31 December 2019

How to Celebrate New Year's Eve Six Times in One Night

Too late for this year, so start planning for 2021!

TimeGhost of Christmas Day 8

The electrical age was ushered in by Thomas Edison’s illumination of Menlow Park 140 years ago. For the first time, electrical lighting was demonstrated to a public audience. 

No, Cardinal Marx, the Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Couples

A first year theology student would know this, but obviously Cardinal Marx(ist) skipped that class.

From The Catholic Thing

By Eduardo J. Echeverria

Once again, the German archbishop, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, responded positively to the question, “What do you do when a homosexual couple asks you for an episcopal blessing.” He claims not to be promoting a general ecclesial solution and, hence, a general public liturgical blessing for same-sex relations. And he even rejects calling such a relationship marriage. Nevertheless, he says, “the decision should be made ‘on the ground, and [considering] the individual under pastoral care’.”

Another German, this time Johannes zu Eltz, the Catholic Dean of the city of Frankfurt am Main, is engaged in the pastoral care of homosexuals. He says, “the question is whether the church is able to learn that good things happen in those relationships; that homosexual couples . . . by their companionship give birth to moral goods for themselves and for others: love, loyalty, commitment, fecundity, chastity. If this is true, then there is the possibility to confirm these goods and to ask for God’s providence and guidance for this couple. That is what we call a blessing.”

Similar reasoning comes from Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück, the deputy chairman of the German Episcopacy.

They speak of “blessing” homosexual couples. Anglican theologian Ephraim Radner is right: “As we know, where these latter [same-sex couplings] are mentioned in Scripture and tradition, they are rejected precisely in the context of fruitfulness that upholds the scriptural claims about and character of blessing (e.g., Lev 18-19, Rom 1).”

Since God is the source and end of all blessings, the anthropological question regarding the particularity of God’s will and purpose in creating man as male and female arises here (Gen 1:27; 2:24). This creation of male and female receives the judgment of goodness by God, which is his blessing. The Church has always understood same-sex intercourse to be inconsistent with Scripture, tradition, natural law reasoning – and, in particular, with Christian anthropology, which teaches sexual morality and hence marriage to be an intrinsically male-female union.

Hence, contra Marx, et al., the one-flesh union of male and female is not just posited by ecclesiastical law. Jesus was no ecclesial positivist or conventionalist. Rather, he calls us back to the law of creation (Mark 10:6-7) that grounds an inextricable nexus of permanence, twoness, and sexual differentiation for marriage.

As John Paul II rightly notes, “Law must therefore be considered an expression of divine wisdom: by submitting to the law, freedom submits to the truth of creation.” (Veritatis Splendor §41) In particular, marriage is such that it requires sexual difference, the bodily-sexual act, as a foundational prerequisite, indeed, as intrinsic to a one-flesh union of man and woman. “So then they are no longer two but one flesh.” (Mark 10:8)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments:

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. (CCC §2357).
But that is precisely what Marx, et al., are doing, approving of same-sex acts.

Helpfully, Ephraim Radner probes more deeply than Marx. Suppose we grant the point that there are “goods” as such in these relationships – “love,” “commitment,” “fidelity,” “mutuality.” Still, we must not treat them as neutral goods abstracted from particular sexual behavior, which the Church unequivocally rejects, and from the larger culture of homosexuality – to say nothing of the worldview (the sexual revolution!) underpinning the interpretation of these goods.

Once they are situated in that interpretive context, these “goods” are not “conformable to the gospel in its integrity, let alone in its fullness,” that is, “the fullness of God’s truth in Christ Jesus.”

Furthermore, says St. Paul, the Church should take a stand against all sorts of sexual sin by warning the offending believers that if they continue in sexual immorality they will not inherit the Kingdom of God. We should also ask Cardinal Marx and other proponents of this pastoral approach how they propose to help these offending believers to be “saved” from judgment “on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5:5)

What about St. Paul’s teaching that serial and unrepentant immoral sexual practices put one at the risk of not inheriting God’s eternal kingdom? (1 Cor 6:9-10; 2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19-21; Rom 1:24-27; 6:19-23; Col 3:5-10; Eph 5:3-6, 4:17-19; 1 Thess 4:2-8)

Moreover, theologically, if the ultimate origin of the homosexual condition is our fallen human nature, then there would be no justification for seeing homosexuality from the order of creation as a creational given, a normal variant of sexuality, and hence there would be no parity between homosexuality and heterosexuality in light of that order.

Therefore, Scripture’s condemnation of homosexuality pertains not only to outward acts but also to the inward desires and inclinations constitutive of the condition itself. For, according to the Scriptures, it is not only actions that are wrong, but also the desire to do such actions. (see Matt 5:27-29; Rom 13:14; Col 3:5-6; 1 Pet 2:11)

This point should be clear from the fact that Jesus interiorizes the demands of the moral law, condemning not only the outward acts of adultery but also the “adultery of mere desire.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2380) “And Jesus said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person’.” (Mark 7: 20-23)

Given this constant teaching of the Church, how can a place of blessing, private or public, be found for a homosexual couple within the context of the Church? How can a homosexual couple find a pathway to receive Communion when they are living in mortal sin?

No, Cardinal Marx, the Church cannot bless same-sex unions.

Russian Orthodox Church Cuts Ties With Alexandria Patriarch

The schism widens!

From Crux

By Vladimir Isachenkov/AP

MOSCOW - The Russian Orthodox church has cut ties with the head of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate in Alexandria following his decision to recognize Ukraine’s new independent Orthodox church.

The Russian church’s Holy Synod ruled late Thursday to rupture all links with Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa.

It noted, however, that it will remain in communion with those clerics of his church who didn’t support the decision.

The Holy Synod also decided that its parishes in Africa will be removed from the Patriarchate of Alexandria’s jurisdiction and made directly subordinate to the Russian Orthodox church’s head, Patriarch Kirill.

The move follows January’s decision by Constantinople Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, who is considered first among equals in Orthodox patriarchy, to grant independence to the new Orthodox church of Ukraine, severing its centuries-long ties with the Russian Orthodox church.

Many Ukrainians had resented the status of the Moscow-affiliated church. The push for a full-fledged Ukrainian church intensified amid a tug-of-war between the two ex-Soviet neighbors that followed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and its support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The Constantinople Patriarch’s move angered the Russian Orthodox church, which cut ties with the Istanbul-based Patriarchate. The decision to grant independence to Ukraine’s church has split the Orthodox world, with some churches supporting it and others criticizing the move.

The Eastern Orthodox Church in Africa represents a small fraction of Egypt’s Christian Eastern Christians, the majority of whom belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, which is part of the Oriental orthodox communion of churches, which only recognize the first three ecumenical councils.

The Coptic church’s followers are believed to constitute ten percent of Egypt’s 100 million population. The official spokesman of the Coptic church Paul Halim told The Associated Press on Friday that his church never discussed whether to recognize the Ukraine’s church and that the Coptic Pope Tawadros II maintains “excellent relations” with the Russian Orthodox church.

Several European and Egyptian media outlets had mistakenly reported that the Russian Orthodox church severed ties with the Coptic pope.

Noha ElHennawy in Cairo and Crux Staff contributed to this report.

Co-Redemtrix Idea “Foolishness”? Here Is Another View

Fr Scanlon gives the Catholic view of what Francis considers 'foolishness'.

From Fr Regis Scanlon

According  to Crux Magazine “Pope calls idea of declaring Mary Co-Redemptrix ‘foolishness.’”  Pope Francis explained that Mary “never stole for herself anything that was of her son.”  No doubt, the Pope does not want to attribute anything of Christ’s action as “Redeemer” to Mary for fear of detracting from Christ or diminishing Him. Therefore, Pope Francis considers the invention of new dogmas and titles declaring “Mary Co-Redemptrix” foolishness.

It cannot be denied that when people use the prefix “Co” in a relationship, they normally mean that the parties involved are equal. But the prefix “Co” can refer to either a “subordinate” or “equal.”  Two clear examples of this are the concepts co-pilot and copayment neither of which expresses an equal relationship between the parties involved. Only the pilot is the first officer who has the final say and seldom if ever does the beneficiary and the insurer pay an equal amount in a health care arrangement.

In fact, the title of Mary as “Co – Redemptrix” or “Co – Redeemer” is not so different from titles that the Second Vatican Council has already attributed to Mary in no 62 of the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium), when they recognized her as “Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”  The Church does not hesitate to attribute each of these titles to Mary as long as it is understood that “neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator.”

Yet, there does seem to be more in the title of Co-Redemptrix. Literally the title says that Mary cooperated in the redemption of the world. While Mary’s participation in the redemption of the world is not equal in magnitude to Christ’s, it is equal to Christ’s in the sense that both Jesus and Mary had to give a free assent to the will of God.  It means that Mary had something to do—admittedly very small compared to Christ—with her own salvation and the salvation of the world.

But there is more.  Since no. 65 of Lumen Gentium teaches that Mary is a “model” for all Christians, whatever we say of Mary, almost without exception, we say of ourselves. Just as we say that Mary had a part—be it ever so small—to play in her own redemption and salvation and that of all Christians by her “fiat” (“let it be done according to your word” Lk. 1:38), so Mary as Co-Redemtrix also means that each one of us has a part to play in our own redemption and salvation and that of others in the world.

While the consequences of maintaining that Mary is a Co-Redemptrix is that some may falsely conclude that Catholics are equating Mary’s role with the role of Jesus in the redemption of mankind, the consequences of people concluding that Mary is not a Co-Redemptrix are even worse. When one maintains that Mary is not a Co-Redeemer, one is saying that Mary did not cooperate in her own and others redemption by her “fiat”—”let it be done to me according to your word.”  This would also mean that each one of us does not play a role in our own salvation and that of others.

But if this is the case, then God alone is responsible for the salvation and damnation of every individual person — and the Christian teaching on the freedom and responsibility of the individual for his own salvation disappears.  If God alone decides our salvation without our cooperation, then God alone is responsible for people going to hell. This suggests that God creates some people for salvation and others for eternal punishment and there is nothing they can do about it. This would ultimately mean that God is an unjust and wicked God and we are not free or responsible beings. So, the title of Mary, as Co-Redemtrix, protects the “goodness of God” and the Christian concept that we are with free beings and morally responsible for our actions and eternal salvation.

Pope Francis worries that honoring Mary as Co-Redemptrix by her “fiat” would diminish Jesus Christ as Redeemer. But the Holy Spirit speaking through Mary following her magnificent “fiat” says just the opposite. Mary says: “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Lk. 1:46). It makes Jesus Christ greater, not less.

Insight From Fr. Longenecker About About a Devious Tweet by a Priest. Wherein Fr. Z Also Rants. – UPDATED

Fr Zed takes a look at Fr Sichko's vile tweet and Fr Longenecker's analysis of it.

From Fr Z's Blog

UPDATE 31 Dec 2019

 Fr. Sichko’s response…

___Originally Published on: Dec 30, 2019

Over at his place, Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a post which challenges, by asking, whether every family is a “Holy Family”.  He has reacted to some unfortunate tweets by a priest of the Diocese of Lexington, Fr. Jim Sichko.
Sichko wrote on Twitter:

Not good. A “family” that is founded on sodomy is not a “family” and it is not holy. Using that term, “family” in such a context is corrosive.

Sichko throws some other confusing terms in, like, “sanctioned… unlicensed”. Who knows what he means.

I think we can all grasp that all sorts of people can form close groups like a family, bound together in charity. We can, with great care, use “family” equivocally. I don’t think many will object to that. There is a phrase from English law: “Everything which is not forbidden is allowed”. I think that, within proper limits, that’s not such a bad way to look at even oddly shaped “families”.

If a married man and woman can adopt children and form a family, then why not even other sorts of adoptions, provided that, again, true charity and holiness are pursued and, of course, not actively violated. I have in mind, just as an example from pop culture, the charming movie The Blind Side based on a true story about a southern protestant white family who adopt a seriously huge black kid (future NFL) who has no home or real family other than in the mere biological sense.

Active violation of charity and of the truth of nature and what it means to be family is what is going on when homosexual sodomy is a component of the relationships. Sadly, this does have to be spelled now, even for some tweeting clergy… even non-Jesuit tweeting clergy for a change.

What is deeply troubling is that a Catholic priest – and not even a Jesuit! – will not adhere to the truth when talking about people who merit compassion and charity without… well… muddling completely the concept of marriage and family. Unmarried people aren’t like the Holy Family. They don’t form holy families properly understood. They might be on their way to forming a family which is holy, through – for example – striving to be continent, but if they are just living together, nope, sorry, not yet. Homosexual “couples”, if they are having physical relations… nope, sorry, not at all. This is friendship that has been twisted or it is mutual use, which cannot, by definition, be holy.

No one will quibble much with single parents doing their best, I think. Some are single because of mistakes in the past. Others are single because disease or accidents or war took one of them. Let’s leave aside the profoundly selfish women who, shunning marriage and natural relations, simply want what they want, namely a baby, and they opt for the artificial insemination thing. Babies aren’t pets or new hand bags.

What is at the heart of the problematic scenario Fr. Sichko paints is the old Senecan adage that errare humanum est, perseverare autem diabolicum… to err is human, but to persevere in error is diabolical. To call something wrong right because you will it so is diabolical. It is the overturning of truth, the fruit of the “father of lies”.

People get themselves into all sorts of trouble and difficult situations. But to persevere in them, to refuse to takes steps to correct them, that’s not good.

Back to Fr. Longenecker and his good insight.

At his place he posted this, which rings true.

[Sichko’s tweet] pretended to be a message to raise our awareness and compassion for those who live in irregular and difficult family situations. However, anybody can see that it was really a lame attempt to to normalize homosexual unions by putting gay couples into a victim category.

The tactic works like this:

1. paint someone or some group as a victim of discrimination

2. push some guilt buttons to raise “compassion” for that group. Note that this is not true compassion. It’s just guilt wearing a compassion mask so the person doesn’t feel so guilty anymore

3. Raise the compassion to the level of advocacy

4. Advocacy must mean acceptance

5. Acceptance must mean condoning

6. Condoning must lead to celebrating.


That’s a good summary.

What’s next? There is another step, you know.

What’s the phrase from English constitutional law? “Everything which is not forbidden is allowed”?

What Fr. Sichko supported in his tweets, and what Fr. Longenecker exposed, is the twisting of that flexible and charitable principle into another paradigmatic phrase, which reflects the totalitarian objectives of those who push the homosexualist agenda, namely, the next phase of the scheme:

“Everything not forbidden is compulsory.”

As Fr. Longenecker points out, by creeping incrementalism they move from victimhood to celebration. In one more step, with the totalitarian jack boot bearing down, celebration will be forced. Even participation.

To be candid a few priests and bishops will have to be put up against the wall, “pour encourager les autres”, as Voltaire explained.

The Revolution of Francis Doesn’t Even Spare Our Lady. Here’s What He Would Make of Her

An analysis of Francis's blatantly heterodox, if not heretical, remarks about the Most Holy Mother of God, the Ever Virgin Mary.

From La Settimo Cielo

By Sandro Magister

On the eighth day after Christmas, when Jesus was circumcised and given the name received from the angel, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Mary, Most Holy Mother of God.

But who is Mary in the devotion and in the preaching of Pope Francis? A recent homily of his has caused astonishment, for how he has redrawn the profile of the mother of Jesus.

Pietro De Marco has sent us this analysis of the papal homily. The author, a former professor of the sociology of religion at the University of Florence and at the Theological Faculty of Central Italy, a philosopher and historian by training, has for years been known to and appreciated by the readers of Settimo Cielo.



by Pietro De Marco

Over the span of a few days we have received news both of the entrusting of the commentary for the feast of the Immaculate Conception to two Baptist pastors, husband and wife, for the parishioners of the archdiocese of Milan, and above all of Pope Francis’s astonishing homily on Mary, during the Mass at Saint Peter’s for the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

If Francis did not emulate the Protestant style in Mariological matters, he nevertheless wanted, in his fervor, to make public his restrictive personal judgment on Marian dogmas and in the negative on the title of coredemptrix, object of centuries of theological reflection. “No nos perdamos en tonteras,” let's not get lost in absurdity, in nonsense, he said about the age-old explorations of Marian theology and spirituality.

What did the pope intend to uphold in his homily? First of all, that Mary is woman. And as woman she is the bearer of a message, she is lady, she is disciple. “It is so simple. She does not demand anything else.” The other titles, for example those of the hymn “Akathistos,” or the Loreto litanies, in any case the millenary titles of praise to Mary, for Francis “do not add anything.” Now already this much is wrong. Mary has never been “the woman,” a dangerous homology in the variety of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern female cults. Nor has she ever been the feminine as such, in one of the romantic or decadent versions, as striking as may be the devotion that generations of artists had for the Sistine Madonna by Raphael. Nor is Mary the woman of the contemporary female revolutions, whose Catholic fringes abhor the icons of Mary's motherhood. She is not Lady, “domina,” in that she is woman, “mujer,” and not even in being mother. She is “domina” inasmuch as that motherhood, the divine motherhood, gives her royalty. The humble handmaid of Luke 1:38 is the virgin mother of God, so defined above all by the Christian traditions over the centuries, and is not interchangeable with sacred figures of Mother Earth or of the female principle.

The reader notes that the title of virgin never appears in the homily of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, while the “Nican mopohua” (“Here is recounted,” circa 1556) that he quotes, the narrative in the Nahuatl language of the apparition of Mary to Juan Diego, explicitly states this in the testimony of Juan Bernardino, uncle of Juanito: the miraculous image must be designated as “la perfecta Virgen Santa Maria de Guadalupe.” And it obviously appears in other passages of that text, for example in the invocation: “Noble queen of heaven, ever virgin, mother of God.”

The appellation of “lady,” then, is not a generic formula, as the pope seems to believe, but is a lofty title, of sovereignty, like the Byzantine “déspoina.” The absolute use of “our lady” (the old Italian “nostra donna” comes from “nostra domina”) shows that “domina” is a royal title, equivalent to queen: "Salve regina.” Thus, and on the model of Esther, Mary is “domina,” “patrona,” “advocata nostra.” When Ignatius of Loyola, quoted in the homily, also calls Mary “nuestra señora,” he is using an ancient and constant expression among Christians, beginning, it seems, with the “emè kyría,” my sovereign, of Origen, analogous to “Despoina.”

A simple reflection on “domina,” “señora” etc. thus nullifies the minimalist thesis of the homily. It is evident, in fact, that this kind of papal statement is aimed at the downgrading of the great Western and Eastern Mariology, in favor of a horizontal image of Mary, suited instead for dignifying the daily life of contemporary woman.


So is Mary a mom who became a “disciple” following Jesus, her son? In order that the title “disciple,” rare in tradition, may not deteriorate into pastoralistic obviousness, it must be at least taken in the sense of Maximus the Confessor: “The holy Mother became a disciple of her sweet Son, true Mother of wisdom and daughter of Wisdom, because she no longer looked at Him in a human manner or as a mere man, but served Him with respect as God and accepted His words as words of God.”

The papal pairing of woman-disciple, however, if declined between the spirituality of the everyday and sociological exegesis, remains eccentric to the order of divine revelation and gives us a glimpse in the pope's imagination of that itinerant Jesus with his followers, including women, so dear to exegetes and writers extraneous to Christology; a Jesus separated from the whole theological and sacramental history of the Church. The mom-disciple of the homily recalls too much the mother of a recent film featuring Mary Magdalene, one of the products on which the theo-sociological proponents of the “movement of Jesus” can boast they worked for free as screenwriters.

A Mary stripped of dogma to be “type” of the feminine, then, projects this same captivating simplification onto the feminized Church. Everything little bit helps against dogma. And this is exactly what has been going on for centuries, but never coming from the see of Rome, until today.

The combative tone of the homily (“no pretenden,” “no tocaba,” “tocaban para nada,” “jamas quiso” etc.) therefore appears ill-founded and poorly directed. There appears in it a sort of showy theological indifference, with contempt for the perennial Church, in order to have the hands free in practical arenas, even if this means alliances with progressive global public opinion.

To this attitude, good for mesmerizing the simple, also belongs the curious papal argument that Our Lady never wanted to take anything away from her Son (“tomar algo de su Hijo,” or again: “no robó para sí nada de su Hijo”). No coredemption, therefore, which would be theft; but also almost nothing of all Marian theology. Any Mariological treatise, in fact, presents in addition to the motherhood and by virtue of this the immaculate conception of Mary, her “immunitas” from sin and the other “privilegia” up to the glorious assumption into heaven. Classical theology continues by affirming that the Virgin is objectively, ontologically, mediatrix of all graces, partaker of the merits of Christ “in quantum universo mundo dedit Redemptorem,” since she gave the Redeemer to the world.

The “sui generis” union with the redemptive flesh of the Son necessarily places Mary within the order of redemptive action and grace: “omnium gratiarum mediatrix.” From redemptive mediation to coredemption there is a step that many Marian theologians have taken. Being mother of God raises Mary to this height “de congruo,” as theological language would have it, meaning not by her nature nor because she is “immediate co-operans”: only Christ works “immediate,” only the Son is redeemer “de condigno,” that is as a due, just consequence of his sacrifice. In the magnificent passage of Saint Anselm attributed today to Eadmer of Canterbury (“De excellentia Virginis,” 11), often quoted by dogmatists and in the encyclical “Ad caeli Reginam” of Pius XII, we read: “Just as God, who made all thing in his power, is Father and Lord of every creature, so also the Blessed Virgin Mother of God who has repaired everything with her merits is Mother and sovereign of all things.” Elsewhere, for Eadmer, Mary is “nutrix Reparatoris totius substantiae meae,” she who nourished, took upon herself, the Regenerator of my whole being.

The “servant of the Lord par excellence,” the “disciple,” is either all that her “privilegia” as mother of God declare, or would be of little account, as she already is in the Protestant traditions and as she is becoming in Catholic preaching. An enormous part of Christian spirituality is lived and lives from the unfolding of theological riches that Mary merited and drew to herself. It will not be a populistic Mariology that will preserve these riches, much less replace them. That the “privilegia” of the mother of God, which descend theologically from her status as an eminent and unique creature, can then be downgraded, transmitting to the faithful the ridiculous suspicion that in Mary these would have been thefts, or unworthy ambitions of a mother-disciple, is equivalent to arguing for “boutade.” This and other excesses of the homily really mean, at their core, that the pope denies the entire meaning and value of Christian theological work from its origins. And he despises the wonderful food given by theology to worship, to the traditions, to the living spiritualities. And he ignores the sanctity of its deposit in the tradition of the Church. For what? To propose a Christian revelation without mystery, without transcendence, without glory, without divine-humanity, as in the reformed churches?

“Cecidere manus,” that is the arms fall in front of so much impertinence and malice, even; that reductionistic malice of the innovator theologians who previously enveloped the event of Vatican Council II, barely disguised. If there applies to the pope's men - I dare not speak for him - the “I cannot believe it” of the liberal Anglican bishop and theologian John A. T. Robinson, they should say so. They should take refuge, if they will be accepted, in the Protestant household. But just for now I will refrain from examining the issue of the Protestantization underway. Suffice it to recall that the Protestant ambition to Christianize secularization, after having contributed to it, has failed and has overrun the reformed churches.


Here I dwell rather on the question of the Christological “mixing,” with which Francis’s homily of December 12 ends, promptly targeted by stern commentators such as Maria Guarini, Roberto de Mattei and others of the “traditional” area; but is there elsewhere in the Church such courage and care for the faith?

I recall that “mestizaje” is the Spanish equivalent of the general category of inter-racial or inter-ethnic mixture, while “mestizos” indicates those born from the mix of Hispanics and Indians. In the miraculous image on Juan Diego's cloak, the Virgen de Guadalupe is “morenita,” as many of us have contemplated on Tepeyac. This suggests to Bergoglio a brilliant development, which however results in another blunder.

In fact, the pope says that Mary “se mestizó para ser Madre de todos. [...] ¿Por que? Porque ella mestizó a Dios.” In fact, continues the homily, this is the great mystery: “Maria mixes God, true God and true man, in her Son". What this really means, we would like to have explained to us.

I do not dare to think - as others have legitimately done - that Francis means to say that Mary mixed God, or in her womb mixed divine and human nature, mediating in herself the divine with the human flesh of which alone she would be mother, because this would be one of the errors of the 4th-5th century against which Cyril of Alexandria fought.

Let's imagine instead that the pope means to say that in being son of Mary, or in being born of woman, the eternal Christ was mixed like she “se mestizó” - his words again - to be the mother of all men. But then this “mixing” is a rhetorical device, a theology in situation, for the great feast of the Mexican nation in the basilica of Saint Peter. It is only the evocative emphasis of God’s becoming man, metaphorically mixing himself, as man, with humanity. But can the immense Christological theme of Cyril's “God with us” be reduced to an example of “live together and mix?”

Or this “mestizaje” truly carries something more: the idea that in Mary God himself has mixed, against the definitions of the ancient Councils necessary to save the truth and treasure of the faith; against the Creed and what we proclaim in the liturgy. I lean toward the light version, even if it is very imprudent, but nobody can trust the pope anymore, since quite unlike the “confirmare fratres suos,” he day after day “infirmat” them.

In effect, the idea of ​​the “Theotokos” mixing God is no less foolhardy than that of the Baptist spouses of Milan, who celebrate Mary because she “accepted” an irregular pregnancy, the “most irregular” of pregnancies, and sheltered “that foreigner who came from God himself, without a residence permit!” Perhaps the fanciful theologoumenon of Christ migrating in the misery of “kenosis” (it is supposed) to hospitality in the Virgin, no less than the repudiation of dogmatic “tonteras” by Francis for a Mariology “next door,” presume to be the new frontiers of Christian proclamation.

To this it must be opposed that the very affirmation that Mary’s “esencialidad” is her being woman and mother is a betrayal of millennial Mariology. Indeed, a motherhood of Mary that does not also explicitly include, for theological awareness and spiritual life, the reality and power of the Mother’s participation in the redemptive flesh, casts relativizing shadows on the very work of the Son. The trivialization of Mary, reduced from the “omnium gratiarum mediatrix” to the virtuous subjectivity of an “ecce” and a “fiat” and of an entirely human discipleship, symmetrically wounds Christology not only in the essential dimension of redemption and grace but also in the dogmatic core of the supernatural prerogatives of Christ themselves. Are these the costs that one accepts to pay for the “new evangelization?” Good news of what?

Francis’s arguments, expressed in that sort of subjective sub-magisterium that he practices “in persona papae” but “quasi papa non esset,” as pope but as if he were not so, as if there were no such thing as petrine responsibility, are surely to the detriment of the Church. And I believe the time has come to no longer tolerate this spasticity.


Has an individual, in order to defend himself, or his belongings, the right to take the life of the one who attacks him?

No, an individual has never the right to do this unless there be question of losing his own life or the life of those in his charge, and there be absolutely no defence other than that which entails the death of his assailant; further, in thus defending himself he must in no way whatever intend the death of his assailant, but only intend to defend his life or that of others in his charge (LXIV. 7).
What are the other sins against our neighbour that touch his person?

They are mutilation, which attacks the integrity of his person; flogging, which inflicts pain on his body; and imprisonment, which deprives him of the freedom of his person (LXV. 1-3).
When are these acts sinful?

Whenever they are done by those who have no authority, or who, having authority, exceed the just bounds (ibid.).


Is Every Family a Holy Family?

Father analyses a bit of the heresy that some Priests are spreading to undermine the Faith.

From Fr Dwight Longenecker

My attention was drawn to a tweet by a priest in Kentucky called Fr Jim Sichko. I tried to verify the tweet, but when I looked him up it seems he has blocked me from his account. I can’t understand why because to the best of my memory I can’t remember ever crossing swords with him.

But anyway, the tweet was a load of sentimental nonsense along the lines of, “Let us all remember during this time of the Holy Family that all families are holy. Some are heterosexual and some are homosexual. Some are single mothers and some are poor, divorced or widowed.”

I certainly don’t want to judge anyone on the basis of one tweet, and tweeting is a fun and dangerous business because of its brevity it is so easy to misunderstand what someone means. However, it was pretty hard not to see this tweet for what it was.

It pretended to be a message to raise our awareness and compassion for those who live in irregular and difficult family situations. However, anybody can see that it was really a lame attempt to to normalize homosexual unions by putting gay couples into a victim category.

The tactic works like this:
1. paint someone or some group as a victim of discrimination

2. push some guilt buttons to raise “compassion” for that group. Note that this is not true compassion. It’s just guilt wearing a compassion mask so the person doesn’t feel so guilty anymore

3. Raise the compassion to the level of advocacy

4. Advocacy must mean acceptance

5. Acceptance must mean condoning

6. Condoning must lead to celebrating.
Let’s analyze this a bit. A person or a family is not automatically “holy” simply because they are unusual. This error is similar to the one so prevalent within Catholicism in which people assume that the poor are holy simply and only because they are poor. Being poor in and of itself does not make a person holy. Being a member of a persecuted group in and of itself does not make a person holy.

We know this because some persecuted and poor people become bitter, greedy, dishonest, spiteful and cruel because of their condition.

Likewise being part of the establishment, being “normal” or well off and respectable doesn’t make you either holy or sinful. We know this because there are plenty of wealthy, well educated and “nice” people who are actually greedy, spiteful, selfish and nasty beneath the surface while there are others who are generous, kind, loving and genuinely holy.

Man looks on the outward appearance. God looks at the heart.

The members of a family are not holy simply because they are normal and respectable, but neither are members of a family holy simply because they are unusual, unconventional or struggling in some way.

The idea that all families are “holy” is sentimental nonsense, and people who use this sentimental form of argumentation usually do so (consciously or unconsciously) as a form of emotional blackmail. You know how it goes…”If you don’t sympathize with this person I am telling you to sympathize with then you are a bad person and we are going to attack you…”

So are all families holy?

Is a family where the father is a serial adulterer who then takes his well scrubbed nice looking family to church for Christmas Eve a “holy family” I don’t think so.

Is an affluent family where the self centered mother has had a string of affairs a holy family just because they are neat and clean and go to church and give lots of money? No.

Is a drug addicted prostitute who beats her kids and gives her daughter to her pimp a holy family? Nah.

Are gay men who pay a woman to be a surrogate for their child conceived through masturbating into a test tube a holy family? Nope.

Is a family where the teenage kids are rebellious, promiscuous drug addicts a holy family? No.

Do lesbians who have pretended to make a marriage and have children through sperm donation a holy family? Negative.

Is a white supremacist who raises his kids to hate n***ers and Jews the leader of a holy family? Nope.

My point is, there are lots of families who are definitely NOT holy–and their outward appearance has nothing to do with it. They might appear to be happy, normal church goers or they might appear to be filthy low life. They might be super successful and warrant our admiration or they might be pitiful and poor and warrant our pity.

But none of that has anything to do with holiness.

Their holiness or lack of it has nothing to do with their outward appearance.

Does that mean we judge them and condemn them?

No. However, we can judge their actions, and certain actions reveal a lack of holiness.

So what is “holiness” anyway? To be sinful is to have “fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) What is the “glory of God” It is a human being fully alive (St Irenaeus) What does it mean to be “fully alive”? It is to be full of grace. Who is “full of grace”? The Blessed Virgin Mary of course.

She is full. She is whole. She is complete. She is “holy.”

The Blessed Virgin and all the saints show us what “wholeness-holiness” is.

The members of the families I outlined above are not holy because they are not whole. They’re broken. They’re wounded. They’re devastated by sin and selfishness.

We look on them with pity not with blame.

Furthermore, we look to ourselves and our own broken, dysfunctional and unhappy families and we pray for peace, healing and the wholeness that only God’s grace through the saving work of Christ can bring.

Fr Jim is right to draw our attention to the parlous state of the family in our society today, but he’s wrong in saying all families are holy.

The beautiful thought, however, is that although our families are not holy–they can be.

Through repentance, reconciliation, renewal and release all of us can attain holiness, but that is a long, hard journey…

The journey that begins in a moment of self surrender and a pilgrimage that takes a lifetime to complete.

What Were the Northern Crusades?

Real Crusades History #43

In this clip from one of our classic podcasts, Dr. Andrew Latham defines the Northern Crusades. The Wendish Crusade, part of the Second Crusade, is briefly discussed. J Stephen Roberts adds some remarks.

Baltimore Catechism #2 - LESSON SIXTH ON SIN AND ITS KINDS

51. Q. Is original sin the only kind of sin? A. Original sin is not the only kind of sin; there is another kind of sin, which we commit ourselves, called actual sin.

52. Q. What is actual sin? A. Actual sin is any wilful thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the law of God.

53. Q. How many kinds of actual sin are there? A. There are two kinds of actual sin—mortal and venial.

54. Q. What is mortal sin? A. Mortal sin is a grievous offense against the law of God.

55. Q. Why is this sin called mortal? A. This sin is called mortal because it deprives us of spiritual life, which is sanctifying grace, and brings everlasting death and damnation on the soul.

56. Q. How many things are necessary to make a sin mortal? A. To make a sin mortal three things are necessary: a grievous matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will.

57. Q. What is venial sin? A. Venial sin is a slight offense against the law of God in matters of less importance, or in matters of great importance it is an offense committed without sufficient reflection or full consent of the will.

58. Q. Which are the effects of venial sin? A. The effects of venial sin are the lessening of the love of God in our heart, the making us less worthy of His help, and the weakening of the power to resist mortal sin.

59. Q. Which are the chief sources of sin? A. The chief sources of sin are seven: Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy, and Sloth; and they are commonly called capital sins.


Please note that there are gaps in the numbering, and some questions are out of order, because the questions are numbered to agree with the 'Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism' (Baltimore Catechism #4)

Word of the Day: Solemn Vows

SOLEMN VOWS. Public vows pronounced in a religious order and recognized as such by the Church. The term has become technical since the recognition of simple but public vows in religious congregations and societies of common life. In practice, a solemn vow of poverty means the actual renunciation of ownership and not merely the independent use of material possessions; and a solemn vow of chastity invalidates attempted marriage.

Making Britain Great Again: The “Deplorable” C.S. Lewis

From earlier in the year before the rather surprising Conservative electoral tsunami.

By Jerry Salyer

C.S. Lewis was not Catholic, much less a theologian who teaches with an authority Catholics are obliged to recognize. As an eloquent proponent of natural law and the close colleague of important Catholic writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and Elizabeth Anscombe, however, the Anglican Lewis is surely someone whose significance we must acknowledge. Unfortunately, among some there is a tendency to celebrate an imaginary Lewis, a tame conservative establishmentarian who opposes atheism, abortion, and human cloning but would otherwise fit nicely into a post-1960s dispensation of multiculturalism and working mothers. Such sanitizing of Lewis is unfortunate not because he was always right, but because we cannot possibly benefit from our conversations with the finest minds of the past until we are ready to listen to what such minds actually have to say.

“By learning to drink and smoke and perhaps to tell risqué stories,” observes Lewis, the supposedly emancipated modern girl has not really “drawn an inch nearer to the men than her grandmother.” Moreover, he adds, “her grandmother was far happier and more realistic. She was at home talking real women’s talk to other women and perhaps doing so with great charm, sense and even wit.” There are “sensible women,” but at a mixed party such women are wont to “gravitate to one end of the room and talk women’s talk to one another,” for they know full well that “it is only the riff-raff of each sex that wants to be incessantly hanging on the other.” So much for co-ed dorms. Or, for that matter, co-ed colleges.

Lewis’s first principles regarding sex are starkest when he addresses—and unambiguously rejects—the prospective ordination of women by the Anglican Church. To those who assert “that the equality of men and women is a Christian principle,” Lewis retorts as follows: “I do not remember the text in scripture, nor the Fathers, nor Hooker, nor the Prayer Book which asserts it.” What is pretty plain, Lewis continues, is the fact that “as the State grows more like a hive or an ant-hill it needs an increasing number of workers who can be treated as neuters,” and in his view, this trend toward an androgynous culture is what drives calls for female clergy. In Lewis’s estimation, such calls rest upon the unexamined assumption that “sex is something superficial, irrelevant to the spiritual life.”

No, Lewis would not have denied the merits of female scholars like his friend Dorothy Sayers, much less those of the prophetesses we encounter in Scripture. For Lewis the issue was not the existence of exceptions, but of norms, and it is in light of this that we read Lewis’s fantasy adventure That Hideous Strength, wherein the hero Merlin proposes beheading a young married woman because she has used the witchcraft of Sulva—i.e., birth control—to keep her academic career from getting derailed by a baby. Even more indicative, perhaps, is that when one of the more chivalrous protagonists criticizes Merlin for his “appalling” “bloodthirstiness,” the ancient wizard doubles down.

Cruelty, rumbles Merlin,
is a charge I never heard before. A third part of my substance I gave to widows and poor men. I never sought the death of any but felons and heathen Saxons. As for the woman, she may live for me. I am not Master in this house. But would it be such a great matter if her head were struck off? Do not queens and ladies who would disdain her as their tire-woman go to the fire for less?
In other words: Relax! It was just a suggestion.

If there is an issue even more fraught with tension today than that of sex, it is nationality, and here too Lewis reveals himself as “deplorable.” In his short but brilliant essay “The Dangers of National Repentance,” Lewis analyzes a phenomenon which has more than merely political significance: The liberal guilt complex. “When a man over forty tries to repent the sins of England and to love her enemies,” Professor Lewis notes, it means something, as “he is attempting something costly; for he was brought up to certain patriotic sentiments which cannot be mortified without a struggle. But an educated man who is now in his twenties usually has no such sentiment to mortify.” Instead of having traditional patriotic sentiments, the typical Christian intellectual is an extreme cosmopolitan who has nothing but “contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen,” so “the first and fatal charm of national repentance is the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing—but, first, of denouncing—the conduct of others.”

Such remarks are apropos to many of today’s controversies, from the tearing down of Confederate monuments to attacks on the legacy of Christopher Columbus. To what extent the Old South or the Admiral of the Ocean Sea warrant criticism is beside the point, which is that it is sheer knavery to pass off as noble, self-sacrificing, and penitential the act of censuring people who mean little or nothing to us. When Christian intellectuals profess their commitment to “reconciliation” vis-à-vis imperialism or slavery or prejudice, it often looks very much as if all they are actually doing is throwing someone else—long-dead historical figures, their own ancestors, their redneck neighbors next door—under the bus of unconditional condemnation.

In any event, patriotism really is a virtue, contends Lewis in The Four Loves, a virtue best expressed by
love of home, of the place we grew up in or the places, perhaps many, which have been our homes; and of all places fairly near these and fairly like them; love of old acquaintances, of familiar sights, sounds and smells. Note that at its largest this is, for us, a love of England, Wales, Scotland, or Ulster. Only foreigners and politicians talk about ‘Britain.’ […] With this love for the place there goes a love for the way of life; for beer and tea and open fires, trains with compartments in them and an unarmed police force and all the rest of it; for the local dialect and (a shade less) for our native language.
Such simple patriotism, adds Lewis, “asks only to be let alone” and “only becomes militant to protect what it loves.” So “it would be hard to find any legitimate point of view from which this feeling could be condemned.”

He goes on to observe that when patriotic sentiment declines, politicians are more inclined to invoke “justice, or civilization, or humanity” rather than national interest. According to Lewis, such hyperbolic idealism “is a step-down, not up,” for while the basic recognition of justice and other high principles is surely necessary, it is “insufferable” nonsense to pretend that we operate in the world as “some neutral Don Quixote.” And “nonsense draws evil after it. If our country’s cause is the cause of God, wars must be wars of annihilation.” In short, Lewis contends that the most humane and sane policy would put England first, instead of waging war on behalf of Democracy or Freedom. It is also worth noting that until 2016, the American two-party system was more or less hardwired to exclude from the political process precisely those “nativist” impulses which Lewis commends as being almost beyond reproach.

Although candidly put forth by Lewis in his day, most of the preceding views can now be expressed in the public square only with the most careful delicacy, lest uncharitable misrepresentation, ostracism, and career-ending sanctions ensue. And ironically enough, those who help marginalize as untouchable views like Lewis’s are often the very people who purport to regard Lewis as a kind of Christian Socrates. If self-identified Lewis-admirers such as Bradley Birzer of Hillsdale give any weight to Lewis’s views on either sex or patriotism, or share his fear of “enslavement” to an “omnicompetent global technocracy,” I find little evidence for it in their de facto endorsements of globalism.*

For better or for worse the current, supposedly extremist occupant of the Oval Office has never critiqued female police and military service by declaring that “battles are ugly when women fight.” Nor has he advocated the dismantlement of the welfare state, much less dared voice “the horrible suspicion that our only choice is between societies with few freemen and societies with none.” Compared to today’s decidedly pragmatic US President, the tradition-minded Cambridge medievalist proves to be more exclusive and more provincial, for it is the creator of the beloved Narnia series who would resist tenaciously any attempt to flood his country with Norwegians, however law-abiding and productive. So before preaching the Benedict Option or crusading for pro-life feminism, let the Christian intelligentsia first admit one inconvenient fact, which is that Professor Lewis stands several degrees to the right of Donald J. Trump.

Republished with gracious permission from Crisis Magazine (March 2018).

Can the Pope Change Doctrine? It’s Time for Some Clarity on Papal Infallibility

The following is part of an in-depth essay on “papal fallibility by Dr Edward Feser. The first part, "Papal Errors of the Past Show the Ridiculousness of ‘Spin-Doctoring’ the Pope," was shared at 01.00 Monday, and the third part, "When popes can be wrong: breaking down the degrees of papal authority," will be shared at the same time on Wednesday.

From LifeSiteNews

By Dr Edward Feser

December 4, 2015 (EdwardFeser) – Catholic doctrine on the teaching authority of the pope is pretty clear, but lots of people badly misunderstand it. A non-Catholic friend of mine recently asked me whether the pope could in theory reverse the Church’s teaching about homosexuality. Said my friend: “He could just make an ex cathedra declaration to that effect, couldn’t he?” Well, no, he couldn’t. That is simply not at all how it works. Some people think that Catholic teaching is that a pope is infallible not only when making ex cathedra declarations, but in everything he does and says. That is also simply not the case. Catholic doctrine allows that popes can make grave mistakes, even mistakes that touch on doctrinal matters in certain ways.

Many Catholics know all this, but they often misunderstand papal authority in yet other ways. Some think that a Catholic is obliged to accept the teaching of a pope only when that teaching is put forward by him as infallible. That too is not the case. Contrary to this “minimalist” view, there is much that Catholics have to assent to even though it is not put forward as infallible. Others think that a Catholic is obliged to agree more or less with every view or decision of a pope regarding matters of theology, philosophy, politics, etc. even when it is not put forward as infallible. And that too is not the case. Contrary to this “maximalist” view, there is much to which a Catholic need give only respectful consideration, but not necessarily assent. As always, Catholic doctrine is balanced, a mean between extremes -- in this case, between these minimalist and maximalist extremes. But it is also nuanced, and to understand it we need to make some distinctions that are too often ignored.

First let’s get clear about infallibility. The First Vatican Council taught that:

[W]hen the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

What the Council is describing here is the pope’s exercise of what is called his “extraordinary Magisterium,” as opposed to his “ordinary Magisterium” or everyday teaching activity in the form of homilies, encyclicals, etc. The passage identifies several conditions for the exercise of this extraordinary Magisterium. First, the pope must appeal to his supreme teaching authority as the successor of Peter, as opposed to speaking merely as a private theologian, or making off-the-cuff remarks, or the like. An exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium would, accordingly, typically involve some formal and solemn declaration. Second, he must be addressing some matter of doctrine concerning faith or morals. The extraordinary Magisterium doesn’t pertain to purely scientific questions such as how many elements are in the periodic table, political questions such as whether a certain proposed piece of legislation is a good idea, etc. Third, he must be “defining” some doctrine in the sense of putting it forward as official teaching that is binding on the entire Church. The extraordinary Magisterium doesn’t pertain to teaching that concerns merely local or contingent circumstances.

But there is a further, crucial condition on such ex cathedra statements. The First Vatican Council emphasized it in a passage that comes several paragraphs before the one quoted above:

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.

Papal teaching, then, including exercises of the extraordinary Magisterium, cannot contradict Scripture, Tradition, or previous binding papal teaching. Nor can it introduce utter novelties. Popes have authority only to preserve and interpret what they have received. They can draw out the implications of previous teaching or clarify it where it is ambiguous. They can make formally binding what was already informally taught. But they cannot reverse past teaching and they cannot make up new doctrines out of whole cloth.

Along the same lines, the Second Vatican Council taught, in Dei Verbum, that the Church cannot teach contrary to Scripture:

[T]he living teaching office of the Church… is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully…

Pope Benedict XVI put the point as follows, in a homily of May 7, 2005:

The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope's ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God's Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism…

The Pope knows that in his important decisions, he is bound to the great community of faith of all times, to the binding interpretations that have developed throughout the Church's pilgrimage. Thus, his power is not being above, but at the service of, the Word of God. It is incumbent upon him to ensure that this Word continues to be present in its greatness and to resound in its purity, so that it is not torn to pieces by continuous changes in usage.

Though the pope’s exercise of his ordinary Magisterium is not always infallible, it can be under certain circumstances. In particular, it is infallible when the pope officially reaffirms something that was already part of the Church’s infallible teaching on the basis of Scripture and Tradition. For example, in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed traditional teaching to the effect that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith thereafter confirmed that this teaching is to be regarded as infallible. The reason it is to be regarded as infallible is not that the papal document in question constituted an exercise of the extraordinary Magisterium, but rather because of the teaching’s status as part of the constant and universal doctrine of the Church.

Now, what makes some constant and universal teaching of the Church infallible is itself an important topic, but one that is beyond the scope of this post, which is concerned with the teaching authority of the pope, specifically. Suffice it to emphasize for present purposes that, precisely because exercises of the pope’s ordinary Magisterium are infallible when they merely reaffirm the Church’s own constant and universal teaching, they too do not involve either the reversal of past teaching or the addition of some novelty.

Papal infallibility, then, is not some magical power by which a pope can transform any old thing he wishes into a truth that all are bound to accept. It is an extension of the infallibility of the preexisting body of doctrine that it is his job to safeguard, and thus must always be exercised in continuity with that body of doctrine. Naturally, then, the pope would not be speaking infallibly if he taught something that either had no basis in Scripture, Tradition, or previous magisterial teaching, or contradicted those sources of doctrine. If it had no such basis, it could be mistaken, and if it contradicted those sources of doctrine, it would be mistaken.

It is very rare, however, that a pope says something even in his ordinary Magisterium that is manifestly either a sheer novelty or in conflict with existing doctrine. Popes know that their job is to preserve and apply Catholic teaching, and thus when they say something that isn’t just a straightforward reiteration of preexisting doctrine, they are typically trying to draw out the implications of existing doctrine, to resolve some ambiguity in it, to apply the doctrine to new circumstances, or the like. If there is some deficiency in such statements, then, it will typically be subtle and take some careful thinking to identify and correct. There is in Catholic doctrine, therefore, a presumption in favor of what a pope says even in his ordinary non-infallible Magisterium, even if it is a presumption which can be overridden. Hence the default position for any Catholic must be to assent to such non-infallible teaching. Or at least that is the default position where that teaching concerns matters of principle vis-à-vis faith and morals -- as opposed to application of principle to contingent concrete circumstances, where judgments about such circumstances are of their nature beyond the special competence of the pope.

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Edward Feser’s blog.

Battlefield Royal: Prince Maurits van Nassau

Traitor to his lawful King, but still a brilliant general.

From The Mad Monarchist (14 November 2011)


Maurits Van Nassau, Prince of Orange, Stadtholder of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, was one of the great military geniuses of his time and one of the most influential military commanders in the history of war. He seemed to have been destined for martial greatness from the day he was born. That day was November 14, 1567, in what is now Germany, the son of Prince Willem the Silent (who would instigate the Dutch war of independence from Spain) and his wife Princess Anna of Saxony. He was named after his grandfather Maurice, Elector of Saxony, a noted general who greatly expanded the influence of his branch of the venerable Wettin dynasty. He grew up being trained for leadership as, although the emerging Netherlands was republican in style, they looked to the Princes of Orange for leadership. Maurits studied in that great center of German learning of Heidelberg before moving on to Leiden where he was schooled alongside his brother, Filips Willem, the eldest son and heir of Willem the Silent. The Dutch businessmen who were the leaders in their community paid for this education as Willem the Silent had sacrificed the family fortune carrying on the struggle against the Spanish.
As the second son, Maurits van Nassau was expected to be a military leader rather than a political one and he grew up to be what we might now call a rough character. He never married, being totally unsuited to the domestic setting, and preferred the occasional mistress while spending most of his time living rough in the field with his troops (though he did father a number of children by his mistresses). After the murder of their father in 1584 in Delft, Maurits van Nassau took up some positions of leadership right away even though his brother, Filips Willem, became Prince of Orange. There was some, mostly long-distance, trouble between the two and their opposing factions of supporters. Part of this was political and part was religious as Prince Filips Willem was a Catholic and Maurits was a Protestant. Eventually, however, his brother died and Maurits van Nassau succeeded as Prince of Orange and was promptly elected Stadtholder of the United Provinces. As he also held the position of Captain-General and Admiral-General of the Dutch forces, it would be largely left to him to win the war against Spain his father had started for an independent Netherlands.

The only way to do this was on the battlefield and there, Maurits van Nassau was a real ‘Dutch master’. He set about his task with methodical and comprehensive dedication the Dutch were known for. He studied the Roman history of warfare, learning from their methods of organization. Mathematically gifted, it was only natural that he would develop a new, more streamlined, method of marshaling troops for battle. Prior to this time, armies were little more than armed mobs, lacking cohesive units and set command structures. Prince Maurits changed this and divided his army up into smaller units (the birth of the modern battalion) which could be much more easily maneuvered on the field. He also developed a totally new method of deployment. The established military wisdom of the day was to arrange troops in very deep formations (military paintings of the period will show huge, solid squares of soldiers jammed together) so that continuous strength could be pushed forward with rear ranks immediately moving up to take the places of those killed. Prince Maurits recognized that this effectively wasted a large portion of the army as those in the rear ranks had to wait their turn at the front-line and, indeed, might go through a whole battle without seeing action at all. Maurits thinned out the ranks into longer lines, pikemen in the middle and musketeers on the flanks, so that as many guns as possible could give fire on the enemy from start to finish.

Some questioned how he would make up for losses and plug gaps in the line with this new tactical formation. That’s where his new battalions would come in. With the army organized into these smaller units they could be maneuvered even in the midst of battle to take up new positions where there was danger. Maurits van Nassau also placed a great deal of emphasis on training and drill in order to accomplish these battlefield maneuvers. He also took care to arm his men with the latest weapons; lighter muskets, muskets with greater range and he organized his artillery according to caliber so that the right weapons could be brought up for the right job. Since the fall of the Roman Empire, battles had more often than not consisted of mixed mobs of soldiers having at each other with commanders having little to do once the battle was joined but to inspire their men. Maurits van Nassau changed all that for good.

He poured over books on tactics, strategy, astronomy and every possible subject that could help him in his task. Intense study, combined with his own extensive battlefield experience made him one of the great military strategists in Europe. What had been a rather unorganized revolt against Spanish authority became a very organized and state of the art war effort under his leadership. As he lacked the well established authority of a monarch, he also knew that his continued leadership would depend on achieving quick and significant victories. The war in the Netherlands was one dominated by battles for cities and fortresses more than clashes in open fields and so siege warfare was paramount. It helped that Prince Maurits had taught himself to be a master of mathematics and when he set to work on taking Spanish positions his genius was evident. More than in any other field, the legacy of Maurits van Nassau would be most felt in his contributions to the development of siege warfare. He was the first to integrate artillery and engineer units into the infantry and engineering was something necessity had long made the Dutch experts at anyway, which gave them a considerable edge.

In 1590 he took Breda, in 1592 Steenwijk, and Geertruidenberg was captured by his forces in 1593. Prince Maurits also took great care that his soldiers were well trained, disciplined, well paid and that they had competent officers. He encouraged his officers to sit in on classes at local universities and finally established himself the first modern military academy for the specific training of army officers. Many future victorious Dutch commanders as well as future generals in the English Civil War learned their trade under Maurits van Nassau. After securing a string of victories in taking Spanish-held cities, he put his engineers to work building a defensive line that could be easily held while he used his highly expert and fast moving army to continue to harass the Spanish forces in the south. One of his greatest victories came on January 24, 1597 when he moved under cover of bad weather with 7,000 men to attack 6,000 Spaniards at Tournhout. His victory was so complete that Dutch losses numbered only 100 dead while the Spanish lost some 2,500 men. Three years later he invaded Flanders and won another crushing victory at Nieupoort but it was a costly one and this, combined with his long and vulnerable supply lines, convinced him to abandon Belgium and return north.

Back in the United Provinces he won a number of smaller battles while also having to deal with a challenge to his political power from Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. From almost the very beginning the Dutch republic was divided between those who favored a more ‘republican’ republic and those supporters of the House of Orange who favored something more monarchial. In the end, for the time being at least, Prince Maurits was successful in making himself the unquestioned leader of the Netherlands. However, the years and battles were catching up with him by that time. He had convinced his half brother, Prince Fredrik Hendrik, to marry and have children to continue the Orange dynasty and soon set back off to continue the fight with the Spanish. However, it would be his last campaign and accomplished no stunning successes for the first time in his career. Prince Maurits van Nassau, Prince of Orange, died of a liver problem on April 23, 1625, seeming much older than his 57 years. His life was over but his legacy would go on.

Unlike other great military leaders, Maurits van Nassau never held off hordes of foreign armies nor did he conquer vast tracts of enemy territory. However, his battles were brilliantly conducted and his sieges absolute masterpieces of strategic thinking. His establishment of the battalion as the primary unit of battlefield maneuver set the pattern for armies up until only very recently and his innovations in siege craft, organization of troops and the training of officers is still felt very much today. The great Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus borrowed from his book extensively and, with a few improvements of his own, became one of the influential captains of history. Almost every subsequent giant in the art of war owes something, whether they realize it or not, to the groundbreaking work done by Prince Maurits van Nassau. It would be some time longer before the war with Spain was finally and completely won but it almost certainly would not have happened were it not for the efforts of Prince Maurits and, therefore, the very existence of the modern Kingdom of Netherlands is owed, at least in part, to him and his achievements.