WELCOME TO APROPOS
Due to a technical glitch beyond our control many of our previous postings were removed from the site. We will reinstate them, as time permits, beginning with the latest first. Some of the earlier postings may now be transferred to the Blog Archive.
10-12-13 Comm. of St Melchiades, Pope and Martyr
The Franciscans of the Immaculate
We refer our readers to the article “Lepanto Society: We ask for the Resignation of Fr Volpi, Commissioner of the Franciscans of the Immaculate” in Catholic Family News regarding the treatment being meted out to the Fransciscans of the Immaculate. This story was originally broken by Sandro Magister in his article, “For the first time, Francis Contradicts Benedict”. The report in Catholic Family News carries an article by Roberto de Mattei calling for resignation of the commissioner appointed over the Franciscans and includes a petition to that effect.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception 2013
The death of Nelson Mandela (RIP) one fears has led to a suspension of critical faculties by many including Churchmen.
A BBC commentator has described Mandela as a secular saint but he is already being almost lauded as a real saint by some Catholics. To redress the balance we reproduce below an article from Life Site News and also from John Smeaton’s Blog:
Life Site News article
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, December 6, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – (John Henry Westen)
The death of South African former President Nelson ‘Madiba’ Rolihlahla Mandela on Thursday has led to an outpouring of glowing praise for the man most known for ending apartheid – a system of racial segregation. However, pro-life leaders have warned that praise from Christian leaders is inappropriate given Mandela’s role in bringing abortion-on-demand and homosexual “marriage” to South Africa.
According to official statistics, nearly a million unborn children have been killed in South Africa since President Mandela signed legislation in 1996 permitting abortion on demand two years after taking office. Same-sex ‘marriage’ was legalized in 2006, with Mandela having supported it long before its passage.
In the face of praise for Mandela coming even from Catholic leaders all over the world, Paul Tuns, the editor of the Canadian pro-life newspaper The Interim, wrote, “A little balance is necessary in our reaction to the man who fought one injustice, but helped institute another.”
Similarly England’s John Smeaton, President of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) commented on his blog saying, “It is absolutely vital that Catholic leaders do not allow themselves to become respecters of persons, swept away by personality cults. Catholic leaders have a duty to stand up to public figures with anti-life and anti-family records, however praiseworthy their record may be on other issues.”
Smeaton’s comments came in reaction to praise for Mandela from the Bishops conference of South Africa. However, since then, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Pope Francis have also issued statements of praise for Mandela.
Pope Francis’s official statement says, “Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations.”
Cardinal Dolan’s statement calls Mandela a “hero to the world.” The Cardinal recalls the praise for Mandela from Pope John Paul II’s visit to South Africa in 1995. That visit came before Mandela passed the law permitting abortion.
It was 1996 when Mandela signed into law one of the world’s most pro-abortion laws. Passage of the “Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill” was assured since Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) refused its members a free vote on the issue of providing state-funded abortion on demand.
The same year, Mandela’s new constitution made South Africa the first country to place “sexual orientation” alongside race and religion as a restricted grounds for discrimination – something that paved the way for homosexual ‘marriage’ a decade later.
Smeaton quotes from a book of quotations from Mandela noting his statement on abortion: "Women have the right to decide what they want to do with their bodies." In addition to his promotion of abortion, homosexuality, contraception and close ties to Communism, Smeaton notes Mandela’s formation of ‘The Elders” as a cause for concern.
In 2007, Mandela announced ‘The Elders’ as a global council of retired world leaders who would give behind the scenes advice and direction to government officials and rulers around the world. The proposal was received by pro-life leaders as being of great concern since its membership formed a ‘who’s who of the pro-abortion and pro-population-control movements.”
While during his life, Mandela denied being part of the communist party despite his friendly interaction with communist world leaders, the African National Congress revealed today that Mandela was in fact a high-ranking member of the Communist Party.
“Madiba was also a member of the South African Communist Party, where he served in the Central Committee,” said the ANC release.
Given the adulation Mandella has received from the worldwide media, it is possible that many Christians had little or no knowledge of the controversial aspects of Mandela’s life.
While it may be difficult for Catholic officials to discern how to proceed with world leaders and politicians who are pro-abortion, in 2004, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops adopted a policy on the matter. “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions,” it said. [End of Life Site News article]
John Smeaton’s Blog
John Smeaton’s BLOG
Tuesday, 1 February 2011
South Africa's Catholic bishops are wrong to laud Nelson Mandela
The South African Catholic Bishops' Conference last week issued a statement of support for Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, following reports that he had been hospitalised. The statement said:
"Former President Mandela means different things to different people. To his family he is a veritable Patriarch who stands for and is an example of the virtues of a truly great and loving Father, who cares for all near and dear to him.
To the Nation, he is a great and inspiring leader, a true icon of the...reconciliation which we still need urgently.
To the international community, he is a unique African and global statesman who rose above personal, tribal, race and party interests in order to lead the South African nation through a difficult transition from apartheid to Democracy."
I am disturbed by this glowing tribute to Mr Mandela, in the light of his record on pro-life/pro-family issues (see below). It is absolutely vital that Catholic leaders do not allow themselves to become respecters of persons, swept away by personality cults. Catholic leaders have a duty to stand up to public figures with anti-life and anti-family records, however praiseworthy their record may be on other issues. The sanctity of human life and the dignity of the family are the foundation and guarantee of all other human rights.
Nelson Mandela and abortion
Mr Mandela has been quoted as saying on abortion: "Women have the right to decide what they want to do with their bodies." In 1996, Mandela signed into law the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which permits abortion on demand. SPUC's pro-life colleagues in South Africa tells us that the bill was introduced into the South African parliament by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Mr Mandela's health minister. In addition, the wording of the new South African constitution, signed by Mr Mandela in 1996, had made the legalisation of abortion on demand a mere formality. Mr Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) has a strong ideological committment to abortion, with the ANC Women's League strongly behind the legalisation of abortion on demand. The ANC has for decades been in a close political and electoral alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) (Mr Mandela pictured with SACP leader Joe Slovo) which also has a strong ideological committment to abortion.
Nelson Mandela and homosexuality*
The 1996 Constitution signed by Mr Mandela made South Africa the first country to forbid so-called discrimination on the grounds of "sexual orientation”. Homosexualist activists have honoured Mr Mandela for this provision.
Nelson Mandela and condoms
Mr Mandela is well-known for his activism regarding HIV/AIDS, through which he has many times promoted the use of condoms.
Nelson Mandela and "The Elders"
Mr Mandela is one of "The Elders", a group of retired international public figures dominated by leading international advocates of abortion, homosexuality and population control.
[End of quote from John Smeaton Blog]
The Temple of Dreams
An appeal has been lodged to save the former Catholic seminary at Cardross in Scotland. The attention is to raise £10million to ‘stabilise the structure and gradually restore some interior spaces for cultural and educational use’.
The ruinous, former, Catholic seminary at Cardross, its condition so cleverly described a few years ago by Jim Gilchrist in “Temple to ruined dreams” should perhaps remain exactly as it is – as a monument to the havoc wreaked upon the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.
( Image from St. Peter’s Building Preservation Trust)
Just as the seminary was “one of the most significant 20th Century Scottish architectural icons of modernism”, the post-conciliar Church too is the most significant icon of modernism – of the type condemned repeatedly by pre-conciliar Popes. The traditional ancient liturgy shares the fate of the old mansion at Kilmahew in having been razed for all intents and purposes: the Church too has had its “alter boys” - the architects and apparatchiks of what one distinguished French theologian described as “the permanent liturgical revolution”, not to mention the architects of Neo-Modernism who have rendered the pre-conciliar Church unrecognisable.
The observation by a grumbling Cardross shopkeeper that, “the vandals have made a mess of it. It’s a real eyesore …not that anyone can really see it now” is a sentiment expressed by many older Catholics about the state of the Church into which they were baptised. Others have simply left.
Even the mundane observation by the architect that the Church authorities “didnae clean the gutters and if you don’t clean the gutters in the middle of a wood, you get water ingress” can easily be transformed into a reflection that the failure of the Church authorities to clean the Church of heresy and modernism led to the ingress of that “smoke of Satan” which Paul VI detected as having entered “the temple of God” in the aftermath of Vatican II. In that sense the ruinous seminary would indeed be a fitting temple to ruined dreams.
Twenty-Second Annual Gardone Summer Symposium,Second Annual International Christendom Congress (June 30th- July 11th, 2014; 11 nights)
In the attached letter, Dr John Rao, advertises the above Summer Symposium which has the subject: 1914-2014: Have We Learned Anything from This “Hundred Years’ War”? and in addition seeks support for this initiative.
James MacMillan, the famous, Scottish, Catholic composer, has undoubtedly a degree of clout in the musical arena. It was he who composed the liturgical music for Pope Benedict’s visit to Scotland and for the beatification of Cardinal Newman. While I do not consider myself in any way a musical connoisseur, I do not particularly take to all of Mr MacMillan’s classical pieces. I have his composition, The Last Seven Words on the Cross, but find it in places too modern for my taste, although I do favour the piece, ‘Verily, I say unto you…’ which in its diverse strains transports one from the Cross and the dust of the Holy Land to the very portal of Heaven. Perhaps I may come to appreciate more his other works.
But whatever I might think about Mr MacMillan’s music, I find myself, as do many others, in sympathy with his complaint that since Vatican II, ‘decades of experiment [have] spewed forth music of mind-numbingly depressing banality. He adds, ‘A lot of the favoured new settings are musically illiterate, almost as if they were written by semi-trained teenagers, getting to grips with musical rudiments. The style is stodgy and sentimental, tonally and rhythmically stilted, melodically inane and adored by Catholic clergy ‘of a certain age’. I suspect he could have added cringe worthy in their delivery too, but he decided perhaps he had used enough adjectives. He gives vent to these feelings in his Telegraph Blog and includes examples there of the type of music he has in mind.
While we do not wholly agree with all that he says we do share his desire for a return to Gregorian chant, and for the return of the liturgy that gave birth to it.
Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour Trilogy
The BBC have recently featured Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Sword of Honour’ Trilogy. We have posted here Dr Robert Hickson’s essay on same: ‘Sloth, Disillusionment and a Higher Chivalry’.
‘What could have happened to this well-meaning young man [Guy Crouchbank]? And, after his besetting sloth at the outset and his later disillusionments and discoveries, what was to be the destiny of his enlargening sense of honor in the end? What glimpses may we come to have of his Higher Chivalry, so well rooted in his gradually deepened Catholic Faith, and in the magnanimous and humble example and memory of his beloved father?
By means of his three-fold sequence of novels concerning World War II, unmistakably based on his own distinguished and valorous and disillusioning experience from 1939-1945, Evelyn Waugh also proposes to show us the way of sacrifice: the way of honor and the higher chivalry.
His Military Trilogy, finally edited and published in one volume only in 1965, and entitled Sword of Honour is, at root, a study of chivalry and honour “in the Modern Age” – and also a revelation of unchivalrous dishonor – especially during a time of “Total War” and “People's War.”17 (Evelyn Waugh was to die less than a year later, in his sixty-third year of life, in his home, after Father Philip Caraman, S.J., privately celebrated the Traditional Mass on 10 April 1966 – Easter Sunday.’
St Clement, Pope and Martyr 23-11-2013
November being the month of the Holy Souls we have asked that a traditional Mass be offered for the repose of the souls of all deceased Apropos and Approaches readers, subscribers and benefactors. We ask our readers to pray too for that intention. Thank You.
Hermeneutic of Discontinuity in Papal Statements
Many Catholics have been dismayed by statements made by Pope Francis in recent interviews which seem to have greatly heartened progressives within the Church. But, as Sandro Magister reported very recently in his article ‘Even the Pope Critiques Himself’, the Pope or his representatives have begun back-tracking even to the extent of the Pope acknowledging and welcoming criticism from a hierarchical friend. The notorious interview with Scalfari has been removed from the Vatican website and an admission has been wrought from Scalfari that his record of what the Pope said was not exactly accurate. Magister also indicates that the Pope appears to have retracted part of his interview to La Civilta Cattolica which so alarmed traditionalists. He now appears to be back on message with the hermeneutic (interpretation) of continuity of his predecessor; giving fulsome praise to his critic, Archbishop Marchetto, as the ‘best hermeneut of Vatican II’. On November 18th the Pope also appeared to withdraw from his October 17th ‘progressive tone’, as Magister puts it; in November he gave a ‘tongue lashing’ of ‘adolescent progressivism’.
In addition others have seen in a recent Marian sermon his criticism of the alleged multiple appearances of Our Lady associated with the Medjugorje phenomenon.
While we welcome this apparent drift of papal direction and the Pope’s willingness to acknowledge his own errors (of judgement too), we do not cease to pray that he may become a Pius IX.
Alas, we must not delude ourselves that, even were he to continue with the hermeneutic of continuity of his predecessor, that this represents anything other than business as usual. If perhaps he had addressed Mgr Gherardini in the terms addressed to Archbishop Marchetto then indeed we may have had grounds for optimism. For Mgr. Gherardini, in his book, The Ecumenical Vatican Council II – A Much Needed Discussion. asked Benedict XVI:
‘Most Holy Father (…)
For the good of the Church (…) it seems to me that it is urgent that You offer some clarity by responding in an authoritative manner to the question about the Council’s continuity with other Councils – not, with declamation, but by demonstration – and about its fidelity to the ever vigorous Tradition of the Church.’
Until that request is met by this pontiff or another we suspect that the progress of Modernism in what Arnaud de Lassus described as ‘a gradual and pragmatic manner’ will continue apace.
Modernism in the post-conciliar Church
We have included in this blog another article by James Larson, ‘I know not the Man’ which addresses the problem that Modernism presents in the post-conciliar Church and aspects of same which some traditionalists are not comfortable in considering. Parts of that article may present a little difficulty to those of us who are not trained in philosophy but the gist of it can still be grasped.
This edition of the blog contains two iconic articles (later produced as supplements) by Approaches in the later 1960s.
The IDO-C Dossier
Sandro Magister in his article ‘Even the Pope critiques himself’ refers to the ‘“school of Bologna” - founded by Giuseppe Dossetti and Guiseppe Alberigo and today directed by Professor Alberto Melloni – which has the worldwide monopoly on the interpretation of Vatican II, in a progressive vein.’ Professor Alberigo of Bologna was a founder member of IDO-C which then sought to control the expression of ‘Catholic’ opinion throughout the world. As Magister indicates its influence still pervades through the “school of Bologna” and other networks. The IDO-C dossier first appeared in Approaches No 10-11 in January 1968. It sought to expose the network of individuals and publications which had become the ‘progressive’, global, Catholic establishment; an establishment which controlled the expression of ‘Catholic’ opinion throughout the world, becoming a veritable parallel hierarchy. Although many of the individuals and publications have ‘moved on’, some still persist, as Magister attests, and continue to exercise the role they did in the immediate post-conciliar period.
The Strange Faith of Teilhard de Chardin
This article by Henri Rambaud first appeared in Approaches No. 3, March 1966. As Hamish Fraser stated at the time of publication: ‘It is not our normal function to discuss theological speculations concerning which Rome has issued a solemn warning. But when such speculations [those of Teilhard de Chardin] are publicised as though they were already de fide, we feel it our duty to show that this is far indeed from being true. Hence our decision to publish Henri Rambaud’s article, The Strange Faith of Teilhard de Chardin together with a translation of the Monitum issued by the Holy Office in 1962.’
We reproduce the latest collections of the Apropos columnist’s musings:
A permissible speculation?
Baptism can be by Water, Blood or Desire. As Archbishop Sheehan remarks in Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, the latter is more aptly described as Baptism of the Holy Ghost ‘because the Holy Ghost causes grace in the soul directly and not through the medium of any sacramental rite.’
This leads us on to the Limbo of the unbaptized, generally described as a place of perfect natural happiness without the Beatific Vision of the Trinity. Some recoil from this. However there is no automatic right to the Beatific Vision. Referring to the Summa of St Thomas, Archbishop Sheehan states that:
‘If Adam had remained faithful, each one of his descendants would have been subjected like himself to some trial of loyalty to God, before being confirmed in the possession of his gifts.’
The speculation in question is whether those enjoying the Beatific Vision can communicate with those in Limbo. Our Lord’s company was enjoyed by Our Lady, St Joseph, and the Apostles, when He had the Beatific Vision in His Sacred Humanity, and they did not. Messengers have come from Heaven to those not yet saved.
The editor of Apropos recently mentioned a growing preference for the Apostles’ Creed rather than the Nicene Creed, wondering whether this was to avoid such terms as ‘consubstantial’ and ‘Filioque’. Doctrinally however, they can run but they can’t hide. The Apostles’ Creed mentions the visit by means of His Soul of Our Lord to the Limbo of the Fathers. Who was there? King David and St Joseph, the Machabees and the Holy Innocents and so on. Why were they there? Because the work of the Redemption from Original Sin not yet having been completed, Heaven was not yet open to them. What was it like? Our Lord described it as ‘Abraham’s bosom’ in the story of Dives and Lazarus.
If we try for a greater understanding of the glory of God we may have a better understanding of Original Sin and Limbo. How many molecules are there in the Universe? What is one molecule compared with the rest? Divine omniscience alone can answer these questions. The difference between one molecule and the rest of the universe is finite. The difference between all creation visible and invisible and the Creator is infinite.
The Orb originally was a symbol of the Cosmos, later Earth. Iconography of Christ the King holding an orb is very apposite. Incidentally, this writer recalls hearing an apparently educated man on TV stating that until Christopher Columbus, the Church taught that the earth was flat. He did not explain why the likes of Charlemagne were depicted holding orbs rather than pancakes.
Raising the Bastions
The Duke of Wellington, commenting on a proclamation of his allies, The Portuguese Junta, in 1810, disliked its length and rhetorical emotionalism. He stated that such a proclamation should consist of practical points ‘and ought above all to be short’. Marshal Massena, striking for Lisbon, was brought to a halt when he discovered that Wellington had constructed three lines of very strong fortifications to protect Lisbon, the lines of Torres Vedras. After months of helpless misery before the lines, Massena limped back East.
Not of course a Catholic, the Duke managed some years later to outclass those at Vatican II devoted to ‘razing the bastions’ of the Church. (Stalin indirectly supplied the kindest summary of these types. When somebody said that a particular Balkan communist had brains, he replied, ‘Yes, but they’re stupid brains’.) The Duke stated that while in India, he’d commanded Hindu and Muslim soldiers, and they were fine soldiers, fully comparable to their Christian counterparts. It was not however, he pointed out, a question of that, but of orders. Were that today we would follow orders or a short proclamation: ‘Go forth and teach all nations.’
Suppose we were asked to give an above all short explanation of Purgatory. One of those who saw Mel Gibson’s The Passion had murdered his girlfriend, deceiving everybody into thinking it was suicide. He turned himself in. Although clearly penitent, he could hardly have been told to just go home. There being a debt to society, how much more so to God?
We have all felt shame, embarrassment. Even when no sin is involved, there is a sort of burning sensation. To put it very simply, those in Purgatory have a greatly enhanced appreciation of the glory of God, Whom they have offended and their debt, their imperfection, is burnt out of them. If we were all more or less going straight to Heaven, there would be a colossal amount of pointless waiting around and suffering. We can and should pray for the suffering on earth. Likewise those suffering in Purgatory. A question of orders: ‘’Tis a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead.’
On 2nd December 1804, Napoleon was crowned. On 2nd December 1805, he won his most famous victory, Austerlitz. On 2nd December 1814, a man lay on his deathbed. He was in a lunatic asylum since the authorities didn’t know what to do with him. Away from the Church for over 50 years, bitterly hostile, he had wallowed in filth. The Chaplain approached to ask if he wanted the last rites. The Marquis de Sade did, and made a very Christian finish.
It is worth noting the distance in time and space from the Good Thief. No mere man could achieve such results. God is of course sovereignly free to remit some or all of the debt in any individual case. The tendency to ignore Purgatory is really to insult God, Who is Justice.
Baalderdash or Molochaos
At Vatican II, a Japanese bishop stated that the Sign of the Cross was alien to Japanese culture. (1) Needless to say, since so many Japanese martyrs died by crucifixion, the Sign of the Cross is a particular battle-honour of Japanese Catholicism.
This sort of absurdity abounded in Vatican II, not least in the infamous Dignitatis Humanae, the declaration interpreted as affording a right to liberty in public for false religions. This was claimed to flow from the dignity of the human person as shown by Scripture and reason.
One example. The Prophet Elias confronted 450 priests of Baal (also known as Moloch) on Mount Carmel. This was a very progressive religion, with much jumping up and down and sacrifice of babies. The decision having been made on the basis of One God/One Vote, Elias put the 450 to the sword. Note that it was 450 bishops at Vatican II who had their proposal for a specific condemnation of communism deliberately ‘lost’. Lucifer has a hellishly good memory.
There is nothing definitive on the subject, but some writers have suggested that Enoch and Elias will return towards the end of the world, being not yet in Heaven. Others have reckoned this a misinterpretation. Anyway, Elias did appear with Moses at the Transfiguration, acknowledging the Divine Messiah (for some not at all mysterious reason the Transfiguration is never depicted in films about Our Lord.)
The Atlantic Wall and other fortifications were built by the Todt Organisation named after Dr. Todt, whose name is from the German for ‘death’. Earlier, Field Marshal von Schlieffen had been the arch-advocate of encirclement battles of annihilation. His name is from the German for ‘sleep’. The story goes that at the Transfiguration Moses asked Our Lord the whereabouts of Elias – ‘Wo ist Elias?’ The response: ‘Er ist nicht Todt aber Schlieffen.’ Schlieffen, however, is very much todt – he lies in the Invalidenfriedhof cemetery in Berlin under a stone bearing the Sign of a Cross.
(1) Cf. The Rhine flows into the Tiber, Fr. Ralph Wiltgen, p. 37.
Attaining moral turpitude is not a sudden thing
But what most people do not see is that this dullness in diet, and similar things, is exactly parallel to the dull and indifferent anarchy in manners and morals. Do not be proud of the fact that your grandmother was shocked at something which you are accustomed to seeing or hearing without being shocked....It may mean that your grandmother was an extremely lively and vital animal, and that you are a paralytic. G. K. Chesterton
This essay by Dr Robert Hickson concerns Chesterton’s insights into ‘Evil Friendships in History’ and in particular that of Voltaire and Frederick the Great the consequences of which still affect us today. It also includes some telling observations regarding that slow and inevitable habituation to moral decadence which is a mark of society’s surrender to the forces of the Cultural Revolution.
Spare a thought on the Agony in the Garden, The BBC, the Savile affair and sinners generally.
(Following revelations of alleged multiple cases of sexual abuse and rape by Sir Jimmy Savile, a Catholic pop-celebrity and Papal Knight, the British media became involved in an internecine war regarding the responsibility of the press and broadcasters in suppressing exposure of sexual abuse of children, particularly within the BBC. Barely a month goes by without fresh allegations of sexual misconduct or crime being levelled against former celebrities of TV or Radio. This war also caused collateral damage to innocent parties whose reputations had been sullied as a result. These few reflections were made on trying to understand the agony of one such person (which occurred a year ago) in the light of Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden.)
The Agony in the Garden of our Divine Lord one would think is not too difficult to meditate upon. In the Passion of the Christ the Satanic serpent is forever in the background while Our Lord is contemplating His impending passion. But a picture such as this, while displaying Our Saviour’s suffering, does not explain the cause of His torment which worsened despite the strengthening afforded by the Angel of Consolation ( Luke 22:43). In his Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius relates:
In fine, His desolation is such, that His heart appears to break; He suffers convulsions like a dying person struggling violently against death; it reduces Him to sweat blood from all His members; “His sweat became as drops of blood trickling down upon the Ground” (Luke xxii:44).
And what are the causes of this desolation of the Saviour? The eternal misery that sin is preparing for us; this is the cause of His fear. The infinite injury that sin does to the majesty of His Father; this is the cause of His sorrow. The uselessness of His sufferings for so many miserable creatures who persist in the way of perdition; this is the cause of his weariness.
The sight of God basely insulted, and of so many souls miserably damned, is the cause of his agony…
We might try to understand Our Lord’s agony but as sinners ourselves, as the cause of His agony and fear, we cannot remotely fathom the depths of that agony and fear.
As sinners we might suffer a different agony of fear or shame. There is, of course, the mind tortured by conscience over sins committed past and present – particularly the mind of one who cannot seek forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance – not to speak of the mind which is, to outward appearances, unrepentant and guilty of abominable crime. Just as the Hound of Heaven pursues the soul, so too does conscience pursue to repentance unless it is blotted out by recourse to more and more sin or sheer pride. The truly penitent sinner is ashamed of his sins – a shame which increases in intensity according to the immensity of the sin, and while the graces of the sacrament may return the sinner to God, a God who never left him, the shame persists. The sinner cannot but reflect on that act of aggression, or cold-heartedness, unkindness, neglect of duty or moral lapse without a stirring of conscience and hopefully a resolve not to conduct himself thus again.
We sinners deserve to suffer shame, to have our conscience disturbed, to ache over wrong done – it is merely the slightest foretaste of what we might expect if blessed enough to merit purgatory. For there in purgatory, at least I imagine, (and pray that I am not in so doing straying from the mind of the Church), what will confront us is not the limited judgement of our own conditioned conscience but the searing fire of being faced with the consequences of our sins in the crystal clear infinitely intense light of the Divine will. If we consider the burden of agony, shame and conscience which we face now as a result of seeing them in the darkened mirror of our own ill-formed conscience, what pain can we expect to inflict upon ourselves in our zeal to purify ourselves in the face of Divine reality and to conform to the Divine will, knowing that this is our only passport to the intense Love which seeks to consume us? As humans surely such pain, such agony, is truly unimaginable because we cannot possibly conceive the absolute immensity of our sin in contrast to the Divine Will and Divine Love?
So too with the Agony in the Garden, we can only try to imagine the distress caused to Our Lord but we cannot possibly remotely suffer as He did there.
I suppose the nearest we might come to appreciate to any degree that agony could be found in the anguish felt by Lord McAlpine, the businessman, who was wrongly (and many might say, recklessly) accused of being a paedophile as a result of shoddy journalism and the bear-baiting antics of so-called self-righteous “social” media types who, in the words of Charles Moore, ‘most ready with child abuse accusations are some of the nastiest people in the world. They exploit our natural disgust at the crime to promote hatred while appearing righteous’.(1) In a subsequent interview with the BBC, which was largely responsible for the unleashing of this vile accusation against him, Lord McAlpine remarked that it got into his soul, agreeing, with the Mayor of London’s observation, that he had been cast into the lowest circle of hell while still alive. For a person to be accused of such an horrendous crime, which they did not commit, must be soul-destroying. And, as others have observed, even when the accusation is withdrawn there remains that psychological mind-game in which a nasty aphorism rises, even in the minds of those ill-disposed to malicious gossip: ‘No smoke without fire.’ Satan certainly knows how to take advantage of any situation.
Sir Jimmy Savile, on the other hand, is now dead and there appears to be a public presumption that he is guilty of every vile crime of which he has been posthumously accused. His headstone has been removed by his family and demolished, and his remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands has been vandalised. No doubt those of his family and friends who were unaware of his alleged crimes have also undergone an agony, a distress at learning, so suddenly and unexpectedly, of the vast catalogue of the allegations against him. None save his Maker or confessor will know whether Savile repented of his sins, and none other than his Maker will know whether those who howl against Savile’s sins may recoil themselves when faced with a “writing in the sand”.
I must admit that I never warmed to Jimmy Savile, nor his peculiar animal sounds. I recall, at secondary school, we were addressed by some ‘hip’ priest whose friendship with pop stars and Savile was meant to appeal to us. I was not impressed – it was the beginning of the fruits of Vatican II. And here lies the rub: Savile and Co. and the whole swinging-sixties era were part of a sex-obsessed industry which had literally possessed the country. This was an era of sexual liberation and it was not surprising that it would have evil consequences. The ‘enlightened’ told all to abandon their sexual ‘hang-ups’ in which they included modesty and chastity, particularly among the young. The reality of sin and occasions of sin were dismissed peremptorily. One cannot judge how many young girls were persuaded to throw themselves into the clutches of the idols of the age, but it is certain that many did so. One cannot but wonder about how many of those now found guilty of sexual abuse were treating their victims in a manner any different from the way in which allegedly compliant or willing groupies were - as mere objects of gratification, so debased had consciences become, so successful had been the abandonment of sexual ‘hang-ups’ and the moral law.
But all that apart, Our Divine Lord, in the Garden of Gethsemane, was not faced with the intense shame that we might feel as sinners, nor with the anguish of the falsely accused whose reputation has been sullied before all. No, He was faced with heaping upon Himself the shame and the effects of all our sins – the sins of all mankind – the foulest sins, the public sins, the private sins, the hidden sins – bearing that burden upon Himself, He who was without sin, He to whom sin was infinitely more repellent than would the most noxious, foul poison be to us. Let us spare a thought for that. ASF
Pope Francis and the Cultural Revolution
We refer our readers to this article by Patrick J Buchanan on the papal influence on the cultural wars in which we are engaged:
Hart’s Catholic Doctrine
Herewith the Second Chapter: Nature, grounds and rules of Faith
Feast of Christ the King October 2013
Christus Vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat
Christ the King
In the traditional Calendar the last Sunday of October has been the Feast of Christ the King. To commemorate same we have reproduced the following article, ‘What Matters Most’ by Hamish Fraser, editor of Approaches, which appeared in Approaches No. 53-54, February 1977. This article on the subject of Christ the King makes reference to another article, ‘The Kingship of Christ 1925-1975 which is already posted on this site in the Approaches archive for Approaches No. 47-48, Feb 1976.
The Feast was instituted by Pius XI ‘as a public, social and official declaration of the royal rights of Jesus, as God the Creator, as the Word Incarnate, and as Redeemer’ to quote the introduction in the St Andrew’s Daily Missal which also states that: ‘In his Encyclical [Quas Primas] of December 11, 1925, H.H. Pius XI denounced the great modern heresy of laicism. It refuses to recognise the rights of God and His Christ over persons and peoples and organises the lives of individuals, families and of society itself, as though God did not exist.’ The results of this heresy have been made manifest in our day through the immoral laws enacted in our legislatures. We recommend that our readers refresh their knowledge of Quas Primas and thus of the place that Christ ought to have in our homes, societies and legislatures. A place expressed in these verses from Te saeculorum Principem, the hymn in the Mass for Christ the King:
May heads of nations fear Thy name
And spread Thy honour through their lands,
Our nation’s laws, our arts proclaim
The beauty of Thy just commands.
Let Kings the crown and sceptre hold
As pledge of Thy supremacy;
And Thou all lands and tribes enfold
In one fair realm of charity.
Chesterton and the Book of Job
We have posted the essay ‘G K Chesterton’s 1916 reflections on the Book and wounds of Job’. In it Dr Robert Hickson comments on a text of Chesterton on that subject which was written prior to his conversion. It contains this little gem of Chesterton which we might have otherwise posted as a thought for the day: ‘In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, it is not the right method to tell him to stop doubting. It is rather the right method to tell him to go on doubting, to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wider things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.’
‘He that believeth, and is baptised, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.’ Mark vxi:16)
As promised we have posted the next instalment of Hart’s Catholic Doctrine – Part 1, Chapter 1 – Faith.
17th October 2013 – Feast of St Margaret Mary Alacoque
This is the anniversary of the death of Hamish Fraser who died on this day in 1986. Your prayers are requested for the repose of his soul and for the repose of the souls of all deceased Approaches and Apropos readers, subscribers and benefactors.
Thoughts for the Day
'When the Pharisees gave Him no reply to His question, "Is it lawful to do good upon the Sabbath?" He looked at, them full of anger. It was holy wrath. The man who does not in his heart protest against obvious baseness and does not passionately try to suppress it whenever he can, is not a moral man. The more purely and intensely someone is sensitive to good and evil, the more sharply and decisively his feeling will, be expressed. So Jesus' infinitely pure and high-minded spirit more than any other would react to every baseness and wickedness with a bitterness without like or peer… (Fr. Karl Adam; The Christ of Faith; Mentor Omega paperback p.284.)
‘Paul expresses himself most forcibly on the missionary’s duty not to care in the least whether men think well or ill of him…A real servant of Christ must necessarily give offence sometimes. Too much tenderness on this score means scaling down the demands of Christ, softening the Gospel for fear of shocking human sensibilities: which is a dereliction of duty.’
(The Lord of History, Cardinal Jean Daniélou S.J.. Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd. 1958, p. 505.)
The logic of contraception – same-sex “marriage”
‘And if there is nothing intrinsically wrong with contraceptive intercourse, and if it could become general practice everywhere where there is intercourse but ought to be no begetting, then it’s very difficult to see the objection to this morality; for the ground of objection to fornication and adultery was that sexual intercourse is only right in the sort of set up that typically provides children with a father and mother to care for them. If you can turn intercourse into something other than a reproductive act (I don’t mean of course that every act is reproductive any more than every acorn leads to an oak tree but it’s the reproductive type of act) then why, if you can change it, should it be restricted to the married? Restricted, that is, to partners bound in a formal, legal union whose purpose is the bringing up of children? For if that is not its fundamental purpose there is no reason why for example “marriage” should not have to be between people of opposite sexes. But then, of course, it becomes unclear why you should have a ceremony, why you should have a formality at all. And so we must grant that children are in this general way the main point of the existence of such an arrangement. But if sexual union can be deliberately and totally divorced from fertility, then we may wonder why sexual union has got to be married union. If the expression of love between the partners is the point, then it shouldn’t be so narrowly confined. (G. E. M. Anscombe, Faith in a Hard Ground – Essays on Religion, Philosophy and Ethics, Edited by Mary Geach and Luke Gormally, Digital version by Andrews UK Ltd, 2012.)
Dossier on Catechetics
We have posted Approaches No.23 on the website. This issue was devoted almost entirely to Michael Davies’ Dossier on Catechetics, a collection of articles and observations on the state of Catechetics in the early 1970s. We had hoped to have posted this for the anniversary of Michael’s death but the scanning and editing took much longer than first anticipated. It can be seen that many of the problems aired in the dossier then are still with us to this day. The new catechetics if disastrous in terms of doctrine were certainly not lacking in efficacy in spreading Modernism. However the dossier was a child of that time. As we state in a note in same: ‘I suspect that both the Editor, Hamish Fraser, and the author, Michael Davies, were they alive, would not agree with all that it contains, particularly regarding Vatican II, because at that time, as Hamish Fraser indicated in a later Approaches: ‘…like so many other orthodox Catholics, we could not bring ourselves to believe that anything but good could come of the Council as such…What we did not then realise was that the real significance of Vatican 2 was to be found not in what was positively affirmed in the official documents, all of which were capable of being interpreted in a perfectly orthodox sense, but rather in what was omitted, or else stated so equivocally as to be of real value only to the forces of subversion.’
The dossier thus gives the lie to those who maintain that traditionalists were predisposed to oppose the Council from the very beginning. Orthodox Catholics were disposed to embrace the Council in good faith. It was only when the forces of subversion began to show their hand, and use what Michael Davies described as “time bombs” in the conciliar documents, that orthodox Catholics began to question aspects not only of the “spirit of the Council” but of the Council documents themselves. Pope Paul VI who had hitherto gained their support because of his Credo, Mysterium Fidei and Humanae Vitae quickly lost same as soon as the Novus Ordo was imposed in an almost totalitarian manner, and as its defects and effects were made manifest. The dossier must therefore be read with such in mind, making allowances for the era in which it appeared.’
A poem for the day On the feast day of this saint of the Sacred Heart. It was written by a priest subscriber who wishes to remain anonymous.
The Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart, a throne of fire,
Filled, o’er brimmed with LOVE’s desire
Thus fountains forth compassionate streams
Of Mercy’s LOVE – to me it seems.
The first for sinners, sweetsome craves,
Their loathsome leprosy it bathes:
Do they but whisper “mercy please!”
Their sickly dreadful soul’s disease is Gone!
is gone! Who can say more?
Each grateful leper kneel! adore!
The second stream – love’s treasure chest
Pours forth to thrill each fervent breast,
Is strength and life: confirms the weak
To bear their cross and so to seek
The face of Him, who rent by love,
Stooped down to hell to win their love;
Who gave His life, that they might live
As “other Christs”, and so to give
Themselves as treasure God has priced
Their heartbeat cost: the Sacrificed.
Behold the third stream: living glow,
Inspires the perfect here below,
Helps them to build His Body now,
By works of diamond worth: thus show
His weaker brethren that the toil
Gains us eternal joy-brimmed spoil:
Gains us the love of Mary-Mother
Wins us the Love of Christ: Blood Brother.
God’s gift: the Holy Ghost bestows:
The CHURCH in radiant glory grows!
Frankfurt School Marxism
We have reproduced the above article by Gerald Warner which appeared on Scotland on Sunday on 6th October 2013. It puts into perspective the latest controversy over Ralph Milliband, father of the current leader of the British Labour Party. See: http://www.scotsman.com/news/gerald-warner-impact-of-politically-correct-britain-1-3128346
Gerald Warner: Impact of politically correct Britain
The War of Comrade Miliband generated much sound and fury, but all the belligerents and observers ignored its most salient aspect – that this imagined inquest on a supposedly dead creed was being conducted in the context of a society now dominated by Marxism. The Party Line is currently termed Political Correctness, but the outcome is the same: the reconfiguration of language to police thought and impose an ideology, the harassing of religion, the destruction of marriage and the family, and the coercive remodelling of culture to accommodate a fanatical aberration that defies human nature itself.Political correctness is cultural Marxism. The term was coined by Anton Semyonovich Makarenko, Lenin’s education guru and favourite wordsmith (he also invented the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat”). From the beginning, Marxists recognised there was a lot more involved in imposing totalitarian social control than nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. In Hungary in 1919, during the short-lived but murderous Communist dictatorship of Bela Kun, his deputy “commissar for culture”, Georg Lukacs, introduced a programme of “cultural terrorism” under which he imposed pornographic sex education on schoolchildren, promoting promiscuity, denouncing the family and encouraging pupils to mock their parents and religion. The question Lukacs posed was: “Who will save us from Western Civilisation?”Four years later, Lukacs was one of the founders of the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt, from which emerged the obscenity known today as Frankfurt School Marxism, dedicated to the destruction of civilisation. Max Horkheimer, its sometime director, followed up Lukacs’ experiment by grafting Freudianism onto Marxism. In this he was followed by Herbert Marcuse, an admirer of the Marquis de Sade, who expressed his belief in “polymorphous perversity”. This was complemented by the cultural Marxism of Gramsci and other adherents such as Adorno. Whether or not the Frankfurt Marxists had become sceptical of the command economy as an economic instrument, their main target was “the culture”. Hitler’s accession to power drove the Frankfurt School prophets to seek refuge in America, for whose current state of debilitation they are ultimately responsible. Their pretentious vapourings found favour in academic circles. Idiocies such as “deconstruction”, whereby the texts of great writers were shredded by literary pygmies and reinterpreted in the light of Marxist neuroses, and “critical theory” set about debauching the classical literary canon and vandalising knowledge. Under this impetus, academic campuses, for half a century, have remained the unreformed temples of anti-culture; university library shelves still groan beneath the weight of delusory Marxist tomes. In the US, college campuses have become, in the words of Robert Lind, “small ivy-covered North Koreas”.By corrupting the educators, Frankfurt Marxism secured its ascendancy over the elites. Education, the media, publishing, politics – all the commanding heights have been occupied by the cultural Marxist forces of anti-civilisation. The targets are vestigial Christianity, traditional institutions, national identity, the family – seen as an intolerable rival to the intruder state – and relations between men and women. The instruments of subversion are mass immigration and multiculturalism, to abolish homogeneity and national identity; the imposition of politically correct language (foreseen by Orwell as “Newspeak”) to prevent the articulation of dissident ideas; hate laws (also predicted by Orwell as “thought crime”); feminism, designed to alienate women from traditional motherhood and family roles; and promotion of the homosexual agenda (because anti-family). The introduction of “aggravated” offences has ended equality under the law.Initially espousing advocacy, the agenda has become blatantly coercive. Bans and prohibitions proliferate exponentially. Hideous neologisms such as “homophobia” or “Islamophobia” are intruded into public discussion (“discourse” in PC terminology) to distort debate; last week the ludicrous Bonnie Greer promoted a new absurdity: “gynophobia”. Their common adherence to cultural Marxism has made all three political parties complicit in a de facto one-party state: a Conservative prime minister has a minister for equalities. Tory politicians are routinely described as “socially liberal”; politics is about society – if they are socially liberal, they are liberal per se. Saul Alinsky, the Marxist activist, was the inspiration for David Cameron’s “Big Society”.The PC Terror threatens the employment and career prospects – on occasion the liberty – of those who do not conform. Public opinion is brainwashed by such devices as the “availability cascade”, collective belief moulded via the availability in the public forum of PC views; the “reputational cascade”, threatening social disapproval of dissidents; or the “chilling effect” on contrary viewpoints – the old Trotskyite “dysphoria” of 1970s campuses redeployed. In the tradition of Lukacs and Marcuse, society is offered a Faustian bargain: release from personal responsibility and legitimisation of hedonism if the public will embrace libertinism in exchange for liberty. Unless this totalitarian menace is quickly overthrown, Britain will confront a Marxist lunar landscape beyond the grimmest nightmares conceived by Ralph Miliband. END.
23rd September, 2013 - Feast of St Linus, Pope and Martyr
The Pope and Charity
Traditionalists have rightly been concerned by recent papal acts and opinions. These appear to lack, towards traditionalists, the charity accorded to others within and outwith the Church. In the following essay we cite Cardinal Newman’s views regarding the expression of charity as it has been voiced since Vatican II and in particular by the present Holy Father.
Newman’s critique of Vatican II
(This article has been posted on the Apropos website, www.apropos.org.uk A pdf version may be found here)
In an essay on religious tolerance written for the feast of St Barnabas(1), John Henry Newman, then not yet a Catholic, made some very cogent observations concerning the Apostles and their defects; observations, which in this particular case might easily apply too to the Second Vatican Council.
Defects in Popes and Apostles
It was the late Fr Calmel OP who warned us against papolatry – a frame of mind, alas, which has blinded many to the defects not only of the longer serving conciliar and post conciliar Popes of Vatican II, but also to the fruits of their labour, the conciliar revolution, which one suspects is soon to be canonised along with both John XXIII and John Paul II.Newman reminds us that defects were not lacking in the Apostles too. He recalls that Our Lord chose His Apostles from a cross-section of society - from the humble fisherman to the tax collector and that He worked with the metal He had at hand. Newman notes:‘The especial grace poured upon the Apostles and their associates, whether miraculous or moral, had no tendency to destroy their respective peculiarities of temper and character, to invest them with a sanctity beyond our imitation, or to preclude failings and errors which may be our warning.’One can easily believe this in respect of Judas’s failings and fatal errors, but also concerning Peter too whose thrice denial of Our Lord evokes emotions in all of us who have betrayed Our Lord in our sinful lives. But it was Peter also who was the subject of Our Lord’s harshest rebuke: ‘Get thou behind me, Satan’ – a reminder that the Apostle chosen by Our Lord to head His Church could stray from a correct reading of his Master’s mind.
The Holy Father’s recent comments regarding “triumphalism” have been taken by some traditionalists to apply to traditionalists alone, while others consider that, on the contrary they apply to progressives. In view of more recent comments, we suspect the former – a view which seems to be endorsed by progressives themselves. The initial confusion arose from the word “triumphalism” which was used in the conciliar era by progressives as a nasty swearword, comparable in effect to the word integriste, to denigrate all that the pre-conciliar Church stood for. In the political arena it has a like term “fascist” which was a socialist swearword to attack any political opinion to the right of Marx, Lenin or Trotsky. If one uses these words today one can expect to be misunderstood. But just as the grace given to the Apostles did not preclude their failings and errors, these too are not precluded in pontiffs. One should always bear that in mind especially when a pontiff’s opinion or asides bear none of the hallmarks of pontifical authority.
Failings – A Warning
Newman advises us that these failings of the Apostles serve to provide us with a warning:
‘Moreover, the definiteness and evident truth of many of the pictures presented to us in the Gospels serve to realize to us the history, and to help our faith, while at the same time they afford us abundant instruction. Such, for instance, is the immature ardour of James and John, the sudden fall of Peter, the obstinacy of Thomas, and the cowardice of Mark. St. Barnabas furnishes us with a lesson in his own way; nor shall I be wanting in piety towards that Holy Apostle, if on this his day I hold him forth, not only in the peculiar graces of his character, but in those parts of it in which he becomes our warning, not our example.'
’Warning ignored at Vatican II
It is Newman’s particular take on the failings of St Barnabas that have a resonance in the Church of today. Saint Barnabas had undoubted saintly attributes which gained him the title, ‘“the son of consolation” which was given him, as it appears, to mark his character of kindness, gentleness, considerateness, warmth of heart, compassion, and munificence.’ But we will not dwell here upon his saintly attributes which we should endeavor to follow, but rather upon the parts ‘in which he becomes our warning’ - a warning - which we will see was ignored by John XXIII and the Council fathers. We recall that John XXIII in his opening speech to the Council advised that ‘the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than of severity’ and that ‘The Catholic Church…desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness toward the brethren who are separated from her.’ A view which has been endorsed by Pope Francis. Conciliar documents and post-conciliar practice clearly demonstrate that this ecumenical benevolence extended beyond non-Catholic Christians to the Jews, Muslims and other religions. We suspect that were Newman alive he would have considered such as ‘indulgence towards the faults of others.’ He clearly thought so concerning St Barnabas’ pandering to the judaising Christians:
‘On the other hand, on two occasions his conduct is scarcely becoming an Apostle, as instancing somewhat of that infirmity which uninspired persons of his peculiar character frequently exhibit. Both are cases of indulgence towards the faults of others, yet in a different way; the one, an over-easiness in a matter of doctrine, the other, in a matter of conduct. With all his tenderness for the Gentiles, yet on one occasion he could not resist indulging the prejudices of some Judaizing brethren, who came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Peter first was carried away; before they came “he did eat with the Gentiles but when they were come, he withdrew, and separated himself fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; inasmuch, that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.” The other instance was his indulgent treatment of Mark, his sister’s son, which occasioned the quarrel between him and St Paul…’
Charity becomes over-easiness
What exactly was that ‘infirmity of his peculiar character’ which Newman sought to reveal? It is listed here among the following faults:‘He is an ensample and warning to us, not only as showing us what we ought to be, but as evidencing how the highest gifts and graces are corrupted in our sinful nature, if we are not diligent to walk step by step, according to the light of God's commandments. Be our mind as heavenly as it may be, most loving, most holy, most zealous, most energetic, most peaceful, yet if we look off from Him for a moment; and look towards ourselves, at once these excellent tempers fall into some extreme or mistake. Charity becomes over-easiness, holiness is tainted with spiritual pride, zeal degenerates into fierceness, activity eats up the spirit of prayer, hope is heightened into presumption.'
A Fashion for the time being
It was St Barnabas’s charitable nature which Newman sought to highlight because ‘he may be considered as the type of the better sort of men among us’. Newman’s opinion is as relevant today as it was when he made it:‘In every age it chooses some one or other peculiarity of the Gospel as the badge of its particular fashion for the time being, and sets up as objects of admiration those who eminently possess it … certainly, this age, as far as appearance goes, may be accounted in its character not unlike Barnabas, as being considerate, delicate, courteous, and generous-minded in all that concerns the intercourse of man with man… There is a steady regard for the rights of individuals, nay, as one would fain hope in spite of misgivings, for the interest of the poorer classes, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.’One can perhaps see in this the fashion in which the post-conciliar papacy has been cast from the benevolent “Good Pope John” to Pope Francis’ concern for the poor etc. But here Newman asks the 42 billion dollar questions:
‘Does not our kindness too often degenerate into weakness, and thus become not Christian Charity, but lack of Charity, as regards the objects of it? Are we sufficiently careful to do what is right and just, rather than what is pleasant? Do we clearly understand our professed principles, and do we keep to them under temptation?'
Languid and unmeaning kindness
His answer is a reproach to John XXIII’s ‘medicine of mercy’ and to the effeminacy of post conciliar ecumenism and praxis:‘The history of St. Barnabas will help us to answer this question honestly. Now I fear we lack altogether, what he lacked in certain occurrences in it, firmness, manliness, godly severity. I fear it must be confessed, that our kindness, instead of being directed and braced by principle, too often becomes languid and unmeaning; that it is exerted on improper objects, and out of season, and thereby is uncharitable in two ways, indulging those who should be chastised, and preferring their comfort to those who are really deserving. We are over-tender in dealing with sin and sinners. We are deficient in jealous custody of the revealed Truths which Christ has left us. We allow men to speak against the Church, its ordinances, or its teaching, without remonstrating with them. We do not separate from heretics, nay, we object to the word as if uncharitable; and when such texts are brought against us as St. John's command, not to show hospitality towards them, we are not slow to answer that they do not apply to us.’
Opinions built on a contrary view
Newman too anticipated how expressions of support for firmness, manliness and godly severity would be met with in the post conciliar Church. How often are the terms judgemental and uncharitable flung at those who call for a more robust defence of our Catholic Faith. The admonitions of scripture (and previous papal teaching) against certain modern ecumenical behaviour are ignored as if they did not exist. Do these words of Newman not express this situation perfectly?‘For a long while they have forgotten that there were any such commands in Scripture [or papal teaching]; they have lived as though there were not, and not being in circumstances which immediately called for the consideration of them, they have familiarized their minds to a contrary view of the matter, and built their opinions upon it.’Newman asks us to note how the proponents of this ‘charitable’ approach seek to manage these difficulties (i.e. reconciling their current lax opinion with that of previously sterner Church teaching):‘Observe how they rid themselves of it; it is by confronting it with other views of Christianity, which they consider incompatible with it: whereas the very problem which Christian duty requires us to accomplish, is the reconciling in our conduct of opposite virtues.’
Pleasing the lukewarm
But whereas Newman’s article is predicated upon those who fall into that frame of mind because of their attempt to cultivate a single virtue, charity, to the neglect of others, our problem today arises not only because of that particular defect in the character of many modern Catholics but also because there are those of a Modernist disposition who actively seek to effect by design what others effect by defect in character. But no matter whether by design or defect the results are the same, as Newman, and the evidence of our own eyes demonstrates:‘Thus in the sacred province of religion, men are led on,— without any bad principle, without that utter dislike or ignorance of the Truth, or that self-conceit, which are chief instruments of Satan at this day, nor again from mere cowardice or worldliness, but from thoughtlessness, a sanguine temper, the excitement of the moment, the love of making others happy, susceptibility of flattery, and the habit of looking only one way, [but also today by Modernist errors] —led on to give up Gospel Truths, to consent to open the Church to the various denominations of error which abound among us, or to alter our Services so as to please the scoffer, the lukewarm, or the vicious. To be kind is their one principle of action; and, when they find offence taken at the Church's creed, they begin to think how they may modify or curtail it, under the same sort of feeling as would lead them to be generous in a money transaction, or to accommodate another at the price of personal inconvenience. Not understanding that their religious privileges are a trust to be handed on to posterity, a sacred property entailed upon the Christian family, and their own in enjoyment rather than in possession, they act the spendthrift, and are lavish of the goods of others. Thus, for instance, they speak against the Anathemas of the Athanasian Creed, or of the Commination Service (2), or of certain of the Psalms, and wish to rid themselves of them.’
Truly “Good” men
Such as these, as conform to the defect to which Newman refers, he regards as deficient in a due appreciation of the Christian Mysteries and he describes such characters as of this type:‘Undoubtedly, even the best specimens of these men are deficient in a due appreciation of the Christian Mysteries, and of their own responsibility in preserving and transmitting them; yet, some of them are such truly "good" men, so amiable and feeling, so benevolent to the poor, and of such repute among all classes, in short, fulfil so excellently the office of shining like lights in the world, and witnesses of Him "who went about doing good," that those who most deplore their failing, will still be most desirous of excusing them personally, while they feel it a duty to withstand them. Sometimes it may be, that these persons cannot bring themselves to think evil of others; and harbour men of heretical opinions or immoral life from the same easiness of temper which makes them fit subjects for the practices of the cunning and selfish in worldly matters. And sometimes they fasten on certain favourable points of character in the person they should discountenance, and cannot get themselves to attend to any but these; arguing that he is certainly pious and well-meaning, and that his errors plainly do himself no harm;—whereas the question is not about their effects on this or that individual, but simply whether they are errors; and again, whether they are not certain to be injurious to the mass of men, or on the long run, as it is called.’
Barnabas contrasted to John
As if to bring home forcefully the failing of St Barnabas – an over-easiness in charity – Newman contrasts him with St John who, as Newman reminds us, abounded in the spirit of love: ‘Now see in what he differed from Barnabas; in uniting charity with a firm maintenance of "the Truth as it is in Jesus." So far were his fervour and exuberance of charity from interfering with his zeal for God, that rather, the more he loved men, the more he desired to bring before them the great unchangeable Verities to which they must submit, if they would see life, and on which a weak indulgence suffers them to shut their eyes. He loved the brethren, but he "loved them in the Truth." He loved them for the Living Truth's sake which had redeemed them, for the Truth which was in them, for the Truth which was the measure of their spiritual attainments. He loved the Church so honestly, that he was stern towards those who troubled her. He loved the world so wisely, that he preached the Truth in it; yet, if men rejected it, he did not love them so inordinately as to forget the supremacy of the Truth, as the Word of Him who is above all….this is he who gives us that command about shunning heretics, which whether of force in this age or not, still certainly in any age is (what men now call) severe.’
Let everyone go his way
In summary, Newman asserts that: ‘Strictness and tenderness had no "sharp contention" in the breast of the Beloved Disciple.’ The current Church’s adherence to a fashion which places these in contention, which has abandoned strictness for tenderness, has led invariably to a weakening of the faith and an adoption, if not formal, at least informally of the doctrine of universal salvation in which all men will attain salvation, God having been so shaped by their concept of tenderness that He could not possibly apply that strictness of punishment, wrath etc. of which the Church once spoke. As Newman observes: ‘Let it be observed then, that these … systems, however different from each other in their principles and spirit, yet all agree in this one respect, viz., in overlooking that the Christian's God is represented in Scripture, not only as a God of Love, but also as "a consuming fire." Rejecting the testimony of Scripture, no wonder they also reject that of conscience, which assuredly forebodes ill to the sinner, but which, as the narrow religionist maintains, is not the voice of God at all, — or is a mere benevolence, according to the disciple of Utility,— or, in the judgment of the more mystical sort, a kind of passion for the beautiful and sublime. Regarding thus "the goodness" only, and not "the severity of God," no wonder that they ungird their loins and become effeminate; no wonder that their ideal notion of a perfect Church, is a Church which lets every one go on his way, and disclaims any right to pronounce an opinion, much less inflict a censure on religious error.’It is a return to the Faith in which strictness and tenderness are not in contention to which we must return – and a rejection of the effeminacy in which we are now ensnared. ‘We must pray God’, says Newman, ‘thus "to revive His work in the midst of the years; " to send us a severe Discipline, the Order of St. Paul and St. John, "speaking the Truth in love," and "loving in the Truth".
The balance askew
The balance in the Church is all askew because there is a lack of proportion and of attention to the integrity of Doctrine. As a result, strictness has been strictly struck down. We need to be reminded of what that element of our faith amounts to and Newman forthrightly reminds us exactly what it is:‘"knowing the terror of the Lord," fresh from the presence of Him "whose head and hairs are white like wool, as white as snow, and whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and out of His mouth a sharp sword," —a Witness not shrinking from proclaiming His wrath, as a real characteristic of His glorious nature, though expressed in human language for our sakes, proclaiming the narrowness of the way of life, the difficulty of attaining Heaven, the danger of riches, the necessity of taking up our cross, the excellence and beauty of self-denial and austerity, the hazard of disbelieving the Catholic Faith, and the duty of zealously contending for it. Thus only will the tidings of mercy come with force to the souls of men, with a constraining power and with an abiding impress, when hope and fear go together. Then only will Christians be successful in fight, "quitting themselves like men," conquering and ruling the fury of the world, and maintaining the Church in purity and power, when they condense their feelings by a severe discipline, and are loving, in the midst of firmness, strictness, and holiness.’ ( A S Fraser 16-09-2013)
(1)Sermon XXIII, Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol II, pp. 274-290. Published by Rivingtons, London, Oxford and Cambridge, 1873.And yet when ‘the Judaising Christians troubled the Gentile converts with the Mosaic ordinances, Barnabas was sent with the same Apostle [Paul] and others from the Church of Jerusalem to relieve their perplexity.’
(2) [ The Encyclopedia Britannica states: ‘This ceremony is derived from the custom of public penance in the early Church, when the sinner to be reconciled had to appear in the congregation clad in sackcloth and covered with ashes (cf. Tertullian, _De Pudicitia_, 13). At what date this use was extended to the whole congregation is not known. The phrase _dies cinerum_ appears in the earliest extant copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary, and it is probable that the custom was already established by the 8th century. The Anglo-Saxon homilist Aelfric, in his _Lives of the Saints_ (996 or 997), refers to it as in common use; but the earliest evidence of its authoritative prescription is a decree of the synod of Beneventum in 1091.’ This reference by Newman obviously relates to the post-reformation Anglican Commination Service. Footnote added ]
As a service to teenagers and adult Catholics we aim to produce regularly, God and time allowing, the material from Hart’s Catholic Doctrine which was the handbook for catechetical teaching in many Secondary schools until Vatican II. The first instalment, the Introduction, concerns Our Lord’s Divinity. The accumulated parts we will place under the contributor’s button on our website.