Thursday, 22 April 2021

The Popes and Democracy - Part I. General Notions 2. Marxism, Liberalism, Theism

These political systems take their origins in three different ideologies: Marxism for Communism, Liberalism for Democracy, and Theism for Monarchy. In the West, when monarchy was at its zenith, it had the support of the Catholic Church, although the Church never taught that hereditary monarchy was the only conceivable form of lawful government. Nevertheless, and in spite of the numerous quarrels between Monarchs and Popes, the Church always supported the monarchical concept of government. Even in modern times, the Popes have given evidence of their monarchist sentiments (e.g. Pius XII). That Monarchism and Christianity should have always gone hand in hand is nothing to be wondered at; the Church itself is a monarchical-hierarchical Organisation in which authority is handed down rather than ascending from below; and Christ is the King of Kings. In point of fact, it is extremely doubtful if the Kingship of Christ will ever be effectively recognised in a society whose thinking has been conditioned to abhor the very notion of Kingship.

Acta Apostolicae Sedis

ACTA APOSTOLICAE SEDIS. Acts of the Apostolic See. An official journal, published periodically. Established September 29, 1908, it contains all the principal decrees, encyclical letters, decisions of Roman congregations, and notices of ecclesiastical appointments. The contents are to be considered promulgated when published, and effective three months from date of issue.

Pressure Intensifies on Catholic Church to Change Teaching That Homosexuality Is ‘Intrinsically Disordered’

Remember that the Catechism is not infallible when it contradicts the Catholic Faith!

From the National Catholic Register

By Edward Pentin

According to analysts, the continuing push to remove this phrasing from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is rooted in a broader campaign to legitimize homosexual acts.

VATICAN CITY — Pressure continues to be exerted on Church leaders to remove the language of Catholic teaching that states that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can be approved” — pressure that critics believe is part of an effort by some groups and individuals to normalize the sinful behavior within the Church.

The German bishops, who are in the midst of their two-year Synodal Way that includes a reassessment of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, are the most recent and visible group pushing to alter the teaching with a particular emphasis on changing the language which appears in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Bishop Georg Bätzing, the president of the German bishops’ conference, said in an interview in December that changes were needed to the Catechism regarding homosexuality and specifically that it should express openness to blessings of homosexual unions — a possibility rejected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last month.

Father Christoph Behrens, a priest of the German Diocese of Dresden, said he believed the Catechism’s language was “simply embarrassing from my pastoral and theological point of view.” The priest, whose bishop, Heinrich Timmerevers, asked him to set up a ministry for homosexuals in his diocese and who advocated same-sex union blessings last September, added: “One can only hope that not too many people read this nonsense.”

Further calls to change the Catechism’s language have also come from some American Church leaders including Cardinal Joseph Tobin. The archbishop of Newark, New Jersey said in 2019 it the language was “very unfortunate” and added that he hoped the Church would use different words in its discussion of homosexuality that would be “a little less hurtful.”

For many years discussion has focused on Paragraph 2357 of the Catechism that states: “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”

The passage describes homosexual acts, and not the persons themselves, as “intrinsically disordered,” but goes on to state in Paragraph 2358 that homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered” along with other sexual sins (the term “objectively disordered” mysteriously does not appear in Paragraph 2358 of the Catechism published on the Vatican’s website and one has to click on “hide the links to concordance” to see it).

The motives for removing the language vary with some, especially in Germany, wanting to see a change in the Church’s teaching. These include proponents of the Synodal Path as well as some German ordinaries such as Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz, Germany. In February, he suggested in February that Catholics with homosexual inclinations cannot all be expected to live chastely and the Church should adopt a pastoral approach that acknowledges this.

Others are more ambiguous such as Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, secretary of the commission that drafted the Catechism in the 1990s, who has said he considers homosexuality to be similar to other sexual sins, such as divorce and remarriage, and so implicitly not an “intrinsic disorder.” At the 2014 Synod on the Family, he said he saw no reason to change the language at that time but noted “there are developments” in Catholic doctrine.

Similarly, Jesuit Father James Martin has called on the Church to amend the language with which it discusses homosexuality but has stopped short of publicly calling for a change in Church teaching on the matter. In a discussion in 2017, he said that the phrases “objectively disordered” and “intrinsically disordered” had made homosexual people feel “so subhuman,” and he relayed the story of a mother of a homosexual son who once asked him, “Do they understand what that kind of language can do to a 13-year-old boy? It can destroy him.” As an alternative, Father Martin has suggested the phrase “differently ordered” as he believes it could express the concept “more pastorally.”

Others believe a case could possibly be made to change the language while remaining totally faithful to the Church’s teaching on the matter. At the 2015 Synod on the Family, Archbishop Charles Chaput, then the metropolitan of Philadelphia, said he understood the desire to find new, more positive language to deal with the issue, adding that the phrase “intrinsically disordered” may have outlived its usefulness. “That language automatically sets people off, and probably isn’t useful anymore,” he said, while adding that any substitute should not obscure the Church’s view that “same-sex attraction is not part of God’s plan.”

Still others have also argued that the language of “intrinsic disorder” is problematic as they contend that few people, apart from theologians trained in the scholastic tradition, correctly grasp its meaning.

But Cardinal Willem Eijk, archbishop of Utrecht in the Netherlands, told the Register April 13 that although “one could perhaps try to find a formulation that will be better understood by people nowadays,” he personally saw “no need to modify the present formulation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church with regard the morality of homosexual acts.”

“One cannot escape making clear that sexual acts between people of the same sex are intrinsically evil, as are all sexual acts which are not marital acts and are not open to the gift of motherhood and fatherhood,” explained Cardinal Eijk, a former physician and a current member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Such acts, he continued, diverge from the “total mutual gift in marriage” and are against nature, that is, “against God’s created order,” and are “essentially intrinsically evil acts.” Furthermore, he added that the Church’s teaching also stems from Holy Scripture; that it is “unchangeable” because it’s been taught through the “whole Tradition of the Church and repeatedly by the magisterium.”

“It is not an act of charity to withhold the truth on God’s created order and thus on the moral natural law, because this may hinder people in following Christ,” Cardinal Eijk asserted.

French philosopher Thibaud Collin said he believed it is “important to retain” the current formulation in the catechism as “sexual relations between two people of the same sex cannot be procreative.” He also stressed that homosexual love is “intrinsically contrary to the virtue of chastity,” as Karol Wojtyla explained in his 1960 book Love and Responsibility.

“It is a passion that in fact instrumentalizes the other as an object of enjoyment by focusing on their sexual value alone,” explained Collin who teaches moral and political philosophy at the Collège Stanislas de Paris.

“The truth can’t be changed,” said Douglas Farrow, professor of theology and ethics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, adding that if the Catechism were to be altered in this area, it would only be to “declare the truth more exactly.” Conversely, he said, “it is no act of charity to say that what is, is not; or that what is not, is. That, rather, is to lie.”

“The only question here is whether this fact — that homosexual acts, like all contraceptive acts, are disordered — should be discreetly hidden from the faithful,” Farrow said. “And what would be the point of that, unless to create room for those who desire to justify such acts to claim that they are not immoral after all, and that it is somehow immoral to say that they are immoral?”

“The wording is simple, factual, not pejorative or merely rhetorical,” he said. “There would be no pressure to change this wording were it not for the effort to change Catholic moral teaching.”

German Catholic writer and sociologist Gabriele Kuby, who has written on the dangers of gender ideology and the global sexual revolution, contended that those who wish to adapt the Church’s teaching to an “anything-goes-standard of the pagan world,” use their intellect to “devise clever arguments” to imply there is no “intrinsic evil” — in other words, “no absolute criteria for good and evil.” But if that were true, “there wouldn’t be a single martyr,” she said.

Both Kuby and Collin drew attention to enormous and relentless pressure on the Church, both in society and within the Church, to change its teaching as it’s the only institution offering well-founded and rationally argued resistance to the global sexual revolution — the “last bulwark,” said Kuby, which is “crumbling” in the West. Bishops and lay organizations in Germany are leading the way in making the Church “compatible with secular paganism,” Kuby said, and called their Synodal Path “clearly heretical and in open opposition to direction from Rome.”

Collin said that in the Church, the rejection of Humanae Vitae, Pope St. Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical that reaffirmed the Church’s rejection of artificial procreation, is behind the legitimization of homosexuality among many pastors and faithful. “From the moment that procreation and love are disconnected from each other, there is no argument against legitimizing homosexuality,” he explained.

Collin also gave as a reason for growing acceptance of homosexuality in the Church a “lack of doctrinal formation and/or cowardice” among many clergy and faithful who “no longer understand and respect the moral law,” as well as a “very powerful homosexual lobby in the Church.” Even those who are not part of that lobby are “often unprepared for its demands because they accept the contraceptive mentality,” he said.

The recent rejection also of St. John Paul II's 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor on the moral teaching of the Church has been another confirmation of this, Collin contended, as well as the recent appointment of Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne as president of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences. Msgr. Bordeyne has expressed views dissenting from Humanae Vitae’s teaching on contraception.

Kuby and Cardinal Eijk both stressed the importance of combining unity of truth and compassion, with Cardinal Eijk explaining that in addition to the call on the Church to “proclaim the truth” through Christ and so shed light on that which is intrinsically evil, the Church also “respects persons as such who fall short in following her teaching and is ready to offer them every pastoral care they need.”

“The Church has the task, on the one hand, to proclaim the doctrine and, on the other, to be pastorally close to people,” said the cardinal who faced protests for his adherence to Church teaching on homosexuality when he became a bishop in 1999 (“The Catholic Church has an ethical vision that is not always understood in today’s culture,” he said at the time).

Failure to preach the truth will only cause the Church to become irrelevant, said Kuby, who quoted Matt 5:13 and Christ’s warning of salt losing its savor and making it “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

“Sadly, so many of our Church leaders don’t seem to get the message of hundreds of thousands turning their back to the Church every year,” Kuby said.

“Yes,” she added, “the language should be clear like a diamond.”

Cardinal Schönborn and three Church figures publicly close to the homosexual community and sympathetic to changing the relevant words of the Catechism were contacted for this article but they either did not respond or declined to comment.

The Early Church Was Not Socialist

Mr Kengor explores, and explodes, the myth of the 'socialist Church' so beloved by the 'Catholic' SJW Left.

From Crisis

By Paul Kengor

“The early church was a socialist church.”

So said Rev. Raphael Warnock in 2016, four years before the citizens of Georgia elected him a U.S. senator.

It’s a strange statement, least of all because the description “socialist church” is an oxymoron. Not only would the Church fathers be puzzled by it, but so would socialism’s fathers. “Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms,” stated Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno, “no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”

“Religion and communism are incompatible, both theoretically and practically,” noted Nikolai Bukharin, founding editor of Pravda. “Communism is incompatible with religious faith.” On behalf of the Bolsheviks, he insisted: “A fight to the death must be declared upon religion. We must take on religion at the tip of the bayonet.”

That they did. They knew that religion and socialism/communism were incompatible.

(For the record, Marxism-Leninism defines socialism as the final transitionary step into communism. As Lenin explained: “And this brings us to the question of the scientific distinction between socialism and communism. What is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the ‘first,’ or lower, phase of communist society.” Communism shares the exact same goal of socialism, namely: common ownership of the means of production. “We call ourselves Communists,” stated Lenin. “What is a Communist? Communism is a Latin word. Communis is the Latin for ‘common.’ Communist society is a society in which all things—the land, the factories—are owned in common and the people work in common. That is communism.”)

Nonetheless, statements like Warnock’s are not unusual among the highly confused “social justice” Religious Left. Even Catholics, who belong to a Church that has vociferously rejected socialism/communism since at least Pius IX’s Qui Pluribus in 1846 (two years before The Communist Manifesto was published), can succumb to the sloppy sophistry of thinking that Christians can find kinship in Marxism. The Jesuit America Magazine, in July 2019, published an astonishing piece titled, “The Catholic Case for Communism,” which very likely would have gotten the magazine excommunicated under Pius XII’s 1949 Papal Decree Against Communism.

It’s a sign of the times that followers of a Church with an unsurpassed intellectual tradition of opposing socialism/communism could think that a Catholic case could be made for either. Nonetheless, decades of failed teaching have brought us to this embarrassing point.

I’ve written about this here before, and clearly will need to continue to address it again and again. But I write now because of the recent New Testament reading from the Lectionary (carried into the week), which prompted one person to ask me to clarify how that reading from the “early church” (as Warnock would describe it) does or does not support socialism. Here’s the passage from Acts 4:32-35:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.

It is this passage that Warnock was clearly lifting from. He told Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, back in 2016:
The early church was a socialist church. I know you think that’s an oxymoron, but the early church was much closer to socialism than to capitalism. Go back and read the Bible. I love to listen to evangelicals who stand on the Bible. Well, they had all things in common. They took everything—I’m just preaching the Bible—they took all of their things and they had all things in common. But even the folk who say they just follow every word of the Bible, they’re not about to do that. But if we would just share what we have, everybody can eat, everybody ought to have water, everybody ought to have healthcare. It’s a basic principle.
Well, it’s certainly not a “socialist” principle.

Let’s start with indeed the most basic principle, which is this: this passage from Acts is not socialism. Socialism/communism does not bear witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, or to belief of God. Likewise, do not be deluded by the phrase “distributed to each according to need.” Karl Marx, as he often did in his aping and mockery of religion, appropriated that line and rewrote it as, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

How does this passage bear no resemblance to socialism/communism? For many reasons, but above all, the religious believer reading this passage must understand that the passage deals with a religious movement. Socialism/communism is an anti-religious movement.

“Communism begins where atheism begins,” explained Marx. He wrote: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” He and Engels, in The Communist Manifesto, said that communism represents “the most radical rupture in traditional relations.” It seeks nothing less than to “abolish the present state of things.” He and Engels closed the Manifesto by calling for “the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”

That included religion above all. Socialism/communism is a revolutionary ideology that completely rejects religion.

“There is nothing more abominable than religion,” declared Vladimir Lenin. He said that “all worship of a divinity is a necrophilia.” He echoed Marx: “Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze.” Lenin underscored socialism’s incompatibility with religion: “Everyone must be absolutely free to…be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule.”

I could list quotes like this one after another. Here’s one more example:

William Z. Foster was the first major public face, as well as chairman, of what became known as (and remains) Communist Party USA, prior to which he had been with the Socialist Party of America. Note this 1930 exchange he had with Congressman Hamilton Fish during sworn congressional testimony:
Fish: Does your party advocate the abolition and destruction of religious beliefs?

Foster: Our party considers religion to be the opium of the people, as Karl Marx has stated, and we carry on propaganda for the liquidation of these prejudices amongst the workers.

Fish: To be a member of the Communist Party, do you have to be an atheist?

Foster: In order to be—there is no formal requirement to this effect. Many workers join the Communist Party who still have some religious scruples, or religious ideas; but a worker who will join the Communist Party, who understands the elementary principles of the Communist Party, must necessarily be in the process of liquidating his religious beliefs and, if he still has any lingerings when he joins the party, he will soon get rid of them.
He must get rid of them because one could not be a communist and a Christian. (For the record, in the USSR, one had to be an atheist to be a member of the Communist Party, as the party militantly pursued what Mikhail Gorbachev described as a “wholesale war on religion.”)

As for the passage from Acts, there have long been religious communities that engage in common ownership. Those communities are driven by religious motivation. They are voluntary movements of free will. Members agree to sell property and share things by their own choice, not under compulsion by a coercive socialist/atheistic state which insists that every citizen, under threat of punishment, sell and share all resources.

An even cursory read of The Communist Manifesto, or the brute decrees of Lenin and Stalin and Mao and the Kims and Castro, shows no similarity with the language of the Old and New Testaments. The fact that certain passages of Scripture, or certain guidelines of religious orders, express forms of communalism doesn’t mean they’re thus practicing the perverse and destructive 19th century ideology known as communism/socialism. That’s a really silly simplification. From the Acts of the Apostles to, say, the Franciscans, these groups were forged on a Christian model; religion served as their anchor, their rudder, their animating force—the very spiritual force that communism ridicules, rejects, and seeks to abolish. Read any writing by Marx or Engels or Lenin vs. Jesus Christ or Paul or St. Francis; they’re completely different in every meaningful respect.

Moreover, the Bible offers vigorous defenses of property rights, as rudimentary as the understanding implicit in the Creator’s Ten Commandments: thou shalt not steal. To steal is to take someone’s property, a basic right according to biblical and natural law. The assertion by Marx and Engels in the Manifesto that “the entire communist program may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property” is completely antithetical to the teachings of God.

I could go on and on with examples. In the New Testament, individuals like the Good Samaritan or Zacchaeus or the vineyard owner all voluntarily give their own wealth or earnings as free-will acts of benevolence, not as forced responses to state fiat. (Read on in Acts 4, which in the next line speaks of the first of two disciples who voluntarily “sold a piece of property that he owned.”)

I’ll close with a word of advice to Reverend-Senator Warnock. It comes from Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno: “Those who want to be apostles among socialists ought to profess Christian truth whole and entire, openly and sincerely, and not connive at error in any way. If they truly wish to be heralds of the Gospel, let them above all strive to show to socialists that socialist claims, so far as they are just, are far more strongly supported by the principles of Christian faith and much more effectively promoted through the power of Christian charity.”

As Pius XI noted, there’s “no reason to become socialists.”

In other words, just become a Christian—and please stop with the claptrap about “Christian socialism.”

Today in Mongol Imperial History

Just a little remembered fact today.

From The Mad Monarchist 21 June 2014)

On this day in 1307 Kulug Khan was enthroned as Emperor of the Mongols (Emperor Wuzong of the Great Yuan in China). An accomplished warrior, he ruled in the fashion of a traditional Mongol chieftain, making him very popular with the other Mongol princes but less popular with the Han people of China. He supported the major religions and the military, completing the seizure of Sakhalin Island during his reign.

22 April, Antonio, Cardinal Bacci: Meditations For Each Day

Fasting and Abstinence

1. Nowadays fast and abstinence take the form of precepts of the Church which bind us under pain of mortal sin. Before they were commanded by the Church, however, they had been commanded by God. God made the first law of this kind when He ordered Adam to abstain from the forbidden fruit. Moses made particular laws of fast and abstinence for the Jewish people. He also fasted himself, as did the prophet Elias. “My knees totter from my fasting,” writes King David, “and my flesh is wasted of its substance.” (Psalm 108:24) “Prayer is good with fasting and alms,” (Tob. 12:8) says Tobias. Jesus fasted for forty days as an example to us and He warned us that the devil can be conquered only by prayer and fasting. (Mt. 17:20) In a more general way, He warned us that: “Unless you repent, you will all perish.” (Luke 13:5) One of the means of doing penance most often recommended in Sacred Scripture is fasting and abstaining.

Why, you may ask, should Our Lord and the Church command us to mortify ourselves in regard to food? There is a strong reason. It is an act of obedience to God, our absolute master, Who does not demand anything of us save for our own welfare. Secondly, it is an act of reparation for our sins. In the third place, it enables us to subdue our carnal impulses and in this way makes us more obedient to the law of God. A man who cannot mortify his appetite for food will certainly not be able to resist the temptations of the flesh. There is a connection between all these things. If we cannot subordinate our bodily appetites to our spiritual faculties and to the divine law, we shall not be able to raise ourselves from the level of an animal existence to contact with God through prayer and the practice of virtue.

2. It is irrelevant to object that there is no harm in eating one kind of food rather than another. In fact, this is not a question of food at all. It is a question of obedience to the laws of God and of the Church. God is the supreme Lord of heaven and earth and it is wrong to disobey His commands. Similarly, it is not permissible to disobey the precepts of the Church which Jesus Christ founded to be our infallible guide. God commanded the Hebrews to abstain from blood-meat and from so-called unclean animals. Today the Church has set aside a minimum number of days of fast and abstinence. How can we ignore the commands of God and of the Church? To do so would be an act of rebellion against the highest of all authorities as well as a sign of indifference to our eternal salvation. Even the purest of the Saints, such as St. Aloysius Gonzaga, constantly mortified themselves in this way. "If you have sinned, do penance," writes St. Augustine. If we reflect on the number of our sins, the insignificant degree of fast and abstinence demanded by the Church today will not seem excessive. Indeed, we should be glad to fast and abstain a little more than is necessary in order to expiate our sins and to gain control over our carnal instincts. Let us show God how much we love Him by being prepared to undertake voluntary mortification.

3. Other objections are sometimes raised against fasting and abstaining. These include poor health, excessive work, a frail constitution, and so on. Such reasons for exempting ourselves should be carefully considered before God and in consultation with our confessor. If they are genuine, we are entitled to omit fast and abstinence either partly or entirely. God is more interested in our good intentions than in any material act, which is demanded only as a proof of our good will.

If we cannot actually fast and abstain we can mortify ourselves spiritually. We can curb our tongues by avoiding idle and uncharitable conversations. We can mortify our eyes by avoiding looking at anything which might lead us into danger. We can mortify our hearing by seeking a certain degree of solitude and silence. We can mortify our bodies by depriving ourselves of unnecessary luxuries. Above all, we must abstain from sin and from the occasions of sin. This is the basic fast which we are all obliged to keep at all costs by means of constant and fervent prayer.

Eastern Rite - St Theodore of Syceum

Today is the Feast of Our Venerable Father Theodore of Syceum.
Saint Theodore was born out of wedlock in Sykeon, a village of Galatia in Asia Minor. From his childhood, he was under the protection and guidance of the holy Great Martyr George, who often appeared to him, and was as it were his trainer in the hard ascetical discipline which he took upon himself all his life. After a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he became a monk in his native Galatia. About 584 he was ordained Bishop of Anastasiopolis in Galatia, where he shepherded his flock for ten years. After this, he asked to be allowed to be relieved of the duties of governing the diocese. His request was granted but he was commanded to retain his rank as bishop. Saint Theodore was a great worker of miracles, and also received from God the power to cast out even the most obstinate demons, who called him "Iron-eater" because of his stern way of life. Having passed throughout many regions, worked numerous miracles, and strengthened the faithful in piety, he departed this life in 613.


IN LUMINE FIDEI: 22 APRIL – SAINTS SOTUS AND CAIUS (Popes and Martyrs): Soter was born at Fondi in Campania. He passed a decree forbidding virgins consecrated to God to touch the sacred Vessels and Palls, or...


IN LUMINE FIDEI: 22 APRIL – THURSDAY IN THE THIRD WEEK AFTER EASTER: Dom Prosper Gueranger: This Church, founded and maintained by Christ, is it nothing more than a society of minds that know, and of hea...

22 April, A Chesterton Calendar

APRIL 22nd

It is a common saying that anything may happen behind our backs: transcendentally considered, the thing has an eerie truth about it. Eden may be behind our backs, or Fairyland. But this mystery of the human back has, again, its other side in the strange impression produced on those behind: to walk behind anyone along a lane is a thing that, properly speaking, touches the oldest nerve of awe. Watts has realised this as no one in art or letters has realised it in the whole history of the world; it has made him great. There is one possible exception to his monopoly of this magnificent craze. Two thousand years before, in the dark scriptures of a nomad people, it had been said that their prophet saw the immense Creator of all things, but only saw Him from behind.

'G. F. Watts.'

22 April, The Holy Rule of St Benedict, Father of Western Monks

CHAPTER LXV. Of the Prior of the Monastery

22 Apr. 22 Aug. 22 Dec.

It happeneth very often that by the appointment of the Prior grave scandals arise in Monasteries; since there are some who, puffed up by the evil spirit of pride, and deeming themselves to be second Abbots, take upon themselves to tyrannise over others, and so foster scandals and cause dissensions in the community: especially in those places where the Prior is appointed by the same priest, or the same Abbots as appoint the Abbot himself. How foolish this is may easily be seen; for from the moment of his appointment an incentive to pride is given to him, the thought suggesting itself that he is freed from the authority of his Abbot, since he hath been appointed by the very same persons. Hence are stirred up envy, quarrels, backbiting, dissensions, jealousy and disorders. And while the Abbot and Prior are at variance with one another, it must needs be that their own souls are endangered by reason of their disagreement; and those who are their subjects, while favouring one side or the other, run to destruction. The evil of this peril falleth on the heads of those who by their action have been the cause of such disorders.

23 April, The Roman Martyrology

Nono Kaléndas Maii Luna undécima Anno Dómini 2021

April 23rd 2021, the 11th day of the Moon, were born into the better life:

The holy martyr George, whose illustrious martyrdom, [in the year 303,] the church of God honours among the crowns of her martyrs.
At Valence, in Gaul, the holy martyrs the Priest Felix and the Deacons Fortunatus and Achilleus. They had been sent forth to preach the Word of God by blessed Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, and had brought a great part of the city of Valence to believe in Christ, when they were cast into prison by Cornelius the general. They were long beaten, their legs were broken, they were tied to the outside of turning wheels, hung in smoke upon the rack, and at length slain with the sword, [in the year 212.]
In Prussia, [in the year 997,] the holy martyr Adalbert, Bishop of Prague, who preached the Gospel to the Poles and Hungarians.
At Milan, [in the year 423,] the holy Confessor Marolus, Bishop [of that see.]
At Toul, in Gaul, holy Gerard, Bishop of that city, [in the year 994.]
V. And elsewhere many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
R. Thanks be to God.

Memes of the Day


Wednesday, 21 April 2021

New Zealand Church Demolition Yields Trove of Catholic Relics

First reports were that they were all going to be reburied under the new Cathedral. Thankfully that's not so! '(T)he relics that can be identified will be placed on display within the new cathedral for veneration.'

From Aleteia

By J.-P. Mauro

The relics were stored in coffee jars and buried beneath an inch of cement.

Ateam of demolition workers at Christchurch, New Zealand’s Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament have made an epic discovery. A collection of Catholic relics was excavated from the rubble. The relics were surprisingly preserved in coffee jars, buried beneath an inch of concrete. 

Christchurch’s cathedral became pegged for demolition after earthquakes devastated the property in 2010 and 2011. According to The Guardian, the decade-long deconstruction process was a slow affair, as workers often found treasures which gave them pause. These finds have included altar stones, a decapitated Nativity scene, and a charity collection box with out-of-circulation coins.

Now, their biggest discovery has come in the form of long forgotten relics. Amassed by Bishop John Grimes during his 19th-century travels through Europe, they were once on display in the cathedral. In the 1970s, however, they were interred below the chapel, in sacred ground. 

Coffee jars

The relics were placed within coffee jars, which protected them for the last 40 years. The larger of the two jars contained various bone fragments believed to have come from saints. The smaller jar contained small reliquaries containing scraps of fabric or flesh from historical Catholic figures. 

Also discovered was an old soda bottle, in which there is a small rolled up paper. Workers have not yet attempted to unfurl the delicate paper, but its contents may help them identify the many relics. 

Stuff reports that the task of identifying and cataloging these relics has fallen to Triona Doocey, archivist of the Archdiocese of Christchurch. She will accomplish this by sifting through records left by Bishop Grimes. She noted that few of the relics are properly labeled, and to make her job harder, a few of the relics were water damaged.

Although Doocey has her work cut out for her, she spoke excitedly about the opportunity to examine the relics. She said: 

“We will tidy them up, clean them up and then repackage them safely so, no matter what gets thrown at them in the next cathedral, they will hopefully survive.” She added, “It gives us an opportunity to classify and catalog everything and capture that information for the future, so in 300 years time the archivist will know exactly what is there.”

The Archdiocese explained in a Facebook post that the relics that can be identified will be placed on display within the new cathedral for veneration. Those that cannot will be reburied under the new cathedral. 

The Mysteries Surrounding the Tomb of St. Paul

A short video about St Paul the Apostle's tomb in the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

Jeffrey Sachs and the Vatican: Silent on China’s Rights Abuses

A population control advocate and an apologist for the ChiComs, and Sachs is a Vatican adviser?! Lord have mercy!

From the National Catholic Register

By Edward Pentin

It remains unclear whether Sachs’ approach to China has had a direct influence on the Holy See’s own dealings with Beijing.

VATICAN CITY — The Chinese government continues to be heavily criticized for its treatment of the Uyghurs, an ethnic Muslim minority in the country’s northwest, while the Vatican remains publicly silent — along with one of its influential longtime advisers.

A Human Rights Watch report released Monday, titled “Break Their Lineage, Break Their Roots — China’s Crimes against Humanity Targeting Uyghurs and Other Turkic Muslims,” declared that the Chinese communist government is committing “crimes against humanity” against the ethnic minority.

The regime operates hundreds of detention camps in the Uyghur province of Xinjiang, the report said, and former detainees have reported systemic torture and sexual assault in the camps. It also documented abuses and restrictions on religious and cultural practices that have reached “unprecedented levels.”

But while many, including the Biden administration, are condemning these atrocities and other Chinese government human rights transgressions, including ongoing reports of persecution of Catholics as well as human rights abuses in Hong Kong, the Vatican has remained publicly silent.

Asked about this approach last month, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, secretary for the Vatican’s Relations With States, told America magazine that the Holy See “does not have a policy, a diplomatic policy, of denunciation almost anywhere in the world, and there are human rights abuses in many, many countries.”

He went on to explain that the Holy See is trying to work with the Chinese to “resolve the difficulties we have in the appointment of bishops, and that is all it is about.”

Archbishop Gallagher added that he and his colleagues “consistently try to argue for normalization of relations between the Catholic Church and the Chinese authorities, but we realize that this is a very long-term objective.”

But the absence of any comment or reaction may also be partly influenced by some of the advice the Holy See is receiving from external advisers. One of them is professor Jeffrey Sachs, a regular speaker at the Vatican on sustainable development and climate change, who has long been an apologist and zealous defender of the Chinese Communist Party while remaining silent about its human rights abuses.

A population control advocate whom for well over a decade the Vatican has regularly relied upon as an expert on the environment and other global issues, Sachs has frequently urged cooperation with the communist regime, seeing advantages of engagement and dialogue over hawkish, confrontational diplomacy which he has often derided.

The Columbia University economics professor, who advises both the U.N. and the Holy See on the environment, warned last August against escalating tensions with the People’s Republic and in 2019 took himself off Twitter after comments he made defending the Chinese tech giant Huawei caused a media storm (Sachs continues to be a supporter of the company, which critics say is a tool for Chinese espionage).

Meanwhile, he has dismissed the human rights atrocities against the Uyghurs as “propaganda” against the Chinese government but backtracked in 2018, tweeting he was “trying to understand” the situation.

In more recent articles, Sachs has continued to promote a diplomatic approach to the Communist regime similar to the Holy See — one that is silent about Beijing’s human rights violations while arguing for cooperation. According to Yuichiro Kakutani, writing in The Washington Free Beacon last November, Sachs has maintained “a long relationship with the Chinese government and business elite, which can be traced back to at least the early 2000s.”

But his approach has lately drawn criticism — also from his allies. In a March 4 article headlined “Jeffrey Sachs: Xi Propagandist,” The Globalist website, which would normally be sympathetic to his views, censured Sachs for taking an uncritical, hagiographical approach to China’s President Xi Jinping.

Referring to a Feb. 25 article that Sachs had written urging the U.S. to cooperate with China, the article’s authors, Stephan Richter and J.D. Bindenagel, criticized him for persistently failing to question the veracity of President Xi’s statements.

“Jeff Sachs has done much to frame and popularize the language and thinking to push a sustainable development agenda on the world stage,” they wrote “That is an achievement in which he can rightfully take considerable pride. But that should not mean turning oneself effectively into a China — or rather: Xi Jinping — propagandist.”

Sachs’ close ties with China were again evident last week when he scolded the BBC on one of its news programs for focusing on China’s human rights abuses while ignoring those of the United States.

“What about America's human rights abuses?” he asked in a heated exchange, and offered examples such as the Iraq War, sanctions against Venezuela, leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, and “massive racism, white supremacism” in the U.S.

Chinese Communist Party-controlled media quickly jumped on his comments: The Global Times, the CCP’s English language newspaper, tweeted that the BBC was “caught red-handed” and that Sachs had “slammed” the broadcaster for “ignoring Western human rights abuses.” But they failed to report on the response of Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights activist who has suffered detention and torture at the hands of Beijing, who said during the BBC program that Sachs was using “exactly the Communist Party’s narrative strategy” that was “really misleading” and “political ‘whataboutism.’”

Western human rights abuses, he said, are not the equivalent of “detaining millions of Uyghurs, not killing a whole people,” Biao said.

The author of several books and recipient of many awards, Sachs is regarded as the chief architect of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — 17 points for a sustainable future specifying 169 targets to be reached by 2030 including objectives involving more accessible contraception and abortion under the term “reproductive health.”

He has worked with George Soros and Bill and Melinda Gates, the strongly pro-abortion and pro-contraception billionaire philanthropists, and has been a supporter of the former presidential candidate and socialist Bernie Sanders. At the same time he has been a bitter and vociferous opponent of former President Donald Trump, and throughout last year’s presidential campaign he appeared on Chinese state media to blast U.S. foreign policy as a “crusade against China.”

Whether Sachs’ approach to China has had a direct influence on the Holy See’s own dealings with Beijing is unclear, but he is reportedly “an unabashed Francis fan,” according to the National Catholic Reporter He visits the Vatican “as often as twice a month to consult with the Pontifical Academy of Science and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences” where he has a kindred spirit in Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the academies’ chancellor.

The Argentinian prelate, who famously said in 2018 he believed China was the best implementer of the Church’s social doctrine, showed visible approval of a speech Sachs made last year at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences during which Sachs ignored China’s human rights abuses while excoriating the Trump administration.

Sachs continues to be heavily involved in Vatican affairs.

Last November, the Keynesian economist, who believes in high government spending serviced by large fiscal debt, was a keynote speaker at the Economy of Francesco conference that aimed to make economies more inclusive.

In December he took part in a Vatican Youth Symposium hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that launched a collaboration between Pope Francis’ Global Compact on Education initiative and Mission 4.7, a U.N.-backed advisory group aimed at accelerating achievement of the SDGs.

The Register contacted Sachs for comment for this article but so far he has not responded.


[1] Similarly, neither can worldly power be man’s highest good, since in its attainment, also, fortune can play a most important part. It is also unstable; nor is it subject to man’s will; oftentimes it comes to bad men-and these characteristics are incompatible with the highest good, as was evident in the foregoing arguments.

[2] Again, man is deemed good chiefly in terms of his attainment of the highest good. Now, he is not called good, or bad, simply because he has power, for not everyone who can do good things is a good man, nor is a person bad because he is able to do evil things. Therefore, the highest good does not consist in the fact of being powerful.

[3] Besides, all power is relative to some other thing. But the highest good is not relative to something else. Therefore, power is not man’s highest good.

[4] Moreover, a thing that one can use both for good and for evil cannot be man’s highest good, for that is better which no one can use in a bad way. Now, one can use power well or badly, “for rational powers are capable of contrary effects.” Therefore, man’s highest good does not consist in human power.

[5] Furthermore, if any sort of power is the highest good, it ought to be the most perfect. But human power is most imperfect, since it is rooted in the wills and the opinions of men, in which there is the greatest inconstancy. And the more important the power is considered to be, the more does it depend on large numbers of people, which fact also contributes to its frailty, since what depends on many can be destroyed in many ways. Therefore, man’s highest good does not lie in worldly power.

[6] Man’s felicity, then, consists in no exterior good, since all exterior goods, the ones that are called “goods of fortune,” are contained under the preceding headings.


Racism Isn't That Complicated

Mr Holdsworth discusses racism and the idea of systemic racism.

I think it’s safe to say that every person of good will finds racism and its various expressions repellent and reprehensible. No good person wants to see innocent people discriminated against, victimized, abused, or worst of all murdered by those who insist on acting on an incoherent creed of supremacy and hatred. And when I say that, I truly believe that I’m describing most people. Most people care about their fellow man enough to detest racism. So if that’s true, I think it’s a safe bet that we’d all like to find meaningful solutions to resolving that insidious influence in our communities and in our countries which means that fundamentally, the majority of people are on the same side. When it comes right down to it, we want the same thing. We want equal opportunities for everyone, we want irrational hatred dispelled, and we want people to live in peace regardless of their racial background. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., a person should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. But in order to truly find meaningful, constructive solutions, we have to understand the problem. We have to properly and accurately diagnose it. Just like any illness, if you want to find the right medicine, you have to accurately diagnose what is wrong and if we don’t, we’ll just cause more damage and unfortunately, I think we’re seeing a lot of that happening as this issue gets swept up in an appetite of escalation.

We so easily get caught up in trading in a currency of injustice by refusing to respond in measure and equal proportion. Some people like to say, an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. Actually, it doesn’t. It leaves everyone with one good eye. That’s the whole point of that biblical teaching. It’s to ensure restraint. It means that if someone steals your car, you don’t find justice by firebombing their house.

Long before we ever get to the more difficult teachings in the Bible like, love your enemies and turn the other cheek, or the teachings of mercy, at the very least, we have to learn to learn what justice is by responding proportionately. If someone steals $40 from you, justice demands $40 is returned. Not a thousand dollars - an eye for an eye. But the discourse in the media or online is about escalation and revenge. Nobody seems to be having rational conversations. This is not how reasonable people respond to real problems in the interest of finding meaningful solutions. For those of us that do want to take the difficult high road in seeking those solutions, the best place to start is by defining the terms we’re working with. Language is the means by which we understand each other and we can’t have peace and harmony unless we understand each other. But what we see happening far too much in debates that have a political ingredient is the manipulation of language to prevent sides from coming together and I see a lot of that taking place in the debate around racism and racial justice. And that’s something we need to be especially attentive too because accurate understanding of words creates wisdom and knowledge and knowledge is powerful and liberating to those who have it. So what does it tell you when people in powerful positions, whether in the media or in political activism, deliberately work to confuse our language? It shows that they want to confiscate that power. The less power the majority of us have, the more easily we are manipulated for someone else’s ends. And as much as I’d like to explain that further, that’s not what this video’s about so I’ll just leave you with an encouragement to read an essay by Josef Pieper called “Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power.” It will help immunize you against that kind of manipulation. So, let’s start with the definition of racism. Because that’s a serious word and a serious thing to accuse someone of. But we see people in politics and in the media brandishing it casually and recklessly which again, leads to confusion about what it means. Here in Canada, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau made a statement about the issue recently by saying that anti-black racism is happening in Canada everywhere… every day. Which leaves me with the impression that if it were that pervasive, you couldn’t lave the house without witnessing it.

Well, to know if that’s true, again we have to come back to a consistent understanding of what the word racism means. Racism is the tendency to act antagonistically towards people of other races because of the belief that your race is superior. The ingredient of racial superiority is essential to the definition. Read the rest at

Here We Are

Fr Heilman blasts our complacent 'shepherds and asks us to 'Please pray that we priests and bishops grow some hair on our chests'.

From Roman Catholic Man

By Fr Richard Heilman

Here we are. We priests and bishops thought we could just keep the perfunctory programs and mandatory sacramental preparations going, along with the standard amount of Mass offerings, with a half hour of Confessions each week, while we made sure we never offended anyone, for fear of keeping the offertory collection at an acceptable level, or losing cred among their fellow clerics.

All while we watched the wolves of this world devour our sheep.

I’ve lost count as to how many have approached me to ask for prayers or any advice whatsoever on what they can do about their child, or their sibling, who has totally turned their lives over to the culture and its “normalization of evil” that is now at historic proportions. Sodom and Gomorrah seems like an Amish community in comparison to our culture today.

My first question I ask is, “Where do you worship?” And then, “Can you describe it to me?” It usually boils down to something “common.” While it is a nice community, they are not challenged, and they never hear sermons that challenge the anti-Christ movements in our culture today that seek to normalize evil. If it is this kind of wishy-washy parish, I then ask if they have any other options of “strong” parishes within driving distance. Staying there is like sending your child to a public school that asks what their preferred pronoun they choose to use.

It seems we priests and bishops avoid speaking against this current culture and the new super-flood of “normalizing evil,” for fear of appearing to “take sides.” This would “cause division,” and we’d prefer to welcome everyone, so we avoid “triggering” anyone.

Balderdash! (socially acceptable word, right? ;-))

Just look at Peter and John in this Sunday’s readings. Peter says, “YOU denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you!” John says, “Those who say, ‘I know him,’ but do not keep his commandments are LIARS!”

I bet their ears didn’t feel “tickled” there!

And, let’s not forget that, while Peter and John were giving their “drill sergeant like” sermons, “the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly” (Acts 6:7). People want something SUBSTANTIAL that calls them to engage in the battle, not thin gruel.

At some point, we priests and bishops need to MAN UP, like Peter and John, and begin to be the TRUE shepherds we are called to be, instead punch-the-clock functionaries that we are now. Our flocks are being kidnapped by a force that is FAR MORE passionate than we are!! They are being devoured while we calculate whether we are at the acceptable level of political correctness.

Those who speak out are accused of being political. POPPYCOCK!! Those who remain silent, for fear of offending, are in fact the ones putting politics ahead of the well-being of their flocks!

Please pray that we priests and bishops grow some hair on our chests.

The Popes and Democracy - Part I. General Notions 1. Communism, Democracy, Monarchy

What do we see on the world scene to-day? What are the political forces confronting each other, the concepts vying for popular approval? In the main, we have Communism, Democracy, and Monarchy. The latter, however, has no great significance as a political force; but it is still there and, although diluted to the point of losing all its specific attributes in the West (e.g. England), it seems to be reviving in some of the emerging nations.

Word of the Day: Acta Sanctae Sedis

ACTA SANCTAE SEDIS. Monthly publication in Rome, but not officially by the Holy See, from 1865 to 1908. It contained the principal declarations of the Pope and the Roman congregations. In 1904, its contents were declared official and authentic. By the end of 1908, it was superseded by the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

What I Learned About Antichrist While Chatting with Eric Metaxas

A look at Francis's recent attempt at rehabilitating Judas despite Our Lord's crystal clear words regarding his fate.

From The Stream

By John Zmirak, Ph.D.

We Catholics believe that the pope should function as our chief religious teacher on earth. Those who have read me before will know that I think the present pope, Francis, is quite literally the worst one in history. Yes, worse than those elected via bribes in the Renaissance, or appointed by courtesans before that. They were corrupt but orthodox, and didn’t forge secret alliances with the Communist Party of China.

Francis’ teachings — all offered, cautiously, at a non-infallible level for fear of lightning bolts — throw doubt on historic doctrines, undermine the words of Jesus, and defy the Covenant of Noah. I’d believe Jack Chick had seized control of our church from beyond the grave, were such coups really possible.

The Black Box of a Crashed Pontificate

But the wise man open to Truth can learn even from error. One of the most potent teachers in life is the study of blunders and falsehoods. Engineers pore over the black boxes from airliners that crashed. Philosophers set their students to pick apart logical fallacies.

And I think that we as Christians can learn quite a bit by listening to what Pope Francis says — carefully and critically, to see where he goes wrong. Especially we need to see where he takes deadly wrong turns that we ourselves have taken, albeit on smaller things or in smaller ways. We Westerners swim in the same tainted stream (not The Stream!) where Francis hatched and grew. We face the same downstream current that’s driving him, like the Gadarene beasts, down to the sea.

What if the pope’s grand errors and sweeping falsehoods are meant, in God’s inscrutable plan, to warn us away? They represent our own temptations, lived out on a global scale, like hideous caricatures or ludicrous Mardi Gras floats. That’s one for the history books: a papacy as a vast and horrifying cautionary tale.

Eric Metaxas as Devil’s Advocate

This came to me a few days ago as I spoke on the air with Eric Metaxas. He was kind enough to give me a whole hour’s airtime to discuss a three-part series I’d published here. The topic: why was Pope Francis trying to rehabilitate Judas, and what did it mean?

In the course of doing his job as devil’s advocate, Eric asked some critical questions. Namely:

  1. Shouldn’t we as Christians, who hope for each man’s salvation, hope for Judas’ too?
  2. Wouldn’t it be perverse for us to be glad about the Church’s historic verdict, based on Jesus’ own words, that the man was damned?
  3. Isn’t the stance of Hans Urs von Balthasar — that Hell might in fact be empty of human souls — the right one for us?

Good questions. They merit good answers. Because what Eric was voicing (for the sake of argument) sounded pious and high-minded. These are the kind of sentiments which, were the time not foreshortened, could fool even the Elect.

I chose those words advisedly. What we face today in progressive Christianity is the new gospel of the Antichrist.

You can watch this exchange on the Rumble video embedded here, toward the beginning.

(I can't format the video for Blogger, but it can be viewed here)

Who Rules Here? Jesus or … Me?

But I’ll sum it up here for those of you (like me) too impatient to click on videos. Here are my answers, boiled down:

  1. Judas redeemed? We should hope, work, and pray for the salvation of every living human being. It’s not our business to second-guess God’s judgment of dead people’s souls. Their fruit lay where it fell, and is God’s business not ours. But we shouldn’t hope that Jesus’ own solemn words, spoken without hyperbole to Judas’ face at the Last Supper, were empty, misleading, or false. (“The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Matt. 26: 24) What would that imply for the rest of what Our Lord said? Wouldn’t we be free to reinterpret any “hard saying” of His to suit our lifestyle preferences?
  2. Gloat over judgment? We should hope that God’s justice, tempered by mercy, as He sees fit, always prevails. Our proper hope regarding Judas, the “son of perdition” (John 17:12) should be that we don’t imitate him instead of Jesus. As the ancient Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom prescribes each Christian pray on the way up to Holy Communion: “Of thy Mystic Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of thy Mystery to thine enemies, neither will I give thee a kiss as did Judas; but like the thief will I confess thee: Remember me, O Lord, in thy Kingdom. Not unto judgement nor unto condemnation be my partaking of thy Holy Mysteries, O Lord, but unto the healing of soul and body.”
  3. Hope for the damned? We shouldn’t hope that Jesus’ own words, in several Gospel passages, describing the torments of some souls damned in Hell were empty, misleading, or false. Likewise the divinely revealed predictions in the Book of Revelation, and St. Paul’s letters. Do we really want to make Scripture itself Silly Putty that picks up our wistful, post-modern squishiness about the seriousness of evil?

We May Join Judas if We Insist

I can put all this much more simply. I think God gave me a little help to do that on Eric’s show. I said, in essence: Where is the ultimate religious authority for us? Is it A) the words of Jesus Himself in the scripture, as understood by the Church since the very beginning? Or is it B) our own sensibilities, our sense of what God should do, or what we would do in His place? Is it the agenda of Caesar, and Mammon, and Sodom, which has seeped into our consciences, to make our lives easier?

Stance A) is the Christian one. Stance B) is the position that Progressive Christians are peddling today. If our sense of “fair play” or “niceness” that we’ve imbibed from our decaying, post-Christian culture sits on the throne instead of Jesus, then we will indeed end up with Judas. Perhaps we’ll even tell ourselves it is Heaven.

My thanks again to Eric Metaxas for taking on the thankless task of devil’s advocate. It’s a dirty job. You might as well get some guy from Queens to do it.

How McCarricks Happen

How do 'bad apples' like Pervert McCarrick happen?Quite a lengthy article but well worth the read.

From the Catholic Herald

By Stephen Bullivant and Giovanni Radhitio Putra Sadewo

The brute fact is that that they don’t just happen out of nowhere. Rather, McCarricks are the malign by-products of a system ostensibly designed to create something else entirely: bishops who are, as per Canon 378, ‘outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues’. While we have no doubt that the system succeeds in producing those as well, it clearly suffers from significant vulnerabilities.

There are certain things you don’t want to write about. They are too sad or sordid or strange that they give you an uncomfortable feeling right in the pit of your stomach. — Theodore McCarrick, ‘An Unpleasant Task’ (2002)

From Savile to Sandusky to Epstein to – yes – McCarrick, it has become something of a cliché to say we need to stop thinking in terms of ‘bad apples’, and instead turn our attention to defective ‘barrels’. Rotten apples, we’re assured, are symptoms rather than the root cause. Our real problems are ones of coopering, not horticulture.

The basic sentiment here is a sound one, up to a point. No man is an island, not even those who (like Epstein) own one. And if it takes a village to raise a child, there’s often a small town’s worth of people complicit – in myriad ways and to varying degrees of culpability – in covering up the abuse of one.

Furthermore, shared assumptions, practices, and policies, official or otherwise, give rise to organizational cultures in which ‘bad actors’ find it more or less easy to operate, survive, and thrive. Ex-Cardinal McCarrick, like the rest of our bad apples, is a consummate product of his particular barrel; his rotten taste, to overstretch our imagery a little, flavoured by decades of cask-conditioning.

Yet we’re loath to abandon the full subtlety of a metaphor that, after all, is first recorded in Chaucer’s ‘Cook’s Tale’. There, the whole point of the ‘proverbe’ is that we cannot, and must not, draw easy distinctions between individuals and the wider contexts in which they sit. For the ‘rotten appulle’, if left to fester, will ultimately ‘rote alle the remenaunte’.

This is true.

A bad apple’s corruption is contagious: it infects those closest to it, before gradually pervading the barrel as a whole. At a certain point, moreover, simply removing the obviously bad ones is scant protection against others turning. For the barrel, absent a thorough clean-out and disinfecting, is now itself both corrupted and corrupting.

As with many a time-worn adage, social scientists have only recently begun to recognize the wisdom here – while naturally extolling it as their own hard-won insight. Instead of ‘cooperology’, however, we prefer to use fancy terms like social network analysis, network science, and relational sociology. But for all our technical precision, computational tools, and in-the-know jargon, the underlying idea remains the same.

Barrels influence apples, sure: how big the barrel, how tightly packed, one’s position within it, who one’s neighbors are, how regularly the apples get mixed, removed, or replenished. But the apples themselves, good or bad, influence both each other, and collectively, the barrel environment as a whole. Furthermore, while barrels come in different shapes, sizes and materials – as whisky connoisseurs know, outwardly indistinguishable single casks can produce subtly different drops – there are significant commonalities between them.

This is precisely why, to leave barrels behind for a bit, when reading exposés of high-profile sexual predators (and we’ve read more over the past several years than is probably mentally healthy) they start to feel a little samey. There are few obvious overlaps between the worlds of, say, elite college sports coaching, British children’s television, humanitarian NGOs, Hollywood powerbroking, and Catholic prelates. But when and where serial predators emerge within each of them, both they, and (critically) those around them, often behave in strangely analogous ways.

‘McCarricks’ can, in this sense, be found in many walks of life. Talented, charming, and hardworking. Adept at winning friends and influencing people. A penchant for ‘collecting’ the powerful and prestigious. Champions of the right (on) causes at the right time, and tireless fundraisers to boot. They rise up the ranks swiftly, with both willingness and ability to make — or break — others’ careers/dreams/vocations, etc.

We’re not saying that each and every ‘McCarrick’ always hits each note perfectly, but this is a fairly standard-issue template. And for very good reasons. In short, these are exactly the people to whom others are most willing to give the benefit of the doubt, to look the other way, to assume there must be an innocent explanation, to dismiss all rumours as jealousy and gossip. That is, of course, how they get away with it.

What’s more, they’re also the people whose fall would cause a huge amount of embarrassment for lots of influential folks: presidents, popes, princes, police-chiefs. Hence the timidity of victims to come forward, and/or the lack of support or credence when they do; the unwillingness of anyone with the requisite clout actually, seriously to investigate; the desire of institutions to avoid scandal, to seek a quiet solution, to draw up checks (sometimes with attached NDAs).

If and when the truth does emerge, note how swiftly the blithe denials are issued: ‘Friends? Nope. We were never close at all. Nosiree. Barely met the guy, come to think of it… Always thought there was something a little “off” about him.’ Sound familiar?

In calling such people McCarricks we’re not holding him up as some kind of pinnacle, or rather nadir, of the genre. He wasn’t. In fact, our overarching point is that McCarricks aren’t all that exceptional: there’s sadly no shortage of parallels about whom we know, and — Lord knows — others will no doubt follow.

Alongside the others we’ve mentioned, McCarrick himself is a tawdrily typical case.

In this sense, then, ‘a McCarrick’ is to high-profile predators what ‘a MacGuffin’ is to movie plot devices, or ‘a Karen’ is to, well, any woman you don’t happen to like. That said, since our primary interest is indeed with episcopal cultures, to call someone ‘a McCarrick’ there makes immediate sense. Likewise, if our main focus was on the entertainment industry, we might equally have gone for ‘a Cosby’ or ‘a Savile’ to make the same point.

Thinking in terms of McCarricks, plural, is important for the Catholic Church. If we’ve had to suffer one, what’s to stop there being others? Indeed, among many lessons to be learned from the whole sorry spectacle, surely one is that being a McCarrick can (to borrow a concept from game theory) be a supremely profitable ‘strategy’. McCarrick himself rose to the very top: Cardinal, papal confidant, media darling, and friend of politicians and financiers.

For all his show of personal poverty – as he’s not shy of pointing out, he never took a salary when Archbishop of Washington – he was also never short of fancy dinners, all-expenses-paid globetrotting, the use of a beach house, or (as we learn from Thinking of You, his collected folksy columns – why no, they haven’t aged well) people to buy him ever-bigger boats.

However short-term a strategy this will prove, sub specie aeternitatis, there are tougher ways to spend one’s earthly days. And he did it all while being a repeated, and widely suspected/ignored/tolerated, abuser of boys and young men.

As the Vatican’s recent Report makes plain, for the right kind of person it wasn’t even a terrible difficult strategy to pull off. Success in raising funds and vocations, so often the scarcest resources of ‘ecclesial capital’ (pace Bourdieu and Putnam), covers a multitude of sins.

To return to our earlier analogy, this particular apple spent an awfully long time – 42 years from his 1977 consecration as an auxiliary bishop, to his 2019 defrocking – in the US Catholic episcopal barrel. A large proportion of that span, moreover, was spent at or near the very top: Archbishop since 1986, of two major sees (Newark and DC), and a Cardinal since 2001. These are positions with a great deal of influence over who joins the barrel in the first place, and if and how they rise or fall once inside.

Again: bad apples have a corrupting effect on others.

That’s not to say that all, most, or any others that come into contact with them will become as rotten as they are. But even the freshest, healthiest, and most blight-resistant apples can start to sour, at least a little, if they spend too long in the wrong place, with the wrong company.

Since we’re on the subject of folksy proverbs, here’s a couple more: ‘birds of a feather flock together’ (i.e., like attracts like) and ‘when a chicken lives in the bush, it becomes a partridge’ (a Baganda phrase meaning, as a Ugandan priest friend reliably informs me, ‘you start to resemble those you hang out with’).

Like our choice bit of Chaucer, these convey a good deal of what social scientists are getting at with obscurer terms like ‘social selection’ and ‘homophily’.

Both are also critical for understanding the dynamics of episcopal appointments and culture within the Catholic Church. They’re critical in other spheres too: cronyism, ‘old boys’ networks’, and nepotism (an apt term vis-à-vis McCarrick, who termed those he groomed his ‘nephews’) are far from Catholic-specific problems. However, there are good reasons for thinking they’re a bigger risk within ‘the clerical caste system’ – to steal George Weigel’s phrase – than they are, or could be, elsewhere.

In our view, this is such a big part of how McCarrick himself happened, that fixing it is a major priority for stopping other potential-McCarricks from doing so. The best place to start that urgent task, though, is to take some time to comprehend what’s really going on. Thus, to understand how McCarricks happen, we must dig a little deeper, both empirically and theoretically, into several factors.

We divide what follows into two parts. Each examines afresh a major element of Uncle Ted’s backstory, in light of our and others’ wider thinking about episcopal cultures, and with an eye to drawing out wider lessons.

Big Apple, bad apples

If bad apples cultivate other bad apples, then it raises an obvious question: might there have been blight in the barrel before Theodore McCarrick came along? To put it another way: did Uncle Ted have an ‘Uncle Ted’?

There’s certainly a stand-out contender. McCarrick only directly served under two other bishops, both Cardinal-Archbishops of New York and sometime Superiors of the Military vicariate: Francis Spellman, who ordained him to the priesthood in 1958, and Terence James Cooke, who made him his auxiliary in 1977, before getting him installed as Bishop of the new diocese of Metuchen, NJ, a mere four years later. We’ll return to Cooke anon, but first a few things need spelling out.

Credible rumours, and indeed on-the-record allegations, from a range of diverse sources, have swirled around Spellman for decades: to wit, a McCarrick-esque twofer of a predilection for young men (from seminarians to sailors; he had ready to access to both), and a lack of concern for the niceties of ‘consent’.

These were almost aired seventeen years after his death, in journalist John Cooney’s 1984 biography The American Pope – that is, until word got out in advance of publication.

The story goes that, after a good deal of ‘persuasion’ from Cooke’s archdiocese, The New York Times (who owned the book’s publishers) insisted the relevant four pages be excised, to be replaced with a few limp sentences mentioning ‘rumours’. (How some in the Church must pine for ‘those happy golden years’ of episcopal-editorial harmony.)

Cooney’s allegations, and many others of a similar flavour, have nonetheless persisted: no shortage of examples can be found in scattered works by journalists and academics over the years. Admittedly, lurid tales can be hard to separate from factual reportage. The two, however, need not be mutually exclusive. It is noteworthy that, post-McCarrick, outfits on a spectrum running from from Salon to The American Conservative have started taking seriously this long-suspected side to Spellman. The truth will out, as they say.

Even leaving aside the specific topic of sexual abuse, plenty else in Spellman’s biography is oddly reminiscent of Ted’s. Here are just four.

  • An assiduous networker, not least in Rome, with close links to a Pope? Spellman’s close friend Pius XII intervened to give him New York, just as (we now know) John Paul II did to send McCarrick to DC.
  • An impressive fundraiser, with some dubious accounting practices? Among other things, Spellman was a useful conduit for getting US cash to the Vatican; his Smaug-like lust for other people’s money will be familiar to fans of Fulton Sheen (the anti-Spellman, in all manner of ways).
  • An expert reader of the political mood? Spellman was the anti-Communist par excellence in an era of fever-pitch anti-communism. It served him (and to be fair, US Catholicism as a whole) very well indeed. On the face of it, McCarrick was a very different political beast. But he too was perfectly suited to his times, as his warm rapport with Bushes and Obamas alike – and fawning media coverage from ‘Team Ted’ – clearly proved. Had 2018 never happened, he would surely have taken a a place of honour at his long-time friend Joe Biden’s inauguration.
  • The fraternity of other actively homosexual clergy? This one is, of its nature, much harder to establish. But both Spellman and McCarrick are reported to have had similarly inclined friends in key positions, who in turn benefited from the kinds of favours – plum postings, gifts, confidences, monsignorships – a friendly bishop can disburse with ease.

The existence and influence of such ‘lavender mafias’ has long been mooted by serious journalists and scholars, including Kenneth Woodward, Richard Sipe, Don Cozzens, and Andrew Greeley – none of whom can rightly be accused of being ultraconservative shills. Moreover, there are strong theoretical reasons for thinking that such networks, once formed, would have powerful incentives to protect, and promote, their own.

(This issue here is not with homosexual clergy per se. But whereas heterosexually active clergy – of which there have been plenty of examples, including within the episcopacy – must, ipso facto, be active with those outside the clerical fold, the potential for homosexual relationships or secret-sharing among clergy/seminarians can create mutually compromised groups, all of whom have a personal stake in looking out for each other.)

Given all this, it is naturally tempting to draw a direct link between Spellman and McCarrick – some orchestrated passing of the torch from one to another. True enough, the latter did have this to say in 2001:

Cardinal Spellman was a very important person in my life since he ultimately ordained me a priest in 1958. He sent me to Puerto Rico and then to Catholic University here in Washington shortly afterwards. Several years later, when I became president of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, I did get a chance to know him better and he was always very kind to me.

But this is not exactly a smoking gun. More to the point, the act of looking for one rather misses our wider argument. Rather, the world in which Spellman thrived, engendered not merely McCarrick himself, but also the world which enabled him for so long. Of course, by then the US Church – like the US itself – looked like a very different place, just as, compared to Spellman, McCarrick looked refreshingly like the Very Model of a Modern Metropolitan. But looks can be deceptive, and apples don’t always fall too far from the tree.

This bigger point is best expressed with a picture, or rather map.

The schematic  below shows a ‘serving network’ of US bishops, featuring Spellman, Cooke, and McCarrick, and only those other bishops who served directly (i.e., in what the Vatican’s recent Report calls a ‘Superior-subordinate’ relationships) under one or more of them.

The thicker the line, the higher degree of seniority/responsibility they held. Hence, of the two arrows from McCarrick, the thinner is to Spellman, whom he served as priest, and the thicker is to Cooke, whose auxiliary bishop he was. (There’s also a middle thickness, denoting service in a small number of specially trusted roles: e.g., private secretary, Vicar General, Chancellor.)

Finally, the bigger the circle by someone’s name, the greater the number of other bishops in the same network who’ve served under them at one time or another.

The most obvious thing to note here is that Spellman, Cooke, and McCarrick had a lot of ‘alumni’ who themselves became bishops; around three-quarters served one or more of them as either an auxiliary bishop or a ‘senior staffer’. Note too that since McCarrick served both Spellman and Cooke, that means everyone else depicted is a close relative of his, ecclesiastically speaking. In family tree terms, he has the episcopal equivalents of 27 ‘sons’ and 56 ‘brothers’.

Now, the fact that just three Cardinals would be so episcopally fecund is not wholly surprising: all held major sees for long periods of time, and similarly large ‘dynasties’ accumulate around other major Catholic hubs (including Boston, Spellman’s own home diocese). But what it does show, is the relative ease with which a single, influential kingmaker – a McCarrick, that is – can ‘stack the episcopate’. Many of these will, inevitably, be his own protégés and favorites, who are in turn more likely to help out their fellows, and to have a collective stake in protecting their patron, whether from loyalty or naked self-interest.

Note here, for example, McCarrick’s keenness to instil an esprit de corps among his clerical ‘nephews’, and the fact that several ended up in ‘useful’ positions for safeguarding his reputation. The McCarrick Report gives a damningly ‘textbook instance’ of just this: two of his Newark live-in auxiliaries, Smith and McHugh, witness him sexually assault a young priest, and say nothing. McHugh then shruggingly explains it away to another priest: ‘sometimes the Archbishop says things and does things that are very “different”.’ Years later, both would deny all knowledge of their mentor’s sexual wrongdoing to the Nuncio (paving the way for his appointment to DC), and Smith would sign off on a five-figure settlement to one of his victims.

Furthermore, even absent ecclesiastical realpolitik, a bishop necessarily learns a good deal of ‘bishopcraft’ from the model provided by the bishop(s) he has served under. Aside from a crash-course ‘baby Bishop school’ on their first appointment as head of a diocese, what a bishop is, does, and/or can get away with is primarily learned from the example of those they have served under.

An important Chancery role, a spell as private secretary, and/or experience as an auxiliary thus functions as a genuine apprenticeship. Again, this need not be a problem in itself. But one can easily see how deleterious modi operandi, say, or the normalization of problematic behaviours, could spread quite easily within certain regions, as a particular cadre of bishops become ‘institutional carriers’ of the norms and traditions they’ve learned (or learned to tolerate).

McCarrick himself was quite open about the basic mechanism at work here, and took evident pride in seeing his own ‘alumni’, ‘nephews’, and ‘grandsons’ – all his own phrases, ickily enough – take up prestigious posts. Hence, it’s not hard easy to see how a system which can create one McCarrick, might easily create several more. Or indeed, how a bishop who is not himself a McCarrick – as the vast majority, mercifully are not – may nevertheless pass some ‘recessive genes’ onto the next generation.

Which brings us neatly to Cardinal Cooke.

Cookie: Monster?

Terence James Cooke, ‘Cookie’ to his friends, might seem an obvious counterexample to the picture we’re presenting. Shy, retiring, and on the official path to sainthood, he was surely no McCarrick. And yet he too rose to the top of the barrel.

Well first of all, as we’ve stressed several times, we’re emphatically not saying that every apple is rotten. Nor are we saying that only bad apples rise. The concern isn’t that everyone is – or would be, if given half a chance – a McCarrick. Our concern is that there are identifiable vulnerabilities in the system of episcopal culture and promotions which McCarricks can, and have, found all too easy to exploit. Furthermore, even otherwise good and virtuous bishops can unwittingly help to enable those who really, catastrophically aren’t.

Cooke is arguably the poster boy for this very phenomenon. Ordained by Spellman in 1945, he rapidly impressed. In 1957 Spellman made him his secretary, a role he kept (alongside ever greater responsibilities) until December 1965, whereupon he became auxiliary bishop and Vicar General. Less than two-and-a-half years later, he was – Spellman’s dying wish, it appears – installed as Archbishop. As The New York Times would recall in 1986, ‘liberal priests grumbled that the appointment was the Cardinal’s last act of cronyism… Seminarians joked that the succession was “the first soul transplant on record”.’

Regardless, Cooke received a red hat before the decade was out. By this time, Cooke had found a protégé of his own. In 1971, Mgr McCarrick became his secretary. (During this time, incidentally – as per the Vatican’s Report – ‘McCarrick learned from Cardinal Cooke the importance of gift-giving to others within the Church’, something which he had presumably picked up from Spellman.) He held the post until 1977, when it was his turn as an auxiliary before being swiftly promoted up, up, and (not at all that far) away.

As McCarrick later observed of his own, ‘a good secretary… has to live my life’. Cooke, in the role for eight years, and McCarrick, for six, were both surely that. Now recall what may be ‘plausibly suspected’ about aspects of Spellman’s life. Remember also that, throughout his whole period as Cooke’s right-hand man, McCarrick was actively abusing minors, frequently taking other school-age ‘nephews’ on overnight trips, and already had a reputation for having ‘an eye for the seminarians’.

It is not impossible that, despite living in such close proximity to both, Cooke remained blissfully unaware of anything remotely ‘suspect’ going on at any time.

(If that seems difficult to believe, fear not – again according to the McCarrick Report, there are ample precedents to be found among McCarrick’s own subordinates now holding high ecclesiastical office.)

But if he didn’t, oughtn’t he have?

Tellingly, according to Cooke’s official biography, among his few faults were that ‘He rarely confronted people, and when he did it was obvious that he was very uncomfortable’, and ‘He found it difficult to conceive that a person might have bad motives… He tended to dismiss faults as human weaknesses’. The phrase ‘culpable naiveté’ leaps to mind here. And mercifully for those promoting Cooke’s Cause, he wouldn’t be the only canonized saint to have suffered from a bad case of it.

On that note, it is perhaps worth revisiting some aspects of Cook’s surprising-to-many-who-knew-him Cause. Less than five months after the cardinal’s funeral in October 1986, and two days before John O’Connor was installed as his successor, McCarrick wrote formally to petition him to start the process. As Kenneth Woodward reports in 1990’s Making Saints, ‘[McCarrick] had already discussed the matter with a half-dozen of O’Connor’s colleagues in the New York Archdiocese, all of whom had served either Cooke or Spellman, as personal secretaries, auxiliary bishops, or ranking monsignori’. O’Connor himself served under Spellman as a navy chaplain, and later as Cooke’s auxiliary bishop in the Military vicariate. He duly obliged, opening the Cause that October.

If the circumstances surrounding Cooke’s ‘shotgun Cause’ feel a little dubious in hindsight, it’s worth noting that they seemed so at the time too. Thus Woodward in 1990:

Many priests of the archdiocese were simply not convinced of Cooke’s holiness and were correspondingly sceptical of O’Connor’s motives… another example of the cronyism, they felt, had long characterized the way things are administered in the New York Archdiocese. In their view, the cause was a presumptuous campaign by a few close friends and protégés of Spellman and Cooke… and aimed, not a few critics felt, at ultimately winning posthumous blessing on the entire era in New York church politics.

The Holy See certainly thought so: ‘Vatican officials were surprised that some thought [Cooke] was worthy of canonization’, and raised their eyebrows at ‘the vigorous promotional and publicity efforts that O’Connor, McCarrick, and the others had set in motion’. Irrespective of Cooke’s intrinsic sanctity, we know McCarrick’s skill at deviously furthering his own deviant interests.

He’s also well aware of the protective and reputational value of having friends, real or perceived, in high places. In Thinking of You, for example, he often subtly drops in a ‘I was consecrated a bishop… by the servant of God, Terence Cardinal Cooke’. Perhaps all this feels like the product of Church-weary cynicism brought on by thinking too hard for too long about McCarricks of all kinds. Perhaps so. But raising such questions is assuredly not a post-2018, benefit-of-hindsight phenomenon.


So where does this leave us? Hopefully, with a new perspective on the underlying ‘socio-logic’ behind the rise and, for all too-long, seeming untouchability of Theodore McCarrick – and hence a better awareness of how other McCarricks can and have happened.

The brute fact is that that they don’t just happen out of nowhere. Rather, McCarricks are the malign by-products of a system ostensibly designed to create something else entirely: bishops who are, as per Canon 378, ‘outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence, and human virtues’. While we have no doubt that the system succeeds in producing those as well, it clearly suffers from significant vulnerabilities.

McCarrick, in turn, was a part and product of this system: and an expert player of it to boot.

But he was not some one-off figure, possessed of extraordinary powers of charm and deception. It might be comforting to think so, but it’s also deeply dangerous. He had talents, sure, and he used them to game the system to his own ends. But it was a system that, time and again, proved itself to be all-too gameable. Much of McCarrick’s black magic was essentially based on a two-bit grift: donations and vocations can buy you a lot of people willing, indeed eager, to see the best in you.

We’ve dwelt on Spellman as a plausible proto-McCarrick (one could equally frame McCarrick as a latter-day-Spellman), but he’s by no means the only example. Readers will, for instance, find the various investigations – principally those by The Washington Post, and latterly the Church’s own official report – into Michael Bransfield, the disgraced ex-Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, eerily reminiscent of much that we have explored herein.

Bransfield was the ‘very capable and outstanding rector of the [National] Shrine’ (Thinking of You) during McCarrick’s first four years in DC, before being elevated to the episcopacy. Though Bransfield was never McCarrick’s direct subordinate (he was ‘on loan’ from another diocese, hence his absence from our network map), he’s another protégé of Ted, who performed his consecration. True, Bransfield never made it to Archbishop or Cardinal. But then not every gang boss can be the Mr Big of Chicago or New York. A small-town McCarrick (with apologies to Wheeling and Charleston), maybe, but a McCarrick nonetheless.

But make no mistake: McCarrick wasn’t the first, and we strongly doubt that Bransfield will  be the last.