Daily Archives: January 15, 2011
Oh well, today it is really one of those days one doesn’t forget so soon…..
The very first Ordinariate for former Anglicans is there. You can read the details on the “Reluctant Sinner” blog.
My first reflections as it is very late now:
1) The Ordinariate is dedicated to Our Lady. This is a clear link to England as it was before a couple of bastard kings and their gravely deluded helpers made a mess of everything. It seems to me almost as if the Vatican would say to heretics of every sort “you are nothing more than a passing embarrassment for the Only Church”.
England, the recovering Dowry of Mary. Beautiful.
2) The Ordinariate is under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. This is another choice that isn’t casual in the least. Newman clearly paved the way historically – and will pave the way spiritually – for those who decide to come back to the Only Church.
3) As I have already written here, the way will not be an easy one for those who sincerely want to convert and become true Catholics. Prayer, reflection and in case time will be needed. As for ourselves, let us remember them in our daily prayers.
4) Congratulations and best wishes to father Newton, the first Ordinary after Anglicanorum Coetibus. Rome clearly signals a great deal of trust in him and in his doctrinal orthodoxy.
At the same time, it is obvious that the (largely expected) appointment of a former Anglican to the head of the Ordinariate will give a certain amount of comfort to many disaffected and perhaps suffering still-Anglicans. What Father Newton has done – and Blessed John Henry Newman has done before him – they can do too. Whatever hard decisions he had to take, they were taken by a man many ordinary Anglicans esteem and respect. This will give them reason to think harder about where they see their future.
Again, it is very late now and in the next days more reflections and news will follow as the picture becomes clearer.
I am not one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Ordinariate. I see a real danger that the Ordinariate may attract chaps like this one.
But I must say that today I feel rather excited.
The impending beatification of John Paul II will no doubt cause many questions among non-Catholics as to what this beatification is, and might reinforce many of them in their errors and misconceptions about this beautiful Catholic institution of beatification and canonisation.
I’d like here to give some very short explanations in bullet points, in the hope that in the coming months some non-Catholics may end up here and get some benefit from them and that Catholics may get some points to give explanations if and when required.
1) Everyone who is in paradise is a saint. Everyone. Angels are saints, the Holy Innocents are saints, etc.
2) Normally we cannot know whether someone is in Paradise. When the neighbour dies we know that he is either in hell, or in purgatory, or in paradise. Purgatory is widely believed to be the most frequent occurrence at death, but no one really knows. In Catholicism, individual certainty of someone’s destination is a sin of presumption, unless one believes one’s own private revelation (say: an apparition); indirectly, he can draw a big amount of confidence from the truth of a credible revelation to someone else (say: Saint Padre Pio’s well-known hours-long mystical vision of Pope Pius XII in Heaven on the day of his death). ” I believe that John Lennon is in Paradise because he wrote such beautiful music” does not qualify.
3) Catholic theology says that those in purgatory cannot effect intercessory prayer for those on earth, but those on earth can do the same for the souls in purgatory; on the other hand the saints can pray and intercede for those on earth, but not for those in purgatory. Notice the “circle” of prayer here, with saints being able only to help those on earth, who themselves are the only ones who can help those in purgatory. In this way there is a beautiful solidarity, a chain of love or if you prefer a “prayer cooperative”. This common destiny and common purpose uniting every good Catholic (souls in hell aren’t catholic, and can’t be helped) is called by the Church “communion of saints”.
4) As a consequence, a Catholic will need some clues to know those to whom he can pray for intercession knowing that they will actually hear their prayer and be able to intercede for them. He can obviously ask Christ or the Blessed Virgin directly, but the beauty of the communion of saints is in the mutual giving and receiving help like members of a loving family. Therefore, one may prefer to ask a person particularly dear to him to help him and to intercede for him by Christ. In order to do so, he’d be helped if he knew, instead of hoped, that the relevant person is really a saint, that is, is really in heaven. Mind, though, that no Catholic is forbidden to ask for the intercession of someone of whom he thinks that he is very probably in heaven.
5) God helps this system of “prayer cooperative” by making known that the one or the other actually is in heaven. He does so by linking a miracle to this person. With one miracle one can be declared Blessed, with two he can be declared a Saint. Notice that here the “s” is capitalised. Whether the miracle has occurred is decided – after an always careful and generally lengthy process – by a Vatican “ministry”, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
6) Whilst the miracle is God’s choice, the decision whether to declare the beatification or sainthood is the Pope’s choice and it is an eminently political one. A Pope might think a canonisation dangerous or politically not convenient (eg. because it could spark a wave of persecutions, as in Thomas More’s case; or a wave of slandering, as it is probably the case by Pope Pius XII), or he might not be persuaded himself that the work of the congregation was really good, that is: that the person is really in paradise. He cannot “kill” the process though, merely let things rest.
7) One day, a Pope decides that the moment has come and a man or woman is ready to be declared Saint. His decision is inspired in the sense that God takes care that a Pope does not make mistakes in this matter*. In the last centuries, this process was very slow and people canonised were people who had lived a couple of centuries before, but there always were exceptions. The late Pope John Paul II was himself of the opinion that canonisations (and beatifications, comes to that) of recently deceased people were the best choice, because their memory is still well alive among the faithful. This was the thinking followed in the first thirteen centuries or so, with some canonisations being really, really fast (think of St. Francis: death on the 3 October 1226; canonisation on the 16th July 1228).
8) Coming back to 6), the beatifications or canonisations of particularly popular people have always been relatively uncomplicated, whilst those pertaining to politically sensitive people have been, or are being, slower. But be assured that Thomas More and Pope Pius XII do not care in the least for that. There is no race to be canonised first and the speed of canonisation is no indication whatsoever of the “ranking” among saints. This is important in order to understand that calls of “santo subito”, particularly when angry or expressing a demand rather than a wish, are not really Catholic and are more suitable to football stadiums.
9) Once a Pope has taken his decision about a canonisation, every Catholic is bound by it*. A Catholic rejoices for every canonisation not only because of the happy news, but because he knows that many people will be drawn to Christ through the canonisation of the person they love.
The reasons for a fast-track for John Paul II are now evident. The sainthood of the man is uncontroversial among everyone except the most severe sedevacantists; his popularity makes of such a beatification a great weapon in the Church’s hands; his beatification helps to shift the accent from the political aspects of his pontificate (which many don’t like, yours truly included) to the towering spiritual dimension of the person.
It is not – and it can never be – about “giving precedence to celebrities”; it is about recognising that:
a) The Pope seems to believe that God wants hom to know that the man is in Paradise, and
b) the Pope doesn’t see any political obstacle to his declaring so in front of all Christianity.
This is as simple as that. It doesn’t mean that one only becomes blessed if he is a celebrity. It doesn’t mean that only famous people are said to go to heaven. It doesn’t mean that “Church celebrities” get special favours compared to those whose beatification has not been declared and emphatically it does not mean that, between two saints, the one is “more of a saint” that has been canonised or beatified.
* the matter is slightly different with the beatification. With it, the Church merely declares that it is “worthy of belief” that the person in question is in heaven. There is, though, no obligation for every Catholic to feel bound by this.
The important news of the imminent beatification of the late John Paul II has somewhat taken the spotlight from an important (nay: historic) event of today: the consecration of tree former Anglican “bishops” to the priesthood.
Let us welcome Father John Broadhurst, Father Andrew Burnham and Father Keith Newton into the Only Church. Best wishes to them and to all those (former Anglican clergy or simple faithful) who have already decided to take this important and life-changing step.
Let us hope that in the following years many more sincere seekers will find the courage to look at reality in the face and draw the unavoidable consequences.
There is only One Church. Accept no substitutes.
And so it is out: the beatification of JP II will take place on the 1st May.
I am, as no reader of this blog can avoid noticing, no great fan of the man as a Pope. I think that his contribution to the fall of Communism is vastly, vastly exaggerated (the one who did it for communism was clearly the Gipper; George Walker Bush and Pope John Paul II only reaped the benefits afterwards and the liberal press would commit suicide rather than give Reagan his due) and I find it frankly extraordinary that a Pope should be praised for…. being opposed to Communism.
As far as his work as Pope is concerned, I personally think that the only redeeming feature of his too long Pontificate is the fact that he came (excluding the short weeks of what could have been a wonderful Pope, Albino Luciani) after Paul VI, the undisputed Jimmy Carter of the Church. JP II’s actions against the problems of his time (say: the Dutch Schism, Liberation Theology, the rampant “spirit of Vatican II”-mentality) can be considered in a halfway positive manner only in the light of Paul VI’s tragic impotence, but were slow and contributing to the confusion of Catholics by every other modern standard. In his appointment of Bishops, JP II will probably prove one of the most disastrous Popes of all times as he is the main responsible for the appointment of an entire generation of bad shepherds, who have almost completely given away Catholicism and will now continue to afflict the Church for a couple of decades to come.
A further problems of JP II’s pontificate is, in my eyes, the stubborn refusal to deal in an exemplary manner with people clearly responsible for grave misconduct. Cardinal Law’s treatment, or Cardinal Groer’s, are in my eyes great stains on his pontificate as they show an attitude towards grave problems by which the desire to avoid scandal and public admission of fault comes before the desire to send clear signals as to how the Church is led and what behaviour is expected from the men at the top.
And then there’s the media orgy. JP II’s pontificate can be remembered as the age of the dumbing down of everything Catholic, the search for popularity at all costs, the media circus, the desire to sink towards common people aspirations and conveniences instead of drawing them to aspire higher to Christ. From the unspeakable rock concerts (in which Catholicism had to witness the head of Catholicism being publicly scolded by rock singers; Pope Pius XII must have cried from Heaven), to the interconfessional/ecumenical/heretical events in Assisi, Fatima and elsewhere, to the in itself obviously heretical kissing of the Koran, to the relentless seeking for TV time in his pursuit to travel in the furthest corners of the globe whilst Vatican work was clearly neglected (cue the inefficiency and indecisiveness in tackling the problems of the Church, like the evident issue of rampant homosexuality in the seminaries), John Paul II’s years have diluted and banalised the Catholic message. The most dramatic example of this sad development was seen in his last days, with a huge media happening and a vast attention from a mass of individuals obviously not caring in the least for Catholicism and merely attracted by the next media-pumped collective hysteria in purest Lady Diana style. When he died, JP II had successfully transformed himself in the Che Guevara of our times, a man whose face is on millions of t-shirts carried by people who don’t even know who he was and what he wanted, but find the projected image someway cool. In the meantime, a generation of Catholics was raised without even the basis of proper Catholic instruction but hey, there were 500,000 people when he went out of the aeroplane so we are doing fine.
One of the least palatable aspects of this attitude was the late Pope’s desire to please the masses by sending ambiguous messages which, whilst not openly contradicting the Church’s teaching, were meant to give them a varnish of political correctness and make their distorted perception popular when the real ones clearly aren’t. He formally abolished the capital punishment in the Vatican, but conveniently forgot to remind the faithful that the legitimacy of capital punishment is integral part of Catholic doctrine and as such not modifiable and not negotiable. He asked for forgiveness for the atrocities committed during the Crusades, but conveniently forgot to remind the faithful of the saintliness of their cause and of the glorious page represented by the Crusades themselves. He was personally contrary to every conflict happening in his time, but conveniently forgot to remind the faithful that the Doctrine of War is also integral part of Catholic teaching. As a result of this, Pope John Paul was vastly perceived – particularly by poorly instructed Catholics, let alone by non-catholics – as a white-clothed pacifist opposed to capital punishment and ashamed for the Crusades. I am not aware of any effort he made to counter this widespread popular impression and no, this is not good.
Allow me here to also remind my readers of the Lefebvre affair. From the information I have found and read, it seems to me that a clash of egos (it happens among the saintliest men; it’s human nature) played a more than secondary role in the events but that at the root of the mess was JP II’s refusal to understand when things have gone too far and it is time to stop being stubborn and to start being reasonable. Hand on heart, I thank God for Lefebvre’s courage and determination on that occasion. To use an admittedly strong image, when the father is drunk the son who refuses to obey him is not going against the family and his father’s authority, but respecting and upholding them and the values they represent. The SSPX’s affair is, if you ask me, just another of the many avoidable blunders of John Paul II’s pontificate.
Still, behind the Pope there was the man. A deeply religious, pious, spiritual, sincere, kind man of God. A man whose mistakes were certainly never made in bad faith and whose first desire was to protect the Church and to win new souls to Christ. A man in front of whose deep spirituality and pious nature most of us (and certainly yours truly) must hang their head in shame. A man of whom you can criticise everything, but not the pure heart and the honesty of his intentions.
Whenever Catholics criticise the many mistakes of his pontificate (as they, if you ask me, should do far more often and much more vocally in order to avoid another pontificate like his to be ever repeated), they should remember – and should remind the enemies of the Church – of the purest of hearts behind those mistakes and of the example which John Paul II continues to give as a saintly man.
A saintly man is not necessarily a good Pope and a good Pope is not necessarily a saintly man. Much as we would like to see both qualities together, this is by far not always the case.
When we are blessed with a saintly Pope, I can’t see why we shouldn’t – whatever the shortcomings of his Pontificate – draw strength and inspiration from his saintliness.
Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.