A small percentage of Catholics today are celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. Another small percentage of Catholics in the world today are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the revolt of Martin Luther. Where do you fall? Let this podcast help you decide.
Luther’s rebellion against the Apostolic Faith turns 500 years old, and yet some Catholics actually consider his “reforms” to be a cause of admiration and celebration. Instead of theological alarms, lets just do some myth-busting of bad European history. Let’s consider the truths of German history, both medieval and 20th century.
The First Myth to be busted is that Martin Luther was a gentle, reforming monk. The truth is that by any modern standards, he was a sociopath. Like Hitler, Luther chose to incite violence by declaring that “Jews and Papists are ungodly wretches. They are two stockings made of one piece of cloth.” He once wrote a book called The Jews and Their Lies (seen below) in which he stated that because God struck the Jews, “We are at fault in not slaying them.”
Later, his invective became even more violent against Jews, for he declared: “They are our public enemies.” In his second to last sermon before dying, on 18 February 1546, Luther gave what he called his “final warning” against the Jews. This was all a precursor and inspiration to Hilter’s “Final Solution.” In the 1930s, the first major wave of violence against German Jews was called Kristallnacht, crystal-night, or night-of-glass, named because of how many Jewish store-fronts were shattered. After this initial violence, “Bishop” Martin Sasse, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany “applauded the burning of the synagogues [for]…on November 10, 1938, on Luther’s birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany.” Heinrich Himmler, head of Hitler’s SS, wrote of his admiration of Luther throughout the Holocaust. In fact, almost every anti-Jewish book printed in the Third Reich quoted Martin Luther as a major impetus to eradicate the Jewish people. 1
We reach the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s revolt against the Catholic Church. Some Catholics are actually going celebrate this heretic who hated Jews! I hope that none of my readers would celebrate this major-inspiration to the Holocaust. Even secular history will judge those who do.
As a side note before we get to our second short study, it should be noted that there were many heroic Protestants in the Holocaust who stood up to the Nazis and paid the ultimate price of discipleship, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
The Second Myth to be busted is Pope Pius XII, the Pope during the Holocaust. Let me say first that I am not sure if most of the bishops of Europe stood as courageously against the Third Reich and axis powers as they should have. Perhaps Pius XII could have issued more documents, letters and admonitions of resistance to the European people against the Nazi Regime and Mussolini. However, the facts speak louder than speculation: The current, online Jewish Virtual Library holds that Pope Pius’ XII saved 860,000 Jews, many of whose descendants are still alive all over the world today. This Pope was truly a Christian man during the holocaust, not “Hitler’s Pope” as he was dubbed. His saving of 860,000 Jews was an inspiration to people of the early 20th century, both Jewish and Christian alike.
One such Jew who knew that he was not Hitler’s Pope was the chief Rabbi of Trieste (Rome) when Mussolini was in power. Rabbi Israel Zolli was his name. He was a devout and serious Orthodox Jew as well as a learned scholar of the Talmud and of Semitic literature. Perhaps because of this, Pope Pius XII was able to lead him to see Jesus as the fulfillment of all Hebrew Prophesy. This great rabbi of Rome ended up becoming a Catholic. Rabbi Zolli was baptized by Pope Pius XII himself. Below, Rabbi Israel Zolli is found walking on the right. To the left is Fr. Gosselino Birola, the priest who hid Rabbi Zolli from the Nazis on the grounds of the Gregorian Institute during WWII.
Surely a foreseen objection to this blog post is the Inquisition. I have seen two numbers for how many people died in the Inquisition, both from Jewish sources. The first number is around 2,000. The second number is 31,912. Although it is not a defense, it must be noted that only conversos were tried. (Conversos were those who had faked conversion to Catholicism.) Although it may not be defended, the reality is that Communism in any day of the 20th century killed this many people in a matter of about a week. Furthermore, even if we take the liberal estimate of 30,000 dead from the Inquisition, realize that surgical abortion kills that many (31,000) people in ten days in the United States alone. Worldwide, the oral contraceptive pill probably kills about 30,000 new human beings in a little less than four hours. Again, no murder is good. But the numbers must be put into perspective on the Inquisition against the rest of world history. The religious war started by Martin Luther took about 200,000 lives even before he himself had died. ↩
This was a talk I gave to Catholics and Evangelicals at a “40 Days for Life” a few years ago based on the theology of Msgr. Phillip Reilley, founder of NYC’s “Helpers of God’s Precious Infants.” It is more than simply *why* you should pray at the abortion mill. It is about how to go to Calvary: We move from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to the other Calvary, both to simply remain with Jesus crucified, as did St. John and the Blessed Virgin.
This homily is about victory in loss and how good comes from evil in your life.
We took these pictures in Rwanda two years ago. In the top picture, the Blessed Mother appeared in Kibeho in 1981 and 1982 in a Vatican-approved apparition. Below, we walk in a Eucharistic procession through the streets that—only 20 years prior— the dead had been macheted in the genocide. Now the King of Life and Love triumphs over death on the streets.
I asked a close friend to write about his experience with same-sex attraction. His life reflects a poem by William Blake:
And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love,
And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face.
—The Little Black Boy
Each of us has different set of beams of love to bear, so I’m sure that you’ll find his life an inspiration.—Fr. Dave
I am a child of a God. I am a traditional Roman Catholic. I am a traditional Roman Catholic, a child of God who has same-sex attraction.
I have known that I was different since I was young. Ironically, while these confusing feelings were just entering my life, I had discovered the pearl of great price – I had discovered Jesus Christ. I wish I could say that, having discovered Christ, God has removed same-sex attraction and made me “normal.” He has not. This is neither a testimony about someone who experienced such profound healing that he struggles no more. But neither is it the story of the one who tried religion, failed, and rushed into the lifestyle. I am a child of God who has same-sex attraction and desires not necessarily healing but holiness. True and lasting healing will only come in eternity; but holiness starts here on earth.
True and lasting healing will come only in eternity; but holiness starts here on earth.
I have accepted the fact that this will be a struggle I have for the rest of my life. But this struggle for chastity is no different than the personal struggle that you may be dealing with in your life. The choice is before us every day – will I choose Christ and His love or will I choose that which is counterfeit? It is easy to make my struggle my primary identity, but I see it as only one aspect of my life. It does not define me.
My acceptance of my cross is not one that I embrace simply because it is a cross. A friend of mine recently said to me – I don’t know if it was an attempt to identify with my struggles – that she loved suffering. I recoiled from that statement. I did not ask for this cross. However, I embrace my cross because Christ calls me to pick up my cross and follow Him. I embrace my cross not out of self-pity but because I have experienced His love.
In Bishop Robert Barron’s new series, Catholicism: Pivotal Players, one learns that before St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata, he prayed for two things – that he would experience the full passion and death of his Savior and, most importantly, that he would feel within himself the love that Christ had to do this major act of sacrifice. St. Francis did not morbidly ask for suffering alone; the joy in his suffering was only because of his union with Christ, and only because of Christ’s love.
A number of years ago, I had gone to a charismatic renewal conference. Although I had gone to Confession, I still beat myself up for the sins that I repented of but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I sincerely believed that God could not forgive me of such sins tied in with my struggles. After reception of Holy Communion, I calmly walked back to my seat and thoughts of past sins rushed through my mind. I cried out to the Lord, asking why, at this most sacred moment, my mind was reminding me of the worse things I had ever done. And He spoke in a still small voice. With each passing scene, I heard “And I loved you even then.” Tears welled up within me, and I truly believe I experienced the gift of tears. Christ loved me in the midst of my sin (Romans 5:8). I often think of Our Lord’s relationship with St. Peter, and how Jesus saw through the sin of Peter’s life to call Him time and again to the greatness to which he was called. Peter definitely did not change overnight, but he proved his love in the end.
For those who have same-sex attraction, there is an ever persistent fear that one will never experience love if one seeks to obey the Church’s teaching. Love in our much confused society is almost always identified with sexual expression, and yet even the Catechism says that sexuality is an expression of a person’s totality of love, including that of friendship. (CCC 2332 1). Human persons were not created for sex per se, but they were created for love and to love rightly. St. Augustine, that prodigal son who cried out that the Lord would grant Him chastity but just not yet, also said: “Set love in order in me.” (City of God XV.22) Those who authentically embrace chastity do so because they have experienced true love, and are encouraged to love others rightly.
As the years have passed, I have become more open about my struggles with same-sex attraction with close friends, most of whom are actively involved in the Faith. Whereas before the very mention of my struggle would cause me to tear up, it instead has provided an opportunity for my friends to show me authentic love. In truth, it was revelation of my struggles to Fr. Dave that has eventually led to writing this article. And, perhaps with a touch of divine humor and irony, I find myself often talking about same-sex attraction and helping others, without necessarily revealing my own struggles with this cross.
A good friend of mine who came out of the lifestyle and is now living a full and chaste life told me that the beginning of his conversion was when someone else he knew was gay told him it was possible to be chaste. That brief witness would eventually lead to his conversion back to the Catholic Church. He is a now a young man in his 20s living for Christ.
Please know that if you are someone who has same-sex attraction, I am praying for you – not that we necessarily be “healed” (though God is certainly capable of this) but that we would encounter authentic and transformative Love in Jesus Christ, and through His Church strive to live holiness in chastity. All I ask is that you would pray for me as well. God loves us so much, but He loves us too much to leave us where we are at.
“Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.” ↩
How to make of your life an offering to God.
Everyone knows that Catholics love the Blessed Virgin Mary and everyone knows that Protestants love the Apostle Paul. But did you know that a 17th century woman saint was shown in a vision the life of Mary? Venerable Mary of Agreda (ok, almost a saint) was a Spanish Franciscan nun. She was given the private revelation of the entire life of Mary (from her Immaculate Conception to past her Assumption and Coronation) all of which she recorded in a book called The Mystical City of God (not to be confused with a similar title of St. Augustine, written 1200 years earlier.) This Franciscan nun’s private revelation of the life of Mary is over 2000 pages! Jansenists did not like her book. However, Pope Innocent XI, decreed on 9 November 1681, that the Mystical City of God could be freely spread among the clergy and laity.
Jesus’ mother Mary never sinned and yet Saul was responsible for killing Christians. Did they ever meet? Yes, according to the visions of the Venerable from Agreda. In this revelation, God revealed to the Spanish nun an intimate relationship between Saul-become-Paul and the Mother of God. The italics below show how Mary loves and prays for sinners, even sinners guilty of killing her only Son, Jesus, as well as a new love of her spiritual-children. We should take great hope that Mary still intercedes for the conversion of those who kill Christians, that Mary cares for those who have had abortions, that Mary pursues those farthest from God, so that each one of us might approach the life giving waters of baptism. Mary is not afraid of our filth, even though she is the Pan-hagia, the All-Holy as the Greek Fathers call the Theotokos, the mother of the Redeemer.
In our factionalized Christianity, we need to realize that there was a unity in the early Church: Pentecostal gifts and Marian contemplation were not separated. Neither were joy and hierarchical authority, poverty and Apostolic power of miracles. Personified, this is most importantly seen in the nearly-unknown relationship between St. Paul and St. Mary.
Could this be the key to uniting Protestants and Catholics?
If the early Church did not divide her love of Mary and Paul, of contemplation and speaking-in-tongues, then we should not divide between hierarchy and discipleship, traditional liturgy and Pentecostal gifts. I very much want Protestants to see that the Apostle Paul loved Mary and owed a lot to her. Even to the Catholic, private revelation does not hold as privileged of a place as public revelation (the Sacred Scriptures) but the former greatly aids in the reading of the latter. In fact, below you will see how Mystical City of God flows completely in union with Acts chapter 9.
Below, I will comment in green, bold font. Pay special attention to the relationship between Paul and Jesus’ mother. We enter the nun from Agreda’s 2000 page vision in Book 7, chapter 6.
Saint Paul was distinguished in Judaism for two reasons. The one was his own character, and the other was the diligence of the demon in availing himself of his naturally good qualities. Saint Paul was of a disposition generous, magnanimous, most noble, kind, active, courageous and constant. He had acquired many of the moral virtues. He glorified in being a staunch professor of the law of Moses, and in being studious and learned in it; although in truth he was ignorant of its essence, as he himself confesses to Timothy, because all his learning was human and terrestrial; like many Jews, he knew the law merely from the outside, without its spirit and without the divine insight, which was necessary to understand it rightly and to penetrate its mysteries.
Like many hypocrites through history, Saul still had his natural virtues that God would one day transform into supernatural virtues. Saul knew the Bible, but “without its spirit and the divine insight.” It’s a good thing that’s not a problem for any Catholics today.
The disposition of Saul was most noble and generous, and therefore it appeared to him beneath his dignity and honor to stoop to such crimes and act the part of an assassin, when he could, as it seemed to him, destroy the law of Christ by the power of reasoning and open justice. He felt a still greater horror at the thought of killing the most blessed Mother, on account of the regard due to Her as a woman; and because he had seen Her so composed and constant in the labors and in the Passion of Christ. On this account She seemed to him a magnanimous Woman and worthy of veneration. She had indeed won his respect, together with some compassion for her sorrows and afflictions, the magnitude of which had become publicly known. Hence he gave no admittance to the inhuman suggestions of the demon against the life of the most blessed Mary. This compassion for Her hastened not a little the conversion of Saul. Neither did he further entertain the treacherous designs against the apostles, although Lucifer sought to make their assassination appear as a deed worthy of his courageous spirit. Rejecting all these wicked thoughts, he resolved to incite all the Jews to persecute the Church, until it should be destroyed together with the name of Christ.
First, it is astonishing that this private revelation reveals that Saul was actually at the murder of Jesus on Mount Calvary! Like the soldier along the way of the cross in the movie The Passion of the Christ, Saul too was captured into a deep “respect” of Mary. Yes, he strangely respected her, even though he hated her son. Isn’t this similar to how Muslims today kill Christians but have a strange love of the Blessed Virgin? It shows that there is hope for all, at least anyone who still has breath in his lungs. The Church Fathers point out how Jesus is the sun and Mary is the moon (who has no light of her own, but perfectly reflects the sun/Son.) For eyes darkened by night, is it not easier to look at the moon than the sun? Perhaps this is why some sinners come to trust Mary before Jesus. But don’t worry, Protestants, she always directs us to her Son and says “Do whatever He tells you.”—John 2:5.
But his by far most numerous escort were the many legions of demons, who in order to assist him in this enterprise, came forth from hoping that with all this show of force and through Saul, they might be able to make an end of the Church and entirely devastate it with fire and blood.
Nothing of all this was unknown to the Queen of heaven; for in addition to her knowledge and vision penetrating to the inmost thoughts of men and demons, the Apostles were solicitous in keeping Her informed of all that befell the followers of her Son. Long before this time She had known that Saul was to be an Apostle of Christ, a preacher to the gentiles, and a man distinguished and wonderful in the Church; for all of these things her Son informed Her, as I said in the second part of this history. But as She saw the persecution becoming more violent and the glorious fruits and results of the conversion of Saul delayed, and as She moreover saw how the disciples of Christ, who knew nothing of the secret intentions of the Most High, were afflicted and somewhat discouraged at the fury and persistence of his persecution, the kindest Mother was filled with great sorrow. Considering, in her heavenly prudence, how important was this affair, She roused Herself to new courage and confidence in her prayers for the welfare of the Church and the conversion of Saul.
He permitted his blessed Mother to suffer some sensible pain and, as it were, to fall into a kind of swoon, yet her Son, who according to our way of understanding, could not longer resist the love which wounded his heart, consoled and restored Her by yielding to her prayers He said: “My Mother, chosen among all creatures, let thy will be done without delay. I will do with Saul as Thou askest, and will so change him, that from this moment he will be a defender of the Church which he persecutes, and a preacher of my name and glory. I shall now proceed to receive him immediately into my friendship and grace.”
I find two things amazing here:
- Mary knew that Saul would become Paul. Mary knew that Paul would become her Son’s greatest missionary. In fact, Paul was chosen for this from all of eternity, and God revealed this fact to Mary. However, Paul’s conversion was not slated until later. Mary expedited this date by her prayers! In other words, Mary sped up even the set-date of Paul’s conversion so he could get more rapidly to the conversion of many nations. This, according to Ven. Mary of Agreda, was due to the Blessed Virgin’s love of the great commission.
- Although Mary was co-Redemptrix in the horrible suffering on Good Friday, she had to have to experience what the author tells us was “some sensible pain” for later conversions, even after the sword first pierced her heart on Calvary (Luke 2:35.) St. Paul would have topped this list. Jesus died for Paul, but Mary filled up what was “wanting in the sufferings of Christ” as Paul Himself would later write (Col 1:24.) As he wrote to the Colossians, was Paul thinking of his own spiritual mother who suffered in order to bring him into the flock? Paul would have known that Mary effected or at least expedited his conversion.
Below, Saul converts during his glorious vision of the Risen Christ. Christ asks Him why He persecutes Him. To read about how the Franciscan nun saw Saul’s conversion, just click the three dots here 1
The Spanish Franciscan shares more of what she saw in her vision of Paul and Mary. The following conversation comes after the Apostle Paul’s conversion:
St. Paul was filled with admiration and incomparable love and veneration of most holy Mary. Somewhat recovering himself he said to Her: “Mother of all piety and clemency, pardon this vile and sinful man for having persecuted my Lord thy divine Son and his holy Church.” The Virgin Mother responded and said: “Paul, servant of the Most High, if He who created and redeemed thee deigned to call thee to his friendship and made thee a vessel of election (Acts 9:15), how could I, his slave, refuse to pardon thee? My soul magnifies and exalts Him because He desired to manifest Himself so powerful, generous and holy in thee.” St. Paul thanked the heavenly Mother for the benefit of his conversion and for the other favors conferred upon him by Her in saving him from so many dangers. St. Barnabas did likewise, and both again asked for her protection and help, which the most holy Mother promised.
Here, we see that Paul and Mary had definitely met! Notice that Paul calls Mary “Mother”! Mary recognizes that this man who used to kill Christians is now in God’s own “friendship.” She even begins to say the Magnificat for him! St. Paul then thanks her “for the benefit of his conversion.” This is so powerful that I believe that Mary is actually Paul’s entire inspiration for his letter to the Galatians, which will hopefully be my next blog post.
Thereupon Jesus Christ our Lord disappeared from the presence of his most blessed Mother leaving Her still engaged in prayer and furnished with a clear insight into what was to happen. Shortly afterward the Lord appeared to Saul on the road near Damascus, whither, in his ever increasing fury against Jesus, his accelerated journey had already brought him. The Lord showed himself to Saul in a resplendent cloud amid immense glory, and at the same time Saul was flooded with light without and within, and his heart and senses were overwhelmed beyond power of resistance (Acts 9, 4). He fell suddenly from his horse to the ground and at the same time he heard a voice from on high saying: “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute Me?” Full of fear and consternation he answered: “Who art Thou, Lord?” The voice replied: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutes; it is hard for thee to kick against the goad of my omnipotence.” Again Saul answered with greater fear and trembling: “Lord, what dost Thou command and desire to do with me?” The companions of Saul heard these questions and answers, though they did not see the Savior. They saw the splendor surrounding him and all were filled with dread and astonishment at this sudden and unthought of event, and they were for some time dumbfounded.
This new wonder, surpassing all that had been seen in the world before, was greater and more far–reaching than what could be taken in by the senses. For Saul was not only prostrated in body, blinded and bereft of his strength so that, if the divine power had not sustained him, he would have immediately expired; but also as to his interior he suffered more of a change than when he passed from nothingness into existence at his conception, farther removed from what he was before than from darkness, or the highest heaven from the lowest earth; for he was changed from an image of the demon to that of one of the highest and most ardent seraphim. This triumph over Lucifer and his demons had been especially reserved by God for his divine Wisdom and Omnipotence; so that, in virtue of the Passion and Death of Christ this dragon and his malice might be vanquished by the human nature of one man, in whom the effects of grace and Redemption were set in opposition to the sin of Lucifer and all its effects. Thus it happened that in the same short time, in which Lucifer through pride was changed from an angel to a devil, the power of Christ changed Saul from a demon into an angel in grace. In the angelic nature the highest beauty turned into the deepest ugliness; and in the human nature the greatest perversity into the highest moral perfection. Lucifer descended as the enemy of God from heaven to the deepest abyss of the earth, and a man ascended as a friend of God from the earth to the highest heaven.
And since this triumph would not have been sufficiently glorious, if the Lord had not given more than Lucifer had lost, the Omnipotent wished to add in saint Paul an additional triumph to his victory over the demon. For Lucifer, although he fell from that exceedingly high grace which he had received, had never possessed beatific vision, nor had he made himself worthy of it, and hence could not lose what he did not possess. But Paul, immediately on disposing himself for justification and on gaining grace, began to partake of glory and clearly saw the Divinity, though this vision was gradual. O invincible virtue of the divine power! O infinite efficacy of the merits of the life and death of Christ! It was certainly reasonable and just, that if the malice of sin in one instant changed the angel into a demon, that the grace of the Redeemer should be more powerful and abound more than sin (Rom. 5, 20), raising up from it a man, not only to place him into original grace, but into glory. Greater is this wonder than the creation of heaven and earth with all the creatures; greater than to give sight to the blind, health to the sick, life to the dead. Let us congratulate the sinners on the hope inspired by this wonderful justification, since we have for our Restorer, for our Father, and for our Brother the same Lord, who justified Paul; and He is not less powerful nor less holy for us, than for saint Paul. ↩
This homily is on the healing power of forgiveness, borrowed mostly from Fr. Gary Selin (and a little from Jeff Cavins.)
When Thomas Jefferson used the term “separation of Church and State” it was to assure a group of Baptists that the State would not trample the rights of their community. He wrote:
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”
Jefferson’s insistence upon the “building [of] a wall of separation of Church and State” was to assure that the American government would make “no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This last quote is found both in Jefferson’s letter and the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. But the term “separation of Church and State” is found exclusively in the letter.
Recently, Hillary Clinton gave a talk to a pro-abortion group. Because Christians are the number one opposition to full-access abortion, Hillary said that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” We should note that not even communist leaders spoke so boldly fifty years ago. They were smart enough to first hide their intentions to begin a state-based religion (atheism.) Only later did governments disarm and kill any dissidents. In fact, governments killed a total of 170 million of their own people during the 20th century.
Few (if any) of these leaders blew their own anti-religion cover by stating that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” By argumentum a fortiori, we can be sure that Hillary Clinton will make good on her promise to Christians to eradicate any separation of Church and State. Remember, these are her words, not mine, that “religious beliefs…have to be changed.”
Is it my place as a Catholic priest to blog about this? We should consider history: Very few priestly saints refrained from getting involved in politics. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (a gentle Mary-loving monk) may have been the single most powerful influence on European politics in the 12th century. Or, consider St. Francis Xavier. He gave his life to baptize hundreds of thousands in the far East in the 16th century. But when Portuguese settlers threatened his beloved Indians with slavery, St. Francis Xavier asked King John of Portugal for intervention. Should the king fail to control his subjects, St. Francis mildly promised the king that he would stand a good chance at experiencing the flames of hell. Even St. Anthony of the Desert, the 3rd century desert hermit, had an enormous influence on secular politics. The deeper he went into the desert of Egypt for solitude, the more emperors found him for advice.
My alma mater, a Jesuit University, has produced Jesuits from my graduating class who are now working at America magazine. One even flew out for my ordination. I disagree with most of their political views, but I support their right as priests to speak out on politics. Why? Because we priests were not ordained to bless statues and then watch TV. We were ordained to be leaders.
Fr. Michael Orsi, former Ave Maria Law School chaplain, recently spoke at a National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. He said: “Let me remind you: the Bible is a political document. The prophets, including John the Baptist, and Jesus, lost their lives because they spoke the truth to power…The Constitution is quickly being destroyed…Unless the right choice is made in November, we may not have a court that is fair and balanced in its interpretation of the Constitution.”
Does he have a right to say this? Fr. Orsi and every priest has two ways in which he can live the Holy Priesthood:
Option 1: Give the sacraments to everyone who is headed to heaven or hell.
Option 2: Derail the train to hell, and then give the sacraments.
The first option will save a few souls, ruffle no feathers, and gain much popularity. The second option will ruffle feathers, compromise the priest’s popularity, and then save a lot more souls—and possibly a country.
This might sound like a sarcastic title coming from me, but it is not.
Except for groups like Byzantines, most practicing American Catholics have a view of the Church and her doctrine that can usually fit into one of these three categories:
Liberals—These are the Catholics who believe that the Church’s doctrine can change not only organically but even essentially. For example, Chicago’s Archbishop Cupich has called Pope Francis’ doctrine “a game changer.”
Traditionalists—These are the Catholics who believe that the Church’s doctrine can not change in its essence. Because of this, traditionalists believe that there is a general apostasy of modernism in the Church, all the way to the top, fulfilling the third secret of Fatima. “Rad-trads” are grumpy about it; “Glad-trads” believe God will work it out in His time.
Neo-conservatives—These are the American Republican Catholics who speak a lot about the “True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist” but never the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.” “Neo-cons” are pro-life but few would ever claim that a heresy of modernism has invaded the whole Church.
Here’s a simple truth that flows from logic and Church History:
If doctrine can change, the liberals are correct.
If docrine can not change, the traditionalists are correct.
I’m not talking about the organic development of doctrine as seen in, say, the Christology of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451.) I’m talking about definitive breaks in capital-T Tradition. And for this reason, the one group that can not possibly be correct are the neo-cons. Perhaps the neo-cons have not studied study Church History enough to see that there have been several crises in 2,000 years where a small group of faithful (like themselves, actually) may be called to transcend the opinion polls of bishops. (St. Athanatius is not the only example!) Or, perhaps the neo-cons know this very well, and they are simply unwilling to lose their soft suburban pastorates or high-paying lay-ministry jobs. A prophetic witness will always cost either popularity (priests) or money (lay workers making bank.)
At least the liberals who work for publications like America and National Catholic Reporter recognize that Pope Francis’ doctrine is a “game changer.” I admire their honesty and clarity. Just this weekend, National Catholic Reporter published an article titled Francis: Sexual morality determined case-by-case, even for transgender. Of course, I disagree theologically with both of them, but journalistically I appreciate their transparency in presenting Pope Francis as he truly is.
Neo-cons, on the other hand, disingenuously twist Pope Francis into their own idea of “strategic” orthodoxy, as seen in this inconsistent article here, published by National Catholic Register. This is a guaranteed-fail in fabricating a long-gone “hermeneutic of continuity” (a hermeneutic slowly becoming the emperor’s clothes to any neo-con not paid by the Catholic Church.)
So, why do the rest of the conservatives insist on living in that lukewarm middle-ground between traditionalists and liberals?
“I think I know why. Scratch a conservative—and more often than not you’ll find a traditionalist. But a traditionalist who shrinks from resolving the ambiguity of his own position. This is not surprising. It hurts to change.”—Neil McCaffrey Sr., requiescat in pace+.