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Archbishop Viganò, Donald Trump, and The Americanist Delusion of Traditional Catholics

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Archbishop Viganò, Donald Trump

And the Americanist Delusion of Traditional Catholics

 

In his June 7, 2020 open letter to President Donald Trump, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò offers his analysis of the present crisis. In the Archbishop’s own words:

“In recent months we have been witnessing the formation of two opposing sides that I would call Biblical: the children of light and the children of darkness. The children of light constitute the most conspicuous part of humanity [and therefore, we may presume, a very significant majority], while the children of darkness represent an absolute minority. And yet the former are the object of a sort of discrimination which places them in a situation of moral inferiority with respect to their adversaries, who often hold strategic positions in government, in politics, in the economy and in the media. In an apparently inexplicable way, the good are held hostage by the wicked and by those who help them either out of self-interest or fearfulness.

“These two sides, which have a Biblical nature, follow the clear separation between the offspring of the Woman and the offspring of the Serpent. On the one hand there are those who, although they have a thousand defects and weaknesses, are motivated by the desire to do good, to be honest, to raise a family, to engage in work, to give prosperity to their homeland, to help the needy, and, in obedience to the Law of God, to merit the Kingdom of Heaven. On the other hand, there are those who serve themselves, who do not hold any moral principles, who want to demolish the family and the nation, exploit workers to make themselves unduly wealthy, foment internal divisions and wars, and accumulate power and money: for them the fallacious illusion of temporal well-being will one day – if they do not repent – yield to the terrible fate that awaits them, far from God, in eternal damnation.” [all bold emphasis ours].

In accordance with the Archbishop’s view of reality, the children of light (who are “in the obedience of God”) are the majority in this country. Later in this letter, he states: “The American people are mature and have now understood how much the mainstream media does not want to spread the truth but seeks to silence and distort it, spreading the lie that is useful for the purpose of their masters. However, it is important that the good – who are the majority – wake up from their sluggishness and do not accept being deceived by a minority of dishonest people with unknowable purposes.  

It is the absolute minority (the “deep state”, “invisible enemy”), according to Archbishop Viganò’s further analysis, who,  being the children of darkness, are responsible for conspiring against this good majority through the coronavirus “pandemic” and the violence perpetrated in cities in response to the George Floyd murder. They have done so through the power of international finance, the liberal media, liberal politicians, the “social engineers’ promoting a New World Order, etc.

The problem in Archbishop Viganò’s analysis does not lie in his depiction of what is indeed a reality in regard to the central figures and forces of Antichrist now promoting social engineering in service to the formation of a New World Order at the expense of the destruction of Christian Civilization and the Catholic Church. The problem lies in his absolutely erroneous – and seemingly profoundly ignorant – depiction of the majority of American who he claims are children of light in obedience to God, and therefore to be considered the offspring of Our Lady.

Let us look at this “most conspicuous” majority:

In the United States, according to polls (Pew and Gallup), 91% of its citizens believe in contraception, and this despite the fact that an estimated 10 to 18 times as many unborn babies are murdered by contraception than surgical abortion. Somewhere around 80 % of all Americans approve of abortion at least in some cases, 77% of Americans approve of the legality of divorce, 71% approve of the legality of sex outside of marriage, 64% approve of embryonic stem cell research, 63% approve of the legality of same sex relations, 52 % believe that doctor-assisted suicide should be legal, etc.

The phrase children of light can only refer to those who truly follow Christ, are living in sanctifying grace, and therefore in the state of friendship with God. In light of the above statistics, Archbishop Vigano’s depiction of the majority of Americans as children of light is therefore not only inexplicable, but absurd. Rather, the vast majority are believing and/or living in service to the Serpent. Certainly, we may rightly concur in the existence of a deep state minority consciously and calculatingly bent upon our enslavement; but it amounts to complete blindness to not see that the vast majority of Americans are living in rejection of the obedience of God, and are therefore in deep moral cooperation with the Enemy towards their own future enslavement, and a deserved chastisement by God. We should rather compare them to the vast majority of the Jews living at the time of the Babylon Captivity. The Book of Jeremiah would be much more worthy of reading and contemplation at this time in American history than Archbishop Viganò’s letter.

In his letter, Archbishop Viganò declares to President Trump, “I dare to believe that both of us are on the same side in this battle, albeit with different weapons”. Donald Trump is of course pro-contraception (pro-murder), pro surgical abortion in at least some cases, pro-divorce, supportive of homosexuality and the legality of “gay marriage”, etc. He has done some things to support the pro-life cause and the family, but there is nothing to indicate that he is anywhere near being integrally pro-life, pro-family, or pro-Catholic in his moral beliefs. There is of course, no way of determining how calculated or cynical in terms of political “opportunism” is his courting of the Catholic and evangelical vote on such issues. In either case, any notion that the current battle with the forces of antichrist can be engaged in effectively, and defeated, by such poisoned conservativism is pure fantasy. The same may be said of the promotion of the program “Make America Great Again”. America never was great, except from the standpoint of its unending growth in pursuit of the things of this world, and consequent denial of that poverty of spirit towards all the things of this world which is integral to the Gospel. The American Constitution, with its alleged establishment of all power of government being rooted in the people, and its explicit denial of the Kingship of Christ in the First Amendment, is itself a recipe for what we now have with us (see our article The World Cometh: Democracy and the Spirit of Antichrist).

The question must be asked as to how Archbishop Viganò could be so wrong and so lacking in spiritual depth of discernment in regard to what actually comprises light versus darkness in respect to the current situation and conflict. The answer almost certainly lies in the overwhelming human tendency, rooted in original sin, which always divides the world into “We” and “Them”. It is the sin of Pharisees of all ages. It now appears to be that sin which is most seductive towards those who still seek to hold on to the traditional Catholic Faith, especially if that Faith is in any way identified with “Americanism” (and this identification has existed from this country’s founding). And now Archbishop Viganò has appeared to yoke himself to such American Traditional Catholicism and its blindness.

Having demolished the myth concerning the virtuosity and innocence of the vast majority of American people in the face of the “Enemy”, we yet need to speak of ourselves. What about those of us who possess the traditional Catholic Faith, are not in mortal sin (as far as we know), and can firmly answer “No!” to all of the questions asked in the polls mentioned above?  Are we not innocent? Are we not worthy of claiming to be children of light in relation to all the rest of Americans?

In order to answer this question, we need to look at what has led the American people in their majority (including the majority of Catholics) into its present apostasy from Christ, and whether we also are participants in this ongoing and accelerating process.

We must first realize that possession of sanctifying grace (which is what constitutes being a child of the light) is something that is lost only through mortal sin (including rejection of the Faith), and that this loss is instantaneous. There is no living in half- friendship with God, no gradualness in loss of sanctifying grace.

But there certainly can be a profound decrease of the penetration of this grace into our souls through failure to live the Christian virtues and beatitudes, and the consequent failure to bear fruit in the Holy Spirit. In other words, there can indeed be a quite long and extended process, both in individuals and nations as a whole, leading up to such loss. And during this extended process, there can be many individuals who indeed still justly claim to possess the Faith and who even might still be considered to be free from mortal sin (and therefore in possession of sanctifying grace), but who through their increasing “friendship with the world” are on that rapidly descending slope by which they are not only participants in the process that leads to general apostasy, but have settled into that seductive path of self-deception which will lead them eventually to full companionship with the children of darkness.

Is it any wonder therefore that our prayers against the enemy, who we view almost exclusively as existing “out there”, seem to produce so little fruit?

In this light, we cannot fail to mention Archbishop Viganò’s appeal to President Trump to join in prayer “to protect you, the United States, and all of humanity from this enormous attack of the Enemy”.  And he adds, “Before the power of prayer, the deceptions of the children of darkness will collapse, their plots will be revealed, their betrayal will be shown, their frightening power will end in nothing, brought to light and exposed for what it is: an infernal deception.”

Such words do indeed seem appealing. They may also be seen as profoundly deceptive. As scripture says, “Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner” (Ecclus. 15:9).  Nor is prayer effective in the mouth of those who seek friendship of God in adultery with friendship with this world:

You ask and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences. Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God?” (James 4: 3-4).

We are in a profound state of emergency. Our hope is not to be found in lying down on the peripheries of God’s infinite waters of grace, while occasionally lapping a drink which sustains our faith and our lives for the moment. Our hope, and our faith, will not ultimately survive lying in the muck of believing we can be a friend of this world – especially the American dream of prosperity and affluence – while at the same time being a friend of God. Nor will our hope achieve any fulfillment in the “Make America Great Again” of Donald Trump. And our prayers will not be answered if they are offered primarily against the deep state or the invisible enemy without. They will only be answered in the desert of “We have sinned” rather than “They have sinned”. Here lies the ocean of God’s grace which is Mary, who awaits our immersion in Her Immaculate Heart for the sake of our own purification and the purification of the whole Church. It is only this which the Enemy truly fears.

The entirety of the effort which we have called The Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church is established upon an attempt to infuse within the hearts and minds of Catholics the self- knowledge which will enable them to see the truth of what we have offered above, and to propose the course of action which must be taken if we are to survive. This is very succinctly laid out in our Original Proposal. We ask all reader to meditate upon this very carefully, and to take action upon it. The primary Feast proposed for its implementation is the Feast of the Purification and Presentation on February 2nd. For reasons spelled out in our proposal, we believe it singularly appropriate. Quite frankly, however, we have no idea whether the” Enemy Without” will not have again succeeded in depriving us of our churches – places of united worship – by that date. We therefore implore people to begin to implement this now at every opportunity within their churches and wherever else possible. If we do not enter our collective desert now in profound unified surrender to the purifying fires of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, we may well end up in isolated aloneness in the wilderness of the world by next February 2nd.

___________________________________________________________

Note:  None of the above is intended as a personal attack upon Archbishop Viganò or anyone else. Archbishop Viganò’s letter has only been employed as a singularly appropriate opportunity to expose the superficiality and lack of self-knowledge which characterizes the “operation of error” (2Thess. 2: 10) which is now descending upon us all.

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Pope Pius XII’s Surrender to Evolution: The Church Pivots Radically Towards the World

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Pope Pius XII’s Surrender to Evolution:

The Church Pivots Radically Towards the World

 

“For just as the opinion of certain ancients is to be rejected which maintains that it makes no difference to the truth of the Faith what any man thinks about the nature of creation, provided his opinions on the nature of God be sound, because error with regard to the nature of creation begets a false knowledge of God; so the principles of philosophy laid down by St. Thomas Aquinas are to be religiously and inviolably observed, because they are the means of acquiring such a knowledge of creation as is most congruent with the Faith; of refuting all the errors of all the ages, and of enabling man to distinguish clearly what things are to be attributed to God and to God alone.” (Pope Pius X: Motu Proprio  Doctoris Angelici – On the Study of Thomistic Philosophy in Catholic Schools).

 

In studying the Gift of Knowledge and its corresponding Beatitude of Mourning, we have been dealing precisely with that knowledge of created things, and our proper relationship to them, which is absolutely necessary if we are to be able “to distinguish clearly what things are to be attributed to God and to God alone”, thereby establishing ourselves in that true relationship to God which makes us receptive to His grace. This is why we are devoting several articles to this subject – in order to help us acquire that understanding which will liberate us from those false forms of knowledge which now ensnare us and suffocate the life of the Holy Spirit in our souls.

The form of false knowledge which has been the most powerful cultural force for establishing the modern world in that false understanding of creation which makes impossible a true knowledge of God is the theory of evolution. On the one hand, it is the most effective “engine of destruction” employed by atheists and others who directly seek the destruction of the Catholic Faith and the Church. It is integral to all those ideologies and philosophies which seek to promote man’s becoming at the expense of the submission of man’s mind and heart to God Who has revealed Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is therefore the foundation of all such ideologies as Secular Humanism, Transhumanism, Socialism, Messianic Democracy (the rule of the people), and Communism.

There is possibly no better testimony to this truth than that found in a little booklet titled The Surrender to Secularism  (1967 – Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation), written by Most Rev. Cuthbert M. O’Gara, former bishop of Yuanling, China. He relates the following:

“When the Communist troops  over-ran my diocese they were followed in very short order by the propaganda corps – the civilian branch of the Red forces – an organization, if anything, more disciplined, more zealous, more fanatical, then the People’s Army of Liberation itself. The entire population, city and countryside, was immediately organized into distinctive categories – grade school and high school pupils and teachers (Catholic, Protestant and pagan), merchants, artisans, members of the professions, yes, and even the lowly coolies. Everyone, for a week or more, was forced to attend the seminar specified for his or her proper category and there, willy-nilly in servile submission, listen to the official Communist line.

“Now what, I ask, was the first lesson given to the indoctrinees? One might have supposed that this would have been some pearl of wisdom let drop by Marx, Lenin or Stalin. Such however was not the case. The first, the fundamental, lesson given was man’s descent from the ape – Darwinism! …. Darwinism negates God, the human soul, the after-life. Into this vacuum Communism enters as the be-all and the end-all of the intellectual slavery it has created. In the Red prison in which I was held, the slogan, ‘Bring your mind over to us and all your troubles will end’, was hammered into the minds of the prisoners with brutal and numbing monotony. Nothing but a groveling holocaust of the human person can satiate the lust for dominance of Peking’s Red Regime.”

In service to this proposed evolutionary destiny, Communism tortured and murdered  (outside of war, and of course not including abortion and contraception), approximately 15,000,000 people in the 20th century. Communism, however, is only one aspect of this engine of destruction. Bishop O’Gara goes on to state, and offer evidence for the fact, that all forms of atheism, including the militant forms of secularism which rule our modern societies, demand this holocaust of the human person. It matters little whether we are dealing with Communism, Socialism, Nazism, abortion, sex-education, the whole secular culture of perversity and death, the exclusion of God from public education, the crisis within the Church, or a whole host of other individual and social agendas – all are intimately related, and have as a powerful causative factor, belief in Darwinian Evolution.

We need therefore to emphasize that the destructive effect of evolutionary theory is not only manifested by its effect upon man’s concept of himself as simply a glorified animal (with all the degrading consequences that this implies), but also in terms of “Social Darwinism” which, in one form or another, now perceives the evolutionary future to be manipulable and controllable by man himself. The 20th century was strewn with hundreds of millions of victims of such plans for “social engineering” (Communism, Nazism, the world-wide agenda of Planned Parenthood, the abortion and birth-control holocaust in the United States and other nations, 400 million murdered babies under China’s one-child policy, and the population policies of the UN). And the 21st century opened with the prospect and reality of such technology now being applied to the deepest structures of human genetics and life.

But equally important, we must realize that belief in evolution comprises that poison of self-contradiction and duplicity in the minds and hearts of most Catholics which constantly eats away at the supernatural foundations of our faith, and consequently renders us helpless before the spirit of Antichrist which is increasingly coming to dominance in the world. It is therefore a primary causative factor in that prostitution of the Church to the world which has now rendered the Church largely impotent in regard to possessing that power of the Holy Spirit absolutely essential to spiritual combat against the forces of evil invading our lives and the lives of our families.

The almost universal capitulation of the Church hierarchy to the idea that the protection of our health and welfare from the ravaging forces of the present pandemic requires almost total suppression of the Sacraments, while at the same time requiring a “religious” subjection of mind and will to the “wisdom” and “science” of governments and their Health Boards or Institutes, is only the most recent sign of such impotency and prostitution of the Church before the world. As we have pointed out repeatedly, the ultimate source of this prostitution lies in an intellectual surrender to the world of reductive science, and a consequent taking precedence of man’s evolutionary becoming over the Being and Grace of God. We rightly consider this it to be an ominous sign of much worse things to come. But we also need to understand that what is now occurring within the Church, and with the hierarchy, is not something which is radically new and unexpected. St. Peter writes, “Dearly beloved, think not strange the burning heat which is to try you, as if some new thing happened to you.” (1 Pet. 4: 12).  St. Peter is here speaking of all the suffering and persecution that is destined to come upon us, and the necessity of shouldering these crosses in our following of our Christ. But this passage would also seem singularly appropriate for helping us to understand that the present crisis in the Church is not a “new thing’, but rather is something which has very specific historical causes. As the popular saying goes, “it is a case long in the making”.

When we consider the specific issue of the submission of the minds and hearts of Catholics to evolutionary theory, and especially the submission of members of the hierarchy to such errors, we necessarily come face to face with Pope Pius XII’s teaching concerning evolution in his encyclical Humani Generis. It is conventional wisdom among those who seek to be orthodox Catholics that Pius XII’s teaching in this encyclical amounted to a very balanced and meritorious approach to the question of the evolution of the human body. Following is paragraph #36 from Humani Generis, which contains the relevant teaching on this matter:

For these reasons  the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussion, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith. Some however rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the fact which have been discovered up to now, and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.”

The “bottom line” of Pope Pius XII’s teaching in the above paragraph is that the teaching authority of the Church does not forbid research and discussion in regard to the question concerning the evolution of the human body from pre-existent matter. In addition, this paragraph does indeed amount to a mandate for such research and discussion to occur, a mandate which recognizes that it is not only permitted, but necessary, that evidence and arguments for both sides of this question be presented.

It is our position, however, that such permission and mandate are in themselves in contradiction to already-defined Church dogma, and as such constitute a surrender and submission to reductive evolutionary science. If this be true – that any belief in the bodily evolution of man be in contradiction to already defined doctrine – we would not be amiss, for instance, in comparing this to a permission and mandate to provide arguments from both sides in regard to any other defined doctrine of the Catholic Church. Such permission and mandate would not only result in a deep confusion and scandal to the faithful, but would also constitute in itself justification for entertaining doubt about already defined dogma. This, of course, is precisely the aftermath which ensued from Pope Pius XII’s statement in paragraph 36.

This is not the only case, in recent times, of such a “permission” and “mandate” coming from Popes which has resulted in immense scandal and detriment to faith among Catholics. It may indeed be aptly compared to the equally destructive aftermath of Pope John XXIII and Paul VI’s permission and mandate for studying the question of birth control. By the time the Catholic Church emerged from this permission, 80-90% of Catholics were to be found believing that artificial contraception was permissible in at least some cases.

The Catholic dogma which is contradicted by Pope Pius XII’s permission and mandate is that which was defined by the Ecumenical Council of Vienne (1311-12). It states the following:

“”Whoever shall obstinately presume in turn to assert, define, or hold that the rational or intellective soul is not the form of the human body in itself and essentially must be regarded as a heretic.”

This dogma was repeated by Lateran Council V (1512-1517).

To say that the human soul is in itself and essentially the form of the human body is to say that the human body cannot exist without this form. Period. The soul is not merely something in “addition” to the body. Rather it is the soul which actualizes and makes existent the human body. Thus, the following statements from St. Thomas work The Soul (Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle, Book II, Chapter I):

#225-226: “We must not think, therefore of the soul and body as though the body had its own form making it a body, to which a soul is superadded, making it a living body; but rather that the body gets both its being and its life from the soul….Therefore, when life departs the body is not left specifically the same; the eyes and flesh of a dead man, as is shown in “Metaphysics’, Book VII, are only improperly called eyes and flesh. When the soul leaves the body another substantial form takes its place; for a passing-away always involves a concomitant coming-to-be.”

#233: “…the soul is the primary actuality of a physical bodily organism.”

#234: “the soul is the form of the body….form is directly related to matter as the actuality of matter….the body gets its being from the soul, as from its form.”

If “the body gets both its being and its life from the soul”, and if the soul is the actual “form of the body”, and “the body gets it being from the soul, as from its form”, then there can never possibly exist a pre-existing body (ape or otherwise) to which a soul is added or infused in order to make it a human being.

Pope Pius XII’s permission and mandate for studying of the possibility of the evolution of the human body from pre-existent matter was thus clearly in direct contradiction to defined Catholic Dogma. Paragraph #36 of Humani Generis therefore represents not some sort of courageous call for caution in regard to consideration of the question of the possibility of the bodily evolution of man, but rather a profound capitulation to the false theories of modern reductive science, and a surrender of the entire Catholic world to uncertainty in regard to already defined doctrine. It therefore represents a pivotal historical moment in the surrender of the collective Catholic consciousness to reductive science.

We also need add that any proposal that the human body could be a product of evolution is not only in direct contradiction to Catholic Dogma (as we have examined above), but also amounts to a deep assault upon the “sense of the faithful” in regard to the goodness of God’s creation and the integral dignity of the human person, created body and soul in the image of God. It is therefore profoundly ironic, at least from Satan’s perspective, that Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Humani Generis on August 12, 1950, less than 3 months before he defined the Bodily Assumption of Mary into Heaven on November 1, 1950. In other words , in almost the same breath, Pius XII opened up to the world the legitimate consideration of the possibility of Mary’s immaculate body being ancestrally derived from apes, while at the same time affirming that it possessed that spotless purity worthy of eternal glorification.  One might almost hear Satan laughing.

The Catholic world had, of course, already been long in preparation for this capitulation to evolutionary theory. “Theistic Evolution” became the norm in Catholic intellectual circles, with virtual total disregard for “the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure” which was called for by Pope Pius XII in Humani Generis, and in which he demanded careful consideration of evidence from both sides of the alleged “question”.

In the beginning of this catapult into embrace of evolutionary theory, most “theistic evolutionists” were found to embrace the very crude and embarrassing notion that God somehow used evolution to finally produce an advanced ape body, and then infused a human soul into this creature. Such a view was of course rightly open to the coarsest ridicule. One might well imagine a newspaper cartoon with a Michelangelo-like God-figure grasping an ape by the neck with one hand, booting out an ape-soul with a large foot, while injecting this creature with a syringe clearly labeled “Human Soul”.

However, around the same time that Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis was issued, the written works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (died 1955) were gaining in popularity. Here we encounter a form of evolutionary theory (Teilhardian Cosmic Evolution) vastly different from the grossly naïve version mentioned above. In one short sentence (to be elaborated upon below), Teilhard taught that what we call spirit in a human being is not the result of infusion of a distinct soul, but rather the fruit of a long evolutionary process of the development of matter itself, through a process of complexification, all the way from the simplest cell through the plant and animal kingdoms, and finally culminating in man.

By 1967, America’s most popular Catholic personality, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, having embraced Teilhard’s central concepts and terminology, would write in his work Footprints in a Darkened Forest that in 50 years it would be very likely that Teilhard de Chardin “will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century” (Meredith Press, p. 73). This was only a sign of the times. By 1960, the writings of Teilhard (especially his book The Phenomenon of Man) had become popular fare, especially on college campuses.

It should have been no surprise, therefore, that in an October, 1995 letter released to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences meeting in Rome, Pope John Paul II declared: “fresh knowledge leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than just a hypothesis.”

However, in order to understand the depths of Catholic intellectual surrender to Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theory, we need first to examine the life and work of Teilhard himself. We shall then proceed to examine the fulsome embrace of his ideas in the writings and thought of Pope Benedict XVI and in the environmental encyclical Laudato Si of Pope Francis. What the reader will encounter below was also part of our article on the Third Sorrowful Mystery in our series on the Rosary. We consider it very necessary to also cover these subjects again here. We especially ask the reader to persevere through what he might at first be tempted to dismiss as the “nonsense” of Teilhard de Chardin. As will be seen, this nonsense  has been deeply embraced by both Benedict XVI and Francis. It has become the Papal norm, and we shall not be able to engage the battle for a return to Catholic sanity unless we first see the enemy.

 

Teilhard de Chardin

“It is Christ, in very truth, who saves, – but should we not immediately add that at the same time it is Christ who is saved by Evolution?(Teilhard de Chardin)

In the following analysis, we will be dealing with three short works of Teilhard de Chardin. They are all to be found in Pierre Teilhard De Chardin: The Heart of Matter (Harcourt, 1978). All page references to quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from this edition.

The first is titled The Heart of Matter. It was written in 1950, and is considered the last of his major works. It is autobiographical, and contains a summation of his thought and the personal history of his spiritual development. Therefore, it is a singularly important work for understanding the man and his completed system.

The second, titled The Christic, was written one month before his death in 1955. It contains his culminating thoughts on Christ as the Omega Point of Evolution.

The third work, The Mass on the World (originally titled The Priest), was begun in 1918, and it became a project which he worked on for the rest of his life. It is here that we find his most darksome prayer to a Christ for Whom the Consecrated Bread and Wine are only symbols of what Teilhard considered to be the real consecration of the whole world through evolutionary transformation and ascent to the Omega point.

During the following analysis, we ask the reader to continually keep in mind the extraordinarily perverse statement, as quoted at the beginning of this section, that “it is Christ who is saved by Evolution” (p., 92)

 

Teilhard’s Spiritual Journey to the New Age

Great intellectual perversities in adulthood usually demand distortions of normal childhood perceptions and desires.  Teilhard de Chardin himself wants us to understand the childhood roots of his spiritual journey, and so we quote the following description of his first memory:

A memory? My very first! I was five or six. My mother had snipped a few of my curls. I picked one up and held it close to the fire. The hair was burnt up in a fraction of a second. A terrible grief assailed me; I had learnt that I was perishable… What used to grieve me when I was a child? This insecurity of things. And what used I to love? My genie of iron! With a plow hitch I believed myself, at seven years, rich with a treasure incorruptible, everlasting. And then it turned out that what I possessed was just a bit of iron that rusted. At this discovery I threw myself on the lawn and shed the bitterest tears of my existence!”  (From a 1938 edition of The Heart of Matter, translated by Claude Cuenot).

In his autobiography, The Heart of Matter, Teilhard begins by stating that the “axis” which gives continuity to his whole life is the innate “Pleromic Sense” which has been with him since earliest childhood – the appetite for some “Unique all-sufficing and necessary reality.” (p. 16-17). He describes a mental state as a child in which, although he was devoted to the child Jesus, “In reality, however, my real ‘me’ was elsewhere….I withdrew into the contemplation, the possession, into the so relished existence of my ‘Iron God’….nothing in the world was harder, heavier, tougher, more durable than this marvelous substance apprehended in its fullest possible form…Consistence: that has undoubtedly been for me the fundamental attribute of Being.”

In other words, at an age when healthy children “relish” in the love of mother, father, and siblings, Teilhard withdrew into a contemplative relationship with the iron “lock-pin of a plow.” (p. 18-19).

Having been betrayed by the rusting lock-pin, Teilhard moved on to rocks (they don’t rust), and especially quartz. This passion stayed with him the rest of his life. He writes, “The truth is that even at the peak of my spiritual trajectory I was never to feel at home unless immersed in an Ocean of Matter…” (p. 20).

The problem in all of this, of course, is what to do with living things. Teilhard writes that, “Because of its apparent fragility…the living World greatly worried and disconcerted me as a child.” On the one hand he was drawn to it by his “Pleromic Sense,” (there is, after all, a certain obvious plenitude of being in living things that is not in rocks); on the other he was repulsed and terrified by their inconsistency and fragility. He admits that, because of this conflict, “I had at that time [28 years old] come to a standstill in my awakening to Cosmic Life, and I could not start again without the intervention of a new force or a new illumination” (p. 23-24). In other words, at the age of 28, he was still looking for a justification for relishing the living over the dead.

It is interesting that at this stage of development (if we care to grace it with such a term), Teilhard was tempted by Eastern Mysticism. Having found no real object in this world to answer his quest for “Plenitude,” he was tempted to go entirely beyond this world into the formless Monism of Eastern Philosophy and Mysticism. He states that such would have been the case “had it not been that just at the appropriate moment the idea of Evolution germinated in me, like a seed: whence it came I cannot say.” (p. 24).

Evolution became for our philosopher a “magic word…which haunted my thoughts like a tune: which was to me like an unsatisfied hunger, like a promise held out to me, like a summons to be answered….” (p.24). It was in fact Evolution which enabled Teilhard to transfer his Sense of Plenitude from the “ultra-material” (iron and rocks) to the “ultra living.”  He writes:

“You can well imagine, accordingly, how strong was my inner feeling of release and expansion when I took my first still hesitant steps into an ‘evolutive’ Universe, and saw that the dualism in which I had hitherto been enclosed was disappearing like the mist before the rising sun. Matter and Spirit these were no longer two things, but two states or two aspects of one and the same cosmic Stuff….” (p. 26).

It was Paleontology which provided the key for Teilhard:

By its gravitational nature, the Universe, I saw, was falling – falling forwards – in the direction of Spirit as upon its stable form. In other words, Matter was not ultra-materialized as I would at first have believed, but was instead metamorphosed into Psyche. Looked at not metaphysically, but genetically, Spirit was by no means the enemy or the opposite of the Tangibility which I was seeking to attain: rather was it its very heart [Spirit, in other words, is the Heart of Matter].”  (p.28)

“Matter is the matrix of Spirit. Spirit is the higher state of Matter.” (p. 35).

According to Teilhard, matter itself is under pressure everywhere by a directional spirit and energy which is “an extraordinary capacity for “consolidation by complexification.”  It is this “complexification” which eventually produces living organisms in the “Biosphere,” and it is further “complexification” which eventually produces the critical point at which living organisms become conscious and reflective:

“Reflection, the ‘cosmic’ critical point which at a given moment is inevitably met and traversed by all Matter, as soon as it exceeds a certain degree of psychic temperature and organization.” (p. 35).

But this is by no means the end of the evolutionary process.

 

The Evolution of the Noosphere

Individual consciousness and self-reflection are not the terminus of the evolutionary process of complexification.  It is only the beginning of what Teilhard calls the evolution of the Noosphere. The word “Noosphere” should not scare us. It is derived from the Greek word for mind: Nous. Teilhard teaches that this Noosphere is not just an abstract concept, but a living reality surrounding the planet – what he calls ”a gigantic planetary contraction.” Its very nature is that it is unitive and involutive, in that it moves towards a final total unity of all minds in a “Super-Mind.” Thus:

The irresistible ‘setting’ or cementing together of a thinking mass (Mankind) which is continually more compressed upon itself by the simultaneous multiplication and expansion of its individual elements: there is not one of us, surely, who is not almost agonizingly aware of this, in the very fibre of his being. This is one of the things that no one today would even try to deny: we can all see the fantastic anatomical structure of a vast phylum [social, psychic, informational, etc.] whose branches, instead of diverging as they normally do, are ceaselessly folding in upon one another ever more closely, like some monstrous inflorescence – like, indeed, an enormous flower folding-in upon itself; the literally global physiology of an organism in which production, nutrition, the machine, research, and the legacy of heredity are, beyond any doubt, building to planetary dimensions [one can only imagine the ‘fuel’ which the Internet would have provided for Teilhard’s ‘Great Vision’]….Writing in the year 1950, I can say that the evolution of my inner vision culminates in the acceptance of this evident fact, that there is a ‘creative’ tide which (as a strict statistic consequence of their increasing powers of self-determination) is carrying the human ‘mega-molecules’ towards an almost unbelievable quasi ‘mono-molecular’ state; and in that state, as the biological laws of Union demand, each ego is destined to be forced convulsively beyond itself into some mysterious super-ego.” (p. 37-38). [We might well imagine the delight of any sort of Antichrist figure at the prospect that he has both divine and evolutionary sanction to “convulsively force” all men into “some mysterious super-ego.”]

Thus, we have reached what Teilhard considers the Omega point of Natural Evolution. This, however, is not the end of the story. Parallel to Natural Evolution, there must also be seen in the Teilhardian system an “axis” of Evolution of the Divine.

 

The Christic

In the “Great Vision” of Teilhard de Chardin, the historical Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Christ is not an ontological event which accomplishes our redemption, but rather the beginning of a larger evolutionary process. For Teilhard, the multiplicity of things in this world is “irreducible,” and there is therefore no “organic relationship of dependence” between them and God.  (p. 93-94). There is therefore something “incomplete” in God and in Christ which can only be remedied by His evolutionary incorporation in all matter:

“It is Christ, in very truth, who saves, – but should we not immediately add that at the same time it is Christ who is saved by Evolution? (p. 92)

Teilhard teaches a double evolutionary movement in the universe, and a final convergence between what he calls the “God of the Ahead” and the “God of Above.” The God of the Ahead is the result of natural evolution from the geosphere (inanimate matter), to the biosphere (living things), to the noosphere (consciousness), and finally to the collective “Super-Mind” in the Omega Point. But the “God of the Above” also entails an evolutionary process by which God, through natural evolution, incarnates Himself in order to draw all things into final union with the Christic, which is something more than the historical Christ. Teilhard writes:

On one side – in my ‘pagan’ ego – a Universe which was becoming personalized through convergence [Natural Evolutionary Complexification leading to consciousness, next to the building up of the Noosphere, and finally to unity in the ‘Super-Mind or Omega Point].” On the other side – in my Christian ego – a Person – the Person of Christ – who was becoming universal through Radiation.”  By each of these two roads, that is to say, the Divine was joining itself, through all Matter, to all the Human, in the direction of the infinity of the ages lying ahead… (p. 44).

“Classical metaphysics had accustomed us to seeing in the World – which it regarded as an object of ‘Creation’ – a sort of extrinsic product which had issued from God’s supreme efficient power as the fruit of his overflowing benevolence. I find myself now irresistibly led – and this precisely because it enables me both to act and to love in the fullest degree – to a view that harmonizes with the spirit of St. Paul: I see in the World a mysterious product of completion and fulfillment for the Absolute Being himself.” (p.54).

“…the Christ of Revelation is none other than the Omega of Evolution.” (p.92).

All of this obviously demands an entirely new view of Christianity, of the Church, of Revelation, of Christ, and of our sanctification in Him. It also demands a “New Mass.”

 

A Cosmic Liturgy and Transubstantiation

Having detailed the nature of cosmic evolution, both Natural and Christic, Teilhard then breaks forth in a description of the “true” Cosmic Liturgy:”

“And then there appears to the dazzled eyes of the believer the Eucharistic mystery itself, extended infinitely into a veritable universal transubstantiation, in which the words of the Consecration apply not only to the sacrificial bread and wine but, mark you, to the whole mass of joys and sufferings produced by the Convergence of the World as it progresses.” (p. 94)

The first sentence of The Mass on the World reads as follows:

“Since once again, Lord – though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the stepes of Asia – I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself  [Note: there is no way that Teilhard could use these words, and make this juxtaposition if he believed in the substantial, Real Presence of Christ after the Consecration]; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world.” (p. 119).

And, a little further on, he elaborates:

This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us; this ocean of humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts even of those whose faith is most firm: it is to this deep that I thus desire all the fibres of my being should respond. All the things in the world to which this day will bring increase; all those that will diminish; all those too that will die: all of them, Lord, I try to gather into my arms, so as to hold them out to you in offering. This is the material of my sacrifice; the only material you desire.

Once upon a time men took into your temple the first fruits of their harvests, the flower of their flocks. But the offering you really want, the offering you mysteriously need every day to appease your hunger, to slake your thirst is nothing less than the growth of the world borne ever onwards in the stream of universal becoming.

Receive, O Lord, this all-embracing host which your whole creation, moved by your magnetism, offers you at this dawn of a new day. (p. 121)

Such is the “Living Liturgy,” the “Great Vision,” of Teilhard de Chardin. It is now largely dominant within the Church, including the minds of both Popes Benedict XVI and Francis. It necessitates the dissolution of all things truly Catholic.

 

The Teilhardism of Joseph Ratzinger

 “The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host.” (Benedict XVI, Homily, Celebration of Vespers with the Faithful of Aosta, July 24, 2009)

Having analyzed the philosophy and theology of Teilhard de Chardin , the above-quoted words of a reigning Pope should take on immense, and immanently frightening, significance for any orthodox Catholic.

It is, of course, almost a knee-jerk response for any good Catholic to instinctively diffuse the import of such an outrageous statement (quoted above) made by a reigning Pope. Somehow, we think, he does not really mean it – he does not understand Teilhard, and has not read him in depth. The fact is, however, that the opposite is true. In his book Introduction to Christianity (Ignatius Press, 2004), Joseph Ratzinger quotes from five of Teilhard’s works, including The Heart of Matter which we made the principle subject of analysis of his thinking. He has read Teilhard, he understands Teilhard, and he has accepted, with minor qualifications, the “Great Vision” of Teilhard.

In order to be able to understand Benedict XVI’s “Teilhardism”, we need to do some preparatory examination of his particular evolutionary views. Again, we tend to have a “diffused” view concerning the evil involved in the acceptance of evolutionary theory, and especially the consequences attendant upon having a Pope who is a convinced evolutionist. This is fostered by a number of factors.

We tend, for instance, to think of all so-called Christian evolutionists as coming from that camp of “Theistic Evolutionists” who believe that at a certain stage of physical evolution, God infused a soul into a being who was hithertofore an animal. Joseph Ratzinger absolutely rejects such a view. His evolutionary view is very different, and as we shall see, much more destructive to the Catholic Faith.

We also tend to minimize the evil of evolutionary belief because of all the prominent Catholics who have believed in evolution: As we have already seen, Bishop Sheen was an evolutionist, had read Teihard de Chardin, and embraced his central concepts and terminology. He even went so far as to say that in 50 years it would be very likely that Teilhard “will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century”. Leaving judgment of Bishop Sheen to others, or to other times, we must yet note that it is now 53 years since Bishop Sheen made this prediction, and with recent Papacies, we do now indeed appear to be on the cusp of its fulfillment.

Let us, first of all, establish absolute certainty as to Joseph Ratzinger’s embrace of evolution.

The year 2009 saw the publication by Ignatius Press of a book of essays written by Joseph Ratzinger titled Credo for Today: What Christians Believe (translated from the original 2006 German version). The essays are taken from various works published between the years 1971-2006. Credo for Today contains a chapter titled Creation: Belief in Creation and the Theory of Evolution (taken from Joseph Ratzinger’s 1972 work Dogma and Verkündung (Preaching or Proclamation)). It is devoted to an attempt to reconcile the Christian view of creation with the scientific theory of evolution. Here we read the following:

“…the pre-Darwinian idea of the invariability of the species had been justified in terms of the idea of creation [and, of course, by taking the Bible seriously] ; it regarded every individual species as a datum of creation that had existed since the beginning of the world through God’s creative work as something unique and different alongside the other species. It is clear that this form of belief in creation contradicts the idea of evolution and that this expression of the faith has become untenable today.”(p. 34)

And, further:

“We have established that the first aspect, that is, the concrete form which the idea of creation had taken in practice, has been abolished by the idea of evolution; here the believer must allow himself to be taught by science that the way in which he had imagined creation was part of a pre-scientific world view that has become untenable.”(p.36)

The first thing we must realize, therefore, is that Joseph Ratzinger is not merely “influenced” by evolutionary thinking. He has embraced it in its depths. And this embrace has necessitated what, in the very first sentence of his article, he calls “a revolution in our world view that was no less thoroughgoing than the one that we associate with the name Copernicus.”

Secondly, the fundamental component in this “revolution in our world view” consists in the fact that, in the light of what Joseph Ratzinger considers the indisputable truth of evolution, the concept of “being” does not indicate any sort of fixed substantial nature, but rather that “being is time; it does not merely have time. Only in becoming does it exist and unfold into itself.” (Ibid, p. 42). This evolutionary “becoming” is meaningful, according to Joseph Ratzinger, because, contrary to the view of materialistic evolutionists, it is directed by “Mind” or “Creative Reason,” and has a “forward” momentum. All this is in deep agreement with the thinking of Teilhard de Chardin. The latter in fact specifically defends himself against the charge of being a pantheist because he believes in the ultimate goal of evolution as being union with “some pre-existent being.”

This “becoming” is fully explored by Joseph Ratzinger in his book Introduction to Christianity. It is in the passages of this work that one sees both his endorsement of Teilhard’s system as a whole and his adoption of its specific terminology.

As we have seen, the key “scientific” term which facilitates Teilhard’s system of evolutionary growth towards the Omega Point is “complexification.” Joseph Ratzinger seems enamoured of this term – there are eleven uses of the terms “complexity” or “complexification” in 10 pages of his treatment of the thought of Teilhard de Cardin. Following are several examples:

In the background is the idea that in the cosmos, alongside the two orders or classes of the infinitely small and the infinitely big, there is a third order, which determines the real drift of evolution, namely, the order of the infinitely complex. It is the real goal of the ascending process of growth and becoming….” (p. 237)

But let us return to man, He is so far the maximum in complexity. But even he as mere man-monad cannot represent an end; his growth itself demands a further advance in complexity.” (Ibid.)

“From here it is possible to understand the final aim of the whole movement as Teilhard sees it: the cosmic drift moves ‘in the direction of an incredible ‘mono-molecular’ state, so to speak, in which…each ego is destined to attain climax in a sort of mysterious superego’.” (p. 238).

From here onward faith in Christ will see the beginning of a movement in which dismembered humanity is gathered together more and more into the being of one single Adam, one single ‘body’ the man to come.”(p. 239).

“From this perspective the belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ and in the consummation of the world in that event could be explained as the conviction that our history is advancing to an ‘omega’ point, at which it will become finally and unmistakably clear that the element of stability that seems to us to be the supporting ground of reality, so to speak, is not mere unconscious matter; that, on the contrary, the real, firm ground is mind. Mind holds being together, gives it reality, indeed is reality: it is not from below but from above that being receives its capacity to subsist. That there is such a thing as this process of ‘complexification’ of material being through spirit, and from the latter its concentration into a new kind of unity can already be seen in the remodeling of the world through technology.” (p. 320-321).

And, in order to demonstrate that this sort of Teilhardian cosmology is not just a momentary aberration in a single work, we also have the following from Joseph Ratzinger’s book titled Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life:

“We left the question of the materiality of the resurrection at the point to which Thomas Aquinas had brought it. The fundamental insight to which Thomas broke through [the real unity of soul and body) was given a new twist by Rahner when he noted that in death the soul becomes not acosmic [having nothing to do with the physical world] but all-cosmic. This means that its essential ordination to the material world remains, not in the mode of giving form to an organism as its entelechy [thus, out the window goes the teaching of the Council Vienne that the soul is the substantial form – the entelechy – of the body], but in that of an ordering to this world as such and as a whole. It is not difficult to connect this thought to ideas formulated by Teilhard de Chardin. For it might be said in this regard that relation to the cosmos is necessarily also relation to the temporality of the universe, which knows being only in the form of becoming [this is gibberish in light of Thomistic metaphysics], has a certain direction, disclosed in the gradual construction of ‘biosphere’ and ‘noosphere’ from out of physical building blocks which it then proceeds to transcend. Above all it is a progress to ever more complex unities. This is why it calls for a total complexity: a unity which will embrace all previously existing unities….The search reaches the point of integration of all in all, where each thing becomes completely itself precisely by being completely in the other. In such integration, matter belongs to spirit in a wholly new and different way, and spirit is utterly one with matter. The pancosmic existence, which death opens up would lead, then, to universal exchange and openness, and so to the overcoming of all alienation. Only where creation realizes such unity can it be true that ‘God is all in all.”( p. 191-192).

The quotes given above should be sufficient in order to establish with absolute certainty the extraordinary degree to which Joseph Ratzinger has embraced both the specific terminology and general cosmology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It is interesting that at the beginning of his discussion of Teilhard, he mentions a “not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach” in Teilhard’s approach to these subjects, but then immediately states that he “nevertheless on the whole grasped them correctly….”  We shall examine further on wherein this “objectionable tendency” lies. The reader will be justly horrified.

For now, we continue with our examination of the depths of Joseph Ratzinger’s embrace of Teilhardian theology.

The problem in all this, as Joseph Ratzinger fully admits, is the question as to how we explain the rise of man, and the fact that we believe that he possesses a spiritual “soul.” As noted earlier, he categorically rejects the position of some “Theistic Evolutionists” who basically conceive of a God Who “waits in the wings,” and at the opportune moment in evolutionary history, infuses a spiritual soul into an animal body. He dismisses such a solution as being “intolerable” to both the evolutionist and the theologian (Credo For Today, p. 38).

It is here that he again has recourse to Teilhard. After quoting a rather dense passage from his writings, Joseph Ratzinger offers us the following exposition:

Certainly one can debate the details in this formulation; yet the decisive point seems to me to be grasped quite accurately: the alternative: materialism [the view that “spirit” and consciousness are ultimately only an accidental phenomenon of matter] or a spiritually defined world view, chance or meaning, is presented to us today in the form of the question of whether one regards spirit and life in its ascending forms as an incidental mold on the surface of the material world…or whether one regards spirit as the goal of the process and, conversely matter as the prehistory of the spirit. If one chooses the second alternative, it is clear that spirit is not a random product of material developments, but rather that matter signifies a moment in the history of spirit.” (Credo For today, p. 45).

It is clear here that Joseph Ratzinger’s thinking is in striking accord with “the decisive point” of Teilhard de Chardin in regard to the evolution of spirit and mind. Many traditionalists are in confusion in regard to Benedict’s evolutionary views because he rejects “meaningless evolution.” (as he did in his 2011 Easter Vigil Homily). But to reject meaningless evolution is not at all the same as rejecting evolution. Teilhard de Chardin also totally rejects meaningless evolution.” In both men’s thinking there is in fact so much significance and meaning to evolution that it is the primary vehicle by which God deals with man, and by which man’s spirit arises.

Lest we are tempted to think that Teilhard is a theologian with whom Benedict XVI is not really in essential agreement, we have the following matter-of-fact conclusion from Joseph Ratzinger’s pen in regard to the appearance of spirit in a human being:

“This would then lead to the insight that spirit does not enter the picture as something foreign, as a second substance, in addition to matter: the appearance of spirit, according to the previous discussion, means rather that an advancing movement arrives at the goal that has been set for it….The clay became man at that moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought ‘God’. The first ‘thou’ that – however stammeringly – was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed.” (Ibid, p. 46-47).

One can only surmise that Adam’s next act after his initial dim and stammering thought of God was a puzzled grunt. There is here no Adam and Eve created in the fullness of sanctifying grace, possessing the infused gifts, both natural and supernatural, necessary for what has traditionally been known as the state of “Original Justice.” There can be no loss of this state through Original Sin. There can be no real moral responsibility for a human mind and will living in such dimness and stammering. There is only evolution and becoming.

 Joseph Ratzinger in fact rejected the Church’s dogmatic teaching (Council of Trent) on the nature of original sin. The following is taken from his book In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall (William  B. Erdmans Publishing Co., 1995):

In the story that we are considering [Ch. 3 of Genesis], still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term ‘original sin’. What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which one’s relatives are imprisoned because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name. What does original sin mean, then, when we interpret it correctly?

In the above passage, Joseph Ratzinger is simply denying that original sin was something which resulted in the passing on, through generation, of a fallen nature to all men. He in fact mocks this absolutely essential Catholic truth by comparing it to the idea that God runs a concentration camp which punishes all subsequent men born into this world for the sins committed by Adam. His answer (which is to be found in the long paragraph which followed the above quote) consists in asserting that “original sin” is not inherited at conception through generation, but is picked up by us through damaged relationships after conception and birth. He in fact uses some form of the word “relation” or “relationship” thirteen times in this paragraph in order to try to hammer home this new version of original sin. Again, success in such an enterprise destroys the Catholic Faith. And such is an absolute necessity of the evolutionary view of man and God.

 

An Evolutionary Christ

This destruction must also affect belief in Christ and the Incarnation. As we have seen, Teilhard teaches that “it is Christ who is saved by evolution,” that “[Christ] is becoming universal through radiation,” and that “I see in the World a mysterious product of completion and fulfillment for the Absolute Being himself.”

It is, of course, traditional Catholic teaching that Christ’s Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection brought a radical change into the world. Christ’s Advent, and the resultant conversion of millions from a state of original sin to one of sanctifying grace, resulted in an ontological change in millions of souls, which in turn radically changed social realities, and created a Christian civilization. The teachings of many previous Popes contain stirring testimonies to this radical “ontological” change which ensued from Christ’s Advent. As Pope Leo XIII wrote:

“Then man, as though awakening from a long-continued and deadly lethargy, beheld at length the light of the truth, for long ages desired, yet sought in vain. First of all, he realized that he was born to much higher and more glorious things than the frail and inconstant objects of sense which had hitherto formed the end of his thoughts and cares. He learnt that the meaning of human life, the supreme law, the end of all things was this: that we come from God and must return to Him. From this first principle the consciousness of human dignity was revived: men’s hearts realized the universal brotherhood: as a consequence, human rights and duties were either perfected or even newly created, whilst on all sides were evoked virtues undreamt of in pagan philosophy. Thus men’s aims, life, habits and customs received a new direction. As the knowledge of the Redeemer spread far and wide and His power, which destroyeth ignorance and former vices, penetrated into the very life-blood of the nations, such a change came about that the face of the world was entirely altered by the creation of a Christian civilization.”  (Encyclical Tametsi – on Christ Our Redeemer).

Such radical, ontological change and restoration is, of course, impossible in the world of Teilhardian evolution. The Incarnation, according to Teilhard de Chardin, is not to be seen as a one-time event which restored salvation to mankind, but only the beginning of an ages-long process of evolutionary incorporation of the human into the divine, and of the incarnation of the divine into the human, reaching final convergence at the Omega Point of the Christic. This Teilhardian rejection of the traditional understanding of Christ’s Advent is perfectly expressed by Joseph Ratzinger in the following passage from his book Being Christian:

“This week we celebrate with the Church the beginning of Advent. If we think back to what we learned as children about Advent and its significance, we will remember being told that the Advent wreath, with its candles, is a reminder of the thousands of years (perhaps thousands of centuries) of the history of mankind before Christ. It reminds all of us of the time when an unredeemed mankind awaited salvation. It brings to our minds the darkness of an as yet unredeemed history in which the light of hope was only slowly kindled until, in the end, Christ, the light of the world, came and freed mankind from the darkness of condemnation. We learned also that those thousands of years before Christ were a time of condemnation because of original sin, while the centuries after the birth of our Lord are ‘anni salutis reparatae,’ years of restored salvation. And finally, we will remember being told that, in Advent, besides thinking back on the past to the period of condemnation and expectation of mankind, the Church also fixes her attention on the multitude of people who have not yet been baptized, and for whom it is still Advent, since they wait and live in the darkness of the absence of salvation.

“If we look at the ideas we learned as children through the eyes of contemporary man and with the experiences of our age, we will see that we can hardly accept them. The idea that the years after Christ, compared with those before, are years of salvation will seem to be a cruel irony if we remember such dates as 1914, 1918, 1933, 1939, 1945; dates which mark periods of world war in which millions of men lost their lives, often in terrifying circumstances; dates which bring back the memory of atrocities such as humanity has never before experienced. One date (1933) reminds us of the beginning of a regime which achieved the most cruel perfection in the practice of mass murder; and finally, we remember that year in which the first atomic bomb exploded on an inhabited city, hiding in its dazzling brilliance a new possibility of darkness for the world.

“If we think about these things, we will have difficulty in distinguishing between a period of salvation and one of condemnation. And, extending our vision even further, if we contemplate the works of destruction and barbarity perpetrated in this and the preceding centuries by Christians (that is to say by us who call ourselves ‘redeemed’), we will be unable to divide the nations of the world into the redeemed and the condemned.

“If we are sincere, we will no longer build up a theory which divides history and geography into zones of redeemed and zones of condemned. Rather, we will see the whole of history as a gray mass in which it is always possible to perceive the shining of a goodness which has not completely disappeared, in which there can always be found in men the desire to do good, but also in which breakdowns occur which lead to the atrocities of evil.”

It is immensely ironic and tragic that Joseph Ratzinger does not realize that the 20th Century atrocities which he lists in no way provide evidence against the traditional view of Christ’s Advent, or against such doctrines as original sin, sanctifying grace, or the necessity for implementing the Social Kingship of Christ. Rather, they provide profound confirmation of the inevitable consequences of a decay of traditional Christian orthodoxy and civilization, and the resultant ascension to power of forces, ideas, individuals, and movements (Communism, Nazism, and secular-messianic democracy) at total war with Christianity. Nor does he realize what atrocities the dark horizons of the future hold in store as a consequence of his own betrayals of this Tradition, and his embrace of Teilhardian evolution.

In his most comprehensive work on theology, Principles of Catholic Theology, Joseph Ratzinger offers the following assessment of Teilhard de Chardin’s influence upon Vatican Council II:

“The impetus given by Teilhard de Chardin exerted a wide influence. With daring vision it incorporated the historical movement of Christianity into the great cosmic process of evolution from Alpha to Omega: since the noogenesis, since the formation of consciousness in the event by which man became man, this process of evolution has continued to unfold as the building of the noosphere above the biosphere.” (p.334).

There has existed a tremendous blindness among traditional Catholics in regard to the philosophy and theology of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. Largely this has been due to his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, and the widespread permission it gave for offering the Traditional Latin Mass. But as we have seen in the case of Teilhard de Chardin and his ”Mass on the World” (which of course was the form of Mass offered exclusively during his time), the TLM in itself does not guarantee that it cannot be offered free of intentions which invert the entire Catholic Faith. This inversion is completely evident in a passage from Chapter 2 of Cardinal Ratzinger’s book The Spirit of the Liturgy (2000):

And so we can now say that the goal of worship and the goal of creation as a whole are one and the same—divinization, a world of freedom and love. But this means that the historical makes its appearance in the cosmic. The cosmos is not a kind of closed building, a stationary container in which history may by chance take place. It is itself movement, from its one beginning to its one end. In a sense, creation is history. Against the background of the modern evolutionary world view, Teilhard de Chardin depicted the cosmos as a process of ascent, a series of unions. From very simple beginnings the path leads to ever greater and more complex unities, in which multiplicity is not abolished but merged into a growing synthesis, leading to the ‘Noosphere’, in which spirit and its understanding embrace the whole and are blended into a kind of living organism. Invoking the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, Teilhard looks on Christ as the energy that strives toward the Noosphere and finally incorporates everything in its ‘fullness’. From here Teilhard went on to give a new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the christological ‘fullness’. In his view, the Eucharist provides the movement of the cosmos with its direction; it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on.”

It needs to be added that it is frequently claimed that during the social “revolutions” of 1968, then Fr. Joseph Ratzinger underwent some sort of conversion from being a “liberal” to a “conservative”. But “conservativism” is not the same as Catholic orthodoxy. One can prefer Gregorian Chant and Mozart to Pop music, and still not be Catholic. One can love the beauty of the traditional liturgy, and find repulsive the banality of the way in which the Novus Ordo is usually offered, and still not really understand. One can be abhorred at the promotion of drastic, violent forms of evolution and revolution, while at the same time being an evolutionist and an agent of revolution. One can be a “cultural conservative”, while still expounding philosophy and theology which completely inverts the Catholic Faith.

By now the reader should not be too befuddled by Teilhard-Ratzinger newspeak. What is being said here is that the “daring” event that was Vatican II amounted to an “opening” (aggiornamento) and incorporation of the Church into the larger evolutionary movement of the entire world and all of its individual realities and forces. What this means, of course, is that all dogmas – both of Faith and Morals – which have kept the Church separate from the world and all of its aspirations, must now somehow be “essentialized”, subjected to a “hermeneutics of continuity” (the last two expressions were favorites of Pope Benedict XVI), diluted, de-emphasized, transformed into an ideal only attainable in some future Omega Point, or simply cloaked behind a wall of silence, in order to facilitate this evolutionary process. And this is where Pope Francis comes upon the stage.

Finally, we come to the question, posed earlier, as to what Joseph Ratzinger meant when he mentioned a possible “not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach” in
Teilhard’s system of Cosmic Evolution. This certainly cannot have anything to do with Teilhard’s ideas concerning biological evolution culminating in the appearance of consciousness and “spirit” through a process of biological “compexification”. As we have seen from his writings, Joseph Ratzinger completely embraced this “biological approach”.

Almost certainly therefore, Joseph Ratzinger’s reference to “a not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach” refers to Teilhard de Chardin’s embrace of eugenics as something we are absolutely obligated to embrace as a means of gaining control of the evolutionary process..

The earth itself, in Teilhard’s cosmology, being part of the collective process of evolution from matter into spirit and beyond, plays an enormous part in this process. Teilhard in fact calls the earth a “thinking planet”. In itself, being a finite surface upon which millions of reflective hominids have proliferated, the earth is a primary factor in the cosmogenic “heat” or “pressure” which cause the compression and convergence (through social communication, etc.) which generates the Noosphere. By the very fact that mankind now is being forced by modern science, technology, and communications beyond himself into some sort of super-ego which is an evolutionary precursor to the Ultra-Human, and because this clearly negates any notion that the question of salvation must focus on the individual soul and its relation to God, then it becomes quite clear why the people like Pope Francis are now so intent in uniting the Church with the secular agenda of integral ecology. The Instrumen Laboris for the Amazonian Synod described the Amazonian indigenous people as not only those who live in communion with the earth, but also as those who live in “intercommunication with the entire cosmos”, for whom “the land is a theological place by which the faith is lived”, and a “unique source of God’s revelation”.  It therefore provides the perfect venue for promoting a “spirit of this world”, undermining the vertical dimension of Catholic belief and practice, in order to institute this new religion which will come from the evolutionary  pressure and “heat” which is now rising and converging from below and within. Teilhard writes:

It is unmistakably apparent (as all of us can see) that at this moment we are irretrievably involved in a rapidly accelerating process of human totalization. Under the combined force of the multiplication (in numbers) and expansion (in radius of influence) of human individuals on the surface of the globe, the noösphere has for the last century shown signs of a sudden organic compression upon itself and compenetration. This is without any doubt the most massive and the most central of the events the earth has experienced in our day.”

Teilhard then proceeds to tell us that all of this places an extraordinary demand upon us to “make up our minds and get down to work, quickly, and immediately”. And he continues:

For, if it is really true that an ultra-human [destiny] can be distinguished ahead of us, to be attained by ultra-evolution, it is equally true that this ultra-evolution, operating henceforth in a reflective medium, can only be (at least in its most seminal and central axis) an auto- or self-evolution: in other words, it must be a consciously and passionately willed deliberate act. If the totalization of the noösphere is to be biologically successful, it cannot be simply instinctive and passive. It looks to us for an active and immediate collaboration, for a vigorous drive, based on conviction and hope. For evolution will not mark time.”

 In other words, according to Teilhard, we now must choose for the belief that mankind is evolving into the “Ultra-Human”, and act upon it. Again, Teilhard writes:

That is the precise point upon which mankind is obliged to divide itself (as, indeed, we can see for ourselves it is actually doing) into two irreconcilably conflicting blocs. And, we can confidently predict, only that portion of mankind which has made the correct choice will survive—and super-live.”

 Teilhard here makes an extraordinary proclamation, deserving of our most profound reflection. He flatly states that mankind is dividing itself into “two irreconcilably conflicting blocs”. Clearly, he is here contrasting those who agree to participate in his evolutionary agenda towards the Ultra-Human, with those who refuse. And also, clearly, anyone who believes according to the traditional Catholic Faith in a truly Supernatural God falls under the second category, and must be numbered among those who cannot survive.

Why is this so? It is because traditional Catholicism embodies that “static” and “rigid” presence in this world which clings to the notion that human fulfillment lies not in man’s evolutionary transformation into some future Ultra-human state, but rather in the fundamental act of faith by which he surrenders his mind and will to a God of infinite Truth and Love Who has fully revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. This places all faithful Catholics in the category of those who refuse to “move” and “act” in cooperation with Teilhard’s evolutionary mandate.

 The “need to act now”, according to Teilhard, is absolutely imperative, and what is more, it also demands eugenics:

the duty and clearly-defined hope of gaining control (and so making use) of the fundamental driving forces of evolution. And with this, the urgent need for a generalized eugenics (radical no less than individual) directed, beyond all concern with economic or nutritional problems, towards a biological maturing of the human type and of the biosphere. Simultaneously, too, the necessity of drawing up as soon as possible the main lines of a spiritual energetics devoted to the study of the conditions under which the human zest for auto-evolution and ultra-evolution – which at the moment is dissipated in any number of different forms of faith and love – may be in a position to form a compact group [a One-World Teilhardian religion?], to safeguard itself and to intensify – to meet the requirements, and through the influence of, the new regime we have just entered: that of a world in a reflective state of self-transformation.”

As is the case with all such utopian programs (Gnosticism, Communism, etc.) which promote man’s becoming over God’s Being, this new regime will be in the hands of an elite. Teilhard writes:

It is a matter of bringing together a large number of minds that are sufficiently open and in tune with influences of the cosmic order to perceive, record and amplify [through eugenics] a movement of the noosphere in relation to itself. Such an enterprise, it is evident, can profitably be undertaken only after a very considerable preliminary work of discussion and tentative inquiry conducted by physicists and biologists.

 But such eugenics will not confine itself merely to those such as traditional Catholics who refuse to cooperate with Teilhard’s evolutionary “vision”. It will also be applied to those peoples and races who are deemed to be “unprogressive”. Again, from Teilhard:

“Now eugenics does not confine itself to a simple control of births. All sorts of related questions, scarcely yet raised despite their urgency, are attached to it. What fundamental attitude, for example should the advancing wing of humanity take to fixed or definitely unprogressive ethnical groups? [We do well here to pause, and consider what Teilhard’s view of the “indigenous” peoples of the Amazon would have been]. The earth is a closed and limited surface. To what extent should it tolerate, racially or nationally, areas of lesser activity? More generally still, how should we judge the efforts we lavish in all kinds of hospitals on saving what is so often no more than one of life’s rejects? Something profoundly true and beautiful (I mean faith in the irreplaceable value and unpredictable resources contained in each personal unit) is evidently concealed in persistent sacrifice to save a human existence. But should not this solicitude of man for his individual neighbor be balanced by a higher passion, born of the faith in that other higher personality that is to be expected, as we shall see, from the world-wide achievements of our evolution? To what extent should not the development of the strong (to the extent that we can define this quality) take precedence over the preservation of the weak? How can we reconcile, in a state of maximum efficiency, the care lavished on the wounded with the more urgent necessities of battle? In what does true charity consist?” (Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy, p.131-132).

All of this would seem very relevant to the current “pandemic”. In line with Teilhard de Chardin’s statement that “mankind is obliged to divide itself” andonly that portion of mankind which has made the correct choice will survive”, the Catholic Church, and her source of  sacramental graces, has been suppressed. Further, parallel with Teilhard’s denigration of  “care lavished on the wounded [or weak], we read that 40-50% of deaths from the coronavirus are among those in nursing homes and assisted living. And in correspondence with his proposal for weeding out “unprogressive ethnical groups”, statistical analysis claim that death rates among blacks and Latinos are 2-3 times higher than among the white population. George Soros, financier of  abortion, euthanasia, population control, same-sex “marriage,” and transgenderism around the world, and certainly to be counted among the elite of the new regime called for by Teilhard de Chardin, has claimed that this current situation represents a “revolutionary moment” for social change not possible under “normal” conditions. Whether or not we believe that this virus was engineered by man for such purposes, it certainly is now being employed for such an agenda as Teilhard proposed. We might therefore justly believe that the most appropriate name for what is happening is not “pandemic”, but rather “Paneugenics”.

Having examined Teilhard’s eugenics, it should be a matter of horror to us that Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI found in Teilhard writings only “a not entirely unobjectionable tendency toward the biological approach”. As we have clearly demonstrated, it is quite clear that he indeed fully embraced the Teilhardian “biological approach” which proposes “matter as the prehistory of spirit” and the emergence of spirit and the human soul as a result of biological complexification leading to the consciousness, the noosphere, and finally to the “Super-human”. It would therefore seem difficult for us not to conclude that it is Teilhard’s eugenics to which he refers. If so, his silence in regard to this aspect of Teilhard’s thought is not merely “objectionable”, but also fully “unconscionable”, especially in the face of the worldwide secular agenda which has now clearly been manifested for quite some time.. For a man who bothered to detail all the atrocities of “social engineering” of the twentieth century which we quoted above from his horrendously distorted writing concerning the meaning of Christ’s Advent, his blindness or silence in regard to Teilhardian evolutionary eugenics should indeed seem unconscionable.

 

Pope Francis

In prophetic anticipation of the crisis which we now have with us, Teilhard de Chardin wrote just one month before he died in 1955:

On the other hand, I cannot fail to feel around me – if only from the way in which ‘my ideas’ are becoming more widely accepted – the pulsation of countless people who are all – ranging from the border-line of belief to the depths of the cloister – thinking and feeling, or at least beginning vaguely to feel, just as I do. It is indeed heartening to know that I am not a lone discoverer, but that I am, quite simply, responding to the vibration that (given a particular condition of Christianity of the world) is necessarily active in all the souls around me…..Everywhere on Earth, at this moment, in the new spiritual atmosphere created by the appearance of the idea of evolution, there float, in a state of extreme mutual sensitivity, love of God and faith in the world: the two essential components of the Ultra-human. These two components are everywhere ‘in the air’; generally, however, they are not strong enough, both at the same time, to combine with one another in one and the same subject. In me, it happens by pure chance (temperament, upbringing, background) that the proportion of the one to the other is correct, and the fusion of the two has been effected spontaneously – not as yet with sufficient force to spread explosively — but strong enough nevertheless to make it clear that the process is possible — and that sooner or later there will be a chain-reaction. (The Christic, p. 101-102).

The “chain-reaction” of which Teilhard de Chardin spoke in the above passage has taken sixty years to materialize (and we might also keep in mind Bishop Fulton Sheen’s prophetic statement quoted earlier). His work was censured by various Church officials for decades, culminating in the 1962 Monitum of the Holy Office exhorting “all Ordinaries as well as the superiors of Religious institutes, rectors of seminaries and presidents of universities, effectively to protect the minds, particularly of the youth, against the dangers presented by the works of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin and of his followers”.  As late as 1981, the Holy See issued a communiqué reaffirming this warning.

Teilhard’s Evolutionary Gnosticism has now been blessed with both the voice and the vehicles empowering it to be mainstreamed. The voice is that of Pope Francis, and the vehicles which he has employed are his encyclical Laudato Si, and his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

Just as uniting the concept of evolution to Christology provided the theological key to Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of all matter evolving towards the Omega Point of the “Christic” (this constituting his concept of a “Cosmic Liturgy”), so the ecological movement is now providing the necessary chemistry for the “explosion” of this poisoned theology and spirituality within the minds and hearts of millions of Catholics. Laudato Si is rightly seen as the manifesto of this revolution. Following are passages from this encyclical which speak of the universal transfiguration of all created things upon the evolutionary “altar of the world”.

  1. The ultimate destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God, which has already been attained by the risen Christ, the measure of the maturity of all things.[53] Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things. Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.
  2. It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation…. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. He comes not from above, but from within, he comes that we might find him in this world of ours….Indeed the Eucharist is in itself an act of cosmic love: ‘Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world’.[166]” (the quote at the end of this passage is from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia).

If we are tempted to deny the Teilhardian theology and cosmology in these passages, we need only to look at footnote #53 in the above quote. It contains the following comment: “Against this horizon we can set the contribution of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin”.

Three more examples:

237. On Sunday, our participation in the Eucharist has special importance. Sunday, like the Jewish Sabbath, is meant to be a day which heals our relationships with God, with ourselves, with others and with the world. Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the “first day” of the new creation, whose first fruits are the Lord’s risen humanity, the pledge of the final transfiguration of all created reality.

243.Jesus says: “I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.

244.In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast.

In order to see the grievous error represented in these passages from Laudato Si, we need only consult Holy Scripture, and the many passages from both Old and New Testaments which clearly reveal that the earth will totally perish and cease to be, that the world is not our lasting home, and that Christ’s assurance that He will “make all things new” in no way signifies a final transfiguration of any created thing, living or dead, which does not have a spiritual soul:

With desolation shall the earth be laid waste, and it shall be utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.” (Isaiah 24:3)

“For behold, I create new heaven, and a new earth: and the former things shall not be in remembrance, and they shall not come upon the heart.” (Isaiah 65:1.)

“Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass. “(Matthew 24:35).

“But the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of the ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)

“But the day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it, shall be burnt up. Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of people ought you to be in holy conversation and godliness? Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of the Lord, by which the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with the burning heat? But we look for new heavens and a new earth according to his promises, in which justice dwelleth.” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone, and the sea is now no more,” (Apoc. 21: 1).

The Teilhardian spiritualism implicit in Pope Francis’ concept of the altar of the world, and his concept of the final transfiguration of all created things, demands that the above scriptures be considered false. If  “matter is the prehistory of spirit” (Joseph Ratzinger’s phrase), and if, as Pope Francis teaches, all creatures are to be “resplendently transfigured” and be present at the “heavenly feast”, then all creatures possess a dignity and sacredness  that demands an imperishability which parallels that of human beings.

The “ecological spiritualism” proposed throughout Pope Francis’ Laudato Si therefore represents not just a lengthy and inappropriate descent of the Church into the science of this world, but is preeminently constituted as a manifesto for a totally radical change in Catholic theology and spirituality.

In the City of God, St. Augustine spoke of two Cities in combat for the souls of men: “These two Cities are made by two loves: the earthly City by love of oneself even to the contempt of God; the heavenly City by love of God even to the contempt of self.” (City of God, 14:2). Seventeen hundred years later, these two loves are now represented by two altars: the traditional Catholic altar which receives the Gift of Christ from above, and the Teilhardian altar of the world upon which man worships his own becoming, and the evolutionary ascent of all of creation.

There is, of course, a legitimate use of the expression “altar of the world”. Fatima has long been called the ‘Altar of the World” because pilgrims come from all over the world to worship at this place of Our Lady’s visitation. It is also true that the Mass itself might be considered the Altar of the World – wherever it is offered on this earth, God becomes present. But this is a far cry from the Teilhardian-inspired use of such terms as “altar of the world”, “Mass on the World”, or “altar of the earth” to connote a process of universal becoming by which the earth itself is to be seen as a “living host” being transfigured by an evolutionary processes which will culminate with all its creatures “resplendently transfigured” and “taken up into the heavenly feast”. Rightly we may view such a liturgy as being offered on the pantheistic altar of Satan.

The encyclical Laudato Si was promulgated on May 24, 2015. One year later, on March 19, 2016, the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia was published. What might be called the “theological agenda” of Amoris Laetitia is succinctly formulated very early in this document. In paragraph 3, we encounter the following:

“Since ‘time is greater than space,[bold emphasis ours, quotation marks are Francis’], I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral, or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium.  Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn. 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. For ‘cultures are in fact quite diverse and every general principle…needs to be inculterated, if it is to be respected and applied’.”

Now, any honest assessment of this paragraph should produce profound bewilderment. The subjects we are dealing with in Amoris Laetitia– marriage, family, the impossibility of divorce and remarriage, the intrinsic evil of homosexuality, and the prescription against those living in adultery receiving the Eucharist – all these subjects are doctrinal “places” which are not subject to evolution, change, growth, or inculteration. The notion that doctrinal truths can be “inculturated” with different “solutions” in various cultures is simply a prescription for relativism. Further, there can be no unity of teaching and practice where these doctrines are violated. And finally, if questions regarding such doctrines need not now to be “settled by intervention of the magisterium”, it is only because they have been settled by the magisterium and by the Gospel from its inception. In other words, every sentence in paragraph 3 is redolent with error and deception.

We do indeed have not only the right, but also the obligation, to reject this concept that “time is greater than space” in regard to anything to do with Catholic truth. And we should be left with a very disturbing question as to exactly what Francis is trying to do with this strange notion that “time is greater than space”.

Amoris Laetitia is not the first time that Francis has used this phrase or concept. Those who read Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium may have been puzzled that in fact an entire subsection of this document was titled “Time is Greater than Space”. There we read:

“A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness evokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, “time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space.”

On the contrary, the Catholic Faith is not established upon a “horizon which constantly opens before us”, but upon what is within us now:

“Neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)

It has nothing to do with a utopian future, but with the “now” of our response to God’s grace and truth:

“And we helping do exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain….Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”  (2 Cor. 6:1-2).

It is this now which has been the crucial and saving moment for each individual soul from the creation of Adam down to the last man. It is this now which has been the source of all that is good in human history; for it is here that God’s Rule is either accepted or rejected, this in turn determining whether true love, peace, justice, compassion, and mercy are either accepted or rejected in societies and nations.

Pope Francis indeed seems to make “time” the very source of revelation and salvation. In his interview with Anthony Spadaro, he said the following:

“God manifests himself in historical revelation, in history. Time initiates processes, and space crystallizes them. God is in history, in the processes. We must initiate processes, rather than occupy spaces.”

 This, of course, is all very reminiscent of Joseph Ratzinger’s statement concerning the temporality of the universe, “which knows being only in the form of becoming”. This is absolutely contrary to Catholic doctrine and Thomistic metaphysics which rightly sees each created thing as possessing a substantial form determining a specific substantial being in itself. Such “beings” or “kinds” of being do certainly experience accidental change, but they cannot cease to be “what they are” without total corruption (in the case of living things this entails their death) of their substantial form. This of course eliminates all possibility of one thing evolving into another. The notion, therefore, that created things “know being only in the form of becoming” is the great philosophical lie of our age. It is the lie which gives credence to all forms of evolutionary theory. Nor is it a lie which affects only temporal realities. The human soul can only find God in the” now” of God’s immutable Life and Truth, which is the source of his own being, and which is constant in the midst of all the changing vicissitudes of his or her life.

Space, therefore, for Pope Francis, is simply a euphemism for what we are in possession of now – in other words, what we traditional Catholics believe to be the fullness of God’s Immutable Revelation, Rules, Dogma, the Infallible Magisterium, and the reality that we each possess a substantial human nature and soul, requiring the same fundamental choice now as was true of the first man.

Time is proposed by Pope Francis as being greater than Space because “becoming” is more real than God’s Supreme Being, and takes precedence over the Revealed Truths which are the fullness of that Being. It is therefore quite easy to see why, in the mind of Pope Francis, an apparent universal mercy trumps immutable dogma – why the divorced and remarried may receive Holy Communion, why we must be “inclusive” towards practicing homosexuals (who must certainly also be admitted to Sacramental Communion if such a “mercy” holds true), and why, in fact, we must be inclusive towards everyone (except, apparently, rich capitalists, the Mafia, and possibly Traditionalists). It is the Journey into the future which is everything. There can be no Now which demands conversion to any Absolutes, and such conversion cannot be a requisite for being included within the sacramental and supernatural life of Christ’s Mystical Body.

If Time triumphs over the “Space” of God’s Immutable Truth, then we float, untethered, until the life of God’s Revelation is left behind. The world, of which Satan is the Prince, has for some time rejected all Absolutes, and prostrated itself before the goddesses of evolutionary progress. The Catholic Church was somewhat slower to join this dark pilgrimage. But the “explosive chain-reaction” which Teilhard predicted was to come from the union of false theology with Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theory which has now violently invaded the Church. It has proven most seductive because it has flooded over our consciousnesses from a direction which could not be anticipated: the Papacy. It began not with conscious or willful heresy. It began, rather, with a friendship with this world which believed that man’s reductive science was compatible with the Truth of God. It was born in the permission of Pius XII to take seriously the possibility of the bodily evolution of man; it gained acceptance in John Paul II’s statement that such evolution was more than a hypothesis; it proliferated wildly in the dark mansions of Benedict XVI’s theology; and it is now coming to fruition in the pastoral engines of Francis’ papacy.

 

 To Seminarians and Priests

In recent years it has become evident that, at least in some respects and in some areas of this country, there has been a turning towards orthodox Catholicism, and therefore a refreshing devotion to such orthodoxy among many seminarians and new priests. At the same time, however, it has also been noticeable that many of these seminarians and recently ordained priests have a strong inclination to try to accommodate Catholicism with evolutionary theory. We hope that all that we have written above will convince such young men that every effort in this direction will inevitably poison their priesthood and lead to mockery of all that Christ meant when He declared to Pilate that He was the King who came to give testimony to the Truth. This of course is precisely what such “accommodation” did to the priesthood of the Popes and their teachings we examined above, who, through silence, permission, or active acceptance and embrace of evolutionary thinking, are now largely responsible for the spread of this virulent poison among the faithful.

For all eternity there has existed a “place” for those who truly seek a refuge from the savagery of Satan’s delusional offer to Adam and Eve that they would “become as Gods”.  It is a Garden Enclosed – free from the ravages of Time. It is Mary’s Immaculate Heart. It is here where God’s Being triumphs over the becoming of man:

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything from the beginning….All that hate me love death. (Proverbs 8).

Any sort of evolutionary view of either God or man masks a love of death in the human heart.

 

Conclusion: The Future

There is no doubt that the current “pandemic” is being used as an extraordinarily effective weapon in the war of the spirit of Antichrist against the Church. This has been especially evident in the surrender of the vast majority of the hierarchy to the principle that salvation from the destructive effects of this disease depended upon the surrender of Catholic worship and the sacraments to the power and demands of the State and their organs of Public Health. St. James writes, “Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” (James 1:17). Whether we consider the surrender of the hierarchy, or whether we consider the degree to which this surrender to the world has worked its way into the vast majority of the hearts of the Catholic faithful, there is no question that the Church has failed to believe this.

It will be very tempting to view the reopening of our Churches, with the access it will allow to Mass and the other sacraments, as a sort of triumphant return to normal. But if we view what is happening as a chastisement from God, we must surely also believe that any return to “normal” would be a crushing failure to have understood what is occurring, and to act upon this Wisdom.

First, it became fully evident that a pre-eminent goal of secular powers during this “pandemic”was the shutting down of religious life and practice; and that the Catholic hierarchy submitted, most often even in an anticipatory manner, to this subjection.

Secondly, this crisis is not over. The warfare conducted by the enemy is almost always dialectical – two steps forward, one step backward. And he now has a very large foot in the door. Any return to a “normal Church” will almost certainly prove to be a situation in which the coronavirus spreads more vehemently. And if not this particular virus, some other virus, or some other excuse which the enemy will use for the door to be forced open even further. If the virus does continue its work, this will certainly prove to be an excuse for the powers that be to impose even more draconian measures than they have to date. The Church, and its worship, is already perceived by many to be the primary enemy of human progress. What we are witnessing is only the first worldwide (“pan”) salvo to shut down the Catholic Church permanently.

It might be contended that what is stated in the paragraph immediately above constitutes in itself a lack of faith in God and His grace. We wish to make it emphatically clear, however, that we fully believe that the only hope for both the Church and the world lies in an extraordinary intervention by God. We only question whether a return to “normal” Catholic life and worship will merit this grace or this intervention. As examined in the many articles on this website, we believe that what has been viewed as “normal” for a long time is precisely the reason for God’s chastisement.

We believe that any extraordinary intervention by God on a collective level – and this is certainly our only solution now – also requires an extraordinary collective act on the part of mankind.

Beginning with Moses and the plague of serpents, continuing with Nineveh and its threatened destruction, and coming down through the centuries of Christian civilization, we can witness many historical situations in which God intervened to end severe chastisements, including wars, plagues, and famines. Interestingly enough, several of these have been mentioned in various articles in the traditional Catholic media, but there are many more. Many do not know, for instance, that there are number of miraculous images, statues, etc. in various shrines of Mexico, other than Our Lady of Guadalupe, associated with such deliverance.

But there are two truths which become very clear in regard to these extraordinary acts of God.

The first truth is that such deliverance, especially in regard to plagues and famine, most often comes after much devastation. The lesson is not easily learned by man – he only seems to learn his lesson after much destruction and death.

The second, and most important truth, is that deliverance only comes through a united effort of prayer and penance offered in the spirit of the prophet Daniel: We have sinned, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly, and have revolted: and we have gone aside from thy commandments, and thy judgments.” (Dan. 9:5). We may presume that at any time during any of these historical incidents  that there were many who were individually praying for deliverance from these plagues, wars, famines, etc. But such was not sufficient. One of the most startling facts about most of these incidents is that God seems to intervene only where there is the collective act of a city, nation, or the Church itself (such as at Lepanto).

As detailed in all that is examined above, the Plague (spiritual even more than physical) that threatens us now is like nothing that has ever occurred in the history of the Church. We cannot expect therefore that a return to normal Catholic life will either call down God’s extraordinary graces for an end to this crisis, or protect us from anything –whether it be the virus itself, or those powers which seek our total subjugation and destruction. As discussed extensively in our examination of the Gift of the Holy Spirit called Fear of the Lord and its corresponding Beatitude Poverty of Spirit, what has been considered “normal” in the Catholic Church for centuries deeply embodies what St. Thomas called an “impurity of mixture” with the world (especially in regard to living the Beatitudes) which will finally call down that Final Conflagration which will precede the Final Judgment. At some time in the history of the world, this “impurity of mixture” will become so profound as to create a blindness so pervasive as to make it virtually impossible for mankind to return to that self-knowledge necessary for conversion.   Mankind, collectively, will be like the man in St. James’ epistle who “beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.” We pray that we are not yet there.

We therefore ask all readers to carefully consider what we have written in our Original Proposal, and to implement what it asks. The Feast Day – the Feast of the Purification and Presentation – which is proposed for the collective act which we have titled Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church – might at first seem arbitrary. We hope that after reading our Proposal, it will seem on the contrary singularly appropriate. Most important, we implored readers to begin now to beseech their priests and bishops to implement this Rosary effort for the purification of the whole Church, beginning with ourselves. If we think about it seriously, we have no idea what will happen between now and next February 2nd.

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The Modernist Deconstruction of Fatima: Pope Benedict and the Deterioration of the Catholic Mind

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The Modernist Deconstruction of Fatima

Pope Benedict XVI and the Disintegration of the Catholic Mind

 

“For, as we have seen, everything in their system [Modernism] is explained by inner impulses or necessities.” (Pius X, Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 21)

 

Fatima has been called the “Hope of the World”. This is so not because devotion to Our Lady and her Rosary are meant in any way to replace devotion to Our Lord; rather, it is because, in these times in which mankind has obtained to a perverse knowledge and “maturity” which denies God, Our Lady and her Rosary are the means given to us by God in order that we might regain that spiritual childhood which Jesus told us is absolutely necessary for obtaining the Kingdom of God. Jesus proclaimed to His disciples:

“Amen, I say to you: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter into it.” (Luke 18: 17).

In our recent article titled Science: The War Against Both God and Man, we explored the depths of man’s perverse pride by which he has departed from this spiritual childhood and sought a knowledge independent of God – a knowledge which has culminated in denial of the substantive nature of both God and His Creation, including the substantive nature of man himself.

Fatima has not escaped this “deconstruction” of  its objective reality. What was received and transmitted to us in simplicity by the children of Fatima, has been subjected to a false “knowledge” which kills both its reality and message.

Absolutely bedrock to all popular devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is the simple and accurate belief that Our Lady actually came to Fatima in 1917. Two persons (Lucia and Jacinta) both saw her and heard her words. One person (Francisco) saw her, but did not hear her words. Others saw or heard various things that indicated her presence. Many thousands experienced the “Miracle of the Sun”. The experience (what God allowed for those present to experience) did indeed differ for various individuals. But over and above all these variations is the fact, absolutely foundational to belief in the reality of the Fatima Apparitions, and popular devotion and belief in Fatima, that Our Lady was there. She was there not just in some ubiquitous fashion, as she is in the hearts of all those who have devotion to her. She was present in a completely objective manner over and above any unique grace or impulse present in the hearts and minds of individual believers. She was there in Person – right above that particular, small holm-oak tree.

Pope Benedict XVI does not believe this.

In a Papal press conference (it was scripted – the interviewer was Fr. Lombardi) on his flight to Fatima, May 12, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI had the following to say about the Fatima Apparitions:

In 2000, in my presentation, I said that an apparition – a supernatural impulse which does not come purely from a person’s imagination but really from the Virgin Mary, from the supernatural – that such an impulse enters into a subject and is expressed according to the capacities of that subject. The subject is determined by his or her historical, personal, temperamental conditions, and so translates the great supernatural impulse into his or her own capabilities for seeing, imagining, expressing; yet these expressions, shaped by the subject, conceal a content which is greater, which goes deeper, and only in the course of history can we see the full depth, which was – let us say – “clothed” in this vision that was accessible to specific individuals.

This interpretation – that the visions of Fatima – do not deal in any way with exterior perceptions of the senses, but rather with an interior impulse which is then translated into imaginative forms of seeing is simply a kind of repetition of what then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in the year 2000 in his theological interpretation of the publication of what the Vatican alleged to be the full contents of the Third Secret:

In these reflections we have sought so far to identify the theological status of private revelations. Before undertaking an interpretation of the message of Fatima, we must still attempt briefly to offer some clarification of their anthropological (psychological) character. In this field, theological anthropology distinguishes three forms of perception or “vision”: vision with the senses, and hence exterior bodily perception, interior perception, and spiritual vision (visio sensibilis – imaginativa – intellectualis). It is clear that in the visions of Lourdes, Fatima and other places it is not a question of normal exterior perception of the senses: the images and forms which are seen are not located spatially, as is the case for example with a tree or a house… It is also clear that it is not a matter of a “vision” in the mind, without images, as occurs at the higher levels of mysticism. Therefore we are dealing with the middle category, interior perception. For the visionary, this perception certainly has the force of a presence, equivalent for that person to an external manifestation to the senses. Interior vision does not mean fantasy, which would be no more than an expression of the subjective imagination. It means rather that the soul is touched by something real, even if beyond the senses. It is rendered capable of seeing that which is beyond the senses, that which cannot be seen—seeing by means of the “interior senses”. It involves true “objects”, which touch the soul, even if these “objects” do not belong to our habitual sensory world. 

To summarize:

Pope Benedict XVI flatly denied that the apparitions of Our Lady in any way involved phenomena which were perceived exterior to the seers themselves. The “visions” were derived totally from interior impulses which were then translated by the seer’s mind and imagination, dependent upon his or her own “historical, personal, and temperamental conditions,” into an interior vision which has a “force of presence” so strong to him or her that it becomes “equivalent for that person to an external manifestation to the senses.”

It is important to realize that what we are dealing here is not an across-the-board denial of the supernatural origin of these apparitions. Benedict believes the impulses to have been of supernatural origin. Nor does he deny that there is genuine faith present in the Fatima visions. The Pope in fact states, “For us, Fatima is a sign of the presence of faith…” Rather, what the Pope is denying is the objectivity of the visions. Any objects that were present were totally interior, and not exterior. In other words, Our Lady was not out there, above that particular holm-oak. Her only unique presence at Fatima was to be found within the seers themselves.

This deconstruction of the objective reality of the Apparitions of Fatima also reaches to the actual Message of Fatima. In his interview en route to Fatima, Pope Benedict also said the following:

The important thing is that the message, the response of Fatima, in substance is not directed to particular devotions, but precisely to the fundamental response, that is, to ongoing conversion, penance, prayer, and the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity.

These words could not be more false. It is certainly true that the Message of Fatima is a call to prayer, penance, and the theological virtues. But the specific substance of the Message of Fatima, a specificity without which it would cease to be the Message of Fatima, are the particular devotions Our Lady requests and demands.

In the July Apparition, and after the vision of Hell, Our Lady said:

You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.

In other words, this particular devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the substantive way by which God wishes to lead people to penance, conversion, and all the rest. Our Lady said to Lucia, “My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the way that will lead you to God.”  Our Lady also says:

To prevent this [WWII and the evils enumerated below], I shall come to ask for the consecration to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays, If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.

And, of course, there is the Rosary. In the very first Apparition she states, “Pray the Rosary every day in order to obtain peace for the world; she repeats this request in every Apparition; and in the final Apparition on October 13, she simply identifies herself as Our Lady of the Rosary.

Therefore, Pope Benedict’s statement that the message of Fatima “in substance is not directed to particular devotions” is an absolute falsification. Hundreds of millions of people died violent deaths in the 20th century precisely because the particular devotions of Fatima were not substantive enough to Catholics. What is more, the invasion of the Church by the “errors of Russia” and of Modernism (the “fellow-traveler” of Communism), which have caused the spiritual death of untold millions (especially children) through loss of the Faith, is the direct fruit of this selfsame failure to live the specific devotions of the Message of Fatima.

The specific devotions and prayers of Fatima are a way of spiritual childhood offered to a mankind grown old and hardened in false sophistication, pseudo-intelligence, and pseudo-science. It is this Gift which is rejected in the words of Joseph Ratzinger.

On May 13, 2010, approximately 500,000 pilgrims gathered in Fatima with Pope Benedict XVI. We may presume that virtually all were there because they believed Our Lady actually came to Fatima in 1917, and offered a specific path for mankind to return to God. Their Pope did not believe.

 

How the Modernist Mind Works

In order to see how all of this works – how those supernatural realities which the healthy Catholic mind and heart believe to be objective in the fullest sense of the word are translated into solely interior phenomena – we must first understand something of the Modernist mind-set, and of how it effects to the redefinition and transformation of both the Catholic faith in general, and also how it radically alters the specific philosophical, theological, and dogmatically-used terms which are integral to this faith.

Pope St. Pius X, in his encyclical On Modernism (Pascendi.), roots the entire Modernist enterprise in Agnosticism. We tend to use the word “agnosticism” to define the position of someone who rejects belief in God because he cannot prove or know that God exists. This is not how Pius X uses the term. The Modernist, in fact, often holds to a very strong belief in God despite the fact that, in accord with the definition of that term as employed by Pius X, he is very much an Agnostic. In fact, as we shall see, and strange as it may seem, it is Agnosticism which is the guardian and protector of the faith of the Modernist.

The Agnosticism of the Modernist is the direct fruit of the surrender and subjection of faith to modern science. For hundreds of years science has been pounding away at the tenets of Christian belief. We are, of course, most familiar with its assaults upon Holy Scripture, and upon those natural and historical statements in scripture of which most Christians are now embarrassed – such things as the six-day creation account, Noah’s flood, the descriptions of the earth as being the center of the universe and of the sun revolving around the earth. Some writers, for instance, see the entire Christian “retreat” as the product of the Galileo affair in which the Church subsequently backed off from geocentrism and the literal interpretation of the Bible which is usually tied to such a cosmology. But the assault against Christian belief runs much deeper than this. Rather than being something lying on the macrocosmic level, it is an assault conducted primarily in the microcosmic realm – on the level of the whole concept of created being and substance at its most fundamental level. It is, in other words, an assault on Catholic metaphysics.

Nowhere is this assault more aptly delineated than in the writings of Joseph Ratzinger. In his 1970 book Being Christian, for instance, he writes:

 The concept of substance, with which the idea of change [the Eucharistic change] seems to be closely linked, appears to be completely unobjective [we shall see further on wherein the new “objectivity” lies] since the bread, considered from a physical and chemical point of view, is seen as a mixture of heterogeneous materials, made up of an infinite multitude of atoms which, in turn, are composed of an enormous number of elemental particles to which we can ultimately apply no certain concepts of substance, since we do not even know if their existence is corpuscular or undulatory.

And he says something similar in his book Faith and the Future:

Jumping over all the other affirmations of the Patristic age, that present obstacles to us today, let us take but a single example from medieval dogma, one that recently has aroused much interest: the doctrine of transubstantiation, of the essential change of the eucharistic offerings. As it is, the subtle meaning of this definition can be represented by the ordinary intellect only in a rough and ready manner, so that what is indicated is bound to seem for ever unattainable, especially as there is the additional difficulty, that the medieval concept of substance has long since become inaccessible to us. In so far as we use the concept of substance at all today we understand thereby the ultimate particles of matter, and the chemically complex mixture that is bread certainly does not fall into that category. (Faith and the Future, p. 14).

All of this, of course, requires a direct rejection of Thomistic metaphysics, and its absolutely essential understanding of the nature of substance, and the distinction between substantial and accidental being, which makes the Catholic understanding of the doctrine of Transubstantiation possible. As Joseph Ratzinger wrote in Karl Rahner’s 1971 collection of essays titled (in English) The Problem of Infallibility:

I want to emphasize again that I decidedly agree with Kung when he makes a clear distinction between Roman theology (taught in the schools of Rome) and the Catholic Faith. To free itself from the constraining fetters of Roman Scholastic Theology represents a duty upon which, in my humble opinion, the possibility of the survival of Catholicism seems to depend.

By “schools of Rome” Joseph Ratzinger of course meant the schools of philosophy and theology dominated by the figure of Garrigou-LaGrange, epitomizing the Thomistic revival called forth by Pope Leo XIII, and rejected by both Joseph Ratzinger and Karol Wojtyla. Notice that Joseph Ratzinger equates the possibility of the survival of Catholicism to the rejection of this Thomism. It is evident that this is so because he fully believed that in the face of what modern science had demonstrated about the nature of “substance,” the theological approach of traditional Roman Catholic theology (firmly rooted in the concepts and formulas of the Thomistic metaphysical structure of reality), had been proven untenable by modern science. It is in fact very revealing that in Pope Benedict’s three General Audiences which he devoted to the subject of Saint Thomas, absolutely no mention is made of this metaphysics. This, despite the fact that, according to Benedict, Thomas’ great contribution was the firm belief that faith and reason are in harmony. Such exclusion must be viewed as disingenuous, since Thomas’ entire effort at harmonizing faith and reason is absolutely rooted in his metaphysics, and cannot exist without this metaphysics. There absolutely cannot be a Thomistic (and therefore Tridentine) understanding of Transubstantiation without this metaphysics. The Pope’s silence is therefore deafening.

We are now in position to understand what Pius X meant when he rooted Modernism in “agnosticism.” Modernist agnosticism is constituted by a denial that the human mind can know anything about realities which are in any way beyond the phenomena analyzed by the empirical sciences. It ranges all the way from a denial that the human mind can prove the existence of God to the denial of such external phenomena as we have been discussing concerning the apparitions of Fatima, to the denial of the entire metaphysical structure of reality which we refer to as “Thomistic,” and which is foundational to so many Catholic doctrines – especially the dogma of Transubstantiation. Such “agnosticism” is, in other words, a retreat from objectivity in regard to all things both supernatural and metaphysical.

It is not, however, a retreat into nothingness. Rather, it is a retreat into the interior of man. As we mentioned earlier, such “agnosticism” is not to be identified with a negation of faith or belief. And since both faith and belief must be constituted by faith and belief in something – in other words, there must continue to be objects which constitute the content of this faith – then the whole concept of objectivity in regard to belief is itself transformed. At the beginning of this article, we quoted the following from Pascendi: “For, as we have seen, everything in their system is explained by inner impulses or necessities. These impulses manifest themselves in our consciousnesses, in accord with our own personal history and temperament, as the objects of our faith.

This whole process of retreat from the objective content of our faith into an alleged “interior objectivity” is characterized by Pope Pius X with the name Immanentism. It is certainly legitimate to speak of the objectivity of interior phenomena, including supernatural graces, inspirations and visions. But when such interior “objectivity” is used as a substitute for, or denial of, what has always been traditionally considered to involve substantial, exterior, objective spiritual realities (including such things as Dogma, the Deposit of Faith, the historicity of the Gospels), then we find ourselves in the presence of Immanentism. And, this is precisely the route taken by Pope Benedict XVI in his denial of any exterior, substantial objectivity of the Fatima Apparitions, and his relegation of all the content of these Apparitions to the realm of interior impulses.

We see this transfer of the concept of objectivity into the interior realm especially in philosophical Phenomenalism which, while being at one with Kantian idealism in its surrender to the agnosticism produced by subjection of the faith to reductive- analytical physical science as analyzed above, yet seeks a remedy to Kantian skepticism through the alleged discovery of objectivity in regard to faith and morals within consciousness itself. This is the source of the various forms of Personalistic-Phenomenalistic philosophies which have dominated the philosophy and theology of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

It is important at this point to make a distinction between the “pure” Modernist and what Pius X designates as the “moderate” Modernist. Full-blown Modernism is virtually identifiable with Pantheism. To transfer the entire content of the faith into the interior of man, and to his evolving consciousness and “impulses,” logically leads to identifying God with evolving consciousness and therefore with His creation. But Modernism is subject to many variations and degrees. Its innate tendency, as we have already noted, is constituted in a retreat from the “objectivity” of the faith in the face of reductive analytical science, a retreat which requires the immanentization and “spiritualization” of all sorts of Catholic truths and dogmas. But there is a great variation in the extent to which individual dogmas are subject to this intimidation. For instance, one may believe in an Infinite God, or the Incarnation, or the Resurrection, or the founding of the Catholic Church by Christ without undue fear that science will prove one wrong. Certainly, some scientists and others will attack these beliefs, but these dogmas are pretty much beyond the scope of being “scientifically” proven impossible or false. But the same is not true of a dogma like transubstantiation, which invades the realm of the very constitution of physical substance.

The great sign of contradiction which is the dogma of transubstantiation is that it claims that physical substances (bread and wine) are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ. For analytical science, as Joseph Ratzinger pointed out so well, the whole concept of “substance” is either invalid, or it is reducible to some sort of atomic, sub-atomic particles or waves or super-strings, or whatever. But the whole point of the doctrine of Transubstantiation is that physical substances are changed, and that what remains of the appearance of bread and wine after the consecrations are only “accidens” – belonging to those categories of being which can be measured, etc., but do not in any way comprise the essence of what a physical substance is.

For the Modernist, or as in the case of Joseph Ratzinger, for the “moderate” Modernist, the doctrine of Transubstantiation must somehow be “immanentized,” or, in the terminology of Joseph Ratzinger, “essentialized”.

Most important for this process of “essentialization” to be accomplished is that physical change of substance must be denied. And this requires that substantial being be identified with that which is quantifiable (measureable – accidental being) by the physical sciences. In the year 2000 there appeared (in German) Cardinal Ratzinger’s book God and the World, Believing and Living in Our Time (English edition Ignatius Press, 2002). The Work actually consists of conversations with journalist Peter Seewald. In their discussion of the Real Presence, Mr. Seewald makes the following statement concerning Cardinal Ratzinger’s proclaimed belief in transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist: “But anyone can see that the wine remains wine…” Cardinal Ratzinger’s reply is as follows:

But this is not a statement of physics. It has never been asserted that, so to say, nature in a physical sense is being changed. The transformation reaches down to a more profound level. Tradition has it that this is a metaphysical process. Christ lays hold upon what is, from a purely physical viewpoint, bread and wine, in its inmost being, so that it is changed from within and Christ truly gives himself in them.

First, it is quite clear that in the above passage Cardinal Ratzinger denies any change in the physical substance of the bread and wine. The doctrine of Transubstantiation demands the assertion that the entire physical substance of the bread and wine be changed, and cease to exist. It should be needless to say that a physical substance cannot cease to exist without its “physical nature” being changed. It is obvious therefore that Cardinal Ratzinger is here identifying the “physical nature” of the bread and wine with their accidental properties, and is therefore denying both Transubstantiation, and the metaphysics necessary to this doctrine.

Second, Cardinal Ratzinger throws crumbs to the “traditional” view that this is a “metaphysical” process, but he certainly does not use the word “metaphysical” in any way even close to a Thomistic sense. Thomistic metaphysics, as we have noted, demands that we consider that the entire physical substance of bread and wine are changed. Cardinal Ratzinger, on the other hand, proposes that what really happens is some “metaphysical” process by which these substances remain physically unchanged and Christ “gives himself in them.” 

In the seven pages of the interview which deal with the Eucharist, Cardinal Ratzinger uses the word “transubstantiation” or “transubstantiated” four times. But while repeatedly using the word, he is personally contradicting the Church’s defined doctrine of Transubstantiation  – that the entire substance of the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, only the accidents (appearances) remaining –  and is instead embracing consubstantiation (the belief that Christ is in, under, or with the bread) under the guise of transubstantiation. It only makes sense, therefore, that on the previous page of this book he states that “Luther held out (against Calvin, etc.) in favor of transubstantiation here, with great emphasis….”  The Cardinal has simply changed the meaning of the word transubstantiation so that it is similar to the Lutheran doctrine of consubstantiation. The notion that Luther held on to the belief in Transubstantiation is a total absurdity. He detested both St. Thomas and the doctrine of Transubstantiation. In his Large Catechism he writes: “What then is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer: It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine…” As the Lutheran Formula of Concord  states, “Just as in Christ two distinct unchanged natures are inseparably united, so in the Holy Supper the two substances, the natural bread and the true natural body of Christ, are present together here upon earth in the appointed administration of the Sacrament.” (#37). The Lutheran formulation for the real presence is “in pane, sub pane, cum pane” – “in the bread, under the bread, with the bread (#38)”.

Obviously, Joseph Ratzinger is relatively “safe” with such a formulation of the nature of Christ’s Real Presence. After all, how is science going to prove that Christ isn’t in the bread in some mysterious, “metaphysical” way?

But it is in the nature of such rejections of the hard realities of the actual doctrine of Transubstantiation that such “substitute” explanations are seldom satisfying. It is doubtful that Joseph Ratzinger has any real consistent explanation for this doctrine (just as Luther never did). However, immanentization, and the evolutionary view of revelation and truth which is its constant companion (see our article The Quintessential Evolutionist for a full examination of Joseph Ratzinger’s view concerning the evolution of  Revelation), requires no such consistency. Since there is nothing absolutely substantial, there is no real need for consistency since truth and revelation are themselves  evolving relationships, and therefore always subject to “essentialization.”

But there are a couple more examples of Joseph Ratzinger’s attempts to explain the nature of the Real Presence. The first is taken from his 1970 book Being Christian:

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or the silent visit to a church cannot be, in its full sense, a simple conversation with God conceived as locally circumscribed. Expressions such as ‘God lives here’ and the idea of holding a conversation with a God who is localized are an expression of the Christological mystery and the mystery of God, that inevitably shocks the thinking man who knows that God is omnipresent. When one tries to justify “going to church” by the notion that one has to visit God and he dwells only in that place, one’s justification is meaningless and is rightly rejected by modern man. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is connected with our Lord who, by his historic life and passion, has become our ‘bread’; that is to say, who, by his incarnation and death, has become the one whose arms are open to receive us. Such adoration is directed, then, to the historic mystery of Jesus Christ, to the history of God with man, a history which approaches us in the Blessed Sacrament. And it is related to the mystery of the Church: being related to the history of God with man, it is related also to the whole ‘body of Christ, to the community of the faithful, through whom and in whom God comes to us. (P.80).

The above quote is a masterpiece of deconstruction of Catholic belief and doctrine. It should be immediately experienced as immensely offensive by anyone in possession of the Catholic faith.

Finally, there is this quote, taken from Cardinal Ratzinger’s book  God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003), The following is taken from one of its chapters titled The Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament:

The transformation happens, which affects the gifts we bring by taking them up into a higher order and changes them, even if we cannot measure what happens. When material things are taken into our body as nourishment, or for that matter whenever any material becomes part of a living organism, it remains the same, and yet as part of a new whole it is itself changed. Something similar happens here. The Lord takes possession of the bread and the wine; he lifts them up, as it were, out of the setting of their normal existence into a new order; even if, from a purely physical point of view, they remain the same, they have become profoundly different.” (God is Near Us, p.86)

The above is a piece of pure Modernistic mush. As Cardinal Siri said in regard to Modernist terminology, “The words flee.”

As we have said, Joseph Ratzinger does not flinch from using the word “Transubstantiation,” or of even claiming his own personal belief in this doctrine. He did so on June 17 in an address at St. John Lateran. Here are his words:

In fact, with the consecration of the bread and wine they become his true body and blood. Saint Augustine invited his faithful not to pause on what appeared to their sight, but to go beyond: “Recognize in the bread — he said — that same body that hung on the cross, and in the chalice that same blood that gushed from his side” (Disc. 228 B, 2). To explain this transformation, theology has coined the word “transubstantiation,” a word that resounded for the first time in this Basilica during the IV Lateran Council, of which in five years will be the 8th centenary. On that occasion the following expressions were inserted in the profession of faith: “his body and his blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar, under the species of bread and wine, because the bread is transubstantiated into the body, and the wine into the blood by divine power” (DS, 802). Therefore, it is essential to stress, in the itineraries of education of children in the faith, of adolescents and of young people, as well as in “centers of listening” to the Word of God, that in the sacrament of the Eucharist Christ is truly, really and substantially present.

As analyzed by Pius X, one of the most enduring characteristics of the Modernist mind-set is “double-mindedness”, or the exposition of contrary or contradictory teachings at different times and different situations. While speaking to the faithful, for instance, he may sound very orthodox and make use of all sorts of traditional formulations of dogma, etc. But at other times, and especially in professional circles or in his scholarly writings, he acts a very different part. We need not consider such “double-mindedness” as being primarily due to any conscious effort to deceive, but rather as being the logical fruit of Joseph Ratzinger’s long-held evolutionary posture in regard to the concept of truth. Truth, rather than being a systematic “Deposit of Faith,” is enmeshed in an historically evolving  relationship between God and man which is therefore in a constant dialectic with itself  (again, it very important to read The Quintessential Evolutionist in order to understand Joseph Ratzinger’s position in this regard). But neither dialectical growth nor evolution can occur if there is total chaos. Both stability and change are therefore integral to evolution – both conservative and liberal, dogma and revolution, thesis and anti-thesis. As Pius X says in Pascendi, the Modernist seeks not to destroy authority [or established dogma], but “to stimulate it.” The Pope who believes in evolution must therefore fill both roles. He must embody both the principle of conservative stability and that of revolutionary change. This is the source of that roller coaster ride which orthodox Catholics have endured over the past 55 years.

Evolution is, in fact, a kind of “third leg” (along with agnosticism and immanentism) upon which Modernism is founded. Evolution is the primary vehicle by which all substantiveness is dissolved in regard to Catholic doctrine. In Thomistic metaphysics, no substantial form can “evolve” into something different. There can only be corruption of the substantial form which is necessary as constituting the essence of a particular substance, and its replacement by another. The same may be said of “substantive” Truth. There can therefore be no evolution of dogma as long as Thomistic metaphysics rules. But with the rejection of Thomistic metaphysics, and with evolution as the dominant mind-set, we can still claim to believe in all sorts of things that seem traditionally Catholic, while at the same time dissolving the rigid boundaries of absolute truth which once made change impossible. This is so because the concept of evolving relationship has replaced substantial being as the fundamental concept of the new philosophical approach to reality. Objectivity can then become immersed in a seductive and changeable subjectivity, with no one really having noticed that the whole Catholic world of objective, absolute Truth and Revelation has been inverted.

There is, of course, much more that is poisoned and perverted by this process than the doctrine of Transubstantiation.. The threefold Modernist process of agnosticism, immanentism, and evolution reaches into the deepest recesses of Catholic belief. We will not detail all of them here. But we would like to explore here one more area of Catholic doctrine which provides extraordinary witness to the effect of such Modernist “deconstruction” upon the entirety of the Christian message.

The very heart of the Christian message is comprised in the fact that God, in the Person of Christ, has come to us and made possible our regeneration.

The Advent of Christ, in other words, is the very center of all of human history. It is impossible to devalue its absolute significance, and the line of demarcation in human history which it represents, without at the same time undermining all of Catholic truth. And this is precisely what Joseph Ratzinger did in the passage quoted below from his book Being Christian  (1970):

This week we celebrate with the Church the beginning of Advent. If we think back to what we learned as children about Advent and its significance, we will remember being told that the Advent wreath, with its candles, is a reminder of the thousands of years (perhaps thousands of centuries) of the history of mankind before Christ. It reminds all of us of the time when an unredeemed mankind awaited salvation. It brings to our minds the darkness of an as yet unredeemed history in which the light of hope was only slowly kindled until, in the end, Christ, the light of the world, came and freed mankind from the darkness of condemnation. We learned also that those thousands of years before Christ were a time of condemnation because of original sin, while the centuries after the birth of our Lord are ‘anni salutis reparatae,’ years of restored salvation. And finally, we will remember being told that, in Advent, besides thinking back on the past to the period of condemnation and expectation of mankind, the Church also fixes her attention on the multitude of people who have not yet been baptized, and for whom it is still Advent, since they wait and live in the darkness of the absence of salvation.

If we look at the ideas we learned as children through the eyes of contemporary man and with the experiences of our age, we will see that we can hardly accept them. The idea that the years after Christ, compared with those before, are years of salvation will seem to be a cruel irony if we remember such dates as 1914, 1918, 1933, 1939, 1945; dates which mark periods of world war in which millions of men lost their lives, often in terrifying circumstances; dates which bring back the memory of atrocities such as humanity has never before experienced. One date (1933) reminds us of the beginning of a regime which achieved the most cruel perfection in the practice of mass murder; and finally, we remember that year in which the first atomic bomb exploded on an inhabited city, hiding in its dazzling brilliance a new possibility of darkness for the world.

If we think about these things, we will have difficulty in distinguishing between a period of salvation and one of condemnation. And, extending our vision even further, if we contemplate the works of destruction and barbarity perpetrated in this and the preceding centuries by Christians (that is to say by us who call ourselves ‘redeemed’), we will be unable to divide the nations of the world into the redeemed and the condemned.

If we are sincere, we will no longer build up a theory which divides history and geography into zones of redeemed and zones of condemned. Rather, we will see the whole of history as a gray mass in which it is always possible to perceive the shining of a goodness which has not completely disappeared, in which there can always be found in men the desire to do good, but also in which breakdowns occur which lead to the atrocities of evil.”

All of this, of course, is a profound denial of Catholic truths concerning Christ’s Redemption (especially as found in Galatians 3) and the meaning of baptism. The Incarnation of Christ is an ontological event which radically changed God’s relationship to man, man’s relationship to God, and the course and nature of human history. It is Christ’s Advent which altered the “gray mass” of human history into a choice between light and darkness. It is Satan who wishes to obscure this radical demarcation in history, and the choice which it requires of each one of us. “Gray masses,” whether they are postulated in the realm of morality and ethics, or in regard to the redemptive work of Christ, are the realm of Satan. If there is not a truly significant historical effect of Christ’s Advent and Passion, then we must also conclude that there has been no real historical effect of baptism and sanctifying grace upon individuals, and therefore upon the social order. This, of course, is exactly what Joseph Ratzinger tries to establish as an historical fact with his litany of atrocities applicable to the 20th century, and also his reference to atrocities perpetrated by nominal Christians in centuries past.

Absolutely contrary to Joseph Ratzinger’s assessment of Christ’s Advent is that offered to us by Pope Leo XIII:

What we here record is well enough known, but not sufficiently realized or thought about. Pride would not mislead, nor indifference enervate, so many minds, if the Divine mercies were more generally called to mind and if it were remembered from what an abyss Christ delivered mankind and to what a height He raised it. The human race, exiled and disinherited, had for ages been daily hurrying into ruin, involved in the terrible and numberless ills brought about by the sin of our first parents, nor was there any human hope of salvation, when Christ Our Lord came down as the Saviour from Heaven…. And so, when the fullness of time came in God’s Divine Providence, the only-begotten Son of God became man, and in behalf of mankind made most abundant satisfaction in His Blood to the outraged majesty of His Father and by this infinite price He redeemed man for His own…. When Jesus Christ had blotted out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, fastening it to the cross, at once God’s wrath was appeased, the primeval fetters of slavery were struck off from unhappy and erring man, God’s favour was won back, grace restored, the gates of Heaven opened, the right to enter them revived, and the means afforded of doing so. Then man, as though awakening from a long-continued and deadly lethargy, beheld at length the light of the truth, for long ages desired, yet sought in vain. First of all, he realized that he was born to much higher and more glorious things than the frail and inconstant objects of sense which had hitherto formed the end of his thoughts and cares. He learnt that the meaning of human life, the supreme law, the end of all things was this: that we come from God and must return to Him. From this first principle the consciousness of human dignity was revived: men’s hearts realized the universal brotherhood: as a consequence, human rights and duties were either perfected or even newly created, whilst on all sides were evoked virtues undreamt of in pagan philosophy. Thus men’s aims, life, habits and customs received a new direction. As the knowledge of the Redeemer spread far and wide and His power, which destroyeth ignorance and former vices, penetrated into the very life-blood of the nations, such a change came about that the face of the world was entirely altered by the creation of a Christian civilization. The remembrance of these events, Venerable Brethren, is full of infinite joy, but it also teaches us the lesson that we must both feel and render with our whole hearts gratitude to our Divine Saviour. (Encyclical Tametsi – on Christ Our Redeemer).

There could be no greater contradiction and opposition than that which exists between Pope Leo’s assessment of the effects of Christ’s Advent, and that offered to us by Joseph Ratzinger. The latter’s words quoted above are simply a spelled-out version of the words of one of Chesterton’s opponents who claimed that Christianity had been tried, and found wanting. Chesterton’s reply, of course, was that, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” And while there is a good deal of truth in Chesterton’s response – to the extent that Christianity certainly has never been perfectly embodied in any social order – there is also a great deal of unwarranted exaggeration, and also implicit denial of the historical facts concerning this issue. Again, let us compare a far more accurate assessment offered to us by Pope Leo XIII:

There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favour of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is-beyond all question, in large measure, through religion, under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion. (Encyclical Immortale Dei on The Christian Constitution of States).

Pope Leo here, of course, is talking about the Church’s doctrine concerning the Social Kingship of Christ. It was the constant theme of his Pontificate and his encyclicals that the only cure for the evils of his day was a full return to acceptance of this doctrine, and a militant dedication by all Catholics to its implementation into the social order of all nations. Pope Benedict in his writings has flatly denied this teaching, and labeled it as “provisional” and “superseded.”

Such “implementation” will, of course, never be one-hundred percent successful. But it is precisely the point that it is only the degree to which it is implemented that society will be healthy and able to prevent the spread of those errors and forces which are ever bent on the destruction of Christian civilization  The fact that such “trials” of integrated social Christianity have never been completely successful is, of course, a reflection of that duplicity and constant compromise which comes “natural” to the fallen man who believes that he can “possess” the faith without living these baptismal graces in all their integrity. The Catholic soldier who participated in the sack of Constantinople in 1204, the German Catholics who acquiesced to the tyranny of  Hitler, or the American or English Catholics who condoned the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima or the fire-storm bombing of Dresden in WWII, were not  Catholics living their baptismal graces in integrity. As St. Paul said, “But God is true, and every man a liar…” (Rom 3:4). Even more important for our understanding the horrors of the 20th century, however, is the fact that these 20th century atrocities were not the fruits of Christian civilization, but were rather the direct consequences of a decay of Christian civilization, and the resultant ascension to power of forces, ideas, individuals, and movements (Communism, Nazism, and secular-messianic democracy) at total war with Christianity. Joseph Ratzinger’s historical analysis is, in other words, profoundly distorted.

Joseph Ratzinger’s “hermeneutics of continuity” is in fact a “hermeneutics of discontinuity.” The teaching of many previous Popes is flatly contradicted, the objective has been made subjective, words that once were the bulwark of hard and clear dogmas have been dissolved into self-contradiction, and Catholicism has been set on its head.

Many would like to speculate that Pope Benedict has undergone a radical conversion from his previous views. But such speculation is founded upon an unwillingness to see that his enormously serious errors and objective heresies have been consistent over decades, including those years that extended into his Papacy. This includes his fulsome embrace of Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theology, which we examined in our article on The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning With Thorns. In addition, any such a conversion would demand the restoration of Catholic integrity in regard to what he has said and written previously, and therefore public renunciation of the many errors disseminated in previous writings. No such restoration is evident. His writings continue to be published and republished everywhere, and the errors which they contain continue to poison the minds of innumerable people. And as we have analyzed above in regard to his views on the nature of the appearance of Our Lady at Fatima, his Modernist mindset was still fully intact in the midst of his Papacy.

It is indeed a sad sign of the dilution and evisceration of our Catholic hope, especially in regard to any expectations we may entertain for the future of our children and of the world, that so many of those who consider themselves orthodox Catholics place some sort of hope for the future of the Church in the fact that Benedict XVI is still alive. Whether this hope stems from the erroneous belief that he is still Pope because of an invalid election, or whether it is submersed in some other less-defined attachment and delusion, it does indeed represent a dream which is founded upon a profound dilution of Catholic belief and hope. Benedict XVI was certainly more conservative than Francis in his commitment to a much more deceptive program of gentle revolutionary dialectic (“hermeneutics of continuity”), and process of evolutionary change. The violent revolutions of 1968 did indeed repulse and scare him; and compared to him, Francis’ agenda for revolutionary change is indeed more crude and evident. But both end up at the same place. It is only a question of whether, like the frog in slowly warming water, we are gradually lured into a slow death; or whether, on the other hand, we are being subjected to something much more violent and obvious.  Both are clearly a chastisement from God for our infidelities and prostitutions to the modern world. But it should seem a blessing to us that what before was hidden and subtly deceptive, has now become obvious to so many. As Our Lord said, “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed: nor hidden, that shall not be known. For whatsoever things you have spoken in darkness, shall be published in the light: and that which you have spoken in the ear in the chambers, shall be preached on the housetop.” (Luke 12: 2,3). What was spoken softly in the chambers of Joseph Ratzinger’s intellectual mansions, is now being loudly and crudely preached from the “roof” of Francis’ Papacy.

The spiritual life of the Catholic Church since Vatican II, with all of its chaos and evils, has been the direct fruit of the Modernism examined above. I believe that millions, including recent Popes, have been either severely wounded or spiritually slain by these errors. This certainly must be a chastisement from God for our infidelities. As St. Gregory the Great said, “Divine justice provides shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” At the same time, it must be true that an integral part of that chastisement is the grace to return us to that “first love” which militantly combats error and evil wherever it has entrenched itself. Popes benefit nothing from our silence in the face of their errors. Charity seeks the health of the beloved, even though such love might involve the painful exorcising of wounds and infection. It is, in fact, those who fail to see the real source of the Papacy’s present suffering who foster this slaughter of innocents; for it is our children who are the ultimate and primary victims of these errors. Satan, therefore, does indeed relish our silence.

But even more than our silence, Satan’s agenda now moves forward at an exponential pace riding on the waves of our self-deceit. And the primary vehicle of this self-deceit is any attachment to any program of deliverance which is not totally established in recourse to the Triumph of the Light of Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There is no hope to be found in Benedict XVI. There is no hope to be found in the exposing of all the layers of conspiracy now arrayed against us both from within and without the Church. There is no hope in anything such as “Make America Great Again” (it never was great, except from the standpoint of the world), and there is no hope in the Republican Party or Donald Trump. From the standpoint of each one of us, and any contribution we may make to Our Lady’s Victory, there is only hope in that self-knowledge which leads us to the point where we utter the cry “We have sinned” rather than “You have sinned”.  It is to such a cry that Our Lady and Our Lord will certainly be attentive, and through which we may receive the graces of our own purification and the purification of the entire Church.

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Science: The War Against Both God and Man

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Note: The article below is a sequel to our article The Gift of Knowledge and The Beatitude of Mourning.

Science:

The War Against Both God and Man

 

Now, in the spring of the year 2020, we Catholics find ourselves in a situation in which virtually all that is most incarnational in our Faith – all which visibly speaks of our firm belief in the power and mercy of God over what constitutes our lives in this world – and virtually all external expression of our unity in worship in the one Mystical Body of Christ, which is the ordinary channel of this power and grace, has been suppressed. The public offerings of the Mass have been forbidden, as have been many of the other sacraments. At the very heart of this suppression is science, technology, and modern medicine, and what they have to tell us about the origin and spread of the coronavirus, and the remedies which they propose as compulsory for our survival and victory. None of these “remedies” includes the grace and power of God. In fact, even liquor stores have been given precedence over whatever we might receive from Christ through the Sacraments for our emotional, mental and spiritual health.

We have seen our hierarchy almost unanimously lie down in subjection to this mindset (or we might say “soul-set”), and much of this “suppression” was mandated by this same hierarchy even before they had been ordered by the State to do so. There are of course quite a few Catholics (although certainly a small minority) who might be balking at all of this. But we all need to ask ourselves the extent to which this has been made possible due to the subjection of all of our minds and hearts to a profoundly pervasive loss of faith in believing that “Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” (James 1: 17). We need, in other words, to enter into a profound act of self-examination which will expose the degree to which our faith has been subjected to man’s “science”. As examined by Pope St. Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (On the Doctrine of the Modernists), such subjection of our faith to science is the foundation of the entire Modernist heresy, and is preeminently responsible for what he accurately saw to be the subsequent loss of the vitality of the Traditional Catholic faith which is its ultimate necessary fruit. It is in the depths of the poisoned water of this loss of the vitality of our faith, and the vitality of the Church itself, which we now find ourselves immersed.

We ask the reader to note from the very beginning of this analysis that we have also included the science of medicine among the “engines” of tyranny now working for the subjection of the Catholic faith. Modern medicine always seems to be the bottom line which prevents us from seeing the enormous destructiveness of science and technology over our physical and spiritual lives. We will have more to say about this further on. At this point, however, we only ask the reader to consider that it seems very likely that COVID-19 originated and spread from a medical laboratory called the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China. This current pandemic, in other words, is very likely the unholy offspring of that very same medical science towards which the world now looks for deliverance.

In considering what might be called the “collective thinking” of the entire Western world (and beyond), there is no position one can take which elicits more universal disdain than that of being “anti-science.” It immediately calls forth stereotyped images of backwardness, anti-progress, rigidity, and just plain stupidity.

There are of course other epithets that are accompanied by much more vehement condemnations: terms as such anti-Semite, racist, etc. But we are not here concerned with such individual prejudices and passions, but rather with the scientific weltanschauung (world-view) which now dominates our thinking, and the rejection of which is almost unthinkable to modern man.

Integral to this world-view is the belief that there is a world of “Science” containing all knowledge of the depths of the physical world, that the human mind has the potential to fully encompass this knowledge, and that it is only in the use of this knowledge that man sins.

It is our contention here, on the other hand, that the scientific weltanschauung is integrally constituted by a dominant hubris, which has profoundly altered human consciousness, and constitutes a war against both God and man.

Such an “anti-science” position is bound to elicit the following protest: “But the Popes have said that there is no conflict between true science and Faith – between the natural laws that govern the physical universe and Divine Revelation!” Yes, this is certainly true. But what has never been fully explored by these same Popes is that “Science”, as a human endeavor, is never just about objective truth, and that its pursuit inherently involves perversions of the intellect and will which alter not only man’s relationship with God, but also human psychology and spirituality itself.

We will explore this subject from three perspectives: 1) in the light of what Scripture has to say in regard to the nature of God’s creation, and the inevitable consequences of man’s attempts to penetrate the nature of God’s “works”; 2) the consequences of original sin upon man’s intellect and will; 3) the overwhelming existential and historical facts concerning the immensely destructive fruits of the scientific enterprise itself.

Before proceeding with this analysis, however, we wish to acknowledge that we may have already alienated some readers. Let us begin, therefore, by offering some very down-to-earth statistics in order to convince the reader of the possibility that there may indeed be a raging fire from which proceeds the following smoke.

In the United States, the members of the National Academy of Sciences represent the elite of those on the cutting edge of their corresponding scientific disciplines. Membership is by election only (no applications please), and such membership is considered one of “the highest honors that a scientist can receive.” The total current membership is approximately 2,350, with 485 foreign associates. Approximately 500 have received Nobel Prizes.

In the 23 July, 1998 issue of Nature, authors Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham presented the results of a survey of NAS scientists in an article titled Leading Scientists Still Reject God. Their questionnaire duplicated that used by researcher James H. Leuba in his surveys of “leading scientists” in the years 1914 and 1933. The results show in fact that the title of the Nature article understates the significance of their findings – leading scientists do not merely still reject God, but increasingly reject God in what appears to be geometric proportions.

In 1914, “leading scientists” responded with statistics showing that 27.7% believed in a Personal God (“a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind”). In 1933, this percentage was down to 15%. And, in Larson and Witham’s 1998 study, this belief in a personal God had reached a low of 7.0% (approximately one-fourth of the number found in 1914).

In the words of Larson and Watham, “Disbelief in God [not only a Personal God, but God in any form] and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers.” The first sentence of this quote adds another dimension. Obviously, the closer one gets to being the type of scientist (especially physicists) whose pretention is to penetrate to the absolute foundations of physical reality, the less likelihood there is of a belief in God.

We can contrast the above statistics with a Pew Forum survey in 2007 which found 78.4% of Americans professing to be Christians, 4.7% “Other Religions”, and 5.8% identifying themselves as “Unaffiliated Believers” – a total of 88.9% who believe in God.

The contrast revealed here is absolutely stark. Unquestioningly, these statistics (even if we are somewhat skeptical about such polls) reveal that there is something within the scientific enterprise itself which is destructive of faith in God. As we shall see, its destructiveness extends equally to human life and dignity.

 

Holy Scripture and the Scientific Enterprise

We begin with the first perspective which mentioned above: the inevitable consequences, from a Biblical perspective, of the scientific enterprise itself.

It is a kind of dogma of modern life that man has the inalienable right, and even responsibility, to the pursuit of unending growth in all the spheres of his secular activity: economic, political (New World Order), scientific knowledge, technological development, etc. Such “unending quest for knowledge and growth” would almost seem to constitute modern man’s definition of his most fundamental dignity. This is fully in accord with the dominant forms of modern philosophy which define him in terms of evolutionary becoming rather than created being.

Such is not the Biblical view, which rather sees such pursuits as wreaking disaster to both individual and society, and to man’s relationship to Truth and to God. The Biblical perspective begins with Original Sin which, according to St. Thomas, was constituted as an intellectual pride by which Adam and Eve sought an intellectual excellence of knowledge independently of God. In the situation of Original Sin, this is described in terms of “knowledge of good and evil.” It is obvious in the light of further Old Testament scriptures, however, that this disorder also extends to the “seeking after an excellence” which would presume to penetrate to the knowledge of the depths of the nature of created things. Thus, we have the following scriptures:

Nothing may be taken away, nor added, neither is it possible to find out the glorious works of God: When a man hath done, then shall he begin: And when he leaveth off, he shall be at a loss.” (Ecclus 28:5-6).

And I understood that man can find no reason of all those works of God that are done under the sun: and the more he shall labor to seek, so much the less shall he find: yea, though the wise man shall say, that he knoweth it, he shall not be able to find it.” (Eccl 8:17).

For the works of the Highest only are wonderful, and his works are glorious, secret, and hidden.” (Ecclus 11:4).

For great is the power of God alone, and he is honoured by the humble. Seek not the things that are too high for thee, and search not into things above thy ability: but the things that God hath commanded thee, think on them always, and in many of his works be not curious. For it is not necessary for thee to see with thy eyes those things that are hid. In unnecessary matters be not over curious, and in many of his works thou shalt not be inquisitive.                                                                 

For many things are shewn to thee above the understanding of men. And the suspicion of them hath deceived many, and hath detained their minds in vanity.” (Ecclus 3:21-26).

These scripture passages proscribe any effort by man which attempts to penetrate (or even be inquisitive and curious about) the hidden depths of God’s “works.” It is evident that in these scriptures the word “works” refers to the physical world itself – to all those “works of God that are done under the sun.” There is no allegorical interpretation possible here. We are simply faced with a choice between considering these teachings as divinely revealed truth, or merely the product of primitive and ignorant Old Testament human minds,

 

The Destruction of Human Intelligence

The last sentence in the final quote offered above is possibly the most revealing. It speaks both of the disordered motivation (“suspicion”) for such a quest, and it also pegs its consequent fruit (vanity).

The “suspicion” which scripture designates as the source for this “seeking” to understand the depths of God’s works must relate not only to God’s works themselves (their substantial reality, and man’s ability to objectively know them with his ordinary perception), but to the trustworthiness of God Himself as revealed through the substantial reality of His creation. Most revealing in this regard was a book written in 1996 by John Horgan, former senior writer at Scientific American, titled The End of Science. Mr. Horgan interviewed over 40 of the top scientists in the world (many of them physicists, and Nobel Prize winners) on the subject of “the end of science,” the ultimate meaning of reality, etc. What is revealed through these interviews is that none of these men is, in even the remotest fashion, a Christian, or a believer in a Personal God. Possibly even more revealing is that they have no epistemology (the philosophy of how we know things) whatsoever. In other words, none have the slightest notion of how it is even remotely possible to equate the findings of their “science” with reality as we perceive it. As the first scriptural passage quoted above states; “When a man hath done, then shall he begin: And when he leaveth off, he shall be at a loss.”

None of these scientists, for instance, have any idea as to how to connect the “scientific” understanding of water – of two atoms of Hydrogen compounded with one of Oxygen, constituted by electrons spinning at comparatively enormous distances around nuclei, with the whole thing being comprised of 99.999999999 % void – to the marvelous substance we know as water. They are, in other words, and in the most profound sense, “lost” in a world of suspicion in regard to the substantial reality of God’s creation, and therefore also of God Himself. This is why we often see such scientists flirting with Eastern forms of religion which deny the reality of our perceived world.

Further, the fruit of this “suspicion” is described by the scripture as having their minds “detained in “vanity.” Vanity is, of course, the same as St. Thomas’ “vainglory.” It is an inordinate desire to manifest one’s own excellence, very similar to that original sin of intellectual pride by which Adam and Eve sought an excellence above their nature, with the only significant difference here being its communitarian nature. The scientist becomes, in other words, a kind of Magi, guardian of an esoteric knowledge obtainable only to the elite, and before whom the multitudes must bow in reverence. The scientist, in other words, becomes the ultimate Gnostic.

The Old Testament proscriptions against such Gnostic-inspired “scientific” pursuits come to fruition in the Beatitudes of the Gospel. Suffice to say, that the Beatitudes demand a simplicity of life, founded upon humility and poverty of spirit, in regard to the exercise of all of man’s faculties, and in all realms of human endeavor in regard to pursuit of the things of this world both physical and intellectual There is no way in which we can imagine the living of the simplicity and poverty of spirit described in the Beatitudes as being in any way compatible with the development of the modern consumeristic, scientific, technological, economic, and political cultures in which we now are immersed and spiritually poisoned.

All of this leads to the second perspective mentioned above: the consequences of original sin upon man’s intellect and will.

The “vanity” which is the moral inversion involved in the Gnostic-scientific enterprise seeking to reach to the depths of created realities, produces a parallel inversion in man’s intellectual perception of reality.  The entirety of the scientific quest is immersed (involved) in accidental being. The scientific method, although it indirectly deals with substantial being, is directly concerned only with accidental (quantifiable) realities. As such, it involves a continuous series of reductionisms through accidental analysis. Thus, a living substance is reduced to cells, cells to chromosomes and other structures, chromosomes to DNA molecular arrangements, molecules to atoms, atoms to sub-atomic particles, quanta, etc.  In this ever-descending process, each reduction somehow becomes the substantial “reality” behind the previous “appearance,” accompanied by a total epistemological disconnect between the present reduction and what came before. The whole process entails a recurring and deepening process of dissolving what appears to our senses and minds as truly substantial, and replacing it with greater obscurity and unsubstantiality.  Suspicion replaces substantiality, Gnostic-becoming replaces God, vanity replaces humility, and man becomes in the most profound sense “lost.” The whole interior order of human psychology and spirituality, in other words, becomes inverted.

It is therefore profoundly naïve to believe that such “scientists,” immersed in this deadly, poisoned, and inverted interior world, can be turned around through better or deeper knowledge concerning their own particular discipline, or through education in “natural law.” Their fundamental spiritual and intellectual perceptions are too perverted in order to make sense of such an enterprise. They must first be turned completely around, and that is possible only through a profound conversion of their whole being to God and His Church, and to the substantial natures of both God and man. And, if they are scientists, this must also involve a conversion of their entire intellectual orientation to a Thomistic metaphysical view of created realities.

One of the great, collective delusions of both the so-called “Conservative” and “Traditional” Catholic worlds is the prevalent view that the accomplishments of the West in regard to science, technology, etc. are the glorious fruits of Catholicism, and its embrace of rationality as the handmaid of Faith and Revelation. Few seem to even consider the possibility that true Catholic rationality demands a profound poverty of spirit in relation to any scientific endeavor, a devotion to both material and intellectual humility, and a commitment to material and technological asceticism, etc. No one seems to consider, in other words, that the “Goddess of Reason” which Western Culture has embraced, with its scientific and technological revolutions, represents a profound decay in Catholic civilization. It is not a true reflection of the Holy Spirit of Wisdom, but rather the offspring of that original sin which also sought a knowledge which was prostitute to the temptation of Satan to be “like Gods.”

The absurdities in the thinking of conservative and traditional Catholics which flow from this are startling. Just to offer one example: Any attempt to seriously consider the possibility of global warming (and we here make no judgment about its objective truth or falsity) is absolutely dismissed as a liberal agenda. This, despite the fact that the profound violations of the Sermon on the Mount, and its prescriptions for living a life of simplicity and poverty towards all the goods of this world, are morally bound to have their consequences upon the physical world in which we live. The same, of course, may be said of all the other hubris’ of modern science and technology: industrialization, urbanization, massive pollution, chemically-based industrial agriculture, genetic-modification, etc.

 

War Against God and Man

All this brings us to the third point mentioned above: that the scientific enterprise has predominantly been employed for destruction– in war against both man and God.

There are several good books which delineate the unholy marriage between scientists and mass slaughter of human beings down through history. Possibly the most powerful examination of this “marriage” is Ernest Volkman’s  Science Goes to War: The Search for the Ultimate Weapon, from Greek Fire to Star Wars. It represents a fascinating and terrifying exploration of the degree to which science and scientists, over thousands of years of human history, have been the concubines of the god of War. The Twentieth Century represented, of course, the great zenith of this holocaust conducted by science and “scientific materialism” (which, appropriately, was an oft-used name for Communism) against human dignity. The list of such scientific achievements in the torture and murder of human beings during the last century is almost endless.

But it has been so, to varying extents, from the beginning. Let us take, for instance, the example of Alexander the Great, considered by many to be the greatest conqueror of all time. Alexander the Great is famous for establishing the great Library in Alexandria, Egypt. But what is little known is that this Library was actually part of the Museion which, in the words of Volkman, was centered upon the creation of “the penultimate scientific research institute that would join Western and Eastern science in an effort to solve all practical problems of running the Greek Empire and ensuring that it remained supreme over all possible competitors. Its mandate included engineering, navigation, astronomy, geography, road-building, determining land boundaries – and the machines of war….All living expenses of the scientists working at the Museion were underwritten by the state. They learned that they could hardly think of a line of research that would not be funded if it had anything to do with benefitting the state [and especially improving the engines of war]; there was a certain guarantee that the state would throw money at it.”

And, it has been the same ever since. Scientific research and the development of its technology always demand an immense amount of money and resources, and the State supplies. Political Power- Money- Science-War – the Four Horses of the War against Man and Human Dignity. As Heraclitus said, “War is the Father of all things.”

However, the greatest “War” conducted against both God and human beings in the history of the world is now being conducted by medical science and practice. It is, of course, impossible to accurately count the number of human beings killed in what we conventually consider to be historical “wars”. Estimates range all the way from 150 million to 1 billion. These number now pale, however, before the number of innocent human being being killed by the medical profession. The number of abortions worldwide since just 1980 is over one and one-half billion, most surgically induced by medical professionals. China, the origin of the coronavirus, claims 400,000,000 of these in its one child (and now two-child) policy, which began in 1971.

But this is only a small part of the story. It is conservatively estimated that, at least in this country) 10-18 times more babies are murdered through various forms of contraceptive pills and contraceptive “devices” produced by the medical establishment (including the pharmacological industry), and of course necessarily prescribed by medical doctors and other health practitioners. It is the medical establishment, in other words, which has now far outstripped any other “engine of destruction” in its war against God and man.

As we noted towards the beginning of this article, it is modern medicine which seems to be the bottom line which prevents virtually everyone from seeing the almost universally destructive aspects of man’s “science”. It is this “carrot on a stick” that is most effectively held before the nose of what St. Francis affectionately but sternly called the “Brother Ass” of our bodies, and which is the most powerful glue binding us in commitment to unending human progress at the expense of the Gospel’s demand of simplicity and poverty towards all the things of this world.

Nor are such obviously murderous practices such as abortion, contraception, the forthcoming widespread practice of euthanasia, etc. by any means the entirety of the story. The development of modern medicine is integrally dependent upon the building of modern civilization, accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the dignity and well-being of all, industrialization, consumerism, the compacting the majority of human beings into urban areas (and all that this entails in terms of destruction of physical and mental health – including the spread of epidemics), the demand for the industrialization of agriculture resulting in chemical farming, alteration of the food supply, including all sorts of additives and preservatives, etc. No one can estimate the cumulative effect of all this upon both physical and mental health.

Nor can we estimate the overall effect of modern medicines upon the “wholistic” health of human beings. One only has to peruse the long lists of possible side-effects which accompany almost any prescribed or over-the-counter medication to realize that there is no way of concluding anything certain about its combined effect on human health, and certainly no way of analyzing the combined effects of all the various medications one ingests over the years. And possibly the most powerful evidence of such combined effects is what appears to be the growth of unending chronic diseases – such things as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc. A person used to contract a disease and either die or recover in a few days, or weeks at the most. Now it seems that we are” “treated” in endless ways and with endless medications, until we often end up by being tortured for the last 30 or 40 years with some chronic disease or another.

All of this in no way is meant to denigrate the charity of those health-care professionals who attempt to care for others in moral uprightness and love. We are here not judging others, but rather to demonstrate the existence of destructive web of seduction being spun around all of our lives, and in which we are now all ensnared.

Inevitably, and even right from the beginning, science’s war against man evolved into a highly organized and institutionalized War against God. Scientific reductionism, as we have seen, immerses the human mind in accidental analysis, which inevitably creates the poisoned world-view which identifies substantial reality with the fruits of such reductive analysis. And since accidental being is the basis of all change, then Being becomes identified with Becoming, and God as an Immutable Being must die in order to be replaced by man’s becoming. Man thus loses his moorings in both the substantial being of created things, and in his relationship to the Absolute Being and Immutable Truth of God.  He becomes lost in phenomena. As a philosopher in the modern world he is forced into Nominalism, Empiricism, Kantianism, Phenomenalism, Personalism, Modernism, or any of a host of idealistic and subjectivist philosophies by which he is forced to retreat into himself, and away from objective, absolute truth. And this spiritual retreat also necessarily devolves into rejection of any belief in an immutable Natural Law.

All of this came home to roost in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Virtually no “serious” philosopher or scientist could hold to Thomistic metaphysics. And if they stayed in the Catholic Church during the 16th or 17th centuries it was usually more from fear of being burned at the stake than because of any faith they still possessed.

This war between scientific reductionism (atomism) and Thomistic metaphysics always comes down to the Catholic dogma of Transubstantiation. This is something little understood by Catholics, but fully comprehended by many of their enemies. Dr. Bernard Pullman, late Professor of Quantum Chemistry at the Sorbonne, wrote the following in his 1998 book The History of the Atom in Human Thought:

There remains a very specific and quite important disagreement – the most important one in the view of many – dividing Christians and the atomists. It centers on the problem of the Eucharist….As we have seen, the only reality is this theory [Atomic theory, which is the foundation of all modern science] is atoms (and void), and the perception of sense qualities derives solely from the movements of particles, which bring them in contact with our sensory organs and stimulate them. Sense qualities have no independent existence per se. When a substance (bread or wine) disappears, all that is left of these qualities are names. Borrowing the language of Democritus, we might say that they exist only ‘by convention.’ Under these conditions, while sensory effects are produced by atoms, the persistence of these effects in the consecrated wafer implies, of necessity, the persistence of the atoms of the bread. The substance remains, therefore, bread, squarely in contradiction with Church dogma.” (p. 93-95).

The almost universal rejection of Catholicism by “eminent” scientists is therefore not the product of some sort of undefined indifferentism, but rather a necessity of their “science,” which requires rejection of the intellectual contents of Catholic Dogma. And, of course, this rejection is not restricted to the Dogma of Transubstantiation. The Theory of Evolution, for instance, leaves no room for such doctrines as those which posit an original state of Justification for Adam and Eve, the fall of that “Nature” through Original Sin, restoration through Sanctifying Grace, and all the rest of Catholic doctrine which so profoundly relies on the concepts of substantial being and nature as being distinct from accidental being.

 

The Myth of “Religious” Scientists

Let us briefly look at four famous scientists who, it is often claimed, were “deeply religious men.” We will begin with Galileo.

Scientists will often attempt to dismiss Catholicism using what we might call a “polemical shortcut” – arguing that they cannot have anything to do with a Church that once condemned Galileo and his heliocentrism. As a consequence, an immense volume of Catholic literature and apologetics has issued forth from Catholic pens attempting to either justify the Church’s condemnation or make excuses for it. Such authors fail to comprehend the much deeper issues at stake here in regard to science and faith. Nor do they comprehend the depths of Galileo’s own infidelity.

Recent research in the Vatican archives, resulted in discovery of a document that clearly showed Galileo’s rejection of Transubstantiation. Under the power of his own reductive atomic science, there could no longer exist a real distinction between substance and accidents. It was the contention of Pietro Redondi, in his 1998 book Galileo Heretic, that the real motive for the Holy See’s condemnation of Galileo was his heretical views regarding the Eucharistic Presence, and his rejection of Transubstantiation. Whatever merits one might ascribe to this theory, we cannot deny the almost infinitely greater consequences of such a heresy to the Catholic Faith. Such reductionism in the microcosmic realm, dealing as it does with the very nature of substantial reality itself, is vastly more destructive to Catholic faith than any errors or misunderstandings which might ensue upon rejection of geocentrism. Any honors that the Church now bestows upon Galileo can therefore only be viewed as a self-inflicted wound to her own integrity, and a prostitution to the world of reductive science.

The delusion endemic among Catholics in regard to the alleged “compatibility of Faith and Science,” is inevitably associated with attempts to offer us instances of “Good Catholic Scientists.” For instance, in the pre-Vatican II Catholic textbooks for children, Pasteur is often extolled as the premier example of the really great “Catholic” scientist. A serious study of his life, however, reveals that he came to be a modern type of Siger of Brabant, embracing a two-truth epistemological position – one truth for religion and one for science. Towards the end of his life he quit frequenting the sacraments.

Newton is our third example of a scientist whom Catholic sycophancy has often embraced as a “scientist who believed in God.” Yes, he did believe in God, but it was not our God. Newton was an Arian who totally rejected Christ as God, and considered worship of Christ to be idolatry. For a Catholic to therefore consider him as some sort of spiritual fellow-traveler is simply self-deception.

Finally, we cannot leave this subject without examining the case of Einstein who, in one of his most famous quips, stated, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” He is also credited with quotes about the mysteriousness of the universe requiring intelligence in its origins. But this “intelligence” has nothing to do with a personal God. The following two quotes are from his letters:

It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

I believe in Spinoza’s God [Spinoza was a pure Pantheist] who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

This dissolution of Einstein’s intellectual world extended to his moral life, which included divorce and remarriage, abandonment of two of his children (the first, which was conceived illegitimately before his first marriage, to adoption; the second to a sanatorium), and “serial” sexual affairs and adulteries. In The World As I See It, Einstein wrote:  “There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair.” He apparently reaped the benefit of such affairs: it was the conclusion of his personal physician that he died of syphilis.

It also should be noted that Einstein’s position in regard to Catholicism proved to be a prophetic anticipation of the current effort to force Catholic institutions to provide health insurance to cover contraception Thus, the following from a 1954 letter:

I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet.”

It is time that we stopped being “useful idiots” in the hands of our enemies. Catholics, for centuries, have been like frogs in the slowly warming water of this universal scientific ambience. It is now virtually impossible for them to perceive the obvious historical truth: that virtually no one could be in any sense on the cutting edge of the scientific endeavor, and remain a faithful Catholic. The practice of science is a vortex which almost inevitably drowns the Catholic intellect. Nor is this effect exclusive to only the grand poobahs of science. The world hangs on every word and attitude of the Magi of science, and it reflexively (even if more slowly) absorbs the rejection of the Christian Faith which is the necessary consequence of their Gnosticism.  And if some particular scientist does attempt to hold to both science and faith, science almost inevitably ends by being the victor in an even more diabolical manner: through subtle or not-so-subtle distortions and infections of his faith. Such constitutes the history of the relationship between science and Christianity over the past several-hundred years.

In other words, the War against God which is integral to scientific reductionism goes much deeper than the seemingly inevitable loss of faith of individuals. In rejecting Thomistic metaphysics and embracing the fruits of accidental analysis, scientists and philosophers become immersed in a world which replaces the concept of being with that of becoming. They consequently become the Magi and inculcators of gnostic- evolutionism in every sphere of human thought and belief. And in so doing, they become the declared enemy of all that is Absolute – Revelation, Dogma, the very idea of a fixed human nature, and God Himself. Such Gnosticism is thus the true spiritual descendant of the Museion of Alexander the Great, and the inevitable fruit of the scientific enterprise itself.

 

The  Ultimate Quest of Science

The scientific quest which was initiated by original Sin finds its ultimate expression today in the efforts of genetic engineering (and Eugenics) to totally transform human nature itself. Under an umbrella of associated names and movements – which are, I think, best designated by the popular term Transhumanism (or Teilhard de Chardin’s term “Ultra-human”)it promotes goals such as the following: the overcoming of human disease and even mortality, the uploading of human intelligence and moral consciousness into machines and robots, total access to “rewriting” any part of the human genetic code, the synthetic “writing” of an entirely new genetic code, etc. In other words, the “scientific enterprise” believes that it is now on the threshold of gaining full control over what is conceived as the evolutionary process itself, and of enabling man to become “like Gods,” – even to the point of creating “post-humans.”  This point of radical transformation in human history and evolution has even been given a name: “Singularity.” The term “singularity” was in fact coined by Teilhard de Chardin. It is no accident, therefore, that he is considered a “father” to both the New Age movement and to the secular effort which is called “Transhumanism”.  He is also integral to the one-world “spirituality” of the United Nations.  On the UNESCO website, one finds the following:

In 1981, UNESCO convened an international symposium and exhibition to mark the birth centenary of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the French theologian, philosopher and paleontologist. A medal was also issued. Designed by the French artist Paul Belmondo and struck at the Paris Mint, the obverse side shows a portrait of Teilhard de Chardin. The reverse features a map of the world, in its centre, the Greek letter ‘omega’, the philosopher’s term for the convergence point of the earth’s evolution.”

We must not make the mistake of believing that all of this resides only in the world of science fiction. The Museion of Alexander the Great finds its logical fruition in Singularity University, named precisely in honor of, and belief in, this radical evolution and transformation into the Ultra-human. The founding of Singularity University was hosted by NASA in 2007. Its facilities are at NASA’s Research Park in the Silicon Valley, CA. Raymond Kurzweil, co-founder of Singularity University was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Bill Clinton. This is now a main-stream, government-associated agenda.

In looking at the website of Singularity University, one discovers that their oft-repeated mantra is exponential technology, which is, of course, the evolutionary engine by which they expect to transcend the present limitations of humanity.

It is clear, even from a purely biographical and historical study of science and scientists, as we have sketched above, that exponential technology effects a corresponding exponential loss of the ability not only to understand the revealed Truths of God, but also Natural Law itself. This makes it to be a Draconian threat to man’s future.

For instance, it was, for many centuries of Christian civilization, a matter of basic moral synderesis concerning the conduct of warfare, embraced by virtually all, that direct killing of innocent civilians was morally unacceptable. In World War I, the civilian casualty rate was 10 %. In World War II, conducted with an exponential growth in science and weaponry, it was 60 %. And lest we are tempted to attribute this loss of basic moral fiber exclusively to Hitler and Nazism, we need only remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the fire-storm, phosphorous bombing of such cities as Tokyo (80,000), Dresden (130,000), Hamburg (80,000), and other German cities, – all this perpetrated by “civilized” western democracies. The civilian casualty rate in all wars conducted since 1980 is now reputed to be 80%. This is just one area which demonstrates that any real, active sense of the natural law diminishes with the growth of science and technology.

In order to provide even more clarity, let us look at the issue of pro-life, specifically from the perspective of the concept of “exponential growth” of human knowledge. In recent decades there has occurred an exponential growth in science and technology in relation to contraception, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, etc. – everything involved in the destruction of unborn human life. At the same time, however, there has also been an exponential growth in revelation (we won’t say “understanding,” because the “revelation” has been largely rejected) to scientists concerning the facts of embryonic development (think of the models of embryonic development popular with Pro-Life groups or the famous images and genetic information involved in the Carnegie Stages of Human Development).  It is abundantly clear from this latter “scientific” knowledge that at all stages of embryonic development the “substantial form” (soul) of a human person is present. Despite this objective knowledge which is rudimentary education for any student of genetics, we know which “exponential” has won – it was not even a real contest. Natural Law, and even obvious scientific “fact,” did not possess a ghost of a chance against the intellectual and moral disintegration which has been accomplished by the engines of science.

We now find ourselves thoroughly ensnared in a world constructed upon the foundation of scientific hubris. Every field of human endeavor – economics, politics, education, communications, recreation, and yes, religion (especially in regards to Teilhardian evolutionary theory), is enslaved and perverted by the scientific Weltanschauung. There may be little hope for the world – it would seem impossible to conceive a reversal, without total political and economic chaos. The world waxes old, enmeshed in its own sins.

 

The Remedy

But there is indeed hope for the Church and every individual who will look, see, and be converted. We believe that the definitive solution to our present crisis was given to us, in all its clarity, purity, and grace, through Saint Francis and St. Thomas in the Thirteenth Century. This twofold grace offered a vision of the integrated life of intellect and will (truth and charity) which was to be man’s only solid defense against the rising tide of Renaissance humanism and science that was about to break upon Christian civilization. This twofold grace of God was almost immediately compromised and distorted by Catholics, and simply denied by the world. We are now bearing the full weight of our betrayal. It is not too late, however, for the Church to revisit and embrace this Gift.

But this twofold Gift can only be embraced through the deepest prayer and conversion. As we have pointed out, what has occurred over the centuries is a profound alteration of human consciousness and heart.  Man’s becoming has replaced substantial being as the fundamental principle of man’s approach to reality, evolution has replaced Revelation,  and unending scientific, technological, economic, and political progress have replaced humility and poverty as our fundamental orientation to this world. All this is encapsulated in Pope Francis’ oft-repeated mantra “Time is greater than space, which is integral to the Teilhardian evolutionary theology  so on display in his environmental encyclical Laudato Si, and therefore at the heart of the agenda which was promoted at the Amazonian Synod (see our recent articles on this subject).

In the midst of this march towards Antichrist our souls are threatened, especially within the interior of our own minds and hearts, with an immensity of evil which surrounds and threatens to drown us. St. Paul writes: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.” (Rom. 12: 21). From all eternity, God has willed that the space wherein resides this reservoir of infinite goodness be available to us (especially in these times of terrible emergency) within the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And all of these graces to overcome evil are available through Her Rosary. As Sister Lucia said in an interview with Father Fuentes on December 26, 1957:

“Look, Father, the Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given new efficacy in the recitation of the Holy Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families in the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem, I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot solve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the Holy Rosary, we will save ourselves.”

Let us take this not merely as a pious sentiment, but as reality. As we have pointed out repeatedly on this website, however, if the Rosary and devotion to Our Lady are to be a vital source of our overcoming the evils that are now upon us, they must always begin with prayer that truly first seeks our own personal purification.

Please spread the word about the Rosary!
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The Gift of Knowledge and The Beatitude of Mourning

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The Gift of Knowledge

And the Beatitude of Mourning

 

The first and Original Sin of man engendered a very great paradox at the center of every man’s life and knowledge of the world. What before was unadulterated goodness, God’s created world, now becomes a threat to man – not because created things have suddenly become evil in themselves – but because man’s disordered intellect and will are always tempted to consume these things in inordinate self-love and use them in violation of God’s Truth and Will. Due to this paradox, many key words in Holy Scripture are used in ways which may at first appear contradictory. We can read, for instance, that “God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son.” (John 3:16). Yet, Christ says, “I am not of this world.” (John 8:23), and “I pray not for the world (John 17:9);” and St. John flatly declares, “If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him.” (1John 1:15). Our world, our language, and our own selves are all full of apparent contradictions because our minds and hearts have contradicted God. There is, on the other hand, no contradiction in God Himself.

We tend to think of this “contradicting of God” as primarily an action of our lower appetites. Most of us are familiar with St. Paul’s teaching concerning the war which occurs in all men between these lower appetites and the “higher” mind:

“For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do.

Now if I do that which I will not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that when I have a will to do good, evil is present with me. For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members.

“Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ my Lord. Therefore, I myself, with the mind serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Rom 7:19-25).

We tend to interpret this passage as saying that the root cause of sin lies “in the flesh” – in other words, in the lower appetites, and in the war which they wage against what the mind knows to be the truth. In this we are simply wrong. It certainly is true that these appetites of the flesh do war against the law of God written on our hearts and mind, but this rebellion of the flesh is, in reality, a secondary effect of a much more profound rebellion. We need to go back and understand the nature of original sin in order to understand the real roots of all actual sin, and the effects that sin has upon our perception of reality.

On this subject St. Thomas has the following to offer:

“Now man was so appointed in the state of innocence, that there was no rebellion of the flesh against the spirit. Wherefore it was not possible for the first inordinateness [disorder] of the human appetite to result from his coveting a sensible good, to which the concupiscence of the flesh tends against the order of reason. It remains therefore that the first inordinateness of the human appetite resulted from his coveting inordinately some spiritual good. Now he would not have coveted it inordinately, by desiring it according to his measure as established by the Divine rule. Hence it follows that man’s first sin consisted in his coveting some spiritual good above his measure: and this pertains to pride. Therefore it is evident that man’s first sin was pride….Now the first thing he coveted inordinately was his own excellence; and consequently his disobedience was the result of his pride….Gluttony also had a place in the sin of our first parents. For it is written (Gen 3:6): ‘The woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold, and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat’. Yet the very goodness and beauty of the fruit was not their first motive for sinning, but the persuasive words of the serpent, who said: ‘Your eyes shall be opened and you shall be as Gods’: and it was by coveting this that the woman fell into pride. Hence the sin of gluttony resulted from the sin of pride….The desire for knowledge resulted in our first parents from their inordinate desire for excellence. Hence the serpent began by saying: ‘You shall be as Gods, and added: Knowing good and evil’.” (II,II, Q.163, a.1).

To put this in very simple terms, we might say that all sin has its roots in that fundamental act of man by which he attempts to replace God by seeking to “know” creation, and all the truths concerning creation, independently of God, and without God at the root of each created thing. Such knowledge constitutes not only a rebellion against God; it also deprives man of his intellectual foundation in the Being and Truth of God, destroys his ability to perceive reality, and profoundly perverts his whole moral life. St. Paul analyzes the effects produced in men’s souls when they reject God as creator and refuse to see God’s presence and power at the root of all created things:

And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy.” (Rom 1: 28-31).

Reading this, is it not astounding that any Catholic parent could send their child to the public school where it is the law that the presence of God must be excluded from the study of His creation?

The Gift of Knowledge is that Gift of the Holy Spirit which restores us to a proper relationship to created things. It has been common practice to teach that it reveals to us the emptiness of all things, and therefore liberates our minds and hearts for the pursuit of God and His Ways. There certainly is truth in such an approach to this very important Gift, but it also has its limitations and dangers. Man’s sin brought death and disorder into this world, and it is therefore correct to speak of the vanity of pursuing created things. There is also, however, a very real danger in this limited approach of embracing a kind of Manichaean dualism which deprives God of His creation and seeks to degrade man’s legitimate and Christian responsibilities in this world to the status of emptiness or even evil. In other words, it certainly is very appropriate to speak of the emptiness of the pursuit of created things, but it is profoundly wrong and destructive to speak of the emptiness of the things themselves which God has created. It was Chesterton who said something to the effect that just as Christ restored man to God, so it was St, Francis and St. Thomas who penetrated through Manichaean dualism in order to restore God to the world. This does not at all mean that they did not see the dangers that were present in the things of this world, or that they did not practice a great deal of asceticism. Any one who has studied the life of St. Francis, for instance, knows the absolute absurdity of such a claim. It does mean, however, that along with this asceticism, they offered an incredibly rich knowledge which penetrated to the very heart of God’s presence within each created thing. And they did it in very different ways. We might say that St. Francis did so through a kind of divine poetry of immediate mystical perception of God’s presence within everything; and that St. Thomas accomplished the same through a mystical union with Christ which expressed itself in an intellectual analysis of the ontological nature of both God and creation. Two very different ways of doing a thing; yet both derived their unique visions of God and the world entirely from the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And both offered to the world a renewed vision of what it means that “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.”

The soul that is restored to this vision of “God in all things and all things in God” (without a tinge of pantheism) intuitively abhors all those forms of knowledge which presumptuously come between God and His creation. We live in a country which has enshrined in law the absolute necessity of prohibiting the inclusion of God in any way in the public education of our children. Therefore this country is at war with God and Being. There is no more appropriate way of illustrating this twofold war (against the Being of God and the being of man) than by stating the two greatest sins of this country: the exclusion of God from the education of our children, and the virtual unrestricted legal right to the murder of the unborn. This war, however, is not exclusive to this country or any group of countries. It is inherent in the system of so-called “classical education”, largely an outgrowth of Renaissance philosophy, which has sought to place virtually all knowledge on a foundation of human reasoning and experience independent of God’s Being and Revelation. It is therefore incumbent upon those who wish to struggle for a return to God, and for that holy simplicity which establishes the soul in God, to examine the whole educational curriculum and renew it in the light of God’s life and wisdom. This, of course, requires first and foremost that parents take their children out of public schools (and certainly most private schools, including most of those which call themselves Catholic), and take upon themselves the primary task and responsibility for their education.

All human life is created by God to be established in the mystery of His life. This is a mystery which does not shut down our hearts and minds, but rather one which is designed to open up our hearts (like those of children) in order to draw us deeply into the beauty and glory of His presence. St. Paul speaks of “the mystery which hath been hidden from ages and generations, but now is manifested to his saints….which is Christ, in you the hope of glory.” (Col 1:26-27). This mystery of God, however, is not just within us, but in all of creation, which is designed to be seen by the “single eye” of man as the wondrous footprints of God. Our proper response to all created things is therefore meant to be wonder, and the glorification and praise of God which such wonder evokes. Anyone who has prayed the Divine Office is quite familiar to what degree the Psalms embody this spirit. It is our primary duty in regard to both our own education and that of our children to exercise that art of Catholic creativeness which sees to it that this presence of God is brought into all the fields of our studies; and that we expend every effort to rid such education of any “reductiveness” in our view of creation, and to unite all of our perceptions and experiences of creation into that singleness of vision and intention which sees and passionately desires God through all things.

We have seen in a number of articles that the primary “carrier” of the spiritual disease of our times is scientific materialism.  Any “science” which reduces created things to their accidental realities (which, as we have seen is precisely what such modern sciences as chemistry and physics do) tends to destroy this worship, and constitutes a war upon both God and man. Since it would be imprudent (especially in regard to the demands of the State and the exigencies of modern life and technology) to ignore or eliminate these sciences entirely from our curriculums, we must focus a great deal of our efforts in placing them in their proper and truly Catholic perspectives.

We might say that our primary obligation as good Catholics in regard to the physical sciences is to de-emphasize them. This immediately will place us in a position which runs counter to the world and the State. This is necessarily true, because the world worships material and technological progress, and scientific education is the key to this “progress.” There are a number of ways to accomplish this de-emphasis.

The first, and most important, is through proper training in philosophy. Children, from a very early age, should be taught the irreducible mystery of every created thing – that the substantial nature of every created thing is not reducible to any scientifically analyzable or quantifiable being, but rather is what it is simply because of God’s creation of it from nothing.  This is the foundational truth of all philosophy and true science: that the substantial being of every created thing is rooted in God and only reducible to His creative action.

It is also true that from the very earliest introduction of a child to the material sciences, they can be taught the absurdity of scientific reductionism – they will easily learn and retain the knowledge that to believe that water is equivalent to H2O or that salt is NaCl, or that the nature of anything is reducible to this kind of quantification is far more silly than believing that the world is flat. What is more, our children need to be taught that science itself has been the single greatest and most destructive engine employed in the war conducted for centuries against both the Glory of God and the dignity of man.

We strongly recommend reading the sequel to this present article, Science: War Against Both God and Man, for irrefutable evidence concerning what is written above.

Secondly, children should be encouraged to choose a life rooted in simplicity and humble work. This involves basically dropping out of the whole educational, scientific, and technological rat-race rooted in always being more, and having more, of this world. It is very difficult to retain a true philosophy, or a heart which perceives God in His creation, if we allow ourselves to be drawn into the ever-increasing vortex of secular knowledge, technology, and material progress. And, of course, most of the jobs in these “fields” of our so-called “advanced civilization” involve compromise with fundamental moral principles and truths. What is more, if the industrial revolution de-humanized our world, then the computer revolution internalizes this process of de-humanization, and destroys true rationality. There is a principal of smallness and modesty built into the human soul by God which, if violated, results in the loss of true personhood. Man is created finite, with only a finite ability to handle information. The effect of the so-called “knowledge revolution” and the massive amounts of information absorbed through TV, the Internet, and the Media has been to place souls in a mode which is predominantly passive, incapable of real rationality and creative thought or love. The legions of Hell have a tremendous investment in this revolution. There is no easier means for Satan to gain possession of a soul than through that open passivity which is now the almost universal fruit of this overload of information.

There is a second psychological principle at work here which is even more frightening in its effects. If into such an overloaded system one actually places absolute or revealed truth as one of the possible “bites” among all the other information “bites” which the mind is receiving, then the usual effect is to relativize this truth and make it only a personal option in a relativistic and pluralistic medium. True Christian conversion always requires the perception that truth is something radically different – a city seated on a mountain, a light on a candlestick, a distinct light separate from the world. Whole nations were converted by the early Christians because this “difference” was perceived in the way that Christians believed, lived, worked, recreated, and worshipped in holy simplicity.

As a third psychological principle, we can say that even when the truth is accepted through such an overloaded system it tends to become like the seed that falls on poor soil. Since this soil is lacking in simplicity, overburdened with complexities, and found to be growing in the midst of the weeds of this world, it most often fails to take deep roots and is easily choked out simply because of the superficial way in which it is received. TV evangelism and the Charismatic Movement are powerful evidence to such superficiality.

Certainly, it is at least theoretically possible to engage in scientific analysis and still retain a sense of this wonder and worship. After all, the incredible richness and complexity of material reality is a wondrous thing and points directly to God as its creator. Yet, we must ask, how is this knowledge obtained? How much of our analytical knowledge of life processes is obtained through reducing life to death, just to satisfy our lust for knowledge or unneeded material comforts and pleasures?

And what does such coldly analytical killing do to a child’s soul? We would like to suggest, for instance, that the process of dissecting a frog is inherently conducted in some sort of milieu of spiritual degradation and revulsion. Such “science” does not have the same effect on the soul as killing for food or, as in the Old Testament, the offering of religious sacrifice. The sacrifice of a lamb to God was meant to be a sacrifice – an act that is sorrowful, and one in which man is fully conscious of his own sinfulness as being the cause of this death of God’s created life. Without this sorrow, such sacrifice would be hypocritical.  In fact, every time we are obligated to kill an animal our hearts and minds should be scarred with the consciousness of our own sin and fallen nature. Such humility and sorrow are not the accompaniments of laboratory science. Rather than kindling the salutatory knowledge of our own sinfulness and mortality, it rather feeds our own callousness toward God’s creation and the insatiable desire for progress in pride and consumption.

In our teaching of science we must simply follow the following golden thread: Any study which transforms the heart and mind of a child (or adult) into wonder and praise of God through his creation is acceptable. Any means which we can use to expose the philosophical and scientific errors of reductive science, and to reveal the presence of God as the source of being in all created things – these are also of tremendous value. But most important of all, we must be willing to say no to those methodologies, textbooks, classes, programs, which can infiltrate the virus of reductive science into our children’s souls. And we must do so, even at the expense of their not keeping up with the world.

As we have said, true Catholic creativity must be exercised within all the fields of human study. The study of English literature is another example. It is incontestable that far more than ninety percent of the English literature studied in the average course of studies is written by authors who are either Protestant, agnostic, or atheistic. Many believe that this does not necessarily affect the greatness of these authors’ genius, and that these are still worth our careful study because of the depths of their artistic merit and their insights into life and reality. This belief tends to ignore one of the most important truths of the human condition, and of Catholic moral teaching. Our natures are deeply damaged by the effects of original sin, and extremely subject to the influences and temptations of the world, often at levels within our minds and hearts which are not conscious. It is extremely naïve of us to believe that there are not powerful errors and immoralities present within the writings of such non-Catholics, which can adversely affect our children (and their parents) despite our conscious efforts to be moral watchdogs.

It is one thing to study non-Catholics authors on an individual level in order to accomplish some very specific purpose (studying the writings of an evolutionist, for instance, in order to be able to refute their position); it is another to saturate a child with non-Catholic and even anti-Catholic writings as part of a curriculum adopted by a secular culture. This, of course, has been going on for centuries with virtually every English speaking Catholic child in the world. During all that time our priests were rightly counseling alcoholics to avoid bars as near occasions to sin, and admonishing those who had temptations against chastity that they must stay away from pornography and bad forms of entertainment We might well ask why they were at the same time giving their blessings to the study of John Milton or Walt Whitman. What has happened to the Catholic prescription to avoid near-occasions to sin, when these sins are temptations to the intellect, and especially to intellectual pride?

It is also important to realize that most literary genera were virtually non-existent before the Protestant Revolt, and certainly before the Renaissance. They therefore carry in their train the hubris of Renaissance humanism, and the Manichaean dualism which is characteristic of all Protestant culture.  The modern novel, for instance, is a recent invention. Scripture is emphatic that we are to set our mind on things above, not those below; that no man can really know another’s heart; that we are to promote peace and overcome evil with good; and that we are to be more concerned with removing the beam from our own eye rather than focusing on the motes in the eyes of others. The novel is a genre which necessarily focuses on things below, relies on conflict in order to hold the attention of its reader; and captures the fascination of the reader with its probing into the interior emotional and psychological nature of its characters. Is all this beneficial to the formation of that “single eye” which Our Lord tells us is necessary in order to “make our whole body lightsome”?

Further, these spiritual principles should be applied to all the arts. We might draw a comparison, for instance, between the novel and the symphony. There would seem to be something grandiosely psychological and humanistic about the symphony in comparison to such things as Gregorian Chant, Palestrina, simple folk tunes of the High Middle Ages, or even Baroque music. It is not an accident that even Mozart was a Freemason.

Nor should the fact that something is quite specifically “religious” enable it to escape our scrutiny. Compare, for instance, the gracious and modest genius of Fra Angelico’s art with the grandiose crudeness of Michelangelo. Both are geniuses, but is the art of both truly conducive to moral purity and growth? Someone once commented that in the work of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel even the knuckles on the hands of his women are biceps. From a distance this work might appear awesome and overwhelming. We would suggest that from close-up it is gross, crude, sensuous, and debilitating to the spiritual life, and especially insulting to women.

Finally, we must mention that there is nothing which has been more effective in the diffusion of cultural and religious error than has been the discipline and teaching of history.  From the labeling of the High Middle Ages as the “Dark Ages”; the designation of the Protestant Revolt as the Protestant Reformation ; the conferring of the title “Good Queen Bess” upon the perverted mass-murderer Queen Elizabeth I; the canonization of the American “Fathers” as those who established true liberty; the vilification of Cortez; the silence in regard to the horrendous martyrdom of Mexican Catholicism; the glorification of the “republicans” in the Spanish Civil War (in a period of six months to one year they destroyed 20,000 churches, murdered almost 7,000 priests and religious and untold numbers of lay Catholics); the vilification of Pope Pius XII as “Hitler’s Pope”; the absolute failure to recognize that in the 20th century more human beings were slaughtered than in all the other centuries of human history combined, and that, in the West at least, this carnage was almost totally directed by such things as militant Communism and Nazism against Christianity – all these and many more extraordinary distortions of true history have created a cultural milieu which is profoundly anti-Catholic, militantly pluralistic, and deeply immoral.

In this discussion of the Gift of Knowledge we have focused very specifically on various subjects of education, especially of our children. We have done so because the classical education curriculum has been the primary means of fostering that duplicity in our lives by which we attempt to serve both God and Satan. St. James declares, “Religion clean and undefiled before God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation: and to keep one’s self unspotted from this world.” (James 1:27). What we pursue as knowledge is the primary means by which this simplicity and “singleness” are violated. St. James also says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners: and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to sorrow. Be humbled in the sight of the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:8-10). The purifying of our minds and hearts and the restoration of single-minded love of God is remedied by the Beatitude of Mourning, which in turn is the fruit of true Knowledge.

As we said, we may justly speak of that mourning which sees the emptiness and vanity of created things, and thus causes the soul to turn to God for its comfort and fulfillment. This “negative” mourning does not, however, plumb the depths of sorrow to be found in the world. The greater sorrow of our lives is that all which is good in God’s creation has been damaged; what was created for eternal life is now subject to death and decay; that which was pure is now besmirched with sin, and all things which were created “by Him and in Him” (Col 1:16) now lie in confusion and darkness. St. Paul does not say that he cannot wait to be rid of a body which is simply worthless or evil, but that he moans and groans “waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.” (Rom 8:23). It is this “positive” mourning which is the fruit of true knowledge, frees us from bondage to created things, and inflames in us that single-minded passion which seeks to restore all things in Christ.

There can be nothing part-time about genuine Christianity. This may be our single greatest delusion: that the Christian faith is a possession among other possessions, and that it does not therefore require the full attention of every element and moment of our life. We worship a jealous God. We do not, in fact, appreciate the nature and extent of the jealousy of Our God. Scripture is emphatic: “The Lord his name is Jealous, he is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14). Let us repeat that to ourselves: “his name is Jealous”, and this is so “Because the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deut 4:24).

It should not surprise the reader, therefore, the extent to which, in our discussion of the Gift of Knowledge and the Beatitude of Mourning, we have descended to the very particular and concrete. Is it not true, after all, that what we chose to make the matter of our education and knowledge is also that which we chose to pursue and love? It is said that true love pays attention to details, and is known and proved by the particulars of its attentions and actions. There is nowhere that this is more evidenced than in our choice of education curricula. We must therefore choose very carefully. We will be judged upon these choices, especially in regard to our children.

Please also read our sequel to this article: “Science: The War Against Both God and Man”.

 

 

 

 

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We Have Sinned

 

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We Have Sinned

Very disturbing about what is now happening with the worldwide response to the “coronavirus pandemic” is that there doesn’t appear to be any definitive end to this situation. It now seems firmly entrenched in the collective mindset that this virus is going to be around for a long time; that even if it subsides, it could flare up again severely in the fall, and endlessly on into the future; that there could be other such plagues brewing in the shadows that will require continued draconian measures; that all this seems to implant in our minds the supremacy of medicine and the State; that it might never be safe again to hug our children or grandchildren, or even shake hands with friends; that there may indeed be perceived a justification for the State, at the drop of a viral scare, to continue or reconstitute regulations against public worship indefinitely; and that there is now in place justification for deeper and more universal surveillance of citizens by the state, including such things as forced inoculation, implantation of microchips for the purpose of tracking population movements, etc. Some of the articles online concerning what the State and police are doing to stop any manifestation of public invocation of divine aid are very frightening. It all has the effect of creating a mindset which causes us to crawl into our caves and hide, and to not really believe that “every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” (James 1:17). Such erosion of belief in the supernatural source of all gifts and blessings, and the timidity and lack of fortitude which it engenders in souls, is the perfect soil for the forces of Antichrist to cultivate victories in their war against Christ and His Church. And of course most of the hierarchy have rushed with anticipatory speed to lie down in prostitution to this juggernaut.

We may be virtually certain, in other words, that, although the destructive power of the virus may subside, the fertile field which it has created for the “crushing” of the Church and the elimination of the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar (Daniel 7:25) by the forces of Antichrist (especially as embodied in the power of the modern state) will not subside. In our ongoing series of articles covering the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and their corresponding Beatitudes, we have been exploring the roots of this chastisement, and the sources of betrayal lying deep in the collective Catholic consciousness which have produced this impotency in the Church, especially in regard to living in the power of the Holy Spirit in combat with this spirit of Antichrist. We recommend reading them in succession (the Introductory article is very important):

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and The Beatitudes: Introduction

Fear of the Lord and The Beatitude of Poverty of Spirit

St. Francis and Lady Poverty

The Abandoned Sacraments

The Secret Place: The Gift of Godliness and The Beatitude of Meekness

Any student of Christian history is quite aware of the widely varying circumstance in which both individual Catholics and the Church as a whole over the centuries have faced severe persecution and assaults from the world.  Often there were very specific heresies behind such persecutions. Or, there were specific political, economic, religious, and ideological agendas which drove them. You could put your finger on the enemy, describe his parameters, and characterize what was wrong and evil in him with a sentence or a paragraph. Both the Church and individual Catholics had something well-defined at which to aim their weapons – weapons of both offense and defense.

But how do we define the assault that is now being made upon Catholicism and upon the Church? And even more important, how do we define the assault that is now being made upon the collective Catholic consciousness? Many terms are employed in the attempt to do so: Modernism, Secularism, Communism, Socialism, Relativism, Pluralism, the Sexual Revolution, Feminism, the LGBT Agenda, etc. The extraordinary thing is that all of the above seem appropriate, and all seem to be part of the many masks characterizing that engine of evil which now seeks our total destruction; and yet the one face which hides beneath these many masks of evil seems to have eluded us.

This is so because this face lies within us.

It is our belief that the current crisis concerning the Coronavirus pandemic, and especially the response of Catholics to this “crisis’, has brought into full view this face which is behind all the other faces of the spirit of Antichrist which are now flooding over the world. It is the spirit of Catholic compromise with, and prostitution to, the world. It has taken a microscopic organism, labeled COVID-19, to expose this visage.

As examined in our Introductory article on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and their corresponding Beatitudes, St. Thomas taught that the Final “Conflagration” and Judgment of this world would come about because of the massive descent of Christians into lukewarmness and tepidity, and that this tepidity would itself be the fruit of such Christians living in both exterior and interior “impurity of mixture” with the world.  And at the core of such “impurity of mixture” is denial of the fundamental truth, as formulated by the Apostle James, that “every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” (James 1:17).

The Coronavirus “pandemic” has served as a test case for the spirit of Antichrist now seeking universal domination over the Church. The Catholic Church, from any perspective which would take the above scripture seriously, has miserably failed this test.

This above-quoted scripture does not of course negate employing natural remedies in helping solve our problems. But if such remedies are used, and accepted by Catholics, with the effect that they obscure, obfuscate, or deny in any way the above truth concerning the vertical, supernatural source of all good, then they become an occasion by and through which such “impurity of mixture” – and the resultant lukewarmness which this mixture produces – becomes deeply imbedded in our souls. And since the usual channel through which God’s graces flow to the faithful is through the sacraments, any voluntary acceptance and complicity in suppressing the administration of the sacraments is bound to effect this internal change in the collective Catholic consciousness which will produce profound duplicity and tepidity towards God. It is thus that the life of God, which is the “light of men”, dims in the life of our souls until the only possibility for purification is the fire of chastisement and persecution.

What should possibly be most disconcerting  in what is going on, however, is not such things as the tyrannical operations of the State, the hierarchy shutting down churches and the sacraments, the machinations of Pope Francis, etc., but rather the response of traditionalists and others who consider themselves to be faithful Catholics – the very people who would consider themselves to be the “elect”, or as being a true “remnant” of believers.

What we see is a virtually universal posture which proclaims that “they have sinned”, instead of “we have sinned”. We consider evil to mainly lie “out there” in terms of the Vatican II Church, the sins and errors of the hierarchy, the Secular State and forces of Antichrist now almost in complete domination over the Church, the Virus, etc. We consider this to be a chastisement on our hierarchy for their sins, but we do not ask what we have done to deserve such a hierarchy. We do not see into the depths of our consciousness in order to attain to that self-knowledge wherein lay our accommodations and prostitutions to the world which have merited all these chastisements upon us. And this blindness is incorporated deeply into our prayer life. We pray the Mass, the Rosary, our Novenas, and acts of reparation for their sins, their conversion, and for protection from them or that, etc. We do not unite, as did the Ninevites, in prayer and penance as a people who cry out “We have sinned”.

Popes such as Pius IX, Leo XIII, and Pope Pius X clearly saw that the Catholic Church alone possesses the light and the power to build, nourish, and protect Christian civilization. And, tragically, this power and light has now been weakened and dimmed to a point that the Church has largely been reduced to the status of a minor character and victim upon the world stage. The salt has lost its savour, the light is hidden, the bride befouled. And what is most debilitating about this interior pollution, both within our individual selves and the Church as a whole, is that it is self-perpetuating and increasingly blinding. The more compromised with the world we become, the greater becomes the hidden guilt which causes us to be obsessed with the enemy without, rather than doing what is necessary to restore the light within.

Without the self-knowledge mentioned above, this light will never be restored. We shall never engage in that united effort which is necessary for the purification of the Church. And, as we have repeated many times in our articles, it is to Mary that God has entrusted those graces required for obtaining the self-knowledge necessary for this collective purification.  As Simeon prophesied to Mary: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

Let us therefore first surrender ourselves to Mary in fervent prayer for that self-knowledge which will accomplish the purging of that world within us which now lies down in subjection and accommodation to that world which is without.

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The Secret Place: The Gift of Godliness and the Beatitude of Meekness

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The Secret Place:

The Gift of Godliness and the Beatitude of Meekness

 

 Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.”  (Mt. 11: 28-29).

 

We have come to understand that the first Gift of the Holy Spirit, Fear of the Lord, is a singular grace of God by which the soul turns away from self and comes to rest in Christ and His saving Truth. Jesus says:

Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart. For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30).

Having taken upon itself the yoke (Fear of the Lord) of God, the soul begins to learn of God. Moreover, it begins to learn Who God is. Its first lesson is astonishing. God’s nature, and the depths of the “Spirit of Godliness” which is the second Gift of the Holy Spirit, is meekness; and the soul comes to live a life of godliness to the extent that it learns this lesson of meekness.

If we seriously meditate on the life of Christ as given to us in the Gospels, this certainly makes complete sense. The Cross is meekness incarnate. Jesus Christ, Infinite God, suffers infinite pain, subjection, and humiliation in obedience to His Father and in love for sinners. Such love is indeed infinite, incomprehensible meekness. Certainly the most profound description of this meekness and self-abnegation of Our Lord is to be found in Isaias 53, in that passage which is commonly referred to as the prophesy concerning the Suffering Servant:

“Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.

“All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath lain on him the iniquity of us all.

“He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth,” (Isaias 53:3-7).

If this passage offers us a deeply moving description of Our Lord’s meekness during His Passion, it also encapsulates its opposite in one penetrating and horrifying phrase: “every one hath turned aside into his own way.” There are, therefore, two ways offered to every man. The first, the Way of Christ, is the path of singleness of will, and meek surrender to God and self-sacrificing love for others. The second, always offered to us by Satan and by our own fallen nature, is the way of the world which seeks to grasp onto the gifts of God (and all creation is His “gifts”) and “turn them aside into one’s own way.” Choice of this second path, even if made by one who is a member of Christ’s Church and possesses the integrity of the Catholic Faith, makes such a person an enemy of God: “You ask and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences….Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.” (James 4:3-4).

The most terrifying power man possesses is his freedom and inclination to consume every single gift of God in his own lusts (concupiscences), not even excluding God’s gift of Himself. The reader has most likely had the experience of viewing a preacher or speaker loudly and vehemently heralding his faith in Jesus Christ, and feeling intuitively that there is something phony and deeply un-Christ-like in that proclamation. Man, in other words, possesses the power to turn even God aside “into his own way” – that “way” which is the way of the world and the path to spiritual death. The reasons for such concupiscence and self-deceit may be many: fame, money, spiritual and intellectual conceit and false security, lust. In all such cases, the result is the same: the “pocketing” of God and His gifts, and the failure to surrender and learn of Christ Who is meek and humble of heart. The most common sin and deadly peril of Christians is this turning of God aside into the desires and conceits of one’s own heart and mind. The only escape and remedy for this sin is to take Christ’s yoke upon us, and learn from Him how we may acquire this virtue of meekness. God has provided for us a “secret place” – as it were, a “school of the heart” – wherein we may truly learn and imbibe this meekness of Christ.

 

The Secret Place

When I converted, the priest asked what Old Testament reading I would like to have read at the Mass. I picked Psalm 26: 4-8 (Douay):

“One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. That I may see the delight of the Lord, and may visit his temple. For he hath hidden me in his tabernacle; in the day of evils, he hath protected me in the secret place of his tabernacle. He hath exalted me upon a rock: and now he hath lifted up my head above my enemies. 

“I have gone around, and have offered up in his tabernacle a sacrifice of jubilation: I will sing, and recite a psalm to the Lord. Hear, O lord, my voice, with which I have cried to thee: have mercy on me and hear me. My heart hath said to thee: My face hath sought thee: thy face, O Lord, will I still seek.”

This psalm is now more lightsome than ever. In light of the current crisis, almost every word seems redolent with renewed meaning. And praying the Rosary, according to the method suggested in the article The Rosary: The Way of Perfectionhas become for me the key which unlocks the secret place of his tabernacle – the Way into the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is our Refuge in these days of evil. It is here where we must “come to” Jesus in these times of deprivation and persecution.

And what is it that we find when we come to Jesus? Again, Our Lord could not have been more specific in His answer:

“Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.” (Mt. 11: 28-29).

As explained in the above mentioned article, it is within Mary’s Immaculate Heart that we may receive Jesus in Spiritual Communion with the recitation of every single Hail Mary. It is here where we may come to possess that humility and meekness which will prevent us from embracing any of the extremes which now tempt us in this time of crisis. It is here where we may come to understand that humility which will prevent us from departing from the Heart of Jesus by sinning against the Holy Spirit through either presumption or despair.

First, in regard to despair:

In this time of spiritual deprivation and persecution, it is a tragic delusion to despair in any way. It would be especially tragic to despair over not being able to receive Jesus sacramentally in Holy Communion.

In the Summa Theologica, Pt. III, Q.3 St. Thomas asks the question: “Whether the Eucharist is necessary for salvation?” His answer is clear: the sacrament itself is not necessary for salvation, but the reality it contains (the unity of the Mystical Body) is absolutely essential for salvation. He simply states: “the reality of the sacrament [the Eucharist] is the unity of the mystical body without which there can be no salvation. (III Q.3, A.3).” He quotes St. Paul’s words, “For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread “(I Cor. 10:17), and he further comments, “from this it is clear that the Eucharist is the sacrament of the Church’s unity (A.2).” The logical consequence of all this is beautifully delineated in the following passage:

“As St. Augustine says [commenting upon John 6:54, wherein Jesus declares, “Except you eat of the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.”], ‘This food and this drink, namely, of His flesh and blood, He would have us understand the fellowship of His body and members, which is the Church in His predestinated and called, and justified, and glorified, His holy and believing ones.’ Hence, as he says in his epistle to Boniface: ‘No one should entertain the slightest doubt, that then every one of the faithful becomes a partaker of the body and blood of Christ, when in Baptism he is made a member of Christ’s body, nor is he deprived of his share in that body and chalice even though he depart from this world in the unity of Christ’s body, before he eats that bread and drinks of that chalice.”

We might therefore conjecture that this time of deprivation in which we cannot assist at Holy Mass and receive Jesus in sacramental communion is a Gift of God’s Providence designed for the deeper penetration of Jesus into our hearts and souls. If such a statement at first sounds absurd, we ask the reader to meditate on the following:

Each of us, if we are in the state of grace and friendship with God, receives the fullness of Christ when we receive sacramental communion. A Saint does not receive more of Jesus than a comparably very worldly person who is much more immersed in indifference and venial sins (but who is not in mortal sin, and therefore still possesses sanctifying grace). The difference between two such persons does not consist in how much of Jesus they receive, but in the extent to which they allow Jesus to penetrate into the depths of their hearts and minds. And the extent to which Jesus is able to penetrate into our hearts is especially dependent upon our desire for Him. Jesus said, “I come to cast fire on the earth: and what will I, but that it be kindled?” (Luke 12: 49). He declared, “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away.” (Mt. 11: 12). And finally, Our Lord spoke the following to His apostles before the first Eucharist: “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15). The degree of unity and love effected between Christ and the human heart is the fruit of the passion of desire exchanged between God and man. The Passion of Christ’s love is always infinite, while the passion of man is almost infinitely variable in its “mixture of impurity” with the world. And just as Christ’s Passion was made perfect in suffering, man’s love and passion for Christ is often only reawakened and purified through intense suffering. Such may indeed be seen as God’s love expressed through our present chastisement:

“But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons.”

“Now all chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring with it joy, but sorrow: but afterwards it will yield, to them that are exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and made straight steps with your feet: that no one halting, may go out of the way; but rather be healed.” (Hebrews 12: 8, 11-13).

To be “exercised” by chastisement is to learn where we have gone wrong. In this, the second Beatitude, Jesus invites us to “learn” through His meekness. We therefore need to explore the Gospels to understand the nature of this meekness.

 

The Anatomy of Meekness

What does Christ mean when He states that He is meek and humble of heart? We should first make clear what He did not mean. Such meekness and humility certainly cannot be identified with any kind of weakness or timidity – physical, mental, or spiritual. Christ fasted for forty days. He endured all the agonies of His Passion in loving obedience to His Father. He was fearless in confronting demons, including the intellectual and spiritual conceits of Satan himself. He boldly and with great mental authority demonstrated the truths of the Gospel to His enemies. He drove the money-changers out of the Temple. He was vehement, authoritative and assertive in everything that had to do with defending and teaching the ways and truths of God.

So wherein was Christ meek? In everything that had to do with His own human will: “He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth.” (Isaias 53:7). Everything involving His own personal humanity on this earth was turned into an oblation, a sacrifice in love for the Father and in love of man: “there is no beauty in him nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him.” At the supreme moment of the Passion of Christ, His love knew no return. Mankind, for whom He suffered, was not desirous of either His suffering or His love. There was no immediate reward, no “turning aside into one’s own way.” There was no other way than the will of God.

There are two forms of meekness which Christ practiced, and which we are therefore to imitate: meekness towards God, and meekness towards man. Certainly the clearest scriptural account of the first occurred during His Agony in the Garden when He said, “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou will.” (Mt 26:39). Jesus’ human nature and will, suffering total repulsion at the thought and foreknowledge of the agony which He was to endure on the Cross, yet humbled Himself in total meekness and submission to the Will of the Father.

There are many passages in the Gospel which teach us to imitate this meekness towards God. Possibly the most penetrating is to be found among those parables which deal with what it means to be a true servant of God:

And the apostles said to the Lord: Increase our faith. And the Lord said: If you had faith like to a mustard seed, you might say to this mulberry tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou transplanted into the sea: and it would obey you.

“But which of you having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say to him, when he is come from the field: Immediately go, sit down to meat: And will not rather say to him: Make ready my supper, and gird thyself, and serve me, whilst I eat and drink, and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink?

“Doth he thank that servant, for doing the things which he commanded him? I think not. So you also, when you shall have done all things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.” (Luke 17:5-10).

The above passage begins with a request addressed from the apostles to Our Lord: “Increase our faith.” Our Lord’s reply may be summed up as follows: If you wish to increase your faith, increase your work for God without seeking any reward. Such will increase your faith and expand your piety because it will deepen the willful sacrifice of yourself to God and His Ways. It is this meekness, neither expecting nor demanding any return for one’s love, which both prevents the mind and heart from “consuming” God, and establishes the soul in the true rest and peace of Jesus Christ.

The second form of meekness which Christ practiced was that which was exercised towards man. The Passion is, of course, the supreme example of this form of meekness. Christ was kissed by His betrayer, judged, struck repeatedly, mockingly crowned with thorns, scourged, spat upon, crucified – all at the hands of those towards whom He had shown Infinite Love. He did all this in meekness, silence, prayer, resignation, and without calling upon the legions of angels which were instantly available for His defense.

The Gospel contains many passages in which Jesus gives specific instructions for the living of this virtue of meekness among our fellow men. However, we need look no further than the very same chapter of the Gospel which contains the Beatitudes:

“You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth  for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other: And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him. And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two. Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away. You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you.” (Mt 5:38-44).

In these lines we are again faced with words of Our Lord which are often quoted, but rarely taken literally and with the seriousness which Jesus seems to intend. They are nothing more or less than precise descriptions of actions and attitudes which Christ demands of us, and which are duplications of His own self-immolations during His Passion. Let us look at the above passage line by line: Christ did not resist evil; when given blows upon His face He did not resist, and simply turned the other cheek; He allowed them to strip Him of His garments; He allowed them to force Him on the interminable walk to Golgotha while carrying His cross; and finally, He prayed to his Father for forgiveness for those who had subjected Him to this suffering and death.

If we believe that Christ demands anything less of us than His own self-sacrificing meekness, we are sorely mistaken; for this same Chapter 5 of St. Matthew’s Gospel ends with Christ’s command to us: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48).

It may at first seem strange to us that the reward offered to those who live the Beatitude of Meekness is that “they shall possess the land”:  “Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land” (Mt. 5: 4). For the Israelites, this word “land” was redolent with meaning. It immediately called forth God’s original command given to Abraham:

Go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father’s house, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed. I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and in Thee shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3).

All the promises of God scattered over the pages and prophecies of the Old Testament, and deeply imbedded in the suffering hearts of the Jewish people: that God would be a Father to His people; that He would come to dwell with them and in them; that He would right all wrongs and end all sufferings; that He would reign with them in an everlasting kingdom – all these and more were contained in the Jewish concept of the Promised Land. And when Christ the Messiah did come and showed them that this Land – this “nation” – was something ultimately to be attained by meekness rather than aggressions, plowshare rather than sword, mercy rather than pharisaical righteousness, they killed Him. They simply refused to understand that the Land promised by this, the second Beatitude, is not the earthly nation of Israel, but rather the kingdom of God which is to be found within the human heart truly united with God: “For lo, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 21).

It is the human heart which is the “land” wherein Jesus Christ takes up residence in the truth and power of the Holy Spirit. As such, this “dwelling of God with man” also places us in direct inheritance of the very Heart of Jesus Christ and His merciful love of all human souls. To possess the Land is therefore to enter into a whole new world of community with all men. It shatters competition, aggression, and self-seeking. It has the effect of creating an intense desire for the salvation of souls, a longing founded upon a vision of man which now sees both intense suffering and hope where before it only found fault. Though the soul under the influence of such a gift may indeed experience increased sorrow and pain in love of God and sorrow for sin, it at the same time finds rest simply because it now rests in God’s love rather than in its own self-seeking. There is no greater sweetness than this: to have surrendered one’s soul in meekness to Christ: “For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.”

For the soul that has set its heart upon God above all things, there remains only one true pleasure left upon this earth: love of the brethren and the thirst for souls. Among the early converts to Christianity this love and this passion simply dissolved all competitiveness, all desire for individual accumulation:

“And all they that believed, were together, and had all things in common Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as every one had need. And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they took their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart; Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord increased daily together such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:44-47).

“And the Lord increased daily together such as should be saved.” The massive conversions of early peoples to the Christian Faith were largely due to the love and meekness which these people witnessed in Christians living in community with one another. In what is called His priestly prayer at the First Eucharist, Christ prayed:

And not for them (the Apostles) only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me; That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

The primary reason why the rest of the world has not converted to Christ and to His Catholic Church is that His supernatural meekness and love are not visible in His Body the Church. Catholics are, and have been for a long time, living in ways which far more represent the conceits, ambitions, greed and competitiveness of the world rather than the meekness and single-minded love of Christ. Even as early as the third century (250 A.D.), St. Cyprian could write:

But amongst us, that unity of mind has weakened in proportion as the generosity of our charity has crumbled away. In those days [the very early days of the Church], they would sell their houses and estates and lay up to themselves treasure in heaven by giving the money to the Apostles for distribution to those in need. But now, we do not even give tithes on our patrimony, and whereas Our Lord tells us to sell, we buy instead and accumulate. To such an extent have our people lost their old steadfastness in belief. That is why Our Lord says in His Gospel, with an eye on our times: ‘The Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?’”

There is a very deep and extraordinary relationship between charity and meekness. True charity is a surrender, in meekness, of one’s very substance. For the soul that has surrendered to God in perfect charity and abnegation of self, there remains only one true pleasure left upon this earth: love of the brethren and the thirst for souls. Among the early converts to Christianity this love and this passion simply dissolved all competitiveness, all desire for individual accumulation:

What, after all, did the early Christians surrender when they sold their land and possessions, “and divided them to all?” They surrendered much of what we treasure as our individuality and independence; they surrendered any security for themselves and, possibly even more difficult for us to accept, for their children – except that security which was derived from their trust in Christ and in His Mystical Body the Church. Do we see how such meekness, trust, and singular love enabled 12 men to convert whole nations to Christ? In contrast to pagan society, Christian community shown forth as a heaven on earth.

There is a principle of the spiritual life which has been validated repeatedly in the history of peoples and nations: that the failures of Catholics are the seeds of heresy. The particular heresy which well might be seen to be the bitter fruit of Catholic failure to live the Beatitude of Meekness is Communism (and its continued thinly-veiled continuance and dominance now under the guises of globalism, socialism, and messianic democracy). Ironically, the passage which we have quoted from the Book of Acts is often touted by Communists as an example of an early form of communistic living. In reality, it is the very opposite. The community of early Christians founded their unity and trust upon God. Atheistic Communism, socialism, or secularism claims the death of God, and a unity founded solely upon human pride and invention. Christians voluntarily offered themselves and their properties to the Church; Communism confiscates private property for the State, and denies freedom to the individual person. At the same time, however, Communism’s errors do point an accusing finger at Catholics.

The triumphs of Marxism and secularism were the fruit of the death of true Christian community, and the continued growth of economic and political systems based on unbridled competition, aggression, and exploitation. Communism is the spiritual descendent of the Renaissance (including the prostitution of Catholics to its ideals and practices) and its liberation of economics, and especially finance, from the demands of the spirit and the teaching of the Church. Millions have been seduced and oppressed by Communism because of their desire to be free of such sophisticated savagery as is modern capitalism. Communism murdered (outside of war) approximately 150 million people in the 20th century. Nor is it by any means to be considered dead. And even if it were, the same deadly and murderous hunger will only reappear under another name, another philosophy, until Christians are able to show the world what it means to be in communion with Christ and one another.

Unquestionably, when we consider the formation of true Christian community, we are now faced with what might seem insurmountable obstacles. The early Christians came and laid their money and properties at the feet of the apostles. This was not some sort of democratic commune, but rather the gift of themselves, their families, and their possessions to Christ through His Church. We might well doubt at the present moment in history whether we could find bishops willing, reliable, and orthodox enough to exercise such authority and paternity. On the other hand, if we harken back to the principle taught by St. Gregory the Great that “Divine justice provides shepherds according to the just deserts of the faithful”, we might also conjecture that God is waiting for us to bring our desires and aspirations into accord with the Gospel so that he might then justly provide these needed shepherds. Nor are we sure exactly how this early Church actually fulfilled this community living. The Book of Acts speaks of them as “breaking bread from house to house”, which surely means that families had their own dwellings and necessary privacy. What is essential in the whole thing is the spirit of generosity and charity which truly “held all things in common” in Christ’s Mystical Body the Church. We must not misuse the fact that the vow of poverty is a voluntary act taken by religious, and that this evangelical counsel is not at all necessary for salvation. The command of the Gospel is that all persons are called to give themselves entirely to Christ, and that poverty of spirit and meekness is necessary for all.

Nor does God have to work now in the same manner as He did in the early Church. Times and circumstance change, but Christ is always present and active to provide a way to His Heart through the deceits and evils of this world, no matter how dense and overwhelming such evils may seem. As the Psalmist declares, “He will guide the meek in judgment: he will teach the meek his ways”. (Ps. 24: 9 –Douay).

We can see, for instance, things growing out of our own home-schooling communities which, imperfect though they may be, truly express the demands of Christian community, and extending beyond the immediate family. Young people who have graduated from high school can actually be seen working together in trades, and are establishing their own families while cooperating with one another in many of the various aspects of daily life which we have mentioned. No Christian who knows the circumstances of Christ’s birth should have to be told that God can begin great things in very unlikely places and under very unusual circumstances. The pre-requisite for true Christian community is not necessarily any particular exterior form, but the interior disposition of soul which truly does seek God in holy simplicity, meekness, and poverty of spirit. What is most important is that we become like the prophet Daniel who is repeatedly called a “man of desires” by God, and who from the depths of his exile in Babylon, prayed:

“For we, O Lord, are diminished more than any nation, and are brought low in all the earth this day for our sins…. And now we follow thee with all our heart, and we fear thee, and seek thy face. Put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to thy meekness, and according to the multitude of thy mercies.” (Dan 3:33, 41-42).

 Please Pray every Rosary for the Purification of the Church.

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Seek, and Ye Shall Find: Knock, and It Shall Be Opened To You

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“Seek, and Ye Shall Find:

               Knock, and it Shall Be Opened to You.”  (Mt. 7:7).

 

They have taken away Our Lord!

We are forbidden Mass. Our Churches are shuttered. We are denied Adoration, Confirmations, Marriages, and Funerals; Baptisms and Confession are being postponed. Access of priests to the sick is being prohibited, and even the Sacrament of Extreme Unction is being denied.

St. James writes, “Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration. (James 1:17). We are now being led to believe just the opposite: that the primary sources of our health and salvation from the coronavirus virus lie in medicine, the action of governments, and even the peace of mind and heart induced by access to liquor stores and pot shops now being touted as “essential services”.

Any submission or acceptance of this denial of the vertical and supernatural dimension of our lives as being necessary and essential to both our physical and spiritual well-being, is bound to increase the denial of Christ present within our hearts and minds. It is bound to increase what St. Thomas calls that “impurity of mixture” of our Catholic Faith with the “spirit of this world” which will finally usher in the reign of Antichrist and the “Final Conflagration”.

We have no choice, therefore, if we wish to survive as Catholics, to ask, to seek, and to knock incessantly: “Ask and it shall be given you: seek and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”

We are asking Catholic to “knock” with their prayers night and day at their local churches. It is a “knocking” to be done with a truly Catholic heart, which cannot rest as long as it is being denied the presence of her Lord.

We are therefore asking Catholics, while respecting the requisites of sanitization and social- distancing, to stand or walk (or even sit) around their local churches praying the Rosary in the same spirit in which Mary and Joseph sought Jesus in the Fifth Joyful Mystery – in that spirit so aptly expressed in the words of Our Lady to Mary of Agreda:

“I desire that thou imitate me in this mystery and seek Him with such earnestness, as to be consumed with a continual longing, without ever in this life coming to rest until thou holdest Him and canst lose Him no more.”

We recommend that this be done all hours of the day and night, in the same spirit of Adoration as we have sought Jesus in our Perpetual Adoration Chapels. At the empty Tomb, Mary Magdalen wept because she knew not “where they had laid Him”. We, however, are not ignorant of where He now resides within our locked churches. Our churches are simply larger Tabernacles, containing within their walls our Hidden Lord. Let us not abandon Jesus. Let us not abandon ourselves.

 

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The Abandoned Sacraments

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In a country (the U.S., and elsewhere) completely in the black with no public Masses, we implore all faithful Catholics to make a spiritual Communion with every Hail Mary they pray. All that is necessary is that, either orally or silently, we pray “Come into my heart” at every mention of the Name of Jesus. Please read our article The Rosary: The Way of Perfection for inspiration in regard to this practice. And please include the intention for your own personal purification, and the purification of the whole Church.

Below is Part III of our series on the Gift of Fear of the Lord and the Beatitude of Poverty of Spirit, titled The Abandoned Sacraments. It is an article which we think is enormously important for understanding the present loss of the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, especially in regard to its response to the coronavirus epidemic. The other parts of this series are linked at the bottom of the left sidebar menu. 

The Abandoned Sacraments

 In the days of peace that are to come after the desolation of revolutions and wars before the end of the world – Christians will become so lax in their religion that they will refuse the sacrament of Confirmation, saying that it is unnecessary. And when the false prophet, the precursor of Antichrist, comes, all who are confirmed will stand fast in their faith, and only a few will renounce Christ.” (St. Vincent Ferrer).

And strength was given him against the continual sacrifice, because of sins: and truth shall be cast down on the ground….” (Daniel 8:12).

 

In consideration of St. Vincent Ferrer’s prophecy quoted above, it might seem to be of great significance that the devaluation and abandonment of the sacrament of Confirmation would come “in the days of peace” before the end of the world. This clearly speaks of a peace that is not of Christ, but rather a peace established between Christians and the world. Our Lord declared: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you.” (John 14: 27). The peace that the world offers to Christians, on the other hand, is completely rejected by Our Lord:

“Do not think that I came to send peace upon this earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household.” (Mt. 10: 34-36)).

The peace of Christ – the peace which is of God – is at war with the peace of this world. When we speak of the “world”, we are of course speaking of all that is opposed to God. This world of false peace exists both within and without. And if we should propose a peace with either one, or both, of these “worlds”, we are at the same time betraying Christ.

The “world” that exists within us consists of all the tendencies and temptations which are the malevolent fruits of original sin: the threefold concupiscence so aptly delineated by St. John – “the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world”. It consists of all that is rooted in, and springs from, that self-love which draws us “away from” standing upright before God in the radiance and purity of His Truth, and with the full acknowledgment that all we possess is a Gift from Him. Peace with this world entails spiritual death.

But there also exists in each one of our lives an enormously seductive call to peace from a world outside of us, of which Satan is the “prince” and “god” ( John 12:31, 14: 30, 2 Cor. 4:4). This entails not only all the allurements of the flesh with which the world attempts to entice and enslave us, but also of that constant siren-like call which ever tempts us to pull “away from” the fullness and radiance of the Truths of Christ through denial, compromise, and silence. This is this world which we explored in Part I of this series, using specifically the issue of Pro-Life, and it is this world that has been deeply inculterated into the depths of our minds and hearts through participation in the political and social life of pluralistic and relativistic democracies.

Seeking peace with this “world”, both within and without, is therefore the penultimate expression of that “impurity of mixture” of Christians with the world which we analyzed in the Introduction to this series of articles, and which St. Thomas identified with that tepidity and lukewarmness towards God which will necessitate the Final Conflagration which precedes the Final Judgment.

The sacrament of Confirmation was instituted by God to impart the fullness of power necessary to live the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in combat with the spirit of this world.

St. Thomas teaches that Confirmation is a twofold sacrament, possessing both an interior and also an exterior action: it is the sacrament of interior sanctification (holiness), and also the sacrament of exterior spiritual combat (III, Q.72, A.4, ad.3). It is therefore the sacrament through which we receive the grace which establishes us in “the peace of Christ, which is not of this world” (interior holiness), while at the same time empowering us as the Church Militant in combat with the world. Any falsification of the dispositions necessary to receive Confirmation therefore necessarily results, not only in nullifying the process of our own spiritual growth, but also of surrendering us to the spirit of Antichrist always seeking our prostitution to this world.

Confirmation is the Sacrament of Christian perfection. St. Thomas states that Baptism and Confirmation “can nowise be separated save by death intervening (III, Q.72, a.12, ad1).” Just as conception and birth are the bearers of simple human life, while maturity of growth brings this physical life to perfection – so Baptism establishes us in spiritual regeneration, while Confirmation is meant to bring the spiritual life to perfection (III, Q.2m A.1). It is the sacrament through which the human heart is given totally over to Christ and His action through the Holy Spirit. We are seriously wrong therefore if we think that Confirmation is a sacrament which is somehow inferior to Baptism. Baptism without the subsequent spiritual maturity and perfection which are the intended fruits of the Sacrament of Confirmation can be compared in the physical order to the child that is born but never develops into maturity. The latter is a sort of physical tragedy; the former is a tragic miscarriage of the whole spiritual life.

If we were to stand in the figurative shoes of Satan (God forbid), then we might be able to comprehend what a wonderful thing (from the standpoint of Hell) it is for the Sacrament of Confirmation to be devalued. The denial of baptism to a child would of course be a very desired thing; but how much more desirable  would be the accomplishment of sanctifying grace once received through baptism, but now deformed and defiled? We can therefore well understand that, along with actual Eucharistic sacrilege, the abandonment of Confirmation (either through rejection of its reception, or through distortion of its meaning and application) might be a premier goal of Satan.

This is precisely what happened in the wake of Vatican Council II.

 

 Vatican II:

The Sacrament of Confirmation Prostituted to the World

As we have seen, Confirmation is the sacrament of maturity in living the power and life which is received through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is this power which protects the Church from invasion by the spirit of Antichrist. It protects her doctrine, sacraments, catechesis, the integrity and purity of her priesthood and the life of religious, the Catholic integrity of the laity, and her entire spiritual health. Exteriorly, it is the source of the power and grace that has to do with the evangelization of the world and conversion of souls to Christ and His saving Truth. Any honest evaluation of each and every one of these areas of contemporary Catholic life leads to the obvious conclusion that this power has now been profoundly diminished, or even destroyed.

As we have seen in the previous articles in this series, the absolute foundation of all the other Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and therefore of all the power necessary to combat Satan in his work to destroy the Church, is established upon the First of these Gifts: Fear of the Lord. It is this Gift which establishes us in that fundamental posture before God of submitting to the radiant Truth that “every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, now shadow of alteration.” (James 1:17). And this in turn establishes us in that two-fold wholesome fear, absolutely necessary to each one of us in our fallen state: fear of God and His justice, and fear of the depths of duplicity and treachery within each of our own souls.

It is this “Fear of the Lord” which was totally eliminated from the Rite of Confirmation in the wake of Vatican II. If we may take the metaphor of “foundation” to its logical conclusion, all the crumbling down of traditional Catholic belief and practice in the wake of Vatican II may be seen as the abandoning, and “taking out of the way”, and stripping from Catholic consciousness, of the concept of “Fear of the Lord”.

In the Traditional Rite, the Bishop extends his hands over the heads of the confirmands, and prays for them to receive the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, naming each one in turn. The last one of these assumed the formula: “Fill them with the spirit of fear of the Lord.”

The Revised Rite of Confirmation was approved by Pope Paul VI in 1971, and imposed upon all the faithful as being obligatory by January 1, 1973. The above formula was changed to: “fill them with the spirit of awe and wonder in your presence.”

It should be obvious from what we have written above, and also in our previous articles on this subject, that Fear of the Lord can in no way be equated with the phrase “awe and wonder in your presence”. We may feel awe and wonder in the presence of a sunset, a magnificently performed symphony, or a newborn baby; but none of these approaches any of the depths contained within the concept of fear of the Lord. All we have to do to see the falsification involved here is to substitute the word “fear” for the words “awe” or “reverence”. We do not feel fear in the presence of a sunset, a symphony, or a baby. In having equated fear of the Lord with any such notions of wonder and reverence, those who are responsible for such an absurdity are guilty of a profound distortion of the Catholic Faith.

But in order to understand the extent of the damage done to the collective minds and hearts of virtually all Catholics (and not just confirmands), we need to realize that this falsification of the most fundamentally necessary Gift of the Holy Spirit penetrated everywhere – into virtually all catechisms, the prayers distributed in churches for Church renewal, every form of religious publications, and media of all sorts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for instance, passes this bastardized version on to all the faithful in its teaching and explanation of the Rite of Confirmation (#1299): “Fill them with the spirit of awe and wonder in your presence.”

In 2016, as a result of the work of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), the Vatican finally approved a change back to the traditional form of this prayer: “Fill them with the spirit of fear of the Lord”. By this time (over a period of 43 years), however, the devastation was complete.  The “bowels” of virtually all Catholics had been stripped of the depths of meaning to be found in the concept of “fear of the Lord”. The overall effect would therefore be to simply identify such “fear” with friendly feelings of awe and wonder. A perfect example of such “identification” is The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, published by the US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB). On page 233, during its discussion on the sacrament of Confirmation, it explicitly equates “fear of the Lord” with “awe and reverence in His presence”.

The immediate effect of this stripping away of the concept of fear of the Lord was the emasculation of all that constitutes Catholic faith and life.. No longer was the Catholic Faith seen as being something which required militancy and a spirit of combat. No longer was the fundamental mission of the Christian to be seen as “bringing into captivity [beginning with ourselves] every understanding unto the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10: 5). This emasculation permeated everywhere, and severely undermined all areas of Catholic faith and practice. It produced a kind of universal ecumenism, the poisonous vapors of which have sapped virtually all courage and manliness out of the Church. As examined in our article The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden, it is this loss of courage and fortitude in defense of Christ which reduced the vast majority of priests and bishops to silence in the pulpit in regard to all those sins and infidelities which have almost surely rendered at least 80% of the receptions of Holy Communions in this country to be acts of objective sacrilege.

It is also this loss of courage and fortitude – ironically rooted in a loss of fear of the Lord, and the bold trust in the ways and grace of God which such fear engenders in the human soul – which has now led to the spectacle of Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops responding to the coronavirus pandemic by cancelling Masses, closing Churches, and hiding behind both spiritual and physical walls built with the mortar of their own prostitutions to the secular world.

When faced with all the terrors (including pestilences) which are to come upon us from this world towards the End, the Gospel of Luke offers us two radically opposed responses from which we may choose. The first of these is to “look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:28).” This is the response of all those who stand upright in holy fear of the Lord, and in the firm knowledge and expectation that “every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” (James 1:17). The only appropriate responses to something like the coronavirus pandemic are increased Masses, increased Eucharistic Adoration, increased Processions, and increased prayer and unity in prayer. This is what the Polish bishops have called for to protect the people of their nation, and they are virtually alone in their united effort.

At the opposite pole are those who, having turned away from the power and grace of God, turn to the ways of man; and having betrayed their trust in God, are met with despair and a very different sort of fear:

“Then they shall begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills Cover us.” (Luke 23:30).

And they shall go into the holes of rocks, and into the caves of the earth from the face of the fear of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty, when he shall rise up to strike the earth.” (Is. 2: 21).

This emasculation of the Catholic Faith through denial of the Gift of Fear of the Lord was, of course, in need of a theological justification which completely inverted the Catholic Faith. This justification was very recently put on display for us in a very explicit and succinct manner by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

 

The Complete Inversion of the Catholic Faith

In October of 2015, Benedict XVI participated in a discussion and interview with Fr. Jacques Servais concerning the Catholic concepts of Faith and Justification. It provides an invaluable source for enlightening us as to the deepest source of that “New Theology” which is the root cause of the attempt to eliminate the concept of “fear of the Lord” from Catholic consciousness, which we have examined above.  It also establishes a union of hearts between Benedict and the thinking and policies of Francis in regard to an agenda which seeks to transform the traditional Catholic concept of Justification into a pastoral program of universal mercy and inclusiveness.

The heart of this transformation lies, according to Pope Benedict, in a rethinking of the Catholic concept of “justification by faith”. The passages which are most expressive of this “rethinking” are to be found in a dramatic exchange between Pope Benedict and Jacques Servais which occurs approximately in the middle of the Interview:

Benedict XVI: It seems to me that in the theme of divine mercy is expressed in a new way what is meant by justification by faith. Starting from the mercy of God, which everyone is looking for, it is possible even today to interpret anew the fundamental nucleus of the doctrine of justification, and have it appear again in all its relevance.

Servais: When Anselm says that Christ had to die on the cross to repair the infinite offense that had been made to God, and in this way to restore the shattered order, he uses a language which is difficult for modern man to accept (cfr. Gs 215.ss iv). Expressing oneself in this way, one risks likely to project onto God an image of a God of wrath, relentless toward the sin of man, with feelings of violence and aggression comparable with what we can experience ourselves. How is it possible to speak of God’s justice without potentially undermining the certainty, deeply established among the faithful, that the God of the Christians is a God “rich in mercy”? (Ephesians 2:4).

We need to note here that St. Anselm of Canterbury’s (1033-1109) view of Justification has been adopted by the Church, especially in the doctrine defined by the Council of Trent. It establishes that Christ’s infinite sacrifice was a totally gratuitous act of a loving God, offered not only to satisfy God’s  justice in respect of the punishment due to man’s original sin, but also in satisfaction for the offense offered by man against the infinite Majesty, Glory and Goodness of God. The key notion to be considered here is the absolute gratuitousness of God’s action. There was no necessity or obligation on God’s part whatsoever. Man’s act of rebellion against an infinitely good God was fully worthy of eternal abandonment and punishment.

To continue:

Benedict XVI: The conceptuality of St. Anselm has now become for us incomprehensible. It is our job to try again to understand the truth that lies behind this mode of expression. For my part I offer three points of view on this point.

Before moving on to further examination of these “three points of view, it is absolutely necessary to understand what has already been accomplished by Benedict’s new way of conceptualization in regard to justification by faith. The concept of a God demanding Justice has been eliminated. At least four times in the course of this interview Benedict specifically identifies such a view with believing in a cruel God. In his entire interview he in fact never mentions God’s justice without identifying it with cruelty. Thus:

Only where there is mercy does cruelty end, only with mercy do evil and violence end. Pope Francis is totally in agreement with this line. His pastoral practice is expressed in the fact that he continually speaks to us of God’s mercy. It is mercy that moves us toward God, while justice frightens us before Him.”

There is here, in Benedict’s view no value in the concept of God’s Justice as leading us towards Him, or towards His Mercy. Justice and Mercy are diametrically opposed. This of course necessitates the elimination of “fear of the Lord” as being integral and necessary to the “beginning of wisdom” and therefore the foundation of the entire Catholic spiritual life. We must also note, as evidenced in this passage, the deep union of hearts between the theology of Benedict and the pastoral work of Francis.

When we now come to examine Benedict’s first point necessary for “overcoming” the conceptuality of Anselm, we encounter the second and third instances of Benedict identifying cruelty with the notion of God’s Justice:

The contrast between the Father, who insists in an absolute way on justice, and the Son who obeys the Father and, obedient, accepts the cruel demands of justice, is not only incomprehensible today, but, from the point of view of Trinitarian theology, is in itself all wrong.”

The Father and the Son are one and therefore their will is intrinsically one. When the Son in the Garden of Olives struggles with the will of the Father, it is not a matter of accepting for himself a cruel disposition of God, but rather of attracting humanity into the very will of God. We will have to come back again, later, to the relationship of the two wills of the Father and of the Son.”

We must here add a bit of theological commentary. Catholic theology has always recognized the unity of Will between the Father and Son. The cruelty suffered by the Son in obedience to the Father, was at the hands of men, and was not seen as the Son subjecting himself to the cruelty of the Father. Rather, it was viewed as a true unity of wills between Father and Son necessary for the satisfaction of Justice in accord with the one divine nature of both Father and Son. What is unique here in the thought of Benedict is that this demand of Divine Justice has ceased to exist, and is replaced solely by an act of Divine Mercy which seeks to attract men. This attraction is, of course, an evolutionary process, devoid of any justification for judgment and condemnation.

This brings us to the second point which Benedict offers us in regard to a “new way” of understanding justification. At the beginning of the long paragraph in which he discusses this point, he simply begins by asking, “So why the cross and atonement?” After talking about the immense amount of cruelty and suffering present in the world, he offers the following answer:

Above I quoted the theologian for whom God had to suffer for his sins in regard to the world [because of all the horrible things in the world and in the face of the misery of being human, all of which ultimately depends on Him]. Now, due to this reversal of perspective, the following truths emerge: God simply cannot leave ‘as is’ the mass of evil that comes from the freedom that he himself has granted. Only He, coming to share in the world’s suffering, can redeem the world.”

Here we arrive at the crux of Benedict’s solution. The “reversal of perspective” which he sees as absolutely essential to modern man and the survival of his faith is to cease viewing man as being under compulsion to satisfy God’s Justice, but rather to view God as under compulsion to show man mercy. As he says elsewhere in his interview, “…the man of today has in a very general way the sense that God cannot let most of humanity be damned. In this sense, the concern for the personal salvation of souls typical of past times has for the most part disappeared.”

The third point simply brings this compulsion of God towards mercy to a conclusion in what Benedict calls the “poverty of God”. The Father must share inwardly the sufferings of the Son. Benedict in fact quotes Henri de Lubac who attributes passion to God, and not only to God the Son in His Incarnation, but also to Christ previous to the incarnation, and to the Father Himself. In thus having the very nature of God immersed in the passion of creation, Benedict logically eliminates belief in a God who is ontologically distinct from His creation, and therefore in any position to demand justice. He concludes this point with the a passage in which he again identifies the concept of justice with a cruelty unworthy of God: “It is not a matter of a cruel justice, not a matter of the Father’s fanaticism, but rather of the truth and the reality of creation: the true intimate overcoming of evil that ultimately can be realized only in the suffering of love.” As we have seen in our analysis of the Benedict’s new conceptualization of the Catholic faith, it is in fact not a matter of justice at all, but rather of a compulsory mercy on the part of a God who is truly united in His deepest essence to all of creation.

We also cannot fail to mention that Benedict’s new concept of mercy not only frees man from fear of God’s Justice, but involves a “reversal of perspective” in respect to the act of faith itself. This is certainly logical. If the concepts of “justice” and “justification” are reversed, so also must the entire concept of “justifying faith” be reversed. This becomes abundantly clear when we contrast his views with the definition of the act of faith published by Vatican Council I in the year 1870:

Man being wholly dependent upon God, as upon his Creator and Lord, and created reason being absolutely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound to yield to God, by faith in His revelation, the full obedience of our intelligence and will. And the Catholic Church teaches that this faith, which is the beginning of man’s salvation, is a supernatural virtue, whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things which He has revealed are true; not  because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, Who reveals them, and Who can neither be deceived nor deceive.”

This entire passage speaks of a necessary subjection on the part of every man to a God against whose Justice man can mortally sin through disbelief.

In direct opposition to this traditional doctrine, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, having made God Himself in a very real way “guilty” for having created a world in which immeasurable evil and cruelty are a reality, and having subjected God to a compulsive mercy and suffering passion in order to lift man outside of this state, has eliminated entirely the concept of a fully revealed, dogmatized faith to which man must submit his intellect and will as being necessary for salvation. If judgment, and the necessity of man justifying himself before a cruel God are eliminated, so also is any requirement of a “justifying faith”. A universal mercy, working through attractiveness, and not judgment, is what remains. And thus the Catholic Faith is completely inverted.

Pope Benedict XVI’s entire agenda in opposing God’s Mercy to His Justice is aptly refuted with a single sentence from Our Lady’s Magnificat: “And His mercy is from generation to generations to those who fear Him.” It is precisely through the Gift of Fear of the Lord, and the standing in justice before God which this Gift empowers, that we become open to receiving the living waters of God’s mercy.

We also need to repeat briefly here what we have analyzed extensively in other articles. Namely, that this complete inversion of the Catholic Faith has been deemed necessary because of the prostitution of Catholic theology to reductive science, and especially to evolutionary theory. We strongly recommend reading our article The Quintessential Evolutionist for incontestable proof of Joseph Ratzinger’s surrender of all things Catholic – especially the Catholic understanding of God’s Revelation – to evolutionary theory. And we even more strongly recommend our article The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns for equally incontestable proof of the embrace of Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theory by both Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

 

Conclusion

It is generally conceded that the Antichrist will arise out of chaos – the chaos generated by a scientific and technologically advanced world in which unity and peace are desperately necessary for survival, but which is descending into inevitable chaos because of all the conflicts between individuals, nations, ideologies, and religions. We are now in the midst of this descent. As a solution, the Antichrist will offer peace and unity through satanically empowered deception and tyranny.  It will, of course, be a demonically-inspired peace and unity which he will impose.

There is only one force on this earth which possesses the power to counter this tyranny: the Catholic Church. But the Church itself, now having descended into its own particular form of chaos and impotency, can only come to live this power through unified purification. This is why the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church is not just an attempt to persuade individual Catholics to pray, but rather a call to all Catholics towards a united effort in praying the Rosary and seeking interior purification.  Such historically-documented united efforts have merited divine interventions in stopping such things as killing plagues and droughts. The united effort in  praying the Rosary and seeking interior purification, called for by Pope St. Pius V, saved Europe from destruction in the great sea battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. And in another, more recent, example: On May 13, 1955, due to massive Rosary Processions prayed for an end to Communist oppression, the Soviet Union voluntarily announced that they were abandoning their occupation of Austria. Such historical miracles provide convincing evidence of the power of the Rosary to liberate from evil. But it must be a united effort. And it must be an effort which seeks deliverance not only from exterior threats, but from sin, infidelity, and duplicity with each one of us..

As explained in our Original Proposal, the triumph of the Light of Christ within the Church, and over evil in this world, must begin with the purification of each and every one of our hearts, a task which Our Lord has entrusted to the mediation of Our Lady. As Simeon prophesied to Mary: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”  Only Our Lady has been prophesied to possess the singular grace and power to accomplish this interior purification, and thereby crush the head of Satan.

The problem of course is that people will only engage in such united efforts when they see what is about to come upon them. Unless they are reduced to a state of “holy fear” and desperation which shakes them out of the blindness generated through their having compromised and “normalized” their relationships with the world and its evils, they seem destined to think and behave like the proverbial “deer in the headlights”.  Our Lord said to the Pharisees and Sadducees: “You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the time?” There does indeed come a time when just “hunkering down” into our own personal faith and personal devotions, with family and like- minded friends and fellow-believers, is not enough; and that the failure to unite in militant effort for our own purification and that of the Church is reflective of that “blindness of heart” and “lukewarmness” condemned by Christ. And it is in such a time of failure that we live. It is therefore no wonder that the Holy Spirit appears no longer to be operative as the Soul of the Church. It is no wonder that now, in the face of a world-wide health epidemic, Catholics are now being forbidden to gather for prayer together in their churches, the public offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is being suppressed, and Catholics of all stations and ranks are hiding in the caves of isolation from one another.

We have seen the world move in the past 45 years from the slaughter of the unborn, to acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual marriage, to the promotion of transgenderism, and now the outright denial that God created male and female. It is a world in which every form of perversity and transgression of God’s laws is promoted as an inalienable right. And we now see Christians becoming the number-one victims of prosecution by the State for so-called “hate crimes” if they stand up for the absolute values of the moral truths of Christ.

When we come to consider the progression of this spirit of Antichrist within the Church, we encounter the very present reality that we now have a Pope (and many other members of the hierarchy and laity) who promotes a false mercy and inclusiveness towards evil, while embracing silence towards the “hard truths” of Catholic dogma and morals; a Pope who obfuscates the clearly present existence of a homosexual network of power and corruption among the hierarchy, while promoting these persons to higher positions of power in the Church; and who wages a demeaning campaign against those who try to hold firmly to traditional Catholic faith and practice.

It should therefore be abundantly clear that the spirit of Antichrist is now moving at an exponential pace, and that none of our “usual efforts” – and this includes not only such things as political involvement, but also the normal apostolates of Catholic action (evangelization, apologetics, catechetics, etc.) – possess the grace or power to prevail against it.

It is clearly taught in Holy Scriptures and confirmed by the unanimous teaching of the early Church Fathers that the Antichrist at the apex of his power will prevail over and crush (Daniel 7:25) the Church, even to the point of the total suppression of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In Daniel 8: 12, we read:

And strength was given him against the continual sacrifice, because of sins: and truth shall be cast down on the ground….”

In the latter part of the 19th century, Cardinal Henry Edward Manning gave a series of four lectures titled The Present Crisis of the Holy See: A Warning About Antichrist. Cardinal Manning, commenting on the above prophecy of Daniel, concludes:

The holy Fathers who have written upon the subject of Antichrist, and of these prophecies of Daniel, without a single exception, as far as I know, and they are Fathers both of the East and of the West, the Greek and the Latin Church – all of them unanimously – say that in the latter end of the world, during the reign of Antichrist, the holy sacrifice of the altar will cease.”

In consideration of the present coronavirus epidemic, it is extraordinarily revealing that the first preventative measure proposed or ordered by secular authorities, and widely acquiesced to by Church hierarchy, has been the suspension of public Masses. In almost every case, this has preceded any closing of bars, restaurants, sports events, entertainment venues, schools, or any other sorts of large gatherings. And Catholic Italy, and especially Catholic Rome, have led the way.

We should consider what is happening as a kind of test – a trial-run of the spirit of Antichrist – a test which the Church has almost universally failed, and which will now pave the way for greater intrusion of the spirit of Antichrist within, and over, the Church.

We have now two options: of choosing to see and lift up our faces to God for the solution to what is now descending upon us; or of burying our minds and hearts in the caves of self-deceit which will eventually and inevitably lead us to despair and betrayal. We no longer have the option of going about our spiritual lives as a kind of “business as usual”.

It is precisely this seeing with our eyes and understanding with our heart Mt. (13:15) which has been the constant goal of the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. It consists entirely in persuading Catholics that there is only one recourse available, and only one solution remains: a Nineveh-like united recourse to Our Lady in praying the Rosary for our interior purification. It is only here where we may come to that fullness of grace, power, and purification in the Holy Spirit necessary for the spiritual combat that is now upon us.

During the past two and one-half years we have proposed the Double Feast of the Purification and Presentation on February 2nd as singularly appropriate for such a united recourse. If this Feast were to come during the coming weeks, such a united public effort at prayer would, in a great many cities and states, be almost certainly illegal from the standpoint of civil policy and legislation, and forbidden by the Church itself.

Such an exile of Catholics from their churches, and barring them from receiving Christ sacramentally through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which should be offered within these churches, should call forth from our minds and hearts a grief and a yearning similar to that which was experienced by Mary, as examined in our article The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple. In explaining why Jesus mysteriously absented Himself from the presence of Mary and Joseph, Our Lady said to Mary of Agreda:

 My daughter, all the works of My Most Holy Son and My own actions are full of mysterious instruction and doctrine for the mortals who contemplate them diligently and reverently. The Lord absented Himself from me in order that, seeking Him in sorrow and tears, I might find Him again in joy and with abundant fruits for my soul. I desire that thou imitate me in this mystery and seek Him with such earnestness, as to be consumed with a continual longing, without ever in this life coming to any rest until thou holdest Him and canst lose Him no more.”

Being consumed with a continual longing, without ever in this life coming to any rest until thou holdest Him and canst lose Him no more” must now be the constant and overriding passion of our minds and hearts. In accord with Our Lady’s words at Fatima, this is to be accomplished through taking refuge in Her Immaculate Heart and through a united praying of the Rosary for our own purification and deliverance from our enemies. If possible, this should be done through united prayers in our churches, processions, etc. If this way is blocked for us, then Our Lord will certainly be pleased with our united intentions offered in our homes or wherever possible. We strongly recommend the practice of making a spiritual communion during every Hail Mary according to the method recommended in our article The Rosary: The Way of Perfection. This would seem singularly appropriate for those who are now being denied participation in Mass and the reception of Holy Communion.

We especially recommend uniting in prayer on the coming Feast of the Annunciation on March 25th – the Feast of the Incarnation, which St. Louis de Montfort declared to contain the grace and intention of all the rest of the Mysteries of His Life, and therefore all the graces necessary to enlighten our hearts and minds that we might see, and understand, and act. We must never surrender to the notion that we are reduced to any sort of impotency in regard to the forces of Antichrist that are now being arrayed against us. The greatest and most powerful act of our lives is prayer.

 

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St. Francis and Lady Poverty

Image result for Our Lady of Sorrows   Please read our Original Proposal

Part II of our series on Fear of the Lord and the Beatitude of Poverty of Spirit is published below. It focuses on St. Francis’ “Lady Poverty”, and is an expanded and enhanced version of a previous article on St. Francis. We consider it to be our most important article for penetrating to the root cause of the destruction of Christian civilization, and exposing what is now the greatest threat to the personal salvation of each and every one of us.

The Introductory article, and Part I of this series, are found here and here.

Fear of the Lord

And the Beatitude of Poverty of Spirit

 

Part II: St. Francis and Lady Poverty

 

“For it can only follow that a person will live on heavenly things if he cares nothing for earthly things.

(The Sacrum Commercium of St. Francis with His Lady Poverty)

 

Hence it is written (Mt. 12:22) that the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word of God, for as Gregory says, by preventing the good desire from entering into the heart, they destroy life at its very outset. (ST, II-II, Q.186, A.3)

 

The above two quotes – the first from The Sacrum Commercium of St. Francis, the second from the Summa Theologica of  St. Thomas – are in complete agreement. We profoundly deceive ourselves if we attempt to divorce “poverty of spirit” from our relationship to all the goods of the world around us. Our entire spiritual life is dependent upon the proper beginning: “For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.” (Mt. 6:21). And there is nowhere where we may come to a more fruitful understanding of the nature and scope of this Beatitude than by studying the life and teaching of St. Francis of Assisi.

 

Saint Francis of Assisi:

They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You

 

“In no one has the image of Christ our Lord and the ideal of Gospel life been more faithfully and strikingly expressed than in Francis. For this reason, while he called himself ‘the Herald of the great King’, he has justly been styled ‘the second Christ’, because he appeared like Christ reborn to his contemporaries no less than to later ages.”  (Pope Pius XI, Rite Expiatis)

We have to go back to the Thirteenth Century in order to understand the crisis which has now largely decimated the Catholic Church. What happened almost eight hundred years ago instituted a spiraling process of betrayal which culminated in the chastisement from God which we have experienced as the post-Vatican Council II Church. That we now think Vatican II to be the source of this crisis, rather than its fruit, serves to indicate the degree to which self-delusion is the mistress of such betrayal. The darkness which has collectively descended over the Catholic mind, and the resultant ignorance in regard to the roots of its own illness, is now almost universal.

The thirteenth century was “The Greatest of Centuries,” not primarily because it was the century in which there were great Saints, magnificent cathedrals, Catholic monarchs, or even because it was the century in which all the principles of Catholic Faith and Catholic life were most incarnated into the institutions of society. These “fruits” (to the limited extent to which they were realized) were derivative, rather than causative. Rather, it was the greatest of centuries because it was in this century that God bathed both human intellect and will in the transparent light of His own presence to the world. By so doing, he infused into our cultural “vision” an iconography of the perfect ordering of these two faculties towards both the created and the Divine orders. The two primary vehicles of this revelation were St. Francis and St. Thomas. And this, not primarily because of their personal holiness, but because of the double-vision of life (the living of the Beatitudes) and Truth (especially St. Thomas’ theology and metaphysics) which God revealed through them.

Correspondingly, the roots of that spiritual decay which has increasingly penetrated Christian civilization over the past 7-8 centuries, and which has now culminated in the virtual death of this civilization, can be identified with two causative factors: 1) the stripping  away from St. Francis of his Religious Order through the destruction of the ideal of Poverty, in which the Gospel light of purity of heart [which “sees God”] was manifested to the world in all its fullness; and, 2) the rejection of the purity of Thomistic Metaphysics, which contained the intellectual framework and vision absolutely necessary to our  perception of the transparency of all creation, and therefore also integral to this vision of God’s presence in the world. This twofold violation – of Franciscan Poverty and Thomistic Metaphysics – in turn engendered a war between Franciscan and Dominican spirituality which has been perpetuated down through the centuries. Such conflict could only have happened through a falsification of the charisms of both Orders. As Francis and Dominic literally embraced each other in their own lives, so did God intend the embrace of Franciscan and Dominican spirituality (especially in the form of Thomism)  to endure until the end of time.

The Thirteenth century was poised on the cusp of the Renaissance, and the flood of pagan concupiscence and intellectual hubris which was about to inundate Christendom. In the heart of this threatened world, God planted the two gifts of Franciscan Poverty and Thomistic Realism as Icons of Love and Truth, the vision of which would infuse every aspect of human culture with all that was necessary to protect it from these evils. These Gifts were rejected, and this rejection initiated a fundamental posture of prostitution towards the world which, like a slow-moving cancer, has eaten away at the heart of the Church for centuries. Wrongly, therefore, do we now wail at the post-Vatican II ruin of our Catholic world as though it were a sudden calamity unjustly inflicted. As we shall see, ours is a chastisement long merited.

In previous articles, we have dealt more extensively with the Gift of Thomas, and its rejection. Most of this article will focus on St. Francis, but also with an emphasis on integrating the visions of these two great Saints.

 

St. Francis: The Key to Catholic Restoration

“Here the broad highway of the old world changed into the narrow way to life eternal.”

The above-quoted passage, taken from the early life of St. Francis titled The Mirror of Perfection (Speculum Perfectionis – to be designated here as SC)), speaks of that moment of God’s radical intervention in human history which was the life of St. Francis of Assisi. The great, tragic irony is that, despite the immense popularity of the Saint himself, even during his lifetime, this grace was almost immediately compromised and falsified by many who claimed to be his friends.

It may indeed seem disproportionate to place so much spiritual and historical importance upon one man, and the particular grace to the Church and the world which he represented. It would seem of value therefore to begin with the evaluation of Francis made by Popes in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries who saw in the following of St. Francis the great hope for the restoration of Christian civilization, and the defeat of all those forces which threatened its destruction. In his encyclical Rite Expiatis (On the Seventh Centenary of the Death of St. Francis), Pope Pius XI wrote:

“…in no one has the image of Christ our Lord and the ideal of Gospel life been more faithfully and strikingly expressed than in Francis. For this reason, while he called himself “the Herald of the great King,” he has justly been styled “the second Christ,” because he appeared like Christ reborn to his contemporaries no less than to later ages….”

Pope Benedict XV, in Sacra Propediem, expressed similar sentiments:

The words of St. Paul, ‘Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ,’ we may justly apply to Francis, who by following Christ has become His most perfect image and likeness.”

Popes such as Leo XIII, Pius X, Benedict XV, and Pius XI all saw in this “following” of St. Francis something that was the key to overcoming the crisis of the present age:

“[St. Francis] has been appointed by Our Predecessor [Pope Leo XIII] as heavenly patron of the so-called Catholic Action, being a man destined by God for the reformation not only of his own turbulent age but of Christian society in all times.” (Rite Expiatis).

This translated into a call from these Popes for virtually all Catholics to join the Third Order of St. Francis:

We do urge all Christians not to be behindhand in joining the ranks of this soldiery of Christ.” (Leo XIII, Auspicato).

Urge those who have not yet entered this distinguished militia to do so this year. And let those who are too young become Cordbearers of St. Francis so that even the children may grow accustomed to the life.” (Rite Expiatis).

In other words, the gift of God which is the life and ideal of St. Francis of Assisi is to be seen not only as of a sort of general inspiration and motivation towards holiness, as is the case with all saints, but for a very specific purpose – for salvation of Christian civilization from all those forces which intend its destruction.

We should be startled by this assessment. No one could possibly conclude that the Franciscan Order of today possesses the power or grace to reform or save Christian civilization. The application of such terms as “militia” and “soldier” to the Franciscan Order now seems for the most part laughable, and the notion that children should be “Cordbearers” in such a militia seems even more absurd. Something happened which virtually destroyed the power of this inestimable gift from God. In order to understand this “something”, we need to penetrate to the heart of Francis’ life and ideal, and then unravel the betrayal which ensued.

 

An Icon in Stone

It is appropriate to begin with an iconographic depiction of this grace and its betrayal.

Four kilometers from Assisi stands the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the seventh largest church in Christendom, built over and around the original home of the Franciscan Order. Within this magnificent and massive structure, and directly under the cupola, stands a tiny church (only 22’ X 13’6”) called the Portiuncula (the word translates as “little portion of land”). The Portiuncula is the singular place on this earth most beloved to St. Francis; it is where he founded his Order, and where he passionately desired the most perfect preservation of his ideal. And, in St. Francis’ own words, “Of all the churches in the world that the blessed Virgin loves, she bears the greatest love for this one.” (Legend of Perugia, 9 – hereafter abbreviated LP)).

It is especially important to understand that the Portiuncula was never owned by Francis or the Order. To this day, the Franciscans pay an annual rent of one basket of fish to the Benedictines for its use.

The ideal which St. Francis desired to be preserved in this most holy of Franciscan sites was the Franciscan charism of Poverty. We must realize that Francis’ ideal of Poverty soared far beyond the evangelical counsel of poverty which we associate with the religious life. His “Lady Poverty” extended to all that is human – both interior and exterior. It encompassed the entirety of the Gospel – the mystery of Christ assuming absolute servitude and poverty for our salvation: God, poor in His birth, poor in His life and public ministry, and embracing absolute Poverty in His Death. As emphasized by Popes Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI, Francis’ charism of poverty penetrated to the heart of the perfect imitation of Jesus Christ: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58).

Because St. Francis considered the Portiuncula to be “holy, beloved, and chosen before all others by Christ and the glorious Virgin” (SP, 55), and because he intensely desired that the Portiuncula be the example and model for all the rest of the order, he gave minute instructions before his death for the preservation of this ideal. These instructions applied first of all to all those practices which cultivate the interior life of holiness – silence, prayer, holy conversation, physical labor, fasting and other forms of physical mortification. Especially, he sought to keep this place free from worldly conversation and news, and free from all that is not edifying.  He gave specific instructions as to the qualities needed in the clergy and friars who were to reside and serve here, and he stated, “I do not wish anyone else, whether layfolk or friars, to enter this place, except the Minister General and the lay-brothers who serve them.” (Ibid.).

During St. Francis’ life, the General Chapter was held at the Portiuncula. The only dwelling that the friars had for their gathering was a small, poor hut covered with straw, the walls being constructed of branches and mud. Francis returned from one of the provinces to find that the citizens of Assisi had hastily erected a larger building for their use. Francis’ response was radical and drastic. He ordered his brothers up on the roof, and they began tearing off the tiles and throwing them to the ground, with the intention of demolishing the whole building. The citizens of Assisi finally persuaded Francis to desist from his project of demolition, employing the argument that this particular building belonged to the community of Assisi, and was not in any way to be perceived as the property of the Friars Minor.

At another time, the Minister General (most likely Francis’ Vicar, Brother Elias) decided to build two small houses close to the Church of the Portiuncula because of the increasing number of brothers and general population who came to this place, and because “it was practically impossible for them to provide for the needs of physical health and their spiritual life.” (LP,12)). Upon returning from a journey, and having discovered this construction almost completed, Francis sent for the minister general and said to him: “Brother, this friary is the model and mirror of our Order. So that the brothers of the entire Order who come here may take back to their friaries the good example of poverty, I wish that the brothers of this friary bear with inconvenience and disturbance for the love of the Lord God rather than experience tranquility and consolations.”

There is therefore no question that the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in all the various dimensions of its physical and spiritual grandiosity, amounts to a profound betrayal of St. Francis. One cannot help but call to mind the words of Our Lord: “Woe to you who build the monuments of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.” (Luke 11:47). The difference here being that, with the tragedy which has befallen the Portiuncula, it was not St. Francis himself who was slain, but his ideal.

 

The Franciscan Ideal

Francis knew that what God intended to accomplish through his Order was something radically different from all other religious Orders. In his Testament, written shortly before his death, and designed not as another rule, but “that we may observe in a more Catholic way the Rule we have promised to God”, St. Francis wrote the following:

When God gave me some friars, there was no one to tell me what I should do; but the Most High himself made it clear to me that I must live the life of the Gospel. I had this written down briefly and simply and his holiness the Pope confirmed it for me [this early Rule has been lost]. Those who embraced this life gave everything to the poor. They were satisfied with one habit which was patched inside and outside, and a cord, and trousers. We refused to have anything more…The friars must be very careful not to accept churches or poor dwellings for themselves, or anything else built for them unless they are in harmony with the poverty which we have promised in the Rule; and they should occupy these places as strangers and pilgrims [no ownership]. In virtue of obedience, I strictly forbid the friars, wherever they may be, to petition the Roman Curia, either personally or through an intermediary, for a papal brief, whether it concerns a church or any other place, or even in order to preach, or because they are being persecuted… They should always have this writing [the Testament] with them as well as the Rule and at the chapters they hold, when the Rule is read, they should read these words also. In virtue of obedience, I strictly forbid any of my friars, clerics or lay brothers, to interpret the Rule or these words, saying, ‘This is what they mean.’ God inspired me to write the Rule and these words plainly and simply, and so you too must understand them plainly and simply, and live by them, doing good to the last.”

St. Francis envisioned such poverty for both individual friars and the Order as a whole. He gave strict orders that all friars must beg, that they must never touch money, that they must labor with their hands, they must never ride an animal unless sickness or old age demands such mercy, that all buildings must be extremely poor and constructed only of mud and wood, that they must not own books or pursue learning, etc.

As the Order grew in numbers, these demands became insupportable to Brother Elias and many of the provincial ministers. The Speculum Perfectionis offers an account of an incident which occurred quite late in life, during the period when he was writing the Rule of 1223. It is worth quoting in full, since it presents to us the Francis that very few wish to know:

“After the second Rule written by blessed Francis had been lost, he went up a mountain (Monte Colombo, near Rieti) with Brother Leo of Assisi and Brother Bonizo of Bologna, to draw up another, and under the guidance of Christ he had it written down. But many Ministers came in a body to Brother Elias, the Vicar of blessed Francis [Francis had resigned], and said, ‘We hear that Brother Francis is drawing up a new Rule, and we fear that he will make it so harsh that it will be impossible for us to keep it. So we would like you to go and tell him that we are not willing to be bound by this Rule. Let him make it for himself, and not for us.’ But Brother Elias feared a rebuke from the holy Father, and refused to go. And when they all pressed him, he said that he would not go without them, so they all went together.

“When Brother Elias approached the place where blessed Francis was standing, he called to him. And when he had answered and saw the Ministers, he asked, ‘What do these Brothers want?’ Brother Elias said, ‘They are Ministers, who hear that you are drawing up a new Rule, and they fear that you intend to make it too hard. They refuse to be bound by it, and ask you to make it for yourself, and not for them.’

“At this blessed Francis raised his face to heaven and spoke to Christ, saying, ‘Lord, was I not right when I said that they would not believe me?’ And all present heard the voice of Christ answer from heaven, ‘Francis, nothing in this Rule is yours; for all is Mine. I wish the Rule to be obeyed to the letter, to the letter, without a gloss, without a gloss. I know what the frailty of man can achieve, and I know how much I intend to help them. So let those who are not willing to obey the Rule leave the Order.’

“Then blessed Francis turned to the friars and said, ‘You have heard! You have heard! Do you want this to be repeated?’ And the Ministers confessed their fault and went away confused and terrified.” (SP, 1).

Elias and the Ministers of course had a reasonable concern – reasonable at least from the perspective of every worldly concern imaginable. The Order had grown astronomically. There were all the issues of housing, feeding, government, discipline, etc. normally associated with such a large organization. It was only natural for the Church hierarchy, including the Pope, to desire that the Order be established as an efficient organization for ministry and missionary activity. All this seemed impossible under Francis’ radical prohibitions against everything which insured any sort of stability or security for the Order, or which failed to provide security in regard to the “necessities” of life. Over and over again, we find Francis reiterating the same prescription for being a Friar Minor: “I assure you, brother, that it has been and remains my first and last intention and desire – had the brethren only believed me – that no friar should possess anything but a habit, a cord, and an undergarment, as our Rule allows.” [sometimes he would add “shoes in the case of necessity”].

It is extremely important to understand that the objections raised by Elias and the Ministers, and the rationale used to justify these objections, were fully understood by St. Francis, and completely rejected by him. Francis received assurance directly from Christ that this extreme ideal of Poverty was the will of God for the Franciscan Order, no matter how large the Order became or what difficulties might be encountered with the increase and spread of the Order. The Mirror of Perfection recalls the following incident:

When the Friar Ministers urged him to allow the friars to possess something, at least in common, so that so great a company might have some resources, blessed Francis called upon Christ in prayer, and took counsel with Him on the matter. And Christ at once answered him, saying, ‘It is My will to withhold all things from them, both in general and in particular. I will always be ready to provide for the family, however great it may become, and I will always cherish it so long as it shall trust in Me’.”  (SP, 13).

The simple, historical fact is that many provincial ministers, Minister Generals like Elias and St. Bonaventure, and future Popes, chose to trust neither Francis nor Christ.

The rejection of the Gift of God which was St. Francis and his ideal was not the accomplishment of men who intended evil towards the Franciscan Order, but rather a work of benighted love coming from his friends. Ministers and Popes (except, apparently, Innocent III) simply did not understand what God intended to do through St. Francis, and did not believe that his ideal could be realized on the scale of a large Religious Order. Francis’ response was simply to resign.

It is rationally incontestable that the life of no other Saint has been falsified to the extreme extent as has been the life of St. Francis. As we have seen, the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels is an icon of this betrayal in stone. But the falsification courses deep into every aspect of Francis’ life and message. This is especially true of the conventional rational given for his resignation as head of the Order.

Francis’ illness was certainly a sufficient excuse justifying his resignation, but it was not the determining reason. Responding to a question from one of his friars concerning this matter, Francis said:

I put the Order back in the hands of God and of the ministers. I relinquished my post and resigned, excusing myself at the general chapter because my sickness would not allow me to care for the brothers. And yet, if the brothers had walked and were still walking according to my will, I would prefer that they have no other minister but myself until the day of my death. In fact, when subjects are good and faithful, when they know and fulfill the will of their superior, then the superior has scarcely any anxiety concerning them. What is more, I would experience such joy seeing the quality of the brothers and such comfort at the thought of our progress that I would let them have their own way and I would feel no added burden, even if I were nailed to a bed through sickness.

“My duty, my mandate as superior of the brothers, is of a spiritual order because I must repress vices and correct them. But if through my exhortations and my example I can neither suppress nor correct them, I do not wish to become an executioner who punishes and flogs, as the secular arm does. I have confidence in the Lord that they will be punished by invisible enemies (those valets of the Lord in charge of punishing in this world and in the next those who transgress God’s commandments); they will be punished and corrected by the men of this world to their great shame and confusion, and in that way they will return to their profession and vocation.” ( Legend of Perugia, 76).

The Mirror of Perfection relates a similar question from one of the friars, and records the following response of Francis: “For some of the superiors pull them in another direction, holding up to them as patterns the men of long ago, and disregarding warnings. But what they are doing and the way in which they are now acting will appear more clearly in the end.” The author then closes his account of this incident with the following:

And shortly afterwards, when he was burdened with severe illness, he raised himself in bed, and cried out in vehemence of spirit, ‘Who are these who have torn my Order and my friars out of my hands? If I come to the General Chapter I will make my intention clear!’”

Having established the fact of St. Francis’ consuming passion for radical Poverty, and its absolute centrality in regard to the Gift which God intended as the Franciscan Order, we need to penetrate to the reasons for this love.

 

Sacrum Commercium

Possibly the most revealing and enchanting of all the early works on the life of St. Francis is a work composed in the year 1227 (one year after Francis’ death), titled Sacrum Commercium. The title literally means “holy commerce or exchange.” It is an allegory depicting Francis’ romance with Lady Poverty, penetrating to the depths of the meaning and centrality of this virtue, and examining its history among men.

The Prologue to Sacrum Commercium begins as follows:

Among all the excellent and excelling virtues that prepares in man a place and a dwelling for God and show man the better and easier way of going to God and of arriving at him, holy poverty stands out above all the rest by a certain precedence and excels the glory of the others by its singular grace, for it is indeed the foundation of all other virtues and their guardian, and it rightly stands first both in place [Poverty stands at the head of the list of Beatitudes] and its name among other evangelical virtues. The other virtues need not fear the pouring down of rain, the coming of floods, and the blowing of winds that threaten destruction, so long as they are solidly established upon this foundation of poverty.

“This is indeed as it should be, for the Son of God, ‘the Lord of hosts and the king of glory’, loved this virtue with a special predilection, sought it out, and found it, when he wrought our salvation upon this earth. At the beginning of his preaching he placed this virtue as a light in the hands of those who enter the portal of faith and made it the foundation stone of his house. The other virtues receive the kingdom of heaven only in promise from him; poverty, however, is already invested with it without delay. For ‘blessed are the poor in spirit, he said, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’.

“Very properly is the kingdom of heaven said to be the possession of those who keep nothing of the goods of this world through their own will, their inclination towards spiritual things, and their desire for eternal things. For it can only follow that a person will live on heavenly things if he cares nothing for earthly things, and he who renounces all earthly things and ‘counts them as dung’ will taste with pleasure the savory crumbs that fall from the table of the holy angels and will deserve to taste how sweet and how good the Lord is.”

It is worthwhile noting here again that St. Thomas establishes a one-to-one correlation between the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the first seven Beatitudes. The First Beatitude, Poverty, corresponds to the First Gift of the Holy Spirit – Fear of the Lord. And just as Fear of the Lord is “the beginning of wisdom” and therefore the pre-requisite for all further growth in the spirit, so Poverty is the foundation of all the other virtues, and therefore the pre-requisite for all advancement in living the Gospel life of the Beatitudes. We must be poor in spirit to all the things of this world if we are to become rich in God.

Sacrum Commercium offers a unique contribution to early Franciscan literature, because of its examination of the history of Poverty among men. Lady Poverty, in her conversation on the top of the “mountain of the Lord” (where St. Francis and his companions had ascended to meet her), stated her intention: “I therefore wish to recount for you, if listening to me will not bore you, the long but none the less useful history of my status, that you might learn how you ought to walk to please God, taking care not to look back once you have willed to put your hand to the plow.”

After examining the creation of man in Paradise, wherein “possessing nothing, he belonged entirely to God,” Lady Poverty then details man’s Fall from innocence, his being clothed with “the skins of the dead,” and his being cast out of Paradise “to multiply his labors that he might become rich,” and to await in tears and sorrow for a Redeemer – “until the Most High came into the world from the bosom of the Father, he who sought me [Lady Poverty] out most graciously.”

In turn, when Christ was to return to the Father, He sent his Apostles and Disciples out into the world in this same spirit of Poverty – “Everyone of you who does not renounce all that he possesses cannot be my disciple” – in order to convert all peoples back to God and the living of the Gospel.

This devotion to Lady Poverty overflowed into all the early followers of Christ. She refers specifically to the passages in the Book of Acts which details the character of their lives;

And all they that believed, were together, and had all things in common. Their possessions and goods they sold, and divided them to all, according as everyone had need. And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they took their meat with gladness and simplicity             of heart; Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord increased daily together such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:44-47).

And:

“And the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul: neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but all things were common unto them. And with great power did the apostles give testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord; and great grace was in them all. For neither was there any one needy among them. For as many as were owners of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the price of the things they sold, and laid it down before the feet of the apostles. And distribution was made to every one according as he had need.” (Acts 4:32-35).

It is clear from the above two passages that it was precisely this “commercium” of Poverty among the early followers of Christ that merited the grace for the massive conversions of early peoples to Christ and the Gospel. In the words of Lady Poverty,

The truth of their words [in the Book of Acts] remained for a long time among many, at least as long as the blood of the poor Crucified One was warm in their memory, and the overflowing chalice of his passion filled their hearts unto inebriation…Enduring, this victory lasted for a long time, so that each day a thousand thousands were sealed with the seal of the most high King.”

Lady Poverty’s words here would seem to be deserving of profound contemplation: she says that Gospel poverty, Christian unity, the deepest self-sacrificing charity towards our brethren, and the conversion of thousands upon thousands was dependent completely upon an interior life in which “the blood of the poor Crucified One was warm in their memory, and the overflowing chalice of his passion filled their hearts unto inebriation”. In a contemporary “Catholic” Church where poverty is now spurned, unity is a chimera, and any sort of Christian community and civilization embodying true Christian charity are only an historical memory, we should experience no wonder that, in anticipation of the state of Christians living near to the time of His Second Coming, Our Lord should proclaim that “the charity of many shall grow cold” (Mt. 24:12), and that He asked His followers whether they thought there would be any faith when He returned (Luke 18: 8).

Lady Poverty then proceeds to recount the great disaster that descended upon early Christianity:

But alas! After not too long a time, peace was made, and that peace was more disastrous than any war. In the beginning few were sealed; toward the middle, still fewer; and at the end, very few indeed. And now certainly in peace is my bitterness most bitter when all flee from me, all drive me away; I am needed by none, I am abandoned by all. Peace was granted me by my enemies, but not by my own; peace from strangers, but not from my own children.”

Readers might ask themselves if during any of their years as a Catholic they have ever heard the above passages from the Book of Acts given any serious treatment from the pulpit, or have ever encountered any serious attempt to explain the disaster which destroyed this early purity of Christian living.

The Early Church Fathers, who lived in these times of decay, were not always so silent. St. Cyprian of Carthage (250 A.D.), for instance, wrote a work titled The Unity of the Church. It was quoted extensively in Pope Leo XIII’s own encyclical on The Unity of the Church (Satis Cognitum). In the following passage from St. Cyprian’s work, we ask the reader to note carefully the extent to which he clearly makes orthodox belief and “unity of mind” dependent upon Poverty, and the Charity which is its “commercium:”

This common mind prevailed once, in the time of the Apostles; this was the spirit in which the new community of the believers obeyed Our Lord’s commands and maintained charity with one another. The Scriptures are witness to it: ‘But the crowd of those who had come to believe acted with one mind and soul.’ And again: ‘They were all persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary who had been the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren’ And that was the reason why their prayers were efficacious, that was why they could be confident of obtaining whatever they asked of God’s mercy.

“But amongst us, that unity of mind has weakened in proportion as the generosity of our charity has crumbled away. In those days, they would sell their houses and estates and lay up to themselves treasure in heaven by giving the money to the Apostles for distribution to those in need. But now, we do not even give tithes on our patrimony, and whereas Our Lord tells us to sell, we buy instead and accumulate. To such an extent have our people lost their old steadfastness in belief. That is why Our Lord says in His Gospel, with an eye on our times: ‘The Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?’”

We need not get lost in trying to figure the extent to which this “having all things in common” was external. There could be endless, useless speculation in this regard. It is clear, however, that these first Christians broke bread “from house to house”, and that at least some therefore possessed their own homes. We need speculate no further in this regard than did the writer of the Epistle to Diognetus, writing almost 100 years later (130 A.D.): “They have a common table, but not a common bed.” It was the spirit that mattered – the externals obviously had their limits. As the passage from Acts 4 states, “Neither did any one say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own”. Their physical poverty was real, but not absolute. Their “spirit of poverty”, on the other hand, was quite absolute indeed. This Christian heart in which this spirit was operative was aptly described in the following passage from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (7: 29-31):

This therefore I say, brethren; the time is short; it remaineth, that they also who have wives, be as if they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away.”

And what makes this spirit possible?

The above-quoted passages from Acts have been quoted in order to exemplify the simplicity and poverty which was the core charism of the early Christians and St. Francis. But these scriptures also expose to our vision something deeper within the human heart, which makes such simplicity and poverty both possible and necessary. The one word which would seem to best express this “something” is “immediacy”. It is the immediacy – defined as “the quality of bringing one into direct and instant involvement with something, giving rise to a sense of urgency or excitement” – which most characterizes the heart of these first Christians, and of St. Francis and his faithful followers. And this immediacy is at the same time always present – it penetrated into all that these first Christians did, and every moment and part of their existence. Repeating what Lady Poverty says in Sacrum Commercium: The truth of their words [in the Book of Acts] remained for a long time among many, at least as long as the blood of the poor Crucified One was warm in their memory, and the overflowing chalice of his passion filled their hearts unto inebriation…Enduring, this victory lasted for a long time, so that each day a thousand thousands were sealed with the seal of the most high King.”

Interestingly, God’s demand that man recognize the immediacy of His presence, and be constantly inebriated with his presence, is not something which only became possible after the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Possibly the greatest passage in all of scripture depicting this “spirit” is to be found in Deuteronomy:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: and thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between the eyes.” Deut 6:4-8).

This image of the constant presence of God “moving between the eyes” is possibly the greatest mystical image in all of Christian literature. We are dealing here with human hearts and minds possessed by God in all their thoughts and activities.

It is this immediacy of the human heart among these first Christians which made possible the “single eye” which directed everything towards Christ. Further, it made possible not only this singular relationship with Christ, but with others who were members of His Body, and it also enabled true charity towards all other human beings (both friends and enemies) simply because they were all created “by Him, and in Him” (Colossians 1:16).

This profoundly “common” union of hearts with Christ and one another merited the grace that “the Lord increased daily such as should be saved”. This is why we see so many miracles among the early Christians, why we see the fulfillment of Our Lord’s words that “you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7), why 3,000 would be converted one day, and 5,000 another, and that there could be such astonishingly rapid conversions of whole people and nations to Christ.

It is not at all necessary to be utopian in order to understand the unique spirit of these first Christians. Where there is human nature, there is always sin. We see these sins in the story of Ananias and Saphira, who sold land, gave part while hypocritically pretending to give all, and were punished by God. We see it present in the various churches as revealed in the letters of St. Paul, especially those to the Corinthians, in regard to the unseemly behavior indulged in at Agape Feasts, the adulterous behavior of a son with his Father’s wife, the competition of various factions who claimed to be followers of one teacher in opposition to others, etc. We explore the lives of these early Christians not because the perfection of human beings was across-the board accomplished, but because it was indeed present and visible in a way which it is not now – present to such an extent as to merit all sorts of extraordinary graces from God, and in a way which can clearly be contrasted with our present nakedness in this regard.

And so, we are compelled to ask the inevitable question: What happened within the depths of the souls of Catholics during the early decades and centuries of the Christian era which compromised this immediacy of Christ presence within the followers of Christ, and profoundly diminished the visible evidence of the power of God’s grace operative through them? Again, the answer is to be found in scripture – this time most aptly expressed in the Letter of St. James:

You ask, and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences.” (4:3)/

Everything we have is a gift from God. To see the life of Christ which is “the light of men” (John 1: 4), and to follow this life and light with a passionate and upright heart is to remain in the immediacy and presence of God’s Truth and Life. Sin, both original and personal, is the turning aside the gifts of God in order to possess and use them as our own possessions: “All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way….” (Isaiah 53: 6). We all tend to do it. The extent to which we do it corresponds to the degree to which God’s immediacy and presence is lost to us, and we become immersed in hypocrisy and duplicity. At a certain point we enter into the spiritual death of mortal sin.

 

Lady Poverty and the Beatitude of Society

The nature of the Gift which God intended to give to societies through St. Francis, and which the world (including most of his own Order) rejected, is possibly best seen through St. Francis’ teaching on begging. In the Legend of Perugia, #3, we encounter the following:

My dear brothers and sons, do not be ashamed to go begging for alms, for God became poor for our sake in this world. That is why we have chosen the road of genuine poverty in imitation of his example and that of his holy Mother: this is the inheritance that our Lord Jesus Christ has acquired and left us, to us and to those who, following him, have chosen to live in holy poverty.” Then he added, “In truth I say to you, many nobles and scholars of this world will enter our Order, and will consider themselves highly honored to beg for alms. Go therefore and beg with confidence, with a joyful heart, and with the blessing of God. You ought to ask for alms with more cheerfulness and joy than a man who would offer a hundred pennies for one: in exchange for the alms that you solicit, you will offer the love of God, since you will say: ‘Give us an alms for the love of God!’ and heaven and earth are nothing when compared to this love.”

Francis envisioned a dynamic of charity at the heart of the relationship between his Order and the rest of the world. The Franciscan imitation of Christ’s Poverty was to be lived to the fullest extent by his brothers. The extraordinary graces received through this imitation of Christ were to be communicated to others through example, works of charity, and the preaching of the Gospel. The faithful would merit and receive these graces through their providing the extremely simple necessities of life required by the friars. The fact that the graces received by these early Franciscans were real, extraordinary, and abundant is testified to by the plentiful early accounts of Francis and his companions who were faithful to their Franciscan vocation. The fact that the faithful responded to these graces in vast numbers is testified to by the incredibly rapid spread of the order, the large number of conversions, the early establishment and proliferation of the Third Order, the miracles, healings, miraculous resolution of enmities, etc. And it all came down to a formula of the most startling simplicity: one friar living Absolute Poverty, with all its implications both exterior and interior; and, on the other hand, one lay person, rich or poor, whose heart was open to receive these graces, and to respond with a slice of bread, bowl of soup, and possibly a humble place to spend the night. Although it is not recorded that St. Francis expressed his ideal in exactly this formula as just stated, it all comes down to this eminently simple, and fully realizable, ideal.

There would be no limit to the number of friars who could realistically follow such a life. Correspondingly, there would be no limit to the graces received by individuals, or by whole societies and nations which opened themselves up to truly living Gospel Poverty in accord with their particular state of life. Sin would, of course, continue to exist. But the graces penetrating into the heart of those societies which had embraced this experiment, would have prevented the growth not only of the unlimited materialism, avarice, usury, consumerism, impurity, murder of the unborn, and the incessant warfares which now scourge mankind in the flesh, but also all the manifestations of intellectual hubris – reductive science, technological oppression, and philosophical and theological error and heresy – which have now reduced the vast majority of men to intellectual and spiritual insanity.

It is also very important to understand that St. Francis founded the first Third Order for lay people. The Rule that he established for the Third Order did not of course require the extreme poverty which was to be the way of his Friars. Rather, it established them in that spirit of poverty which would empower lay people to engage effectively in that battle against the allurements of this world which are the ruin of the spiritual life. It will be worthwhile here to quote a rather long passage from Thomas of Celano’s First Life of St. Francis:

“Francis, therefore, Christ’s valiant knight, went round the cities and fortresses proclaiming the Kingdom of God, preaching peace, teaching salvation and repentance for the remission of sins, not with plausible words of human wisdom, but with the learning and power of the Spirit. The Apostolic authority which had been granted him enabled him to act in all things with greater confidence, without using flattery or seducing blandishments. Incapable of caressing the faults of certain men, he could pierce them; incapable of showing favor to the lives of sinners, he could smite them with sharp reproof because he had first persuaded himself by practice of that which he endeavored to commend to others by his words; and without fear of any reprove he uttered the truth most confidently, so that even the most learned men, mighty in renown and dignity, wondered at his discourses and were smitten by his presence with wholesome fear. Men ran, women too ran, clerks hastened, and Religious made speed to see and hear the Saint of God who seemed to all to be a man of another world. People of every age and wither sex hastened to behold the wonders which the Lord was newly working in the world by His servant. Surely at that time, whether by Holy Francis’ presence or by the fame [of him], it seemed that, as it were, a new light had been sent from heaven on earth, scattering the universal blackness of darkness which had so seized on well-nigh the whole of that region, that scarce any one knew whither he must go. For such depth of forgetfulness of God and such slumber of neglect of His commandments had oppressed almost all that they could scarce endure to be roused, even slightly, from their old and inveterate sins.

“He darted his beams like a star shining in the gloom of night, and as it were the morning, spreading over the darkness; and thus it came to pass that in all in a short time the face of the whole province was changed, and she appeared of more cheerful countenance, the former foulness having everywhere been laid aside. The former dryness was done away and in the field erstwhile hard the crops sprang up quickly; the untended vine began moreover to put forth shoots of divine fragrance, and, after bearing blossoms of sweetness, yielded fruits of honor and virtue together. Everywhere thanksgiving and the voices of praise were resounding in such wise that many cast away the cares of the world, and in the life and teaching of the most blessed father Francis gained knowledge of themselves, and aspired to love of their Creator and reverence for Him. Many among the people, nobles and plebians, clerks and lay-folk, pierced by God’s inspiration, began to come to holy Francis, longing evermore to fight under his discipline and leadership: all of whom the Saint of God, like a plenteous stream of heavenly grace, watered with anointing showers, and beautified the field of their hearts with flowers of virtue. Truly an excellent craftsman after whose pattern, rule and teaching, heralded with noteworthy proclamation, Christ’s Church is being renewed in either sex, and is triumphing in a threefold army of men who are to be saved. For he assigned to all their rule of life,, and pointed out truly the way to be saved in every station.”

True religious poverty is, of course the antidote to all sin. It establishes the soul in the first Beatitude, by which the soul lives in that spiritual simplicity which is poor to all the things of this world, and is thereby enabled to see God in all things: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” It is always tempting to believe that such “spiritual poverty” can be lived in the midst of external affluence, but this is most often a delusion. We are incarnate beings, and the life we live in the flesh necessarily resonates in the spirit.

St. Paul flatly states “For the love of money is the root of all evils.” It is worthwhile here to interject the teaching of St. Thomas on this subject, for it offers a striking confirmation of the necessity of poverty in the life of both individuals and societies.

Analyzing the distinction between the “beginning of all sin” on the one hand, and “the root of all sin” on the other, St. Thomas writes:

We must therefore say that pride, even as denoting a special sin, is the beginning of every sin….On the other hand, in the order of execution, the first place belongs to that which by furnishing the opportunity of fulfilling all desires of sin, has the character of a root, and such are riches; so that, from this point of view, covetousness is said to be the root of all evils…” (ST, I-II, Q.84, a.1)

And since “every sin includes an inordinate turning to a mutable good” (Ibid., Q.72, a.2), it then follows:

“Accordingly, we must say that covetousness, as denoting a special sin, is called the root of all sins, in likeness to the root of a tree, in furnishing sustenance to the whole tree. For we see that by riches man acquires the means of committing any sin whatever, and of sating his desire for any sin whatever, since money helps man to obtain all manner of temporal goods, according to Eccles 10:19: All things obey money: so that in this sense desire for riches is the root of all sins” (Ibid., Q.84, a.1).

A world which played host to vast numbers of Francis’ Friars Minor would be one in which the root of all sin was parched by the heavy cross upon which Christ thirsted. It would bear little resemblance to the world under which we are crushed today. This is true not only of the lower world of luxuries and specific sins of the passions, but also the “higher” realms of man’s social and intellectual activities. It is riches which build modern economies, the unnatural life of cities, and the stilted technological world in which we try to raise our families. It is money which feeds the endless quest of reductive scientific research and the anti-God mentality which is inevitably its concubine. It is the world of finance which constructs the engines and schemes of international warfare. And it is money that maintains the Ivory Towers where modern philosophers and theologians culture their pestilence and perversities.

It need not have happened.

 

The Betrayal of Francis

One of the most difficult things for us to comprehend as faithful Catholics is how it can be possible for good men, even those who might be saints or those whom we might consider to be great Popes or other members of the hierarchy, to teach things which are very wrong (even to the extent of objective heresy), or to pursue pastoral policies and acts of government which produce evil fruits. And yet the history of the Church contains many such examples. Possibly the most succinct formulation of this phenomena is to be found in the words of Our Lady of Good Success to Mother Mariana in the year 1594: ”For the time will come when the devils will try to demolish this Convent, availing themselves of both good and evil persons to achieve that end.”

What we are about to encounter in the following history of the betrayal of St. Francis and his ideal represents what might well be the most profound and extensive example in the Church’s history of Satan successfully using good men to accomplish his designs.

In preparation for examining this history, and in order to pre-empt any attempts to claim that we are engaging in an attempt to denigrate the holiness of some who might even be canonized saints, we must first therefore try here to unravel the apparent mystery as to how such a thing is possible. We also wish to emphasize that, when we speak of “betrayal”, we do not intend to claim that this necessarily involves the sort of betrayal, or “pretention of love”, which involves calculated deceit, maliciousness, loss of faith, or mortal sin. As we shall see, the betrayal which we shall be examining here often involved men who truly believed that they loved St. Francis, and that they were doing what was necessary for the survival of his Order. The “pretention” and ”betrayal” which we are about to unravel is the sort of thing which inevitably happens when faith and grace becomes weakened through trying to amalgamate them to a status of compromise with the “wisdom of this world”. It can and does, in other words, happen to the best of us. It is the plague of the consequences of original sin – what St. Augustine called “the languor of nature” – which has come to rest in the fallen nature of each one of us. We might even conclude that it is the accumulated deposit of 2,000 years of such duplicitous behavior among Catholics that has now brought the Church to such a state of prostitution towards the world as to explain its present crisis.

The key to this mystery lies in unraveling the nature of the act of faith itself. Vatican Council I defined faith in the following words:

“Man being wholly dependent upon God, as upon his Creator and Lord, and created reason     being absolutely subject to uncreated truth, we are bound to yield to God, by faith in His revelation, the full obedience of our intelligence and will. And the Catholic Church teaches that this faith, which is the beginning of man’s salvation, is a supernatural virtue, whereby, inspired and assisted by the grace of God, we believe that the things which He has revealed are true; not because the intrinsic truth of the things is plainly perceived by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself, Who reveals them, and Who can neither be deceived nor deceive.”

We tend to think of faith as predominantly an intellectual phenomenon. Yet, as the Council’s definition of faith indicates, the act of faith is not primarily dependent upon our understanding, but rather upon the act whereby assisted by the grace of God, we “yield the full obedience of our intelligence and will” to God’s Revelation. In other words, the act of faith itself demands, and is constituted by, an intimate relationship between our intellect and will. St. Thomas defines the act of faith as “an act of the intellect assenting to the Divine truth at the command of the will moved by the grace of God….” (ST, II-II, Q. 2, A.9).

This definition might at first seem dense, but it is easily unraveled.

Faith is in itself, of course, a gift of God, and therefore of God’s grace. There can be no supernatural faith without this gift. But faith is at the same time a truly human act, involving both the intellect and will, cooperating with God’s grace.

St. Thomas analysis of this human act centers upon St. Paul’s definition of faith in Heb 11:1:

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.”

Faith is an act of intellectual assent to things that “appear not.” St. Thomas notes that the intellect assents to things in two ways. In the case of things that are actually “seen” (understood by the intellect), the movement of assent is caused by the object itself. But in the case of things that are not seen, or not sufficiently seen (and therefore the objects of faith), the intellect is moved to assent by the will. The will is therefore the causative agent in the act of faith.

Obviously, this act of the will moving the intellect to the assent of faith is not arbitrary. The will does not choose in a vacuum, but is itself dependent on some degree of knowledge. There are certain truths implicit in human nature, and therefore constituting the very structure of the intellectual light of the human mind, which form the foundation of knowledge from which the will chooses, with the absolutely necessary aid of God’s grace, to assent to the Christian Faith.

St. Thomas teaches that the proper object of the human intellect is truth, and that therefore its ultimate and final object is the First Truth which is God. At the same time, the proper object of the human will is the good, which entails that it is ordered towards the possession of the Final Good which is God. Intellect and will are therefore united in their ultimate goal.

Along the path towards this goal, however, each of these faculties, intellect and will, is distinct; and each has a unique role to play in the act of faith.

St. Thomas also teaches that there is nothing in the mind that is not first in the senses. We are born with no innate knowledge. But this does not at all mean that the mind is devoid of a specific nature, or that the intellectual light which specifies this nature, is not implicitly and instinctively drawn towards truth. In regard to the “truth” about created things, for instance, St. Thomas writes:

“And thus we must need say that the human soul knows all things in the eternal types, since by participation of these types we know all things. For the intellectual light itself which is in us, is nothing else than a participated likeness of the uncreated light, in which are contained the eternal types.” (ST I, 84, 5).

In other words, God so created us in His image as to possess a created intellectual light which indeed does see created substances as He sees them.

Similarly, the created light within us is also implicitly ordered towards God. St. Thomas writes: “man possesses a natural aptitude for understanding and loving God; and this aptitude consists in the very nature of the mind, which is common to all men.” (ST I, Q. 93, a.4). From the standpoint of the intellect, this entails that “all knowers know God implicitly in all they know.” (De Veritate, Q. 22, a.2). This does not mean that man has any innate knowledge of God, but rather that the human mind, being constituted as a created participation in the uncreated Light of God, the intellectual light that is within us is also ordered towards the structure of causation and design in God’s creation. Every known thing therefore implicitly draws our intelligence towards both the First and Final Cause Who is God. This is why St. Paul proclaimed that unbelief in God is “inexcusable,” because “the invisible things of him [God], from the beginning of the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made….” (Romans 1:20).

When we turn to the question of the will, we see that it also has a “natural aptitude” which directs it towards God as its end. This natural aptitude is rooted in the fact that the human will is created with a nature constituted in such a way as to have “the good” as its proper object, and this in turn reveals a proportion to the Infinite Goodness of God:

This “initial participation” lies precisely in the fact that the “good” to which the will naturally aspires is happiness, and that this desire for happiness can achieve its final rest only in that ultimate reward which is everlasting life in God, and which is constituted by the eternal vision of God. St. Thomas writes: “Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence.” (ST, I-II, Q. 3, a.8). Therefore, the will moves the intellect to the act of faith because such faith is the necessary condition for this reward: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Heb 11:6).

All of this reveals what might indeed seem to be a peculiar relationship between the human mind and its own act of faith. While faith is “certain” because of the act of will, through God’s grace which determines it to be so, it is not at all certain in relation to actual intellectual knowledge or “sight.” In a penetrating passage from De Veritate (XIV, a. 1), St. Thomas unravels this relationship:

“In faith there is some perfection and some imperfection. The firmness which pertains to the assent is a perfection, but the lack of sight, because of which the movement of discursive thought still remains in the mind of one who believes, is an imperfection. The perfection, namely, the assent, is caused by the simple light which is faith. But, since the participation in this light is not perfect, the imperfection of the understanding is not completely removed. For this reason the movement of discursive thought in it stays restless.”

It is precisely the latter “imperfection” and “restlessness” in the act of faith which has been the source of so much error propagated in the name of Christ and Christianity.

Certainly, one of the most fascinating aspects of the history of the lives of the Saints is the degree to which this “restlessness” and darkness on the part of their minds in regard to their faith led them into some quite profound and dangerous doctrinal errors.

For instance, virtually all the “Eastern Fathers” (including the three Cappadocian Fathers – St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nanzianzus) taught that no created intellect will ever see the Essence of God, but rather only His attributes or “Energies.” This, despite the fact that Holy Scripture promises that we shall see God “face to face,” and that “I shall Know [God] even as I am Known.” (1 Cor 13:12).” This denial of the substance of the Beatific Vision would eventually bear fruit in Palamite theology (the dominant theology in Eastern Orthodoxy today), which denies the Absolute Divine Simplicity of God. It is absolutely necessary Catholic theology that God is One – that His Intellect and Will, and all of His attributes such as Truth, Goodness, and Love are absolutely One in His Absolute Divine Simplicity.  Any distinction which we make between God and His Attributes or “Energies” (a popular term in Eastern theology) is solely due to the fact that as finite human beings we are here on this earth limited to approaching God from finite and limited perspectives. There is no “composition” or “parts” within the Infinite Being of God, and therefore for the saints in Heaven to see God “face to face” necessarily entails that they will see the very Essence of God.

Another example of objective heresy (very much savoring of Gnostic influence) is to be found in St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Maximus the Confessor’s teaching that God only created the two sexes of the human species “in pre-vision of sin” – in other words, only because of His foreknowledge of man’s original sin. This, despite the fact that Holy Scripture states that “God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27). Clearly, scripture testifies to the duality of sexes as being in harmony with the image of God, and not as something which is a divine condescension or punishment “in pre-vision of sin.”

St. Maximus the Confessor went much further. In Ad Thalassium 61, he teaches that God did not create sensible pleasure and pain as integral to human nature, and that original sin consisted in the fact that the first man “at the instant he was created” turned towards sensual pleasure and human sexuality as a means for generation of the human race. And, he then concludes that only those “who are mystically reborn by his Spirit and who no longer retain the pleasure of sexual conception derived from Adam” are liberated from the condemnations of original sin.Not only is this view redolent with the Gnostic view that all of physical creation is a decay away from the spiritual, but it also can be seen as being fully compatible with the Manichaeism belief which views all that is physical as being evil. It logically entails the negation of all that is physical, the degradation of marriage, and the destruction of the family. All of this, of course, is in direct contradiction to Holy Scripture and its teaching concerning the essential goodness of all physical creation, the dignity of human sexuality, and the nobility of marriage as an imitation of Christ and His love for the Church.

I offer these examples simply to illustrate one essential point in our discussion of the concept of faith. We absolutely cannot establish a one-to-one equation between the reality of “manifestly” believing or teaching objective heresy, on the one hand, and “not possessing the faith” on the other. In the case of the Eastern Fathers and saints mentioned above, their quite grave errors in regard to the Faith were expressed before these matters were fully defined by the Church through her Magisterium. We may assume if such had occurred during their lifetime they would have possessed the “good will” to submit to the authority of the Church eventually defining and clarifying these aspects of Divine Revelation.

But it is also true that even further down the historical timeline (even up to the present) “good men” might teach falsely, and yet not be considered to be persons who have lost the faith – either because of the limitations of their intellect, or because of inculpable ignorance. As scripture says, “For Thou [God] only knowest the heart of all the children of men.” (3 Kings 8: 39 – Douay-Rheims Bible). It is, in other words, God’s business to search out the depths of the human heart and ultimately determine whether or not a person possesses the good will towards His Truth which is necessary for salvation.

It simply will not do, therefore, for any individual Catholic to compile all the writings or statements of a particular person that contradict Catholic doctrine, and then presume to make a judgment that this same person is “not in possession of the Catholic Faith” To expose the objective heresy of any person, be he the humblest lay person or Pope, is one thing; to make the claim that the person is a heretic is another. Our Lord said that “Whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” It is one thing to point out to our brother that he is acting foolishly; it is an altogether different thing to judge and reduce his humanity by labeling him a Fool, or a Heretic. It is very disturbing indeed, therefore to witness, the name-calling prevalent in conservative and traditional Catholic circles in regard to Pope Francis and others of the hierarchy (not to mention the laity). St. Jude writes: “When Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him the judgment of railing speech, but said: The Lord command thee.” If such be the case in regard to “railing” judgments against the devil who resides in Hell and is our implacable enemy, what must be our conclusion concerning those who make such railing judgments against their fellow men who are this side of Hell, and towards whom Our Lord demands charity?

It is also true, however, that in the realm of putting our faith into practice in this world, all of us tend to one degree or another to be duplicitous. It is the most constant threat to our spiritual lives, and the most omnipresent presence of the effects of original sin, for each of us to try at the same time to be friends of God while also being “friends of this world” (which, as St. James points out, is “enmity with God” (James 4:4-5). Again, only God can determine when such “double-mindedness” so changes the depths of the human heart that it no longer constitutes only venial, but rather mortal sin. But we may be assured that, to greatly varying extents, this duplicity is the inheritance of all men fallen away from the gift of complete integrity which man possessed before original sin. As scripture says, “For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again: but the wicked shall fall down into evil.” (Prov. 24: 16). Thus it is that good, and even holy, men may become tools of the devil for persecution of the good and the accomplishment of evil.

It is especially in this area that those who loved St. Francis betrayed him. It is here where they used their worldly wisdom to compromise and distort his ideal, simply because they did not see and believe the extraordinary thing that God intended to do through this man whom Pope Pius XI called “the second Christ.”

All of this, as we have said, offers no excuse for “railing judgments” against any of the persons discussed in the following analysis. At the same time, however, the work of charity and the pursuit of that Truth which is the Life of Christ and the light for all men, demands that we not be silent about that extraordinary grace of Christ which was given to the world in the 13th century. And this, in turn, requires understanding the depths and sinews of Satan’s work by which this light has been falsified. For it is in this darkness that we are now immersed, and which threatens to drown out even the memory of what constituted Christian civilization.

 

St. Francis and the Papacy

Any attempt to portray St. Francis as possessing a spirit of independence from, or disobedience to the Papacy amounts to a total falsification. From the very inception of his work he sought to receive complete Papal approval and recognition.

In the year 1209, three years after his own radical conversion, Francis wrote his short First Rule (now lost), and journeyed to Rome with his first 11 companions in order to seek approval for his new way of life from Pope Innocent III. The following account is taken from St. Bonaventure’s Major Life of St. Francis:

“The Pope, Innocent III, was famous for his learning; and when he saw Francis’ wonderful purity of heart, together with his determination, and the fiery eagerness of his will, he felt inclined to give his approval. However, the whole idea seemed so new to some of the cardinals, who thought that the rule was too difficult for any human being, that he hesitated to do what Francis asked. One of the cardinals was His Eminence John of St. Paul, Bishop of Santa Sabina, a man who loved holiness and was dedicated to Christ’s poor. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he addressed the pope and his confreres saying, ‘We must be careful. If we refuse this beggarman’s request because it is new or too difficult, we may be sinning against Christ’s Gospel, because he is only asking us to approve a form of Gospel life. Anyone who says that a vow to live according to the perfection of the Gospel contains something new or unreasonable or too difficult to be observed, is guilty of blasphemy against Christ, the Author of the Gospel.’ At that, the successor of St. Peter turned to St. Francis and told him, ‘My son, pray to Christ that he may show us his will through you. When we are sure of that, we can grant your request without fear’.’”

After praying fervently, St. Francis and the Pope received revelations from God, separately, but at the same time. St. Bonaventure relates the following about Francis:

Francis told the pope a story which he had learned from God about a wealthy monarch who voluntarily married a poor but very beautiful woman and had a number of children by her. These resembled him closely, so that they had the right to eat at his table. Then Francis added, by way of explanation, ‘There is no danger that the sons and heirs of the immortal King will die of hunger. They have been born of a poor mother by the power of the Holy Spirit in the image of Christ the King and they will be followed by others who will be brought to birth in our Order by the spirit of poverty. If the King of Heaven promises his followers an eternal kingdom, he certainly will not let them go short of the material goods he bestows on good and bad without distinction’.”

And, on the part of Innocent III:

“When the pope heard this story and its explanation, he was amazed and he realized without the slightest doubt that Christ had spoken through Francis. Only a short time before, he had seen a vision from heaven and by divine inspiration he now testified that it would be fulfilled in Francis. As he himself described it, he had a dream in which he saw the Lateran Basilica [the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope, ranking first among all the Church’s of Christendom, even above St. Peter’s] which was threatening to fall being held up by a poor beggarman who put his back to it. ‘This is certainly the man,’ he added. ‘By his work and teaching, he will uphold Christ’s Church.’”

We do well to keep in mind the words of Cardinal John of St. Paul – “Anyone who says that a vow to live according to the perfection of the Gospel contains something new or unreasonable or too difficult to be observed, is guilty of blasphemy against Christ, the Author of the Gospel.” When we now come to consider what happened during the last 6-10 years of St. Francis’ life, and subsequent to his death, we will see that such “blasphemy” became the norm.

 

Betrayal With a Kiss

Pope Innocent III died on July 16, 1216, to be succeeded by Pope Honorius III. Bishop Giovanni di San Paolo, who had been the liaison between the Pope and the Franciscan Order, died the same year, and was succeeded in this office (as Cardinal Protector of the Franciscan Order) by Cardinal Ugolino, Bishop of Ostia, and the future Pope Gregory IX. There is no question, from the various appearances of Cardinal Ugolino throughout the early lives of Francis, that he deeply loved the Saint. There is also no question that he was the central force and authority behind the compromise and eventual destruction of the ideal of Francis.

In May of 1217, the famous Pentecost “Chapter of the Mats” was held at the Portiuncula. The Speculum Perfectionis, #68 relates what occurred. Nothing in all of the early sources more clearly reveals the web of destructive and falsifying love that was, at this period, being spun around Francis and his ideal:

When blessed Francis was at the Chapter General held at St. Mary of the Portiuncula – known as the Chapter of the Mats, because the only shelters there consisted of rush-mats, which were used by five thousand friars – a number of prudent and learned friars went to the Lord Cardinal of Ostia [Ugolino] who was present, and said to him, ‘My Lord, we wish that you would persuade Brother Francis to follow the advice of the wiser brethren, and allow himself to be guided by them.’ And they quoted the Rules of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, and Saint Bernard, which lay down the principles of the regular life.

“The Cardinal repeated all that they had said to blessed Francis in the form of advice; but without making any answer he took the Cardinal by the hand, and led him before the friars assembled in Chapter. And he spoke to the friars in the fervor and power of the Holy Spirit, saying, ‘My brothers! My brothers! God has called me by the way of simplicity and humility, and has in truth revealed this way for me and for all who are willing to trust and follow me. So I do not want you to quote any other Rule to me, whether that of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, or Saint Bernard, or to recommend any other way or form of life except this way which God in His mercy has revealed and given to me. The Lord told me that He wished me to be a new kind of simpleton in this world, and he does not wish us to live by any other wisdom but this. God will confound you through your own prudence and learning. And I trust in the constables [the devils, whom Francis called “God’s policemen”] of God, that He will punish you through them. Eventually, whether you wish it or not, you will return with great remorse to your first state’.

“The Cardinal was utterly dumbfounded and said nothing; and all the friars were filled with great fear.”

The pattern here becomes clear. A good number of ministers and friars were working with Cardinal Ugolino to compromise Francis’ ideal. Francis’ final response, after returning from the Holy Land in 1220, was to resign. He was succeeded by Peter Catani, and then by Brother Elias in 1223.

Francis wrote three Rules – the original Rule, which was approved by Innocent III, and has been lost; the Rule of 1221, which is known as the First Rule; and the Rule of 1223, which is called the Regula Bullata, because it was approved by the Pope (Honorius III). There has been much discussion about these Rules – whether, for instance, the Final Rule (Regula Bullata) is really fully in accord with Francis’ thinking and with his original Rule – but it is not necessary to discuss this subject here. The historical fact is that after his death Francis’ ideal was destroyed through Papal legislation, and through the acts, writings, etc. of those like Brother Elias and St. Bonaventure who loved St. Francis and claimed to be his friends. It is this history which we shall here attempt to summarize.

 

A Basic Outline of the Conflict

Even prior to Francis’ death, the Franciscan Order was deeply divided between those who were committed to following the strict observance of poverty laid down by St. Francis, and those who wished to see mitigations in his Rule. The former have come to be called “Spirituals” (or Zelanti –from the Italian word for “zealous”). The latter are known as the “Relaxati”. While Francis was still alive, the Relaxati were to be identified with Elias and those ministers and friars whose actions and words we have already detailed. The term is now most closely identified with that branch of the Order known as the Conventual Franciscans.

The term “Spirituals” identifies many of Francis’ early companions (and those who later followed in their footsteps) such as Brothers Leo, Bernard of Quintavalle, Rufino, Giles, Angelo Tancredi, Masseo da Marignano, Ugolino di Monte Santa Maria (author of the “Little Flowers,” not to be confused with Cardinal Ugolino), and many others. The term is also associated with the names and movements which constitute various efforts down through the centuries aimed at bringing the Order back to a stricter observance of Francis’ ideal (the Capuchins also represent an attempt at this type of reform). All of this involves a very complicated and contentious history, which cannot be detailed here.

To complicate the matter further, there has always existed a tendency, especially among those who cling to a “relaxed” Franciscanism, to identify all “Spirituals” with the “Fraticelli” – those later brothers who in their zeal for the perfection of Francis’ ideal, ended up by embracing (to one extent or another) the heretical ideas of Joachimism (some of these ideas not being attributable to Joachim himself), and established themselves in revolt against the Papacy. On the contrary, there were, in fact, innumerable Spirituals (including early companions of Francis such as Bernard and Leo) who never rebelled in any way against the Papacy, who were persecuted for their fidelity to the ideals of Francis, and died under this persecution.

It also needs mentioning that the early biographies of St. Francis reflect this basic twofold division within the Order. On the one hand, we have “Lives” like those of St. Bonaventure and Thomas of Celano which embody a non-controversial hagiography that ignores these basic divisions and conflicts. On the other side, we have works which profoundly reveal and detail this division: the Speculum Perfectionis, the Legend of Perugia, The Little Flowers of St. Francis (the Fioretti), and the Sacrum Commercium. The works in this second category are sometimes called the “Leo Sources,” from the fact that their actual authorship or inspiration can be traced back to Brother Leo and other early companions of Francis, or their spiritual descendents, who were absolutely committed to living his ideal. As we shall see, it was St. Bonaventure who, as Minister General, ordered all these “divisive” works destroyed, and then enthroned his own “Legend of St. Francis” as the only acceptable biography of Francis.

 

Brother Elias

Many parallels have been rightly observed between the life of St. Francis and the life of Christ. Often this extends to viewing Brother Elias in the role of Judas.

Unquestionably, Brother Elias was a primary agent in the betrayal of the Franciscan ideal. We have already seen him as the spokesman for those ministers who refused to be bound by the Rule that Francis was in the process of writing in 1223, because it was “too hard.” There can be little doubt that Elias was working closely with these ministers, and with Cardinal Ugolino, in order to mitigate the Rule of Francis, and to make those compromises with the world which they saw as necessary in order to turn the Franciscan Order into an effective apostolate for the Church. As Lady Poverty explains in the Sacrum Commercium, this betrayal was all being accomplished under the guise of false prudence and discretion.

Francis resigned as head of the Order in 1220, and Peter Catani was elected Vicar. In 1223, almost certainly with the strong support of Cardinal Ugolino, Elias was elected Vicar. Francis died on October 4, 1226. Elias immediately took control, acting as the head of the Order. Pope Honorius III (Innocent III’s successor) died on Mar 18, 1227, and Cardinal Ugolino was elected Pope and chose the name Gregory IX. The Pope gave his blessing to Elias’ great project of building a “monument” to Francis in the form of a great convent and the Basilica of Saint Francis. Pope Gregory gave him authority to receive money, and he began to collect money throughout Christendom for this project (remember that Francis called money “flies,” and absolutely forbade his friars to even touch it).

It was when Elias’ intention to build this Basilica (which would house the remains of St. Francis) was published that the Spirituals rose against him.  Elias even placed a marble pot for the collection of money conspicuously on the hill of the proposed site of the Basilica. Brother Leo, in protest against this profound violation of the spirit and ideal of Francis, smashed the pot. Upon Elias’ order, Leo was scourged and expelled from Assisi. It was in fact the vehement opposition of Leo and other Spirituals which foiled Elias’ efforts to be elected Minister General at the Chapter in May of 1227. Instead, the friars elected John Parenti, a man incapable or unwilling to present a barrier to Elias’ schemes. Gregory IX, in support of Elias’ designs for the Basilica, in fact accomplished an end-run around Parenti by making Elias “Master of the Works”, with full authority to collect the funds and undertake all that was necessary for the completion of the project.

It all moved incredibly fast. On July 16, 1228, Pope Gregory canonized St. Francis. On May 25, 1230 the remains of St. Francis were secretly (at night) translated to the new Basilica of Saint Francis. Francis now lay entombed beneath a “monument” which rivaled the Portiuncula as the ultimate Icon of the betrayal of his Lady Poverty.

In 1232, Elias was elected Minister General. He obtained permission from Pope Gregory IX to discipline the Spirituals, and he moved with great efficiency and severity. Everywhere the original companions and faithful followers of Francis’ ideal concerning Poverty were persecuted. Elias’ greatest convert had been Caesar of Spires, who was considered by many to be the holiest friar since Francis (he collaborated with Francis in the writing of the Rule of 1223). He was now one of Elias’ strongest opponents. Elias ordered him imprisoned, and he met a violent death at the hands of the lay brother who was appointed to guard him.

Finally, the protests against Elias’ despotism and his violations of the Franciscan ideal became such a storm as to make it impossible for the Pope not to take action. Pope Gregory IX declared the position of Minister General vacant and, in the face of direct defiance on the part of Elias, also excommunicated him (as did Gregory’s successor Innocent IV). Elias eventually aligned himself in friendship and employment with the excommunicated Emperor Frederick II (enemy of Popes, agnostic, known in his own time as “the wonder of the “world,” and called by Nietzsche “the first European”). Upon the death of Frederick in 1250, Elias went into seclusion in Cortona, ever fearful of imprisonment by the Pope. Fearful of the ultimate consequences of being excommunicated, he sought absolution from the local clergy, and received it. Pope Innocent IV sent representatives to minutely examine the sincerity of his repentance and, being satisfied, allowed his burial in Franciscan habit.

Possibly nothing reveals the niggardliness and pathos of Brother Elias’ life as his words while Francis lay dying. The following incident is related in Speculum Perfectionis, #121:

Seeing that blessed Francis was comforted and rejoicing in the Lord in this way [his companions, at his request, were singing the Praises of the Lord night and day] despite his great pain, Brother Elias said to him, ‘Dearest Brother, the great joy shown by you and your companions gives me great comfort and edification. But the people of this city venerate you as a saint, and are well aware that you will soon die of your incurable disease; so when they hear the Praises sung day and night they are likely to say to themselves, ‘How can this man show so much joy when he is about to die? He ought to be preparing himself for death.’”

And Saint Francis answered him (in part):

Brother, allow me in my infirmities to rejoice in the Lord and in His praises, for by the grace and assistance of the Holy Spirit I am so united and conjoined to my Lord that by His mercy I may rightly rejoice in Him, the Most High.”

Elias was not present at Francis’ death.

 

Pope Gregory IX

When we consider the actual life and spirituality of the Franciscan Order, Elias may rightly be seen as the primary Judas-figure. However, the person most responsible for institutionalizing this betrayal on the ecclesiastical and juridical level is Pope Gregory IX (Cardinal Ugolino).

In 1230, four years after Francis’ death, Pope Gregory IX published the Bull Quo elongati. It declared the Testament of St. Francis to be devoid of legal force. In his scholarly work Franciscan Poverty, Malcolm D. Lambert writes the following:

What was the effect of the invalidating of the Testament? Looking back, we can see that, in a sense, 1230 represented the last chance for the order to return as a body to the way of living of Francis and the companions; then, Quo elongati blocked the way, and ever afterwards the weight of precedent and legislation was too great for it to be possible.”

Professor Lambert is in full agreement with the erroneous notion that “to a developing order with its problems of dwelling places, learning, sick friars, and the like….The ideal [of St. Francis] was impossible.” (p. 73). This opinion, as we have clearly shown, was in direct contradiction to the statements of St. Francis and the revelations he received from Christ.

It needs to be emphatically stated that the so-called Spirituals alone held fast to Francis’ ideal. Sometimes, as we shall see, some passed over to the point of embracing heresy (Joachimism – or a bastardized form of it), defying the Papacy, and embracing schism. Such are the Fraticelli. But we must reject the facile identification, popular among the Relaxati or Conventuals, of identifying the Spirituals with the Fraticelli. Friars such as Leo, Giles, Bernard of Quintavalle, Angelus, Rufino, Masseo, John of Parma, Brother Ugolino di Monte, and many others were certainly Spirituals, but are in no way to be considered Fraticelli.

Having made these clarifications, it remains to examine the fundamental betrayal of Francis’ ideal of poverty to be found in Quo elongati.

It is of the very nature of Francis’ ideal of Poverty that it is not subject to strict legislation. Francis’ great love was Lady Poverty, but it is obviously true that “absolute poverty” would simply kill a person. As human beings, we need food, clothes and, quite often, shelter from the killing cold.

It is also true that sometimes the requirement of God’s mercy over-rides strict rules in regard to poverty, fasting, dress, etc.  St. Francis fully understood this. Despite his vehement commands against touching or having anything to do with money, he made an exception in the case of severe sickness of a friar. He allowed shoes and riding of a horse or ass where necessity or illness made these things necessary. Following is one of the most enchanting stories, taken from  the Legend of Perugia, #1, revealing this “heart of mercy” which is so intimately a part of the Franciscan ideal:

In the early days of the Order, that is to say, at the time when Francis began to group a few brothers around him, he lived with them at Rivo Torto. One night around midnight, when all were sleeping on their poor straw mattresses, one of the brothers began to cry out: ‘I am dying! I am dying!’ Blessed Francis got up and said: ‘Get up, Brothers, bring a light.’ A torch was lit and blessed Francis asked: ‘Who cried out, I am dying?’ One brother said, ‘I did.’ And blessed Francis said to him: ‘What ails you, Brother? What are you dying from?’ ‘I am dying of hunger,’ he answered.

“Blessed Francis, a man full of charity and discretion, did not want the brother to blush from eating alone. He had a meal prepared then and there and everyone partook of it. It must be said that this brother and the others were recently converted and inflicted excessive penances on their bodies.

“After the meal, blessed Francis said to the other brothers: ‘My brothers, I say to you, let everyone of you take his constitution into consideration. If one of you can do with less food than another, it is not my wish that he who needs to eat more should try to imitate the first. Let each one take his own constitution into account and give his body what it needs. If, in the matter of eating and drinking we are obliged to deny ourselves those superfluous thing which are harmful to the body and the soul, we must forego even more excessive mortification, for God desires loving kindness and mercy not sacrifice’.” (this story is also found in Bonaventure’s Major Life, II Celano, and Speculum Perfectionis).

Similarly, if this particular brother had been freezing to death, Francis would have been the first to clothe him in fur; or if he were severely ill, he would have accepted the possible use of money to pay for a doctor. But the same “Rule” of Poverty still remained. Anyone who was to be a    Franciscan friar, as Francis says in his Testament, “gave everything to the poor. They were satisfied with one habit which was patched inside and outside, and a cord, and trousers. We refused to have anything more….The friars must be very careful not to accept churches or poor dwellings for themselves, or anything else built for them unless they are in harmony with the poverty which we have promised in the Rule [any “huts” were to be built of mud and sticks], and they should occupy these places as strangers and pilgrims.” Add to this his absolute proscription against petitioning the Roman Curia for any privileges, and the very important prohibition against pursuing learning or possessing books, we have basically the entire “heart” of Francis’ Rule as it concerns the ideal of Poverty. Francis’ devotion to Poverty was “absolute”, but this absoluteness was not capable of legalistic delineation – any more than specific acts of charity are subject to such legislation. It is this “heart” of Franciscan Poverty which Gregory IX failed to see, and which he essentially destroyed with his legislation.

The destruction came through the employment of a theoretical, legal distinction which Quo elongati enunciates in the following passage:

We say therefore that {the friars} ought not to have proprietas [dominion], either individual or common, but may have the usus alone of the utensils and books and movable goods which they are permitted to have, and the friars, as the minister-general and provincial [ministers] direct, may use them, leaving dominion of their settlements and houses to those to whom it is known to pertain….”

There was a certain amount of truth in the above passage, which could indeed be viewed as applying to St. Francis’ ideal. The brothers did indeed “use” things while not owning them – food, humble dwellings, habit, cord, trousers, breviary, psalter, etc. What is wrong about this passage only comes to light when seen in the light of its further context within the Pope’s Bull.

Quo elongati established a sophistry at the very heart of Franciscan self-understanding in regard to Poverty by introducing a new “office”  for the reception of money and other ”necessities” into the Order. This official, called the nuntius, ostensibly acting on the part of the almsgiver (which can certainly be looked on as a “Jesuitical” distinction), insured that the Franciscan Order could be the recipient of virtually anything, while nominally still being able to claim adherence to the principle of “Absolute Poverty” because they did not possess proprietas, dominion, or actual ownership.

The effect of this sophistry was devastating to Franciscan spirituality. The primary spiritual effect of Francis’ own ideal of Poverty was, on the one hand, to deprive the mind and heart of each Friar of any security in the things of this world, and, on the other hand, to throw this same mind and heart into a fundamental posture of total trust in God and dependence on that “sacrum commercium” of charity with other human beings which we have already delineated. All of this is profoundly vitiated by the security which comes to the Franciscan life with the nuntius. The nuntius, and the resources for which he was the agent, could always be drawn upon to alleviate any want or insecurity. In other words, the entire charism of the Franciscan Order became vitiated.

According to Lambert, “The greatest single cause of pressure on poverty was building.” (p. 94). In turn, the primary justification for such building was the perceived necessity to pursue learning. Again, from Lambert:

The standard of poverty intended by St. Francis, if appallingly severe, was coherent and, just, observable….But, as I see it, it is incompatible with the regular pursuit of learning. The new entrants to the order were bound to desire the practice of preaching, in the full, learned sense. If learning be adopted then the full poverty must be mitigated.”

This pressure for learning was largely the fruit of the increased clericalization of the Order. Francis, of course, refused the priesthood, and remained a deacon until he died. Although he certainly accepted priests into his Order (such as his early companion Brother Sylvester), he certainly did not envision a clericalized Brotherhood. The Franciscan Order was pre-eminently the Friars Minor – the “little brothers.” Clericalization, learning, building and economic security all go hand-in-hand, and demand mitigation of Francis’ ideal.

As with so many things, Francis was able to peer into the heart of this matter, and see the threat. The following is from the Legend of Perugia, #70:

Not that Francis ever despised or regarded sacred learning with disfavor: on the contrary, he showed a fond respect for the scholars of the Order, and for all scholars, as he himself says in his Testament: ‘We should honor and venerate theologians, too, and the ministers of God’s word, because it is they who give us spirit and life.’

“But, foreseeing the future, he knew through the Holy Spirit and often repeated that many of the brothers, under pretext of edifying others, would abandon their vocation, that is to say, pure and holy simplicity, prayer and Lady Poverty; they would consider themselves more fervent and more on fire with the love of God because of their knowledge of the Scriptures, whereas precisely because of it they would not be able to return to their former vocation since they had let the time given them to live in the holy vocation slip by.” (see also SP, #72).

In other words, the primary fruit of such pursuit of learning – necessarily entailing the violation of the Franciscan charism of holy simplicity and poverty – would be an enormous self-deception. Possibly the singularly most often used argument by Elias and the ministers in their attempt to mitigate the Rule was the necessity of making adjustments, so that the Order could become an effective means of Apostolate and preaching for the Church. This, in their minds required learning, books, buildings, and all the rest. Francis’ reply is devastating:

There are many brethren who devote all their energy and zeal to the acquisition of learning, neglecting their holy vocation, and straying from the way of humility and holy prayer both in mind and body. When they have preached to the people, and learn that some have been helped or moved to penitence, they grow conceited and congratulate themselves as though the others’ gain were their own. But they will have preached rather to their own condemnation and hurt, and have really achieved nothing except as the instruments of those through whom God has obtained this result. For those whom they imagined they were edifying and converting through their own learning and preaching have been edified and converted by God Himself through the prayers and tears of holy, poor, humble, and simple brethren….But those who have cared for nothing except to know and point out the way of salvation to others, and have made no effort to follow it themselves, will stand naked and empty-handed before the judgment-seat of Christ, bearing only the sheaves of confusion, shame, and grief. Then shall the truth of holy humility and simplicity, of holy prayer and poverty, which is our vocation, be exalted, glorified, and proclaimed….” (Ibid).

The pursuit of learning, while it certainly is valid for others, was not the Franciscan way. For Francis, it was in fact destructive to the vocation of a Friars Minor:

Many are they who desire to exalt themselves to the heights of knowledge, but blessed is he who prefers to renounce knowledge for love of the Lord God!” (#72).

The campaign for “learning” among the Friars was always accompanied by the “prudence” which claimed it was necessary for preaching and the “apostolate.” It was Francis’ grace to perceive that effective preaching was a matter of grace, that God would provide this “sustenance” to the Friars just as he provided for their physical necessities, and that the virtue of love of God is the true teacher: “Knowledge produces self-importance; love makes the building grow.” (Ibid).The validity of this teaching is to be found in the “proof “of the extraordinary transformations of peoples which occurred in the early days of the Order.

As is so often the case, St. Francis teaching on this particular subject is accompanied by delightful stories of actual incidents which penetrate to the heart of the matter. The Speculum Perfectionis relates several stories concerning a particular friar who was persistent in trying to obtain Francis’ permission to have a psalter:

<And blessed Francis said to him, “Once you have a psalter, you will want a breviary. And when you have a breviary, you will sit in a high chair like a great prelate, and say to your brother, ‘Bring me my breviary!’” As he spoke, blessed Francis in great fervor of spirit took up a handful of ashes and placed them on his head, and rubbing his hand around his head as though he was washing it, he exclaimed, “I a breviary!, I a breviary!”

Many months later, when blessed Francis was at S. Mary of the Porziuncula, this friar spoke to him yet again about the psalter as he stood on the road near his cell beyond the house. And blessed Francis [almost certainly quite weary of this pestering) told him, “Go and do as your Minister says on this matter.” When he heard this, the friar turned back along the road, while blessed Francis stood thinking over what he had said to the friar. Suddenly he called after him, saying, “Wait for me, brother, wait for me!” Overtaking him, he said, “Come back and show me the place where I told you to do so as your Minister directs about the Psalter.” So when they had arrived at the place, blessed Francis knelt down before the friar and said, “Mea culpa, brother, mea culpa; for whoever wishes to be a Friar Minor should possess nothing but a habit with a cord and undergarment, as the Rule allows him. And those whom need obliges to do so may have sandals.”>

Two other points need mentioning if we are to understand this incident. First, at certain times a psalter did indeed circulate among the Friars, and Francis would not have had objection to this particular Friar using it. Secondly, if some very poor lady came along begging, and Francis had nothing else to offer her, he would have gladly given her the psalter to sell in order to provide some sustenance for herself and her family.

What all this demonstrates is that Francis’ devotion to poverty was total, but that this “absoluteness” could not be regulated by legal formulas (involving distinctions, for instance, between dominion and use) or encapsulated in some sort of formulated theology (as we shall see St. Bonaventure attempting in his theology of “Absolute Poverty”).  It could only be found in a heart devoted to total simplicity and renunciation of all the things of this world, while at the same time always leaving room for the exercise of God’s mercy. The attempt to legislate such a dynamic was bound to kill it, as was any attempt to formulate it theologically.

 

Pope Innocent IV

In 1245, with Crescenzio da Jesi (a Relaxati) functioning as Minister General, Pope Gregory’s successor Innocent IV issued a new Bull, titled Ordinem vestrum, which constituted a significant “relaxation” of Pope Gregory’s Quo elongati. The legal sophistry was in need of further sophistries. In the words of Lambert,

Where Gregory had permitted recourse to intermediaries (the nuntius) for the sake of buying necessities alone, Innocent allowed such recourse for ‘commodities’ as well, thus giving carte blanche to superiors to use agents to take money alms whenever they wished.” (p. 101).

The ultimate effect of all this was to place all ownership of Franciscan property into the hands of the Pope, who could give the Order anything they wanted, and still maintain the fiction of “Absolute Poverty” of dominion on the part of the Franciscan Order. Francis’ fear of, and proscription against, petitioning the Papacy or Curia for any prerogatives had thus blossomed into nightmarish fulfillment.

 

St. Bonaventure’s Doctrine of Absolute Poverty

That which the Papal Bulls Quo elongati and Ordinem vestrum accomplished in the ecclesial and legal realms as to the destruction of Franciscan Poverty, St. Bonaventure blessed in the theological domain. While Minister General, he wrote his work Apologia pauperum, which offers the following definition of Absolute Poverty:

Since there are two things to be considered with regard to the possession of temporal goods, dominion and usus, and usus is necessarily annexed to the present life; it is the nature of evangelical poverty to renounce earthly possession in respect of dominion and proprietas, and, not to reject usus utterly, but to restrain it….”

Any Catholic who possesses some depth of familiarity with St. Francis’ life and teaching should sense the total failure of the above definition to capture St. Francis’ ideal of Poverty. Francis’ ideal of Lady Poverty was entirely established in an imitation of Christ Who, though being God, became nothing. Christ did something much more than merely “restrain himself “when He took human form and sacrificed Himself on the Cross. Therefore, when transposed to human life, and the sincere attempt to follow this Way, the reality of Christ’s Poverty cannot be delineated or bifurcated into legal distinctions between dominion and use, or subjected to doctrinal formulation. St. Francis never formulated it as a doctrine, but only as a way of imitation, to which he appended some rules protecting that way from self-deceit and falsification.  The attempt to formulate this Way with a doctrine of “Absolute Poverty” was therefore bound to involve an incompleteness, duplicity, self-deceit, and betrayal which is subject to eventual exposition and ridicule. As we shall see, this is precisely what will occur during the Papacy of John XXII.

St. Bonaventure’s doctrine of Absolute Poverty amounted to a virtual mirror reflection of the definition of Franciscan Poverty which was formulated in Gregory IX’s Bull Quo elongati in 1234. But Bonaventure’s exposition of Absolute Poverty had gone much further. It had applied this same doctrine, and these same legal distinctions, to Christ. In other words, Christ also practiced “Absolute Poverty” – this entailing the renunciation of all dominion (proprietas) over any possessions whatsoever, and also therefore absolutely possessing no right to sell or give away anything which might be in their use.

In the year 1276, Pope Nicholas III issued the Bull Exiit qui seminat which gave official sanction to this “Absolute Poverty of Christ” doctrine. In part it read:

“…we say that such renunciation of proprietas [dominion] of all things, both individually and in common, for God, is meritorious and holy, and taught in word and confirmed in example by Christ showing the way of perfection, and channeled on by the first founders of the church militant, as they had drawn it from that fount, through the streams of their doctrine and life.” (Lambert, p. 151).

I have stated that this entire effort to legally formulate a doctrine of “Absolute Poverty” involved duplicity. It was necessitated by the posture of the Franciscan “Community” (the Relaxati) which claimed to follow Francis in his love of Lady Poverty, while at the same time working to mitigate Francis’ strict rules in regard to the use of the things of this world. It in fact allowed them to pose before the world under the guise of “Absolute Poverty” (of dominion) while in fact being neither poor in use or in spirit (in accord with the ideal of Francis). Once again, from Sacrum Commercium, “They pretended to love you so that they might leave you.”

Duplicity, by its very nature, requires obscurity. The Spirituals, despite whatever excesses they may have succumbed to, were always in the position of exposing the lie and they themselves appeared to be living lives much more in accord with Francis’ ideal. All through the period since Francis’ resignation, this witness invited persecution. The reign of St. Bonaventure as Minister General offers a unique example of such persecution. In the Fioretti (Little Flowers of St. Francis), we read the following:

Now this is what Brother Matthew told me: ‘I know a brother to whom the Lord has made known that which will take place in our Order; for Brother James della Massa had told me that, after the Lord had revealed to him many things concerning the Church militant, he saw in a vision a large and beautiful tree, the root of which was of gold, and all the branches were men, and these men were all Friars Minor; and there were as many large branches as there were provinces in the Order, and each branch was composed of as many brethren as there were friars in each province; and he was informed of the number of friars in the Order, and in each province – with their names, their ages, their rank, and the different offices they filled – also their various merits and defects. And he saw Brother John of Parma at the summit of the highest branch of the tree, and round him were the ministers of each province; and he saw Christ, the blessed one, sitting on a throne, who, calling St Francis to him, gave him a chalice full of the spirit of life, saying, `Go to thy brothers, and give them to drink of this spirit of life, as Satan will rise up against them, and many will fall and not rise again.’ And Christ, the blessed one, gave to St Francis two angels to accompany him; and St Francis took the chalice to his brothers, and offered it first to Brother John of Parma, who taking it drank all its contents in haste, but with great reverence, and having done so he became luminous, like the sun. After him St Francis offered it to all the others; and very few there were who took it, and drank with devotion: those who did so, were filled with light, like the sun; but those who took the chalice, and threw away its contents most irreverently, became black and deformed, and horrible to look at; those who drank a part of the contents and threw away the rest, were partly bright and partly dark, in proportion to the quantity they drank or threw away. The brightest of all was the said Brother John, who, having drained to the dregs the cup of life, had seen by the aid of a celestial light the tempests and troubles which were about to rise against the tree, shaking and tearing its branches; for which reason the said Brother John left the top of the tree where he was, and placing himself under its branches hid himself close to the roots. And while giving himself to contemplation there, Brother Bonaventure, who had drunk part of the chalice and had spilled part, went up to the branch and place which Brother John had left. And no sooner was he there, than the nails of his fingers became like points of iron; on seeing this, he hastened to leave the place he had taken, and in his fury he sought to vent his rage on Brother John; and Brother John perceiving his intention, cried out to Christ, the blessed one, who was seated on his throne, to help him; and Christ, hearing his cry, called St Francis, and giving him a sharp stone, said: `Take this stone, and going cut the nails of the brother who seeks to tear Brother John, so that he may not be able to do him any harm.’ And St Francis did as he was ordered. In the meantime a great tempest arose and the wind shook the tree in such a way that all the brethren fell to the ground. First fell those who had thrown away the contents of the chalice of the spirit of life: these were carried by devils to dark regions, full of pain and anguish; but Brother John, and others who had drunk of the chalice, were carried by angels to the regions of life eternal, full of light and splendour. And Brother James, who witnessed the vision, saw clearly the names, the condition and the fate of each brother. And the tempest did not cease till the tree was blown down, and carried away by the wind; and immediately another tree arose out of the golden roots of the old one, and it was entirely composed of gold, with its leaves and fruits; but for the present we will not describe the beauty, the virtues, and the delicious fragrance of this wonderful tree.’”

Blessed John of Parma was St. Bonaventure’s predecessor as Minister General of the Franciscan Order. He is certainly to be considered the Minister General most devoted to the original idea of Poverty of Francis, and therefore the enemy of the Relaxati. His election was a source of joy to Francis’ early companions such as Leo, Giles, Ruffino, and Masseo. Upon his election Giles said to him, “Welcome, father. But, oh, you come late!” John was the sixth Minister General, and the first one who strongly sought a return to Francis’ ideal. It is no wonder that Francis’ original companions and their spiritual successors rejoiced at his coming.

John reigned for 10 years (1247-1257). During that time he did much to bring back the Order to its original observance. His reputation for sanctity and learning was immense, as was his humility and personal observance of poverty. No other Minister General has ever been as zealous in visiting all the Franciscan monasteries, hermitages, etc. He heard every concern and complaint. It is even recorded that he once presided over a dispute as to whether a particular brother should be dismissed because his snoring was so profoundly disruptive of the sleep of others.

He had many friends, and also many enemies. Greatest among his enemies were those many ministers and friars within the Order who resented and feared the actions which he took to remedy relaxations of the Rule. After 10 years of rule, this conflict finally came to a head at the Chapter held at the Ara Coeli Convent in Rome in 1257. The Pope, Alexander IV, had also declared himself the Cardinal Protector of the Order. Constantly embroiled in this conflict, and always subject to the complaints and accusations of the Relaxati, he sent word secretly to John that if he were re-elected that he should not accept.

John promptly obeyed. Beseeched by many friars to recommend his successor, he named Bonaventura da Bagnorea, whom the world now knows as St. Bonaventure. There is every indication that John of Parma desired only to continue to serve the Order and the new Minister General in some humbler capacity. It was not to be allowed. Instead, under the authority and direction of Bonaventure, he was soon sent to a convent in Tuscany to be placed on trial and judged.

There were a number of accusations, including that of being a heretic (Joachimite). John had certainly shown some sympathy for some of the ideas of Joachim of Flora (as did St. Bonaventure), but certainly not for the bastardization of Joachim’s ideas which became known as the heresy of Joachimism, and which prophesied a coming Age of the Holy Spirit which would transcend the law of Christ and supersede the organized Church. John’s obedience and submission to the hierarchy was profound until the day of his death.Unquestionably, the primary motivation for his prosecution by the Relaxati lay in the constant campaign to rid the Order of the Spirituals. The condemnation and imprisonment of the former Minister General represented the keystone for their success.

The following is an account taken from Anne Macdonell’s Sons of Francis (p. 241-242):

The scandalous sentence was, indeed, being pronounced, when a letter reached the judges from one too influential to be snubbed. The letter of the Cardinal Ottoboni, afterwards Pope Adrian V, was emphatic. It was almost threatening. He spoke of his sorrow at hearing of the accusation. “A holier and a more loyal man,” he said, “I have never known. I do not hesitate to say that his faith is my faith. Whatever heresy you discover in him abounds in me. His person is my person. In such things as you condemn him, I also am guilty. And with him I would be counted.”

In the face of this “threat” from Cardinal Ottoboni, the decision of the judges altered. Instead of being formally condemned and imprisoned, John was allowed to choose his place of perpetual retreat. He chose Greccio, where Francis had re-enacted the First Christmas. He would spend thirty-two years there. Subsequent examination of his life and teachings resulted in his beatification in 1777, and his Feast is celebrated on March 20.

St. Bonaventure’s efforts to bring unity to the Franciscan Order – which, as we have seen, demanded the suppression of the Spirituals – also required the suppression of any effective memory of the conflict between Francis and the “moderation” which had now become the “Conventual” norm of the Order. Such works as The Legend of Perugia, Speculum Perfectionis, and Sacrum Commercium were indeed sources of acute embarrassment, for they did indeed reveal that such moderation was the source of Francis’ great sorrow, and the reason for his resignation. Thus it came about that in 1266, under the Minister-Generalcy of St. Bonaventure, the General Chapter ordered all other Lives of St. Francis destroyed, and canonized Bonaventure’s Legend as the only permissible and acceptable Life of St. Francis.

None of this, of course, is meant to contradict the Church’s final judgment of St. Bonaventure’s sainthood. The story is told of St. Thomas and a companion visiting the room of St. Bonaventure at the University of Paris. Upon discovering that the latter was working on his life of Francis, St. Thomas said to his companion, “Let us leave a Saint to write about a Saint.” The problem is that St. Bonaventure, like so many Popes, Minister Generals, and other good men of the time, did not understand that St. Francis could not be “moderated” without being destroyed.

The deeper one penetrates into history, and the lives of those who make it, the more one comes to realize that extraordinary sanctity and goodness is not at all to be identified with infallibility or inerrancy, and that the life of great and holy men, including Popes and Saints, yet often contain very many serious errors and mistakes.

The irony, however, is that after having suborned the Papacy to support this betrayal of Francis, and having developed the systematic doctrine of “Absolute Poverty” in order to theologically bless this betrayal, and now being largely triumphant over the Spirituals, the position of the “Community” (a euphemism for the “moderate” majority of Franciscans) was soon to be shown forth in all its self-contradictory nakedness.

The agent of this revelation was to be the Avignon Pope, John XXII.

 

Pope John XXII

The Condemnation of the Doctrine of the Absolute Poverty of Christ

The conflict between the various elements of the Franciscan Order – Relaxati, Conventuals, Spirituals, Fraticelli – is quite complex, involving many personalities, events, injustices, extremes of action and reaction, etc. It is not to our purpose to fully delineate these things here. Suffice to say, it all came to a dramatic climax with the Papacy of John XXII, who resolved to destroy the Spirituals on the one hand, but equally to condemn the doctrine of Absolute Poverty which the “Community” of the Franciscan Order claimed for their unique charism.

We recall that this doctrine of Absolute Poverty, as taught by St. Bonaventure and embraced by a series of previous Popes, applied to common dominion over all property. Its basic principle was that the Franciscan Order did not have dominion (propietas) over its property. It was now the Pope, in fact, who allegedly held all of this property, and allowed the Order the use (administration) over such. Further, in endorsement of Bonaventure’s teaching, this doctrine of Absolute Poverty had, in Exiit qui seminat, also been claimed to apply to Christ and the Apostles.

It was the position of the Franciscan Community that the previous encyclicals of the aforementioned Popes had infallibly defined this doctrine. Pope John’s first step in this contest was to declare in his Bull Qui nonnunquam (March 26, 1322) that this was not true, and that he had the right to alter the Bulls of his predecessors. He wrote:

Because sometimes, what conjecture believed would be of profit, subsequent experience has shown to be harmful, it ought not to be thought reprehensible, if the legislator takes steps to revoke canons issued by himself or his predecessors, if he sees them to be harmful rather than profitable….” (Loomis, p. 244).

This of course opened up Pope Nicholas III’s Bull Exiit qui seminat, which had taught not only the Absolute Poverty of the Franciscan Order but also the Absolute Poverty of Christ, to reconsideration and abrogation.

Approximately 9 months later, John issued a second Bull, Ad conditorem, which reiterated even more strongly his right to abrogate the Bulls of his predecessors. But it did something even more devastating to the presumptions of the Franciscan Community: it cancelled the Pope’s ownership and dominion over all Franciscan property, thereby destroying all pretentions of being able to use these things without ownership. In one stroke, the “Absolute Poverty” of the Franciscan Order had been destroyed.

The final blow came in the Pope’s Bull Cum inter nonnullos. Therein John declared that it was a heresy to teach or claim that Christ and the Apostles did not “have anything either privately or in common,” and equally heretical to assert that they did not possess the right of “selling, giving, or exchanging them [possessions]….” To sell something one must possess legal dominion or ownership. It was obvious therefore to all that John XXII had declared it heretical to deny dominion over property to Christ and the Apostles. The Franciscan “Community” had always claimed that their embrace of Absolute Poverty placed them in the unique position, which they alone occupied among all the Religious Orders, of fully imitating Christ in His Absolute Poverty. John’s condemnation of the doctrine of the Absolute Poverty of Christ amounted, therefore, to the deepest assault upon the existing Order’s dignity, and any claim to a unique charism.

All claims of the Franciscan Order to the Possession of the charism of “Absolute Poverty” had thereby been destroyed, as had any claim to the following of Christ in the imitation of such Absolute Poverty.

The betrayal of St. Francis had now reached its epiphany, and it was time for the so-called “Moderates’ to experience persecution. The current Minister General, Michael of Cesena (who had assisted Pope John XXII in the suppression of Spirituals), fled to the Court of Lewis of Bavaria, along with Bongratio of Bergamo (litigator for the Community, and prosecutor of the Spirituals) and William of Ockham. According to Lambert:

Under his protection they launched attack after attack upon the Bulls of John XXII, whom they accused of having imposed heresy on the Church in Ad Conditorem and Cum inter nonnullos. They were deposed from office, excluded from the order, and excommunicated.”

All three died in schism.

The Great Betrayal had now come full-circle. What Francis had prophesied at the Chapter of the Matts in 1223 had now come to fulfillment. It is worth quoting again.

My brothers! My brothers! God has called me by the way of simplicity and humility, and has in truth revealed this way for me and for all who are willing to trust and follow me. So I do not want you to quote any other Rule to me, whether that of Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine, or Saint Bernard, or to recommend any other way or form of life except this way which God in His mercy has revealed and given to me. The Lord told me that He wished me to be a new kind of simpleton in this world, and he does not wish us to live by any other wisdom but this. God will confound you through your own prudence and learning. And I trust in the constables [the devils, whom Francis called “God’s policemen”] of God, that He will punish you through them. Eventually, whether you wish it or not, you will return with great remorse to your first state.”

The Order has not yet returned. There have of course been movements involving both individuals (Peter of Alcantara for one) and branches (such as the Observants and Capuchins) that have succeeded to various extents. Francis saw that his Order would endure until the end of the world, and that his Friars would eventually return. Again, from the vision of Brother James of Massa:

And the tempest did not cease till the tree was blown down, and carried away by the wind; and immediately another tree arose out of the golden roots of the old one, and it was entirely composed of gold, with its leaves and fruits; but for the present we will not describe the beauty, the virtues, and the delicious fragrance of this wonderful tree.””

The fact remains, however, that the Sacrum Commercium of St. Francis had been rejected. Christian Civilization, despite the appearances of its cultural “monuments,” was in flight from the Beatitudes.

 

A Darksome Light

In His Sermon on the Mount (the whole of which can be seen as an exposition of the meaning of the Beatitudes), Our Lord offered the following:

For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be! No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mt 6:21-24).

It might first seem to be a matter of total contradiction, or at least a paradoxical riddle, to speak of a “light that is darkness” – a “Darksome Light,” as it were. All contradiction is removed, however, if we perceive this phrase as referring to the relationship between intellect and will – between Truth, and the actual way in which we live, or fail to live, this truth in the world. “Faith, without works is dead,” proclaims St. James. It is thus entirely possible to “possess” the Faith, while yet denying it in the will, and therefore in what we love and pursue in this world. The possibility of a Darksome Faith is thus the inheritance of original sin, and the unnatural duplicity which is the tendency of all men

We see this “apparent” contradiction most aptly expressed in Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees:

And the prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them, who saith: ‘By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I would heal them.” (Mt 13:14-15).

The Sixth Beatitude is “Blessed are the clean [pure] of heart, for they shall see God.” This Beatitude corresponds, in Thomas’ analysis, to the Gift of the Holy Spirit which is called Understanding. It was the great Gift of God to St. Francis that he was able to obtain to the vision that the key to this “understanding with the heart” lies in poverty towards all the things of this world. This, in turn, establishes the soul in that simplicity of intention which is able to see God in all things, and beyond all things. In other words, this poverty and simplicity of intention bears the grace by which all of creation becomes transparent to the presence of God. This is why the “embrace” of St. Francis and St. Thomas (the true successor of St. Dominic) is the key to all return to sanity and integrity of faith in the face of the present Darkness. What Francis was able to directly perceive through Brothers and Sisters Sun, Moon, Stars, Water, Fire, Earth, Death, Birds, Wolves, and even mice and worms, corresponds to Thomas’ metaphysical vision which “sees” that no created thing is reducible to scientific (accidental) analysis, but only to the sustaining, creative action of God from nothing. It is this intellectual understanding which absolutely strips every created substance of its self-sufficiency, and thus necessitates a profound devotion to Lady Poverty as the Sacrum Commercium necessary for the preservation of a living faith.  It is the Metaphysics of St. Thomas that is therefore truly Franciscan in spirit, and not that of Bonaventure, Ockham, or duns Scotus – all of whom rejected this Metaphysics.

As I have mentioned previously, the Thirteenth Century was poised on the cusp of that tidal-wave of intellectual hubris and growth of the “mammon of iniquity” which was the Renaissance. There is no necessity here to explore all the manifold areas of commerce, banking, growth of cities, scientific exploration and invention, technological advances, philosophical and theological aberrations, heresies, schisms, political revolutions, etc. by which these betrayals of the Gifts of Francis and Thomas became incarnate in Christian society over the subsequent centuries. The primary effect was to force the Church into retreat from “understanding with the heart.” Two very brief examples of this will hopefully suffice.

Francis, of course, had contempt of money over all things, and named it “Flies.” St. Thomas taught that money was only a medium of exchange for real things, that it was absolutely morally wrong to make it “fruitful” in any way, and that it was intimately linked to the principle that “riches” provide the sustenance for all other sins, and that we are therefore to desire and possess only that which is necessary for leading a simple life. The centuries after the death of Francis and Thomas saw the multiplication of “extrinsic titles’ which made it possible to obtain “interest,” and therefore make “fruitful” in every conceivable way, money issued as a loan. The eventual outcome of this was to totally silence the Church’s teaching on usury, and to involve the Church itself in the worst scandals in regard to her own banking operations. Our article titled Usury and the Love of Money explores the history and structure of this betrayal, St. Paul tells us that love of money is “the root of all evil,” and therefore the “sustenance” which nourishes all the activities which corrupt the heart and will. If we wish to penetrate to the depths of that almost universal corruption which has now descended upon both the Church and the world, it is absolutely essential therefore that we come to understand how “love of money” has come to dominate not only our own personal lives, but also all the institutions of society, including the Church.

Our second example deals again with the Portiuncula, and the shrine of Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in which it is now enclosed. St. Mary of the Angels was built between the years 1569 and 1579 at the express will of Pope St. Pius V. As we have discussed towards the beginning of this article, it represents very graphically an icon in stone of the betrayal of St. Francis. Pope St. Pius V was, of course, the “Pope of Trent,” the pontiff responsible for the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and the Mass of Pius V. The content of the Faith was being dogmatized, the unity and solemnity of worship being restored, while the heart of Francis and the life of the Beatitudes was being entombed. Trent restored the faith, but did little or nothing to stem the slide of the faithful into the jaws of the mammon of iniquity. The word “usury,” for instance, never appears in any of its documents. Such is the duplicity, the bifurcation between intellect and will, by which the Faith becomes Darksome.

 

A Darksome Mirror

For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23-24)

It is difficult for any of us to believe that the above scriptural passage could apply to us. St. James speaks of a “hearer of the word,” which would certainly seem to indicate any of us who have been open to receive the Truth of God, and have given to it the assent of our faith. Is it possible, or even conceivable, that in the midst of all this possession of the Faith, there now exists a darkness in our souls by which, and through which, we have “forgotten what manner of man we were?” Is it conceivable, referring to St. James graphic terminology, that we are so “spotted by the world” that we no longer know who we are, or what it really means to be Christian?

St. James makes “double-mindedness,” or duplicity, to be the primary factor in this loss of self-knowledge. This duplicity finds its most succinct exposition in the following passage of his epistle:

You ask, and receive not: because you ask amiss; that you may consume it on your concupiscences. Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world, is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becometh an enemy of God.” (4:3-4).

To be a “doer of the word,” is therefore to be identified with renouncing friendship with this world, and with that threefold concupiscence – of the flesh, the eyes, and pride of life – which St. John defines to be the entire substance of this world. The “heart” of this choice of God over the world is a militant devotion and commitment to Poverty, which is the First Beatitude and the foundation of the entire spiritual life:

Very properly is the kingdom of heaven said to be the possession of those who keep nothing of the goods of this world through their own will, their inclination towards spiritual things, and their desire for eternal things. For it can only follow that a person will live on heavenly things if he cares nothing for earthly things, and he who renounces all earthly things and counts them as dung will taste with pleasure the savory crumbs that fall from the table of the holy angels and will deserve to taste how sweet and how good the Lord is.” (Sacrum Commercium, Prologue).

The rejection of the sacrum commercium of St. Francis opened the heart of Christian civilization to that prostitution to the world of concupiscence and hubris, the ascending severity of which is possibly best encapsulated in the popular names which we give to these succeeding ages of history:  Renaissance, Enlightenment, Age of Reason, Industrial Age, and our own Information Age. With each succeeding century the penetrating power of money over all the institutions of society was increased; the Church’s teaching on usury was softened, compromised, and finally silenced; international finance and trade come to dominate human relations; life became incredibly more complex and simplicity was lost; the population of cities grew at the expense of rural areas; the grip of reductive scientific thinking became dominant over every “civilized” man; human progress came to be increasingly identified with scientific, economic, technological, and consumeristic growth rather than anything to do with the spiritual life or the growth of Christ’s Kingdom.

The growth of these forces (and more) certainly moved at an accelerating pace through the 14th – 19th centuries. But something happened during the first half of the 20th Century – as though these forces of worldliness reached a critical mass – which enabled the whole process to enter into a geometrical progression. Possibly a few statistics might be of help:

According to the World Health Organization:

For the first time ever, the majority of the world’s population lives in a city, and this proportion continues to grow. One hundred years ago, 2 out of every 10 people lived in an urban area. By 1990, less than 40% of the global population lived in a city, but as of 2010, more than half of all people live in an urban area. By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people.”

Such an increase speaks of a growth of people living profoundly unrelated to the intimacy of God’s natural creation and all its rhythms and realities, a devotion to consumerism, and a loss of any sort of life of simplicity which, in turn, could only lead to a massive loss of all the spiritual truths and realities to be found in Our Lord’s teaching on the Beatitudes and in the entire Sermon on the Mount. One need only look at a demographic map of the voting orientations for the 2012 U.S. Presidential election to see the stark reality. The blue areas (Democrats) were almost entirely confined to urban areas, whereas areas colored red (Republican) were predominantly rural. In translating this into geographical terms this signifies that Obama won 580,000 square miles, while Romney won 2,427,000 square miles, and yet lost the election. We present these statistics not in any way as an endorsement of Romney or the Republican Party, but only to strongly indicate the process of liberalization inherent in the growth of cities.

This urbanization of course means that what the vast majority of people do in order to earn their living has little or nothing to do with anything relating to God’s creation, or anything which Our Lord, St. Francis, or St. Thomas would consider the necessities of life. There are, for instance, approximately 623,800 people employed in Advertising, Marketing, Promotions, Public Relations, and as Sales Managers in the United States. If there are that many actually employed in promoting and selling consumerism, one can barely imagine the disastrous effect upon all of Americans (and elsewhere) of the work of this vast army promoting the destruction of the ideal of Poverty.

Millions work in vocations related to the entertainment industry, which is almost certainly the primary source for spreading violence and sexual impurity in our cultures. Francis’ 1221 Rule for the Franciscan Third Order stated emphatically: “They shall not donate to actors, and shall forbid their household to donate.”

We need consider what this loss of poverty and simplicity of life has done to children. Global toy sales for the year 2011 were reported at 83.3 billion. The vast majority of these toys are almost certainly electronic – things which never seem to satisfy, always demand further growth in complexity and stimulation, and are soon broken or obsolete. Our children and grandchildren are violated by all this in the deepest recesses of their hearts and minds.

Pre-Vatican II American Catholics, in the midst of the twentieth century and during this period of exploding consumerism and secularism, possessed an abundance of the exterior testimonies to Christian civilization: vocations to the priesthood and religious life; the most extensive Catholic school system in the world; all children systematically taught the Baltimore Catechism; magnificent Churches; a vast network of Catholic Universities and Colleges; efficient Charitable Organizations; the Traditional Latin Mass.

And, in the midst of all this monumental Catholicism, they increasingly built up their bank accounts, stock portfolios, and retirement funds. They came to rely on insurance for their security rather than the charity of their family, friends, and Church. They somehow identified their faith with democracy and the American Experiment. They really believed in Religious Pluralism as the foundation of this experiment. They adored Bishop Sheen, and absorbed his embrace of evolutionary theory, which led him to write that Teilhard de Chardin “will appear like John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as the spiritual genius of the twentieth century.” (Footprints in a Darkened Forest, Meredith Press, 1967, p. 73). They embraced the banal TV entertainment of the 50’s, and prepared themselves to remain glued to their chairs for the flood of impurity that would descend in the 60’s and afterward.

In the intellectual realm, they became concubines of scientific reductionism, and every technological development. Virtually down to every single child and adult they absorbed the spiritual desolation involved in the notion that all physical things are reducible to atomic analysis. They taught, or had their children taught, about their alleged simian ancestry. They turned their faces away from Catholic teaching on “just wars, while this country dropped hydrogen bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which killed over 200,000 innocent civilians; they did the same while we incinerated hundreds of thousands more with the Fire-storm bombing of Tokyo and many European cities (135,000 in Dresden in one night). They raised America and the Constitution to a status parallel to the Chosen People and the Bible.

The examples are almost unlimited. They reach into every nook and cranny of our personal and communal lives.

It is therefore highly superficial to attribute the present chaos and filth in the Church to Vatican Council II. Vatican II and its aftermaths are the fruit, and certainly the facilitator of chastisement, for a much deeper infidelity and betrayal. Why should we believe that we have a right to the Traditional Latin Mass, which re-presents the supreme act of Poverty and Sacrifice by which Christ overcame the same world to which we are now prostituted? Why should we wonder that the leaders of the Church have now embraced an ecumenism which has had the effect of lowering us into the world’s cesspool of pluralism and paganism, which is the very constitutional principle upon which democracy and our country is founded? Why should we find it surprising that our hierarchy is largely immersed in the same sort of avarice, violence, and filth which is often our entertainment? Why should we be horrified by the undermining of Church Doctrine through philosophies and theologies which are the fruit of the same reductive scientism which has thoroughly permeated our own souls?

St. Gregory the Great wrote: “Divine justice provides shepherds according to the just desserts of the faithful.” The Papacy can be employed by God as a means of chastisement, as well as blessing. Any serious study of the history of the Church will prove the veracity of this principle. Vatican Council I taught that Peter, through Christ, “lives, presides and judges to this day, always in his successors the Bishops of the Holy See of Rome,” and that we are obliged to believe therefore that, “The disposition made by Incarnate Truth (dispositio veritatis) therefore remains, and Blessed Peter, abiding in the rock’s strength which he received (in accepta fortitudine petrae perseverans), has not abandoned the direction of the Church.” To believe this is to be Catholic, to believe otherwise is something else. If we choose to be Catholic, then we need to look inward for the real reasons behind Christ’s present “direction” through Peter.

If we have a Pope who is in any way sinful or weak, then that infirmity is most likely intimately connected within the Mystical Body of Christ to our own hypocrisy, duplicity, and sinfulness. The same may be said of the hierarchy in general. This, of course, does not excuse Popes, bishops, priests, religious, theologians, catechists, etc. from sins, nor disallow us from combating error and abuses. It does, however, profoundly deepen our understanding of the roots of such sin, and also our proper response to it. Most of all, it forces us to acknowledge our complicity in this immense tragedy; and, hopefully, especially in the light of our exploration and study of St. Francis and his Sacred Commercium of Poverty, it should teach us humility, and destroy some conceits. In such humility, we might begin to find the answer, as did Daniel the Prophet:

All this evil is come upon us; and we entreated not thy face, O Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and think on thy truth. And the Lord hath watched upon the evil, and hath brought it upon us: the Lord our God is just in all his works which he hath done: for we have not hearkened to his voice…we have sinned, we have committed iniquity….  For by reason of our sins, and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem, and thy people are a reproach to all that are round about us. Now therefore, O our Lord, hear the supplication of thy servant, and his prayers: and shew thy face upon thy sanctuary which is desolate, for thy own sake.

Daniel has always seemed to be the premier Old Testament image of purity and sainthood – the Old Testament parallel to St. Francis. The scriptures repeatedly call him the “man of desires”, as though to underline the singular way in which his mind and heart were filled with that “inebriation” of love for God which we spoke of earlier, and who  therefore possessed that understanding heart which truly “sees God.”

Daniel never says “they have sinned”, but repeatedly “we have sinned, we have committed iniquity.”

The man who becomes Poor for Christ simply attains to such a state of charity with God and all His creation that he sees things very differently. This does not mean that he loses his ability to discern sin, or the lack of fortitude and righteous desire to combat it. It does mean that he penetrates to such a depth into the merciful heart of Christ and also into the poverty of every single human being, including himself, that he cannot help but say we have sinned many more times each day than they have sinned. This seems  something which those who call themselves traditional Catholics, and consider themselves as a remnant of God in a world turned to general apostasy, have largely yet to learn. The reader might ask himself  whether in any of his reading of contemporary traditional Catholic literature he has ever seen the questions seriously posed, “What have we done wrong?” or “What have we done to deserve this?”

The dream of Pope Innocent III, in which he saw St. Francis holding up and restoring a Church crumbling into ruins, offers the answer. What is needed today is not another book on the errors of Vatican II. What is needed is not slick, expensive new catechisms, Catholic Universities and Colleges, more Catholic forums and conferences, more Monuments. What is needed most is not even the total restoration of the Traditional Mass. The Mass was the universal possession of all the faithful before Vatican II, and it did not prevent our present infidelity. What is demanded is hearts turned away from the world in poverty, lived according to our state of life, and turned towards Christ in depth of desire and simplicity of intention. What is required is St. Francis, and the life of Poverty which was his Lady.

It is easy for us to dismiss all of this with the excuse that as lay people we cannot possibly live the “extreme” Poverty that Francis demanded of his Friars Minor. In doing so, we would be completely missing the richness of the Sacrum Commercium which was Francis’ love, and which he envisioned as a love for all. As quoted earlier from the I Celano, “For he assigned to all their rule of life, and pointed out truly the way to be saved in every station.”

It is an immense task. The great Cathedrals of Christendom are nothing when compared to the creativity demanded of such a work. Its intricacy is that of the human heart, as compared to stone. What Francis called “Flies,” and all its illegitimate children, have penetrated into every aspect of our lives. The task before us is a heroic undertaking. God will surely honor both our successes and failures, if only we turn back to Him with all our hearts:

“For we, O Lord, are diminished more than any nation, and are brought low in all the earth this day for our sins….And now we follow thee with all our heart, and we fear thee, and seek thy face. Put us not to confusion, but deal with us according to thy meekness, and according to the multitude of thy mercies.” (Dan 3:33, 41-42).

 

The Marriage of Francis and Thomism

The “betrayal” of St. Francis’ ideal and the Franciscan Order which he founded was justified by St. Bonaventure through a very convoluted, false, and profoundly anti-Thomistic theology of history.

In Pope Benedict XVI’s March 10, 2010 catechesis on St. Bonaventure, we read the following

In this regard, St Bonaventure, as Minister General of the Franciscans, took a line of government which showed clearly that the new Order could not, as a community, live at the same ‘eschatological height’ as St Francis, in whom he saw the future world anticipated, but guided at the same time by healthy realism and by spiritual courage he had to come as close as possible to the maximum realization of the Sermon on the Mount, which for St Francis was the rule, but nevertheless bearing in mind the limitations of the human being who is marked by original sin.”

First of all, it is certain that this “eschatological height” of living according to Francis’ ideal of total poverty in imitation of Christ was lived not only by Francis, but by many of the friars who followed him. Any attempt to therefore make Francis into a solitary figure, or as some sort of image of what could not be lived by other friars in that particular stage of human history, is false. The “ideal” of Francis was not just for some future age, but for his own.

Francis clearly, repeatedly, and vehemently taught that such poverty was to be lived by all his friars. His recorded teachings, his Testament, and the Rule of 1223 (Regula Bullata) are all adamant about this: “without gloss, without gloss.”

Second, Francis was equally emphatic about the fact that this mandate for all his friars to fully live this way of total Poverty was received by him directly from Christ. This is affirmed by Bonaventure himself in his Major Life:

“Francis used to exhort the friars fervently to be faithful to the rule, saying that he had dictated everything as it was revealed to him by God and that nothing he had prescribed came from himself.” (IV, 11).

In other words anyone who demanded, or tried to implement, moderation of this ideal placed themselves morally and spiritually alongside Elias and the other Ministers in the incident which I quoted earlier, and which would bear repeating again:

After the second Rule written by blessed Francis had been lost, he went up a mountain (Monte Colombo, near Rieti) with Brother Leo of Assisi and Brother Bonizo of Bologna, to draw up another, and under the guidance of Christ he had it written down. But many Ministers came in a body to Brother Elias, the Vicar of blessed Francis [Francis had resigned], and said, ‘We hear that Brother Francis is drawing up a new Rule, and we fear that he will make it so harsh that it will be impossible for us to keep it. So we would like you to go and tell him that we are not willing to be bound by this Rule. Let him make it for himself, and not for us.’ But Brother Elias feared a rebuke from the holy Father, and refused to go. And when they all pressed him, he said that he would not go without them, so they all went together.

“When Brother Elias approached the place where blessed Francis was standing, he called to him. And when he had answered and saw the Ministers, he asked, ‘What do these Brothers want?’ Brother Elias said, ‘They are Ministers, who hear that you are drawing up a new Rule, and they fear that you intend to make it too hard. They refuse to be bound by it, and ask you to make it for yourself, and not for them.’

“At this blessed Francis raised his face to heaven and spoke to Christ, saying, ‘Lord, was I not right when I said that they would not believe me?’ And all present heard the voice of Christ answer from heaven, ‘Francis, nothing in this Rule is yours; for all is Mine. I wish the Rule to be obeyed to the letter, to the letter, without a gloss, without a gloss. I know what the frailty of man can achieve, and I know how much I intend to help them. So let those who are not willing to obey the Rule leave the Order.’

“Then blessed Francis turned to the friars and said, ‘You have heard! You have heard! Do you want this to be repeated?’ And the Ministers confessed their fault and went away confused and terrified.” (SP, 1).

Francis, of course, was not around to “terrify” St. Bonaventure, and he got away with it.

Nor are numbers an excuse. At the time of St. Bonaventure, there were reputed to be 30,000 friars. To all of them the words of Christ to Francis, as found in the following passage from the Mirror of Perfection, should have resounded clearly:

When the Friar Ministers urged him to allow the friars to possess something, at least in common, so that so great a company might have some resources, blessed Francis called upon Christ in prayer, and took counsel with Him on the matter. And Christ at once answered him, saying, ‘It is My will to withhold all things from them, both in general and in particular. I will always be ready to provide for the family, however great it may become, and I will always cherish it so long as it shall trust in Me’.”  (SP, 13).

Ironically, the reasons proffered by St. Bonaventure for this betrayal are rooted in the writings of Joachim of Fiore. We must remember that it was for their association with the teachings of Joachim that John of Parma and other Spirituals were horrendously persecuted. The significant difference was that, whereas Bonaventure was convinced that Francis’ ideal could only be lived in a future age, the Spirituals believed, along with Francis, that it was to be lived by them.

Joachim taught that there were six New Testament historical stages leading up to a seventh, which would result in the final consummation of earthly history in Christ (all this paralleling the Genesis six days of creation, and a seventh day of rest). According to the Bonaventure scholar Zachary Hayes (who also translated Joseph Ratzinger’s The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure into English):

Following the inspiration of Joachim of Fiore, Bonaventure envisioned the seventh age as the age of the ‘contemplative church.’ Francis of Assisi in his mystical experience on Mount Alverna was seen as the anticipation of this condition…. Francis himself is seen as an instance of proleptic eschatology [the branch of theology concerned with the final things of the world or of human destiny]….” (The History of Franciscan Theology, edited by Keenan B. Osborne, Franciscan Institute, 2007).

The word proleptic indicates a person, event or representation “existing before its proper historical time.”  This idea that St. Francis, in Bonaventure’s apocalyptic view of history, was a proleptic anticipation of the Seventh Age of Contemplative Perfection is also affirmed by Joseph Ratzinger in his work The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure. He point out that, in Bonaventure’s apocalyptic eschatology, St. Francis corresponds to the “Angel who ascends from the rising of the sun” (Apoc. 7,2) who was given the mission to “mark with the seal of God” all the elect. According to Ratzinger:

Joachim of Fiore clearly expresses the idea of a new Order in which the ecclesia contemplative [the perfected, contemplative Church] of the final age is to find its proper and definitive form of existence…Thus, the entire eschatological hope of the Calabrian abbot [Joachim] is expressed in summary form in the concept of the new Order… We could perhaps translate novus ordo as the “new People of God” [this might favor us with new insight as to why the New Mass is simply called the “Novus Ordo”]….In fact we can say that without this eschatological consciousness Francis and his message is no more understandable than is Christ and the message of the New Testament, the eschatological character of which is being brought out ever more clearly at the present….The unsophisticated and unrealistic way in which Francis tried to make the Sermon on the Mount the rule of his ‘New People’ is not understood properly if we designate it as ‘idealism’, as W. Nigg has shown. It is understandable only as the fruit of a vital consciousness that has raised itself above the question of the possible and above the institution and forms of this aeon….”  (p. 39-40).

It might indeed be a learning experience if we could witness an encounter between Joseph Ratzinger and St. Francis in which the former tells St. Francis that “the unsophisticated and unrealistic way in which you [Francis] tried to make the Sermon on the Mount the rule of your Order was above the question of the possible.” The reader may remember that when some of the Curia tried to convince Pope Innocent III of the “unrealism” of Francis’ Rule for his Order,

Cardinal John of St. Paul, Bishop of Santa Sabina, a man who loved holiness and was dedicated to Christ’s poor. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he addressed the pope and his confreres saying, ‘We must be careful. If we refuse this beggarman’s request because it is new or too difficult, we may be sinning against Christ’s Gospel, because he is only asking us to approve a form of Gospel life. Anyone who says that a vow to live according to the perfection of the Gospel contains something new or unreasonable or too difficult to be observed, is guilty of blasphemy against Christ, the Author of the Gospel.’ (this account taken from Bonaventure’s own Major Life of St. Francis).

All this leads us to the consideration of what, in the mind of St. Bonaventure (and Joseph Ratzinger), constitutes the relationship of the existing Franciscan Order (of both Bonaventure’s time and ours) to the New Order of the Seventh Age. In Bonaventure’s scheme, the Seventh Age is the Seraphic Age, and the Sixth Age is one step lower – the Cherubic Age. Joseph Ratzinger writes the following:

In carrying out his office as General and in living his own personal life, he could set aside the sine glossa [Francis’ demand that his strict rules concerning poverty be lived “without gloss, without gloss!”] which he knew from the Testament of Francis to be the real will of the founder. He could do this because the proper historical hour for such a form of life had not yet struck. As long as it is still the sixth day, the time is not yet ripe for that radically Christian form of existence which Francis was able to realize in his own person at the divine command [notice the ingenuous interpretation here – the “divine command,” as we have seen was not just to Francis, but also to all his friars]. Without feeling any infidelity towards the holy Founder, Bonaventure could and had to create institutional structures for his Order, realizing all the while that Francis had not wanted them. It is a too facile and, in the final analysis, an unlikely method to see this as a falsification of true Franciscanism.” (p.50).

Francis would beg to differ.

Such is the prudence and discretion condemned by Francis himself, and also by Lady Poverty in the allegorical Sacrum Commercium. And just as St. Bonaventure’s doctrine of Absolute Poverty was condemned by Pope John XXII, so also deserving of fulsome condemnation is his falsification of Francis’ ideal and the historical-apocryphal thinking which served as its justification. For this, not surprisingly, we are once again in need of St. Thomas.

In examining Thomas’ condemnation of the Joachimite-Benaventurian theory of “Ages,” we shall see why Thomas is the real companion of Francis, and that in Thomistic theology and philosophy we do once more witness the embrace of Francis and Dominic.

 

St. Thomas and Joachimite Eschatology

Author Bernard McGinn, in his book The Calabrian Abbot: Joachim of Fiore in the History of Western Thought, writes the following concerning St. Thomas’ approach to Joachim of Fiore: “for all the Scholastic authors his reaction to Joachim and the Joachites is by far the most consistently hostile.” William of Tocco (1320) states that after reading Joachim’s work in a certain monastery Thomas “forbade that the book be read or believed, and nullified its teachings with his own.” (McGinn, p. 209-210)

Thomas’ teaching against Joachim’s version of apocalyptic eschatology is to be found in ST, I-II, Q.106, a.4 in which he poses the question “Whether the New Law Will Last Till the End of the World.” He writes:

Thus, too, the state of the New Law is subject to change with regard to various places, times, and persons, according as the grace of the Holy Ghost dwells in man more or less perfectly. Nevertheless we are not to look forward to a state wherein man is to possess the grace of the Holy Ghost more perfectly than he has possessed it hitherto, especially the apostles who received the first fruits of the Spirit, i.e., sooner and more abundantly than others….”

In other words, from the coming of Christ and the founding of His Church to the end of the world, we are dealing with the same human nature, the same law, sacraments, and graces. It certainly is true that there are the variations mentioned above, but we must not look to some “Third Age” (an “Age of the Holy Spirit” which is to be identified, in Joachimite and Boneventurian eschatology with the Seventh Period or Status  after Christ) in which human nature has evolved or morphed into some sort of seraphic consciousness. The only “Age” after that of the New Law is the eternity of Afterlife.

Concluding his analysis of Thomas’ position in regard to Joachim’s eschatology, Bernard McGinn writes:

The confrontation between the abbot [Joachim] and the doctor is well-nigh perfect. Aquinas denies Joachim’s method of scriptural interpretation by types and concordances, he rejects his trinitarian views, and he attacks the concept of the three ages or status of history.”

What all this means, in regard to both the teaching of Thomas and the reality of St. Francis’ charism, is that the fundamental nature of man and his relationship to the supernatural order and the life of grace remains the same from the moment of Christ’s Redemption and founding of His Church to the end of the world. There will not be a new status, New Age, or translation of the Franciscan Order into a qualitatively different condition of seraphic holiness. There may indeed occur, through an outpouring of God’s grace, a return to Francis’ ideal of Lady Poverty, but this will happen on the same level of spirituality and responsiveness to God’s grace which informed Francis and his faithful companions in the 13th Century, or at any other time in history. What is demanded, as St. Francis prophesied, is simply return, and has nothing to do with translation into a new age or status.

In other words, just as St. Bonaventure’s alleged doctrine of “Absolute Poverty” was a falsification of Francis’ ideal, equally false was his apocalyptic eschatology he used to justify the transformation of the Franciscan Order into “Relaxation.”

The radical opposition between St.Thomas and St. Bonaventure in regard to eschatology reflects a much more profound opposition in regard to their understanding of human nature, and the theology and metaphysics proper to understanding that nature.

As we have pointed out in other articles (see The Antidote to Teilhardian Evolution: The Restoration of the Supernatural: In Accord with the Teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas), the absolute foundation of orthodoxy in relation to all areas of theology and philosophy is a correct understanding of the doctrine creation ex nihilo. Bypassing the philosophical complexities involved, we may simply state here that God’s act of creation of any real substance out of nothing entails the establishment of a substantial form (essence) at the root of its being which is unchangeable in itself without causing the destruction of that substance. And, since the human soul is the substantial form of man’s entire humanity, and since this entails possessing a human nature common to all men at all times, we can have no evolution of substantial human nature at any period of human history. There can only be “accidental” change. Even the state of living in sanctifying grace must be considered an accidental change (since it is a matter of supernatural grace being “superadded” to the soul), as is the “Grace of Glory” by which we are enabled to see the face of God. As Thomas points out in the above passage from the Summa, there may be various differences in terms of places, times, persons, and graces (including the radical difference between the New Dispensation of Christ, and the Old), but human nature and its fundamental options in this life remain the same. This is why, for instance, Lady Poverty, in her examination of the history of her dealing with men which I summarized in my examination of Sacrum Commercium, could validly compare the poverty practiced by the early Christians (or even that lived by Adam and Eve in original innocence) to that practiced by Francis and his faithful companions. Human nature was the same, and the choice was the same.

Something very different exists in Bonaventure’s metaphysics and cosmology. Following is the explication of Bonaventure’s view of creation as given by Zachary Hayes:

In the first book of his Sentence Commentary Bonaventure expressed a vision of creation that remained with him until the end of his life. Drawing on and expanding the scriptural image (Eccles 1:7) of a river which flows from a spring, spreads throughout the land to purify and fructify it, and eventually flows back to its point of origin, Bonaventure presents the outline of his entire theological vision. In sum, the contours of the Christian faith are cast within the neo-Platonic circle of emanation, exemplarity, and return as this philosophical metaphor is reshaped by the Christian vision of faith.” (P. 61-62).

There are at least two things very disturbing about all this, both of which are centered in the Gnostic, Neo-Platonic concepts of the circle of emanation and return.

The word emanation, when used in any way to describe the essential relationship between created realities and God, necessarily carries overtones of Gnosticism and Pantheism, no matter what gyrations one passes through in order to “Christianize” it. The word itself connotes “to come forth from, or issue from something else as a source.” It is impossible to find a good definition of this word without encountering both these elements: “coming forth from” and “source.” Emanation is the classic word used to describe the pantheistic coming out of all finite realities from the Monad or Godhead. It may disingenuously be used in such a way as to try to identify it with creation ex nihilo, using the rationale that this is justifiable because the created thing did not exist before this time and was therefore “nothing.” But this simply doesn’t work. The act of creation is not a movement out from the ontological Being of God, but rather an act extrinsic to God’s Supreme Being by which He exercises His infinite power and intelligence to create truly from nothing. It is this which is denied in the concept of emanation.

The second element in St. Bonaventure’s disturbing theology and cosmology is the circular concept of emanation and return – also a concept profoundly integral to Gnosticism. It necessitates the concept of evolution – a word the etymology of which is very close to that of emanation. It literally means to “roll out.” What it entails in Bonaventure’s metaphysics and cosmology is an ascending growth in the status of human nature itself through an evolving process of emanation and return. In Bonaventure’s metaphysics, this demands a view of the soul which negates the unchangeable substantial form of the soul. He certainly taught that the soul was created in the image of God, but this image is set upon a path of historical development by the dynamics of historical, evolutionary ascent.

St.Thomas embraced the hylomorphic constitution of any and all created substances, such that any individual substance is the result of the Divine act of creating from nothing – this act involving the union of prime matter with one substantial form. From this substantial view of the human soul ensues, as I have already pointed out, his doctrine concerning the unity of the soul, and the non-evolutionary status of human nature at all points of human history.

Bonaventure, on the other hand, rejected this unicity of substantial form, and posited what is called “universal hylomorphism.”  Again, from Zachary Hayes:

Instead of accepting the doctrine of the unity of form, Bonaventure drew from R. Grosseteste and the Oxford Franciscans a form of light-metaphysics. According to this view, creatures are, indeed, composed of matter and form, but not necessarily of a single form. According to Bonaventure, the first form of all corporal beings is the form of light. Light in this instance is designated by the Latin word lux and is distinguished from lumen (radiation) and color (the empirical form in which light is perceived).”

In other words, we are here dealing with a spiritual “light” which emanates from God (and specifically, in Bonaventure’s metaphysics, from Christ) which is the moving force in the cycle of emanation and return. Even physical matter, according to Bonaventure, possesses to some degree this lux.

Hayes continues his analysis:

This theory of light implies a rejection of the Aristotelian theory of the unity of form which would be favored by Aquinas [not just “favored,” but absolutely integral to Thomistic metaphysics]. In fact, Bonaventure argued in favor of a plurality of forms in a position similar to that of Avicenna, Avicebron, and Albert the Great. If light is understood to be the first and most general form, then, besides light, each individual being has a special form. It follows that each being has at least these two forms [and human beings have at least three forms, since Bonaventure denies that the soul can be the substantial form of the body, a position which he labeled as “insane]. The theory of the plurality of forms in Bonaventure involves a distinct understanding of the function of form. The function of form is not merely to give rise to one specific being [in other words, it does not serve to determine an essence which remains substantially unchanged through all “accidental” change]. But precisely in forming a specific being, it prepares or disposes matter for new possibilities. There is, indeed, such a thing as a final form. But this is arrived at only at the end of a process involving a multiplicity of forms along the way.”

Put simply, Bonaventure’s theology and metaphysics entails that the human soul itself is involved in an historical, evolutionary process. This, in turn, makes possible the concept of a “Seventh Age” in which the human soul will achieve its “final form” in this life of seraphic perfection in contemplation of the Godhead. It is only that we will have a Franciscan Order capable of living that perfection of Absolute Poverty in imitation of St. Francis.

St. Francis, on the other hand, possessed the simplicity and trueness of heart to understand that the full living of his way of Lady Poverty did not require an historical evolutionary process to come to fruition, but could and should be lived by all his friars right then and now. It simply required a return to his Rule. His implicit theology and metaphysics were therefore not that of Bonaventure, but rather of that of St. Thomas.

 

Return

If there is one thing that characterizes all forms of New Age and Novus Ordo thinking it is the concept of freedom. Previous Ages are seen to be static, involving rational systems of thought which, while they may indeed have fulfilled their function of ordering human life during its evolutionary ascent, are now suffocating to the final evolutionary stage of human development, and to the divine spirit within man which is attempting to break free into final fulfillment.

There is of course a great range of thinking in this regard – all the way from the total anarchical thinking of certain New Age philosophers, to the much more moderate and devious absorption of this principle by Catholic theologians and philosophers. But the same basic spirit reigns – the transcending of the old status and rigidities and the blossoming into a new freedom of the human spirit.

As we have said, in the Twentieth Century this evolutionary spirit reached a critical mass and exploded into a geometrical progression. It is important to understand that the fuel for this explosion was provided by a marriage between the age-old Gnostic concept of spiritual evolution  with modern, reductive scientific evolution.

In our article The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns, we quoted and documented Joseph Ratzinger’s thinking on this subject:

“…the pre-Darwinian idea of the invariability of the species had been justified in terms of the idea of creation [and, of course, by taking the Bible seriously] ; it regarded every individual species as a datum of creation that had existed since the beginning of the world through God’s creative work as something unique and different alongside the other species. It is clear that this form of belief in creation contradicts the idea of evolution and that this expression of the faith has become untenable today.”(Credo for Today, p.34).

Since creation of individual, distinct specie has become untenable, we must look within the dynamics of evolution itself for an explanation of the rise of the human spirit. Again, from Joseph Ratzinger:

“This would then lead to the insight that spirit does not enter the picture as something foreign, as a second substance, in addition to matter: the appearance of spirit, according to the previous discussion, means rather that an advancing movement arrives at the goal that has been set for it….The clay became man at that moment in which a being for the first time was capable of forming, however dimly, the thought ‘God.’ The first ‘thou’ that – however stammeringly – was said by human lips to God marks the moment in which spirit arose in the world. Here the Rubicon of anthropogenesis was crossed.” (Ibid., p. 46-47)

And finally, we must recognize that this evolution to individual human spirit and consciousness is not the end goal of evolution. The final pancosmic unity of all mankind is also a fully evolutionary process. Again, from Joseph Ratzinger:

“For it might be said in this regard that relation to the cosmos is necessarily also relation to the temporality of the universe, which knows being only in the form of becoming [this is gibberish in light of Thomistic cosmology], has a certain direction, disclosed in the gradual construction of ‘biosphere’ and ‘noosphere’ from out of physical building blocks which it then proceeds to transcend. Above all it is a progress to ever more complex unities. This is why it calls for a total complexity: a unity which will embrace all previously existing unities….The search reaches the point of integration of all in all, where each thing becomes completely itself precisely by being completely in the other. In such integration, matter belongs to spirit in a wholly new and different way, and spirit is utterly one with matter. The pancosmic existence, which death opens up would lead, then, to universal exchange and openness, and so to the overcoming of all alienation. Only where creation realizes such unity can it be true that ‘God is all in all.” (Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, p.191-192).

Such is the New Age and Novus Ordo fulfillment of Bonaventurian historical-spiritual evolution in the mind of Joseph Ratzinger (and the Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin, which he summarizes in the above quote). As such, Joseph Ratzinger can be seen as the primary theological architect of Vatican Council II and the disastrous post-Conciliar life which has been our experience over the past 50 years.

As complex as this New Age vision is now in the mind of Joseph Ratzinger, Teilhard de Chardin, et. al., it all began (for our modern world) with that fundamental violation of Christian poverty and humility which was the grace of St. Francis’ ideal and Order. It began in the collective Christian heart which falsified Francis, rejected the Beatitudes, and formed an adulterous relationship with the harlot of the Renaissance. There can be no Return to sanity in the Church unless there is first a Return to Francis’ Lady Poverty.

 

Our Lady, Queen of Mercy

In his Second Life of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano offers us the following description of St. Francis’ extraordinary devotion to Our Lady:

Toward the Mother of Jesus he was filled with an inexpressible love, because it was she who made the Lord of Majesty our brother. He sang special Praises to her, poured out prayers to her, offered her his affections, so many and so great that the tongue of man cannot recount them. But what delights us most, he made her the advocate of the order and placed under her wings the sons he was about to leave that she might cherish them and protect them to the end – Hail advocate of the poor! Fulfill toward us your office of protectress until the time set by the Father!”

“Hail advocate of the poor! St. Francis clearly identified Our Lady with Lady Poverty. But there is more. He also identified Mary with the Church. The following, in Francis’ own words, is St. Francis prayer and Salutation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Hail, O Lady, Holy Queen

Mary, Mother of God:

You are the virgin made Church

And the one chosen by the most holy Father in Heaven

Whom He consecrated with His most holy beloved Son

And with the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, In whom there was and is

All the fullness of grace and every good.

It is an extraordinary concept that Mary, through the will of the Father, was made Church. We of course can appreciate that this means that she is personally the perfect union of humanity with God, and is therefore the precursor and model, in imitation of her Son, of perfect holiness.  She is the perfection of the Mystical Body of Christ.

But there is a second sense in which Mary is “made” Church. She encompasses within Her Immaculate Heart all that constitutes the Church Militant and the Church Suffering. As such, she has received the grace and power to purify the hearts of each one of us in order that we might come “to see with our eyes, and hear with our ears, and understand with our heart, and be converted”; and that Our Lord might truly heal us of our infidelities and prostitutions to a world plummeting into the luxurious and prideful hands of Satan. It is thus that Our Lady is truly spoken of as Queen of Mercy.

This is the entire purpose of the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church – to place all of us within the Immaculate Heart of Mary in order that we might be purified of that darkness which enshrouds us all. It is of course impossible for any of us to survive in this Babylonian world, even in terms of possessing the simple necessities of this life, in the same way that was possible in the relative simplicity of the 13th Century. But God sees the heart, and it is here where the simplicity and purity of our intentions may receive His grace and fruitfulness. It is here where we may receive the grace of that “single eye” which truly seeks God above all the things of this world, and the power of truly Christian creativity to make this present within our lives and the lives of our families. Most of all, this necessitates that we begin by confessing that we cannot receive or live the richness of God, while pursuing the riches, luxuries, pleasures, and advancements of this world. We cannot claim to be living in the first Beatitude, and that poverty of spirit which realistically hopes to obtain to Our Lord’s Kingdom, without at the same time possessing a deep love and devotion towards St. Francis’ Lady Poverty.

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