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advent wreath stjohnscamberwellorgauI remember how bewildered I was as a young Catholic teenager going to church one December morning during the early 1970s and seeing a wreath with candles on a stand near the altar.

My parents — along with most of the congregation — did not know what it was, either.

As Mass began, the priest explained that we were going to light the Advent wreath. That hardly solved the puzzle of what it was and WHY.

For years, I did not like them. My mother said they were a Vatican II innovation. She was not wrong. Neither my parents nor I were interested in Vatican II innovations. Most took us away from the mysterium tremendum my parents had grown up with, something that had been taken away from me forever.

I became an Episcopalian 12 years later. Early in December that year, my mother asked me if our church had an Advent wreath. I said, ‘No’. She said, ‘Good’.

These days, Advent wreaths are in churches of all denominations. My present Anglican church has one, too.

So, we must be resigned to Advent wreaths. I’m still somewhat ambivalent about them, but, by now, at least two generations have grown up with them.


Advent wreaths can be used in schools and private homes as well as at church.

The QTree has an excellent post about the Advent wreath along with several related photographs. The designations of the different candles came as news to me (emphases in the original):

The most common Advent candle tradition involves four candles. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Each candle represents something different, although traditions vary. The four candles traditionally represent hope, faith, joy, and peace. Often, the first, second, and fourth candles are purple; the third candle is rose-colored. Sometimes all the candles are red; in other traditions, all four candles are blue or white. Occasionally, a fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival.

The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David.

The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too.

The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace–He came to bring people close to God and to each other again.

The (optional) fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day.

We are a people of promise. For centuries, God prepared people for the coming of his Son, our only hope for life. At Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of the promises God made—that he would give a way to draw near to him.

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25, sometimes in the last weekend of November, sometimes on the first Sunday in December.

My local Anglican church has red candles with a white candle in the middle for Christmas. This seems to be a more Protestant than Catholic colour scheme, even though our church follows the liturgical colour tradition of purple during this time.

The Revd William Saunders, writing for another Catholic website, Catholic Education Resource Center, has more in ‘The History of the Advent Wreath’. This has more information of which I was unaware (emphases mine):

The symbolism of the Advent wreath is beautiful. The wreath is made of various evergreens, signifying continuous life. Even these evergreens have a traditional meaning which can be adapted to our faith: The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew, immortality; and cedar, strength and healing. Holly also has a special Christian symbolism: The prickly leaves remind us of the crown of thorns, and one English legend tells of how the cross was made of holly. The circle of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, and the everlasting life found in Christ. Any pine cones, nuts, or seedpods used to decorate the wreath also symbolize life and resurrection. All together, the wreath of evergreens depicts the immortality of our soul and the new, everlasting life promised to us through Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, who entered our world becoming true man and who was victorious over sin and death through His own passion, death, and resurrection.

The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. A tradition is that each week represents one thousand years, to sum to the 4,000 years from Adam and Eve until the Birth of the Savior

The purple candles in particular symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and good works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass; Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when their preparation is now half over and they are close to Christmas. The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.

The light again signifies Christ, the Light of the world. Some modern day adaptions include a white candle placed in the middle of the wreath, which represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Eve. Another tradition is to replace the three purple and one rose candles with four white candles, which will be lit throughout Christmas season.


A Catholic website, TIA (Tradition in Action), has a good article: ‘What Is the Origin of the Advent Wreath?’. It appears that I am not alone in my ambivalence about it.

The article was prompted by a reader’s question (emphases mine):

Dear TIA,

Where did the Advent wreath originate?

In our church this year there is no Advent Wreath because the priest said it is pagan. Many true Catholics are upset over this. The wreath traditionally has been part of the Catholic Church for over 400 years so where would this idea come from? Please help!

It appears that wreaths in general, although pagan in origin, first appeared in churches during the Dark Ages — so, centuries before the Reformation:

Perhaps your priest was referring to the wreath itself as pagan, since some histories report that the evergreen wreath originated in the pagan times of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Evergreens were gathered into round piles with candles placed upon them, which represented the yearly cycle, and so on. Such data, however, are not trustworthy since they generally come from wicca sites, which habitually pretend that every Christmas custom or symbol is pagan, baptized and adapted by Catholics.

From what we could verify, wreaths of evergreens were used in the 7th century in Catholic baptismal ceremonies. In early medieval Europe it was also used in weddings, the bride and bridegroom being crowned with wreaths to symbolize their victory over the temptations of the flesh. By the late Middle Ages, garlands and wreaths were being used as Christmas décor in much of Catholic Europe.

For Catholics the evergreen is symbolic of life because its needles are green and alive even as the world grows dark and plants die back. The circle wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God. The wreath is a good Catholic symbol, and, in our opinion, should not be rejected because of a possible previous pagan usage.

The article acknowledges that the Advent wreath is a Protestant creation, more about which below.

As for the Catholic Vatican II connection:

The Advent Wreath was used strictly in homes and schools among Catholics, never in Catholic churches because there were no official liturgical prayers or ceremonies in the Rituale Romanum, the Church’s official book of prayers and blessings.

With the innovations of Vatican II, a blessing of the wreath for the first Sunday of Advent to be said before Mass was included in the Book of Blessings for those countries that requested its inclusion. The wreath is to be lit before Mass at the first Sunday of Advent, and no prayers are said on the last three Sundays.

The Church of England also has a short prayer of blessing for the first candle.

The Advent wreath appears to be a northern European tradition:

Many American Catholics are surprised to learn that this custom is relatively unknown in Latin American countries, and even in Italy and Spain.

TIA advises:

In our opinion, it seems that the custom of the Advent Wreath may be adopted by those who feel an attraction to it. But its use should be restricted to their homes. It is not a liturgical practice of the Catholic Church that should be included in official ceremonies.

I tend to agree.

Protestant origins

Wikipedia has a delightful story about a Lutheran pastor who devised the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century. That said, an older version was already in use in Lutheran churches soon after the Reformation:

The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century.[7] However, it was not until three centuries later that the modern Advent wreath took shape.[8]

Research by Prof. Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, points to Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), a Protestant pastor in Germany and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor as the inventor of the modern Advent wreath in the 19th century.[9] During Advent, children at the mission school Rauhes Haus, founded by Wichern in Hamburg, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. In 1839, he built a large wooden ring (made out of an old cartwheel) with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. A small candle was lit successively every weekday and Saturday during Advent. On Sundays, a large white candle was lit. The custom gained ground among Protestant churches in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles known today. Roman Catholics in Germany began to adopt the custom in the 1920s, and in the 1930s it spread to North America.[10] Professor Haemig’s research also indicates that the custom did not reach the United States until the 1930s, even among German Lutheran immigrants.

In Medieval times Advent was a period of fasting during which people’s thoughts were directed to the expected second coming of Christ; but in modern times many have forgotten this meaning and it has instead been primarily seen as the lead up to Christmas, and in that context Advent Wreath serves as a reminder of the approach of the feast.

Image credit: Wikipedia.


I learned a lot researching the symbolism and history behind the Advent wreath. I hope that you did, too.

On July 6, 2016, I wrote about the high church Anglican quiz ‘How “spikey” are YOU?’

One of my readers, Boetie, a Catholic living in Germany, sent in a thoughtful comment by way of response. He has kindly given me permission to use it as a guest post on the differences between Catholic and Anglican worship.

What he says closely parallels my own experience in the early 1980s and caused me to convert to the Episcopal Church and continue worshipping in the UK as an Anglican. I should emphasise that my conversion came through low church, which also had quite a lot of ritual, rather than high church. That said, I have occasionally enjoyed the freedom and the opportunity to revisit ancient traditions and vestments.

Without further ado, Boetie discusses his results and his own worship journey:

I came out “top of the flame” – not that I was in the least surprised, though. But this liturgical and at the same time humorous approach is what first attracted me to the Anglican Church in her High Church / Anglo-Catholic tradition ever since I was an 11 or 12 year old lad from Germany coming to Britain for the first time in the very early 1970s. Quite visibly the Anglican Church had not been through the devastations Vatican II had brought about in my own church (I’m a “Roman”:-)). Sadly, the Anglican Church has more than made up leeway since.

But for the first time in my life I saw priests who looked like priests with their dog collars and their cassocks/soutanes, who spoke like priests and who acted like priests. Our own RC priests at the time had opted for the “social worker” chic, loathed to be addressed as “Father” and were delighted when you told them: “I would never have guessed you were a priest”.

And, of course, in England I gained an insight into what “liturgy” meant – while in Germany they had already come up with that brilliant idea of happy-clappy services with do-gooder homilies. I had never heard e.g. an “Angelus” prayer in my home parish – the first in my life was in an Anglican church in Hertfordshire.

So, for many years in my youth, the Anglican Church shaped my own Catholic faith.

I noticed differences though, even at an early age.

Right from day one I was impressed by the style of hearty hymn singing – as opposed to many RC churches where people often can’t be bothered and where the singing is lacklustre. Also, I found traditional Anglican services solemn but ultimately more serene than traditional RC Masses. And the difference of the quality of style and language was stunning: introducing the vernacular after Vatican II into RC services didn’t work well: e.g. in Germany it was modern day German while in the Anglican Church the wonderful traditional English had been retained. (Doing away with Prayer Book English I regard as a a major flaw in today’s Anglican worship.) Not least of all, to this day I appreciate the humour that is never far from the surface with High Church priests – which makes it a pleasure to listen to their sermons and homilies.

The demise of the Anglican Church (namely the CofE) I find deeply saddening and I wonder whether the Catholic faith in her Anglican tradition will have a future within the Anglican Communion or whether in the long run it will be just “catholic” in name and maybe ritual but no longer in essence – with lesbians and feminists in fiddleback chasubles and birettas swinging the thurible – during a same sex marriage.

But I do not want to end on a sombre note. If you appreciate the type of humour of the quiz I am sure you will also like the cartoon figure of “Father Jolly” created years ago by the American Anglican priest Fr. Tom Janikowski during his formative years in the seminary. He is now Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Rock Island, Illinois (an ACNA parish). Unfortunately there are only few of his cartoons on the net: the first 4 pictures here:

Here is another one:

Should you come across more in the vein of that quiz – please let us know in your blog. I am sure I’d be not the only one to appreciate this.

You can bet I will, brother!

Thank you very much, Boetie, for your excellent contribution and for the witty (and realistic) Father Jolly cartoons.

It would be edifying if others sharing the same experience as Boetie’s and mine would kindly comment below.

Those who enjoyed the first two Father Brown series must be delighted that the third — with 15 instead of ten episodes — is now airing on BBC1.

Although it’s great to see it once again, one year on, I still have mixed thoughts.

The acting is superb and Mark Williams plays the lead brilliantly. The stories, by and large, are very good and still take place in 1953. G K Chesterton wrote his Father Brown stories in the 1920s; the television series either loosely adapts these or airs original scripts in postwar England.

The show’s creators chose a rural setting to better capture the 1950s. The programme is faithful to the era in the settings and clothes. The nostalgia it evokes is part of its appeal.

Italian-Roman chasuble However, although Father Brown has a Jesuit as an advisor, the chasuble that Mark Williams wears did not appear until Vatican II in the early 1960s. What Catholic priests wore in 1953 and for the rest of the decade is called a Roman chasuble, popularly known as a fiddleback, as seen on the left, courtesy of Traditional Ecclesiastical Tailoring.

Another quibble is that the modern rite of the Mass is mistakenly used in episode 6 of the new series. ‘The Upcott Fraternity’ has a brief scene of the seminarians at Mass. Surely, it would not have taken the actors much time to learn a line or two of ecclesiastical Latin.

Surely the Jesuit advisor could have helped on these two points; perhaps the show’s creators did not ask him.

Furthermore, the series has a Midsomer Murders feel to it; all the deaths take place in the general vicinity.  One wonders how many more people can die.

Finally, whilst the programme is generally acceptable for children to see, the third series has two episodes thus far which have content perhaps better suited to mature audiences. ‘The Upcott Fraternity’ and ‘The Lair of the Libertines’ will certainly provoke some uncomfortable questions from little ones.

The latter episode lives up to its name. The men and women at an exclusive hotel tell Father Brown they wish to find happiness through pleasure. One man says that he is looking for happiness all the time and never finds it. Father Brown replies that if a person seeks happiness he will never find it. True happiness comes to us but occasionally and is ephemeral.

American and South American viewers will no doubt be able to see the latest series on PBS and the Film & Arts channel later this year.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, which reviewed John Paul II’s simplification of canonisation, the Polish Pope and Vatican II initiator Pope John XXIII were declared saints on Sunday, April 27, 2014.

Both of these men reminded me of Christ’s exhortation to the Apostles in Matthew 10:16 (emphases mine):

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Therefore, one would have expected that these two men — now saints — would have guarded Christ’s Bride, the Church, with every fibre of their being.

Yet, John XXIII knowingly welcomed back theologians whose church activity Pius XII had restricted. Pius XII had his reasons for so doing, and, unfortunately, his successor John XXIII found out exactly why — to his peril.

A Catholic Life (aforementioned link) describes the traitors to the Church via the Second Vatican Council. By the time John XXIII was on his deathbed, he requested that Vatican II be stopped. But it was too late. His wilfulness at overturning his predecessor’s decision regarding these theologians and his eagerness in becoming a reconciler — why, at a time when there was nothing to reconcile amongst laity unlike now? — were his downfall. Even the Soviets became involved:

We might even say the pope was playing Russian roulette with the Church, literally. Were not the representatives of the Soviet Union present at Vatican II with a plan to get their clenched fist agenda implemented in a spiritual way with “human rights” and the “empowerment of the laity”?

However, for those who were not alive at the time, John XXIII had a certain charm about him which translated well with Catholics the world over. If, like my mother, a Catholic disapproved of what and why he was reforming, he could be sure an argument or remonstration would result from a fellow Catholic who thought this Pope was the embodiment of Christ, as far as such a thing is possible.

Just to set the social record straight in A Catholic Life‘s otherwise well written and informative article. John XXIII was not battling abortion, which would not be legalised in the West until Paul VI was Pope. The Pill might have been a consideration in his later years, although it seems from the rest of this article that Vatican II dominated his thoughts.  Nor was John XXIII fighting evolution; Pius XII already allowed for Catholic adherence to theistic evolution as early as 1951. It is doubtful that John XXIII believed in a literal six-day creation.

My objection to John XXIII is that he did not guard the Church with his life once he became Pope. For this reason, he should not have been canonised.

In a secular context, it’s akin to leaving your elderly mother home alone with the doors open in a dangerous neighbourhood, telling her she’ll be all right and saying you’ll be back in the middle of the night to check on her.

All Christians — Catholic or Protestant — should love the Church as much as they love Christ. Admittedly, we laypeople fall short, which is why clergy — especially the world’s most elevated prelates — should be Her ultimate guardians.

Apparently, according to the article, we are to accept that John XXIII was canonised for his exceptional ‘charity’, not for the way he loved — actually neglected — the Catholic Church. Frankly, anyone can be charitable — a Jehovah’s Witness, a Mormon, a Jain, an atheist or a Muslim.

The mark of a Catholic saint used to be that he honoured Christ completely throughout his life.

John Paul II changed all that, as I described yesterday. From sanctity the Catholic Church moved to generic charity with a Catholic label on it, which is how we got to the canonisation of a careless guardian — John XXIII.

And, John Paul II, having increased the number of canonisations five-fold under his tenure — compared with 98 from all his 20th century predecessors — was also a poor guardian of Christ’s Bride, the Church.

The Remnant warns that John Paul II’s reforms are taking Catholics back to a perilous time in the Church, reminiscent of:

the bishop-led canonization processes of the 1200’s—a time when a diocese in Sweden once canonized an intoxicated monk who was killed in a drunken brawl.

Indeed, with so many canonisations and over 1,200 beatifications (where sainthood is the next step), it is unlikely that so many new saints actually lived out that piety which the Devil’s Advocate used to investigate so thoroughly. The post still exists, apparently, but under a new name — Prelate Theologian. The position is a shadow of what it once was.

John Vennari of Catholic Family News describes the Prelate Theologian’s responsibility as follows:

His main task is to choose the theological consulters and preside at the meetings.

Catholic journalist Kenneth L. Woodward spotlights the root difference between the old and new systems: “At the core of the reform is a striking paradigm shift: no longer would the Church look to the courtroom as its model for arriving at the truth of a saint’s life; instead, it would employ the academic model of researching and writing a doctoral dissertation.”

The article goes on to describe the glaring gaps of sanctity or miracles in the lives of Msgr. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer and Mother Teresa. Both had objectors who appealed to the Vatican against their beatification. Escriva’s piety and personal character came into question as did Teresa’s ascribed miracle, which was nothing more heavenly than scrupulous medical care. Both were beatified under John Paul II’s watch — under his simplified fast track reforms.

If these two cases came to light, how many more are there among recently canonised saints or beatified candidates awaiting sainthood? The truth must come out.  Otherwise, such travesties place the Catholic Church in grave danger by honouring a lack of holiness and false ‘miracles’. John Paul II opened up the Church to needless and avoidable criticism.

But then he did have a cult of personality around him, which I’d not witnessed with a Pope before. It was discomfiting to read Christmas letters from my Catholic friends saying how wonderful he was touring the world in his Popemobile. Let us not forget that this man was a stage actor before he became a priest. As the Bard said, ‘All the world’s a stage’. How true.

What is even worse is John Paul II’s attempts at unifying all the world’s religions at Assisi in October 1986. Unfortunately, as Catholic Family News‘s John Vennari found out, today’s Catholic children find such an action from such a holy man hard to believe:

At the time of the 2011 “beatification” of John Paul II, I learned of a homeschool online discussion taking place among 6th to 9th graders. A traditional Catholic youth (whom I know) was telling non-traditionalist Catholic acquaintances about Pope John Paul II’s pan-religious meeting at Assisi; that John Paul invited Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Jains, and pagans to pray together at the event in October 1986. He also posted photos of the Assisi gathering.

The homeschooled youngsters refused to believe it. They claimed it could not be true; that the John Paul II/Assisi photos were doctored, that no pope—especially one “beatified” by the allegedly conservative Benedict XVI—would perform this act of ecclesiastical treason.

The young traditional Catholic who told his acquaintances about Assisi was accused of making up the account; of trying to defame the name of “Blessed” Pope John Paul II; of inventing a malicious story about a pagan-packed, pan-religious prayer-fest that no pope would countenance.

Here then is the striking point: The children knew the Assisi prayer meeting was not Catholic. The children knew it was not a manifestation of heroic virtue. The children knew it was a scandal of colossal dimension, and refused to believe John Paul could be guilty of it. To their credit, these youngsters displayed a better sensus Catholicus than today’s Vatican leaders.

Pope Benedict XVI should never have agreed to beatify his predecessor. I don’t deny that the public pressure must have been overwhelming. I watched both John Paul’s funeral and Benedict’s accession Mass on television. St Peter’s Square was packed with banners from the ‘faithful’ which read ‘Santo Subito’ (‘Sainthood Now’) on both occasions.

Yet, one of the responsibilities of a godly clergyman — of whatever denomination — is to resist the calls of the mob. Clergy are called to do right in Christ’s eyes, not the public’s.

Pope Francis, not surprisingly, is carrying on where John Paul II left off. One wonders where the Catholic Church will be at the end of his tenure. Already he has refused to say where he lies on a certain serious sin: ‘Who am I to judge?’ He is another Pope more interested in the world than in preserving the holiness of Christ’s Church.

Lectionary lectionaryorgBible-believing mainline Protestants aren’t the only ones unnerved by the Lectionary. So are traditionalist Catholics.

It’s a bit odd that we are so dissatisfied, considering that it has been around for at least 40 years. We seem to find it less appealing as time goes by.

It’s not that we’re not interested in the Bible — far from it. However, we have seen too many edits — ellipses (…) — in the passages read. What are we missing? Why are we missing it?

Some Protestants will say, ‘Who cares?’ Yet, it was thanks to the Catholics that mainline churches even use the Lectionary. Not many people know that.

Yesterday’s post reiterated that the late Cardinal Bugnini came up with the idea for the Lectionary in the run-up to Vatican II.

Readers might wish to note that (emphases mine):

Archbishop Bugnini was ‘a revolutionary more clever than the others, he who killed the Catholic liturgy before disappearing from the official scene’.  (Suspecting Bugnini of being a Freemason, Paul VI sent him to a post in Iran, where he died in 1982.)

All the same, here we are in the 21st century stuck with the Lectionary.

A few weeks ago, the Revd Ray Blake, a Catholic priest in Brighton (England), featured a post on it. What follows are excerpts from his post, his readers’ comments on its structure and how the Lectionary paints a picture of God and His Son which is much different to that which had endured for centuries.

These are not necessarily in sequence but I have arranged them to present a clearer picture of the dilemma of the Lectionary. First, Fr Blake:

The rupture that concerns me, is not a liturgical one but a theological [one], it is the change in “the face of God” that it represents.

The image of God presented to and by the great saints, which had existed for at least 1,500 years was altered.

Scripture is inspired but previous generations would also have believed so was the Lectionary, the choice of readings.

There are subsidiary issues about the editing of scripture but what concerns me is that I am not presented with the same image of God as say St Francis or Sr Ignatius of Loyola.

Part of his aforementioned main post reads as follows:

Certainly the OF [Ordinary Form — Novus Ordo, or New Massanother Bugnini inspiration] Lectionary gives us a broader selection of readings, including the Old Testament and extracts from the Gospels other than mainly Matthew and chunks of John. In many ways the modern Lectionary is superior, as a logical academic presentation of scripture the older form is obviously inferior.  I don’t know quite how the older Lectionary emerged, presumably like most organic forms, by a process of evolution and to meet pastoral needs, it was tried a tested in the crucible of sacred history down the centuries.

What is more significant and worthy of serious discussion is the rupture that I would suggest the newer Lectionary has introduced into the Church’s presentation of the image of God. The pre-Concilliar image of God is different from the post-Concilliar image. Revelation is both Scripture and Tradition, it is within the Liturgy that Revelation is presented: by changing the Lectionary have we broken with something very important?

In his preceding post on the subject, Fr Blake pointed to the distorted view of Christian love which we have nowadays — unconditional and ever-accepting, at all times. He wrote, in part:

The Gospel today has Peter asking how often he should forgive his brother; I wonder whether he is asking in some general way, or specifically whether Andrew, his brother and fellow Apostle, has been particularly annoying and Peter is asking explicitly about their relationship.

Jesus answers by telling a story about an irascible master who is going to sell a debtor and his family into slavery, who then relents after much pleading but then hearing about the mistreatment of another servant has him handed over to the torturers. Jesus’ message to Peter is forgive your brother because you yourself have been forgiven a great deal

Though Jesus tells Peter to forgive, he also tells the Apostles to “preach repentance”, “teaching”, “bring back a brother who errs” and to “correct error”; forgiveness and teaching seem to go hand in hand. The Fathers, the Saints too seemed to be by today’s standards violent, even abusive in their teaching of the faith, in their refutation of heresy and their denunciation of sacrilegious behaviour.

Against this we have to set love but then “love” seems to have been reformed to something passionless, and reduced to variation of tolerance. Has there been a feminisation or even lavenderisation, certainly a de-Christianisation of “love”.

One of Blake’s readers noted that the Latin Mass — Extraordinary Form, or Tridentine (from the Council of Trent) — would have had Luke 11:14-28 as the assigned reading. In it our Lord casts out demons. Well, today’s Catholics cannot hear that at Mass. Much too disturbing, binary and clearly pointing to good versus evil. Or so thought Bugnini no doubt and, later, the Catholic and Protestant Lectionary editors who brought the whole thing to fruition.

Someone else observed that the passage from Luke about demons is split three ways into weekly reading:

The passage has been used elsewhere, albeit split over at least three locations: Thurs in week 3 of Lent (11:14-23), and Fri & Sat in week 27 of Ordinary Time (11:15-26; 11:27-28). Luke 11:27-28 is also an option for the Gospel reading in the Common of the BVM.

What that means is that anyone who does not attend Mass daily will never hear it in its entirety.

And what are two verses of it — read as a Gospel option for a Marian feast — compared to the whole story?

BJC summed it up nicely for both Catholics and Protestants:

I think many of those passages/prayers in the new lectionary have been truncated to emphasise “love” not sin and those other off limits words like hell, punishment and repentance

It’s a mistake because if you emphasise love to the degree we have its hardly surprising when people stop regarding even obvious things like adultery and pornography as sins. Everything becomes so mushy mushy its difficult to comprehend words like punishment and hell and therefore “sin” itself falls by the wayside.

As regards the Church Fathers and saints for sure by today’s standards they would be regarded as fundamentalists and intolerant. It just emphasises how far we’ve fallen.

To further the confusion, it seems as if today’s Catholics use the three-year Lectionary for Sundays and another two-year one for weekday readings.

Back now to Blake’s more recent post the following day. Part of the problem is not the readings, per se, notes George, but the manner of preaching about them. This appears contradictory, however, it indicates a problem with the priests’ sermons making sense of Scripture for the listener:

Many traditional priests (not all) seem to follow a different preaching plan than Novus Ordo priests. Many traditional priests, using instructions that came out of Trent, and through the work of Charles Borromeo and others, preach on matters of faith and morals with a regular plan and with a regular frequency, irrespective of the readings for that day. Many traditional priests will offer a sermon and never once reference the readings of that day. In contrast, many Novus Ordo priests will rarely preach outside of the messages within the day’s readings. When you compound this phenomenon with the seeming dearth of the toughest scripture passages in the new lectionary, you find many NO priests failing to cover throughout the year the fullness of Catholic faith and morals in their sermons.

Deacon Nathan Allen brought up an excellent point about the suitability of the person receiving Communion. This still holds true today in confessional Protestant denominations yet is rarely taught in the post-Vatican II Catholic faith:

Despite having much more of the Bible read to us, there are some passages that were cut out, and they seem to be those that ask us to examine our consciences regarding sin. For example, one obvious passage which was read in the usus antiquior on Corpus Christi is completely absent from the NO lectionary, and even from the Liturgy of the Hours: 1 Cor 11:29: “Whoever eats this bread or drinks of the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” For my part, I think that verse should be solemnly chanted (better than most ‘communion songs’) as the people queue up for communion.

That’s a powerful New Testament verse and the deacon is correct in saying that it cannot be emphasised enough. Still adhering to it — in addition to traditionalist Catholics — are devout Anglicans as well as confessional Lutherans and Calvinists (see Dr R Scott Clark’s explanation of this passage). Yet, I never heard of it in my Catholic preparation for either First Holy Communion (1960s) or Confirmation (1970s).

Wasn’t it all easier when each denomination — Catholics included — had one year of readings in one prayer book? In the days of the Tridentine (Latin) Mass, everyone had the same set of prayers and readings. One could prepare at home by reading the Scripture for that Sunday or feast day. I know. I still have some early missals. And I have several copies of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Thankfully, the Anglicans haven’t yet fully restricted its use, although Lectionary readings might override what is in the BCP, depending on who is taking that particular service.

Blake wrote later on:

The change in the selection of texts is the really drastic change, it is this that has brought about a difference in our understanding of God.

John Fisher thought that the idea of repetition of Bible readings was to reinforce them, not cause people to turn off:

The coverage of Bible readings is BETTER dealt with in the Liturgical Hours….not Mass.
It is through repetiton we are taught and learn.
In the Old Mass I actually learn and assimilate. In the new Mass I feel overwhelmed and confused.
In the Old Mass I read and hear the readings. In the New Mass I only hear and am usually most annoyed by nasally women and men!

People who read the lessons aloud really do need training in enunciation, pitch, inflection and projection, even when aided by a microphone. Our Anglican parish is doing significantly better in that regard; they understand what they are reading. However, I know a Catholic reader who doesn’t really take the responsibility seriously: ‘So I started on the wrong page. Big deal.’

Blake hinted at heretics operating behind the Lectionary:

It is not a matter of “better or worst” that is a personal judgement, “authentic” might be a better word. The ancient Lectionary is has come into being in the crucible of sacred history, it has been the foundation of the Church, it hammers away at a pretty basic message. The modern Lectionary has been chosen by a committee at an identifable point in history, and [I] suspect reflects that period’s image of God.

Marcion [a heretic] was accused of editing scripture with a pen knife, I can’t help thinking this has been done with the modern Lectionary.

But, enough of the Lectionary for now. What about the practical results of it on today’s Catholic — and, for that matter, mainline Protestant? Blake’s reader Jacobi said:

… One obvious reason is the false ecumenism which infected Vatican II resulting in the LCD Catholicism-lite we have today, and the other, as has been mentioned here, is to air-brush out sin. The latter objective has been largely achieved as is seen in any Catholic church with 100% attendance at Communion and near zero at Confession.

The answer always lies in the middle, but Hell does exist and people go there. Also those who wish to air-brush sin out are in effect saying that Jesus Christ was just another deluded religious bigot who died needlessly on a cross.

As to Bugnini’s original intent, Joseph Shaw offered this:

I don’t know of a full-length study of the EF lectionary, or of the reform. Bugnini’s treatment of the latter is terse and unhelpful. He does say that they rejected the idea of keeping the old lectionary as one of the three years’ cycle, because if they did this ‘there would be major differences between that cycle and the others’ (Reform of the Liturgy, p416), that pretty well vindicates Fr Blake’s instinct!

Because the OF lectionary is so large, it is often possible for its defenders to say ‘Oh no this or that passage has not been excluded, it is on Wednesday of week XX in year Z’, but that is a bit beside the point. We know Bugnini wanted [to] minimise ‘negative’ elements, and exiling a passage to a weekday in the middle of the summer, once every three years, is as good as putting it in the shredder. The smaller selection of readings in the EF become really familiar in time, they really give a flavour to the whole liturgical experience.

And that is where we are today. Yes, the Lectionary might have been finalised nearly two decades after Bugnini first came up with the idea and was no longer involved in it. However, his legacy is long lasting.

Our local Anglican clergy take a detour from the Lectionary now and then, not skipping a verse in what they choose to read. Long may they continue to do so. May others follow their example.


j0181253A number of Catholics and Protestants still recall the bolt of lightning hitting St Peter’s Basilica a few weeks ago when Pope Francis was elected.

The Pope’s behaviour since then continues to perplex the faithful. He has shunned most of the papal wardrobe, including small but significant attire, such as the pallium, a simple stole which symbolises Christ as the Good Shepherd carrying a lamb on His shoulders. It transpires that Pope Francis will eschew living in the papal apartments, choosing instead to live at the Santa Marta residence with the cardinals.

Late last week I wrote about the controversy his Maundy Thursday Mass created.

Today’s post presents a simple summary of the beginnings of Vatican II in the 1950s and why this history gives traditional Catholics cause for alarm.

Let us first recall that Pope St Pius X formally declared Modernism a heresy in 1907 (read here and here).

Nonetheless, less than 50 years later (emphases mine):

After the Second World War, a few Modernists assumed control of the new Commission for Reform of the Liturgy.  They strongly influenced Pope Pius XII and John XXIII.  The top three in the group were Father Annibale Bugnini (later to become Archbishop, then Cardinal), Cardinal Lercaro and Cardinal Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.  During Paul VI’s time as Pope, Archbishop Bugnini was the chief  architect of the New Mass, or Novus Ordo.  He devised it during Vatican II (1962-1965) and it was made official in 1969.  Archbishop Bugnini described the new liturgy as ‘a major conquest of the Catholic Church’.  And how!  The Novus Ordo is still said today — one cannot escape it.  Fr Bonneterre concludes that Archbishop Bugnini was ‘a revolutionary more clever than the others, he who killed the Catholic liturgy before disappearing from the official scene’.  (Suspecting Bugnini of being a Freemason, Paul VI sent him to a post in Iran, where he died in 1982.)

Lest we think it all ended with Paul VI, it should be noted that three other future Popes also had prominent roles to play in Vatican II: the future John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  Father Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict was known at the time, was a theological consultant.  He later headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

When I was growing up, the priests and nuns told us that Vatican II was inspired by the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure all of them believed that, but it was so opposed by most in the pews that it needed a few coats of gloss so the kiddies would accept it:

Personally, I don’t think that Popes John XXIII and Paul VI – or more properly, Cardinal Bugnini and modernist theologians – were divinely inspired in carrying out the Vatican II brief.  It’s interesting that most Catholic priests say that all the horrendous developments afterward — nuns dressing like office workers, the decline in Mass attendance, a new Missal every few years, pedestrian priests’ vestments and guitar music —  came ‘post-Vatican II’.  ‘Churchmouse, what you are describing was not part of the Second Vatican Council.  So, you are wrong.  Those all came about afterward.’ 

This means that Vatican II was so bad that priests disassociate its other developments!  In defending it they therefore must deny its outcome: the natural progression from the mysterium tremendum to the downright pedestrian.

Cardinal Bugnini was also responsible for introducing the Lectionary, which I’ll cover in another post. He also introduced the expression ‘Ordinary Time’ for designating the Sundays after Pentecost.

Therefore, to my Protestant friends wondering why I’m wasting time on the papacy, a large number of denominations do use the Lectionary. This was part of the spirit of ecumenism which influenced Catholic and Protestant theologians and clergy in the early 1970s.

I would also posit that Vatican II gave Protestants greater licence in establishing suburban congregations in shopping malls. Back in 2009, I borrowed a few telling comments from one of Damian Thompson’s posts for the Telegraph:

Benedict Carter, Nov. 30, 3:35 p.m.: … Going to Mass was the highlight of the week and the whole world of Catholicism was in our home constantly… And for this New Mass, with its centre of gravity NOT Christ above the individual soul (a vertical relationship) but the Collective (a horizontal relationship), there was needed a new physical orientation: priest and people face each other; the Tabernacle to which I knelt and prayed as a small boy thrust out of sight into some alcove chapel. All barriers (altar rails) ‘denying’ the Collective its rightful dignity were removed so that the Sanctuary became the whole Church (no more holy place); new Churches built to more represent an ampitheatre where the Collective can gather round each other rather than the Churches of all our forefathers that were built in one dimension – vertically, a line from the faithful to the priest and deacons to God in His Tabernacle.

Pascal, Nov. 30, 8:55 p.m.: … I agree with all the trad arguments but we don’t have that kind of intellectual body of faithful anymore. Most never experienced the old Mass and it would be very hard for them to switch back to the older form ..

On the Side of the Angels, Nov. 30, 10:48 p.m.: … there is simply no training in how to celebrate an ordinary form mass; so clerics invariably do as little as possible , or what they think is right, or what they think might add a little pizzazz to the rituals…

…and it’s not on !!!

Fr Jonathan, Nov. 30, 10:58 p.m.: I think you are right in saying how little real training there is in celebrating the Mass. Perhaps following an era of excessive adherence to every detail … produced a backlash.
But even if that’s a reason it’s no good at all as an excuse. Since the Mass is the most important thing we can ever do, the right way of doing it surely should be an essential part of the training of priests. For the good of everyone the Mass – in whatever form or rite – should be celebrated with due dignity and decorum.
And if proper training is not given, what does that suggest except that it’s not really important?

Now, on to the papacy, beginning with Benedict XVI’s abdication earlier this year. What follows is the risk that many see, although Professor Alberto Melloni attempted to put it into perspective for the Toronto Star:

The move immediately weakened the power of the office: if a pope can resign, maybe he can be pushed out, too. The radical step reminded everyone that a pope is a man and not “some demigod,” said Melloni, a leading church analyst with the University of Modena.

The Catholic Church is awash in nouvelle théologie, as never before.

On Good Friday 2013, The Preacher of the Pontifical Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap, preached on a story of Franz Kafka’s, An Imperial Message. Rorate Caeli has more (much more at the link, emphases in the original):

Here is the main excerpt:

… We must do everything possible so that the Church may never look like that complicated and cluttered castle described by Kafka, and the message may come out of it as free and joyous as when the messenger began his run. We know what the impediments are that can restrain the messenger: dividing walls, starting with those that separate the various Christian churches from one another, the excess of bureaucracy, the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris …

As happens with certain old buildings. Over the centuries, to adapt to the needs of the moment, they become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets. The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle, so we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins. This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: “Go, Francis, and repair my Church”.

In the comments section, Rorate Caeli readers were rightly unhappy (emphases mine):

John Fisher: Papa Cantalamessa is seeking to influence the pope! What an impertinent ignoramous! This is the agenda of Bugnini. You would think living amongst the ruins of ancient Rome he would grasp many old building are just simple ruins with all the beauty and ORIGINAL beauty destroyed by barbarians.
In his Encyclical Mediator Dei (1947), Pope Pius XII warned against those who attempt to subvert the Faith under the pretext of a return to primitive practice: such persons represent “a wicked movement that tends to paralyze the sanctifying and salutary action by which the liturgy leads the children of adoption on the path to their Heavenly Father.”
In the same document, the Pope went on to further explain that “the desire to restore everything indiscriminately to its ancient condition is neither wise nor praiseworthy. It would be wrong, for example, to want the altar restored to its ancient form of a table . . . and pictures and statues excluded from our churches . . . This attitude is an attempt to revive the ‘archeologism’ to which the pseudo-synod of Pistoia gave rise; it seeks also to reintroduce the many pernicious errors which led to that synod and resulted from it and which the Church . . . has rightly condemned.”

Benedict Carter: … Indeed, it appears that the capacity of intelligent men to see basic cause and effect has been somehow negated by some kind of shadow that can only be demonic …

The original Franciscans soon degenerated into the “Spirituals”, the Fraticelli, the radicals who took up arms and had to be destroyed by force of arms. Theirs is a radical call to compassion which un-directed soon becomes revolutionary

Justice & Peace, the “preferential option for the poor”, “compassion”, are now the law of the Church, not the Salvation of Souls …

Tenebrae: It is bizarre that a Catholic preacher should take as his key text a book by the bleak existentialist Frank Kafka. Presumably no text in Holy Scripture existed that met the “destruction agenda.” I find this sermon terrifying. It is a manifesto for destruction of the spiritual and temporal legacy of the church. And as well already know from the legacy of Vatican 2 it will not work.
The metaphor of a building is flawed. The church is more like a living tree than a building. Severe pruning will not turn a mighty ancient oak back to a sapling it will simply disfigure or even kill the tree.

Ora et Labora: This is what we’ll see pretty soon during Papal Masses, I mean, if this is how Francis celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for children, for the young people who will attend the WYD [World Youth Day], and for the Church in general the Papal Masses won’t be much different.
MISA DE NIÑOS 2011 – 3.wmv:

Francis calls the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass a meal (“esta comida”) and in minute 14:12 to minute 14:17 the deacon says having celebrated the party of Jesus we can go in peace (“habiendo celebrado la fiesta de Jesus podemos ir en paz”) …

Alsaticus: Fr Cantalamessa has always been a sort of liberal : he just wore his wojtylian/ratzingerian mask well and was cunning enough to fool two popes, sorry, “bishops of Rome”.
Now he is removing the mask : plain and simple.
all is nearly a quote of Hans Urs von Balthazar’s pamphlet “Rasez les bastions” (1952) in English : “Razing the Bastions : on the Church in This Age” which is often seen as a sort of draft for the “spirit of the Council”.

Fr von Balthasar left the … Society of Jesus in 1950.

Hilltop: I carry the point further to speculate if we are not seeing Cantalamessa picking up on Pope Francis’ gentle but obvious iconoclasms to date? No mozetta, intentionally limited use of the Stole, intentionally limited use of the pallium, intentionally limited use of the mitre, no red slippers, intentionally limited use of the pectoral cross, “call me Francis”,”call me Jorge”, “no Papal apartment for me, thanks”, “no need for all Cardinals to swear allegiance” … I recite the above not as an accuser but as an observer. If we have an iconoclast in our present Holy Father, or if we have in our present Holy Father a Pope who permits iconoclasm in others, we might as well recognize the signs so that we may be aware.

Prof. Basto: … And today, in Pope Francis’ quick and radical ignoring of the rubrics and abandonment of liturgical and extraliturgical ceremony, we see a radicalized version of the Spirit of Vatican II.

As for Fr. Cantalamessa, the John Paul II appointed, Benedict XVI maintained, Preacher of the Pontifical Household, he has always been an arch-liberal.

And his Good Friday homily is nothing but a rallying cry, asking the Pope to implement a radical vision of the “Spirit of Vatican II” by means of a total Rupture with the past.

The very meaning of the order given to St. Francis “Go and rebuild my Church” is distorted and perverted. It is made to sound like an order (directed to Pope Francis) for a refoundation of the Church on a completely new basis, a re-edification of the Church as if in a “New Pentecost”. It is the radicalism of the Vatican II age, of the sixties and seventies all over again.

And, in reality, this call, under the pretext of restoring the primitive, linear aspect, of the ecclesiastical edifice, is nothing but a call for the DEMOLITION OF THE CHURCH

And that is only in the first twenty days of his Pontificate. Today is the 20th day of Pope Francis’ Pontificate, including the date of the election. He has not yet even taken posession of his Cathedra at the Lateran, and yet so many symbols and ceremonies have already been changed and simplified …

Finally, as expected, few are surprised by the calls from Occupy-type Catholics about selling the Church’s goods ‘for the poor’. Two points here. One, throughout the centuries the faithful contributed hard-earned money for the Church’s treasures. So, they are Catholics’ heritage through the centuries — regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Catholicism’s premise and distortions. Two, aren’t the Occupy Catholics — perhaps including the Pope himself — saying the same as Judas did when Martha and Lazarus’s sister Mary poured precious spikenard on our Lord’s feet?

The Catholic Church’s possessions have been used for the glory of God for centuries. Storefront worshippers will disagree with this premise, but, human nature being what it is, there was a time when many — especially illiterates — came to God through the aethereal atmosphere that the Church offered to everyone, bringing them that much closer to Heaven once a week.

The Catholic Church is in crisis. Pope Francis’s ‘reform’ involves something which is not entirely his heritage or legacy to give away or abolish. It belongs to all Catholics. He is but its guardian.

Would that he concentrated more on saving souls instead of managing what increasingly appears to be an NGO.

Tomorrow: Catholics say Bugnini’s Lectionary has changed perception of God

Dog collarAfter I read the anecdote on Baroness Doherty’s Madonna House, I happened upon another article on the same Catholic site, this time concerning exit interviews for departing Catholics.

I thought that the article from 2011 by the Revd William J Byron S.J. — a Jesuit — would be riveting reading. However, Catholics severing their ties with Holy Mother Church would find little to surprise them in the comments.

It’s interesting that Fr Byron’s spur for the survey came via a captain of industry (page 1 of the essay):

Ever since Larry Bossidy, a former C.E.O. of Allied Signal and the Honeywell Corporation, raised the question of conducting interviews with lapsed Catholics, I have been giving it a lot of thought. Mr. Bossidy is a devout Catholic and the co-author (with Ram Charan) of a bestselling book, Execution, which Bossidy likes to explain is about effective management in business, not about capital punishment. He addressed a meeting of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management a couple of years ago and pointed out that if businesses were losing customers at the rate the Catholic Church in the United States is losing members, someone would surely be conducting exit interviews. His observation was prompted by data on declining church attendance released by the Pew Research Center.

Byron puzzled over this and featured the topic in a column he writes. Catholics and ex-Catholics did not hold back. Many wondered why the Vatican hasn’t seen any problem with the Church and liturgy post-Vatican II.

It amazes me — an ex-Catholic — that a priest wouldn’t wonder why people are leaving. The answers are many and, sadly, painfully obvious. At least to laymen.

One retired military man was blunt with Byron:

I only go to Mass to punch my ‘stay-out-of-hell-for-another-week’ card. I don’t celebrate the Mass; I endure it.

I know what he means only too well. Vatican II and its aftermath carry the Devil’s signature.

Sadly, Byron — a member of the most legendary and powerful religious order of all time — feigns helplessness at feeding back to the Vatican the negative information he has informally collected:

I just wish I could improve the organizational acoustics in the church so that leaders could hear what the people of God want to say.

Really? Hmm. I wonder.

I wonder because a book of his came out around the same time as his survey article. What do you think it is about? A book on the Gospel? A book on understanding the Mass? An introduction to the Catholic Church?


It is called Next-Generation Leadership: A Toolkit for Teens, Twenties & Thirties, Who Want to be Successful Leaders (University of Scranton Press).

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:21)

Below are a few facts about Pope Francis:

He was quite the imp in primary school. Martha Rabino is five years younger than Jorge Bergoglio but recalls that he used to visit one of his schoolteachers, Sister Rosa, who died recently at the age of 101. Sister Rosa, according to Sister Martha Rabino, told Bergoglio that he was ‘a devil’ and asked him whether he got any better. Sister Martha, incidentally, taught Argentina’s President Christina Fernandez (Mrs Kirchner) catechism many years ago.

He had his first — and only — crush, it would seem, at the age of 12. His young ‘girlfriend’ was the same age. Her parents put an end to their puppy love, but not before he drew the girl a picture of the house they would live in once they were married. He said that if she wouldn’t be his girlfriend, he would become a priest.

He is known for his austere style of living, declining to reside in the Cardinal’s mansion. Instead, he lived in a small flat in downtown Buenos Aires, cooked for himself and relied on public transport. He is no stranger to the slums and has a keen interest in the poor.

– He loves Argentina and believes that Great Britain has usurped the Falkland Islands.

He chose his name in memory of St Francis of Assisi rather than St Francis Xavier, one of the seven original Jesuits who journeyed to the Far East as a missionary in the Middle Ages.

– His sister believes he will have a life of ‘infinite loneliness’ in the Vatican and confirms he did not want the post.

President Christina Fernandez has asked the Pope to intervene in the Falklands dispute, after residents overwhelmingly voted — 99% — to remain British.

On Tuesday morning, March 19, 2013, I watched the Pope’s installation Mass on BBC1. In 2005, I watched Pope Benedict XVI’s, which was glorious. Pope Francis’s was quite different and left me uneasy. I took several pages of notes which contain many exclamation marks.

Jon Sopel, who normally presents political programmes, led the panel of Archbishop Peter Smith of the Roman Catholic diocese of Southwark (London), Joanna Moorhead of Faith Today and Dr Eamon Duffy, prominent papal historian.

They made little mention of Pope Benedict, who, by the way, did not attend the Mass. The only time his name came up was when the panel discussed the paedophilia scandals. The Archbishop thought that it was time to stop talking about the issue, a sentiment I have read from other Catholics lately. It seems to be a new meme. That said, the Archbishop said that the scandals would continue to come to light.

Let’s not forget that this was John Paul II’s mess which he refused to clean up and left Benedict XVI to do it. John Paul II thought many of these incidents were fiction based on Communist propaganda techniques used against Catholic clergy behind the Iron Curtain in the old days.

I find it disappointing that the media gave John Paul II a pass on everything because he looked so good on television. He should have; he was a stage actor before becoming a priest.

Still, the question remains — and many Protestant ministers have blogged on it — where is the church discipline? There has been some, but the stories which reach the press are those where secret or quiet deals have taken place where these priests — and now a cardinal — are still allowed to exercise their office.

Now on to highlights of the Mass and the BBC’s commentators.

– Pope Francis’s ring is recycled. Normally, these are made new for each Pope from gold and a precious stone. Francis’s does not appear to have a jewel and is silver-plated.

– Pope Francis will not be wearing the traditional red slippers nor will he continue with Benedict XVI’s penchant for the traditional fur-trimmed red cape. Francis reportedly said, ‘Carnival time is over‘. I’m not so sure that Benedict intended his revivals of traditions as a circus but rather as reverence for papal history.

– Francis’s papal vestments for Mass are off-white with black and gold trim.  They looked very austere and depressing. The use of black is no doubt a nod to the Jesuits, whose colour is black. His pallium — a papal stole with a collar, to represent the Good Shepherd with a lamb around His neck — has a long black tip. The Black Pope?

This AFP graphic based on information from the Vatican illustrates the differences between Francis and Benedict with regard to their attire. N.B.: If there is a large gap after the image, please scroll down to continue reading the post. Apologies for the formatting problems!

Pope attire 2013 AFP photo_1363680589061-3-0

Before Mass, the cameras showed Francis going to visit St Peter’s tomb underneath the eponymous basilica. Afterward, on the steps of St Peter’s, he was presented with his aforementioned pallium, which was made by the Sisters of St Agnes, traditional weavers of this papal vestment.

After the pallium placement, Francis sat down and rubbed his nostris with his right thumb and forefinger. Errgh. He would go on to shake cardinals’ hands and celebrate the Mass using his right hand.

He next received his ‘recycled’ (the BBC’s words) papal ring.

Whereas the liturgical music used for Benedict’s first papal Mass was glorious, Francis’s sounded as if it was from the usual Vatican II Mass Catholics hear every week. The choirs sounded flat; the only singing ‘star’ was the soloist choirboy who sang between the first two readings. Well done, that lad!

By contrast, Benedict’s 2005 Mass was so uplifting that when I went to the supermarket later, one of the clerks — a Muslim lady — told me that she watched the whole Mass and was very moved by it. She said, ‘I was only going to watch a few minutes of it out of curiosity. Instead, I watched all of it before coming to work. It was beautiful. I was transfixed.’ I pray that God watches over her and brings her to life in Christ.

What follows are what I could derive from the Scripture passages, none of which had a clear specification. My apologies if I got these wrong vis à vis my notes.

The first reading featured verses from II Samuel 7, among them:

13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 

The second reading was taken from Romans 4:

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

The Gospel reading came from Matthew 1 and specifically concerned St Joseph as March 19 is his feast day — a public holiday in Rome:

19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Afterward, Pope Francis delivered his first Vatican homily. As it was the feast of St Joseph, he began by exhorting those in attendance to emulate his example. Francis spoke of Joseph’s obedience to God in his role as protector of Mary and Jesus. He added that this can be extended to the Church. Francis said that Joseph carried out this responsibility ‘discreetly’ and with humility, even when he found his duty ‘hard to understand’. Yet, Joseph was present in fidelity and ‘loving care’ through times good and bad. Francis emphasised that Joseph was open to God’s presence, not his own wishes.

That was a good message which spoke to everyone — the ordained, heads of state, Catholic religious and laity. It also gave an indication as to how Francis would exercise his responsibilities as Pope — discreetly and humbly.

Then, Francis discoursed on the Catholic responsibility to the world’s poor and urged heads of states and governments to ensure the poor had more. He banged home the message that we all had to DO SOMETHING about poverty.  Yet, Jesus Himself told us that poverty was intractable. Many non-Catholics press the Catholic Church to start selling off the Vatican’s ‘riches’. It is possible that Francis will consider this. Unfortunately, such a gesture would not cure poverty. The proceeds would be spent within a couple of hours and probably only buy every poor person one small meal.

His next action point was environmentalism: ‘We are called to protect all creation!’ This reminded me of the big Gaia movement in South America which revolves around the Earth mother, Pachamama, and has enticed left-wing governments and Catholic religious towards new rights for nature and Pantheism (a heresy, for those who don’t know).

Therefore, two-thirds of the homily was directed towards the developing world, particularly South America.

Francis’s homily was also an excellent example of nouvelle théologie, where dogma changes with the world. Benedict XVI also espoused this way of thinking, saying that the Church is communitarian and that we must avoid strict biblical interpretations which would fossilise the Church or place Christ in ‘yesterday’.

This is Modernism, which St Pius X — the last Pope to be canonised — declared a heresy in 1907 (read here, here and here).

Francis’s homily had no mention of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the Cross, no mention of God’s grace, no mention about spreading the Gospel — by which I mean the Good News, not wealth redistribution or environmentalism.

This is why I felt so queasy afterward. It was not helped when Archbishop Smith said (only somewhat paraphrased) of Francis’s redistribution and environmentalism:

That’s the Gospel we will be judged on now.

To which Joanna Moorhead added (again, only somewhat paraphrased):

The environment is a very unifying message for the Church.

You don’t have to be Catholic or Christian to be part of these movements. During Francis’s first weekend as Pope, the BBC broadcast Comic Relief, a charity effort featuring top British entertainers, while France’s TF1 showed the annual benefit concert by Les Enfoirés, a pop group whose proceeds go to the charitable organisation Les Restos du Coeur (Restaurants of the Heart), where the poor are guaranteed a hot meal, a kind word and a smile as often as they need it.

It would not surprise me if Francis really were the last Pope, although perhaps not in the apocalyptic ways which St Malachy imagined. Archbishop Smith and Eamon Duffy both said afterward that Francis would attempt to reform the Curia and decentralise the administrative authority, devolving it to bishops. The Archbishop reminded us that the first bishops in the Church were elected by their congregations.

More urgent than that, however, is their need for the Gospel. It matters not how many Masses Catholic clergy and the Pope celebrate. For them and for too many Catholics, Jesus Christ is but a backdrop, overshadowed by the world.

On Tuesday, March 12, 2013, the conclave to elect the successor to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will have begun.

A few Reformed blogs have treated the Pope’s abdication lightly, when the Catholic Church is in real danger. It is not a stretch of the imagination that, should it find itself in chaos, the rest of Christianity will also be in danger.

With today’s ignorance about the Christian faith — including here in England, even among people over 50 who had to take Religious Education in school — it is quite possible that we will all be tarred with the same atheistic brush of ‘conservative, reactionary perverts and theonomists’.

So, I would suggest that we pray that Benedict XVI can retire in peace and be left alone. We do not know what is really happening inside the Vatican other than that ‘another spirit is moving through’ it — to borrow Martin Luther’s stinging words to Zwingli over the latter’s doubt of the Real Presence in Holy Communion. And that spirit is a form of darkness.

However, there is a cautionary historical story here. Benedict XVI, like the Popes before him going back to John XXIII, advocated teachings which go against Holy Scripture, among them (emphases mine):

Changing with the times: ‘In the era of liberalism that preceded the First World War, the Catholic Church was looked upon as a fossilized organization, stubbornly opposed to all modern achievements‘ … ’Whoever wants to attach himself solely to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures or to the forms of the Church of the Fathers imprisons Christ in “yesterday”.

This ties in with the ideas behind la nouvelle théologie: dogma changes over time and old tenets of the faith, even scriptural teachings, can be discarded.

Indeed, Benedict XVI helped to develop the changes which emanated from Vatican II:

Ratzinger became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959; his inaugural lecture was on “The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy”. In 1963, he moved to the University of Münster.

During this period, Ratzinger participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). Ratzinger served as a peritus (theological consultant) to Cardinal Frings of Cologne. He was viewed during the time of the Council as a reformer, cooperating with theologians like Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx. Ratzinger became an admirer of Karl Rahner, a well-known academic theologian of the Nouvelle Théologie and a proponent of church reform.

My mother, a devout Catholic, read everything going on the Catholic Church, especially when the subject concerned Vatican II. By the 1970s, Ratzinger and Küng were household names in our home. My mother sought out the nuns at my school to voice her opinion that the outcomes of Vatican II would ruin the Church. They attempted to reassure her that these particular changes were necessary and not to worry!

Well, we know what happened. Over the past four decades, the Catholic Church has been hemorrhaging laity and vocations whilst accumulating sacerdotal scandals and internal discord.

There was nothing ‘conservative’ about Benedict XVI, then or now. There are times, as was true with the now-retired Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that, amidst all the Modernist and worldly teaching, a glimmer of faith and brilliance occasionally emerged. The latest case in point was Benedict XVI’s final message on February 28, 2013.

The cautionary point is that Benedict XVI reaped what he sowed. Although none of us has eyes into each other’s souls, I would like to think that since his ascent to the papacy he has at least partially repented of Modernism as he saw the maelstrom of unbelief, corruption and immorality around him. The latest news before he ended his tenure was that a cabal of militant homosexual bishops is lobbying the Church for change. Their ability to do so would have to rely on Vatican insiders — other clergy — allowing that to happen. Of course, the fallout from the sex scandals has not gone away, either.

Vatican II really does have nouvelle théologie written all over it and the relativism it brought to all aspects of Catholic life has caused a number of lay members — including my friends and I — to leave. A few of us became Protestants, however, most left the Christian faith full stop.

A couple of years ago, we got together to talk about the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II Church. In the pre-Vatican II Church we agreed that we knew where we stood, that the Catholic faith was important to us largely because of the mysterium tremendum in Latin Mass and clear teaching (even if erroneous) which we learned at a young age.  Of the post-Vatican II changes, we thought that Mass had lost that mysterium tremendum, the priest wanted to get people in and out as soon as possible and that there was little guidance from the pulpit in matters of faith.

What is truly unfortunate, however, is that those who left Christianity said that they had little reason to believe that Jesus was active in their lives. Christ seems distant to them. Salvation doesn’t worry them; it doesn’t even enter their minds.

That distance and abstraction are part and parcel of nouvelle théologie:

the Incarnation of the Word (Jesus) was but a mere blip in the evolution of the universe. According to new theology, time moves on and our link to Jesus becomes more abstract. New theology ignores His sacrifice on the Cross, His glorious Resurrection and His promise of salvation.

God is not personally involved in our lives or our world; rather, God is an abstract ‘universal cosmic Centre’. This notion contradicts Holy Scripture from beginning to end.

we can be saved only through pantheism — Gaia — and ‘uniting’ ourselves with the universe.

As is often said in marketing, there is a big ‘So what?’ problem with the post-Vatican II Church. There is no compelling reason to align oneself with watery or, just as bad, extra-scriptural theology.

The other factor which I find troubling is the huge emphasis that Pope John Paul II (during whose tenure I left the Catholic Church) placed on Mary, making her co-redemptrix. For more information, see my Christianity / Apologetics page under the heading Mariolatry.

Then there is the difficulty of the Catholic doctrine of Christ’s specific designation of Peter as ‘the rock’ on which He would build His Church (Matthew 16). Yet, when one reads the Bible, Peter has a smaller role to play. This is no doubt one of the reasons why Catholic clergy had, until relatively recently, discouraged lay people from reading Holy Scripture, because if the faithful had begun to read and study it, who knows what contradictions with ‘tradition’ they might find?

John MacArthur explains:

Paul wrote Romans in the year 56, made no reference to Peter If Peter was the pastor of the church in Rome, why doesn’t he refer to Peter? And he greets a whole bunch of people in chapter 16, he just keeps greeting one after another after another after another, it would be pretty serious to overlook Peter. When Paul was later imprisoned in Rome in the year 60 to 62, he wrote four letters and he included in those letters all who came to him, never mentions Peter. In his last letter, 2 Timothy, written in the year 64 or about that, he gives greeting to ten people in Rome, not Peter..not Peter. By the way, Peter was never called to the Gentiles anyway. Galatians 2:7 and 8, you might want to look at that for just a minute. Galatians 2:7 and 8, he says, “I had been entrusted…Paul says…with the gospel to the uncircumcised, to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.” Peter was never called to pastor a Gentile congregation

By the way … you might think at least Peter would be the head of the Jerusalem church, but he’s not. According to Galatians chapter 2 and Acts chapter 15, the head of the Jerusalem church was James…not Peter at all. There’s no indication whatsoever that Peter had anything to do with the city of Rome.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 1, the Apostle Paul addresses the factions in the Corinthian church, he says, “Some of you say I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, or Peter, I of Christ.”He doesn’t make any great thing of him at all. In fact, he makes it very clear that none of these people are particularly significant. They’re not the ones who deserve the credit for the work of God. Go over to chapter 3. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed. I planted, Apollos watered, God was causing the growth.” It’s a very low key way to treat yourself. He doesn’t give any elevation to anybody.

Furthermore, Paul went to Rome to preach and in Romans 15:20 he says, “I aspired to preach the gospel not where Christ was already named.” If Peter had been there and planted a church, then that would not be true. He didn’t go where somebody else had been. If Peter was already the Bishop of Rome, why would Paul want to go there and strengthen and establish that church?

In 1 Peter, let’s hear from Peter himself. First Peter chapter 1, [‘]Peter an Apostle of Jesus Christ[‘], that’s all, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He introduces himself as nothing more than that, not THE Apostle, not the head of the church. First Peter 5, “I exhort the elders among you as your fellow elder.” As your fellow elder. I’m just one of you. I’m just a partaker of the glory to be revealed. Shepherd the flock of God. “Exercise oversight, not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God, not for money but with eagerness. Not as…here it comes, verse 3…lording it over those allotted to your charge.” Boy, there’s a direct hit at the papacy. We’re just fellow elders. Don’t ever lord it over. Peter himself actually taught against the priesthood of which, of course, the papacy is the highest place. First Peter 2:5 he says, “You are living stones, you are built up a spiritual house for a holy priesthood.” This is what we know as the priesthood of believers. Down in verse 9, “You are a chosen race. You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” There’s no priesthood but the priesthood of believers.

And by the way, Peter completely disappears after Acts 15, completely. But in spite of all of this, the Roman Catholic Church affirms that Peter was the first Pope, the head over the whole Church and the author of Papal Succession. Where do they get it? They get it from three passages completely misrepresented. Matthew 16, and this one you know, Jesus said, “I say to you, you’re Peter and on this rock I’ll build My church.” You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church. It’s a play on words. He’s not saying you are Peter and upon you I’ll build My church. You are Peter, Petros…Petros,small stone, and upon this Petra, rock bed, I will build My church. What rock bed? The rock bed of the reality of Christ. Simon Peter in verse 16, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God. And Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood didn’t reveal this to you, My Father who is in heaven. I say you are a small stone, but it’s on the rock bed of who I am that I will build My church.” How could that be perverted, the language is crystal clear?

Then there is the matter of St Malachy’s Prophecy of the Popes. I do not know if it is true, but, if so, and if the translation has been properly interpreted, the next Pope will be the last. His name, according to Malachy, is Petrus Romanus.  Then again, the reliability of our interpretation of these predictions could be akin to the way some invoke Nostradamus whenever there is a disaster or mass tragedy.

Does Malachy’s foreseen ‘apocalypse’ during Petrus Romanus’s tenure mean that referred to in Revelation or one of the Catholic Church?

Is it possible that the Catholic Church could move to another leadership model?

Would the papacy transfer from Rome to another city?

No one knows. Personally, I do not think it means the end of the Catholic Church, although its polity could change. Perhaps it will become more biblical in doctrine. Pray that it does.

To that end, thanks to commenters on John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog, I ran across a few useful New Testament verses for Catholic consideration:

Justification by grace through faith

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Examining teachings against the truth of Scripture

10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:10-11)

On venerating Mary

27 While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.”

28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:27-28)

Pray that the Pope Emeritus, the Curia and the next Pope embrace the fullness of Holy Scripture and pass it on to the faithful.

Hammer sickle and cross Edo Edi Essum forum_nationstates_netIn reading a post on Dr Gregory Jackson’s Ichabod, I ran across two related links elsewhere which deeply concerned me for reasons explained below.

Long march through the Church

Dr Jackson’s post featured an interview from the Harvard Gazette with  Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, a professor of Roman Catholic theological studies at the Divinity School. If you click on the link with  Fiorenza’s name, you’ll see his biography which lists such details as (emphases mine):

His writings on political theology engage recent theories of justice, especially those of John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, and have dealt with issues of work and welfare.

He was awarded the Henry Luce III Fellowship for 2005-06 for research in the history of twentieth-century Roman Catholic theology, namely, the direction known as la nouvelle théologie.

Habermas studied under Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, two professors of the prominent Frankfurt School, whose ideas have spread worldwide. His speciality is the concept of modernity, developing the ideas of Max Weber (also Frankfurt School) about rationalisation which

refers to the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behavior in society with rational, calculated ones. For example, the implementation of bureaucracies in government is a kind of rationalization, as is the construction of high-efficiency living spaces in architecture and urban planning.

Fiorenza says the Vatican is in flux. No news there. However, he did say that since the end of the Second World War in Germany and the United States, the percentage of Catholics marrying other Catholics declined from 9 in 10 marriages to 2 in 10 at present.  That means that 80% are marrying Protestants (best case scenario), those of other world faiths or no faith at all.

From this Fiorenza concludes:

that type of switch is leading to a type of religious pluralism that the church is not used to. … So I think the question of religious pluralism is going to be really important, especially if you get a pope from Asia, where you have more awareness of other world religions.

His use of ‘awareness’ points to advocacy of a one-world religion. He could have said ‘openness’ but certain elitists do not want people to really understand the big picture.

Catholic and Protestants face similar issues

Catholics face the following issues:

a seemingly conservative Pope has just abdicated.

two recent Popes, if not more (I’d go back to John XXIII), have latched on to Modernist theology (kissing Korans, allowing paedophile scandals) whilst reinforcing tradition (the Rosary and Latin Mass).

– bishops and priests are more interested in a Modernist philosophy of ‘action’ in the socio-political sphere rather than preaching the Gospel of grace and salvation.

– laity have left the Church, not for Protestantism, but altogether.

That said, the last two points also pertain to mainline Protestants not just in the United States (Episcopalians, Lutherans [ELCA] and Presbyterians [PCUSA]) but also in countries with ‘established’ (national) churches, e.g. England (Anglican), Scotland (Presbyterian) and Germany (Lutheran).

We can trace how we got here from there by going back to the mid-19th century and into the early 20th. Protestant and Catholic theology were both affected. Faithful theologians were doing battle within their own denominations against ideas from the Enlightenment and/or Marxism, neither of which has a place in religious dogma. These are but a few who defended the faith against the heresy of Modernism:

Charles Porterfield Krauth (Lutheran).

Pius X (Catholic, later canonised) — read here and here.

John Gresham Machen (Presbyterian) — read posts under his name on Christianity / Apologetics.

Why nouvelle théologie matters — a personal perspective

After reading Fiorenza’s Harvard University biography, I did a search on nouvelle théologie. What I read shocked me.

Unknowingly, I’d adopted and believed most (not all) of it since my days in Catholic high school — in fact, from the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s. That’s over three decades. Furthermore, I was going to church regularly the whole time!

Thankfully, the Lord moved me out of that darkness into a scriptural Christianity. I’m still learning.

How is it that I’d never heard of nouvelle théologie yet was in thrall to much of it for 30 years?

A good resource page which summarises and discusses it is ‘Where is the New Theology leading us?’ (translated from the French) by a Dominican priest, the Revd Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Again, although the essay is written from a Catholic perspective, new theology also has a stranglehold on mainline Protestant denominations. Therefore, I recommend this treatise to all my readers.

New theology’s main points include the following:

it refutes the Councils of Trent and Orange. The latter council is important to Protestants because, from it, the Calvinists derived their doctrine of Original Sin and Total Depravity.

Adam was not a man but a collective. This refutes the aforementioned councils and, worse, contradicts references to Adam in the New Testament. Luke’s Gospel traces Jesus’s lineage back to Adam (Luke 3:38). St Paul referred to Adam several times in his epistles, teaching that mankind has two heads: Adam and Christ.

the Incarnation of the Word (Jesus) was but a mere blip in the evolution of the universe. According to new theology, time moves on and our link to Jesus becomes more abstract. New theology ignores His sacrifice on the Cross, His glorious Resurrection and His promise of salvation.

sin is purely a personal issue; Original Sin is irrelevant and God doesn’t place much importance on it. This also refutes the aforementioned Councils. It also ignores God’s banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for their sin.

it is rationalist (see definition at the beginning of this post) in that it advocates for dogma which evolves with time and the world. This is why we see the push for homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage. It also accounts for the (quasi-)atheistic clergy in our pulpits who cannot preach the Gospel.

God is not personally involved in our lives or our world; rather, God is an abstract ‘universal cosmic Centre’. This notion contradicts Holy Scripture from beginning to end.

we can be saved only through pantheism — Gaia — and ‘uniting’ ourselves with the universe.

a general convergence of world religions will bring about a universal faith which will satisfy humanity.

faith can save only if the Church ‘progresses’ in step with the world.

Christians must discard dogmas which are now irrelevant; it is unhealthy to consider doctrine as being true for all time.

there is no such thing as the Real Presence (much less transubstantiation) in Holy Communion; Christ was present only during His lifetime on Earth.

it distorts Thomas Aquinas’s ideas, twisting them into something the philosopher and theologian would never have considered.

But, wait — there’s more

Whilst reading these false teachings, I thought of the anonymous Catholic Agent AA-1025 who was a priest in the 1930s and already posited ideas we would see come to fruition during Vatican II.

There is also the Protestant side of the story, featuring Walter Rauschenbusch — a pietistic Lutheran and the father of the American social gospel. He had close associations with a member of the Fabians — the Revd Harry Ward. John D Rockefeller brought the two together and helped them to establish the Federal Council of Churches, which has since evolved to the World Council of Churches and has close links to the United Nations, also a Fabian creation.

As to the Popes, the preface to an audio lecture about new theology and Vatican II says:

Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, are products of the New Theology, and pledge first allegiance to this new system, rather than to the traditional anti-Modernism of Pope Saint Pius X.

Back now to Fr Garrigou-Lagrange, who wrote:

Some will no doubt say that we exaggerate, but even a small error regarding first ideas and first principles has incalculable consequences which are not foreseen by those who have likewise been fooled. The consequences of the new views, some of which we have already reviewed, have gone well beyond the forecasts of the authors we have cited. It is not difficult to see these consequences in certain typewritten papers, which have been sent (some since 1934) to clergy, seminaries, and Catholic intellectuals; one finds in them the most singular assertions and negations on original sin and the Real Presence.

At times, in these same circulated papers, before such novelties are proposed, the reader is conditioned by being told: This will appear crazy at first, however, if you look at it closely, it is not illogical. And many end up believing it. Those with superficial intelligence will adopt it, and the dictum, “A doctrine which is not current, is no longer true” will be out walking. Some are tempted to conclude: “It seems that the doctrine of the eternal pains of hell is no longer current, and so it is no longer true.” It is said in the Gospel that one day charity will be frozen in many hearts and they will be seduced by error.

It is a strict obligation of conscience for traditional theologians to respond. Otherwise, they gravely neglect their duty, and they will be made to account for this before God.

And the following quote, which is very true, although I would disagree on ‘average’ souls. I consider my own as average, but I do remember discussing assigned high school reading material (e.g. Teilhard de Chardin) with one of my classmates who has always had a highly developed intellectual mind. She had to explain it all to me and, even then, I didn’t understand it but thought I should accept it, anyway (stupid!):

A professor of theology wrote to me:

“In effect, the very notion of the truth has been put into debate, and without fully realizing it, thus revisiting modernism in thought as in action. The writings that you have spoken to me about are much read in France. It is true that they exercise a huge influence on the average type of soul. They have little effect on serious people. It is necessary to write for those who have the sincere desire to be enlightened.”

And the problem lies in ‘the sincere desire to be enlightened’, which goes all the way back to original sin when the serpent seduced Eve into heightened knowledge (Genesis 3:1-5):

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

 He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said,  ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Christians must reject such a carnal urge, not least because a lifetime of enlightenment and scholarship lies in the Holy Bible and long-established confessions of faith. May we read, study and understand them then pass that eternal truth on to others.

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