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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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Fear of the Lord and The Beatitude of Poverty of Spirit

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Note: Below is posted a new article: Fear of the Lord and The Beatitude of Poverty of Spirit. The five-page Introduction to this proposed series of articles on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and The Beatitudes should be read first, if the reader has not already done so.

 

 Fear of the Lord

And the Beatitude of Poverty of Spirit

              

“And He shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.”  (Isaias 11: 3).

 

The above-quoted prophesy of Isaias refers to the human soul of the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in Whom there never was, or ever could be, even the slightest stain of sin. We are therefore left to wonder in what possible way we might consider Jesus to be “filled with the spirit of fear of the Lord”.

The mystery deepens when we also consider the following words of St. John:  “Fear is not in charity, but perfect charity casteth out fear….” The human Soul of Jesus was always in possession of the Beatific Vision, and therefore certainly in possession of “perfect charity”. And yet, He was still “filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord”.

Obviously, there is a deeper mystery present here concerning this Gift which is not present in our common understand of the notion of “fear”. We shall only be able to penetrate to some understanding of this mystery if we begin by attempting to see how this Gift is absolutely essential for fallen man. And in so doing, we shall also come to see that fear of the Lord is not only “the beginning of wisdom”, but fully present at its End. And we can only do this through coming to a deeper understanding of the nature of original sin and its relationship to all the subsequent sins of man in his fallen state.

 

The Relationship between Original and Actual Sin

“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).

St. Thomas teaches that “all actual sins virtually pre-exist in original sin, as in a principle”. (ST, I-II, Q. 82, A.2).

What is this “principle”?

 The temptation offered by Satan to Eve (and through her to Adam) was that by rising up against God, “You shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.” St. Thomas therefore teaches that the special sin of Adam which we call Original Sin consisted in an act of intellectual pride (an act of the will) by which man desired an excellence above his nature in which he sought, of himself and independently of God, to be the determiner of what is good and evil. In other words, such an act of pride consisted in a very precise rebellion against the truth formulated by St. James above, which well deserves repeating: “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.”

But St. Thomas, in commenting on the passage from Ecclesiasticus 10:15 which states, “The beginning of the pride of man is apostasy”, also says that in consideration of the sin of pride itself, we encounter an even deeper causative root. He writes:

Apostasy from God is stated to be the beginning of pride, in so far as it denotes a turning away from God, because from the fact that man wishes not to be subject to God, it follows that he desires inordinately his own excellence in temporal things.” (ST, I-II, Q.84, A.2).

Thomas of course wrote before the existence of the Douay-Rheims Bible, in which we find the following translation of Ecclesiasticus 10: 14-15:

The beginning of the pride of man, is to fall off from God: Because his heart is departed from him that made him: for pride is the beginning of all sin.”

The word “apostasy”, which Thomas uses, has now come to signify a very specific mortal sin: the complete rejection of the Christian faith. But clearly in the meaning given to it by Thomas and the Book of Ecclesiasticus, it denotes a deeper and more ancient usage – the fundamental movement –turning away from – God in the deepest part of the human soul which immerses us in that pride which is the beginning of any sin – mortal or venial.

The Greek word from which the English word apostasy is derived is ȧpŏstȧsĭa. It is composed of two roots: apo (away from), and stēnai (standing).  It therefore signifies that departure of the human heart “away from” standing in the presence of God with that total submission of both mind and heart which acknowledges that, in the words of St. James, “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.”  Such “apostasy” is at the root of all sin. It is here where we come to understand, as Thomas says, that “all actual sins virtually pre-exist in original sin, as in a principle”. All sin is a departure of the human heart from standing upright in the presence of God and acknowledging in the depths of our souls that everything is received from God.

We are now also in a position to understand how Jesus, in his Humanity, was “filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord”. Fear of the Lord denotes the Gift of the Holy Spirit through which any created spiritual being, including the human soul of Our Lord, stands in righteousness before God. As the Book of Acts relates concerning the speech of Stephen when he was brought before the council of the Jews:

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And he said: Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man, standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7: 55).

And we must then further understand that this standing in the fullness of the first Gift of the Holy Spirit was perfected to an infinite degree in Our Lord’s living of the first Beatitude:

Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2: 6-8).

Christ’s obedience unto the Cross entailed that fullness of the Gift of fear of the Lord which was lived in an equally infinite poverty of spirit.

Verse five, which immediately precedes the above quote reads: “For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…..”  For Jesus, the Gift of Fear of the Lord and the Beatitude of Poverty of Spirit were fulfilled in simplicity and purity of Heart, standing in complete innocence before God. And such is also true of Our Blessed Mother. For the rest of us, however, this Gift and its corresponding Beatitude involve a path through an enormous tangle of human self-deceits in order that we might arrive at that simplicity of heart which is true spiritual childhood. It is in this warfare that Fear of the Lord takes on those additional connotations that we associate with the word “fear”. This entails not only fear of God and His just punishments, but also a deep fear of our own self-deceit. Such fear is the absolutely essential foundation at any point of our spiritual life in order that we may stand before God. And such standing in Truth before God is the pre-requisite for all true charity.

This warfare must be conducted in all the various faculties of our being. We shall begin with the intellect and its standing in the Light of God’s Truth. Jesus declared to Pilate: “For this was I born, and for this came I into this world; that I should give testimony to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” (John 18: 37). The greatest victim of accommodation of the Catholic Church to the spirit of the world in modern times is the loss of faith in the power and radiance of Truth upon the human soul. This departure of the collective Catholic heart from the Life and Light of Christ has been growing at an increasing pace, and at what now appears an exponential rate, for centuries. It is here where we shall encounter the depths of that impurity of mixture (please read the Introduction to this series of articles) with the modern world which St. Thomas gives as the reason for the fact that the final purification of the world is to be accomplished through Fire because our charity has grown tepid.

 

Grieving the Holy Spirit in the Depths of Human Nature

“Therefore I say to you: Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven man, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” (Mt. 12: 30).

St. Thomas defines evil as “the privation of right order towards the divine good”. He further teaches that no being is capable of willing evil in itself, but rather that evil consists in seeking to obtain some good through means that are contrary to God’s will and established order. This is true in regards to all of man’s activities: spiritual and physical. We can of course easily understand this in regard to things of the flesh. There is no sin, for instance in sexual desire itself, but only in the means which might be use to satisfy such desire.

Things get much more complicated, however, when we enter into consideration of man’s highest, and most important faculty: the intellect. St. John teaches that “the life [of Christ] is the light of man.” (John 1:4). Jesus Christ is of course the Word of Truth eternally generated from the Father. It is therefore fully natural that any man should respond in the depths of his mind and heart to the truths of Christ. Jesus flatly declared, “Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” There is therefore no area of man’s complex nature where the falling away from standing (apostasy) in righteousness before God is more destructive to both his own soul and the souls of all other human beings than the failure to stand in the Truth of Christ.

There is of course a certain prudence to be exercised in our witness of God’s Truth to others. But there is also a false and evil prudence – what both scripture and Thomas call the “wisdom of the flesh”. It consists of silence in the face of evil. In regard to the necessity for external profession of our Faith, St. Thomas writes:

Thus then it is not necessary for salvation to confess one’s faith at all times and in all places, but in certain places and at certain times, when, namely, by omitting to do so, we would deprive God of due honor, or our neighbor of a service that we ought to render him….The end of faith, even as of the other virtues, must be referred to the end of charity, which is the love of God and our neighbor. Consequently when God’s honor and our neighbor’s good demand, man should not be contented with being united by faith to God’s truth, but ought to confess his faith outwardly.” (II-II, Q.3, A.3).

In the Introduction to this series of articles, we examined St. Thomas’s teaching concerning what he terms “The Final Conflagration” which precedes the Final Judgment of the world. Thomas taught that it is singularly appropriate that this final purification should be accomplished through Fire because of the “impurity of mixture” of truth with error in souls at the end of time which had led to that tepidity and lukewarmness in which “the charity of many shall grow cold.” In a world which now waxes old in its betrayal of Christian civilization, and which is immersed in the pluralism, relativism, and false freedoms of “messianic” democracy, it is the overriding temptation of Satan for Catholics to be silent in terms of essential Catholic doctrines in order to accomplish partial agendas which they have convinced themselves are in the service of God, but which in reality mask dissembling and double-mindedness in their attempt to be both a friend of God and a friend of this world.

In order to understand the destructiveness which ensues upon such “impurity of mixture”, it will help to examine one specific issue.

There is no area where such duplicity has caused Catholics to violate the charity due to both God and neighbor than the Pro-Life movement and its silence in regard to contraception.

In the realm of moral truths, there is no evil which is more vicious and contrary to the charity owed to both God and man than abortion. There is therefore no moral truth more “necessary for our salvation” (St.Thomas’ words above) than that we stand before God and our fellow human beings in the full, integral truth concerning the horrendous evil of killing unborn children created by God in His own image. There is therefore no purposeful silence in regard to this issue, especially when exercised on a political level, which does not immerse us in evil, or endanger our own salvation.

All those  who consider themselves orthodox, conservative, or traditional Catholics would of course declare that they believe in the equal dignity and sacredness of all human life from conception until natural death. But these same Catholics are silent in the realm of “Pro-Life” political activity (and of course also in any social discourse with those who are not like-minded) in regard to contraception.

Eternal Life Publishing (distributor of Fr. Hardon’s writings, etc.) publishes a booklet titled Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives, written by Dr. Bogomir M. Kuhar, PharmD., BS.Pharm, FASCP, in cooperation with the moral theologian William J. Smith, and with strong endorsements by people such as Fr. Hardon and Dr. Charles Rice. It was first published in 1994, and has since gone through 8 printings, including a revision in 2009. Following is from the Introduction by Dr. Bogomir:

Infant Homicides Through Contraceptives is not meant to be a detailed, exhaustive treatise on the subject, but rather a survey review of research and literature clearly and unequivocally providing the conclusion that all steroid-based so-called ‘contraceptives’ and many other products are abortifacient in some instances, often more than has been surmised previously. Using statistics from the pharmaceutical manufacturers of these abhorrent chemicals and the U.S. federal government’s own agencies, it conservatively estimates the horrific numbers of preborn children silently slaughtered in their most early days.”

We need add that although Dr. Bogomir states that his study is not detailed or exhaustive, this will not be the reader’s impression. There is a great deal of research here covering what appear to be all the specific brands of oral abortifacients and their modes of action. We need also add that included within the abortifacient research are the various forms of intrauterine devices, Depo-Provera injections, and Norplant implants. Anything new in the last 10 years is of course not included in this study. The Contraception industry is ever claiming the development of more effective contraceptives, and more efficient and widespread use of them. (especially due to educational efforts).

We must note in the beginning of the following analysis the degree to which language itself is used by the “pro-contraceptive” establishment in the service of the Father of Lies. This begins with the very words “contraception” or “contraceptive” themselves, which in their etymology (root derivations) simply mean “against (stop) conception”. The substances and devices which we will be examining below, although they may sometimes stop conception through preventing ovulation, all kill conceived human beings after ovulation and fertilization. They therefore all fully deserve the name of either “baby-killing substances” or “baby-killing devices”. We ask the reader to keep this in mind during all that follows.

Dr. Bogomir offers us both low range and high range estimates in regard to his “conservative” estimates concerning the infant homicides caused by the different major types of contraceptives. The low range totals out at 6,555,000 annually: the high ranges total out as 11,625,000 annually.

For the year 2016, the CDC estimated 623,471 surgical abortions in this country.  If we contrast this figure with Dr. Bogomir’s low range estimate, we are left with there being over 10 times the number of babies slaughtered by contraceptives as there are by surgical abortion. If we use his high range estimate, we come up with a slaughter rate of the unborn which is over 18 times that of surgical abortions.

Clearly, in refusing to unite the issue of contraceptive infant homicide with that of surgical abortion in the public and political arena, the vast majority of “Pro-Lifers” do not really believe what they say they believe – the equal right and dignity of all human beings from conception until natural death. In fact one is led to the logical conclusion that they do not really believe that these “littlest ones” are as much human persons as those they can make baby models of or see clearly in ultrasound images. They simply are unable to stand before God or man in the fullness of God’s Truth. They are profoundly immersed in that very “impurity of mixture” with the world which has little faith in the radiance and power of the Truths of Christ, and instead are placing their faith in the politics of man and in the so-called democratic process. We ask that those who do not understand the heretical nature of the fundamental principles of democracy, or the way in which involvement with these principles over hundreds of years has served to profoundly immerse man in the spirit of Antichrist, to read our article Democracy and the Spirit of Antichrist.

Worth mentioning here is what involvement with this specific “impurity of mixture” has done to the integrity of the language we use, and through the misuse of this language, to our emasculated Catholic consciousnesses.

It is very common in the American political realm to distinguish between “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Abortion” politicians.

There is almost certainly no such thing as a Pro-Life politician. All politicians are pro-abortion to one extent or another. And in being Pro-abortion at all, they are Pro- Abortion period. The exception proves both the rule and the language. We would not refuse to call a man who rapes one woman a “rapist”, while at the same time being perfectly at ease calling the same man a “rapist” if he had raped 20. The same is true of someone who is a murderer. All politicians that we know of, in either of the two major parties, support or are silent on the issue of contraception. It would be absolutely impossible for them to be elected if they were not at least silent. They are all therefore politically “Pro-Infanticide” – pro Murder of the Unborn. And, of course, it would be virtually impossible to find a politician from either of the major parties who did not support abortion in the case of rape, incest, or so-called “life of the mother”. The “life of the mother” issue was prominent when I was a boy. It was the scalpel used to cut apart the integrity of Christian consciences, and all else followed in its wake. The fact is that in any truly formed Catholic conscience and heart, there never should have been a moral quagmire involving this issue. A doctor is morally obliged to try to save both, but the bottom line is there can never be justification for intending to kill either baby or mother.

It is equally destructive to the integrity and purity of Catholic consciousness to call one politician “more Pro-Life” than another. We would not call a politician more Pro-Life who promoted the murder of one six year old girl, than another who promoted the murder of 100. Such would be absurd. And yet, in terms of persons created by God living in the womb of their mothers, we do not waffle at doing so.

We are perfectly aware that all that is written above may seem extreme to virtually all Catholics, including those who might identify as traditional Catholics. We simply ask all readers to consider the following fact. In any of the Catholic countries in the middle ages (noticeably under the authority of a Catholic monarchy rather than modern democracy), all that is written above would simply be considered elementary for any faithful Catholic. We ask every reader to truly contemplate this fact, and apply it to their own minds and hearts. What emerges from such contemplation should be the truth that over decades, and even centuries, of surrendering our individual lives to civilizations immersed in an “impurity of mixture” between the Gospel and the world, our minds and hearts have been so altered as not to be able to stand in the full radiance of the Truth of Christ. We have grown tepid and lukewarm, and our charity has grown cold.

In one of the most enigmatic passages from the Gospels, Our Lord declares:

He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. Therefore, I say to you: Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.” (Mt. 12: 30-32).

St. Thomas, in attempting to understand the unforgivable nature of this “blasphemy of the Spirit”, offers us a survey of the opinions of early Church Fathers and others in regard to this enigma (II-II, Q.14, A.3). For Saints Athanasius, Hillary, Ambrose, Jerome, and Chrysostom this unforgivable sin consists in uttering actual blasphemy against either the Trinity collectively, or one of the Persons of the Trinity. St. Augustine, on the other hand considers this unforgivable sin to refer to final impenitence. And others consider this to be a “sin committed against that good which is appropriated to the Holy Ghost through a vicious habit or contempt.

We first notice that all these views consider the Sin against the Holy Ghost as the sin of an individual. And, of course, all are hard to reconcile with the Gospel truth that all individual men, until their actual death, have open to them the possibility of God’s grace and their own repentance and conversion. Free will is always present, and therefore there is always the possibility of responding to God’s grace. We also, of course, have the witness of Christian history in which great sinners have been converted on their death bed.

We might also therefore consider that this Sin against the Holy Spirit might not refer just to  individual sin, but rather to an “impurity of mixture” existing at the End of Time in which the faith and charity of collective mankind has grown so tepid and cold as to make it impossible for the Holy Spirit to any longer dwell with and in mankind.

St. Thomas teaches that the quantity of both charity and the Holy Spirit, being divinely infused, cannot of themselves decrease or grow cold in a man. They can only cease to be in man through mortal sin. But the degree to which charity actually is present in the human soul can either increase or decrease in accordance as to whether our hearts are either enlarged or diminished (especially through venial sin) in response to this presence. And this is determined through our acts in response to, and in accordance with, the presence of the Holy Spirit and His Gifts.

We need also realize that, although venial sins cannot gradually “turn into” mortal sins, they can  “dispose”, as Thomas says, a man to the commission of mortal sins. We can see this very clearly in regard to sins of the flesh, but it becomes much more difficult to discern when we consider sins of the mind and heart which involve that “impurity of mixture” of which Thomas writes. This should become evident when we consider the words of Our Lord which immediately precede His statement regarding the blasphemy of spirit: “He that is not with me, is against me, and he that gatherest not with me, scattereth.” We may of course consider even venial sin as not being “with Christ”, and as something which “scattereth”.  But such scattering becomes immensely more serious when it is applied to the truths of the Gospel, which are the Light of Christ revealed to the world. We as human beings cannot judge the heart of any other individual person as to when the prevalence of such failures disposes him to that mortal sin which becomes an “idolatry of this world” which is mortal. Only God can make such a judgment as to what has happened in the deepest recesses of the human heart. But we certainly can make a judgment as to the prevalence of such an “impurity of mixture” – a massive scattering – now engulfing the world.  As we have seen this is profoundly manifest in the so-called “Pro-Life” movement. And this mixture has not only been present in this movement from its inception through the forms of silence and complicity which we have detailed above in regard to contraception, etc., but has grown in scope and intensity since Roe vs. Wade. This is especially evident in the March for Life movement in Washington D.C.

When it began shortly after the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, the March for Life movement was vehemently against all surgical abortions, and also emphatically for a Constitutional Amendment, not only reversing Roe vs. Wade, but establishing the right of all human life from conception until natural death within the Constitution itself. We must note of course that even at that time, this same movement was silent in regard to the killing of untold millions of God’s children through contraception. But things were only to decay further.

Previous to the 2020 March for Life event, the website March For Life Action ran a video titled America has consensus. A Pro-Life Consensus. As of this writing, it is still on their website. It consists of seven women repeating in what might be considered a hypnotic manner, certain words and phrases. The first of these is that “America has consensus.” In addition to the title of this video, the word “consensus” is repeated five times in this one-minute presentation. This “consensus” consists in the fact that 8 in 10 Americans believe that “abortion should have real legal limits”, evidenced by the fact that “even 6 out of 10 ‘Pro-Choice’ Americans agree that abortion should only happen through the first 3 months, at most”. And after offering us these statistics, two of these ladies repeat in succession, “That’s consensus, that’s consensus!” Finally the video concludes with the statement, “Pro-Choice politicians want abortion right up until birth”, and that it is this “extreme position” which is being rejected by two-thirds of Americans.

Such is the consensus now being supported by the March for Life. We ask the reader to also note carefully the language used in this video. This so-called consensus is being promoted as a “Pro-Life” consensus. On the contrary, as we have shown, there is no Pro-Life position which accepts any killing of the unborn. Such a consensus can only be considered as a Lie of Satan. Secondly, we point out the absolute disingenuousness of speaking of “Pro-Choice politicians”. In the first place, as we have demonstrated, it is almost certain that all politicians support infant homicides in one way or another, and that all are therefore Pro-killing of babies.  The so-called “Pro-Choice” politicians pin-pointed for opposition in this video are only distinguished from other politicians because they adamantly support surgical abortions. They might be singled out as being even more barbaric than their political counterparts, but certainly not by using the watered-down euphemism “Pro-Choice”. They are simply “Pro-Infanticide”  and “Pro-Murder” in a much more evident and barbaric way.

The extraordinary fact that “Pro-Lifers” have come to accept such language is indicative of an “impurity of mixture” which has so penetrated their minds and hearts as to make us greatly fear for the presence of supernatural charity in their souls. Again, in order to make this more clear, we offer an elementary comparison: Imagine a member of the NAACP giving the name “Pro-Choice” to a politician who is either personally for the killing of some black people, or who claims to be not personally for such killing, but is in support of others who “choose” to do so.

We cannot depart from this subject without mentioning President Donald Trump. The “Pro-Life” movement is now in almost rapturous support of Donald Trump as some sort of saviour. In fact some who have fallen into such adoration are now openly saying that those Catholics who do not do likewise are traitors or cowards.

Considering all that is written above, Donald Trump can in no way be considered “Pro-Life”, despite steps he may have taken to stop governmental financing of some surgical abortions, or of words he may have uttered in his speech to the crowd at the recent March for Life. He is not Pro-Life, any more than any other politician. He clearly supports “contraceptive rights” (even though he recognizes the right of those who might refuse for religious reasons financing health care which provides for such), he supports abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. And further, he has fully accepted the Supreme Court ruling concerning homosexual marriage, and has instituted a world-wide campaign to abolish in all countries laws which criminalize or discriminate against homosexuals. The latter is enormously destructive to the family and a complete perversion of the concepts of love and charity, and therefore represents support of a pagan culture in which abortion must be seen as a “natural” right.

Nor can we be sure that there is any genuine movement in the depths of his soul towards any lasting support of what we have pointed out to be the severely vitiated and double-minded “Pro-Life” movement. He certainly knows full-well that his only chance of re-election depends upon the support of such Evangelical and Catholic “Pro-Lifers”. In light of what will be offered on the other side of this Presidential race by the Democratic Party, it could be considered permissible to vote for him while proverbially” holding our noses”. But the rapturous support of him now circulating among many traditional Catholics can only serve to draw them deeper into that cesspool of American democratic politics which will only intensify and expand that “impurity of mixture” in their minds and hearts which fails to stand in the fullness of Christ’s Truth.

We also need to mention that there seems to be a dominant and growing position among those who consider themselves pro-life to combine the effort to overturn Roe vs. Wade with returning the right for passing legislation concerning this issue to the individual States. However, if there is one individual right that pre-eminently deserves protection in the Constitution of any country, it is the right to life of all citizens from conception until natural death. To promote in any way this “states rights” effort is simply a democratically inspired mask for total deception, a recipe for chaos, and a total negation of any integrity in the Constitution itself. Again, we ask the reader to read our article Democracy and the Spirit of Antichrist in order understand how such a decay could come to be established in the minds and hearts of those who might call themselves Christians.

In the beginning of this article we noted that Our Lord’s standing in the fullness of the Gift of Fear of the Lord was fulfilled in that Beatitude of “the spirit of poverty” which led Him to the obedience of the Cross. Even a tepid tepid and lukewarm possession of the Gift of the Holy Spirit called “fear of the Lord” should now lead us to that poverty of spirit which in some way realizes the extent to which our own souls have been infected with that “impurity of mixture” demonstrated above. It should, in other words, enlighten us with the knowledge that our only hope lies in that refuge which God has provided in these End Times as the source for the graces for our own purification from this apostasy away from standing in the fullness of God’s Light and Truth. This refuge, this place, is the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

It is Mary whose soul was pierced by a sword “that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” (Luke 2: 35). It is in the depths of Our Lady’s Heart that our thoughts may be disentangled from error by being bathed in the fullness of the Light of Christ, and our hearts purified from that impurity of mixture with a world that is now in the process of turning us into the likeness of that man who, in the words of St. James, “beheld his 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). Satan seeks not just the ruin of individual souls, but that fundamental alteration in the depths of the nature of all human minds and hearts which will erase any possibility of our standing in any sort of integrity in the presence of God. Such is the “operation of error” now unfolding before us at an exponential pace.

We ask all who read this article to work hard to implement what is in our Original Proposal. We have just passed by the Feast of the Purification and Presentation, which we believe to be singularly appropriate to this effort. But as we have noted elsewhere, this effort is also very appropriate any time, and especially on other Feast Days. This is especially true of the coming Feast of the Annunciation. St. Louis de Montfort said that the Incarnation (which occurred at the Annunciation) is the greatest of the mysteries of Our Lord’s life because it contains the grace and intention of all the rest. It could contain the grace of our purification. This year it falls on Wednesday, March 25th.

Note:  We believe this article to be of such importance that all readers should consider forwarding it, along with our Introductory article, to anyone and everyone who might possibly be interested.

 

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The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Beatitudes: Introduction

Image result for Our Lady of SorrowsPlease read our Original Proposal

 Below, is posted the Introduction to a new series of articles which will be forthcoming on the subject: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Beatitudes. These articles will attempt to penetrate to depths of the reasons for the present impotency of the Church before the world. And in so doing, we hope to uncover what is necessary that the graces of the Holy Spirit may again be witnessed in the power once evidenced in the lives of the first Christians.

 

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

And the Beatitudes

 

Introduction

 

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.” (Apoc. 3: 15-16).

“The first cleansing of the world by the deluge [Flood] regarded only the stain of sin. Now the sin that was most prevalent then was the sin of concupiscence, and consequently it was fitting that the cleansing should be by means of its contrary, namely water. But the second cleansing regards both the stain of sin and the impurity of mixture, and in respect of both it is more fitting for it to be effected by fire than by water. For the power of water tends to unite rather than to separate; wherefore the natural impurity of the elements could not be removed by water as by fire. Moreover, at the end of the world the prevalent sin will be that of tepidity, as though the world were already growing old, because then, according to Matth. xxiv. 12, the charity of many shall grow cold, and consequently the cleansing will then be fittingly effected by fire.”  [Thomas Aquinas – ST, Suppl., Q. 74 (‘On the Fire of the Final Conflagration’), A.2].

 

The words of Our Lord addressed to the “angel” (bishop) of Laodicea quoted above are arguably the most violent and repulsive in the New Testament. They should certainly be seen to apply to that lukewarmness that threatens the life and salvation of Christians in all the ages of Christian history.  In addition, Laodicea was the last church to be addressed in Our Lord’s individual messages to the seven churches, and there are those commentators who have therefore interpreted these words to apply especially to the universal Church at the end of time. Whether this be Our Lord’s intention, we cannot be sure.

However, the second quote offered above, from the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, would seem to offer a powerful and conclusive justification for such an interpretation. St. Thomas uses the word “tepidity” to identify that particular malaise at the end of time which calls down upon mankind Our Lord’s Final Judgment. And in identifying such tepidity with Our Lord’s declaration in Matthew 24 that during the time of the consummation of the world, the charity of many shall grow cold, we should hold little doubt that such tepidity is to be identified with the lukewarmness spoken of in the Apocalypse of St. John.

Very significant is the fact that Our Lord, in His message to the Bishop of Laodicea, does not say that He has already vomited these people out of His mouth, but rather “I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. This is not a completed judgment, but rather a warning. In similar fashion, does Our Lord say to His apostles, “the charity of man will grow cold.” We know, of course, that charity is that state of soul in which a person is living in the friendship of God, and that such charity, once possessed, can only be lost through mortal sin. We are led to ask, therefore: what does it mean for charity to grow cold, even though such “coldness” does not necessarily yet entail mortal sin and the loss of sanctifying grace? What is the nature of this thing called “lukewarmness” and “tepidity”? And why does it represent such an abomination that, despite the fact that it does not yet constitute mortal sin, it yet deserves Our Lord’s most severe condemnation?  And, most important, why does St. Thomas identify such tepidity and lukewarmness with an “impurity of mixture” (see quote above) which can only be purged by the fire of the Final Judgment upon this world?

The answers to these questions might at first appear to lie in all the iniquities which Jesus tells us will be prevalent in the world at the end of time. In Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Matthew, Our Lord offers an extensive list of the evils which will dominate the world before His Second and Final Coming: the seduction offered by false saviors, a proliferation of nations and kingdoms at war with one another, pestilences, famines, and earthquakes, the hatred of Christians by all nations, widespread betrayal of one another, false prophets, and widespread iniquity [including moral decay]. And immediately after presenting this list, Our Lord concludes: “And because iniquity has abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.”

But we are still left with the question as to why, in these end times, the charity of Catholics should grow cold in the face of such disasters, persecution, and moral decay. The reason cannot just lie in some sort of discouragement in the face of such evils, which might well be said to have existed to one extent or another at any time of Christian history. Certainly, these same evils existed at the time of the Apostles. But after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the charity of these men, who previously had been cowering in the Upper Room in the face of these evils, burst forth from this hiding place in the full power and boldness of the Holy Spirit – a power which was able to convert whole nations, heal sickness and infirmity, perform miracles, and even raise the dead. We are therefore led to ask why these same, or similar, evils present in the world at the end of time have the opposite effect – of causing charity in Christians to grow cold. And the proof, as they say, “is in the pudding”. Why do not Catholics now burst forth from their churches in the abundance of the charity and power of the Holy Spirit necessary to convert nations? And even from a minimalist standpoint, why now do we not at least posses the grace and power to prevent the massive influx of the spirit of Antichrist which now clearly appears to be growing dominant in the Church (Please see our article the The Third Glorious Mystery: The Descent of the Holy Spirit for analysis of this truth)?

The answer to this question lies in St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, Chapter 3. St. Paul, like Jesus, first offers an extensive list of evils (especially moral evils) which will prevail towards the end of the world:

Know this, that in the last days shall come dangerous times. Men shall be lovers of themselves, covetous, haughty, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, wicked, without affection, without peace, slanderers, incontinent, unmerciful, without kindness, traitors, stubborn, puffed up, and lovers of pleasures more than of God.”

But it is in contemplating St. Paul’s verse which immediately follows this list of prevalent evils that we arrive at the reason why such decay and perversity has now been enabled to come to dominion in both the Church and the world:

Having an appearance indeed of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”

In this concluding statement, St. Paul is obviously not referring to those who commit the mortal sins enumerated in the paragraph above. Persons who are blasphemers, wicked, slanderers, incontinent, and traitors do not “have an appearance of godliness”, and certainly cannot be said to possess a charity which has merely “grown cold”. They possess no charity or friendship with God whatsoever. Rather, he would seem to be speaking of those who indeed have an appearance of Godliness, who are still alive in the sanctifying grace and charity of God, but somehow are denying, and failing to live in, the power of the Holy Spirit which they have received. He is speaking, in other words, of those who are tepid and lukewarm, and therefore constitute Catholics in whom charity has indeed grown cold.

Finally, if we are to take St. Thomas’ analysis seriously, this coldness by which they are “grieving the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30) is constituted by an “impurity of mixture” existing in both the individual souls of Catholics and collectively in the universal Church. It therefore consists in “mixing” the Light and Life of Christ with the spirit of this world. As St. James writes:

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.” (James 4: 4).

Here we must emphasize again, that in speaking of a process of “becoming” an enemy of God, St. James would appear to be speaking of that condition in the souls of Christians, produced through a process of trying to accommodate their Faith to the world (what St. James calls “double-mindedness”), which has established them in a state of tepidity and lukewarmness, and which finally disposes them to an actual act of mortal sin. And most important, we must begin by understanding that such tepidity and lukewarmness are not to be understood as the world understands these terms. They can exist even in the midst of great passion and activity, including passion and activity ostensibly in the pursuit of God and defense of the Faith. This is so, because as St. Thomas points out, the means they employ embody an “impurity of mixture”. Their passion and activity are established upon the ways of man rather than in the Ways of God. Their tepidity is towards God, while their warmness is towards their own desires and agendas which, in a myriad of forms, detract from God and His Ways.

Over the centuries, Satan has been able to weave a profoundly complicated and subtle web of delusions (called by St. Paul “the operation of error”) which have convinced almost all Catholics that they must use a vast array of means in service of the Christian Faith which in reality constitute denial of the 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, nor shadow of alteration”. (James 1: 17). Most often this self-deceit takes the forms of not standing in the fullness of Truth revealed through Christ and His Church. This does not entail explicitly denying these truths (which would result in an actual loss of the Faith and consequent total loss of supernatural charity in the soul), but rather in ignoring, diluting, or being silent in respect of them – and thus denying the radiance which proceeds from Christ in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Such is charity grown cold, and such is the “impurity of mixture” which is the tepidity of the lukewarm Catholic in his desire to be both a friend of God and at the same time a friend of this world.

In order to understand how such becomes possible in Catholics, and also why it has ensnared Catholics in an ever-increasing web of self-deceit down through the Christian centuries, we need to come first to a clear understanding of the existence of the dwelling of the Holy Spirit (and therefore the state of charity) in souls, and what is required in the depths of human freedom not only for His continued presence, but also for His deeper penetration into Christian life.

Both St. Augustine and St. Thomas taught that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the First Seven Beatitudes. It is in examining these correspondences that we will come to understand how the grace and power of the Holy Spirit is made present and effective in our lives. At the same time we will discover why failure to correspond the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit with the actual living of their respective Beatitudes in our daily lives necessarily produces that “impurity of mixture” which, if not remedied by deeper conversion, disposes us to an ever-increasing grieving of the Holy Spirit, which culminates in an act of mortal sin, and which makes of us enemies of God.

 

The Gifts and their Corresponding Beatitudes

 

And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness (piety). And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaias 11:1-3).

 

This passage is, of course, a prophecy of the coming of Christ. Since the Gifts mentioned here are the anointings of the Holy Spirit which made the Sacred Humanity of Christ pleasing and perfect in the sight of His Father, they are also the same Gifts which the Holy Spirit confers on us in baptism (and strengthens in Confirmation) in order to accomplish our sanctification. These seven Gifts are, in fact, supernatural dispositions (habits) which empower us to be receptive to the workings of God’s grace in our souls. As we have said, both St. Augustine and St. Thomas taught that the Gifts of the Holy Spirit correspond to the first seven Beatitudes as taught in the Sermon on the Mount. St. Thomas compares these Gifts to the sails of a ship which are ever present in order to “catch” the supernatural graces and powers necessary for our transformation into the holiness of Christ. In other words, the Gifts empower the transformations of human nature which are enumerated in the Beatitudes, and which reveal what it means to be a saint. We might therefore say that our effective living of the Beatitudes is a test as to our cooperation with the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls. We begin, therefore, by listing the correspondences between the Gifts and Beatitudes:

 

 Gifts (Isaias 11:1-3)                       Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-9)

Fear of the Lord:    Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Piety:                      Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

Knowledge:            Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Fortitude:                Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.

Counsel:                  Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Understanding:       Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.

Wisdom:                  Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

 

In our further study, we must never forget that these Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and their corresponding Beatitudes are the very interior life of Jesus Christ. In sending these gifts to us through the action of the Holy Spirit, Our Lord has given us the graces of His own Life, that we may be transformed into His likeness and attain to union with Him. The passage from Isaias lists these Gifts from the highest to the lowest. This is only appropriate since they are there applied to Christ Who is God become Man. Since we will be especially interested in the process by which a man or woman is transformed into sainthood, we shall begin with the lowest and work upwards towards the more sublime.

We shall begin with Fear of the Lord which, while often considered the most lowly of the Gifts, can at the same time be considered the most important: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Without the proper beginning, there is no proper End; without this foundation, there is no Christian life. It is the Gift of Fear of the Lord which has been very conspicuously denied since Vatican Council II. And yet it took up dwelling, as we shall see, even in the sacred and sinless Humanity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Signs of the Times: And the Blindness of Traditional Catholics

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Note: Please also read our article The Fifth Joyful Mystery: The Finding of Jesus in the Temple, which is a powerful complement to the following article: 

The Signs of the Times:

And the Blindness of Traditional Catholics

 

“When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. And in the morning: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times?” (Mt. 16:3).

“The men of Nineve shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas. And behold a greater than Jonas is here.” (Mt. 12:41, Luke 11: 32).

“And as in the days of Noe, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noe entered into the ark. And they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall be coming of the Son of man be.” (Mt. 24: 37-39).

 

An extraordinary blindness and superficiality now reigns in the world of traditional Catholic media, and thus presumably, in the minds and hearts of virtually all of those who wish to be considered traditional Catholics. This superficiality reigns in regard to four  areas: 1) understanding the depths and threat of the current crisis within the Church; 2) a virtual total absence of the question as to why God is allowing this chastisement upon us; 3) an equally extensive failure by those who consider themselves orthodox and traditional Catholics to look to their own adulteries with this world as also being responsible for this chastisement; 4) the virtual universal failure to understand the “one thing necessary” for deliverance from the apocalyptic evil that is descending upon us.

 

The Depths of the Crisis

Having witnessed the words and actions of Pope Francis and his many collaborators and apologists in recent years, it was not difficult for the traditional Catholic media to predict that the Amazonian Synod was being prepared to overturn, or at least severely compromise, many traditional Catholic beliefs and praxis. Much was written in the weeks and months preceding the Synod about agendas for such things as a married priesthood, female deacons and priests, inculteration of pagan belief and practices (including worship), liberation theology, etc.

Since the closing of the Synod, most of this media attention has focused on the pagan events in regard to the Pachamama statues, venerated (and worshipped) in the Vatican Gardens (with the personal blessing of Pope Francis) and other places in Rome. The primary focus of the traditional Catholic media has thus come to focus on the horror of inclusion within the Church (especially with the blessing and justifications rendered by Pope Francis and other members of the hierarchy) of pagan worship and idolatry, especially associated with the secular agenda of an “integral ecology” which is to be identified with a worship of “Mother Earth”. All of this, in conjunction with Pope Francis’ embrace of the statement of the Abu Dhabi Declaration that “the diversity of religions is willed by God”, has of course also added fuel to belief that the ultimate goal of these efforts is the Masonic dream of one-world government and one-world religion.

The question, however, presents itself: What is the ultimate object of this idolatry and blasphemous unity? We would certainly be naïve to believe that, in justifying and blessing the Pachamama statues and the accompanying worship of it as some sort of Mother-Earth goddess, Pope Francis and his supporters are identifying such pagan worship as the end-point of their agenda. Nor do we reach the depths of this agenda by seeing it only as the Church surrendering to one-world Masonic ideals. Something much more perverse and occult has established itself deep within what Pope Pius X called the vital energy of the Church in order to explain this prostitution.

As explored in a number of our articles (individually linked below in our Course of Study), this something is the establishment of the Cosmic Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin as the new theology within the Church.

It should have been obvious, especially as analyzed in our recently published article, A Love That Maketh A Lie: Amoris Laetitia and the Teilhardian Agenda, that the immediate target of all the horrific errors promoted by Pope Francis and his supporters is the well-defined Catholic doctrine concerning charity as applying to that state of the soul which is established in the friendship of God (sanctifying grace). It is of course totally illogical and self-contradictory to believe that there are conditions which would allow divorced and remarried persons to receive Holy Communion (thus committing the objective sin of sacrilege) if one believes in such a concept of the soul and its necessary possession of charity (sanctifying grace) for the reception of Holy Communion. The same is also true of such grave sins as homosexuality, so-called gay marriage, any inclusion of pagan idolatry and practices into the Catholic Church, the promotion of any objectively grave errors in regard to Catholic dogma, or of any objectively grave moral sins. Any pastoral policies promoting inclusiveness towards individual persons or religions living in such grave errors and mortal sin could only be embraced if the possession of charity has ceased to be viewed as a state of the soul, and instead has become identified with a universal unmerited and unconditional mercy considered as being necessary for inclusion of all human beings in an evolutionary ascent towards the Omega Point of Godhead. This is the fundamental heresy expressed in Amoris Laetitia. And it is the necessary conclusion of Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theology: a theology through which all Catholic philosophy, theology, and praxis must be transformed into evolutionary becoming at the total expense of the concepts of real being and fixed nature. In other words, while the immediate target for destruction is the concept of the human soul possessing a fixed nature which requires the possession of sanctifying grace in order for it to be in the friendship of God, the ultimate target is the immutable nature of God and His immutable Revelation. As Teilhard de Chardin wrote:

“What, on the other hand, do we find if our minds can embrace simultaneously both contemporary neo-Christianity and contemporary neo-Humanism, and so first suspect and then accept as proved that the Christ of Revelation is none other than the Omega of Evolution?”

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?” (The Heart of Matter, p. 92)

Such is the dynamic of what now descends upon us. It is the only possible explanation for the inversion of the Catholic Faith which now is being promoted at the highest levels of the Church. In being blind to this depth, traditional Catholic media, and members of the hierarchy and the Catholic intelligentsia whom they go to for wisdom on this crisis, are wading in the shallows while a tsunami is on the horizon.

But we have not yet penetrated to the depths of the present blindness, simply because we have yet to understand its causes.

 

Why Has God Done This?

If we truly believe that God loves the Church as His own Bride, and that Christ truly loves the Church as his own Mystical Body; if we truly believe that Christ is still being faithful to His promise “”Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Mt. 28: 20); and, especially, if we also truly believe in Christ’s words to Peter (and by necessary inference, to his successors in the Papacy) “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”, then we are faced with what should be the totally obvious question: “Why has God done this to us?”

Any serious study of the Church’s history reveals that the Church has traveled a road in constant tension between blessing and curse, renewal and decay, strength and weakness. God’s extraordinary gifts are received at certain periods of this history through saints, great Popes, Church Councils, grace-filled movements among the laity, etc. For a short while a renewal of the Church seems to be accomplished, and then decay rapidly sets in. Corruption of belief and morals set their teeth into the Church’s life, and God no longer seems to answer our prayers. St. James offers a very succinct explanation for this phenomenon: “You seek and receive not; because you ask amiss: that you may consume it on your concupiscences.” (James 4: 3). We tend to think of this as being true of worldly goods and blessings. But it must be even more true of spiritual blessings, all of which are gifts of God – the Church, and all that it teaches and practices, including the particular forms of the Mass and the other sacraments. And, of course, probably the most effective means which God has of either blessing or chastising us through the Church is the Papacy. As St. Gregory the Great is reputed to have said, “Divine justice provides shepherds according to the just deserts of the faithful.” If we take such a statement at all seriously, then there should be no point in the entire history of the Church, as does the present moment and Papacy, when even those who wish to consider themselves faithful Catholics should feel the call of the Holy Spirit to profound self-examination. Such self-examination among those who now consider themselves to be the most faithful of Catholics seems astonishingly absent.

In the Gospel of St. John, Our Lord makes the following promise in regard to the Holy Spirit:

“But when he, the spirit of Truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come he shall shew you.” (John 16:13).

It should be clear that it is the will of Our Lord that the Holy Spirit should always be with His Church, guiding and protecting it from invasion by the spirit of Antichrist. The very fact that these graces now seem to be so impotently received and lived in the face of this spirit of Antichrist, emanating from both within and without the Church and bent upon destroying her, should automatically turn us inward seeking the source of the blockage which is producing this impotency. The very fact that the question “Why is God doing this to us?” is not seriously being asked and examined within traditional Catholic circles is in itself the most powerful evidence of a blindness which is now almost universal.*

 

The “Languor of Nature”

“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: 24)

Recently, in discussing the lukewarmness which has largely characterized the lack of response to the effort Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church, a close friend offered the following profound observation: “I think that the heart of lukewarmness is the cozy dwelling in double- thinking, generated from avoiding the drive to the end of a thought.”

We have already explored this “avoiding the drive to the end of a thought” in relation to both understanding the depths of our present crisis, and also the failure to ask the absolutely vital and obvious question as to why God is doing this to us. This in turn leads to a final question: “Wherein lies that “double-thinking” which immerses us in that fog of lukewarmness which prevents us from possessing the intellectual light necessary to achieve this understanding or ask this question?”

The effort which we have entitled Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church is entirely devoted towards eliciting a united cry from all of us for whatever it takes for Our Lady’s Victory to be accomplished for the Purification of the Church, and in order that the Light of Christ might once again become visible and radiant within His Church. It is in the very nature of such a “single-minded” cry, however, that it must proceed from the depths of personal self-knowledge of our own sinfulness and helplessness.

It is the lack of such self-knowledge, and the hypocrisy which is its natural fruit, which prevents such a cry from arising in our hearts because it establishes us in the luxury of being comfortable in saying “They have sinned”, rather than “We have sinned”.

This double-thinking in the intellectual realm is rooted in all the violations of the living of the Beatitudes (especially as manifested in possession of, and attachment to, the goods of this world), which is nourished, sustained, and has now entered into an exponential state of growth through the power of money, science and technology. As we have pointed out in our article St. Francis of Assisi: They Pretended to Love You So That They Might Leave You, the betrayal of the great gift of St. Francis and his ideal of poverty (not only as applied very literally to his own Order, but also in its less-strict, but very real, application to Christian civilization as a whole) preceded the betrayal of the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas, and its absolute necessity for confronting the intellectual and scientific errors of the modern world. The profoundly vitiated collective heart of a still apparently Christian civilization, immersed in the world and poisoned in its depths by the betrayal of the Beatitudes of Christ, was the soil in which the darkness of man’s “scientific” ascent to Godhead was cultured, and which now finds its completed formulation in Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theology.

Everything is now saturated and being kept afloat on a sea of money. Even among Traditional and Conservative Catholics, their “work” is almost completely dependent upon the flow of money, and the connections and power which are gained through money – the realms of commercialism, influential contacts, Benefits, Galas, diplomacy, building efforts, and of course right down to that level of power in this world which now seems the most powerful vehicle and weapon upon which Mammon now depends: the Media. And, ironically, we are total amateurs at all this worldly business in comparison to Satan and his minions. We should be able to hear him laughing at such things as “Cruise-Ship Retreats”, all the much-touted Catholic Conferences, an unending array of petitions, “”Open Letters”, and all the efforts of “traditional media giants” to stop this plunge into darkness.

All of this comes down to the term which both St. Augustine and St. Thomas used to characterize the primary effect of original sin: the languor of nature. Adam’s Original Sin itself was not such a languor, because the very word itself speaks of a state of disordered nature which was not present in the state of integrity which existed before the Fall. The act of original sin in itself had to therefore consist in a very deliberate act of intellectual pride (the intellectual will) seeking an excellence above man’s nature which detracted from God (“you shall be as Gods, knowing Good and evil”).

But it is the “fallen nature” (and its threefold concupiscence), established in man as a consequence of this sin, which constitutes such languor of nature, and which down through history has created the web of material acquisitions, science, technology, and all the complexities of modern civilization which continually, and ever more deeply, lower the minds and hearts of even the “faithful” into this world, and consequently into duplicity, hypocrisy, and their ultimate fruit: lukewarmness and the eventual denial of God. It is this languor of nature, which has produced the pharisaical hypocrisy of traditional Catholics, and which leaves us relatively cozy in identifying the sources of the present crisis in the Church with the beliefs and actions of anyone other than ourselves.

It is precisely here where the necessary “end of the thought” is aborted, where duplicity roots us in the comfort of self-righteousness, and we fail to unite as did the Ninevites in a cry to Our Lady for that self-purification which is a pre-requisite for the purification of the whole Church.

Lately, our thoughts keep returning to that marvelous scripture in Deut. 6: 4-8:

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 thy eyes.”

The extraordinary thing is that this instruction was given by God long before Christ’s Sacrifice, and the restoration of man to the possibility of sanctifying grace and friendship with God. This speaks to the fact that such purifying fire of desire (the very opposite of double-mindedness and lukewarmness) is something which should be fully natural, and especially present and natural to the human heart in the midst of its fallen state. In other words, just the fact that man (the very light of whose mind and consciousness is a created participation in the Life of Christ) lives in this fallen world should generate the cry which God requires for healing us. And if we look at all the various facets of human intelligence, we should be able to see this naturalness.

For instance, we desire perfect happiness, and experience endless sorrows. We conceive of the Infinite, and are fettered in finitude. We conceive of Eternity, and are ravaged by time, which culminates in our subjection to death. We long for Peace, both interior and exterior, and are immersed in conflict and war both within and without. All of this, and much more, should naturally and fully generate that cry to God which purges all lukewarmness and hypocrisy. But we abort our thought, divide the heart, and make God an appendage of a lukewarm or dead faith which, because of self-deceit and the attempt to serve two masters, is not accompanied by the passion of an undivided heart.

In other words, the human heart and mind are natural wellsprings of concepts, ideas, and passions which in any person who possesses a “heart of flesh ”should break forth in cries to God for knowledge and deliverance – “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24).

As we have pointed out, There is nothing more clearly evidential of the “half-way”, duplicitous thinking of traditional and conservative Catholics than the apparent total absence of the question “Why is this happening to us?” – “Why is God chastising us like this?” This question should be the totally logical “end-thought” in all the discussions and analysis concerning the present crisis, and yet it is absent. In other words, the traditional Catholic world, while possessing much knowledge of what is wrong “out there”, displays profound deficiency in that interior intelligence necessary for any solution to the present crisis: “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 should heal them.” (Mt. 13:15)

It has been said that, “The death of martyrs is the seed of Christians”. It can equally be said that “The duplicity of Christians is the seed of heresy, and ultimately of the coming of Antichrist.” It is theoretically possible that everyone in the world could possess the Faith, and yet be dead in charity. Similarly, it is equally possible that we could possess all understanding of the machinations of those both within and without the Church who are bent upon her destruction, and yet be dead in that understanding with the heart which fully acknowledges that these evils have grown and been nourished in our own friendship with this world. And, as insulting and horrific as this may sound to many, it is also theoretically possible that everyone in the whole world could possess and attend the Traditional Latin Mass, and yet be numbered among those whom Our Lord would “vomit out of His mouth” (Apoc. 3;16).  After all, Latin Rite Catholics universally possessed this Mass before Vatican II, and this did not prevent the vast majority of Catholics from passively surrendering to all the banalities and explicit or implicit heresies imposed upon them in the “New-Church”, and the eventual massive slide into Catholic apostasy which we now have with us.

We who are directly involved with the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church do not consider ourselves as some sort of Remnant, secure in our faith and the promise of eternal salvation. We fear the depths of our own duplicity in trying to live the Catholic Faith in this world. And although we may indeed be free from the gross and mortal sins which now seem common fare, we cannot claim freedom from immersion in the same world that now spins its threefold web of concupiscence at an exponentially increasing rate around all of our hearts and minds.

It is the lesson of original sin and its dire consequences that we are all in this together. It is the lesson of Christ’s Redemptive Sacrifice, and His founding of the Church to be the mediator of the graces won through the Cross, that the salvation of each one is intimately connected to all. This is why a united effort in penance and prayer is absolutely central for deliverance from the disaster that is now upon us. And first and foremost, it requires that we begin with “We have sinned”, rather than “They have sinned”.

As explained in our Original Proposal , we believe that it is the will of God that this collective purification can only be accomplished in the depths of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and through her Rosary. And we believe that the Feast of the Purification and Presentation on February 2, 2020 is singularly appropriate for this united Cry for Deliverance. It is necessary that in the depths of Our Lady’s merciful Heart each one of us seek our own personal light of purification in order that the Light of Christ might once again radiate forth from His Temple the Church for the conversion of the world.

This year the Feast of the Purification and Presentation providentially occurs on a Sunday. All Churches will be open. We ask everyone who sincerely seeks this purification both in their own lives and the life of the Church to approach other Catholics for a united effort in implementing what is in our Proposal. We then ask them to approach their pastors and bishops with the request to implement what is in this Proposal – after Mass, or whenever possible during the day. If this request is refused, and permission is refused to use the Church, we ask that it be done at the entrance to the Church.  If ordered to leave, then we ask that it be done in the public domain (a public sidewalk for instance) as near to the Church as possible. Wherever it can be done, we fully believe that the sincere and united cry of the faithful for deliverance will be blessed by God. No one has the right to suppress such a Cry from the depths of the human soul.

We also believe that in order to achieve that integrity of heart and mind necessary in order to passionately desire to participate in such a Nineve-like cry, each one of us must personally be plunged more deeply into the purifying grace and light of understanding which is to be found through an increasingly attentive and non-duplicitous praying of the Rosary, and especially the Hail Mary. This is why, in terms of our own personal purification, and for achieving that singleness of intention towards God which is the source of all true growth in both Catholic intelligence and holiness, we believe our article The Rosary: The Way of Perfection to be the most important of all the articles on this website. We ask that each reader give it very serious attention and consideration.

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*We fully realize that in asserting that what is now happening within the Church is a Divine chastisement, we are risking accusations of having committed multiple heresies – all the way from claiming that every Pope is directly chosen by God, to denying human freedom and responsibility, and to claiming that God positively wills evil. We flatly deny any such accusations, but do not intend to enter into polemics with anyone. We leave it to the readers to search into the depths of their own minds, hearts, and lives to determine if what has been written above is true.

Please spread the word about the Rosary!
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Newman and the Pope

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Newman and the Pope

 

“But we must hope, for one is obliged to hope it, that the Pope will be driven from Rome, and will not continue the Council, or that there will be another Pope. It is sad he should force us to such wishes.”           

(Newman’s Letter to Fr. Ambrose St. John, 22 August, 1870)

 

The above words, written approximately one month after the promulgation of the Dogma of Papal Infallibility on July 18, 1870, succinctly summarize Newman’s attitude towards the Definition, and towards the Papacy of Pope Pius IX. This quote should astound us, and elicit an enquiry as to how such sentiments are possible from a man who has just been canonized, and who is being held up as a model of obedience to Church authority. It needs also to be stated that the reader should not conclude that Newman’s view expressed above merely reflects a momentary indiscretion. His letters during this period are replete with such sentiments. Two months after the above letter to Fr. Ambrose, and one month after the official suspension of Vatican Council I (dashing any of his expressed hopes that the Council Fathers could reverse themselves on the Definition), he wrote the following to Lady Simeon on Nov 18, 1870:

We have come to a climax of tyranny. It is not good for a Pope to live 20 years. It is anomaly and bears no good fruit; he becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it.” (Quotations from Newman’s letters are taken from Charles Stephen Dessain’s The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman, v. XXVI).

The reader who wishes to somehow deny the significance of the above quotes is, of course, able to offer words from Newman’s writings which, in their general tenor and expression of belief, run directly contrary to such sentiments in regard to the Papacy. Thus, in his Discourse on University Education (1852), he writes:

“Deeply do I feel, ever will I protest, for I can appeal to the ample testimony of history to bear me out, that, in questions of right and wrong, there is nothing really strong in the whole world, nothing decisive and operative, but the voice of him, to whom have been committed the keys of the kingdom and the oversight of Christ’s flock. That voice is now, as ever it has been, a real authority, infallible when it teaches, prosperous when it commands, ever taking the lead wisely and distinctly in its own province, adding certainty to what is probable and persuasion to what is certain. Before he speaks, the most saintly may mistake; and after it has spoken, the most gifted must obey….” (Dessain, vol. XXVI, p. 167)

This duplicity of Newman in regard to the Papacy is, of course, paralleled by a corresponding duplicity in regard to the Dogmatic Definition of Papal Infallibility itself. It is the proclamation of the Dogma itself which is the act of cruelty of which Newman speaks, and it is for having promulgated this Dogma that Newman “hopes” for the death of the Pope Pius IX, or that he be driven from Rome. On the other hand, Newman claims to have personally believed in Papal Infallibility before the Vatican Council, and he also submitted to and embraced (after an agonizing struggle) the actual Definition after the Council.

This enigma of Newman’s duplicity in regard to both Dogma and the Papacy is usually lightly passed over as part of the complexity and depth of the man, and the profundity of his intellect. It is our belief that such is not the case. Rather, what might seem enigmatically complex, is simple contradiction; and what has been considered profound, is really the shallow fruit of his rejection of Thomistic philosophy, and especially of that branch of philosophy called epistemology – the science of how we know, and therefore also of that science which establishes the reliability and power of our knowledge.

Newman, in his rejection of Thomism (and all the passages from the Gospel of St. John which speak of the power of the light of God’s Truth over all human souls of good will), rejected the radiance and power of the vertical dimensions of our faith, and instead insisted that a vital faith could only be produced through the illative sense of lived experience and imagination, rooted in sense experience. To therefore impose dogma from above upon vast numbers of human beings whose illative senses were not prepared to accept such dogma, was an act of tyranny. We see this same “missionary approach” now completely incarnated in the Papacy of Pope Francis who, while claiming to accept the entirety of the Catholic Faith, yet exercises a profound disdain for any attempt to convert others to the Catholic Faith, or to in any way emphasize such dogma and doctrine at the expense of a universal mercy and inclusiveness. The chickens of Newman’s epistemology have now, in other words, come home to completely “rest” in the Papacy of Francis. The canonization of John Henry Newman in the midst of the Amazonian Synod is therefore (in the same breath) also a symbolic canonization of the denial of the power of the Truth and Light of Christ and His Gospel over the human soul, which is the very essence of this Synod, and which has vomited forth the call to inculteration of pagan belief and practices at the expense of the Gospel-inspired demand for conversion.

This subject has been covered in depth in our previous article Does God Love Us: An Examination of the Epistemology of John Henry Newman, and we refer the reader to it for an in-depth understanding of what is really wrong with Newman’s approach to Catholic Faith, Dogma, and Papal Authority.

In this article, we intend to analyze the fruits of this duplicity. We have already explored Newman’s astounding words concerning the Definition of Papal Infallibility and his sentiments towards the Pope responsible for its promulgation. We would now like to turn to his equally disturbing treatment of Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors.

 

The Syllabus

It is important to first place things in context.

The Syllabus of Errors of Blessed Pope Pius IX, sent to all the bishops of the world along with  the encyclical Quanta Cura (Dec 8, 1864), amounted to a declaration of war against the revolutionary world of the 19th Century – revolutions being waged in every sphere of human thought, life, and activity against Christ and His Church. The vast scope of the errors condemned is reflected in its division into 10 sections, each section representing a different area of human thought or activity. These are labeled as follows: 1)Pantheism, Naturalism, and Absolute Rationalism; 2) Moderate Rationalism; 3) Indifferentism and Latitudinarianism; 4) Socialism, Communism, Secret Societies, Bible Societies, and Liberal Clerical societies; 5) Errors concerning the Church and Her Rights 6) Errors About Civil Society, Considered Both in Itself and in Its Relation to the Church; 7) Errors Concerning Natural and Christian Ethics; 8) Errors Concerning Christian Marriage; 9) Errors Regarding the Civil Power of the Sovereign Pontiff; 10) Errors Having Reference to Modern Liberalism.

In considering the Syllabus in its larger context, it is also important to realize that the Pontificate of Pope Pius IX’s successor, Pope Leo XIII, was largely focused upon fleshing out these condemnations through an amazing array of profound social encyclicals covering all these areas of thought and activity. Further, Pope Pius X, Leo’s successor, brought this analysis and condemnation of modern errors to fruition in both his encyclical Pascendi, and in his own Syllabus Against the Errors of Modernism.

It is therefore impossible to overestimate the importance of Pius IX’s Syllabus for our understanding of the ideas, techniques, and activities of the forces of evil in the modern world, and also, therefore, for our being able to acquire those intellectual and moral weapons necessary for the Church’s defense and offense against these immensely destructive errors.

On the other hand, to undermine the authority and importance of the Syllabus in any way can only serve the purpose of aiding and abetting these same forces of evil. As we shall see, John Henry Newman used virtually every subterfuge conceivable to accomplish just such a task.

One of the things characteristic of the Modernist mind is that, to a large extent, such persons are able to leave the “bigger” mysteries of our faith alone. The doctrines of the Trinity, or of the Incarnation, for instance, do not demand “essentialization” with the same intensity as do many other magisterial teachings. These “major” doctrines usually play a very small role in that “illative sense” (experiential) which is “immediate” to man’s perception and experience,  and they therefore do not usually demand alteration in order for modern man to adapt to historical and cultural conditions, growth in secular and scientific knowledge, etc. Such doctrines are not confronted with the evolving ideas of human liberty, religious pluralism, political movements, new economic realities, and secularism. They do not, therefore, get “in the face” of the world.

It is otherwise with the truths which are affirmed as contraries to the 80 propositions condemned by the Syllabus, Here, the “illative sense” of the dominant worldview, with which the ecumenist wishes to enter into dialogue and dialectical progress, is directly confronted and condemned. A person could hardly find himself in a position of being more of a sign of contradiction to the world and modern culture than by fully assenting to and embracing the Syllabus. And this is why the Syllabus is such a nemesis to the Liberal and Modernist mind. It lays bare precisely those principles and ideas which are on the cutting edge of the “vitality” of the modern world, and effectively burns them at the stake. It puts the ecumenist out of a job, It puts the non-Thomist out of a job, and it would have put Newman out of a job if the Catholics around him had taken it with the substantial seriousness which it deserved. Few did. Cardinal Manning was one of them. Newman eventually won the battle, and Manning lost. Interestingly, Cardinal Manning was at Pius IX’s bedside when he passed from this world, a death for which Newman had been hoping

Newman’s “definitive” response to the Syllabus of Pope Pius IX is to be found in Section 7 of the Letter to the Duke of Norfolk (1875), usually considered his last major work. It is with an analysis of this work that we will be concerned here

First, Newman does everything possible to undermine the physical and moral connection of the Syllabus to the Pope. He says such things as

“viewed in itself, it is nothing more than a digest of certain Errors made by an anonymous writer.”

“There is not a word in it of the Pope’s own writing.”

”There would be nothing on the face of it, to show that the Pope had ever seen it, page by page, unless the ‘imprimatur’ implied in the Cardinal’s letter had been an evidence of this.”

“but the Syllabus makes no claim to be acknowledged as the word of the Pope.”

“the Syllabus cannot even be called an echo of the Apostolic Voice.”

Now, of course, none of the above statements are quoted in context. In point of fact, the context makes them appear even worse. This “context” is constituted by the fact that the Syllabus was long in preparation, and a project very close to the heart and mind of Blessed Pope Pius IX (and also Cardinal Pecci, the future Pope Leo XIII). Below is taken from the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia. We quote it in its entirety because it clearly “puts the lie” to Newman’s contention that the Syllabus was not the “Voice” of Pope Pius IX:

The first impulse towards the drawing up of the Syllabus of Pius IX came from the Provincial Council of Spoleto in 1849. Probably on the motion of the Cardinal Archbishop of Perugia, Pecci (later on Leo XIII), a petition was laid before Pius IX to bring together under the form of a Constitution the chief errors of the time and to condemn them. The preparation began in 1852. At first Pius IX entrusted it to Cardinal Fornari, but in 1854 the Commission which had prepared the Bull on the Immaculate Conception took matters in hand. It is not known how far the preparation had advanced when Gerbet, Bishop of Perpignan, issued, in July, 1860, a “Pastoral Instruction on various errors of the present” to his clergy. With Gerbet’s “Instruction” begins the second phase of the introductory history of the Syllabus. The “Instruction” had grouped the errors in eighty-five theses, and it pleased the pope so much, that he set it down as the groundwork upon which a fresh commission, under the presidency of Cardinal Caterini, was to labour. The result of their work was a specification, or cataloging, of sixty-one errors with the theological qualifications. In 1862 the whole was laid for examination before three hundred bishops who, on the occasion of the canonization of the Japanese Martyrs, had assembled in Rome. They appear to have approved the list of theses in its essentials. Unfortunately, a weekly paper of Turin, “Il Mediatore”, hostile to the Church, published the wording and qualifications of the theses, and thereby gave rise to a far-reaching agitation against the Church. The pope allowed the storm to subside; he withheld the promulgation of these theses, but kept to his plan in what was essential.

The third phase of the introductory history of the Syllabus begins with the appointment of a new commission by Pius IX; its most prominent member was the Barnabite (afterwards Cardinal) Bilio. The commission took the wording of the errors to be condemned from the official declarations of Pius IX and appended to each of the eighty theses a reference indicating its content, so as to determine the true meaning and the theological value of the subjects treated. With that the preparation for the Syllabus, having occupied twelve years, was brought to an end. Of the twenty-eight points which Cardinal Fornari had drawn up in 1852, twenty-two retained their place in the Syllabus; of the sixty-one theses which had been laid before the episcopate for examination in 1862, thirty were selected. The promulgation, according to the original plan, was to have taken place simultaneously with the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; in the event it was ten years later (8 December 1864) that Pius IX published the Encyclical “Quanta Cura”, and on the same day, by commission of the pope, the secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli, sent, together with an official communication, to all the bishops the list of theses condemned by the Holy See. The title of the document was: “A Syllabus containing the most important errors of our time, which have been condemned by our Holy Father Pius IX in Allocutions, at Consistories, in Encyclicals, and other Apostolic Letters”.

This effort to deny the connection of the Syllabus to the mind and will of Pope Pius IX is part of the larger scheme to deny any dogmatic force to its condemnations. Newman simply and emphatically states:

“the Syllabus then has no dogmatic force.”

His efforts towards establishing this fallacy are threefold:

1) As already analyzed, he makes every effort, and uses every subtlety to separate it from the Pope.

2) He exercises similar subterfuge to separate the Syllabus from the encyclical Quanta Cura (Condemning Current Errors). He writes:

“The Syllabus does not exist as far as the language of the Encyclical is concerned.”

This, of course, is pathetic. The Pope ordered Cardinal Antonelli to send Quanta Cura to all the bishops, accompanied by the Syllabus. Cardinal Antonelli’s letter of introduction read as follows

“Our Holy Father, Pius IX, Sovereign Pontiff, being profoundly anxious for the salvation of souls and of sound doctrine, has never ceased from the commencement of his pontificate to prescribe and condemn the chief errors and false doctrine of our most unhappy age, by his published Encyclicals, and Consistorial Allocutions and Apostolic Letters. But as it may happen that all the Pontifical acts do not reach each one of the ordinaries, the same Sovereign Pontiff has willed that a Syllabus of the same errors should be compiled, to be sent to all the Bishops of the Catholic world, in order that these Bishops may have before their eyes all the errors and pernicious doctrines which he has reprobated and condemned.

He has consequently charged me to take care that this Syllabus, having been printed, should be sent to your [Eminence] on this occasion….”

The Syllabus was obviously meant to augment the encyclical with greater detail by documenting individual errors. Both documents dealt with modern errors, and complimented one another. In Quanta Cura, the Pope, in speaking of past actions says, “We raised Our voice, and in many published Encyclical Letters and Allocutions delivered in Consistory, and other Apostolic Letters, we condemned the chief errors of this most unhappy age…we condemned the monstrous portents of opinion which prevail especially in this age, bringing with them the greatest loss of souls and detriment of civil society itself, which are grievously opposed also, not only to the Catholic Church and her salutary doctrine and venerable rights, but also to the eternal natural law engraven by God in all men’s hearts, and to right reason; and from which almost all other errors have their origin.” It is these “chief errors” spoken of by the Pope in Quanta Cura which are detailed and documented in the Syllabus. The two documents are clearly bound to one another.

3) Newman does everything he can to undermine the “universal application” of these condemnations. After flatly stating that “the Syllabus then has no dogmatic force,” he further writes:

“…[the Syllabus] is to be received from the Pope by an act of obedience, not of faith, that obedience being shown by having recourse to the original and authoritative documents.”

In other words, Newman here attempts to relieve all Catholics of all responsibility to obey any universality in the truths expressed in the propositions themselves. It is Newman’s position that the individual propositions have no universal verity, no dogmatic force, and that their meaning and applicability are to be reduced to the particular historical situations, etc. which surrounded their original statement in the individual Papal documents of Pius IX. Five times, in fact, he refers to the Syllabus as being merely an “index” to these previous documents, and he says, “But we can no more accept it as de fide, as a dogmatic document, than any other index or table of contents.” This is proved manifestly false by the very title of the document:”A Syllabus containing the most important errors of our time, which have been condemned by our Holy Father Pius IX in Allocutions, at Consistories, in Encyclicals, and other Apostolic Letters”.  The Syllabus is intended by the Pope to condemn “the most important errors of our time.” The “most important errors of our time” are not limited to a particular country, to an individual literary work, etc.

It is certainly good to have reference to the particular Allocution, Encyclical, etc. in order to obtain depth and accuracy of understanding of these propositions, but this “recourse” to these original contexts should in no way be used to undermine the universal application of these condemnations.

In order to perceive the depths or subterfuge involved here, let us look at Newman’s handling of one single condemned proposition

(#77)  “It is no longer expedient that the Catholic Religion should be established to the exclusion of all others.”

Here is Newman’s “reduction” of this particular proposition:

“When we turn to the Allocution, which is the ground of its being put into the Syllabus, what do we find there? First, that the Pope was speaking, not of States universally, but of one particular State, Spain, definitely Spain; secondly, that he was not noting the erroneous proposition directly, or categorically, but was protesting against the breach in many ways of the Concordat on the part of the Spanish government; further, that he was not referring to any work containing the said proposition, nor contemplating any proposition at all; nor, on the other hand, using any word of condemnation whatever, nor using any harsher terms of the Government in question than an expression of “his wonder and distress.” And again, taking the Pope’s remonstrance as it stands, is it any great cause of complaint to Englishmen, who so lately were severe in their legislation upon Unitarians, Catholics, unbelievers, and others, that the Pope merely does not think it expedient for every state from this time forth to tolerate every sort of religion on its territory, and to disestablish the Church at once? for this is all that he denies. As in the instance in the foregoing section, he does but deny a universal, which the “erroneous proposition” asserts without any explanation.”

Newman here clearly uses every means possible to minimize the meaning and extent of this proposition’s condemnation. According to Newman, the condemnation only has application to Spain. It only applies to breaches of the Concordant by that government. It is really not a condemnation at all, but only an expression of “wonder and distress.”  And it is reducible to the position “that the Pope merely does not think it expedient for every state from this time forth to tolerate every sort of religion on its territory, and to disestablish the Church at once”

To perceive the falsity involved in all of this subterfuge, one need only look to Quanta Cura for a true explication of this condemned proposition. Here, the Pope writes:

For you well know, venerable brethren, that at this time men are found not a few who, applying to civil society the impious and absurd principle of “naturalism,” as they call it, dare to teach that “the best constitution of public society and (also) civil progress altogether require that human society be conducted and governed without regard being had to religion any more than if it did not exist; or, at least, without any distinction being made between the true religion and false ones.” And, against the doctrine of Scripture, of the Church, and of the Holy Fathers, they do not hesitate to assert that “that is the best condition of civil society, in which no duty is recognized, as attached to the civil power, of restraining by enacted penalties, offenders against the Catholic religion, except so far as public peace may require.”

In other words, Proposition 77 says just exactly what it appears to say; it condemns precisely what it appears to condemn, and this in its obvious and universal sense. And, it affirms its opposite – that it is expedient that the Catholic Religion should be established to the exclusion of all others.

The Syllabus really came to fruition in the social encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII. There, we can find the full development and universal applicability of the condemnation of Proposition 77. Interestingly enough, in Pope Leo’s Encyclical Immortale Dei (Christian Constitution of States), we find a passage which seems very applicable to Newman and his relationship to the Syllabus of Pius IX:

On the question of the separation of the Church and State the same pontiff [Leo is here speaking of Gregory XVI] writes as follows: ‘Nor can we hope for happier results, either for religion or for the civil government, from the wishes of those who desire that the Church be separated from the State, and the concord between the secular and ecclesiastical authority be dissolved. It is clear that these men, who yearn for a shameless liberty, live in dread of an agreement which has always been fraught with good, and advantageous alike to sacred and civil interest.’ To like effect, also, as occasion presented itself, did Pius IX brand publicly many false opinions which were gaining ground, and afterwards ordered them to be condensed in summary [the Syllabus] in order that in this sea of error Catholics might have a light which they might safely follow.”

It is this light which Newman dimmed with his obfuscations.

We have seen what great distaste Newman held for Pius IX. Recent Popes would, of course, have been much more to his liking. This is especially true of Pope Benedict XVI who, in his book Principles of Catholic Theology, went out of his way to destroy any relevance of Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus for our lives as Catholics in the modern world. This book contains an Epilogue titled On the Status of Church and Theology Today. Part B is titled Church and World: An Inquiry into the Reception of Vatican Council II. The text focuses primarily on the Vatican II document the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (Gaudium et Spes), which the then Cardinal Ratzinger calls “a kind of summa of Christian anthropology.” The following is of immediate interest to our subject:

“If it is desirable to offer a diagnosis of the text (Gaudium et Spes) as a whole, we might say that (in conjunction with the texts on religious liberty and world religions) it is a revision of the Syllabus of Pius IX, a kind of countersyllabus. Harnack, as we know, interpreted the Syllabus of Pius IX as nothing less than a declaration of war against his generation. This is correct insofar as the Syllabus established a line of demarcation against the determining forces of the nineteenth century: against the scientific and political world view of liberalism. In the struggle against modernism this twofold delimitation was ratified and strengthened. Since then many things have changed. The new ecclesiastical policy of Pius XI produced a certain openness toward a liberal understanding of the state. In a quiet but persistent struggle, exegesis and Church history adopted more and more the postulates of liberal science, and liberalism, too, was obliged to undergo many significant changes in the great political upheavals of the twentieth century. As a result, the one-sidedness of the position adopted by the Church under Pius IX and Pius X in response to the situation created by the new phase of history inaugurated by the French Revolution was, to a large extent, corrected via facti, especially in Central Europe, but there was still no basic statement of the relationship that should exist between the Church and the world that had come into existence after 1789. In fact, an attitude that was largely pre-Revolutionary continued to exist in countries with strong Catholic majorities. Hardly anyone today will deny that the Spanish and Italian Concordats strove to preserve too much of a view of the world that no longer corresponded to the facts. Hardly anyone today will deny that, in the field of education and with respect to the historico-critical method in modern science, anachronisms existed that corresponded closely to this adherence to an obsolete Church-state relationship…..

Let us be content to say here that the text serves as a countersyllabus and, as such, represents, on the part of the Church, an attempt at an official reconciliation with the new era inaugurated in 1789.”

Cardinal Newman hoped for the death of Pope Pius IX, and the election of a successor more to his liking. The above words of Joseph Ratzinger were written in 1982. Twenty-three years later, Cardinal Newman would have his Pope in the person of Benedict XVI. Some might protest that this had already been the case in respect to all the Popes since Vatican II. But none of these Popes carved this reversal in stone as did the above words of Joseph Ratzinger.

One might well wonder what Newman would have thought of Pope Francis, whose words and actions have now brought his own epistemology to their logical fruition. After all, Newman was a 19th century Englishman who certainly had a penchant for order in his life and in his Church, and who believed that doctrine and dogma, despite their inability to provide real vitality to our faith, did indeed serve a purpose in providing what he called a “stay” to our spiritual life and belief. In other words, it provided precisely that structure and order necessary for the non-chaotic evolution of the “illative sense”, which was for him the real source of vitality in our faith. And, of course, something similar may be said of the role of doctrine in the thought of Benedict XVI.

With the Papacy of Francis, this “stay” has largely been torn asunder, and we now have the chaos which was the inevitable result of Newman’s denying the radiance and power of Christ’s Truth (as expressed in Catholic doctrine) over the human mind and heart (please see our previous article on Newman). Also, as we have pointed out in other articles, the “make-a-mess” agendas of Pope Francis are the spiritual children of the theology of Pope Benedict XVI, his rejection of Thomistic metaphysics, and his consequent denial of the “substantiality” of our perception of both created realities and the Nature and Truths of God. All of this, in turn, can be seen as the evil fruits of those seeds which were planted in the epistemology pioneered and exemplified by John Henry Newman, and which were eventually bound to come to term in the chaos and madness within the Church as exemplified by the Amazonian Synod, and which is now our present chastisement.

We must also realize that the reversal of Catholic spirituality constituted by the denial of the vitality of the vertical dimension of our faith (as contained in defined dogma and doctrine), and its replacement by the illative sense (or the religious sense spoken of by Pius X in his encyclical Pascendi), necessarily demands that everything concerning both God and man becomes subject to evolution. After all, as claimed by Newman himself, every man “is his own centre” in regard to his own particular growth of the illative sense, and this demands that the concept of universal evolution, and a non-judgmental inclusiveness concerning this evolution, become the ruling principles of this new theology. Thus, Pope Pius X declared: “In this way they pass to their principal doctrine, namely, evolution. “To the laws of evolution everything is subject under penalty of death – dogma, Church, worship, The Books we revere as sacred, even faith itself.” It is therefore absolutely mandatory if we are to perceive the profound depths of the crisis that is now upon us that we understand that the real agenda behind the Papacy of Francis and the Amazonian synod is not just Paganism, or such things as married priests or women’s ordination, but the entire reversal of the Catholic Faith through Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theology.

It could certainly be imagined that John Henry Newman, if he was suddenly transported in time to the reign of Pope Francis, would have been horrified and disgusted by the ultimate fruits of his labors. We might well question, however, if he would ever admit to any responsibility. Revealingly, in the case of Pope Benedict XVI, we have seen no real sign of either horror, or admission of responsibility. Once the radiance and power of the light of Christ’s Truth is denied, then the darkness which descends upon the interior of man destroys any real capacity for true self-knowledge and repentance of errors. Such a man is to be “compared to a man beholding himself in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was”. (James 1: 23-24).

This complete reversal and inversion of the Catholic Faith may well be considered the ultimate “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”, which Our Lord declared to be the one sin for which there is no forgiveness (Mt. 12: 31), and which constitutes that “operation of error” which increases towards the end of time, and eventually ushers in the reign of Antichrist. The Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier, and therefore the Giver of all Light and Grace within the human soul. He descends from Above – from Christ Who is the Word of Truth defined in God’s Revelation. The ultimate Sin against the Holy Ghost is therefore constituted by that alteration in the minds and hearts of men by which they choose to believe that He comes from below through the evolutionary ascent of man.

We must realize, however, that this “operation of error” (Thess. 2: 10) is not just something that has engulfed intellectuals and those wielding power and authority within the Church. Nor is it something which is the fruit only of reductive evolutionary science. It is also embedded in the ascent of man to prosperity and acquisition in regard to all the things of this world, thereby living in profound contradiction in his daily life to that spirit of poverty and simplicity which is the life of the Beatitudes, the denial of which inevitably lead him to that interior darkness and preoccupation with the things of this world which can no longer find the time or motivation to look up. It is, in other words, a “seduction of iniquity” (Ibid.) which has increased at an accelerating pace over the centuries, and poisoned us all.

There is a “place” which has been prepared for all of us in these times of accelerating deceits and errors which now threaten to ascend and obtain dominion within our own  hearts and minds – a refuge where we may be firmly rooted in the certain faith that “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) It is the Immaculate Heart, and Spiritual Womb, of Our Blessed Mother, in whom all such perfect gifts dwell. She is the refuge wherein awaits all the fullness of the power and grace of the Holy Spirit for our own purification and preservation from all these evils. This is why we have chosen the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord on February 2nd as the perfect time for the Rosary to the Interior: For the Purification of the Church. It is the premier Feast of the Light of Christ’s Truth (commonly called Candlemas) bathing and purifying the Temple of Our Lord’s Church, a purification which can only be accomplished through the individual purification of each one of us through the mission entrusted by God to His Mother: “And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:35).

We therefore ask everyone to read our Original Proposal, and to beseech their parish priests and bishops to implement this event on the Feast of the Purification and Presentation on February 2, 2020. This year it falls on Sunday – Our Lord’s day, and the perfect day for surrendering to that interior state of mind and heart which completely acknowledges that He, and He alone, is the source of every perfect Gift “in Whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration”.

 

Please spread the word about the Rosary!
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Does God Love Us: An Examination of the Epistemology of John Henry Newman

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Does God Love Us?

An examination of the Epistemology of John Henry Newman

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).

After all, man is not a reasoning animal; he is a seeing, feeling, contemplating, acting animal (Newman, Grammar of Assent, p. 90).

 

Epistemology is the philosophical science of how we know, and of what we can know. It deals with the depths of the human mind and its relationship to reality, both natural and supernatural. In other words, it is concerned, in the most profound sense, with mental health. Therefore, when things go wrong here, they go wrong everywhere. It is here where the razor edge of truth cuts between intellectual sanity and insanity, where man’s true relationship to God is either nourished and sustained, or poisoned and aborted. It is also here where Liberalism and Modernism are born and nourished.

It is certainly the belief of many traditional and conservative Catholics that John Henry Newman is an example of the quintessential orthodox Catholic thinker. It might seem strange to such persons therefore that Pope Francis, whom they now view as the antithesis of such orthodoxy, has chosen to canonize him. What follows, we hope, will serve to unravel this apparent contradiction.

It is the thesis of this article that the epistemology of Cardinal John Henry Newman is profoundly skewed, and constitutes a proto-type of that Modernist mentality which now ravages the Roman Catholic Church. Newman wrote his book titled An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent expressly to explain his epistemology. Before entering into an analysis, however, we need to do some preparatory analysis of classical Catholic and Thomistic epistemology.

At the heart of Christianity is a resounding “yes”” to the question posed in the title of this article: Does God love us? Foundational to this question concerning God’s love for us is another. Does this love of God for man entail that He endowed man with the ability and faculties to know Him, and through this knowledge to come to Him? Did God create us in such a way as to make knowledge of Him and His truth something that is fully natural to the human mind and heart? If not, then it would seem that man has some justification for not knowing and loving God, and that any judgment of God upon us for not knowing and worshipping Him in spirit and truth would be the act of a capricious and unjust tyrant. Implicitly responding to this question, St. Paul writes:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice: Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.” (Rom 1:18-20).

St. Thomas writes, “all knowers know God implicitly in all they know.” (De Veritate, Q. 22, a.2). Thomas rightly teaches, of course, that all of our knowledge, barring a direct infusion from God, comes through the senses. We come into this world with no innate ideas or knowledge, and this includes no knowledge of God. The “natural” knowledge of God of which Thomas speaks is therefore acquired through the encounter of man’s mind with the world, and through sense experience. It is, in other words, natural, but not innate.

But there is a very important truth involved here which I think is often missed. The human mind, in order to posses such “natural knowledge” of God, must be in possession of an innate, intellectual light which is structured in such a manner as to know in a finite and analogical manner, through its encounter with created realities, as God knows. St. Thomas writes:

And thus we must needs 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.” (I, 84, 5).

This created participation by the human intellect in the uncreated intellectual light of God operates in response to both areas of human knowledge – natural and supernatural. The passage from St. Thomas quoted immediately above speaks of this light as specifically related to our knowledge of created things. Simply put, God sees the substance known as man and man sees likewise; God sees a tree, man sees a tree. Man, in other words, does not just know the “units” of individual sense data, but his intellect is so constituted by God as to immediately abstract from this sense data to the knowledge of the substantial nature of things. Man naturally knows “universals,” which are the “eternal types” (the “kinds” of Genesis) of God’s creation. The very foundation of all intellectual sanity, therefore, is man’s knowledge of “abstractions” which the modern-day empiricist dismisses as mere human “notions” or fabrications. On the contrary, such “abstractions” actually constitute our real knowledge of the substantial nature of all the things that we perceive in this created world.

But what about God and the supernatural truths which constitute His very Being? Does the created nature of the intellectual light within us also possess a structure which “naturally” responds to supernatural truths? Did God so constitute a relationship between Himself and our own minds as to make it a fully natural thing for us to “hear” the voice of Revelation, even though the truths involved may be quite abstract and even appear to involve things that are contradictory to previous experience and thought?

A remarkable explanation of this relationship is available to us in the writings of Newman’s contemporary and alleged arch-rival, Cardinal Henry Edward Manning. His work, The Glories of the Sacred Heart, contains a chapter titled “Dogma the Source of Devotion.” After quoting Our Lord’s words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Cardinal Manning offers the following analysis (selected quotes):

He (Jesus) declared that all truth was contained in Himself; and when the Apostle said that he judged himself to ‘know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” he meant the same thing, namely, that he who knows Jesus Christ aright knows the whole Revelation of God, the radiance which flows from the Person of Jesus Christ.”

“Now our Divine Lord, speaking to the woman of Samaria, said, ‘You adore that which you know not,’ because they were an idolatrous people, of mixed race…and they had a sort of fragmentary knowledge of the old revelation; but they did not rightly know the True God; and so much as they did know of the True God, they did not know truly. Therefore they could not worship Him ‘in spirit and in truth.’”

From these words I draw one conclusion, namely, that knowledge is the first and vital condition of all true worship.”

My purpose, then, will be to trace out the connection between what the world scornfully calls dogma and devotion, or the worship of God ‘in spirit and in truth.’”

Now, first of all, let us see what is dogma….It means the precise enunciation of a divine truth, of a divine fact, or of a divine reality fully known, so far as it is the will of God to reveal it, adequately defined in words chosen and sanctioned by a divine authority.”

“Every divine truth or reality, so far as God has been pleased to reveal it to us, casts its perfect outline and image upon the human intelligence. His own mind, in which dwells all truth in all fullness and in all perfection, so far as He has revealed of His truth, is cast upon the surface of our mind, in the same way as the sun casts its own image upon the surface of the water, and the disc of the sun is perfectly reflected from its surface.”

Dogmas or doctrines, in other words, are not in any way to be regarded as weak and humanly fabricated “notions” (the word used by Cardinal Newman for such intellectual formulations), but rather as a powerful divine radiance cast upon our intellectual light, a radiance which finds a natural response in the soul of one who sincerely seeks the truth. This is why, in Cardinal Manning’s words: “If when a divine truth is declared to us, our hearts do not turn to it, as the eye turns to the light; if there be not is us an instinctive yearning, which makes us promptly turn to the sound of the divine voice, the fault is in our hearts; for just in proportion as we know the truth we shall be drawn towards it.”

We cannot resist offering one more marvelous passage taken from Manning’s work, The Four Great Evils of Our Day:

“God, who is the perfect and infinite intelligence – that is, the infinite and perfect reason – created man to His own likeness, and gave him a reasonable intelligence, like His own. As the face in the mirror answers to the face of the beholder, so the intelligence of man answers to the intelligence of God. It is His own likeness.”

Cardinal Manning’s words constitute a beautiful elaboration of Our Lord’s simple declaration, “Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” (John 18:37). It should be added that the Gospel of John is replete with teachings concerning the nature of Christ as the light of truth, and of man’s response, or lack of response to this light and truth: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:4).” We would highly recommend to all readers that they reread the entire Gospel of St. John with the specific intent of noting all of this imagery concerning the power of the light and truth of Christ which finds a fully natural, and immensely vital response in the created intellectual light of man, and a corresponding rejection in those who have of their own free will obscured this light: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” And further:

“For everyone that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved. But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God.” (John 3:20-21).

It is no wonder, therefore, that the Gospel of John is a premier object for deconstruction by Modernists. It firmly establishes the vertical dimension of revealed Dogma and the Divine Deposit of Faith (the “radiance” emanating from Christ) as the absolute and vital foundation of our entire Faith, as being the light of truth which is the very life of the soul, and to which the human soul naturally responds. God’s love is thus fully justified. All the blame for man’s turning away from the light of God’s truth lies within the will of each individual man who does so. As Cardinal Manning said, “the fault is within our hearts.”

It must also be added that Christ’s words are for all men at all times. The light of Christ’s truth is not something that must wait upon the growth and maturation of man’s experience and intellectual and religious evolution. Christ’s life which is “the light of man” (John 1:4) is therefore the source of all truth and liberating joy, begging to be received and assented to by any human heart, and at any time and in any individual persons and cultures which have not betrayed their own inherent God-given light.

Dogmas, in other words, are not simply abstract formulations which comprise a “notional” faith. They are not merely confessions of Faith designed to bind us together in a unity of belief and worship. They are the very vitality of the entire spiritual life. St. Thomas saw fit to treat of the “Nature of Sacred Doctrine” in the very first Question of his Summa. There, he writes:

On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. Xiv, 1), to this science [Sacred Doctrine] alone belongs that whereby saving faith is begotten, nourished, protected and strengthened.

This begetting, nourishing, protecting, and strengthening of our faith is, of course, intimately incarnated into all our other faculties. Sensations, life experiences, and the imagining and memory faculties all play very important parts. But it is the intellectual light in man which is created with the structure – this structure involving abstraction at its most sublime level – to transform all these experiences into true knowledge of God and of His revealed truth. Here lies the real vitality of man, even of the most simple and unlearned of men, and here is where man “hears” the voice of God

Such is true Catholic epistemology. To undermine it in any way is to enter upon a course of decay involving all things human. This was the path taken by Cardinal John Henry Newman.

 

Newman: The Grammar of Assent

The epistemology of John Henry Newman is established upon a rejection of the abstractions and “universals” of the intellect as constituting “real” knowledge. It is also, therefore, constructed upon the rejection of abstract, dogmatic truth as the foundation of our spiritual vitality. It is, in other words, both the Gospel and Thomistic epistemology turned upside down.

The core distinction which Newman establishes is between “real” apprehension and “notional” apprehension of propositions or statements. This, in turn, gives rise to a corresponding distinction between “real” assent and “notional” assent to any given statement or proposition.

We should immediately note that whatever Newman places under the category of “real” apprehension and assent is bound to receive an aura of respectability, solidity, genuineness, truth, and “vitality.” On the other hand, anything categorized as “notional” will automatically carry the connotation of being unsubstantial and superficial (despite the fact that the word “notion” had a very respectable use and meaning in scholastic philosophy – a philosophy which Newman thoroughly rejects). In their current usage and connotations, the words “notion” or “notional” in fact carry definitions which, at least when applied to truth and our perception of reality, are immensely demeaning: superficial, whim, fancy, knickknack. In other words, the deck has been stacked from the beginning.

The philosophical (metaphysical) reasons for this “stacking” become evident very early in Chapter I of the Grammar of Assent. Newman writes:

“All things in the exterior world are unit and individual, and are nothing else [they thus constitute, in Newman’s schema, the objects of “real” apprehension and assent]; but the mind not only contemplates those unit realities as they exist, but has the gift, by an act of creation, of bringing before it abstractions and generalizations [which Newman fully equates with “notions”], which have no existence, no counterpart, out of it. (p. 29).[All page references to the Grammar of Assent refer to the 1979 University of Notre Dame edition, with an introduction by Nicholas Lash).

The above paragraph constitutes a very direct and specific rejection of Thomistic epistemology, and a very succinct embrace of the philosophical-epistemological position known as empiricism. It is the reigning philosophical position of our day. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is often considered the founding Father of empiricism (along with John Locke). In Grammar of Assent, Newman designates Bacon as “our own English philosopher” (p. 275), approves his “separating the physical system of the world from the theological” (p. 282), and describes his “genius” in having firmly separated the concept of causation from the concept of “final cause” and “design” (p. 290). Empiricism is in fact the root philosophical system from which is derived the scientific reductionism which we have explored in other articles. It is the prime cause of the retreat of modern Catholic philosophers and theologians from the metaphysics of St. Thomas, and it is the mother of all philosophical subjectivism in opposition to philosophical realism. It is also therefore the precursor of full-blown Modernism.

It must also be noted that in the realm of Catholic philosophy, the above paragraph from Newman also constitutes a clear embrace of the philosophical position of Nominalism. If the reality of all things in the exterior world is only unit and individual, and if universals (dog, man, tree, etc) are not “real” in themselves, but rather only human fabrications or creations, then they are only “names,” totally lacking in real content. They are simply arbitrary mental generalizations and categorizations. They do not correspond to the “eternal types” to be found in the “intellectual light” of God for all eternity. All this, of course, flies directly in the face of Thomistic metaphysics and natural philosophy.

The entirety of the Grammar of Assent is therefore devoted to elaborating an allegedly valid grounds for assenting to the Catholic Faith, established not upon the vertical dimension of Faith as so aptly delineated by Cardinal Manning (the light of the human intellect responding to the radiance of Divinely Revealed Truth), but rather upon an experiential foundation which is a dimension within the interior of man that corresponds to the empirical foundations of man’s outer perceptions. This dimension – this empiricism of the soul – is called by Newman the “illative sense.” It is equivalent to what Pope Pius X, in his encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis (On the Doctrine of the Modernists) termed the “religious sense”, and which he pinpointed as that fundamental concept by which the Modernist replaces the absolute objective reality and truth of the “God above” with a God and His Truth who are evolving within man.

However, before immersing us in what he has to say about the alleged “real” world of the “illative sense,” Newman spends a great deal of effort in attempting to totally strip the “notional sense” of any real vitality in our spiritual lives. It is astounding, and extraordinarily tedious, the extent to which Newman repeats his conviction that abstract “notions” or ideas, which include all theological and doctrinal formulations, have no “real” power, strength, or effect on our belief or conduct. We understand that this might be hard for the reader to accept, and so we feel it necessary to offer the following sampling from the pages of Grammar of Assent:

“Of these two modes of apprehending propositions, notional and real, real is the stronger; I mean by stronger the more vivid and forcible. It is so to be accounted for the very reason that it is concerned with what is either real or is taken for real; for intellectual ideas cannot compete in effectiveness with the experience of concrete facts.” (p. 31).

“I have said that our apprehension of a proposition varies in strength, and that it is stronger when it is concerned with a proposition expressive to us of things than when concerned with a proposition expressive of notions; and I have given this reason for it, viz. that what is concrete exerts a force and makes an impression on the mind which nothing abstract can rival.” (p. 47).

“Real apprehension, then, may be pronounced stronger than notional, because things, which are it objects, are confessedly more impressive and affective than notions, which are the objects of notional. Experiences and their images strike and occupy the mind, as abstractions and their combinations do not.” (p. 50).

“A mystery [such as the Trinity] is a proposition conveying incompatible notions, or is a statement of the inconceivable….It is equally plain, that the assent which we give to mysteries, as such, is notional assent; for, by the supposition, it is assent to propositions which we cannot conceive, whereas, if we had had experience of them, we should be able to conceive them, and without experience assent is not real.” (p. 55) [We must add that the logical conclusion to this statement made by Newman is that Christian belief in the Trinity cannot be “real“]..

“But, if all this be so, much more does it apply to our speculations concerning the Supreme Being, whom it may be unmeaning, not only to number with other beings, but to subject to number in regard to His own intrinsic characteristics. That is, to apply arithmetical notions to Him may be as unphilosophical as it is profane. Though He is at once Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the word ‘Trinity’ belongs to those notions of Him which are forced on us by the necessity of our finite conception, the real and immutable distinction which exists between Person and Person implying in itself no infringement of His real and numerical Unity [Note: while Newman is right in saying that the distinction between Persons does not infringe on God’s Unity, it is indeed heretical to label the numerical distinctions in the Trinity as unmeaning and profane.]

Theology, as such, always is notional, as being scientific; religion, as being personal should be real.” (p. 62). [Note: In other words, just as Newman credited Bacon with having separated science from theology in the empirical realm, so now Newman separates theology from religion in the realm of the vitality of Faith.]

”In its notional assents as well as in its inferences, the mind contemplates its own creations [All Dogmas are therefore to be considered human creations] instead of things; in real, it is directed towards things, represented by the impressions which they have left on the imagination. These images, when assented to, have an influence both on the individual and on society, which mere notions cannot exert.” (p. 76).

We must not here be simplistic. It would be tempting at this point to assert that Newman does not believe that dogmas have a role to play in our faith. This would be wrong. He flatly states, “It stands to reason that all of us, learned and unlearned, are bound to believe the whole revealed doctrine in all its parts and in all that it implies according as portion after portion is brought home to our consciousness as belonging to it.” (p. 130). Nor does he deny that the Church is the infallible guardian of this revelation: “The word of the Church is the word of the revelation. That the Church is the infallible oracle of truth is the fundamental dogma of the Catholic religion.”(P. 131).

We come here to the heart of the question concerning the Epistemology of Newman. The question we need to ask is not whether he teaches that assent to all Catholic doctrine is necessary for Catholics – this, as we have just seen, he answers in the affirmative. At the same time, however, we have also established that he believes that these doctrines are abstractions, and therefore not “real”, and that despite the fact that they are to be considered revelations from God, they are at the same time abstract creations of the human intellect, which have little power or strength in themselves to elicit a vital response of faith and religious belief in the mind and heart of man. In other words, we are not considering here whether Newman believes that dogma is revealed by God, but whether these dogmas as abstract truths possess real vitality in themselves for the faith of the believer. In point of fact, he does not. The vitality of the vertical dimension of our faith, as elucidated above by St. Thomas and Cardinal Manning, is herewith eliminated or severely diminished. Unlike Thomas and Manning, Newman simply does not believe that dogma and sacred doctrine are “that whereby saving faith is begotten, nourished, protected and strengthened.

It remains, therefore, to examine what Newman proposes to us as being the wellspring of a vital faith. In order to do so, we must take our eyes off heaven and heavenly doctrine, and lower them to the interior experiences of individual man. In so doing, we will be entering the same domain which the Modernist proposes as the source of all “real” and “vital” religious faith. We enter the realm of evolving consciousness and experience.

 

The Illative Sense

The word “illative” (from the Latin illatus –“brought in”) is a synonym for “inferential”. In the Finno-Ugric language group (Finnish, Hungarian, Estonian), there is an actual case called the “illative case.” In these languages, a suffix is added to a noun which denotes “in to,” such as “in to the house.” In other words, for Newman, the illative sense is that inferential “sense,” derived from experience and various degrees of reflection upon that experience, which brings us “in to” assent, and even “in to” what Newman alleges to be certitude, in regard to truth. As we have pointed out, it is equivalent to the “religious sense” of Modernism

In  writing the Grammar of Assent, Newman invested 20 years (by his own admission) and almost 400 pages of dense ruminations attempting to do two things: 1) deprive the abstract formulations of dogma and the speculative and logical findings of theology (especially St. Thomas) of any real vitality in religious certitude and belief and, 2) to prove that the illative sense (inferential conclusions derived from experience, and the images which they produce in our minds) is the real and vital source of not only faith, but also our certitude in the possession of truth.

I have already extensively documented Newman’s words in regard to the first of these efforts. It remains for us to examine the second.

Possibly the most effective approach to understanding the illative sense is to examine Newman’s teaching concerning the only way in which dogma can become real to us. Very simply, according to Newman, dogmas only become “vital” and “real” if they are somehow lowered into the world of imagination. Thus, for instance, Newman describes such a process in regard to “Belief in One God.” He roots our certainty and assent to this belief in our own intuitive conscience, and the imaginative projections consequent upon a child’s experienced relationships to his father and mother. From these experiences the child forms the illative sense of a Person behind all of creation to whom he is responsible and subject to judgment. In other words, the only means by which dogma can become real for man, woman, or child is if it is transformed into images attractive to the illative sense.

As I have said earlier, this does not mean that doctrine and dogma in themselves do not play a role in Newman’s epistemology. They play a role of “check,” but not of vitality. He flatly refers to them as “broad but shallow.” Newman states that the imagination, and the affections which accompany it, must always be under the control of reason, that religion “cannot maintain its ground at all without theology, and that religious vitality and sentiment must always fall back upon dogma for its “stay.” (p. 109). But the true Catholic position – that the Sacred Deposit of Faith is that by which Faith is “begotten, nourished, protected, and strengthened,” and that such doctrine is a “radiance” emanating from Christ which draws forth assent and certitude from the intellectual light within man – is something profoundly foreign to Newman’s thought.

It should also be obvious that, although there is obviously some commonality to man’s experience in this world, the illative sense of one man is profoundly different from another. To therefore found assertion and certitude in Faith upon such “illation” is therefore to make each man’s faith an island unto himself. In his chapter on The Illative Sense, Newman writes:

“Certitude is a mental state, certainty is a quality of propositions. Those propositions I call certain, which are such that I am certain of them….And reason never bids us be certain except on an absolute proof; and such a proof can never be furnished to us by the logic of words, for as certitude is of the mind, so is the act of inference which leads to it. Every one who reasons, is his own centre; and no expedient for attaining a common measure of minds can reverse this truth.”

 

Faith: Catholic Assent and Certitude

The traditional Catholic view on Faith and certitude is radically different.

 Following is the marvelous definition of Faith to be found in Chapter III of The Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith of the First Vatican Council:

“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. For faith, as the Apostle testifies, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not.”

If faith “is the substance of things hoped for,” then the Sacred Doctrines which comprise the objects of Revelation are the primary source of the hope and vitality of that faith. Further, if faith is a supernatural virtue which requires inspiration and the assistance of divine grace, then our certainty in matters of faith is ever dependent upon this supernatural assistance. It is therefore quite astounding that in a work, allegedly Catholic, which is totally occupied with establishing the grounds for assent and certainty in matters of faith, Cardinal Newman never acknowledges this vitality, and only once treats of the role and necessity of God’s grace in assent and certainty. And he does so only to say that such grace and supernatural assent have no place in the Grammar of Assent, and therefore no real vitality in the act of the assent of Faith:

“Nor, lastly, does this doctrine of the intrinsic integrity and indivisibility (if I may so speak) of assent interfere with the teaching of Catholic theology as to the pre-eminence of strength in divine faith, which has a supernatural origin, when compared with all belief which is merely human and natural. For first, that pre-eminence consists, not in its differing from human faith, merely in degree of assent, but in its being superior in nature and kind , so that the one does not {187} admit of a comparison with the other; and next, its intrinsic superiority is not a matter of experience, but is above experience . Assent is ever assent; but in the assent which follows on a divine announcement, and is vivified by a divine grace, there is, from the nature of the case, a transcendent adhesion of mind, intellectual and moral, and a special self-protection, beyond the operation of those ordinary laws of thought, which alone have a place in my discussion.” (p. 155-56).

The above passage, despite the fact that it might elicit an initial favorable impression, precisely exposes that epistemological error which has been the subject of our analysis. If divine faith, made possible through divine grace, and flowing from the Sacred Doctrine which is the object of that Faith, possesses a “pre-eminence of strength,” which “has a supernatural origin when compared with all belief which is merely human and natural,” is “superior in nature and kind,” and involves a “transcendent adhesion of mind,” then why in a work totally dedicated to assent and certainty in matters of faith does it not occupy an absolutely pre-eminent place in the discussion?  What is more, if such divine faith and the grace which vivifies it involves a “pre-eminence” of strength in terms of the vitality of our faith, then why do we not encounter any serious consideration of the fact that this strength and vitality must involve a “radiant” relationship between divine dogma and the “light” which constitutes the human intellect?

The fact is that the “illative sense” is the most ragged of beggars when it comes to “the evidence of things unseen.” What, for instance can it do with the Trinity? It can certainly carry some “life-experiences” and “imaginings” concerning the words designating the Three Persons of the Trinity up to the door of this Mystery, but can it really understand anything about Father, Son, or Holy Spirit as Divine Persons from such images? The fact is, however, that the abstract ideas of doctrine do indeed vitalize our faith concerning these Divine Persons.

For instance, the illative sense can tell us nothing about the hypostatic union – of the mystery of Jesus Christ as being the union of both human and divine natures in the one Divine Person of the Second Person of the Trinity. And yet this abstract mystery possessed the vitality to inspire many martyrs in its defense. Many books have been written about the effects which this doctrine alone has had upon Western civilization – especially in regard to the concept of the innate dignity of all human beings, a truth of immense vitality and consequences which is derived from the abstract concept that God has united human nature to Himself.

And what has the illative sense to do with the Holy Spirit? Are we to limit our image and knowledge of the Third Person of the Trinity to a Dove or something ghostly-like moving over the waters?

And as to the Trinity itself – the actual unity of Three-in-One – the illative sense is absolutely silent. But the intellect can be very active and fruitful in regard to the truths here involved, even to the point of providing further substance for the imagination. It is simply foolish to believe that the intellectual concept that the Son is “One-in-Being” with the Father and that therefore Truth is identical with Being – or that the Holy Spirit must always proceed from the Son just as Love must always proceed from Truth – do not possess the vitality to produce imaginings, passions, and actions in human life.

Nor does such vitality in doctrine only penetrate to the most unfathomable of Mysteries. We may possess, for instance, a fairly strong “illative sense” in regard to the reality and human virtue of purity. But none of this “experience” can make the leap to the declaration of the truth of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. But once this dogma, with all its abstractions, fully casts its light upon human intelligence, it then possesses tremendous vitality to affect our daily living and worship.

In this regard, we remember a story once told by a Mexican missionary. He rode in taxis which would be ringed with semi-pornographic pictures, and in the midst of these would be an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This abomination was made possible not because the vitality of the illative sense was weak in relation to the image of Our Lady – there is nothing stronger in the religious vitality of the illative sense of the Mexican people than devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Rather, it was the vitality of the doctrine that was weak in such men’s lives. It quite literally failed to protect Our Lady from blasphemous associations, and to defend these men themselves from the sin of impurity. Further, it would be inane to suggest that this lack of doctrinal vitality is inherent in the “notional” (doctrinal) belief in itself. There have now, for instance, been many tens of thousands of home-schooled Catholic children who have vitally imbibed this doctrine concerning Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and Divine Motherhood (with the help of images, but not with these images comprising the primary vitality in regard to assent to this truth), and whose young lives have been integrated into the living concept of purity which is its fruit. In other words, the reason that the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in their homes was not ringed with pornography was precisely because of the vitality of doctrine in their lives.

 

Further Consequences

The elevation of the “illative sense” to centrality in epistemology has immense consequences for all areas of Catholic life and worship – consequences which are now endemic in the Church. Underneath all the subtleties and obfuscations, Newman’s epistemology enshrines “lived-experience” as the most vital principle in our assent of faith. As said previously, this amounts to an “empiricism of the soul,” and is a fundamental tenet of Modernism. It is no wonder, therefore, that both George Tyrrell and Alfred Loisy, generally seen to be founders of Modernism, considered Newman to be their precursor. Tyrrell in fact declared himself to be a “devout follower of Newman”. Newman has been often called the “Father of Vatican Council II. He is also a “Father” of Modernism. In understanding this fact, we should no longer in any way be bewildered by his canonization by Pope Francis.

The “illative sense” is by its very nature evolutionary. The experience of man grows and evolves, as does the illative sense, and it almost inevitably reflects the fluctuating and tremendously varying ambiences and beliefs of the dominant and historically determined culture. Even more obvious, as we have already pointed out, it varies extremely from one man to another, and from one culture to another. Newman’s fundamental truth governing religious assent and certitude for any particular individual is that “Every man is his own centre; and no expedient for attaining a common measure of minds can reverse this truth.” Therefore, it logically leads to that non-judgmental inclusiveness which is a prerequisite for mankind’s common evolutionary growth to a unity of consciousness which can only come to fruition in some future Omega Point. In other words, the epistemology of John Henry Newman is a natural precursor to the Cosmic Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin.

We might therefore also suspect that Newman’s canonization, along with the Amazonian Synod, will have so “softened” the universal “Catholic consciousness” as to prepare the path for the lifting of the monitum (warning) against the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, and make it possible for some bishop somewhere (very likely with the encouragement of Pope Francis) to heed the clamor for the opening of the process for his canonization. After all it was Bishop Fulton J. Sheen who declared 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.” (Footprints in a Darkened Forest, Meredith Press, 1967, p. 73). It has now been 52 years since this declaration. Bishop Sheen’s cause for canonization was officially opened in the year 2002 in the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, and ten years later, on June 28, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had recognized Archbishop Sheen’s life as one of “heroic virtue,” and proclaimed him “Venerable Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen.” Birds of a Feather are now flocking together at an accelerating pace.

A primary consequence of placing this evolutionary and relativistic principle of growth at the center of what it means to assent to and possess certainty in regard to the Catholic Faith is the dominance of Modernist ecumenical theories at the heart of the current apostolic posture and activities of the Church. If the illative sense is ever growing and evolving, and if it alone is the primary sources of “real” assent and belief; and if each man is at a different stage in this evolutionary process, and therefore in possession of whatever mixture of errors and truths are peculiar to his own state of “illative” evolution, then the attainment of truth itself must be considered an evolutionary process. Theoretically therefore, no man can be judged for his present rejection of the truth, or for not coming to the fullness of truth. This is why any militant condemnations (such as Pope Pius IX’s Syllabus) of such things as indifferentism, religious pluralism and separation of Church from State, Paganism, Islam, or Protestantism are virtually impossible to the “illative sense” of a Catholic Church now dominated by the epistemological orientation of which Newman is a primary architect. St. Paul’s following depiction of the Christian mission, as exemplified in the following passage, is absolutely taboo in a Church now dominated by Newman’s epistemology:

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty to God unto the pulling down of fortifications, destroying counsels [false illative senses?], and every height that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor 10:4-5).

The ecumenical orientation and “inclusiveness” now dominant in the Church leads us to another extremely important point concerning the consequences of Newman’s epistemology. We have seen that he denied the “realness” of our assent to dogmatic formulations, but at the same time professed submission to them. Thus we see that he vehemently opposed the Definition of Papal Infallibility as “inopportune”, but personally submitted to it when it was promulgated. He aggressively used every means to undermine the doctrinal status of the Syllabus (both of these subjects we shall be examining in a coming article), and yet professed personal submission to its condemnations. In other words the ecumenism inherent in Newman’s epistemology also leads to a profound duplicity.

All of this should ring a bell in tradition-minded Catholics. Such apparent duplicity reflects the roller-coaster ride which we have endured over the past 55 years since Vatican II. On the one hand a Pope, Vatican Congregation, Cardinal, or Bishop will issue a document truly stating a Catholic doctrine. However, several weeks, months, or years later, we find this same doctrine being somehow profoundly contradicted by the decisions, lack of decisions, actions, or words of the same individual or office. For instance, on Wednesday, Oct 22, 1986, Pope John Paul II emphatically taught the Catholic truth that “It is only in Christ that all mankind can be saved.” Five days later his presence offered moral sanction to Paganism as He prayed beside these false religions at Assisi. In similar duplicity and contradiction did Benedict XVI stand praying alongside the Imam while facing Mecca in a Mosque in Turkey. And in a glaring example of such duplicity, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, former President of the Pontifical Council of Life, professed belief in the Church’s condemnation of all abortion as intrinsically evil, while at the same time writing an article in L’Osservatore Romano in which he condemned the “hastiness” of Bishop Sobrinho’s excommunication of the doctors who performed an abortion on a nine year old Brazilian girl pregnant with twins, stating that the doctors’ decision was a “difficult” one not deserving of condemnation. And, of course, it is this same duplicity which justifies the alleged Catholic politician who personally professes to be pro-life, while at the same time voting to fund abortion.

In other words the epistemology exemplified in John Henry Newman, and now incarnate in the Church, enshrines not only empiricism as the fundamental principle of knowledge in the human soul, but also establishes a schizophrenic and self-contradictory relationship between “notional” belief and “real” belief, and therefore between dogma and practice. It is now endemic in the Church with Pope Francis claiming to accept the entirety of the Catholic Faith, while proposing statements and pastoral practices which are in direct contradiction to this Faith.

Such is the madness of our times. It literally “blesses” a man hearing and believing one thing and doing its opposite. In words from St. James, which we have quoted before:

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.”

It is our sacred duty to revive the memory of who we once were. The only means available for such a mission are the same two weapons prescribed for us by St. Paul – the destruction of false philosophy (“counsels”) and the “capturing of every intelligence unto the obedience of Christ.” It would appear that there now is now strong momentum to make John Henry Newman a kind of patron for the “New Evangelization,” and even to have him declared a Doctor of the Church. Such honors would constitute an incalculable harm to the memory of the Church. His erroneous counsels, as examined in this article, must therefore be engaged in battle, and destroyed.

Finally, we must come to the realization that pious words and sentiments expressed towards Our Lord and Our Lady, and all things Catholic, is no assurance that they are not accompanied by enormously destructive errors and heresies. In this respect, we need consider that the 2007 meeting of the Fifth General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America (CELAM) produced the Aparecida Document (a precursor to what will come out of he Amazonian Synod) which recognized that the two primary sources of unity among Latin American Catholics were devotion to Our Lady and to Christ Crucified. We may therefore fully expect that it will be these two devotions which are being viewed a the most powerful illative means to draw down both the peoples of Latin America and the universal Church into the sewage of Teilhardian Evolutionary Theology.

Such people as Cardinal Newman and Bishop Sheen expressed many beautiful sentiments in regard to Our Lady and our Our Crucified Lord; Joseph Ratzinger wrote many things which appear orthodox; Pope Francis has offered beautiful sentiments in regard to the poor and those “living on the peripheries”. The word heresy literally means “to select”. The entire foundation of the Catholic Faith can be destroyed in the midst of such beautiful and lovely sentiments through “selecting” one single doctrine to deny. In the case of all these men, it comes down to one:

“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).

The Epistemology of John Henry Newman, the Cosmic Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin, the acceptance of this theology by Joseph Ratzinger and Bishop Sheen, and the Pastoral Agenda of Pope Francis as being promoted at the Amazonian Synod – All of these demand not just individual and particular changes and alterations to the Catholic Faith, but rather its complete inversion.

We must wage war, but it is a war which must be fought with very different weapons than those offered by the world.

Our lady weeps, and calls us not just to conversion of our hearts, but also to purification of our intelligence in order that we might see the extent of the iniquity that is upon us. Only in the radiance of this light will we be stirred in the depths of our hearts to do the one thing necessary. The grace and intelligence which are the only effective weapons of this war are to be found in the depths of Mary’s Immaculate Heart, which is the one place designated by God for us to encounter the fullness of the radiance of the Truths of Her Son. Please read our:

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Exorcising the Filth of Evolution

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Exorcising the Filth of Evolution

 

We wish to state without qualification that it is in no way possible to believe in the truth of God’s Revelation while at the same time believing that man, in any way – either body or soul, is the result of an evolutionary process. This truth is established upon what is contained in both written Revelation and the Church’s infallible Magisterium.

From the perspective of Biblical Revelation, we have explored this subject in our article Receiving the Kingdom of God as a Little Child. It is impossible to consistently believe (in a non-contradictory way) in the infallibility of God’s Word in the Old Testament, and especially in the Book of Genesis, while believing in any sort of human evolution. In order for the reader to be convinced of this fact, we believe that this article deserves very careful study

From the perspective of the Church’s infallible Magisterium, we possess the doctrine taught by the Council of Vienne: “whoever shall hereafter dare to assert, maintain, or pertinaciously hold that the rational or intellectual soul is not per se and essentially the form of the human body, is to be regarded as a heretic“. As pointed out by Ludwig Ott in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, this dogma is de Fide (of the Faith) and therefore a truth of Revelation necessary to be believed by all Catholics, either explicitly or implicitly, for the retention of Catholic Faith. A human being is one essence, resulting from the substantial union of soul and body. Since the soul constitutes per se (in itself) the form of the human body, the human body cannot be said to exist previous to its reception of a human soul. To assert that any kind of body can exist without its specific form is nonsense. To believe therefore, as do many so-called “Theistic Evolutionists”, that God used an evolutionary process to first form an appropriate human body for the reception of a human soul is an impossibility. We repeat: the soul is in itself the form of a human body.

And if we should try to assert that God actually took a non-human, ape-like body (already possessing an animal “soul”), and somehow substituted a human soul for the existing animal soul, we are asserting the kind of stuff that makes for slapstick comedy. We might well imagine a newspaper cartoon depicting a Michelangelo-like image of God sticking a large hypodermic needle labeled “human soul” into the rear-end of an ape, while at the same time using a rather large foot to kick out an “ape-soul”.  It is no wonder, therefore, that someone like Joseph Ratzinger dismissed any such comedic attempts at reconciling human evolution with Catholic doctrine as being “intolerable” (Credo For Today, p. 38). This is why, of course, he was forced into acceptance of Teilhardian Evolution: namely, that “matter is the prehistory of spirit” (Ibid., p. 45), and that the advent of a spiritual soul, and therefore a human being, in the history of evolution was the result of a process of material “complexification”. Thus , he writes:

“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).

As we have pointed out in previous articles, such a dimly-conscious and “stammering” soul is in complete contradiction to the Catholic doctrine that man was created in a state of original justice, possessing sanctifying grace and the full rationality and integrity of will to be responsible for his upright relationship to God. As a consequence of denial of this truth, out the window goes all the doctrines concerning the Fall, the necessity of Christ’s sacrificial restoration of man to friendship with God (the possession of sanctifying grace and charity), the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and the entire sacramental system. And much more. We must come to the full realization that although it is certainly true that such things as legitimizing a married priesthood, female deacons and priests, contraception, divorce and remarriage, the inclusion of pagan theology and worship, and liberation theology are all particular agendas for the upcoming Amazonian Synod, all of this is only the beginning for the planned victory of Teilhardian Cosmic Evolutionary Theology within the Universal Church.

This Teilhardian-inspired evolutionary destruction of all that is Catholic is implicit in any sort of capitulation to evolutionary theory. We believe that at least some sort of nebulous belief in evolution is extraordinarily widespread among not only the Catholic laity, but also among seminarians, priests and the Catholic hierarchy. We might tend to downplay this presence because such belief is most often not well thought out, and therefore does not represent a fully conscious rejection of Catholic truth. But it is in fact the very “nebulosity” of such a belief which constitutes its destructiveness. It reflects and embodies a spiritual state of soul which amounts to an ongoing prostitution to the findings of bogus, reductive science, and therefore a profound vitiation of that gift of the Holy Spirit which is called fortitude, and which is entirely necessary for any Catholic in his or her combat with the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

We must add that this “fuzziness” is especially tragic in the case of young seminarians and newly ordained priests who have a deep desire to be orthodox Catholics, and who possess a strong passion for the restoration of all things Catholic. Such “nebulous” lack of clarity and prostitution to the “science” of this world is bound to exert a corrosive effect upon the work of the Holy Spirit in their future ministry. Most important, it immerses them in a poisonous doubt and confusion concerning the “goodness” of man as originally created by God, and as described in the Genesis account. In so doing, it necessarily poisons their confidence in the purity of God’s goodness Himself. And in the face of the geometrically accelerating effects of such scientifically reductive thinking upon virtually all of contemporary mankind, it is almost certainly bound to immerse them increasingly in that poison which produces the bitterness and torpor of old men with old and disillusioned hearts. In other words, it almost inevitably produces that loss of spiritual childhood necessary for the inheritance of the Kingdom of God.

As a remedy, we propose that such persons enter more deeply into the heart of Mary. Such impurity and filth still existing in the minds and hearts of those who truly wish to be immersed in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, cannot long continue to exist for those truly immersed in the purifying fire of her Immaculate Heart.

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Ask your pastor to Implement this Event!

For those who would like to join in this missionary effort, please refer to  our sample letter which you can send to any priests whom you feel might be interested in promoting this initiative.  Since this is a group effort, you may simply assume and sign the letter as your own.

Alternatively, simply find an open Catholic Church in which to pray the Rosary for this intention, either with a group or alone.

We invite the whole world to join us!

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