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Br Guy in Lab.jpgBefore Christmas, SpouseMouse brought to my attention an interesting article from the London Evening Standard.

On Friday, December 16, the paper published ‘Can science explain the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem?’ on their op-ed page. Br Guy Consolmagno SJ, the author, is the director of the Specola Vaticana, the astronomical observatory of the Vatican City state.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We liked this for two reasons. One, it shows you can be religious and scientific:

At the Vatican Observatory, our work is the same as any other astronomical observatory. We take new data about things in space and try to devise explanations for how they behave. But we’re interested in the Star of Bethlehem for the same reason that everyone else is: it’s a fun mystery, a place where science and hope intersect.

Two, Br Guy goes through all the theories. Some you might like, some you might not. I did not agree with everything he had to say.

Regardless, his article will make you think more about the Star of Bethlehem, especially as he concludes (emphases mine):

Actually, to me the most astonishing part of the story of the Magi is not that they would predict the birth of a king from the positions of the planets; any fortune teller could have done that kind of calculation. Nor is it that they’d pull up roots and travel afar to find out if they were right; we astronomers do that all the time. Instead, it’s that they would be able and willing to recognise the king they were seeking in the child they found in a manger.

I thought a lot about that over Christmas. We still have time to ponder it, as Epiphany isn’t until January 6.

When I lived in the US, I enjoyed watching The McLaughlin Group on PBS.

(Photo credit: The McLaughlin Group on Facebook)

It was a political programme unlike any other: rapid-fire conversation concluding with weekly predictions in soundbites. I watched during the 1980s, when the line up was host Dr John McLaughlin with panellists Morton Kondracke of The New Republic, Jack Germond of The Baltimore Sun and Bob Novak. The show always closed with McLaughlin’s trademark ‘Bye bye’.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was still on the air and that McLaughlin never missed an episode until last weekend, when he was too ill to broadcast. He was 89 years old and, sadly, died on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 of prostate cancer.

Can you imagine hosting a television show, especially one on politics, when you’re 89 years old? I can’t. Americans were blessed to have had John McLaughlin on their television screens for over three decades.

Host versus panellists

I recall episodes of The McLaughlin Group which indicated backstage tension. My mother and I used to discuss the show during our weekend phone calls. She told me I was reading too much into personalities.

However, The New York Times reveals that not all the panellists were happy campers. Bob Novak left the show in 1988 and later hosted his own programme on CNN. During a PBS interview in 2007, the truth came out. Novak said:

He may not be pure evil, but he’s close to it.

Jack Germond, who was rather quiet on occasion although he always added much to the conversation:

called the show “really bad TV,” and said he had stayed on only because he needed the money to pay his daughter’s medical school tuition.

Whatever they say, millions of us loved the show, in large part for McLaughlin’s style of hosting:

Regardless of the panelists’ political persuasions, Mr. McLaughlin, whose own politics leaned decidedly right, would often fire off questions and cut them off, shouting “Wronnnng!”

Then there were the question and answer predictions at the end of each episode. A NYT reader recalls:

he made my favorite prediction on the last 1999 show: “The question of the 21st century will be science vs. religion and the answer is science! Bye-bye!”

Interesting facts

John Joseph McLaughlin was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 29, 1927. He was the son of Eva P. (née Turcotte) and Augustus H. McLaughlin, who was a regional salesman for a furniture company.

McLaughlin attended LaSalle Academy in Providence and went to Weston College, a Jesuit seminary in Massachusetts. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 1947.

His further education did not stop there, and the young priest went on to earn masters degrees in philosophy and English literature from Boston College before obtaining a doctorate from Columbia University.

McLaughlin taught at the Jesuit-run Fairfield Preparatory School in Connecticut and later moved to New York to edit the Jesuit magazine America. Then came the 1960s and the Vietnam War.

By the end of the decade, a handful of Jesuit priests raised their heads above the parapet and became involved in politics. Daniel Berrigan was one well known antiwar activist. Robert Drinan was another; he was a US congressman for Massachusetts between 1971 and 1981.

The same year that Drinan first ran for election — 1970 — saw John McLaughlin, SJ, throw his hat into the ring. He ran for US Senate in Rhode Island as the Republican candidate against the long-serving politician, the much-loved Democrat John Pastore. Not surprisingly, he was trounced.

Whereas Robert Drinan’s superiors approved of his run for Congress, McLaughlin’s sharply disapproved of his. It would not be the first time the feisty priest ran into trouble with his superiors, including the Bishop of Rhode Island.

McLaughlin resigned his editorship of America and went to Washington, DC, to become a speechwriter for then-president Richard Nixon. A mutual friend, Republican adviser and pundit Pat Buchanan, introduced the two. McLaughlin became known as ‘Nixon’s priest’.

McLaughlin was fiercely loyal to the then-president. The NYT tells us:

At one news conference, he dismissed Nixon’s use of profanity as “emotional drainage.” Less than two weeks before the president resigned, Father McLaughlin warned in a speech at the National Press Club that the nation would face a “parade of horrors” should Nixon be impeached. (On July 31, 1973, Father Drinan became the first congressman to call for impeachment in a House resolution.)

Whereas Drinan lived in plain quarters with other Jesuits in Georgetown, McLaughlin had his residence at the upmarket Watergate complex.

When Nixon resigned in 1974, Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford abolished McLaughlin’s post. His superiors ordered him to leave Washington DC for Boston for a period of ‘reflection’. He refused and left the Jesuits. In order to leave the order, he had to petition Pope Paul VI for permission, which was granted in 1975.

Shortly after leaving the Jesuits, McLaughlin married his 1970 campaign manager Ann Dore, who later served as secretary of labor under Ronald Reagan. The couple set up their own media relations and public affairs consulting firm. They divorced in 1992.

Five years later, McLaughlin married Cristina Vidal, who was the vice president of operations for his production company, Oliver Productions, named after his treasured basset hound from the Nixon era. The couple divorced in 2010.

Media career

McLaughlin was a man who always had something to say. Fortunately, Washington DC’s WRC radio recognised this and gave him a weekend talk programme to host in the early 1980s.

From there, McLaughlin worked at National Review when William F Buckley Jr was at the helm. McLaughlin was the magazine’s Washington editor and a regular columnist from 1981 to 1989.

His friends from the early 1970s helped him set up a television production company in the 1980s (pre-Oliver) through which he was able to sell a new kind of political talk show to WRC-TV. The NYT explains what a departure this was:

At the time, TV round tables of journalists like “Agronsky & Company” and “Washington Week in Review” dissected the week’s developments in a sober, nonpartisan style. Mr. McLaughlin envisioned a more animated, argumentative format including a panel reflecting conservative, moderate and liberal views, with him as moderator.

I can tell you that Agronsky & Company and Washington Week in Review were incredibly boring. With The McLaughlin Group, it was as if someone had thrown open a window in a stuffy room. Agree or disagree, it engaged the viewer — and continues to do so.

You can see episodes from 1998 to the present on McLaughlin’s personal website. The episodes also have a link to YouTube. I would recommend watching them rather than selecting the MP3 option, if you can. N.B.: McLaughlin did not appear in the August 12, 2016 show.

His other television shows were John McLaughlin’s One on One, broadcast on PBS and NBC between 1984 and 2013, and a daily interview show which ran on CNBC between 1989 and 1994.

However, The McLaughlin Group was his most popular. In 1992, the NYT asked the ex-Jesuit if his programme ‘depreciated’ journalism. McLaughlin strongly disagreed and replied:

Journalists can get very pompous, especially in the formalized days of Meet the Press, when they took themselves so damned seriously. This show demythologizes the press, and I think people like that.

They do. One NYT reader had this to say:

The Irish have a way with words and the gift of the gab. John McLaughlin was very intelligent and highly educated. I think this is the reason his show was so successful and ran for so many years. I do not think there is an equal in quality programming today.

Nor will we see his like again.

May John McLaughlin rest in peace. He did a great service to the United States, engaging millions of Americans in politics via television for over 30 years.

This week’s issue of French newsweekly Marianne has a cover story on conspiracy theories (No. 932, February 27 – March 5, 2015).

One of the articles (pp 16-17) traces the origins of the modern conspiracy theory all the way back to the 16th century.

Intrigued, I did more research and came across an essay from 2013 by German historian Cornel Zwierlein, Security Politics and Conspiracy Theories in the Emerging European State System (15th/16th c.)’.

Renaissance priorities and plots

The Renaissance, to borrow Dickens’s words, was the best of times and the worst of times. On the one hand, Europe was able to revisit philosophy, recapture classical styles of sculpture and develop the arts in a highly sophisticated manner. Commerce flourished as a new merchant class arose.

The new availability of paper and the printing press made the Reformation possible. Protestants were finally able to hear the Bible in their own tongue. The wealthier ones could read Scripture for themselves.

On the other hand, international political plots saw the light of day as did religious conspiracies against the state.

Cornel Zwierlein tells us that the overriding priority of European rulers in the Middle Ages was peace (p. 68). Nobles, princes and kings sought agreement with each other. Safety was also a concern but was more concerned with that of the highways and byways which existed at that time as well as in maritime transport.

During the Renaissance, priorities of those in power changed. Reviving the notion of state security, or securitas — reminiscent of the ancient Roman Empire — was seen as a political aim and virtue.

Zwierlein’s essay highlights Italy’s various nation-states of that era. What went on there, he says, was a ‘laboratory’ of political development.

Lorenzo de’ Medici was instrumental in emphasising the importance of bringing these states together as allies in the 15th century (p. 67).

In order to do this, state and papal officials began an informal intelligence service, tracking who might be on their side and who might be forming different alliances. Roads were improving, allowing couriers to deliver messages more quickly. Thanks to the export of paper from Aragon to Italy, not only were notes and letters more convenient to compose but political diaries were also made possible. This was the era when communication flow began in earnest (p. 73) and has continued ever since.

Political written communication evolved during this time to incorporate what Zwierlein calls ‘hard’ things ( e.g. institutions) with ‘soft’ things, such as semantics and narrative. He explains (p. 74):

The controlling of a network of office holders “inside” and “outside” the state from a center is one of the most important features – possible only with the help of paper-based communication.

The steady creation and influx of written communication became state business in and of itself. Comparatively ‘live’ information became highly important in immediate decision-making or adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. Officials knew their subject and analysed it minutely. They created written archives. All of this led to (p. 74):

distinctions between “internal” and “external” affairs, between “internal”and “external” security, between an emerging public sphere and the secrecy of arcane politics, between simulation, dissimulation and real actions appear as well as those concepts that refer to the above-mentioned interdependency of states, foremost the famous “equilibrium”, measurement of alliances and allies, neutrality (Zwierlein 2006b).

Lorenzo de’ Medici died in the year Columbus discovered America. He was known as ‘The Magnificent’, il Magnifico (p. 75). Arts students think of him as Florence’s great patron. However, he was also the power behind Italian rulers and thinkers of his time. He could be considered as the father of balance-to-power politics.

He promoted state ‘equilibrium’ (contrapeso), ‘common security’ and ‘tranquillity’ (p. 76). Our present-day ‘international security’ evolved from his concepts. With regard to Italy, he wanted to create an interdependence among the various states that existed on the peninsula at the time. However, he was keenly aware that the most powerful ones — Venice, Naples and Milan — preferred to remain apart. His concern for the economic prosperity of the day was of paramount importance along with a wish to avoid regional war.

In order to achieve his aims, updated written intelligence was essential. Any uncertainties needed clarification, therefore, ‘avvisi’ — news — became a priority (p. 79). Another consideration was that rulers might change their minds on political matters (p. 80):

it is hard to “read” their hidden intentions; there are hidden secrets, things that Lorenzo is not able to know; and that stimulates his “fantasia”.

Consequently, he, other rulers, ambassadors and officials began to draw their own conclusions about certain plans, projects and motivations. Whilst fact was involved, there was also conjecture and supposition.

It would be wrong to say that de’ Medici and other information-gatherers promoted conspiracy theories. They assessed their intelligence diligently, however, they knew they did not always have the facts.

By the 1530s, those gathering intelligence information and avvisi (news) were able to assemble general regional newsletters (p. 82), the forerunner of early newspapers.

It is interesting to note that these early journalists wrote anonymously to protect their sources and themselves. Thanks to a more organised courier system, these printed sheets of paper carried the narratives of the day. Kings, princes and nobles were delighted to see their names in print: the more frequently, the better.

This system of frequently printed and delivered news spread across Europe by the end of the 16th century. The first formal newspapers appeared in the 17th century.

Wars of Religion and Counter-Reformation

Less scrupulous and more emotional men later began adopting this same information-sifting process and drew premature or wild conclusions. Often, they were from religious or political minorities.

This type of fractured narrative holds true of today’s conspiracy theories. Fact is accompanied by an additional and new narrative which turns the original version on its head. Those who feel marginalised or under-represented latch onto it.

Zwierlein tells us that the process for the modern conspiracy theory did not evolve until the Wars of Religion in France and the Counter-Reformation in Europe. The Protestants in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and France feared Catholic dominance. Persecution of Protestants took place in the Netherlands and France in the 16th century.

Protestants considered pamphlet writing (anonymously), printing (or copying by hand) and distribution as important for their fellow men (p. 82). However, some of these contained unfounded projections about (p. 83):

the international state system and the politico-religious competition within and between the states of that system. 12

The best example of this, Zwierlein says, was a Protestant newsletter explaining a 17-point pan-European conspiracy on the part of Catholic rulers, with the help of papal funding, to depose Protestant ones and ensure that Catholicism was the only form of Christianity. The pamphlet minutely detailed how this would come about. The supposed plan involved Germany, Spain, Scotland, England, France and influential nobility of the day (pp. 83-84).

Whilst the author’s knowledge of the personalities and past politics of the major players was exceptional, Zwierlein says the conclusions were less plausible (p. 84). Anyone who has studied history will know that one cannot have a notional secret alliance involving too many parties. Furthermore, each of the nations involved would have had particular political or territorial interests which would have made it unlikely that a common cause, even Catholicism, could bring them together in concert, especially for such a huge undertaking.

Not surprisingly, a few years later, the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Huguenots in France engendered a number of printed and handwritten pamphlets which circulated all over Europe (p. 84). These brought conspiracy theories to a wider audience.

However, this bloody day in French history also brought about an early propaganda narrative. The first of the pamphlets appeared ten days after news reached Rome of the massacre. Its author was Camillo Capilupi who not only was a secret chamberlain of the Pope but also an agent of the Duke of Nantua, who was one of the masterminds  behind the massacre and a Franco-Italian of the house of Gonzaga. Capilupi entitled his work ‘Stratagem’ and used terms such as astuzia and prudenza in his elaborate description of the French king Charles IX’s brilliance in bringing this deadly plan to fruition (p. 85). In reality, Charles IX was a young king considered to be weak, relying on his mother and powerful advisers.

However successful Capilupi thought his pamphlet was, the Huguenots and other European Protestants seized on the information therein to detail how dastardly and scheming the French king and his advisers were (p. 87). Furthermore, whatever embellishments the Protestants might have added, they could always say that the ‘facts’ of the matter, such as they were, came from one of the Pope’s insiders himself.

Zwierlein concludes that fact took second place to an overall objective of careful construction of narrative to support one’s own version of a story. The powers that be and dissenters could weave fact with fantasy to suit their own purposes.

However, what had to engage the reader and keep him interested was an emotional appeal. The word ‘truth’ was often used as well as a mention of God or Providence.

Combining a narrative with emotion has continued to engage men and women with conspiracy theories from the Renaissance onward.


In England during this time, Elizabeth I was under threat:

After Henry VIII’s death, England endured the Western Rebellion of 1549; during Elizabeth’s reign, there occurred the Rebellion of 1569, as well as plots against the queen’s life, notably the Babington Plot, which led to the trial, conviction, and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. Throughout the century and beyond, England had reason to fear an invasion and the uprising of native Catholics. The danger was by no means restricted to the year 1588, when Philip II of Spain sent his Armada to subdue England.

The court had to develop state narratives of what the Queen was doing and why. Pamphlets, tracts, plays, poetry and the Bible were part of the rhetorical devices used:

Every Englishman was required to hear the sermons on obedience three times during the year. The gist of the doctrine was this: The ruler was God’s lieutenant on earth; no subject, however exalted, had the right to actively oppose him. To do so was a sin against religion, punishable by suffering here and now and by eternal damnation after death. Even if the ruler were a tyrant, the subject had no right to oppose him, for the head of state ruled with God’s sufferance. In support of this doctrine, appeals were made primarily to biblical authority. Texts such as Romans 13 and Proverbs 8, as well as ones in Matthew, were cited repeatedly.

A new element was added to Elizabeth’s government: a spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham:

Born to a well-connected family of gentry, Walsingham travelled in continental Europe after leaving university before embarking at the age of twenty on a career in law. A committed Protestant, during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary I of England he joined other expatriates in exile in Switzerland and northern Italy until Mary’s death and the accession of her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth.

Walsingham rose from relative obscurity to become one of the small coterie who directed the Elizabethan state, overseeing foreign, domestic and religious policy. He served as English ambassador to France in the early 1570s and witnessed the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. As principal secretary, he supported exploration, colonization, the use of England’s maritime strength and the plantation of Ireland. He worked to bring Scotland and England together. Overall, his foreign policy demonstrated a new understanding of the role of England as a maritime, Protestant power in an increasingly global economy. He oversaw operations that penetrated Spanish military preparation, gathered intelligence from across Europe, disrupted a range of plots against Elizabeth and secured the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Intelligence was highly important in England and continued to be so afterward. Walsingham had an extensive networks of informants, information gatherers, spies and forgers to foil various plots and intrigues against the Queen.

This worked to keep Elizabeth I safe and secure. She ruled from 1558 to 1603.


Speaking of religion and conspiracy theories, the Jews have been the object of suspicion since Old Testament days.

In the first centuries of Christianity, Church doctors and councils made various inflammatory pronouncements against them. Rulers, sometimes with help from clerics, devised anti-Semitic laws and decrees:

Jews were very often forbidden to own land, preventing them from farming. Because of their exclusion from guilds, most skilled trades were also closed to them, pushing them into marginal occupations considered socially inferior, such as tax- and rent-collecting or money lending. Catholic doctrine of the time held that money lending to one’s fellow Christian for interest was a sin, and thus Jews tended to dominate this business. This provided the foundation for stereotypical accusations that Jews are greedy and involved in usury. Natural tensions between Jewish creditors and Christian debtors were added to social, political, religious, and economic strains. Peasants, who were often forced to pay their taxes and rents through Jewish agents, could vilify them as the people taking their earnings while remaining loyal to the lords and rulers on whose behalf the Jews worked. The number of Jewish families permitted to reside in various places was limited; they were forcibly concentrated in ghettos; and they were subjected to discriminatory taxes on entering cities or districts other than their own.

Nearly every town in France has a thoroughfare called Rue des Juifs: Jews’ Street. It is no doubt similar in other European countries. In the City of London, now the financial district, but, until the Great Fire of 1666, the only densely populated part of the city, a street called Old Jewry still exists, although it has been centuries since it has been a Jewish ghetto.

Martin Luther comes under much criticism for his sometimes violent anti-Semitic writing. This is because he had initially hoped Germany’s Jews would join him in opposing the Catholic Church during the Reformation. That did not happen. Just before he died, Luther adopted a much more charitable outlook and said that his followers should pray for the Jews and show them brotherly love. However, some historians think that the bulk of what Luther had said and written helped to indirectly determine certain historic anti-Semitic events.

In the 16th century, a French writer and historian Etienne Pasquier targeted not only Jews but also the Jesuits, linking them together to cause deep suspicion and mistrust among his readers. French historian Léon Poliakov told Marianne (aforementioned issue, p. 17) that Pasquier wrote:

dans la jésuiterie, il y a beaucoup de juiverie.

Among the Jesuits, there is much Jewishness.

Cromwell’s kindness towards the Jews during the Interregnum in England and, later, the French Revolution, brought about their integration into European society. Many became highly successful and influential at local and national levels. Modern-day conspiracy theorists point to banking.

In Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe, violent pogroms took place in the 19th century. The poorest Jews were affected, being driven out of towns and villages. In 1901, members of the Tsarist police wrote The Protocols of Zion. Although the information therein is false, it was designed to arouse intense public suspicion and emotion. Its main themes were making Jewish people out to be universal plotters and conspirators, especially with Freemasons and Bolsheviks. Adolf Hitler read the book and referred to it in Mein Kampf.

The Jesuits

The Jesuits have both created and been the subject of conspiracy theories.

Augustin Barruel, a French priest belonging to the Society of Jesus during the French Revolution, took refuge in Germany then in England. He accused the leaders of the Revolution of being in league with prominent Freemasons to bring about an ungodly fall of the French royal family and the Church. He dedicated his book Histoire du Clergé pendant la Revolution Française to the people of England in gratitude for the hospitality and graciousness they showed him during his stay. He ended up returning to France in 1802 and encouraged his fellow priests to accept the newly established order but to continue their defence of the Church.


John Robison, a Scot who was a contemporary of Barruel, popularised conspiracy theories involving Freemasons.

Robison was a scientist and an inventor who became disillusioned with the Enlightenment. He became an author, putting his belief into writing that the German secret society the Illuminati pursued links with British Masonic lodges in order to overthrow all European governments and religious practice.

One of Robison’s readers sent a copy of the book to George Washington, asking for the American president’s thoughts. Washington replied that although he did not believe that there was a wholesale Masonic plot against the United States or Europe, he did not doubt that certain lodge members had been working on such a plan.


Those who read Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the secret meetings of Freemasons, Illuminati and Reading Societies and Barruel’s books would have come to the same conclusion.

The same conspiracy theory narrative continues today, wrapped up in the same emotion and rhetoric used during the Renaissance.

How does one break one’s habit of reading these with avid interest? The closer one moves towards prayer and Bible reading, the less one needs half-baked factoids wrapped in sensationalism.


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)

Earlier this year, one of my cyberfriends sent me a link to an article saying that atheists were better behaved than Christians.

My friend asked, ‘Why is this? Your observations would be helpful.’

Well, I’ll be darned if I can find the original correspondence or the link, which is unusual for me, as I squirrel everything away for future use. So, my apologies to my correspondent for a late online response (although I recall sending a brief reply at the time). I also apologise for being unable to give you the link to the article he sent.

However, there is an element of truth in this notion.  Furthermore, the atheist loses no time in endlessly pointing out the Christian’s faults.  It happened to me many times with one of my ex-colleagues, over 15 years ago.  Often, it’s a battle a believer cannot win.  At some point, after offering all your apologetic arguments, you just have to ignore the jibes.

That said, I published observations on this subject on July 12, 2010 — ‘The perceived dichotomy between unbelievers and Christians’.  The post discusses Anglican and Catholic perspectives, with the following salient points:

First, an Episcopal priest offered a summary of the dichotomy as the Revd Bernard Tyrrell, a Jesuit, sees it:

While moral conversion is interrelated with religious conversion they are also different. He also includes conversion from addiction and conversion from neurosis. This is why a pagan can be a moral person and a Christian can be an addict …

I think it goes a long way in explaining how people who sincerely believe themselves to be born again Christians can think and behave the way they do. That is why monastics are involved in what is called “conversion of manners”.

Second, another Jesuit, a Fr Lonergan — also named Bernard — explains a three-fold conversion.  A biography featured on the Boston University website says this:

Conversion as Lonergan understands it is three-fold … It is about coming to the realization that one’s knowing is commonly a mixture of two different kinds of knowing, and about the process of learning to distinguish between the two and to discern their proper roles. To this … [add] moral and religious conversion. Moral conversion is the shift from self-satisfaction to value as the criterion of one’s decision-making and action. Finally, Lonergan conceives of religious conversion as a being-in-love in an unrestricted fashion. It is the gift of God’s grace flooding our hearts.

I offered an analysis of these observations as well as of the atheist’s outlook.  What follows is a summary — more at the aforementioned link to my 2010 post (emphases mine):

So, one might say that moral conversion — no sinful excesses — is the individual’s move from self-gratification to love.  In an unbeliever, this would translate as valuing oneself, one’s family and friends as well as one’s neighbour.  A Christian would do the same, but above these would be a love of God informing all of his decisions.  Again, the St Augustine quote: ‘Love God and do as you will’.

Yet, because all of us – Christians or not — are fallen men in a fallen world, some of us struggle with progressing from religious conversion to moral conversion.  Moral conversion for the Christian, however, is not legalism, which follows man’s laws, but a grace-filled love of God which translates towards himself and his fellow man. 

Conversely, unbelievers have a moral conversion without a religious one.  This is why they often ‘look better’ in their social acceptability than a Christian who struggles with substance abuse or sexual addiction

To be an ideal Christian requires a combination of the two.  Unbelievers have only one (moral conversion) and many Christians have only one (religious conversion).  To be regenerate is to have the blessings of both.  It’s the reason why so many Christians say that conversion takes a lifetime.

This is a topic worth revisiting from time to time.  It raises good questions.  I hope that these quotations go some way to answering them.

Yesterday’s post introduced us to the roots of Pentecostalism, surprisingly, found in Gnosticism.

Today’s post continues with the second half of Tim Naab’s essay,  ‘The Roots of Pentecostalism: Gnostics’.  This will take us from the Reformation to present-day Pentecostalism.

Readers unfamiliar with the Rapture might find my 2009 post useful as it not only illustrates what this event would look like but also explains more about the timeline and objectives of futurism as devised by a Jesuit, Francisco Ribera, during the Counter-Reformation.  In the early 19th century, Manuel de Lacunza, also thought to have been a Jesuit, expanded on it.

Below are excerpts from Mr Nabb’s essay, worthwhile reading in full. Text highlights in bold are mine.

Manuel de Lacunza wrote a book entitled ‘The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty’, and in its pages taught that Christ returns in a 2 part coming. First part to rapture the Church out of the world to miss the revealing of the anti-Christ. After all if the Church is gone before the anti-Christ is revealed, the Papacy can’t possibly be the anti-Christ. Lacunza published his book under the pen name, Rabbi Ben Ezra, a supposedly converted Jew. Lacunza’s book was found in the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1826 and made its way via parts translated and read by Edward Irving, to the public. The “Romeward movement was already arising, destined to sweep away the old Protestant landmarks, as with a flood.”[27]

Then we come to Edward Irving, a Scottish Presbyterian, that held to the future anti-christ ideas of the Counter Reformation. In his study he read Manuel de Lacunza’s book and translated it into English. Many began to accept these teachings of future prophecies and began prophesying themselves. Two families, the McDonalds and the Campbells were drawn to this through their own practice of psychic readings, fortune telling and auto-writings. This led to prophetic utterances of Margaret McDonald, a Scottish girl that influenced Irving’s eschatology of a pre-trib rapture and proof that the “experience” was still alive. Soon after we see the ecstatic utterances. McDonald and Irving both “prophecied” that the coming would be in 1864. McDonald actually named the anti-Christ. She named Robert Owen, a utopian socialist of the day. Robert Owen was against all religions and was one of the founders of socialism in Wales ...[28]

During the middle ages speaking in tongues were reported in monasteries of the Orthodox church. In the seventeenth century it seems to have been practiced in France amongst the Huguenots (Protestants) and the Jansenists (pietistic Catholics). In the nineteenth century glossolalia was practiced in America amongst the Shakers and Mormons, and in Scotland and London amongst the followers of Edward Irving, who saw this as the latter-rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit prior to the pre-millennial return of the Lord.”[29] (Quote taken form Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology and Walter Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, s.v. “Montanists,” “Pentecostalism,” and “Tongues, Speaking in.”) …

To make a long story short, Irving began to see the Church as a period of time before this great Millennium event that was soon to take place. Since the Church is still in the “age of the Church”, all the gifts should be in effect also. Irving began to look for these gifts and started a denomination known as the Catholic Apostolic Church.

During this time a man named John Darby came into prominence; he was a founder of the Plymouth Brethren movement and influenced many famous men as his followers, including C.I. Scofield. Until the time of John Darby there was no dispensational teaching as we know it today other than what was taught by Marcion in the middle of the second century A.D. This was also dealt with as a heresy by the early church.

Darby is the acknowledged father of modern dispensational premillennialism. Darby is remembered especially for his recalling the church to expectancy for its rapture at the return of the Lord before Daniel’s Seventieth Week. The doctrine of a secret rapture was first conceived by John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren in 1830. Darby invented the doctrine claiming there were not one, but two “second comings.” This teaching was viewed as unbiblical by other members of the Brethren. Samuel Tregelles, a biblical scholar, said that Darby’s two comings teachings was the “height of speculative nonsense.” Another member of the Plymouth Brethren, B.W. Newton, disputed Darby’s new doctrine claiming such a conclusion was only possible if one declared certain passages to be “renounced as not properly ours.”  (This is eventually what Darby DID) …

To a large degree, his eschatology flows out of his ecclesiology which underwent radical change between 1827 and 1831 due to the influence of Edward Irving’s teachings on Millenarianism. In 1830 Margaret McDonald’s “word of prophecy” which, for the first time in church history, divided the second advent of Christ into two parts: the “rapture of the church” (her vision has since become known as the “Pre-trib rapture of the church”). Margaret’s friend, Mary Campbell, was the first person to speak in unknown tongues, Sunday evening, March 28, 1830, and Margaret’s brothers spoke in unknown tongues on Friday, April 6, 1830. Then Margaret herself spoke in unknown tongues from her sick bed, “With her word of prophecy”. Later, one of Margaret’s older sisters wrote to Robert Norton of Margaret undergoing another “outpouring of the spirit” followed the same day by her brother James’ Baptism of the spirit and Margaret’s “supernatural” healing from her illness. Her recovery caused her to be sought after for speaking engagements.

Darby then traveled to America where one of his converts, Southern Baptist preacher in N.C. Richard Sparling, said the first century gifts were now back in the world. Out of Sparling’s revival came the Thomplison Brothers, founders of the Southern Church of God whose college is now on the old Bob Jones campus, Lee College.

John Alexander Dowie 1848-1907

Dowie was born in Edinburgh and moved to Australia as a boy but returned to Edinburgh to study theology. Founded the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in America in 1896. Dowie was from the same area as Irving (founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church) and attended the same university in Edinburgh. Dowie claimed to be Elijah.

Though Dowie himself did not accept the Spirit-baptism with tongues theology, he is called “the father of healing revivalism in America” (Harrell, All Things Are Possible, p. 13). His latter days miracle theology helped pave the way for Pentecostalism, and Pentecostal theology did quickly permeate his institutions even before his death. Many influential Pentecostal leaders came out of his movement. His magazine, Leaves of Healing, had a worldwide distribution and a vast influence. Dowie taught that healing is promised in the atonement and insisted that those who sought faith healing give up all medical care ...

In 1895 he was charged with manslaughter and neglect by the city of Chicago and convicted, but the higher courts ruled that the conviction was unconstitutional. He required that his followers give up the use of all pork products

In spite of Dowie’s heretical doctrines and unscriptural ministry, he prepared the way for Charles Parham and his equally unscriptural Pentecostalism. Many of the most famous Pentecostal evangelists went out from Zion, meaning Zion, IL the town that Dowie founded.[32] Dozens of Parham’s followers at Zion joined the Assemblies of God at its formation in 1914. In fact, three of the original eight members of the AOG general council were from Zion City (p. 370). Those who arose from Zion City to become influential in the Pentecostal movement included F.F. Bosworth, John Lake, J. Rosewell Flower, Daniel Opperman, Cyrus Fockler, Fred Vogler, Marie Burgess Brown, William Piper, F.A. Graves, Lemuel Hall, Martha Robinson, Gordon Lindsay, and Raymond Richey. Influential Assemblies of God minister Gordon Lindsay, editor of Voice of Healing, wrote Dowie’s biography and gave him credit for influencing “a host of men of faith who have had powerful ministries,” referring to generations of Pentecostal preachers.

Charles Parham

[In] 1896 Charles Parham begins a ministry of healing, one year after Dowie begins his movement. A successful ministry of healing, plus Bible classes and training sessions for workers resulted in requests for a full college. This led to the opening, in October, 1900, of Bethel Bible College … in 1901 … in Topeka, Kansas … Agnes Ozman asked Parham to lay his hands on her. When he did so, she began to speak with other tongues and her English was taken away for three days[36];  He called the group together (the 40 students now augmented by 75 visitors from the area, including some from Kansas City), and was supposedly amazed by the unanimity of the answer that “speaking in tongues” was the Biblical evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.[37] Almost immediately, still in January, he took a party of seven students (more correctly referred to as “workers” because all were adults, many seasoned Gospel workers, and a few even ordained ministers) to Kansas City.[38]

Parham, the founder of Pentecostalism, was riddled with doctrinal heresies. He believed in annihilation of the unsaved and denied the Bible doctrine of eternal torment. He believed in the unscriptural doctrine of anglo-Israelism. He taught that there were two separate creations, and that Adam and Eve were of a different race than people who allegedly lived outside of the Garden of Eden. The first race of men did not have souls, he claimed, and this race of unsouled people was destroyed in the flood. Parham believed that those who received the latter days spirit baptism and spoke in tongues would make up the bride of Christ and would have a special place of authority at Christ’s return. He believed in a partial rapture composed of tongues speakers. This “gift” spread rapidly through the school and soon the whole student body became involved and began to spread this EXPERIENCE across the country. The word spread to Houston, TX, to a black Nazarene evangelist named W.J. Seymo[ur], who in 1903, attended Charles Parham’s Bible school where he received the “experience”. There he became committed to another false doctrine, that the Christian MUST be subsequently “baptized in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of tongues.” In early 1906 Seymour was invited to Los Angeles to pastor a small holiness group which, at the time of the invitation, was pastored by a woman, Julie Hutchins. The group was formed of people who had been disciplined out of the Second Baptist Church for the “second blessing” sinless perfection heresy. On the way to Los Angeles, Seymour visited Alma White’s Pillar of Fire movement in Denver, Colorado. This group taught sinless sanctification and believed the evidence of the same was dancing. Alma White was not impressed with Seymour. She later described him as follows: “I had met all kinds of religious fakers and tramps, but I felt he excelled them all.”  Seymo[ur] went to Los Angeles to pastor a Nazarene church on Bonny Bray Street where he opened his meeting by giving the testimony of his “experience”. The elders of the Nazarene church closed the meeting, hoping to silence this heresy but many in the congregation became interested. Seymo[ur] and few people went down the street to a closed up stable on Azusa Street, opened it, and he preached his “experience”. This is known as the “Azusa Street Revival.” The meeting went on for years, people came from all over the world to receive the “experience”. The movement has not changed much since then. The movement grew rapidly from the Azusa Street “experience” in 1907 to the 1940s. Some believed that one must receive Christ then tarry until baptized with the Holy Spirit; others believed one is saved first then must be entirely sanctified because the Holy Spirit would never indwell a life not entirely sanctified; still others believed that one must be saved and then baptized in the name of Jesus in order to be fully saved, and then later, one could be sanctified and then ready for baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Here are a few quotes from notable theologians who were eye witnesses of the Azusa St. “experience”:

G. Campbell Morgan described the Azusa Street activities as, “the last vomit of Satan.” R.A. Torrey declared that this new Pentecostal movement was, “emphatically not of God, and founded by a Sodomite.” H. A. Ironside said in 1912 … both the holiness and Pentecostal movements were, “disgusting. . .delusions and insanities.” … “pandemoniums where exhibitions worthy of a madhouse or a collection of howling dervishes,” were causing a “heavy toll of lunacy and infidelity.”  W.B. Godbey said of the Azusa Street participants and he claimed the movement was the result of spiritualism. “Satan’s preachers, jugglers, necromancers, enchanters, magicians, and all sorts or mendicants,”

Clarence Larkin: “But the conduct of those possessed, in which they fall to the ground and writhe in contortions, causing disarrangements of the clothing and disgraceful scenes, is more a characteristic of demon possession, than a work of the Holy Spirit. From what has been said we see that we are living in “Perilous Times,” and that all about us are “Seducing Spirits,” and that they will become more active as the Dispensation draws to its close, and that we must exert the greatest care lest we be led astray.” [40]

Example of the spread of the “experience”

Out of this came a man named Oral Roberts who was a struggling preacher and finding no church that would accept his experience. He met a man named Demos Shakarian, whom I have met, that was a wealthy business man whose family had been a part of the Azusa Street “experience”. Demos Shakarian approached Oral Roberts with a marketing idea. His idea was to circumvent the established churches and go directly to the members of the churches. Oral Roberts and Demos worked out the plan to erect a large tent in a city and hold services on the off nights of normal church activities. Demos began an organization to manage events which is known today as, The Full Gospel Businessmen Association through which much of the beginning of tent meetings and televangelism was financed.

Note: A.J. Tomlinson is said to be the founder of the “latter rain movement” and founded the Church of God….According to “Last Great Conflict”, A.J. Tomlinson and M.S. Lemons met with M.M. Pinson who was then under the influence of G.B. Cashwell, in Birmingham, Alabama, in June, 1907. Cashwell was a member of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church of North Carolina. He got his Spirit-baptism theology from a personal visit to the Azusa Street Mission in December, 1906. The meeting between Tomlinson, Lemons, and Pinson is also recounted in the aforementioned “The Apostolic Faith” by B.F. Lawrence. G.B. Cashwell personally came to Cleveland, Tennessee, in January, 1908, and it was then that A.J. Tomlinson spoke in tongues. Tomlinson had begun to preach on Spirit-baptism as early as one year previous, but now he had the experience for himself.

Some would ask how John Nelson Darby and his dispensational view and Pentecostalism are related. Darby rejected the “experience” (Pentecostalism). Darby rejected the charismatic aspects of the experience but accepted the theological aspects of the doctrine. Darby did not deny the spiritual gifts to the Church but taught they were for the Apostolic age only. “He felt that in the early Church the sign gifts- including healing, miracles, and speaking in tongues- were given so that the world could see a demonstration of God’s power and blessing upon Christianity (I Corinthians 14:22). Miracles were linked to the original establishment of a new testimony of God, and were meant to be temporary.”[41] However, due to Darby’s dispensational teachings and Irving’s millenarianism and the “gifts”, a new revelation had come, the latter rain movement. If we are still in the “church age” (dispensational view) then the “gifts” must still be present. Irving viewed this pre-mil dispensational teaching as needing a church without spot or wrinkle, a holy body of believers. This could only be possible with the sanctification of the spirit. He viewed the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a means of this sanctification and ecstatic utterances and prophecies were the evidence.


Bible passages to study:

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)

24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  (Matthew 24:24:26)

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.  (Luke 11:29)

9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.  (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

It’s important to keep in mind that, in spite of their error, many Charismatics and Pentecostalists love the Lord and hope to be reunited with Him for eternity.  However, if you are friends with them, try to point out the history of their movement.

If we were meant to be seeking sensation through a special ‘experience’ or knowledge today, don’t you think that the Bible would have indicated how we should do that?  Don’t you think that Luther or Calvin would have encouraged it?  The outward manifestation of those gifts as described in Acts was particular to the early Church to help the Apostles spread the faith far and wide.

God still heals but not through a human intermediary with laying on of hands. As Tim Nabb indicates at the end of his article, other world faiths also have a similar belief in man’s ability to lay on hands or experience ecstasy, among them sects of Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims.

Study the Bible, pray and ask for God’s grace in order to discern false teachings and avoid wolves in sheep’s clothing.

So often we Christians find some unbelievers better behaved than ourselves.

Whilst part of the true Christian’s character is to readily admit one’s personal faults before pointing a finger at the next person, many unbelievers have no problem in pronouncing themselves ‘good’. 

But are they?  Sometimes, although those who truly fit the bill would be loath to admit it.  Yet, there are Christians who seem positively at odds with biblical morality and unbelievers who are wonderful people.  How could that be?

Fr Dale, a regular poster at the orthodox Anglican news forum Stand Firm, may have an answer for those of us pondering this question.  He says:

Bernard Tyrrell theorizes that there is more than one kind of conversion experience which I would agree with. While moral conversion is interrelated with religious conversion they are also different. He also includes conversion from addiction and conversion from neurosis. This is why a pagan can be a moral person and a Christian can be an addict. I also know some neurotic Christians (none of us who post here of course).

I think it goes a long way in explaining how people who sincerely believe themselves to be born again Christians can think and behave the way they do. That is why monastics are involved in what is called “conversion of manners”.

Bernard Tyrrell is a Jesuit priest who wrote Christotherapy.  Although I was unable to find out much about him, I did find insights into this question from a fellow Jesuit, Bernard Lonergan, SJ (1904-1984).  Fr Lonergan was a Canadian who was gifted and able in several subjects.  Being a polymath, his interests and intellect enabled him to study not only in Canada but in England and France.  He studied the works of Thomas Aquinas closely and these informed his own worldview and writing.  A Boston University biography explains his views about conversion, which are similar to what Frs Dale and Tyrrell state above:

Conversion as Lonergan understands it is three-fold … It is about coming to the realization that one’s knowing is commonly a mixture of two different kinds of knowing, and about the process of learning to distinguish between the two and to discern their proper roles. To this … [add] moral and religious conversion. Moral conversion is the shift from self-satisfaction to value as the criterion of one’s decision-making and action. Finally, Lonergan conceives of religious conversion as a being-in-love in an unrestricted fashion. It is the gift of God’s grace flooding our hearts.

So, one might say that moral conversion — no sinful excesses — is the individual’s move from self-gratification to love.  In an unbeliever, this would translate as valuing oneself, one’s family and friends as well as one’s neighbour.  A Christian would do the same, but above these would be a love of God informing all of his decisions.  Again, the St Augustine quote: ‘Love God and do as you will’. 

Yet, because all of us — Christians or not — are fallen men in a fallen world, some of us struggle with progressing from religious conversion to moral conversion.  Moral conversion for the Christian, however, is not legalism, which follows man’s laws, but a grace-filled love of God which translates towards himself and his fellow man.  

Conversely, unbelievers have a moral conversion without a religious one.  This is why they often ‘look better’ in their social acceptability than a Christian who struggles with substance abuse or sexual addiction.

Which brings me to the term ‘regenerate’, often used by Calvinists to indicate what many of us might consider a true born-again state.  It is possible to be brought up a Christian yet only be halfway along the journey to God.  That would be an example of religious conversion.  Yet, when that awakening to the regnerate state comes — perhaps through fervent prayer, a lifechanging experience or intense Bible study — that Christian turns to God and truly accepts His full sovereignty and His grace.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but he knows that something along the way has changed.  This would be the start of moral conversion, which then continues. 

To be an ideal Christian requires a combination of the two.  Unbelievers have only one (moral conversion) and many Christians have only one (religious conversion).  To be regenerate is to have the blessings of both.  It’s the reason why so many Christians say that conversion takes a lifetime.

American Catholics will be voting this November in mid-term elections.  Many of them come from families which have voted for and actively supported the Democratic Party for generations.

In 2008, pro-life Protestants could not fathom why many Catholics voted for Democrats — and Catholic Democrats at that — who so actively opposed Church teachings, particularly on pro-life issues.

I, too, featured a number of posts on the connections that the USCCB had with community organisers and organisations opposed to Catholic doctrine.  I urged you not to give to their Campaign for Human Development.

Now, Notre Dame alumnus Michael Voris of The Vortex, a Catholic multi-media news site, explains clearly how the USCCB and the Jesuits are involved with the Democratic Party, the Obama campaign (yes, it’s ongoing) and nefarious organisations clearly opposed to the Catholic way of life.

Watch his video here, a combination of two news reports he did for The Vortex.  It tells you everything you need to know about these connections.  Please watch, circulate and consider your vote carefully this year.

Rapture2 plastic_turkeys

Churchmouse Campanologist regulars know that this blog enjoys informing and educating on a variety of Christian subjects.  Today, it enters new territory with a new topic — the Rapture. The word derives from the Latin rapio, ‘caught up’ or ‘seized’. This is the first link I have ever found which gives what appears to be a timeline of history behind its origins and subsequent popularity in certain Christian churches.

The illustration above shows what the Rapture would look like, should it ever occur.  By the way, I don’t think you’ll have time to put your car in gear or pull over to the side of the road if you’re driving. 

The Rapture is not part of the teachings of:

– the early Church

– the Reformers

– any church until the early 19th century …

Having said that, at the time of the Reformation, early Protestants believed (as do many of their descendants) that the Pope was (is) the Antichrist as described in Revelation 17.  The corruption in the hierarchy, extending all the way to the Papacy, drove many Catholics away from the Church.  In order to dissuade any more from leaving, some Catholic theologians wished to distract the faithful with a new type of prophetic interpretation called futurism.  Futurism held a counter-interpretation to the one Protestants taught for the Book of Revelation.  The theologians reasoned that Catholics would become so intrigued with futurism that they would forget about all the ecclesiastical scandals.

So, a Jesuit named Francisco Ribera pioneered this prophetic interpretation, teaching that the events described in Revelation would take place in a normal three-and-a-half year period during the reign of the Antichrist.  Around three centuries later it would appear, another Jesuit, Emmanuel Lacunza, wrote a book entitled The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty, wherein he expanded on Fr Ribera’s rapture teachings. Fr Lacunza decided to distract Protestants with futurism.  As he could not do this by writing under his real name, he used a pseudonym — Rabbi Ben Ezra.  He concocted a story that Rabbi Ben Ezra had converted to Christianity.  Fr Lacunza’s book explained that Christ would return not just once, but twice.  During His first return, He would ‘rapture’ His Church so that the faithful could escape the reign of the future Antichrist. This is how the notion of the ‘secret Rapture’ was born. Fr Lacunza’s book was published in Spanish in 1812.  It created a stir far and wide.  Even the Archbishop of Canterbury of the day had a copy. 

At the same time, a young preacher from Scotland, Edward Irving, became well known for his eloquent sermons.  He represented the Catholic Apostolic Church of England.  By 1828, his open-air meetings attracted upwards of 10,000 people at a time.  His church in London was equally popular.  It held 1000 people and was standing room only at each service.  Anyone who was anyone went to hear him preach.  Some in the congregation testified to having prophesies that the Lord’s coming again was imminent.  They began to read the Scriptures in light of a physical coming again.  Up until that time, Christians believed in a less literal coming of the Lord to His people which included His presence in the saints.  Once Irving read a copy of Lacunza’s book, he promptly translated it into English.  It was published in London in 1827 as The Secret Rapture of the Saints.  Irving then felt divinely compelled to preach it and began holding Bible conferences in Scotland to announce that Jesus would come to rapture His Church.

Meanwhile, across the Irish Sea, a group of men were dissatisfied with the Church of Ireland (Anglican).  In 1825, they met in Dublin for prayer and fellowship.  Their small group grew and, before long, meeting houses sprang up around the British Isles.  The group established its outreach mission in Plymouth, Devon (England) and its adherents became known as the Plymouth Brethren.  They were known for their interest in prophecy, the body of Christ as an organism, the spiritual unity in Christ of all believers and a dislike for ‘dead’ formality in organised religion.  A wealthy Irishman, John Nelson Darby, became their spiritual leader from 1830 onward.  As a young man, Darby finished his degree at Dublin University with honours and went into law.  Much to his father’s chagrin, he left his practice to become a preacher.

It’s hard to imagine nowadays that Christianity could attract so many of the great and the good, yet Edward Irving was drawing in the crowds as was Darby.  A well known society figure, Lady Powerscourt, invited a group of Irvingites to her castle, where many prominent clergymen of the day participated in a study of Bible prophecy.  Darby, in the manner of John Calvin as a lawyer and author, spent much of his time writing on Biblical subjects, penning 30 volumes of 600 pages each.  Darby’s prolific writings shaped futurism into what is now known as dispensationalism. And, yes, Darby is known as the ‘father of dispensationalism’. Regular readers will recall that the emergent church’s Brian McLaren was raised as a ‘dispie’.  The apex of dispensational teaching is the ‘secret Rapture’, as invented by the Jesuit, Fr Lacunza, and taken to new heights ever since.

From Britain, preachers took dispensationalism to North America between 1840 and 1860.  It spread between 1860 and 1870, which given the historical events of the time — the Civil War and Reconstruction — is hardly surprising.  Darby made six visits to the United States.  A Congregationalist minister, C I Scofield, compiled the Scofield Reference Bible.  This edition of the Bible became so popular that 3m copies were printed within the first 50 years of its appearance.  Books were quite costly at that time; many people couldn’t even afford a daily newspaper, so, this was extraordinary.  It was thanks to the Scofield Reference Bible that terms such as ‘secret Rapture’ were introduced to mainstream evangelism.  Critics of dispensationalism to this day point out that the footnotes in that version of the Bible are not the inspired Word of God. 

But that’s not quite the end of the Rapture story … Many Americans of a certain age (!) will be familiar with the Moody Bible Institute and the Moody Press. When he was in the US, Darby had quite an influence on D L Moody.  Later on, in 1914 when the Pentecostal movement was born through the Assemblies of God in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the new church needed Bibles and study materials for its congregations.  The Assemblies of God had no means of establishing their own publishing house, so they bought these materials from the Moody Bible Institute and had their own covers sewn on the books.  The Assemblies of God, therefore, were influenced by the Moody publications, which taught dispensationalism.  Although the early Pentecostal clergy came from mainline Protestant denominations, such as the Methodists and Presbyterians, subsequent ministers grew up reading and studying Moody’s dispensationalist material.  This is how the belief in the Rapture grew so exponentially to become a peculiarly American phenomenon in the Assembly of God and many Pentecostal churches.

And that is the history behind the Rapture.           

Click here for the source article by J Preston Eby, Pentecostal author and preacher.

Update — N.B.: I may have assumed too much of readers about whether their church believes in dispensationalism. I figured they would know that, most likely, it didn’t. Apologies if the post didn’t make it 100% clear that this is not a Roman Catholic or a mainline Protestant belief, as clarified in the final sentences of the post.  If you would like to read more about it — and this blog does not intend to provide an exhaustive exposition on the subject — please click here.   You can also try commenter Bruce’s search terms on Google.

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