Open Letter to Pope Francis From a Former Member of the Roman Curia

The following letter originally appeared in a German language magazine called ‘Focus’.  It neatly describes the pontificate of Pope Francis thus far.  With thanks to One Peter Five.

Holy Father,

On the occasion of your Christmas Allocution in 2014, you called on your curial employees to make first an examination of conscience. Indeed, Advent is an occasion to reflect upon the promises of God and what He expects from us. You claimed that your employees had to be an example for the whole Church, and you then listed a several “illnesses” from which, in your view, the Curia is now suffering. At the time, I had considered this statement to be rather harsh – yes, even unjust – against so many in the Vatican whom I know personally – while you were talking, instead, as if you knew the Vatican, but either only from the outside or only from above. Nevertheless, this speech of yours has actually inspired me to write this letter to you. Following your own example, I shall omit to speak about all the good that you are doing and are speaking and I shall thus only list those aspects of your exercise of the papal office which seem to me to be problematic:

1. An emotional and anti-intellectual attitude of yours which is often tangible and which has difficulties in dealing with theories and doctrines

The alternative to the Teaching Church is the Arbitrary Church, and not the Merciful Church. Among not a few of your own chosen employees and close counselors, there is to be found a true lack of competence, both in teaching and in theology; these men often have behind them a career within the Church’s government or in a university’s administration, and they think rather all too often in pragmatic and political terms. You, as the Supreme Teacher of the Church, thus have to make clearer the primacy of the Faith – for your own sake, and for the sake of all Catholics. Faith without doctrine does not exist.

2. Authoritarianism

You are distancing yourself from the wisdom which is preserved in the Church’s traditional discipline, in Canon Law, and also in the historical practices of the Curia. Together with your disdain for (supposedly) theoretical teaching, this propensity leads to an authoritarianism of which even the founder of your Order of Jesuits, St. Ignatius himself, would not approve. Do you really accept those admonitory voices who say what you, personally, do not immediately see nor understand? What would happen if you were now to know my own name? It would be helpful to act in a less authoritarian way in order to change the current climate of fear.

3. A populism of change

Today, it is popular to call for change. However, especially the Successor of Peter has to remind himself and others of that which changes only slowly, and even more so of that which does not change at all. Do you really believe that the approval which you receive from the opinion-makers in the realm of politics and of the media is a good sign? Christ did not promise or prophesy to Peter popularity in the media and status in a star cult (John 21:18). A great many of your statements awaken wrong expectations and give the harmful impression that the teaching and discipline of the Church could and should be adapted to the changing opinions of the majority. The Apostle Paul is here of another opinion (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:14)

4. Your own conduct is seen as a critique of how your (often canonized) predecessors have lived, talked, and acted

I cannot recognize how this attitude comports with the humility which you have so many times invoked and demanded. Such humility is indeed needed, especially when it is about continuing the tradition which goes back to the Apostle Peter. Your conduct implicitly proposes the idea that you intend to re-invent somehow the Petrine Office. Instead of preserving faithfully the heritage of your predecessors, you want to acquire it [the heritage] in a quite creative way. But, did Saint John not say: “He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)?

5. Pastoralism

Only recently, you said that you especially like those parts of the papacy where you can act like a pastor. Of course, neither a pope nor a pastor should raise any doubts as to whether the Church is following the teaching of Christ in everything she currently does (Pastoral Care, Sacraments, Liturgy, Catechesis, Theology, Caritas); finally, everything depends upon the revealed Faith as it comes to us in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and which is thus binding upon the consciences of the faithful. We cannot even live the Faith and pass it on to others, if we do not know it. Without a good theory, we are – in the long run – not able to act in a good manner. Without teaching in the field of pastoral care, we shall only have emotional and largely adventitious successes.

6. Exaggerated display of the simplicity of your own way of life

Of course, you want to set an example – but is it better for you yourself to take care of all kinds of daily chores? In ascetical questions, the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing (Mt 6:3); otherwise, the whole thing appears somehow to be insincere. If you really want to drive cars that are ecological, you have to invest, by the way, much more, or to ask someone to give you as a gift the more expensive technology that is thus needed: for. ecology has its price.

7. A particularism which often subjugates the goals and purposes of the Universal Church under the viewpoints of only a part of the Church

This attitude appears nearly comical with regard to a pope. Additionally, our world is now much more interconnected, more mobile, and more proximate than ever. Especially today, it is a treasure that the Catholic Church is throughout the whole world always the same. It corresponds to the global life realities that Catholics in all countries live, pray, and think in a similar vein (and with each other together).

8. An urge for constant spontaneity

A lack of professionalism is not a sign for the working of the Holy Ghost. Expressions like “to breed like rabbits,” or “Who am I to judge…?” might possibly impress some kinds of people, but, in reality, they lead to grave misunderstandings. Constantly, others have to explain what you really meant to say. To act without a plan and outside of the protocol has its time and place – but it should not become the standard. You owe this respect to your employees (in Rome and in the whole world). The measure of spontaneity is much smaller among popes than among pastors.

9. Lack of clarity about the interconnectedness of religious, political, and economic freedom

Many of your statements indicate that the state should rule more, control more, and be responsible for more areas, especially in the economic and social field. We in Europe are used to very strong states. However, history has proven wrong the idea that the state can take care of everything. The Church has to defend non-governmental institutions which can provide things that the state could not provide (in that way). Against the tendency to expect everything from the state, the Church has to help people to take care of their own lives. The welfare state can also become too powerful, and with it, too paternalistic, authoritarian, and illiberal.

10. Meta-Clericalism

On the one hand, you show very little interest in the clergy, on the other hand, you criticize a clericalism which is more of a phantom than something that is real. One cannot compensate for this lack of interest with a good intention or with statements in front of smaller groups. The bishops and priests have to know again that the pope stands behind them when they defend the Gospels “in season and out of season,” even if it is done in a way that does not personally please the pope. It is not good that some think that the pope sees many things quite differently from the Catechism, and that others then imitate him in order to make a career under this pontificate. As a pope, you of necessity have to serve the continuity and Tradition of the Church – even non-Catholic Christians are of this opinion. It may well be better for you to cut back on your innovations and provocations; we anyway already have many people who do that. Your Magisterium, as such, is already in itself the ultimate provocation and innovation – after all, you are the Representative of Christ and the supreme teacher of our supernatural Faith. “Grace, Mercy, and Peace” are coming “from God, the Father, and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in Truth and Love” (2 John 1:3); and they only come together in a complete package. If, during this coming Year of Mercy, you are now preparing yourself for Christmas, please take this occasion as an incentive to find out for yourself what you have yourself neglected in the recent past. Let yourself be helped by your own employees who will only learn from you if you are willing to learn something from them. Like me, many others have difficulties with the way you sometimes talk and act. But that can be fixed, if it becomes clear that you listen to what others have to tell you. Unfortunately, I know that you are not yet capable of dealing well with such criticism – that is why I do not put my name on this letter. I want to protect my superiors against your wrath, especially the priests and bishops with whom I have worked for many years in Rome and from whom I have learned so much. You might want to work on taking away such fears – from me and from others – or, even better, to make such letters as this one superfluous, namely, by learning something from others.

In this spirit, may you have a blessed and contemplative Season of Advent!

A Chaplain of Your Holiness

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Take Courage and Prepare for Battle

POST-SYNOD CHURCH & UNBELIEVERS IN THE HIERARCHY

Rorate Caeli: In the recent Synod, we will not know the legal impact it will have on the Church for some time, as it’s up to Pope Francis to move next. Regardless of the eventual outcome, for all intent and purposes, is there already a schism in the Church? And, if so, what does it mean practically speaking? How will it manifest itself for typical Catholics in the pews?

H.E. Schneider: Schism means according to the definition of the Code of Canon Law, can. 751: The refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with those members of the Church who are submitted to the Supreme Pontiff. One has to distinguish the defect in belief or heresy from schism. The defect in belief or heresy is indeed a greater sin than schism, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said: “Unbelief is a sin committed against God Himself, according as He is Himself the First Truth, on which faith is founded; whereas schism is opposed to ecclesiastical unity, which is a lesser good than God Himself. Wherefore the sin of unbelief is generically more grievous than the sin of schism” (II-II, q. 39, a. 2 c).

The very crisis of the Church in our days consists in the ever growing phenomenon that those who don’t fully believe and profess the integrity of the Catholic faith frequently occupy strategic positions in the life of the Church, such as professors of theology, educators in seminaries, religious superiors, parish priests and even bishops and cardinals. And these people with their defective faith profess themselves as being submitted to the Pope.

The height of confusion and absurdity manifests itself when such semi-heretical clerics accuse those who defend the purity and integrity of the Catholic faith as being against the Pope – as being according to their opinion in some way schismatics. For simple Catholics in the pews, such a situation of confusion is a real challenge of their faith, in the indestructibility of the Church. They have to keep strong the integrity of their faith according to the immutable Catholic truths, which were handed over by our fore-fathers, and which we find in in the Traditional catechisms and in the works of the Fathers and of the Doctors of the Church.

Rorate Caeli: Speaking of typical Catholics, what will the typical parish priest face now that he didn’t face before the Synod began? What pressures, such as the washing of women’s feet on Maundy Thursday after the example of Francis, will burden the parish priest even more than he is burdened today?

H.E. Schneider: A typical Catholic parish priest should know well the perennial sense of the Catholic faith, the perennial sense as well of the laws of the Catholic liturgy and, knowing this, he should have an interior sureness and firmness. He should always remember the Catholic principle of discernment: “Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus”, i.e. “What has been always, everywhere and from all” believed and practiced.

The categories “always, everywhere, all” are not to be understood in an arithmetical, but in a moral sense. A concrete criterion for discernment is this: “Does this change in a doctrinal affirmation, in a pastoral or in a liturgical practice constitute a rupture with the centuries-old, or even with the millennial past? And does this innovation really make the faith shine clearer and brighter? Does this liturgical innovation bring to us closer the sanctity of God, or manifest deeper and more beautiful the Divine mysteries? Does this disciplinary innovation really increase a greater zeal for the holiness of life?”

As concretely to the innovation of washing the feet of women during the Holy Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday: This Holy Mass celebrates the commemoration of the institution of the sacraments of the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Therefore, the foot washing of women along with the men not only distracts from the main focus on Eucharist and on Priesthood, but generates confusion regarding the historical symbolism of the “twelve” and of the apostles being of male sex. The universal tradition of the Church never allowed the foot washing during the Holy Mass, but instead outside of Mass, in a special ceremony.

By the way: the public washing and usually also kissing of the feet of women on the part of a man, in our case, of a priest or a bishop, is considered by every person of common sense in all cultures as being improper and even indecent. Thanks be to God no priest or bishop is obliged to wash publicly the feet of women on Holy Thursday, for there is no binding norm for it, and the foot washing itself is only facultative.

PRIESTLY FRATERNITY OF ST. PIUS X (SSPX)

Rorate Caeli: A non-typical situation in the church is the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Why does Your Excellency think that so many Catholics are afraid of the SSPX or anxious about any association with it? From what Your Excellency has seen, what gifts do you think the SSPX can bring to the mainstream Church?

H.E. Schneider: When someone or something is unimportant and weak, nobody has fear of it. Those who have fear of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X ultimately have fear of the perennial Catholic truths and of its demands in the moral and the liturgical domain.

When the SSPX tries to believe, to worship and to live morally the way our fore-fathers and the best-known Saints did during a millennial period, then one has to consider the life and the work of these Catholic priests and faithful of the SSPX as a gift for the Church in our days – even as one of the several instruments which the Divine Providence uses to remedy the enormity of the current general crisis of the faith, of the morals and of the liturgy inside the Church.

In some sectors of the SSPX there are, however, as it is the case in every human society some eccentric personalities. They have a method and a mindset which lack justice and charity and consequently the true “sentire cum ecclesia,” and there is the danger of an ecclesial autocephaly and to be the last judicial instance in the Church. However, to my knowledge, the healthier part corresponds to the major part of the SSPX and I consider their General Superior, His Excellency Monsignor Bernard Fellay, as an exemplarily and true Catholic bishop. There is some hope for a canonical recognition of the SPPX.

THE SYNOD AND PAPALOTRY

Rorate Caeli: Back on the Synod, while focusing on tradition, does Your Excellency believe that the changes in the Roman liturgy post-Vatican II contributed to the current crisis in the Church, the crisis of marriage, the family and societal morality in general??

H.E. Schneider: I wouldn’t affirm this in such a way. Indeed the very source of the current crisis in the Church, the crisis of marriage, of the family and of the morality in general is not the liturgical reform, but the defects in faith, the doctrinal relativism, from which flows the moral and liturgical relativism. For, if I believe in a defective manner, I will live a defective moral life and I will worship in a defective, indifferent manner. It is necessary first to restore the clearness and firmness of the doctrine of faith and of morals in all levels and, from there, start to improve the liturgy. The integrity and the beauty of the faith demands the integrity and the beauty of one’s moral life and this demands the integrity and the beauty of the public worship.

Rorate Caeli: Still on the Synod, it is clear to those with eyes to see that Pope Francis caused confusion instead of clarity in the Synod process, and encouraged a turn toward rupture by elevating the role of Cardinals Kaspar and Danneels, Archbishop Cupich, etc. What is the proper attitude a Catholic should have towards the pope in these troubled times? Are Catholics obliged to make their views known and “resist” as Cardinal Burke said in an interview last year with us, even when their views are critical of the pope?

H.E. Schneider: For several past generations until our days there reigns in the life of the Church a kind of “pope-centrism” or a kind of “papolatria” which is undoubtedly excessive compared with the moderate and supernatural vision of the person of the Pope and his due veneration in the past times. Such an excessive attitude towards the person of the Pope generates in the practice an excessive and wrong theological meaning regarding the dogma of the Papal infallibility.

If the Pope would tell the entire church to do something, which would directly damage an unchangeable Divine truth or a Divine commandment, every Catholic would have the right to correct him in a due respectful form, moved out of reverence and love for the sacred office, and person of the Pope. The Church is not the private property of the Pope. The Pope can’t say “I am the Church,” as it did the French king Louis XIV, who said: “L’État c’est moi.” The Pope is only the Vicar, not the successor of Christ.

The concerns about the purity of the faith is ultimately a matter of all members of the Church, which is one, and a unique living body. In the ancient times before entrusting to someone the office of a priest and of a bishop, the faithful were asked if they can guarantee that the candidate had the right faith, and a high moral conduct. The old Pontificale Romanum says: “The captain of a ship and its passengers alike have reason to feel safe or else in danger on a voyage, therefore they ought to be of one mind in their common interests.” It was the Second Vatican Council, which very much encouraged the lay faithful to contribute to the authentic good of the Church, in strengthening the faith.

I think in a time in which a great part of the holders of the office of the Magisterium are negligent in their sacred duty, the Holy Spirit calls today, namely the faithful, to step into the breach and defend courageously with an authentic “sentire cum ecclesia” the Catholic faith.

TRADITION AND ITS ENEMIES FROM WITHIN

Rorate Caeli: Is the pope the measure of tradition, or is he measured by tradition? And should faithful Catholics pray for a traditional pope to arrive soon?

H.E. Schneider: The Pope is surely not the measure of tradition, but on the contrary. We must always bear in mind the following dogmatic teaching of the First Vatican Council: The office of the successors of Peter does not consist in making known some new doctrine, but in guarding and faithfully expounding the deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles (cf. Constitutio dogmatica Pastor aeternus, cap. 4).

In fulfilling one of his most important tasks, the Pope has to strive so that “the whole flock of Christ might be kept away from the poisonous food of error” (First Vatican Council, ibd.). The following expression which was in use since the first centuries of the Church, is one of the most striking definitions of the Papal office, and has to be in some sense a second nature of every Pope: “Faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith” (First Vatican Council, ibd.).

We must always pray that God provides His Church with traditional-minded Popes. However, we have to believe in these words: “It is not for you to have knowledge of the time and the order of events which the Father has kept in his control” (Acts 1: 7).

Rorate Caeli: We know there are many bishops and cardinals – possibly the majority – who want to change the Church’s doctrinal language and long-standing discipline, under the excuses of “development of doctrine” and “pastoral compassion.” What is wrong with their argument?

H.E. Schneider: Expressions like “development of doctrine” and “pastoral compassion” are in fact usually a pretext to change the teaching of Christ, and against its perennial sense and integrity, as the Apostles had transmitted it to the whole Church, and it was faithfully preserved through the Fathers of the Church, the dogmatic teachings of the Ecumenical Councils and of the Popes.

Ultimately, those clerics want another Church, and even another religion: A naturalistic religion, which is adapted to the spirit of the time. Such clerics are really wolves in sheep’s clothing, often flirting with the world. Not courageous shepherds – but rather cowardly rabbits.

ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Rorate Caeli: We hear a lot about the role of women in the Church today – the so-called “feminine genius.” Women obviously have played a critical role in the Church since the beginning, starting with the Blessed Virgin Mary. But liturgically, Christ made His position crystal clear, as have pre-Conciliar popes. Does Your Excellency believe that female involvement in the liturgy, whether it’s women taking part in the Novus Ordo Mass or girl altar boys, has played a positive or negative role in the Church the last four decades?

H.E. Schneider: There is no doubt about the fact that the female involvement in the liturgical services at the altar (reading the lecture, serving at the altar, distributing Holy Communion) represents a radical rupture with the entire and universal tradition of the Church. Therefore, such a practice is against the Apostolic tradition.

Such a practice gave to the liturgy of the Holy Mass a clear Protestant shape and a characteristic of an informal prayer meeting or of a catechetical event. This practice is surely contrary to the intentions of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council and there is not in the least an indication for it in the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy.

THE TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS

Rorate Caeli: Your Excellency is well known for celebrating the traditional Latin Mass in many places around the world. What does Your Excellency find to be the deepest lessons learned from saying the Latin Mass, as a priest and as a bishop, that other priests and bishops may hope to gain by saying the traditional Mass themselves?

H.E. Schneider: The deepest lessons I learned from celebrating the traditional form of the Mass is this: I am only a poor instrument of a supernatural and utmost sacred action, whose principal celebrant is Christ, the Eternal High Priest. I feel that during the celebration of the Mass I lost in some sense my individual freedom, for the words and the gesture are prescribed even in their smallest details, and I am not able to dispose of them. I feel most deeply in my heart that I am only a servant and a minister who yet with free will, with faith and love, fulfill not my will, but the will of Another.

The traditional and more than millennial-old rite of the Holy Mass, which not even the Council of Trent changed, because the Ordo Missae before and after that Council was almost identical, proclaims and powerfully evangelizes the Incarnation and the Epiphany of the ineffably saintly and immense God, who in the liturgy as “God with us,” as “Emmanuel,” becomes so little and so close to us. The traditional rite of the Mass is a highly artfully and, at the same time, a powerful proclamation of the Gospel, realizing the work of our salvation.

Rorate Caeli: If Pope Benedict is correct in saying that the Roman Rite currently (if strangely) exists in two forms rather than one, why has it not yet happened that all seminarians are required to study and learn the traditional Latin Mass, as part of their seminary training? How can a parish priest of the Roman Church not know both forms of the one rite of his Church? And how can so many Catholics still be denied the traditional Mass and sacraments if it is an equal form?

H.E. Schneider: According to the intention of Pope Benedict XVI, and the clear norms of the Instruction “Universae Ecclesiae,” all Catholic seminarians have to know the traditional form of the Mass and be able to celebrate it. The same document says that this form of Mass is a treasure for the entire Church – thus it is for all of the faithful.

Pope John Paul II made an urgent appeal to all bishops to accommodate generously the wish of the faithful regarding the celebration of the traditional form of the Mass. When clerics and bishops obstruct or restrict the celebration of the traditional Mass, they don’t obey what the Holy Spirit says to the Church, and they are acting in a very anti-pastoral way. They behave as the possessors of the treasure of the liturgy, which does not belong to them, for they are only administrators.

In denying the celebration of the traditional Mass or in obstructing and discriminating against it, they behave like an unfaithful and capricious administrator who – contrary to the instructions of the house-father – keeps the pantry under lock or like a wicked stepmother who gives the children a meager fare. Perhaps such clerics have fear of the great power of the truth irradiating from the celebration of the traditional Mass. One can compare the traditional Mass with a lion: Let him free, and he will defend himself.

RUSSIA NOT YET EXPLICITLY CONSECRATED

Rorate Caeli: There are many Russian Orthodox where Your Excellency lives. Has Alexander of Astana or anyone else in the Moscow Patriarchate asked Your Excellency about the recent Synod or about what is happening to the Church under Francis? Do they even care at this point?

H.E. Schneider: Those Orthodox Prelates, with whom I have contact, generally are not well informed about the internal current disputes in the Catholic Church, or at least they had never spoken with me about such issues. Even though they don’t recognize the jurisdictional primacy of the Pope, they nevertheless look on the Pope as the first hierarchical office in the Church, from a point of view of the order of protocol.

Rorate Caeli: We are just a year away from the 100th anniversary of Fatima. Russia was arguably not consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and certainly not converted. The Church, while ever spotless, is in complete disarray – maybe worse than during the Arian Heresy. Will things get even worse before they get better and how should truly faithful Catholics prepare for what is coming?

H.E. Schneider: We have to believe firmly: The Church is not ours, nor the Pope’s. The Church is Christ’s and He alone holds and leads her indefectibly even through the darkest periods of crisis, as our current situation indeed is.

This is a demonstration of the Divine character of the Church. The Church is essentially a mystery, a supernatural mystery, and we cannot approach her as we approach a political party or a pure human society. At the same time, the Church is human and on her human level she is nowadays enduring a sorrowful passion, participating in the Passion of Christ.

One can think that the Church in our days is being flagellated as our Lord, is being denuded as was Our Lord, on the tenth Cross station. The Church, our mother, is being bound in cords not only by the enemies of Christ but also by some of their collaborators in the rank of the clergy, even sometimes of the high clergy.

All good children of Mother Church as courageous soldiers we have to try to free this mother – with the spiritual weapons of defending and proclaiming the truth, promoting the traditional liturgy, Eucharistic adoration, the crusade of the Holy Rosary, the battle against the sin in one’s private life and striving for holiness.

We have to pray that the Pope may soon consecrate explicitly Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, then She will win, as the Church prayed since the old times: “Rejoice O Virgin Mary, for thou alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world” (Gaude, Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo).

Originally published by Rorate Caeli

Apocalypse Now? Another Great Sign Rises in the Heavens

Portrait Our Lady of Guadalupe

This is an article that was written for the Remnant Newspaper.

On September 23, 2017, we will see the constellation Virgo with the sun rise directly behind it (the woman clothed with the sun). These events transpire during the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of “the woman clothed in the sun,” Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. What does it mean?

[Editorial Note: In the following article, I intend to present a series of facts and observations from which I draw no definitive conclusion. Yet, these facts and observations are of such a nature, for no other reason than their observation and reporting, that lend themselves to misinterpretation. So let me be clear, in the following article, I predict nothing. I am offering my observations on some upcoming phenomena, both heavenly and man-made, potentially of great import, that people might find interesting and of which people should be aware.]

* * *
The Great Sign in Heaven

What if God gave us a sign, would we even notice it? What if God, like He has done before, gave us a heavenly sign, a portent of great and terrible events? Would we even take notice? Are we, like so many that have come before us, so busy in our day-to-day lives that we never bother to even look up anymore? What if God gave us a heavenly sign today, would we notice? And if we did notice, would we care or just ignore it as some superstitious nonsense?

What if I told you that there is a forthcoming astronomical event that closely mirrors a sign from the Book of Revelation, stunning in its precision, context, and timing? Would you look up?

Revelation 12:1-5

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars:

And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.

And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns: and on his head seven diadems:

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son.

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne. “

The Star of Bethlehem

Before I begin, I think it is important to establish some sense of context. We take it as an established and undeniable part of our faith that, 2,000 years ago, God used an astronomical event to communicate with man, the Star of Bethlehem. Many people, when picturing the Star of Bethlehem, if they picture it at all, think of this massive bright star over Bethlehem that was so obvious to everyone that it sent the Magi on a long trek to find the promised king.

We know that version of events is in error, for when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, just 8 kilometers from Bethlehem, they had to explain what it was they saw and why they interpreted it the way they did. King Herod, his court, and the rest of Jerusalem were largely ignorant of the events of the Star of Bethlehem. The people of Jerusalem, like us today, were busy providing for their families and going about their daily duties. Even though this great sign announcing the birth of the Savior, the very Son of God, was going on above their heads, they neither noticed it, nor cared about it.

In order to understand the proper context of the potential Revelation 12 sign, it is helpful to further examine the Star of Bethlehem. What was the Star of Bethlehem and how did the Magi see it when everybody else missed it? Short answer, they were paying attention.

I think that there is a compelling case that the Star of Bethlehem was a series of regular astronomical events involving rare conjunctions that symbolically indicated the birth of a king. It is important to note that this is emphatically not astrology. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines astrology as:

“…type of divination that involves the forecasting of earthly and human events through the observation and interpretation of the fixed stars, the Sun, the Moon, and the planets. Devotees believe that an understanding of the influence of the planets and stars on earthly affairs allows them to both predict and affect the destinies of individuals, groups, and nations.”

The Catholic Church explicitly condemns astrology, as it does all forms of divination (CCC 2116). But signs like the Star of Bethlehem are not divination of fates ordered by the stars, but regular astronomy and symbology with the idea that the God of the universe sometimes uses His creation to communicate with man. The bible is replete with instances that make this case. Psalm 19 states:

1 …The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…

— PSALM 19:1-4

Paul directly quotes this Psalm in Romans when making the case that the Jews had knowledge that the Messiah had come.

17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask: Did they [the Jews] not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

— ROMANS 10:17-18

Paul is clearly making the case that the Jews had knowledge of the Messiah because the heavens told them so. Obviously Paul is not endorsing astrology, but indicating that God can and does sometimes use the heavens to announce His plans. There is much more that can be said on the differences between astrology and understanding heavenly signs, but suffice it for now to say that looking to the heavens for confirmation and announcement of God’s plans is legitimate within the proper context and application.

So what was the Star of Bethlehem? As mentioned, I think there is a compelling case that the Star of Bethlehem was a series of astronomical events with significant symbolism. More detail can be seen at BethlehemStar.net, but I will attempt a brief summary.

In 3/2 B.C., there occurred a rare triple conjunction of Jupiter (the king planet, through its retrograde motion) and Regulus (the king star). The Magi likely interpreted this rare triple conjunction as a giant neon sign in the heavens blinking KING-KING-KING. This all began at the Jewish New year and all within the constellation of Leo (the lion, a symbol of the tribe of Judah). So it heavily symbolized Jewish King from the tribe of Judah, a clear indication for those familiar with the Messiah. Further, rising right behind Leo was the constellation Virgo, with the sun and the moon at her feet.

After this incredible triple conjunction, Jupiter began moving westward in the sky, eventually coming into conjunction with Venus, a planet long symbolically associated with motherhood. The conjunction of the king planet and the motherhood planet was so close, that no man alive had ever seen anything like it and together it formed the brightest object in the sky.

All this symbolism of a Jewish king from Judah and a Virgin was enough to get the well-versed Magi moving to Jerusalem, but you can understand why the average citizen of Jerusalem missed it.

Jupiter continued its western movement in the sky until it finally stopped. When it stopped (as seen from Jerusalem), it stopped directly south, directly over the small village of Bethlehem, on December 25 of 2 B.C.

This may be easily seen with modern star programs that can show you the night sky on any date in history from any perspective. It is the advent of such computer programs that now allows us to not only look at the past, but to look at the skies of the future.

Given the context of all I just described, it is when we turn our gaze to the heavens of the future that once again we are treated to heavenly signs of great symbolism.

Let us revisit the opening verses of Revelation 12.

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered.”

The author of Revelation clearly indicates that this vision is one of a sign in heaven or in the sky. What do we see in the sky of the near future?

On November 20, 2016, an astronomical event begins that will last nine and a half months, culminating in startling concurrence with the vision of Revelation 12. While I am not an astronomer, all my research indicates that this astronomical event, in all its particulars, is unique in the history of man.

On November 20, 2016, Jupiter (the King planet) enters into the body (womb) of the constellation Virgo (the virgin). Jupiter, due its retrograde motion, will spend the next 9 ½ months within the womb of Virgo. This length of time corresponds with gestation period of a normal late-term baby.

After 9 ½ months, Jupiter exits out of the womb of Virgo. Upon Jupiter’s exit (birth), on September 23, 2017, we see the constellation Virgo with the sun rise directly behind it (the woman clothed with the sun). At the feet of Virgo, we find the moon. And upon her head we find a crown of twelve stars, formed by the usual nine stars of the constellation Leo with the addition of the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars.

That is a truly remarkable and, as far as I can determine, unique series of event with a startling degree of concurrence with the vision of Revelation 12.

So what does it mean, if anything? The obvious and truthful answer is that we simply do not know. That said, we are not entirely without possible context.

It just so happens that these events transpire during the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of “the woman clothed in the sun,” Our Lady at Fatima in 1917. The culmination of these astronomical events occurs just 3 weeks before the 100th anniversary of the great miracle of Fatima, in which the sun “danced” (another heavenly sign), an event that was witnessed by many thousands.

In the almost century that has followed that great event, we have seen Our Lady’s warnings come true with startling precision. People did not cease offending God and we have seen terrible wars, nations annihilated, and Russia spread her errors throughout the world and, if we are honest, even into the Church itself. And yet, we still await the fulfillment of her promises, the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart, and a period of peace to be granted to the world.

But what you may not know is that within the Fatima story itself, there are indications that a 100-year period might be significant. In August 1931, Sister Lucy was staying with a friend at Rianjo, Spain. There, Our Lord appeared to Sr. Lucy and He complained the requests of His mother had not been heeded saying, “Make it known to My ministers, given that they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My command, they will follow him into misfortune. It is never too late to have recourse to Jesus and Mary.”

And again in another text, Sr. Lucy quoted Our Lord as saying, “They did not wish to heed My request! … Like the King of France, they will repent of it, and they will do it, but it will be late. Russia will have already spread its errors in the world, provoking wars and persecutions against the Church. The Holy Father will have much to suffer.”

Those references to the King of France are very interesting for our discussion as this is an explicit reference to the requests of the Sacred Heart given through Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque on June 17, 1689 to the King of France. King Louis XIV and his successors failed to heed Our Lord’s request to publicly consecrate France to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a result, on June 17, 1789, one hundred years to the day after the request, the National Assembly of the French Revolution rose up and declared itself the government of France and stripped the king of his power. Later, the king lost his head to the revolution.

Now it is not possible to know the relevance of this 100-year allusion or to know if and when the clock may have started ticking, but it is certainly interesting and relevant in this context.

And of course, many are familiar with the vision of Pope Leo XIII in which he allegedly heard Satan granted one hundred years to try and destroy the Church. Immediately after this vision, Pope Leo XIII composed the prayer to St. Michael pleading with the Archangel to defend us in battle and be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. Pope Leo XIII then added the Leonine prayers to the end of the mass, later suppressed during Vatican II.

As we live through these tumultuous times in the Church, in which the very foundations of faith, even the very words and commands of Our Savior are diminished and ignored, it is impossible not to recall Pope Leo’s vision.

Speaking of our current crisis, in this era of false mercy, I must also note that the date the astronomical event begins, November 20, 2016, is the very day that Pope Francis’ declared “Year of Mercy” comes to an end. The very same day is the Feast of Christ the King.

In conclusion, I must stress that I make no specific claim of the significance, if any, of the astronomical event I described. Further, I make no claim to know the future or of any forthcoming events relating to the fulfillment of the promises of Fatima. I only relate this to you now as I find myself in a similar situation as those Magi 2,000 years ago. I look to the sky and say, “Alright Lord, you have my attention.”

Patrick Archbold

The joyful death of Catholic Ireland

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James Matthew Wilson

Do you remember the joke about the Irish brewery worker who drowned in a vat of suds? “Poor Sean,” the new widow said upon learning her husband’s fate, “He didn’t stand a chance.” “Oh, I wouldn’t say that, Mrs. Reilly,” replies the foreman. “He did crawl out three times to use the bathroom.”

The Republic of Ireland has just voted, by a commanding and unprecedented popular vote, to establish “gay marriage” in its territory. The world, and the Irish themselves, who generally look at themselves from the viewpoint of the foreigner in a sad kind of “double consciousness,” will not fail to read the message: “Catholic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with De Valera in the grave.”

The coverage of the vote holds it up as an occasion of joy, of national pride, of a new era in an old country. I am sure there are some who use these expressions sincerely. Modern westerners usually think of life in this world in therapeutic terms. Matters of what is sometimes called “private” morality are decided entirely in terms of the question, “How will this make me feel?” while matters of “public” morality are submitted to a utilitarian calculus the numbers of which are usually undefined or unsatisfactory, boiling down to something like, “How will such-and-such a measure affect public health?” These are the only questions one can ask, if one inhabits an impoverished world where goodness and truth, happiness and justice, are taken for mere “subjective” projections onto the wandering atoms of the universe. But this diagnosis is not my interest today, because it cannot wholly explain the queer elation in Dublin.

What I want to consider is the specific conditions in Ireland that led up to this moment. My account will be somewhat hobbled; though for a number of years I resided in Dublin regularly, I have not visited the country since 2007, and so learned of some of the more recent and traumatic events in Irish life only from the newspapers.

My days in Ireland began just after the peak of the so-called Celtic Tiger. The economy was expanding, the “ribbon effect,” or suburban sprawl was spreading out around Dublin and Galway, and the restaurants, bars, and hotels were staffed by immigrant workers, most of them from Eastern Europe.

My interest in Irish culture was incidental to begin with. I had fallen in love with the modern Irish poets, from Yeats to Mahon, for their formal dexterity. But I also loved God above all things, and viewed the love of country as little less sacred than the love of one’s father and mother. The Irish narrative of faith and fatherland, fought and died for, resonated with me and, I thought, provided an occasion to deepen my understanding of those loves. To study Irish literature, it seemed to me then, was to study the work of authors who lived and died for the sacred.

What I found in the Ireland of 2001 provided little occasion for dwelling on any of that “rubbish.” In the previous decade, the hierarchy of the Irish Church had been wracked with scandal. Its prestige had come to be viewed as hypocrisy and arrogance, its power as conceit and corruption. Regular Mass attendance had dropped from nearly 90 percent a few years prior to around 60 percent, and it continued to plunge in the years of my visits. If practice of the faith was plunging then, it has plummeted since. The churches were full on Sunday, then, now they sit empty, as if Dublin were Paris or New York.

I saw few signs of genuine piety, and the demeanors of the pious seemed passive and weary. The Irish saw well that prosperity had at last come to their land; it seemed to entail a giving up of both Irish folkways and the ancestral religion, and that was a bargain they were willing to make.

The political elite in Ireland had long since come to have more in common with their counterparts in other western European nations than with the supposedly backward sensibilities of the people they ruled. They clearly saw the embarrassment of the Church as something to be capitalized on to advance the secularization of the country—its normalization, you might say, within the post-Christian mainstream. A prime minister brought his concubine to dinner with the Archbishop; it created a sensation rather than a scandal. Where Nelson’s Pillar had once stood—blown up in a symbolic act of nationalism by the IRA in 1966—the Irish government had erected a “millennium spike.” It is just as bad and stupid as it sounds. I wrote about it thus in my first book of poems, one inspired by the Belfast poet Louis MacNeice:

Where Nelson’s Pisgah pillar pruned, then plumed,
They’ve propped a sterile spike up like an altar
To pious E.U. secularity.

Irish society never fully recovered from the Civil War that humiliated it in 1922-23. The internecine conflict was, as Thomas MacGreevy once wrote, a last humiliation by the British Empire, disillusioning Irish nationalism just at the moment when it had achieved something like victory—a modest independence called “home rule.” In the subsequent decades, Irish politics was marked by a persistence of nationalist ambition to make Ireland in actuality what it has long been regarded as being: a distinctively Catholic republic that would stand outside the main tendencies of western Europe toward secularization, economic liberalization, and, later, the welfare state.

In this ambition, they succeeded. The Church enjoyed a central place in Irish public life; its charitable institutions served as a non-state agent to educate, heal, and care for the Irish people in lieu of public schools, hospitals, and other social services. The long-reigning Eamonn De Valera attempted a third-way economy—one founded on agriculture and autarchy, especially in regards to its powerful neighbor. This last was not a great achievement, though it was more successful than it would have been had the ranks of Ireland’s lower classes not already been emigrating in a continuous flow for most of the previous century.

The persistence of these nationalist ambitions should not surprise us, given the tremendous symbolic power generated in the decades before independence. Nonetheless, it was a waning influence from the beginning. In the 1950s, the Irish economy was liberalized and increasingly opened to the European market. That was sufficient to make most Irish conclude that their country was nothing special; it should rightly assume its place as a marginal junior player in the global economy. Economic liberalization led to secularization, or might have, were it not for a string of public controversies, including votes on abortion and divorce, that reminded many Irish of their distinctive self-image as a Catholic nation—much to the anguish of liberals, including the literati, who sought to show that the only thing distinctive about Ireland was that it was much worse than other countries.

It was the expansion of the Irish economy and the sex scandals in the Church in the 1990s that brought this long developing contempt for Irish exceptionalism to a head. It seemed to vindicate every accusation of Ireland as a backward backwater of hypocrisy. But this contempt for the past was softened by the unprecedented prosperity of the Celtic Tiger. The young were too busy earning money and spending it to have children much less to attend to the dissolution of Ireland’s Catholic culture.

When the global economy collapsed in 2008, Ireland was among the handful of worst-hit small countries. Emigration increased to highs not seen for decades. The time had come for reprisals. Their hopes for prosperity dashed, the Irish had few political options, and a future of bailouts and austerity imposed from abroad. Enda Kenny was elected Prime Minister on a European liberal economic platform, but it soon became clear that his power could only be enhanced by taking Irish society in a leftward direction. Every confrontation he staged with the Church, he won. He was called brave for taking on such a venerable but hidebound institution in the name of truth and progress; but, indeed, how much bravery could it require to fight a battle he could not lose? The disappointments of Irish society were increasingly expressed as contempt for the Church.

Year by year, government inquiries into sexual abuse within Church-run institutions, the physical abuses of those in the care of nuns and priests, and finally the supposed unearthing of mass graves of children on the properties of homes for unwed mothers. The stories themselves were increasingly distorted in the press, but nobody cared; the outrage and contempt only increased. To present oneself as a faithful Catholic in contemporary Ireland would require far more bravery than, say, to present oneself as a practitioner of sodomy.

For more than a century, the Irish had been told, had told themselves, that they were something distinctive in the history of Christendom. A Catholic nation that had persisted in the faith despite domination by a Protestant foreign power, the service of country and of God seemed almost as one. But, for just under a century, a nagging doubt had haunted such convictions. Ireland was insignificant: its dream of itself consequently stood in the way of its simply getting on as one more country on a continent that had long since lost its faith but had embraced the mundane contentment afforded by a liberalized economy, the welfare state, and a far more immanent horizon of beliefs.

Some scholars tell us that the gothic genre of story-telling grew up as a response to the Catholic Irish. A society that saw itself as enlightened, rational, secular, and modern suddenly found itself haunted by some frightful other, a ghoul, a return of the repressed: an avatar of superstitious, atavistic, arcane Catholicism. The Irish and Catholic response to such tales of Whiggery was easy: Catholicism “returns” not as the ravenous claw of the past reaching up from the grave to strangle the present, but as the truth, which never goes anywhere. Truth always asserts its inescapable claim on every person.

But what is one to do when that claw represents not simply the past, but also the future, the Catholic nation that Ireland was meant to become, but never quite did? What is one to do when the gothic monster is not something intruding from the depths beneath one’s society, but is, if anything, the institution that seemed to represent the most distinctive virtues of that society? Kill it, of course. Kill it, and take joy in the sport.

The joy with which the “gay marriage” referendum is being greeted not only in the streets of urban Dublin but across the whole country must surely be a complex emotion. Insofar as the Irish are just like most of us westerners, they are celebrating a new freedom of the will to assert itself without any moral prohibition. But the therapeutic triumphed long ago, and didn’t need Ireland to cement its victory.

The reason the Irish—as Irish—are celebrating is that they have with this referendum delivered a decisive and final blow to their venerable image as a Catholic nation. They have taken their vengeance on the Church. They must relish the unshackling; they must love the taste of blood. But, finally, they take joy in becoming what, it seems, they were always meant to become. An unexceptional country floating somewhere in the waters off a continent that has long since entered into cultural decline, demographic winter, and the petty and perpetual discontents that come free of charge to every people that lives for nothing much in particular.

James Matthew Wilson is Associate Professor of Religion and Literature in the Department of Humanities and Augustinian Traditions at Villanova University. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, Four Verse Letters (Steubenville, 2010) and of Timothy Steele: A Critical Introduction (Story Line, 2012), and a new collection of poems entitled The Violent and the Fallen (Finishing Line Press). A scholar of philosophical theology and literature, Wilson has lectured widely on topics ranging from modern American poetry to ancient Greek philosophy.

Published originally in Crisis Magazine

WHY THE DOCTRINE MATTERS: CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL ON THE CHURCH, THE COUNCIL, AND THE CRISIS IN EUROPE

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Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe makes many startling assertions and observations regarding developments in Europe in the past fifty years, but to those of us following the unfolding drama of revisionist Rome against tradition, none so interesting as this one: Vatican II disarmed Europe.  Caldwell is no theologian, he is on the contrary most often a financial writer. But that makes his thesis the more compelling.

Europe is dissolving itself in Islam via low fertility rates, which has provided a false ’need’ for massive immigration to keep the population of working age laborers from falling, and if you want the numerical details,Reflections delivers chapter upon chapter of statistics that provide the platform for Caldwell’s powerful interpretation. He first effortlessly destroys the idea that immigration is or ever was a financial necessity serving the common good,  comprising as it does a small portion of the annual net worth of any European country (he gives the figures), and he asserts that immigration and its social vocabulary, ’wonderful multiculturalism,’  and ‘glorious diversity,’ are all part of a single strategy contrived by ‘elites’ with the sole purpose of reducing European native workers’ wages, which were seen to be overly generous by the rich and liberal. The ploy has been successful; wages and living conditions have collapsed for the majority of Europeans, and there are many unexpected and painful changes to their civilization.

Consider Amsterdam, for example, the repository of most of Holland’s heritage, its literature, art, and music.  That ancient city is approaching being sixty percent Muslim. Caldwell observes that the immigrant population, which not only has resisted cultural integration, but which has become, counter-intuitively, less integrated with each successive generation as measured by numerous polls and indicators like intermarriage with native Europeans, cannot be counted on to vote for the expensive preservation of those European museums and libraries when the same could be turned into buildings more useful to the new majority, into serviceable mosques or public buildings housing Islamic cultural artifacts.  There is no way, in a democracy, to fight it. Naturally, given Europe’s Catholic background of tolerance and hospitality, immigrants were granted whole-sale citizenship without any thought of the effect on future elections. This development in Amsterdam is repeated all over Europe, with many immigrants making their entry illegally through easy-in Spain before moving through Europe’s open borders to any place they choose and obtaining legality there. Efforts to stop immigration at Spain have led to violence. Having heard Si for so long, immigrants nowdemand entrance.

One horrible change is the tsunami of violent physical antisemitism.  A  Jewish cell-phone salesman was tortured to death over three days, for example, but every day brings news of less spectacular but frightening incidents, resulting in a new exodus of Jews to Israel from all of Europe.  There are also attacks on homosexuals, the gradual imposition of sharia law over Christianity-infused European law, the destruction of educational curricula in favor of ‘inclusive’ Islamic content, the fear-mongering fatwas against critics of Islam, the murders, the car-burning riots, and the mushrooming expense of paying the welfare costs of an ever-growing and now massively unemployed Muslim population. Caldwell does not fail to point out how much easier the US has fared with its more compatible immigrant population from Catholic Mexico.

Caldwell tells the details of various initiatives to reverse the cultural effects of Muslim immigration, but so far none have been even moderately successful in reducing the tension.  Islamic youth completely detest European values and culture.  The more it is urged on them, the more they reject it, says Caldwell. Who can forget the image of young men caught by the cameras with hundred of burning cars behind them, gesticulating at the camera and chanting, “F*ck France!”  About the possibility of reversing that sentiment, Caldwell says, “Europe finds itself in a contest with Islam for the allegiance of its newcomers. For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest, in an obvious demographic way and in a less obvious philosophical way. . . . When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.” (349, Doubleday ed.)

This negativity does not extend to Christians. In France, the polls find that 91 percent of Muslims have a positive attitude toward Christians, in Spain 82 percent, in Britain, 71 percent, in Germany 69. It is not philosophical Christianity that is being rejected, but what has replaced it in Europe. And what is that, according to Caldwell?  A “hang-dog, sad-sack, our-day-is-done” version of Christianity, he writes, in which “Islam and Christianity are, in the last analysis, interchangeable religions” (179)  It is thus particularly interesting when, as Caldwell says, the elites of secular Europe try to teach Islam the lessons of the Enlightenment that all religions are equal in Europe, equal and private, by kicking Christianity to the curb whenever it is possible, by throwing feces at the Cross in their galleries, and menstrual blood on the cemetery statues of the Virgin, in the hope that Muslims will learn the lesson, take the hint, and stuff it, their damned medieval religiosity, into their private lives and private homes, like all the Christians have done with their faith in recent times. European values, to the liberal elites, mean that one must transcend religion, in the name of rationality, neutrality, and other vapid Enlightenment ideals. In 2002 the EU’s constitution deliberately left God out, after bitter political struggle, defying the argument that the very principles the constitution enshrines, democracy, freedom of conscience, free speech, protection of private property, stable marriage, all rose from the practice of Christianity over millenia in Europe. Meanwhile, ordinary Europeans are converting to Islam in record numbers. They are beginning to feel what Caldwell calls ‘the tug of religion’ and he asks, why should we expect people to ‘prefer a diffident, mocked, and un-chic faith like European Christianity over a dynamic, confident, and streetwise one like European Islam? The answer is, we should not” (190).

Of most interest to traditionalists, Caldwell places the source of European insecurity and relativism, and hence on their complete inability to treat effectively with Islamic immigrants in their realms on the Catholic Church at Vatican II! He spends many pages in frustrated analysis of Benedict XVI, who has sided with secularism over belief, Caldwell asserts, continually dialoguing with prominent secular philosophers to convince them that their values come from Christianity and that they are, “in a way, in it already” so that there is no need for them to formally join “the flock” (186), while Europe’s atheists like German Jurgen Haberman upon whom Benedict has spent much attention are happy to acknowledge the debt–as long as there is no further charge for usage. Caldwell says that the relationship of the post-Vatican II Church with secular Europe “looks modern, tolerant, ecumenical, and touchy-feely.” Gone are the thrilling standards for membership in the Mystical Body of Christ.

And that’s the trouble.  Through an ecumenism that leads her popes to make fatuous pronouncements like All Good Atheists Go to Heaven, the Church has ‘lost religion’ in favor of what Caldwell terms a ‘bureaucratized rationalism’ that is proving to be very unsatisfying to the majority of European citizens, who are turning in larger numbers to traditional religion–but not ours. Caldwell mourns it as the social tragedy it is, without any examination of the even greater supernatural cost, and asks, ”If Europeans need what Muslims are bringing–basically, more religion–then did Europeans take a wrong turn when they got rid of these traditions in the first place? If so, when was the wrong turn made? In the 1960′s?” It is a rhetorical question, that Caldwell answers for himself by referring to the “sad-sack” Church as the post-Vatican II Church.Theologians are finally coming to the same conclusion.

Caldwell’s insight must be of great interest to those traditionalists fighting for a repudiation of the tainted doctrine buried in the constitutions of Vatican II. To those suffering the catastrophic conditions in Europe, Caldwell’s work crashes against those ‘traditional’ Catholics who find the theological discussion puzzling at best, irrelevant at worst, when compared to the snappier pyrotechnics of the liturgical wars. What’s the deal with a few little doctrinal changes, after all? (The loss of Europe, including its souls.) These same ‘traditionalists’ were furious when SSPX pulled up short of reunification with modernist Rome last summer after the terms would have muzzled their criticism of the doctrinal changes of the Council, furious and frustrated that the subject of ecumenism, one of three central theological on the table with SSPX, matters that much. Caldwell shows us that it does. Caldwell’s implications are compelling: the Church will awaken, or Europe is lost.

But perhaps it’s too late. Caldwell’s most surprising assertion is this: that there is big ideological concordance between secularism and Islamism, that Europe is ripe to convert to this most ‘sincere’ of religions, and that in many ways it would be a step forward from the economic and social crevice into which secularized Europe has fallen. Caldwell lists interesting stats related to a growing ‘tug of religion’ all across Europe, the explosion of Bible sales, the upclicks in profession of belief in ‘something,’ anything, to pollsters, the lingering of spiritual (or spiritualist) books on best seller lists, the increase of youth religious organizations.

Many are converting to Islam, although exact numbers are difficult to obtain, although 50,000 in Italy is often given as a representative number.  The tenets of Islam and the tenets of secular Europe have much in common, Caldwell points out. Islam has no magisterium–he terms it a hierarchy–and to that degree is inherently democratic, inherently liberal.  Islam’s take on sexuality is much closer to secularism than often thought, much more physical, much more focused on pleasure, even–especially–in their version of heaven, than Catholicism’s more rigorous and romantic teaching on love and marriage. Islam permits easy divorce and there is even precedent in Islam for co-habitation before marriage, trial marriages, that fit in seamlessly with current secular practice. Neither birth control nor abortion are consistently forbidden to Muslims (it’s ruining Iran right now).

All this makes Islam a natural fit with contemporary Europe.  Even as he calls for the Church to abandon its Conciliar fantasy and wake up to its responsibility to Europe, Caldwell cannot help but give plaintive voice against the empty horror of faithless, secular Europe, even to the degree of admiring Islam, and forsaking his own introductory chapters chronicling the equal horrors of Islam, the antisemitism, the dreariness of their intellectual lives as measured by their paucity of printed books, and all the rest. But all that is waved away, finally, when Caldwell gazes at the alternative of zombie secularism. Secularism is worse, even to a European. That the Church might awaken and give the necessary blessing to a new assertion of Christian values in the void does not earn credibility for Caldwell.

There is another possibility, though. Caldwell does not take it up, but what will surely emerge more and more urgently the longer it takes the Church to wake up is: fascism. Call it as neo if you like. Call it liberal fascism. Call it yahoo fascism. Call it the Chinese model. It is on the move. Recent government pressure on our own US constitution prove the new fascism has real fangs, not milk teeth.

 

The White Lily Blog never fails to call for the restoration of the Catholic Church in its authentic tradition as the solution to whatever social or economic problem is raised. Because the Catholic state is the natural and supernatural solution to all our problems. But truly, given the convergence of forces focused on Europe, the same ones that converged at the Council, Europe (and all those souls) may already be lost. Caldwell’s book paints an apocalypse.

With thanks to the White Lily Blog