and earth will pass away; my words will not pass away” (Mt 24:35). Your obedience is, etymologically, a “hearing”, for the word obey comes from the Latin obaudire, meaning to turn one’s ear to someone or something.

In obeying, you turn your soul towards the one who is the Way, and the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6), and who says to you, as Saint Benedict taught his monks: “Hear, my child, the teaching of the Master, and hearken to it with all your heart” (Prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict).

Finally, let yourselves be purified daily by him who said: “Every branch that bears fruit my Father prunes, to make it bear more fruit” (Jn 15:2). The purity of God’s word is the model for your own chastity, ensuring its spiritual fruitfulness.

With unfailing confidence in the power of God, who has saved us “in hope” (cf. Rom 8:24) and who wishes to make of us one flock under the guidance of one shepherd, Christ Jesus, I pray for the unity of the Church.

I greet once again with respect and affection the representatives of the Christian Churches and ecclesial communities who, as our brothers and sisters, have come to pray Vespers together with us in this cathedral.

So great is the power of God’s word that we can all be entrusted to it, remembering what Saint Paul once did, our privileged intercessor during this year. As Paul took leave of the presbyters of Ephesus at Miletus, he did not hesitate to entrust them “to God and to the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32), while warning them against every form of division.

I implore the Lord to increase within us the sense of this unity of the word of God, which is the sign, pledge and guarantee of the unity of the Church: there is no love in the Church without love of the word, no Church without unity around Christ the Redeemer, no fruits of redemption without love of God and neighbour, according to the two commandments which sum up all of Sacred Scripture!

Dear brothers and sisters, in Our Lady we have the finest example of fidelity to God’s word. Her great fidelity found fulfilment in the Incarnation; with absolute confidence, Mary can say: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word!” (Lk 1:38).

Our evening prayer is about to take up the Magnificat, the song of her whom all generations will call blessed. Mary believed in the fulfilment of the words the Lord had spoken to her (cf. Lk 1:45); she hoped against all hope in the resurrection of her Son; and so great was her love for humanity that she was given to us as our Mother (cf. Jn 19:27).

Thus we see that “Mary is completely at home with the word of God; with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the word of God; the word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the word of God” (Deus Caritas Est, 41).

To her, then, we can say with confidence: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom!” (Spe Salvi, 50). Amen.

At Notre Dame, Pope says art,
like prayer, is a pathway to God

By John Thavis

PARIS, Sept. 12 (CNS) -- Standing in one of the world's most beautiful cathedrals, Pope Benedict XVI told French priests, religious and seminarians that art and prayer were pathways to God.

Then he went outside and, cheered by thousands of young Catholics, prepared them for a candlelight procession across Paris.

The Pope's appearance Sept. 12 at Notre Dame Cathedral marked the close of his first day in France, and he was treated to enthusiastic, if very different, audiences.

After riding in his popemobile past crowds of flag-waving well-wishers in downtown Paris, the 81-year-old Pontiff entered the main doors of the Gothic cathedral. An organ boomed from above, and as he strode down the main aisle, outstretched arms reached for a touch or a blessing.

The Church was packed -- an unusual occurrence in a country where only 10 percent of Catholics attend Mass regularly. French pastoral workers face serious challenges, including a steep decline in vocations and a steady drop in sacramental practice among Catholics.

The Pope did not mention those problems. Instead, leading a celebration of Vespers, he first paid tribute to the cathedral as "a living sign of God's presence in our midst," one whose beauty had helped spur conversions of the famous and the unknown.

Then he spoke to the priests, nuns, deacons and seminarians about the importance of nourishing their faith with daily reading and meditation of Scripture.

"Always cultivate a thirst for the word of God," he said. "Thus you will learn to love everyone you meet along life's journey. In the church, everyone has a place, everyone."

Among those attending the prayer service were representatives of other Christian churches, and the pope made a point of praying for Christian unity. The word of God, he said, is the "sign, pledge and guarantee of unity in the church."

When he appeared on the floodlit steps of the cathedral to greet several thousand youths gathered outside, a roar went up. The Pope, beaming, held his arms up in salutation.

Although a brief greeting had been foreseen when the youth event was organized, the Pope gave his audience a longer talk that focused on two themes: the Holy Spirit and the cross. [I would dispute that only a brief Papal greeting was 'foreseen' for this event! An event with youth was become a customary part of Papal trips, and especially as this one would start off an overnight prayer vigil, how could the Pope just give a perfunctory greeting?]

Through the gift of the Spirit, he said, young people can be led to bear witness to Christ in their daily lives and to be unafraid to proclaim Christ to others.

"You are at an age marked by great generosity. You need to speak about Christ to all around you, to your families and friends, wherever you study, work and relax," he said.

The youths cheered loudest when the Pope said, "Do not be afraid!" when he told them that he and the whole church have confidence in them.

Looking out at the crowd, the Pope said he knew that many of them wore a cross on a chain around their neck. It is "not mere decoration or a piece of jewelry," but a symbol of their faith and salvation, he said.

The cross is also a symbol of human suffering, and venerating it may sometimes bring mockery or even persecution, he said.

The young people were to walk along the river banks of central Paris that evening and keep an all-night vigil at the Esplanade des Invalides, where the Pope was to say Mass the next morning.

Earlier Sept. 12, the Pope met briefly with a group of Jewish representatives at the papal nunciature in Paris, where he was staying. Noting the importance of Scripture for Judaism, he said Christians and Jews share a historical relationship that "should be strengthened."

The Pope repeated the words of Pope Pius XI, "Spiritually, we are all Semites," and added that the Church opposes every form of anti-Semitism, which can never be theologically justified.

Referring to the victims of anti-Semitism, he added: "Once again I feel the duty to pay heartfelt recognition to those who have died unjustly and to those who have dedicated themselves to assure that the names of these victims may always be remembered. God does not forget."

Cardinal Burke, in his comments to LIFESTE about the Notre Dame fire, cited Benedict XVI's words at the Cathedral in 2008.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/18/2019 1:16 PM]
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Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.,
has died at the age of 91

by Carl Olson

April 17, 2019

Fr. James V. Schall, the prolific and much-beloved Jesuit, professor and author, died earlier today. His family states that “he was comfortable and at peace” at the time of his death.

He was born in Pocahontas, Iowa, January 20, 1928. Educated in public schools in Iowa, he graduated in 1945 from Knoxville, Iowa High, and then attended University of Santa Clara. He earned an MA in Philosophy from Gonzaga University in 1955.

After time in the U.S. Army (1946-47), he joined the Society of Jesus (California Province) in 1948. He received a PhD in Political Theory from Georgetown University in 1960, and an MST from University of Santa Clara four years later. Fr. Schall was a member of the Faculty of Institute of Social Sciences, Gregorian University, Rome, from 1964-77, and a member of the Government Department, University of San Francisco, from 1968-77. He was a member of the Government Department at Georgetown University from 1977 to 2012.

Fr. Schall penned hundreds of essays on political, theological, literary, and philosophical issues for numerous journals, magazines, and newspapers. He wrote dozens of books over the course of some fifty hears, on philosophy, social issues, spirituality, culture, and literature.

How wonderful that the first full eulogy for the passing of the great Father Schall should come from theologian Tracey Rowland, herself a woman of many parts and great intellectual gifts that she has been deploying, as Fr Schall did, to illuminate the circles she moves in and those of us who read her writings.

Uncle, Father, Jesuit, Professor, Giant
Fr James Schall had the capacity to be an intellectual father to many because
he was himself a very together alpha male who knew perfectly well that 2+2=4.

by Tracey Rowland

April 18, 2019

Jerry Schall (left) with his older brother, Fr. James Schall, with Jerry's two young sons, in the early 1960s. (Photo: Fr. James Schall)

The marketing blurb on the book When Jesuits were Giants begins with the statement:

No one in France or the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century doubted that the Jesuits, loved and honored by friends, hated and feared by enemies, were a force to be reckoned with. Scholars, missionaries, educators, adventurers, social innovators – they were Renaissance men, giants.

This Holy Week the Church has lost one of the last sons of St. Ignatius in this mould.

“Uncle Jim” to his vast extended family, “Fr Jim” to his friends, and “Professor James V Schall SJ” to generations of political philosophy students, passed away at 12.48 PDT on Wednesday, the 17th April.

He has been described as “America’s Chesterton” because of the style and humour of his opinion-piece reflections on contemporary ecclesial and social life. He was also a world-class political philosopher. He not only knew what St. Augustine or St Thomas Aquinas had said about some political issue, he could go through the entire Western canon, starting with the pre-Socratics, work his way through the Church Fathers, the medievals and until he finally reached the moderns. The post-moderns he thought were just mad and not worthy of his attention: anyone who thinks that 2+2 might in some alternative universe equal 5 had some kind of mental disability.

As is typical of these Renaissance types he was open to all that classical wisdom had to offer, but argued that there were certain problems beyond the capacities of even the greatest of the Greeks and Romans to solve. These hitherto unresolved issues required the Incarnation – a kind of ontological revolution. Educated people had to be at least open to the possibility that this really did happen, that God really did become incarnate in human form – since it is the only way of making sense of “all that is” – one of his favourite phrases.

It is said that students would enroll at Georgetown University just to “Major in Schall”. In a sense he was his own academic department.

I first came across his name when I was an undergraduate in the 1980s. Instead of reading the books my lecturers had recommended I would spend hours in the library working my way through articles by James V Schall.

On my first trip to the States in 1988 I found my way to Fr Jim’s office at Georgetown. I was in my early 20s and it never occurred to me to send a polite letter before I turned up outside his door. I simply tracked him down and introduced myself as someone who loved his work. He was about to go and deliver a lecture but he told me he would talk to me after the class. I asked if I could stay in his office and look at his library and he agreed to that. I spent a couple of hours taking down references to books on his shelves, and when he reappeared he gave me a cup of tea, we had an academic chat, and then he took me on a tour of his University.

I can’t remember anything about our intellectual exchange but I do remember his walking up to students who were smoking and praising them for having the courage to be politically incorrect. Their responses indicated that they knew who he was and that they loved him.

Quite simply he had the capacity to be an intellectual father to many because he was himself a very together alpha male who knew perfectly well that 2+2 =4.

Not only did he not like political correctness, he had an especially mordant view of feminism. This did not mean that he thought women in any sense inferior to men. He had many friendships with intellectual women and was proud of the females he had taught who went on to occupy high professional positions. Those included Jane Haarland Matlary, a Professor of International Relations at the University of Oslo who served as Norway’s State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1997-2000.

However, he thought that women who wanted to be like men, who didn’t value their femininity, or who thought that marriage and family life was somehow beneath them, were victims of an ideology. He also thought that men and women were ‘wired differently’ and he was the chivalrous, dragon-slaying type, who preferred to put women on a pedestal and worship them, rather than virtue-signaling his belief in gender equality.

When I first arrived at Cambridge University he would send me copies of his publications in envelopes addressed to “Mrs Stuart Rowland”. This really impressed the porters at my college who were mostly former military men. They were not much into feminism either. A memo actually went around the porter’s lodge to the effect that all post arriving to “Mrs Stuart Rowland” was to be put in Tracey Rowland’s pigeon-hole, since when Fr Schall’s envelopes first started arriving, no one knew what to do with them. I was later told by the college chaplain that I was one of the porter’s favourite students and I think it was because they loved this little act of politically incorrect chutzpah.

Before I went to Cambridge, and when I was a complete academic no-body, I managed to publish an opinion piece about post-modern philosophy in a secular newspaper. Fr Jim liked it and used a quotation from it in one of his articles, citing “Tracey Rowland” alongside Aristotle and St. Augustine. He then sent me the article with a short covering note saying “Happy St. Valentine’s Day – regards to Stuart, pray for me, Fr Jim!” I took multiple photo-copies of his article and proudly handed out copies to my friends. One of them joked that I was lucky to be mentioned alongside Aristotle and Augustine and not Snoopy and Schroeder. He loved the Peanuts cartoons!

However by far his greatest act of chivalry occurred when my book Ratzinger’s Faith received a two page ‘bad review’ in the Times Literary Supplement. Ratzinger’s Faith actually sold very well and was translated into three other languages and my publisher was not at all concerned about the fact that the reviewer didn’t like my book. The publisher said: “a double-page spread in the TLS is a double-page spread in the TLS” – in other words, all publicity is good publicity.

The reviewer however had ridiculed my book by calling it “a papal romance”. He said words to the effect that I was in love with Ratzinger and that my reading was completely unreliable because it didn’t square with the profile of Ratzinger that he had been given in his interviews with Hans Küng.

What annoyed me most about the review was that my book was not a biography in the sense of an attempt to deal with Ratzinger the man, but only with his ideas. Even theological liberals agree with me that Ratzinger was never a liberal, which is one of the points I tried to emphasize.

In any event, when news of the “papal romance” article reached Fr Jim via his friend Monsignor Sokolowski, he was in hospital recovering from an operation for cancer of the mouth. At the time he was being fed through a drip but he still managed to type out an article blasting the reviewer for all manner of intellectual ineptitudes. The reviewer informed Fr Jim that he had friends in the Society of Jesus, and Fr Jim’s response was something along the lines of “so what, I am 80-something, in hospital, with cancer, do your worst”.

No doubt many academic articles will be written in the years ahead about Fr Jim’s contribution to Catholic political philosophy. His books and papers will be his legacy to future generations. Unlike so many other Jesuits since the Arrupe era he never went down the path of fostering the rag-bag of Leftist political causes. He had no time whatsoever for Marxism. He believed that there will always be elites and that the best thing that a Jesuit could do would be to ensure that the elites were in both belief and practice Catholic! He thought that if the social leaders were good, holy people, then this would foster the good of all. The idea of allowing Communists a say in the choice of bishops was, for him, an idea from planet Pluto, or maybe even from hell.

When new generations of Catholic students want to study political philosophy the name “Schall” will feature prominently on their book lists. Already his book Another Sort of Learning is well known in Catholic undergraduate circles. It offers extensive reading lists for students who want to immerse themselves in the Catholic intellectual tradition.

For those of us who knew him, who were privileged to be on his mailing list, there is a sense that we haven’t just lost a friend, we have lost one of the last old-style renaissance-men of the Jesuits. We have lost one of the giants!

I am devastated. It feels like a member of the family has died. I went to THE CATHOLIC THING this morning thinking to myself, "Surely, there must be a commentary by now from Fr Schall on Benedict XVI's Klerusblatt essay"... and instead, this news. What great moments of reading pleasure and mental stimulation he has given me all these years since I first 'discovered' him when I became involved in the Benedict XVI forums back in 2005, and he soon became for me not just the best and most brilliant commentator on Benedict XVI's works and words, but also my favorite Jesuit of all time. Dear dear Fr. Schall, who has now gone back to the bosom of God, thank you for the legacy of your thought and solid Catholic orthodoxy which thankfully live on in your books.

In the past 14 years, I have occasionally thought what it could have been if Fr Schall and that other great American Jesuit, the late Cardinal Avery Dulles, had lived closer together in time and space and circumstance, which would have been more fantastic even than if Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin had been contemporaneous and interacting. On a more practical plane, I was always hoping there might have been an occasion for Fr Schall to sit own with benedict XVI whom he unhesitatingly called the greatest mind of all the world figures today, and to whom he always felt a kinship because they were almost the same age (Schall was born eight months later than Joseph Ratzinger).

Last year, as he turned 90, his colleagues at THE CATHOLIC THING put together a tribute called SCHALL AT 90 which is very apropos today.

Schall at Ninety
by The Friends of Fr. Schall

January 16, 2018

Editor's Note: The ever sharp-eyed Brad Miner noticed a few weeks ago that our colleague, James V. Schall, S.J., was turning 90 on January 20. I immediately sent out a message to some friends asking for brief comments to be published on that occasion; and you may read them, in alphabetical order, below. But I should have known. Before we could assemble and publish them, Fr. Schall himself sent me a column, scheduled for today, on the very same topic. So we’ve had to move up our musings; and now, in addition, you may read his own meditations on turning 90 at the end of these brief tributes. – Robert Royal

Robert Royal
I’d known the good padre’s work before I came to Washington in the early 1980s. Around then, I reviewed somewhere his book The Politics of Heaven and Hell. A new DC friend warned me, “Be careful about reviewing books by Schall. You start doing that, and you’ll never do anything else.” I never wrote another review of Schall (though maybe Another Sort of Learning?). I have tried (unsuccessfully) to keep up, nevertheless to incalculable benefit.

But I also benefitted, thanks to the friendship of Denise and Dennis Bartlett, colleagues of Schall’s when they were together in San Francisco. They began to invite us all to their DC home for birthdays, holidays, special occasions (book parties, to be sure). So for over twenty years, the Bartlett and Royal families and magister Schall lived some high moments together. My children didn’t realize until they were adults that the unassuming and amusing priest they knew was also a certifiably world-class Catholic brain.

But familiarity and normalcy were of a piece with his vast, wide-ranging, insightful oeuvre, because in the Schallian scheme, everything true is an intelligible and related part of “what is” (a phrase he has often intoned with near magical effect). For most of us, it’s not as easy to know “what is” as we think. But that’s why we need and – as generations of his formal and informal students know – are eternally grateful to the Creator for these 90 years – may there be many more – of James Schall.

Hadley Arkes
In the early 1980s, I was on leave from Amherst College, visiting at Georgetown. An unanticipated gift: Jim Schall was my new colleague, and became an enduring blessing. We took long walks through Georgetown, and we would think aloud, together, on questions in political philosophy that we were trying to answer – and to explain to students. When I finally came into the Church, in 2010, Fr. was with me, to concelebrate.

One thing that fascinated us were the teachings of my former professor, Leo Strauss, on the tension between reason and revelation. John Paul II would write on this in Fides et Ratio. But long before, Fr. Schall had said some of the most sensible things about the problem: “Revelation can be articulated because it contains logos.”

Both revelation and reason, then, were only accessible to a creature that had the wit to sift the claims of revelation that were plausible and implausible: “If what is said to be revealed is irrational or contradictory, it cannot be believed, even according to revelation.” This has political as well as purely philosophical implications: “Ironically,” it turns out that we will not understand the world if it is only the world we seek to understand. [And] we often suspect, at our highest moments, that in being in this world, we are not made only for it, dear as it can seem to be.”

Looking ahead to that world, Father ends his notes: “Pray for me . . . Jim.” And I ever will.

Bruce Fingerhut
Here is a man who taught hundreds of students every year, always reading and responding directly to them rather than using an assistant. He suffered from physical difficulties and never spoke of it; he wrote major articles from history to philosophy, from basketball to Catholic understanding.

Here is a man whose relations with young and old alike centered in intelligence, learning, and friendship, but in the end, I believe, the greatest gift he has given us is purpose. For all of us who have had the honor to know him, it is to realize how green is our valley.

Matthew Hanley
I did not have the benefit of Fr. Schall’s instruction in college. But at that age, like most products of our ambient culture, I doubt I’d have absorbed a fraction of the wisdom he had to offer. Still, a time came, early in my professional life, when I needed to go digging for meaty Catholic commentary: for firm fidelity in a hostile cultural environment, and for felicity in putting forth the relevant reasoning. And like anyone who goes looking for such things, I found the name Schall.

Thank God Schall did not limit himself to the classroom! His prolific corpus is a lifetime act of generosity; his wide range of subject matter attests to the interlocking truths of the faith and of reason he so cherished and defended at every turn. But what impresses me even more is the fact that he has done all this while enduring, shall we say, rather dispiriting developments in higher education – when most curricula typically frown upon confronting cultural collapse, even with good cheer.

Few will match his output, but we will need many to emulate his faithfulness – in a time where that quality may well mean an uncomfortable embrace with various degrees of estrangement.

Daniel Mahoney
Father Schall is a gifted political philosopher, an indefatigable student of the Church and the world, and one of the great defenders of the “natural order of things” – of “what is,” as he likes to say. He still participates in public and scholarly discussions with the energy of a man half his age.

I have known him since 1983, and have followed his books and writings; surprisingly, he has followed and encouraged my own work over the years. He is one of the great Catholic critics of the ideological distortion of reality – of the lies that increasingly dominate late modernity. As the Church is tempted in this new Franciscan dispensation to once more “kneel before the world” (Jacques Maritain), Father Schall is more indispensable than ever.

He resists the temptation to “immanentize the eschaton” – to reduce Christianity to a humanitarian project of this-worldly amelioration.
-nLucid and informed about political economy, he resists the lie that “the poor are poor because the rich are rich.”
- He rebukes the pacifist delusion that “war is always immoral and never has any legitimate justification.” Tyranny must be resisted and civilization must be honorably defended.
- He opposes the secular religion of radical environmentalism as an enemy of life and human fecundity.
- He cannot abide the self-evident lie “that Islam is only a religion of peace.” He knows that it has always “expanded by military conquest.”
- He is the scourge of relativism because he knows that a human being can know truths “about himself, the cosmos, or God.”
Turn to “Fifteen Lies at the Basis of our Culture” in his book A Line Through the Human Heart for a brilliant summary.

All God’s blessings to our great friend on his ninetieth birthday

Brad Miner
I’ve known Father Schall (“Jim,” as he prefers) since the late 1980s, although I’ve gotten to know him well only since the launch of The Catholic Thing in 2008. Our friendship since then has been almost entirely epistolary: not letters but emails – about two per week.

Readers of his remarkably voluminous writings know of his erudition and wit and, yes, his wisdom, and all that comes through in correspondence with him, except that the formality of books and essays evaporates in the Socratic exchanges we share. (He’s Socrates, although I’m a very poor excuse for Plato.)

Jim is without question the greatest teacher I’ve ever known, and I’ve often recalled Henry Adamss’ observation that a great “teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Schall is the man Adams had in mind.

Jim and I share thoughts about the Vatican and about college football, but I haven’t hesitated to ask him for guidance concerning spiritual matters, because, although I’m no philosopher, I am a sinner, and Jim is above all a priest – a living testament to the virtues of the Jesuit way of life. He ends every email, “Pray for me.” It’s also my most fervent request of him.

Fr. Gerald E. Murray
Is there such a thing as an ideal Jesuit? Of course! The early generations of Jesuit missionaries and teachers became the standard in the Society of Jesus. Fr. James Schall embodies many characteristics of Jesuit saints such as Robert Bellarmine and Peter Canisius.

In my grateful experience of eight years studying under Jesuits, I came to know that a true son of St. Ignatius is above all a convinced Catholic who uses the intelligence given to him by God to promote the Faith by teaching and writing and, most importantly, by living that Faith. Fr. Schall is one of that breed of bold men who entered the Society of Jesus, learned exactly what was expected of them, and so lived with great fidelity.

An old Jesuit high school teacher liked to remind students that “knowledge makes a bloody entrance.” These days, the same goes for knowledge of Catholic teaching. Unreflective prejudice against anything that contradicts popular assumptions is the enemy of all serious Catholic professors. Educating students in the truths of the Faith involves moral combat. Fr. Schall has valiantly carried out that battle in the lecture hall and through his outstanding writings for a long, long time.

Thank you, Fr. Schall for being the true son of St. Ignatius that you are. We thank God for men like you know that we need today exactly what St. Ignatius proposed to his first followers: to make Christ known and loved ad majorem Dei gloriam. Happy 90th Birthday!

Michael Pakaluk
A religious conversion in college taught me I almost knew nothing of the long history of thinking about ultimate things. Then Schall’s Another Sort of Learning pointed me to a “second education for which all education exists.” It was not adventures of ideas, but of truths, through books.

“Anyone can get an education if he can read” – but one must take care to read “books that tell the truth,” which are rare. He looks over a fine old copy of Boswell’s Life of Johnson. He loves Cicero and finds himself wondering how often Johnson mentions Cicero. The adventure begins.

It’s an adventure still. But in the future it will actually be a “third education.” It will be even harder to discover, because it will remain essentially contemplative: nothing electronic, nothing glowing, simply symbols on a page that capture someone’s speaking to us.

Schall will be speaking to one of those future students, who will even more need an education, despite being in college. Someone may text then, “Mr. Smith had somehow found a book, a well-preserved first edition of Schall’s Another Sort of Learning, the cover of which I damaged in my enthusiasm to open it.” And he’ll find there lists of truthful books, and by taking the hand of that author, he will meet: Plato and Aristotle, Knox, de Lubac, and Pieper. And, like us, as he embarks on his adventures, he will glow with gratitude for meeting, too . . . Fr. Schall.

Fr. Paul D. Scalia
I still can’t keep up with him. He’s been retired for several years, and I’m still chasing his writings and his recommendations. And I wasn’t even one of his students. At least not officially.

I met the famous Father Schall (“He’s a good Jesuit….at Georgetown”) in 1996, when I was a newly ordained, 25-year-old priest. He and I somehow started getting together for lunch. He seemed old even then. Every so often we would meet at Georgetown campus and then – at his rapid pace – walk several blocks to Martin’s (of course).

Lunch conversation was a round robin of who thought what about this or that. Without holding forth he was instructing. Nor was he an ivory tower professor. Conversation could be as much about handling pastoral situations as about having him explain Strauss (again). Several days later I would inevitably receive a thank you note. . .and a packet of articles to read.

It was an important and timely lesson. The temptation for the newly-ordained priest is to pour himself into parish activities. Seminary and study are in the rear view mirror, and now he can get down to real work. Father Schall provided a reminder of the priest’s need to continue reading and studying – for the sake of his pastoral work. It was Saint Francis de Sales who said that for a priest study is the eighth sacrament. It was Schall who taught it to me.

Cynthia Searcy
When I was an undergraduate at Georgetown, Fr. Schall distributed a column to the class titled “Schall at 75.” The student sitting next to me leaned over and said, “Our children will probably be assigned ‘Schall at 105.’” We’re now at the half-way mark. As these tributes attest, Fr. Schall is a rare scholar, writer, friend. But I think Fr. Schall would agree, that there is nothing he excels at more than as a teacher.

I found his use of the Socratic method terrifying, at first. But older students gave me some tips: 1) Always remember when Aristotle died; 2) Never, ever, answer: “I don’t know.” This was the only wrong answer, and evoked a swift, “Yes, you do!” (Once he learned I was from Kentucky, it was also good to be keep up on college basketball.)

His use of the Socratic method, I came to realize, reflected his general outlook on teaching. Students are each worth knowing, and should be treated individually, capable of growing in knowledge and virtue, not coddled or pandered to. Miraculously, this made him widely popular. His courses were almost always over-subscribed and he was repeatedly selected professor-of-the-year by the senior class (my own included).

His legacy will be that he never wavered in the conviction that human beings are capable of knowing the truth, and that with good teachers, young people could be inspired to want to know “what is.” I am among thousands eternally grateful for his commitment to that vocation.

Fr. Robert Sokolowski
Dear Fr. Schall, You are retired from Georgetown and no longer lecture in a classroom, but you’re still teaching a grateful audience; they are all over the country and in far corners of the world. The Internet, like the printing of books, was invented for people like you.

You are never dull, always insightful, and at ninety, as energetic as ever; and you are one of the best friends we have. With God’s grace, may you continue to express His Word and, in the spirit of St. Ignatius, bear witness to His great glory.

David Walsh
Dear Jim, we wish you a Wonderful 90th Birthday celebration. We miss not being able to invite you to Chesapeake Beach for dinners where we can parade you, especially for visiting Irish, as our own bona fide celebrity. Thank you for the friendship you continue to sustain over the years, especially in your non-retirement!

You definitively explode the myth that there is any retreat from the life of the mind. Your reflections on a variety of challenges, ecclesiastical, political, and existential, continue to dazzle and amaze, as you whisk us aloft on those intellectual leaps that are vintage Schall. But beyond your global well-wishers and admirers, there is one group in particular for whom you remain the indispensable.

I refer to the lonely scribblers who, when they toil, know not whether any one will read or care. As a lowly member of that fraternity I can assure you we take great consolation in knowing there is at least one who will take up the volume and read it with penetration and generosity. It is in this way you have become the silent partner of the work of so many who sit at their desks and wonder, “what will Schall think of this?”

David Warren
I first became aware of Father Schall as a reader, nearly forty years ago – decades before I was received into the Catholic Church, and when I had only recently become a Christian. A notice of his wonderful book, Welcome Number 4,000,000,000, appeared somewhere, and I began hunting his by-line thereafter in magazines, or anywhere.

My interest was, back then, more in politics than religion. For whatever reason I had come to associate contemporary Catholics with the battier forms of liberalism. But in Schall, as in another Catholic thinker I discovered in the later 1970s (a certain Joseph Ratzinger), I found a quality of mind that changed this outlook. Or rather,]at least four qualities, intersecting: real learning, good sense, generosity of spirit, and patient courage or steadfastness.

Through the intervening years I have come to know him as companion and guide – as teacher – without knowing him personally nor ever sitting in his class. The question, “What would Schall think?” has often acted as a restraint upon me, and more often still as an encouragement. By now his name alone comes to mind as an assurance, that even through a long crisis in “Western Civ” or Latin Christendom, God has provided. And even among our contemporaries, we will never be without truly Catholic companions and guides. He is utterly reliable: as high praise as I could give for any man. What a blessing he has been.

And Fr Jim himself, of course, contributed his own thoughts...

Schall at Ninety
by James V. Schall, S.J.

Beginning with “Schall at Seventy,” I have written a birthday comment (January 20) every five years. At seventy, I would be teaching at Georgetown for another fifteen years. On December 7, 2012, I gave my “Last Lecture” in Gaston Hall. On the first day of Spring, 2013, I flew to California, and have resided here in Los Gatos since. It is a good place for tired and retired Jesuits. Some forty of my various classmates have died here since I arrived. We do not call this center “The Waiting Room” or “The Last Assignment” for nothing, but all in good cheer.

In reading Brad Miner’s book, The Compleat Gentleman, I came across the following passage: “But, God willing, we will all turn ninety, and then what? We can plausibly think of fifty as young, but ninety?” Indeed.

This Los Gatos house is where I entered the Order as a novice in 1948. I left here for studies at Gonzaga University in 1952. This second run is already longer than the first. One manages to keep busy. The computer enables many things. I have had a number of books published since I arrived here.

In one, Remembering Belloc, I recalled his Path to Rome. There he said something pertinent to what concerns us as we age. In 1901, Belloc reflected that, in later years, we begin to worry about the human side of the supernatural Church.

When I arrived here five years ago, I did not suspect that the center of the Church, Rome, where I taught for twelve years, would turn out to be something to worry about. In recent decades, the Church seemed to be in sure hands. Now many people I know throw up their hands and wonder what will collapse next. My books, Catholicism and Intelligence and The Modern Age, more or less spelled out the world as I came to see it.

A former student, Scott Walter, recalled the annoyance that Walker Percy felt when constantly asked in interviews why he was a Catholic. He simply inquired: “What else is there?” My experience finds this to be the most productive of answers. See what you come up with in trying to find something better.

On examination, what is claimed to be better almost invariably turns out to be worse. One good thing about evil and sin is that we can think about them with a cold eye. But just because nothing is better does not prove that no basic problem exists at the center.

In retrospect, much of my life consisted in recommending things to read. I discovered Plato at a relatively advanced age. At Georgetown, every so often, I would spend a semester with a class in which we would read as much of Plato as we could.

To read Plato, however, it helps to be well-grounded in Aristotle and Aquinas. Few are more helpful in putting all these together than Charles N. R. McCoy, Josef Pieper, Joseph Ratzinger, and Robert Sokolowski. I had been fortunate in my early studies to have had as teachers Clifford Kossel, S. J. and Heinrich Rommen.

When asked what “field” I was in, I usually said “political philosophy.” But lest that sound hopelessly narrow, I argued that from this beginning one could and should go in many directions. If there is any “distinct” Schall contribution to political philosophy, it is basically distilled in my Political Philosophy & Revelation: A Catholic View.

The essential point is that reason and revelation belong together in a non-contradictory way. But we see this only after acknowledging what questions that philosophy can ask but not answer by itself. At this point, we become aware that an intelligence is found in revelation. The mind of revelation and the mind of reason have the same origin.

What I best like to write is the short essay – The Satisfied Crocodile (American Chesterton Society) is the latest collection. What I like to recommend are short books that take an unsuspecting student or curious adult to the heart of things. Such books can be found. Suggesting them was the burden of Another Sort of Learning and Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught.

Ultimately, “teaching” consists in two things: 1) the teacher and the student together read the same books that bring both to the truth, to the heart of things (Plato is the quickest way); 2) A professor, to recall Frederick Wilhelmsen, must state, over the years, what he has learned in his teaching.

That Schall at ninety has said all that he has to say is probable, but don’t count on it! As we age, we can, with Belloc, worry about the human side of the supernatural Church. But about Schall’s corporeal side, little leeway is left. The words of the rousing old tune state it best: “The Old Grey Mare she ‘ain’t’ what she used to be, many long years ago.”

Last Christmas, Fr. Schall had a post-surgery crisis that was quite critical, but he recovered soon enough, not just to celebrate his 91st birthday, but also to resume writing right away for his usual outlets - The Catholic Thing, Crisis magazine, and Catholic World Report.

I should have known something was amiss again when he failed to 'react' to Benedict XVI's latest essay, much less the Notre Dame fire, and I thought he would link them up in his inimitable way. I will never forget how, within hours of the Vatican's publication of the Regensburg lecture as soon as it had been delivered - even before the global wave of malice that washed over it 24 hours later - Fr. Schall posted online for the world to read a full-bodied appreciation of the lecture for the seminal intellectual and moral landmark that it was, the first great address of the 21st century. [Does anyone remember anything comparable? Other, that is, than the subsequent September addresses to the world that Benedict XVI delivered in Paris, London and Berlin, not forgetting his undelivered address for La Sapientia University.]

Dear Father Schall, now you rest in God. Pray for us and for the Church and faith you served so well.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/19/2019 5:35 PM]
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Ecce lignum crucis!

NB: Fr. Cipolla was an Episcopalian priest who was received into the Catholic Church in 1982 under John Paul II's decree
allowing married Episcopalian and Anglican priests into the Church.

Sermon for Good Friday 2019:
The death of Christ destroys
the absoluteness of Death

by Fr. Richard Cipolla

April 19, 2019

My son sent me a text: Notre Dame is on fire. I was doing something else and did not immediately check on the news. Then I did. I watched what was happening in Paris, the flames, the silent observers, the media, commentators who had no idea of what Notre Dame means or what is its deep significance and who tried to fudge things with platitudes. I sat there mesmerized.

And then an image I will never forget. The fleche, the spire of the cathedral, aflame, collapsed and fell out of sight. And the flames continued to roar. Suddenly the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, is seen arriving with an entourage. Next to him is a cleric in a grey shirt and plastic tab collar. They both look serious.

Notre Dame is burning. But they do not join the hundreds of Catholic standing there singing hymns, most of them young people, singing, above all, the Salve Regina. The officials do not join in singing the Salve Regina, because Macron’s generation does not know how to sing the Salve Regina.

And later Macron announces an international campaign to rebuild Notre Dame. Listen to what he said while the cathedral was still burning: “Notre-Dame is our history, our literature, part of our psyche, the place of all our great events, our epidemics, our wars, our liberations, the epicenter of our lives... Notre-Dame is burning, and I know the sadness, and this tremor felt by so many fellow French people. But tonight, I’d like to speak of hope too,” he said, announcing the launch of and fundraising campaign. “Let’s be proud, because we built this cathedral more than 800 years ago, we’ve built it and, throughout the centuries, let it grow and improved it. So I solemnly say tonight: we will rebuild it together.”

What do you notice here? Not one word of the Christian faith, the Catholic faith that is at the root, the raison d’être, of this remarkable structure, which is not only a structure but a Catholic Church. Macron’s words are yet one more example of the black hole of post- modern sensibilities, where the Christian foundations of Western culture have been deliberately forgotten or twisted out of shape.

Yes, these foundations extend deep from the Classical era of Greece and Rome. But these pagan foundations were Christianized, however imperfectly, but still Christianized by faith in Jesus Christ, his person as God incarnate and his teaching founded on a love of infinite depth. And these foundations and the civilization that it produced has been the victim of the black hole of deliberate forgetfulness that has sucked out the Christian foundations of Western culture that produced our civilization, foundations that are now not only forgotten but denied. The black hole of the post -modern culture is that deliberate forgetfulness and an accompanying hatred of the very origins of our culture.

Do you know what a black hole is? You should. There was a color photograph of a black hole some ten days ago posted on the front page of the New York Times and many other national newspapers. The same photo was everywhere on the internet. Traditional Catholics ought to be au courant not only about religious matters but also all matters that pertain to the human condition. And black holes certainly pertain to the human condition.

What is a black hole? It is the result of the death of a big star when it runs out of fuel. It explodes with a remarkable fire-works like display, after which it falls in on itself, and the mass of the dead star is so intense that its gravity is quasi-infinite, so that whatever is close to the dead star is sucked into it and cannot emerge out of it. And this is important. Even light cannot escape from it because of the intensity of its gravitational pull. Even light. Imagine.

Nothing can escape. Not even light. It is absolutely dark but almost infinitely powerful to suck anything that comes close into its inescapable darkness. And this physical phenomenon corresponds to the spiritual black hole of sin.

We always think that we can skirt the pull of sin and the consequences of sin. That we can play with fire, that we can do our own thing in a culture that encourages us to do so without any moral reference, and we believe that what we do in this way is somehow immune to the pull of the black hole of annihilation, that we can approach the black hole of sin and then pull the throttles of the space ship named Ego and escape from the inevitable sucking force of the blackness of the spiritual black hole whose center is ice.

If Dante had known about black holes he would not have changed one line of the Divine Comedy, especially the Inferno. He would have recognized the physical manifestation of hell in a black hole.

Now if one objects to the imaginative coupling of the black hole of modern physics to hell on the basis of the sharp distinction between the physical and the spiritual, then one must remember Flannery O’Connor’s comment to the young priest after the Second Vatican Council, who was present at a soirée in Manhattan organized by that liberated Catholic Mary McCarthy.

He was a cutting-edge priest, who was advocating for a purely spiritual, that is, at least in his mind, symbolic, understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist: O’Connor replied to this avant garde, cutting-edge priest, the darling of the post Vatican II salon liberals: if it’s only a symbol, to hell with it. And Flannery O’Connor was right, not merely about the theology of the matter but also in her using hell as an analogy to the denial of one of the fundamental Catholic understandings of the Eucharist, the Mass.

But yet we come here on this Good Friday, Good because it is good for you and me, not good for Christ, at least in the normal use of that word, but good for you and me. It is good, rather it is super good, it is remarkable beyond all measure, that because of Good Friday it is possible not to be sucked into the black hole of sin from which there is no return but rather through faith to allow death to lead us into eternal life, basking forever in the glorious light of the Son, not the sun in the sky, but rather the Son who is God of God, light of light, true God, consubstantial with the Father.

- We live in an age, abetted by nonsense spouted by bishops and priests, that confuses mercy with forgiveness, that refuses to talk about the objective reality of sin without which there can be no mercy.
- We live in an age that thinks that the terrible inevitability of sin leading us to the place in which there is no light and from which there is no escape, huis clos, can be changed, made null and void by the magic wand of mercy, of God’s mercy, without the radical turning around of the trajectory of our life that is going in the direction of the black hole of sin and death.

The mercy of God is not a warm fuzzy blanket that covers our sins. The mercy of God is not a wink that overlooks our sin. The mercy of God comes from that love of God that we cannot begin to understand, that mercy that embraces the prodigal son and kisses him even before the son confesses his sins to his father. But, but yet he returns, he returns, he understands what he has done, and he begs forgiveness for what he has done.

There is no mercy without repentance, and repentance always demands that I understand that I deliberately flew very close to the black hole and wanted to be sucked into that place in which light itself cannot exist, and that I did not become a part of this horrible state is because of what we commemorate here today.

The Cross of Jesus Christ is not only the answer to the problem of evil. It is not merely part of a belief of Christians that somehow the death of this Jewish man over two thousand years ago, this death of terrible suffering-- but others have suffered likewise in many situations-- but that this death, because of who died on that cross makes possible the negation of the inevitability of being sucked into the blackness of the black hole of nothingness after death, the terrible nothingness of eternity without the light of God.

Oh, how this liturgical act is an antidote to the radical individualism of our society, an antidote also to a facile and rote version of the Catholic faith in which everyone goes to heaven and in which the existence of the black hole of sin and death is denied.

Today is the commemoration of the death of God, the God who did not shrink from allowing himself to plunge into the black hole of death, but rather in human flesh willingly underwent the blackness of death in order to destroy the terrible absoluteness of death.

In a few minutes we will participate in the veneration of the Cross. The clergy and servers will take off their shoes in an act of humility, and in a ritual that speaks so much more than words they will kiss the feet of Christ on the cross. And so will you. You will kiss the feet of the Crucified Savior, and in so doing you will affirm that love is the real and total antidote to sin and death.

But there is more. The Blessed Sacrament will be taken from the Altar of Repose and brought into the church in solemn procession. When the Blessed Sacrament is carried into the church in procession, one of the greatest and loveliest hymns of the Church is sung. Listen to the words. Vexilla regis prodeunt

The royal banners forward go,
The cross shines forth in mystic glow;
Where He in flesh, our flesh who made,
Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.

O tree of beauty, tree of light!
O tree with royal purple dight!
Elect on whose triumphal breast
Those holy limbs should find their rest.

O cross, our one reliance, hail!
Still may thy power with us avail
To give new virtue to the saint,
And pardon to the penitent.

Why is the Sacred Host brought into the church in this solemn procession on this Good Friday? In order for the priest, on the one day that the Sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated, to hold the Host on high for all to see on this day, to behold the Sacrament of the One who exploded the black hole of sin and death, the God who loved us so much that he gave his only begotten Son to die for us, and it is the priest, the one who offers sacrifice, who then consumes the Sacred Host not to offer the Sacrifice as he usually does at the Mass, but to show us what the absence of the Sacramental presence of Christ would mean, the void without hope.

And with this gesture the priest shows us what this is all about, the will of God to become flesh and die a real death for you and me. He died a real human death, yes, without sin, but real, a death died not in some sort of smug way knowing the outcome, smug because of his Godhead, but rather like you and me, he died in faith that his Father would allow him to smash the terrible power of death and bring him once again to his bosom. He died really for you and me so that the reality of what he died for, the forgiveness of our sins, may become a reality in our space and time, for you and for me.

The fall of the fleche, the steeple of Notre Dame, was a terrible warning — not in the sense of God caused this in some sort of dark pseudo-pious way. But rather as a terrible warning for all to see the power of the black hole of sin and death to suck everything into its blackness and obliterate it, its power to make us forget who we are and where we came from. Enough.

Ecce lignum crucis. Behold the wood of the Christ on which hung the salvation of the world. Come let us adore him.

On his blogpost for Good Friday, Aldo Maria Valli harks back to Benedict XVI...


Good Friday, 21 March 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This year we have also walked along the Way of the Cross, the Via Crucis, evoking again with faith the stages of Christ's Passion. Our eyes have seen again the sufferings and anguish that our Redeemer had to bear in the hour of great sorrow, which marked the climax of his earthly mission.

Jesus dies on the Cross and lies in the tomb. The day of Good Friday, so permeated by human sadness and religious silence, closes in the silence of meditation and prayer. In returning home, we too, like those who were present at the sacrifice of Jesus, "beat our breasts", recalling what happened (cf. Lk 23: 48). Is it possible to remain indifferent before the death of God? For us, for our salvation, he became man and died on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters, our gaze is frequently distracted by scattered and passing earthly interests; let us direct our gaze today toward Christ. Let us pause to contemplate his Cross. The Cross is the source of immortal life, the school of justice and peace, the universal patrimony of pardon and mercy.

It is permanent proof of an oblative and infinite love that brought God to become man, vulnerable like us, even to dying crucified. His nailed arms are open to each human being and they invite us to draw near to him, certain that he accepts us and clasps us in an embrace of infinite tenderness: "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (Jn 12: 32).

Through the sorrowful Way of the Cross, the men and women of all ages, reconciled and redeemed by Christ's Blood, have become friends of God, sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father.

"Friend" is what Jesus calls Judas and he offers him the last and dramatic call to conversion. He calls each of us friend because he is the true friend of everyone. Unfortunately, we do not Always manage to perceive the depth of this limitless love that God has for his creatures. For him there is no distinction of race or culture.

Jesus Christ died to liberate the whole of humanity from ignorance of God, from the circle of hate and vengeance, from the slavery to sin. The Cross makes us brothers and sisters.

Let us ask ourselves: but what have we done with this gift? What have we done with the revelation of the Face of God in Christ, with the revelation of God's love that conquers hate?
- Many, in our age as well, do not know God and cannot find him in the crucified Christ.
- Many are in search of a love or a liberty that excludes God.
- Many believe they have no need of God.

Dear friends: After having lived together Jesus's Passion, let us this evening allow his sacrifice on the Cross to question us.
- Let us permit him to put our human certainties in crisis.
- Let us open our hearts to him. Jesus is the truth that makes us free to love.
- Let us not be afraid: upon dying, the Lord saved sinners, that is, all of us.

The Apostle Peter wrote: Jesus "himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (I Pt 2: 24).

This is the truth of Good Friday: on the Cross, the Redeemer has restored to us the dignity that belongs to us, has made us adoptive sons and daughters of God whom he has created in his image and likeness.

Let us remain, then, in adoration before the Cross. O Christ, crucified King, give us true knowledge of you, the joy for which we yearn, the love that fills our heart, thirsty for the infinite. This is our prayer for this evening, Jesus, Son of God, who died for us on the Cross and was raised up on the third day.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/19/2019 6:45 PM]
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Why this time I will not 'follow'
the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum

Translated from

April 19, 2019

I have read the meditations written for the Via Crucis at the Roman Colosseum today – written by a nun who is strongly involved in assisting women who are victims of human trafficking. [Obviously she was asked to do so by the reigning pope because of her cause.]

I believe for the first time in many many years, I will not take part, not even as a TV spectator, in this event. I do not wish to give it my support, as minuscule as this may be, by listening to or being present for something that seems to me like a ‘commercial’ for the immigration business, a 'spot' of ideological and political character, but one of truly lowdown politics.

I grant the good faith of everyone having to do with this. And I understand that the Church in Italy has seen and is seeing a drastic reduction in the not-inconsiderable revenue it was getting [for ‘assistance to immigrants’, presumably] since the current Italian government took strong measures to block illegal immigration en masse to this country.

I know that – probably out of courting favor with the reigning pope, or for their own selfish interests, or for demagoguery, or for choosing social activism in behalf of illegal migrants above other political causes – the Church in Italy has followed the Vatican line of espousing a political and sociological message that is globalist and immigrationist [even to the detriment of national sovereignty] and in doing so, it has been promoting something which she seems to condemn in words.

For which, I believe, they will be accountable to history. French author Laurent Dandreu has explained it well in his beautiful book “Église et immigration, le grand malaise; le pape et le suicide de la civilisation européenne” [The Church and immigration, the great malaise: The pope and the suicide of European civilization), which so far has not found an Italian publisher.

But how dare they instrumentalize the Way of the Cross in this total and totalizing manner! Sure, the powers-that-be have every 'right' to do so. But not with my participation, infinitesimal and completely negligible as it may be.

In fact, Jorge Bergoglio has knowingly and deliberately set about to carry out his ultraliberal – and ultimately anti-Catholic - political and social agenda, not just through his acts of governance and his appointment of likeminded ideologues to the Church hierarchy, but even in relatively ‘minor’ matters such as his choice of the priest who leads the Roman Curia’s annual Lenten exercises and of who writes the annual Via Crucis meditations for the Colosseum. Paul VI already paved the way for him with the Novus Ordo, which has allowed the unforgivable and seemingly infinite ways of politicizing and ideologizing the liturgy, including the Way of the Cross, and the Lord's Prayer itself. Yet the sole purpose of liturgy, and of Christian life which it stands for, is the worship of God as we thank him for his graces, make reparation for our sins, and raise our petitions to him.

All who work under and for this pope must toe his line – which they do and will continue to do gladly - because they are the ill-begotten heirs of Vatican-II and its so-called ‘spirit’ which is uncompromisingly ‘mondanizing’. They want – and have allowed – the Zeitgeist, which represents the very spirit of Satan, to permeate the Church in order to promote their own ideas about what the Church of Christ ought to be. Which is not what the Gospel tells us he means His Church to be, namely, an extension of himself within this world to the end of time when he comes again. The church of Bergoglio and his fellow V2 'spiritists’ is not promoting Christ and the Word of God at all but themselves and their opinions.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/20/2019 7:58 AM]
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From today:

This Facebook user posted the photos, saying “When I looked at this photo last night, I was really astounded by what I saw. When I look at it, I see
a silhouette of Jesus. I really see a vivid image.”

What do you think? Is it Jesus or Our Lady? Even if this was photoshopped, most skillfully indeed, it serves as a powerful reminder that on many occasions, not just the devil,
but God himself is 'in the details', and for a purpose, if we but looked.

Fire, because of its inherent qualities, is a remarkable source of powerful metaphors, and most of these are being invoked these days in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. The day it broke out, Fr Hunwicke recounts this coincidence (or synchronicity, as Jung would rather call it):

Fire and the Baalim

April 15, 2019

...Having just heard of the fire in Paris yesterday afternoon, I took up my Breviarium Romanum to say Matins of the following day, April 15, and found myself reading Jeremiah 11:15-20:

Olivam uberem, pulchram, fructiferam, speciosam vocavit Dominus nomen tuum: ad vocem loquelae, grandis exarsit ignis in ea, et combusta sunt fruteta eius. Et Dominus exercituum, qui plantavit te, locutus est super te malum: pro malis domus Israel et domus Iuda, quae fecerunt sibi ad irritandum me, libantes Baalim.

"The LORD has named you [Israel] 'a spreading olive tree, a pleasure to behold'; Now he sets fire to it, its branches burn.
because of the evil done by the house of Israel and by the house of Judah, who provoked me by sacrificing to Baal."

[In which the prophet recalls God's words to him about what he must tell 'the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem':

Cursed be anyone who does not observe the words of this covenant, which I commanded your ancestors the day I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that iron furnace, saying: Listen to my voice and do all that I command you. Then you shall be my people, and I will be your God".

I couldn't help thinking of PF's syncretistic Abu Dhabi statement. How could anybody not?

Later, one Macron appeared on the TV, talking in long syllables about the rebuilding which would follow. I thought: Nisi Dominus aedificaverit domum... (Unless the Lord builds the house...)

Apparently, the use of public money would not offend against laicite because Notre Dame is, culturally, so much bigger a thing than mere Christianity. So that's all right, then. Some arty person, interviewed this morning, explained that the rebuilt Cathedral will of course be disentangled from the (Christian) myths which led to its building. More or less back to the Revolution, and the Goddess Reason...

Roberto De Mattei develops the fire metaphor to the max...

“Thou didst hear his words out of the midst of the fire” (Deuteronomy 4, 36)

by Roberto de Mattei
Translated for Rorate caeli by 'Fracnesca Romana' from

April 17, 2019

Why did the fire of Notre Dame Cathedral generate such enormous shock all over the world? Because apart from the intrinsic value of the monument, Notre Dame is a symbol. It was written everywhere: a symbol of Christianity, a symbol of Western conscience, a symbol of a collective cultural patrimony, a symbol of European identity, a symbol of French national history.

We live in a world that has lost the value of logic, but the power of symbols is still extraordinary, given that symbols are used by the mass-media system to create emotional-reactions, often replacing the role of reason.

There are in fact two ways of arriving at the truth: one through reason, the other through symbols. But the two ways are complementary, not alternative. Jesus, for example, uses the language of symbols, but also convincing logic.
- Rational language is founded on the principal of non-contradiction, whereas symbolic language is based on images and visible signs referring to an invisible reality.
- A symbol renders immediately comprehensible that which is veiled to the eyes of reason.
- Logic helps to decipher the language of symbols. Everything our senses experience has a significance and leads to the invisible, of which it is a reflex and imitation.

In the case of the Notre Dame fire, everyone perceived the symbolic value of the wounded cathedral, but few have sought to understand the symbolic significance of what happened. Notre Dame, like all cathedrals, represents the Catholic Church in its architectural impetus towards Heaven.

How not to see in the smoke and flames that enveloped it on April 15th, the image of the smoke and flames enveloping the Church of Christ? As far back as 1972, Paul VI spoke of the “smoke of Satan” penetrating the Temple of God. This smoke today is the result of a fire that ravaged the Church, until it carbonized the very top. Might it not be possible to see in the collapse of the fleche - Notre Dame’s tall spire - the fall of the pinnacle of the Church?

At this time, another symbolic image overlaps that of the Notre Dame blaze: a scene with Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ, kissing the feet of three Sudanese Muslim leaders, asking them “to extinguish the fires of war once and for all.”

This happened on April 11th at the end of a spiritual retreat in the Vatican, conceived by the (schismatic) Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Immediately afterwards, on the first day of Holy Week, the French cathedral – the most famous and most visited in the world after St. Peter’s – was consumed by flames.

In the world of those faithful to Tradition, there is an ongoing discussion, at times heated [in the attempt] to establish whether this or that verbal expression by Pope Francis can be considered heretical. But this theological and canonical investigation risks staying abstract and ignoring the language of gestures, which expresses in a direct manner a reality that every baptized person who has kept his sensus fidei can easily discern.

Well then, rarely has the Church been humiliated by gestures like the one made by Pope Francis prostrated at the feet of political and other religious leaders. Francis is in fact, the Vicar on Earth of the King of Kings, to Whom everyone owes homage. There can never be any true peace outside the Truth proclaimed by He Who is the only Prince of Peace. His dominion embraces all men, as Pope Pius XI reminds us of in his encyclical Quas Primas, of December 11th 1925, citing the words of his predecessor Leo XIII:

“The empire of Christ extends not only over Catholic nations and those who, having been duly washed in the waters of holy baptism, belong of right to the Church, although erroneous opinions keep them astray, or dissent from her teaching cuts them off from her care; it comprises also all those who are deprived of the Christian faith, so that the whole human race is most truly under the power of Jesus Christ (Enc. Annum Sacrum, 25 May 1899). Pius XI adds: “If the kingdom of Christ, then, receives, as it should, all nations under its way, there seems no reason why should we despair of seeing that peace which the King of Peace came to bring on earth - He who came to reconcile all things, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister?”

On April 11th Jesus Christ was humiliated by His Vicar, with an act just as symbolic as the fire on April 15th. In the tragedy of the blaze, Divine Providence did not allow the Holy Crown of Thorns to be destroyed, redeemed at great cost by St. Louis, who in 1239, wearing only a linen tunic, and barefoot, welcomed it to Paris and carried it in procession. To safeguard this relic the Sovereign commissioned the building of Sainte Chapelle, an outstanding jewel of Gothic art. We must be grateful to the firefighter’s Chaplain, Father Fournier, who, defying danger, managed to save the Holy Species and the Crown of Thorns.*

Jesus, after being scourged, insulted and besmirched with spit, was forced to wear a purple garment; a crown of thorns was thrust on His head, and, in His right hand, in the place of a scepter, a cane, to signify that His was a sham Kingdom. Then His executioners knelt in front of Him and adored Him in mockery, saying Ave Rex Judaeorum (Hail, King of the Jews) (Mt 27, 28-29). The Lord then came out in plain sight of everyone, dressed in purple, crowned with thorns: portans coronam spineam et purpureum vestimentum (John 19, 5) and Pilate showed Him to the people, with the words: Ecce Homo: Behold the Man. The Prefect of the Praetorium, spoke unknowingly through the mouth of the Holy Spirit, Who was saying: He appears to be merely a Man, but He is the Son of God, the Messiah, promised by the law, the King of men and Angels, the Saviour of the human race.

In the same way, in this age of Passion we live in, the words Ecce Ecclesia seem to resound: behold the Bride of Christ, the only depositary of the means of Salvation, the Queen of Peace, the Teacher of men, the Kingdom, whose keys have been entrusted to Peter. Behold Holy Church, covered in sores, disfigured, defiled. How is it possible that She be treated this way? Moved by sorrow and indignation, we adore the Church, directing our veneration in particular to the adorable relic of the Crown of Thorns.

In medieval cathedrals, like Notre Dame, the demons were represented under the form of grotesque and deformed sculptures (gargoyles) on the exterior of the church, which the wicked spirits cannot enter into. When flares of fire inside the temple of God, replace the pure light of the stained-glass, it means that hell has entered. “The Fires of Hell in Notre Dame”, was a headline on the front page of the German newspaper Bild of April 16th.

The words of St. Louis Maria Grignon de Montfort, in the entreaty of his Inflamed Prayer, resound prophetically. “Fire! Fire! Fire! Help! Help! Help! There is fire in the house of God! There is fire in souls! There is fire even in the sanctuary!” But just as vibrantly the Saint’s final invocation resounds in our hearts, on this Easter Eve: “Exsurge, Domine, quare abdormis? Rise Lord! Why are you pretending to sleep? Rise with all Your omnipotence, mercy and justice. Form a company of bodyguards chosen to protect Your House, defend Your Glory and save souls, so that there is only one sheepfold and one Shepherd, and all may glorify You in Your Temple. Et in templo ejus omnes dicent gloriam. Amen.”

Since the first two items in this postbox are about images and symbols, let me pursue that farout weird if not downright lunatic gesture of the reigning pope towards the leaders of South Sudan. Cringeworthy, embarrassing, certainly not necessary at all nor called for, it is the act of an ultimate narcissist calling attention to his virtue [I think the current jargon for it is 'virtue signalling'] of , methinks, 'humility'. What and who exactly did this theatrical gesture (my first adjective for it upon seeing the pictures was 'disgusting') serve?Nothing and no one, obviously, least of all Bergoglio.

Antonio Socci promptly posted a quotation from a Benedict XVI Corpus Domini homily which Socci entitled 'Memo to Bergoglio from the Pope', and although Socci is obviously rubbing in his pet theory that Benedict XVI is still pope and is the only pope today, this does not at all detract from B16's 'lesson' on kneeling...

Has any Bergogliac come up with any explanation for why their lord and master cannot genuflect at the Consecration or kneel in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament but displays
all the agility of a serpent to slither and grovel before human beings? In the case of the Sudanese leaders, he cannot even claim he is honoring the Lord whom he sees in
the poor and the downtrodden... Oh, I know - a Bergogliac will claim he is groveling at their feet because these leaders are 'peacemakers' (then Palestine's Mahmoud Abbas
should have cause to complain - not to mention Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama - that Bergoglio never gave them the same obeisance when they are 'arguably' two
of the greatest 'peacemakers' the world has known! ...I think in the next foreign country he visits, Bergoglio will slither down to the tarmac as soon as he steps off the plane
to kiss the feet of his host and his wife and their official entourage, which he will say makes far more sense than John Paul II kneeling down to kiss the earth upon arriving at
a foreign destination.]

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/21/2019 9:48 PM]
4/21/2019 9:49 PM
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