Saturday 21 November 2015

Youth, Christ the King & The Ten Commandments

This weekend the Church is celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. Moving it to the end of the Liturgical year in the Novus Ordo gives the feast a kind of ‘parousial’ feel; something along the lines of “in the end, Christ will reign over all”. While it is undoubtedly true that Christ will reign in over all at the end of time, the reality is that Christ has a social kingship over man even now; thus one reason for the Ten Commandments. On the Feast of Christ the King when we in the UK pray for the youth, it is useful to remind ourselves that when the young man in the Gospel asked Our Lord what he had to do to inherit eternal life Our Lord said ‘keep the Commandments’ (Matt.19v16,17).

Yet to the detriment of souls, The Commandments are often ignored today as outdated –even by the highest ranking of prelates who currently seek to eliminate the practicalities of the 6th and 9th Commandments under the guise of mercy. They, like many today, seem to defer to majority of public opinion and to the legality of an act rather than its moral quality; they allow folk to determine their choices by whether or not an act is legal or illegal, rather than morally right or wrong. To act this way is to abandon our duty to give precedence to God by giving precedence to the State and it’s laws; it is to follow a false god. While the right to determine the legality of an act rightly belongs to the Government, the right to determine the moral quality of an act as right or wrong belongs to God alone, and this moral quality is expressed in the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are not simply social justice directives or cold laws to prove loyalty to God, but a Charter for our Individual Character Formation so that we become morally good and ‘fit-in’ with God when we die: God is He Who Is, therefore we honour and serve Him above all people, places and things (we keep holy the Sabbath); God is holy, so we respect is Holy Name (we do not take the Lord’s name in vain); God is faithful, so we are faithful (we do not commit adultery); God is Truth, so we are truthful in all we say and do (we do not bear false witness, we do not steal); God is Life therefore we protect and promote human life which is made in His image(we do not kill); God is generous with His gifts, (so we do not covet our neighbours goods; we are content with what we have). If we want to form our character into one that fits with God and able to live with Him in heaven, then we need to keep the Commandments and teach others -especially the youth- to do the same in this God-forsaking world. We have already denied youth the Truth by removing the ‘Penny Catechism’ from schools; we have already denied them an act of worship that focuses them on God. We are now denying them even the Ten Commandments and thus the ability to form their character for Heaven. The Feast of Christ the King reminds us that our Lord is King of the Universe from beginning to end; in time and in eternity. And while the Church as Christ’s Body on earth is not obliged to rule each country as its government, all governments should recognise the ultimate and Absolute Sovereignty of Christ and ensure statutory laws are consistent with the Ten Commandments. If they pass laws contrary to the Law of God they set themselves up as an alternative authority to Christ; those who then follow the law of the land rather than the law of God abandon Christ to follow instead the sitting President or Prime Minister, breaking the very first Commandment: “Thou shalt have no gods before me”. 

It is God’s right to be honoured and served as God; it is His due to have all bow before Him and conform themselves to Him, whether they be Monarch, President or Prime Minister. It is to our eternal good that we follow the Ten Commandments, and to our eternal detriment if we do not. Thank God for Confession! And go often: “Those who are accustomed to receiving Communion often or daily should be instructed that they should approach the Sacrament of Penance at appropriate intervals, in accordance with the condition of each” (Redemptionis Sacramemtum #86, CDF/CDWDS, 2004); “Daily or frequent communicants should be instructed to go to confession regularly, depending on their individual needs” (Eucharisticum mysterium #35, Sacred Congregation of Rites, 1967)

Tuesday 10 November 2015

The Failure of Today's Preaching

I am on record on this blog as lamenting the loss of the Traditional Liturgy (which that is reverent and God-centered in contrast to the Novus Ordo which is entertainment and man centered); the loss of a universal language (Latin) and the loss of the Catechism from schools. I have to add a fourth:  preaching.

According to Sacrosanctum Conclium of Vatican II, “The sermon, moreover, should draw its content mainly from scriptural and liturgical sources, and its character should be that of a proclamation of God's wonderful works in the history of salvation, the mystery of Christ, ever made present and active within us, especially in the celebration of the liturgy.” (SC35,#2) That we have been encouraged by Vatican II to preach on the readings of the day, and by scripture scholars and so-called expert homilists to ‘break open the word’, means we have failed to teach the living out of the Faith.

The result is a loss of huge proportions. It may well be true that before Vatican II all we got was sermons and little or no preaching on the word of God, but today we get homilies focusing on the word and very little if no preaching on the life of Faith, other than the renewal of society.  Now social sin does indeed need to be tackled, but tackling personal sin must come first –we cannot renew society until we renew ourselves; we cannot renew society if the people who make up that society are engaging in illicit sexual liaisons, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, drunkenness, dishonest dealings, violence etc. We simply cannot have a holy society which consists of sinful persons. We may as well try to establish a healthy population fed on nothing but the fats, salts and sugars of junk food, with heavy alcohol consumption and smoking. We are not doing so. We are not challenging personal sin for fear of upsetting people, or fear of being disliked or simply fear of being ridiculed as out-dated.

I grow increasingly saddened by the young families that have returned to Mass but have not returned to The Faith, and there is a huge difference. Returning to The Faith is a return to the living out of The Faith in all its many and varied facets; returning to Mass is simply fire-insurance Catholicism (going to Mass to avoid the fires of hell). In ‘fire insurance Catholicism’ folk return to Mass but simply attach it to their previous worldly lifestyle of excessive alcohol consumption, illicit sexual encounters, cohabitation, contraception, violence and dodgy dealings.  For them, coming to Mass is seen as enough to enter heaven, yet to attend Mass and not live the life of self-denial (and ultimately self-sacrifice) that is at the core of the Mass, is to fail to make the Mass and The Faith alive and active; Catholicism becomes mere attendance at a religious ritual; an external act that makes no impact on the inner man.

The restoration of The Faith is not as simple as being a ‘brick by brick’ restoration of the liturgy, although it certainly includes that; rather, it must include as a foundation a restoration of sermons and of the Catechism in schools. 

Because schools have not taught the content of the Catechism and because preachers have not taught personal moral doctrine but focused on social sin –encouraging the ‘be nice to everyone/social justice’ religion, we have nothing to build upon in those returning to Mass, who justify their sinful behaviors with “the world has moved on… everyone does it…it‘s just enjoying life”.  Sadly, they may very well enjoy life on earth at the expense of enjoying eternity, in that they have continued to live by the ways of the world while attaching Sunday Mass as fire insurance. Trying to get them to see otherwise is a losing battle if one is a lone voice, and I know of few priests who will mention contraception, homosexuality, drunkenness, dishonest dealings, violence etc, in their homilies –which leaves the preacher responsible for the loss of the souls to whom he ministers. One is reminded of the words of Ezekiel 3v18-19: “When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not speak out to warn the wicked man to turn from his wicked ways that he may live, the wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you have warned the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness, he shall die in his iniquity; but you yourself will have saved your life.”  I may not always go down well with the parish or indeed with my brother priests, but I have no desire to lose my soul or leave people in the dark just to be loved for being ‘nice’ by avoiding the hot-button topics. I may not always avoid sin myself; I may at times fall myself, but to go on as if personal morality does not exist just so as to avoid is not what God has called us to do; we are called to warn those in sin, not affirm ignore their sin or worse, affirm them in it. Until we get back to worship which is at once reverent, propitiative (God-appeasing) and God-centered rather than entertaining, man-affirming and man-cantered; until we get back to teaching the Catechism in schools, and until we get back to preaching personal morality -especially on the virtues and vices, the seven deadly sins, the four sins crying to heaven for vengeance, the three eminent good works, the four last things, the seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy etc- we have no hope of saving the souls of our folk –or our own. 

Monday 2 November 2015

The Church is Bigger than Francis –and so is Christ

That splendid blog Rorate caeli (here) has reported an interview with Pope Francis by Eugenio Scalfari of La Repubblica in which Scalfari alleges the Pope has said that anyone who is divorced and ‘remarried’ who presents themselves for Holy Communion will receive it:

“We must not think that the family does not exist any longer, it will always exist, because ours is a social species, and the family is the support beam of sociability, but it cannot be avoided that the current family, open as you say, contains some positive aspects, and some negative ones. ... The diverse opinion of the bishops is part of this modernity of the Church and of the diverse societies in which she operated, but the goal is the same, and for that which regards the admission of the divorced to the Sacraments, [it] confirms that this principle has been accepted by the Synod. This is bottom line result, the de facto appraisals are entrusted to the confessors, but at the end of faster or slower paths, all the divorced who ask will be admitted."

There are three problems in this if Scalfari has quoted the Pope correctly.

First, Francis would be overruling Christ who says that such marriages are adultery.
Second, Francis would be placing himself above the Divine Authority behind the Ten Commandments by removing ‘thou halt not commit adultery’.
Third, he would be engaging in the heresy of Modernism, which posits that “Our religious attitude", as stated by "Il programma dei modernisti" (p. 5, note l), "is ruled by the single wish to be one with Christians and Catholics who live in harmony with the spirit of the age" (see New here). In the heresy of Modernism (which is not the same as modernisation) doctrine can change in relation to the changes in society. By this heresy, the Dominical Command to “Go, teach all nations” is tuned on its head; it becomes, “Go and be taught by the nations”. This is what many have done since Vatican II, taking the Councils’ call to read the signs of the times as discipline the times rather than discern the times. I cannot tell whether this is because they have not applied their mind to what the Council actually said, or did turn their minds to it and wilfully distorted it. I must assume the first, for the sake of charity and their good name.

The heresy of Modernism has not passed its sell-by date; it remains and will always remain a heresy condemned by the Authentic Magisterium of the Church. The first real fight against it was Pius X Encyclical ‘Pascendi’in 1907. But the anti-modernist oath was imposed on clergy, Catholic professors etc, from 1910 then right up until 1967, so it was approved by all of the twentieth century Popes until the CDF abolished it under Paul VI in 1967.

If Scalfari is quoting the Pope correctly, many will conclude that Francis has fallen into the heresy of Modernism. Let us hope that he proves this to be a false conclusion when he publishes his post-synodal document. If the conclusion that Francis has fallen into heresy proves correct, we will have a choice between obeying Christ and obeying Francis. That choice can only be made one way: we must follow Christ. This is where Conservative Catholics and Traditional Catholics will part company, for Conservative Catholics have fallen into the error of extreme ultramontanism wherein anything the Pope says or allows is said and allowed by God: ‘we must be faithful to the sitting Pope above all’ would be their motto. Not so for the Traditional Catholic, who will also and certainly be faithful to the sitting Pope –as long as he is faithful to the eternal Truths of the Tradition and the Deposit of Faith. But where a pope deviates from it, Catholics faithful to the Tradition –whichis a source of Divine Revelation. Dei Verbum 9, Vatican II- cannot follow.  Can we trust Francis to show himself a loyal son of the Church? The Church is much older and much bigger than Francis, and so is Christ, the Head of the Church, which is His Body. Christ has both the Church and Francis in his hands.