Reading around the Internet some of the reflection about today’s beatification of John Paul II, I would like to point out to a couple of aspects which are, in my eyes, rather important in order to put today’s events in the right perspective. Though I have already written a similar post here, I’d like to tackle the issue again from the point of view of the effect it causes on others, particularly non-Catholics.
1) A beatification has the same rank of a private revelation. No Catholic is obliged to believe that the person made blessed really is in Paradise. This obligation only comes into effect with the canonisation. This should, I think, always be said very clearly when you discuss the matter.
2) A beatification (or a canonisation) exclusively deals with the saintly life and heroic virtue of the blessed or saint and with the presence of the required number (if any; for the beatification of martyrs no miracles are required) of miracles, but is no endorsement of the operate of a person as a Pope, or in whatever other public role he might have been involved. Please stress this to everyone you talk about the matter. This should also be stressed with much energy whenever someone mentions the beatification.
3) The great “expansion” of the number of beatifications starting from JP II is, in my eyes, questionable; still, given the fact that as a Catholic do not have to believe a single one of the beatifications anyway I allow myself to feel relaxed on the point. My – or your – questioning the opportunity of such a number of beatification is therefore perfectly orthodox.
4) More delicate is the question about canonisations. As Catholics, we are bound to believe that the canonised person is in Paradise. As Catholics, we must believe that the Holy ghost would never, ever allow a Pope to make a mockery of the process. Every criticism of the new canonisation process must therefore keep this truth in sight: that every canonisation is to be accepted by the faithful as truth, be they very few or very many. This is very important if we want to avoid confusing our interlocutors.
5) Personally, I didn’t like JP II’s pontificate; not one bit; neither as a whole, nor in any one of his single most defining traits. I’d say that after Paul VI, JP II can be considered the worst Pope of modern times, by a comfortable margin. But this is my assessment of his pontificate, not of his saintliness. I strictly detach the first (the in my eyes catastrophic effect of almost 27 years of “Wojtylism”, by which an entire generation of Catholics grew up without even knowing the Ten Commandments, but ready to fill airports) from the second (the fact that the man was really trying to do his best, and was personally very holy).
6) “Holy” doesn’t mean, again, perfect in the same way as heroic virtue doesn’t mean perfection. People have their own foibles and character’s traits, the blessed and saints as everyone else. Even Padre Pio had his shortcomings, and was harshly criticised because of them. But we honour the saint anyway; even more so, because in reflecting about the shortcomings of very saintly men we can better understand how difficult it was for them, as for everyone else.
I assume that every conservative Catholic can easily agree with all the above points, though there will be obvious differences in the assessment of the concrete situation. Again, by every criticism we run the danger of confusing the Catholics and must, therefore, be particularly prudent.
If I were challenged by non-Catholics, or by non conservative Catholics, to say a word about the beatification I would accurately separate:
a) the man from the pope,
b) the canonisation from the beatification and
c) my dislike with this or that part of the new procedure with the Catholic Truth concerning canonisations.
As Catholics, please let us be mindful that whilst we can criticise the beatification procedure as much as we want, we must be mindful not to give the impression that we have ceased to believe in the binding value of the canonisations.
In addition, by the appalling ignorance about Catholicism now rampant ever among Catholics themselves, I wouldn’t give any critical, liberal Catholic a reason to believe that Catholic truth are considered not so untouchable, if even conservative Catholics appear to attack them.
Within the boundaries of acceptance of Catholic truth in the matter, I’d say that everyone should feel free to exercise his criticism as much as he likes.
A non-Catholic seeing that a Catholic can be very critical, but is always loyal will register the fact and, at a more or less conscious level, remain impressed.
I have often read harsh criticism about the disobedience of Archbishop Lefebvre in consecrating the four bishops after becoming fed up with JP II’s waiting games.
I will readily admit that this was an act of disobedience. But in the simple world in which I live there is disobedience and disobedience. A son may disobey to his father in rebellion at his father’s authority qua authority, or he may disobey to his father because the father himself insists in misbehaving. The first disobedience is out of rebellion, the second out of a higher form of respect for the father’s role and obedience to the God-given commandment. The first disobedience is aimed at making a father out of a son; the second is aimed at making of a bad father a good one. The first disobedience aims at destroying traditional, God-given rules; the second at preserving them.
If your father is drunk and you don’t obey to his damaging – or outright wicked – orders not because you don’t want him to be your father, but because you want him to stop being drunk you are still being disobedient, but you are certainly a good son.
I have therefore not many qualms with the Society of St. Pius X and the only reason why I never attended their mass (whose sacramental validity I do not doubt in the least, nor does the Vatican) is my subterranean terror of finding myself surrounded by a couple of dozens of bony, angry nutcases eager to recruit “the new one” to their poisonous cause with intemperate rants about the Antichrist in Rome and the like. I might be entirely wrong of course; but in these matters I am a rather sensitive, delicate flower who prefers to avoid unpleasant experiences.
In the same spirit, I look with a certain sympathy to those cheeky priests who realise that they have been tested with an uncommonly disgraceful bishop and decide to try to twist his arm on this or that matter (the recent episode or Thiberville having as disgraceful protagonist bishop Nourrichard comes to mind).
In all these cases, I see disobedience as a higher form of obedience. Obedience to the Church as an institution rather than obedience to (say) a liberal baboon; or obedience to what the Church commands rather than to what a bunch of naive (or faithless) bishops wanting to play “cool” and “popular” think is all right and very Catholic indeed.
But you see, all these disobedient priests and bishops still obey to that higher order that is the Church that has always been. They haven’t tailored their beliefs to what suits them; they haven’t come out with a new theology; they have just continued to believe what has been transmitted to them by countless generations of Catholics! “The Bishop’s – or Pope – good servant, but God’s first” could they say paraphrasing Thomas More. Whilst I agree that this behaviour is not advisable bar in the most extreme circumstances, I can’t see in it a menace to the Church, but rather a menace to the liberals and modernists within her. Never can the Church be damaged by those who, confronted with dramatic and sweeping changes, upheld what the Church has always been. To think so is, in my eyes, a contradiction in terms. These reactions should then be properly seen as a useful gauge of a malaise within the Church; a malaise which would then have to be scrutinised in the light of the strictest orthodoxy, not demonised as if the Church of the past had suddenly become wrong.
This is the reason why in my page about Catholic Quotes (see the upper bar) the place of honour is given to this beautiful quote from Robert DePiante:
What Catholics once were, we are. If we are wrong, then Catholics through the ages have been wrong.
We are what you once were. We believe what you once believed.
We worship as you once worshipped. If we are wrong now, you were wrong then. If you were right then, we are right now.
I do hope that the rift (not schism) between the SSPX and Rome will be healed in my lifetime. Until then I will continue to give my allegiance to the latter, and my admiration to the former. I can’t avoid thinking that all that is happening now (from the slow resurgence of proper Catholicism to Summorum Pontificum to…. well, there’ s not much else for now and we might be slowing backpedaling) has been accelerated by the constant work of the SSPX, whose action – sometimes wrongly worded, sometimes a bit ego-driven, but in my eyes always conducted in a proper spirit of Catholic orthodoxy – has exposed the ridicule of NuChurch and helped to shape the resistance to the post-Vatican II drunkenness.
The threatened disobedience of the priest who says that he can’t accept what, in her essence, the Church has always been (find an example here) is not defending Church tradition, but starting his own one. The threatened disobedience of the priest (or archbishop) who says that he can’t accept that the Church may become different from what she has always been is on another plane altogether.
Following a very interesting intervention of Schmenz in reply to a former post, I spent some time looking for some credible description of how a Catholic is to react to a decree of canonisation or beatification. This particularly in view of the upcoming beatification (and one day, perhaps, canonisation) of the late Pope JP II, an event which will clearly excite both an oceanic wave of enthusiasm and a smaller, but noticeable one of dismay.
I have already made clear that in my eyes the worth as a Blessed of John Paul II is to be seen in his saintly character, not in his working as a Pope. This is nothing new or wrong as a beatification or canonisation isn’t, nor could it ever be, a seal of approval of political action.
Now let us see what the Catholic Encyclopedia says on the matter of canonisation.
1) There are two types of canonisation, formal and equivalent.
Formal canonization occurs when the cultus is prescribed as an explicit and definitive decision, after due judicial process and the ceremonies usual in such cases. Equivalent canonization occurs when the pope, omitting the judicial process and the ceremonies, orders some servant of God to be venerated in the Universal Church; this happens when such a saint has been from a remote period the object of veneration, when his heroic virtues (or martyrdom) and miracles are related by reliable historians, and the fame of his miraculous intercession is uninterrupted
2) It is evident that modern canonisations are all formal ones; that they are the object of a prescription; that the decision is explicit and definitive. That they, as such, bind every Catholic. In matters of canonisation, “ours is not to reason why“. This is only logical, as the nature itself of the canonisation is to give the faithful certainty, not hope, that the canonised person is in Heaven.
3) Whether the decree of canonisation is an expression of Papal Infallibility (as, says the Catholic encyclopedia, most theologians think) or not, the result of the canonisation is evidently not less binding, and this is what interests us here. When the Church formally decrees that Titius or Caius are Saint Titius and Saint Caius, every Catholic is bound to accept this as part and parcel of his Catholic belief. Still, this mandatory belief does not stretch to the man in question having done everything right and not even to his having had heroic virtue; what every catholic is bound to believe is merely that the canonised person is in heaven.
Very different is the case of Beatification. The Catholic Encyclopedia again:
This general agreement of theologians as to papal infallibility in canonization must not be extended to beatification, not withstanding the contrary teaching of the canonical commentary known as “Glossa” […] Canonists and theologians generally deny the infallible character of decrees of beatification, whether formal or equivalent, since it is always a permission, not a command;
Clearly, here the Church is not saying “you have to believe”, but “you are allowed to believe”. You can therefore – as long as no canonisation intervenes – refuse to believe that the one or other person declared Blessed is in heaven in the same way as you can, say, not believe in the Fatima apparitions.There can be no question of infallibility, because there is no question of prescription in the first place.
In practical terms, this means that a Catholic is allowed to question the prevalent opinion that, say, John Paul II is in heaven but is not allowed to question the prescriptive decree that, say, Padre Pio is.
Sandro Magister, one of the most informed and attentively read Vaticanists, has obtained a rather interesting letter from a member of the gravely disgraced order of the Legionaries of Christ.
Leaving aside for a moment the acute (but well-known) considerations of Magister about the energy of the Pontiff in dealing with a man and an organisation that had been able to acquire a status of almost untouchability during the Pontificate of John Paul The Gullible, Magister points out (with the help of the letter, which he reports in full) to these in my eyes very important facts:
1) The hierarchy within the Legionaries of Christ is still largely the one surrounding Marcial Maciel before his fall from grace.
2) The scale of Maciel’s shameless failings lets it appear more and more unlikely that he could lead his double life without the acquiescence of the people nearest to him within the organisation. The official “we knew nothing”-mantra seems therefore increasingly more untenable.
3) Portraits of Maciel still appear in several locations owned by the Legionaries. This indicates an utter absence of the will to come clean and try to make amends for the past.
4) Most importantly, the letter reveals a scandal of astonishing proportion: the systematic treatment of the followers mainly in light of their ability as potential spenders. Families are divided into “categories” depending on wealth and accordingly assigned to members of the orders, a praxis suitable for an insurance brokerage but not for a religious order. As the priest is the one who will work as spiritual counsellor, the scope for abuse is immense. Mind, this is not simply what used to happen during Maciel’s tenure. This is what is still happening today.
A long time after the exposure of Maciel’s corruption, the leaders of the organisation he founded continue not only to stonewall, but to openly identify with him. If this were not enough, they continue to use at least some of the extremely questionable practices put in place by the founder.
I have often stated, and would like to repeat today, that in my eyes The Legionaries of Christ must be disbanded. The idea to reform such an ideologically rooted organisation is in my eyes as unrealistic as it would have been to allow the Nazi Party to survive after 1945, taking away the personality cult and transforming the party into a democratic organisation. People don’t change so easily and they most certainly don’t change when they are allowed to stay within the organisation which has totally formed their personality.
Besides this obvious organisational point there is another point we should not neglect: the effect of the survival of this organisation on the Church’s reputation. I could not name to you one single big Catholic religious order established by a person who was less than a saintly man, let alone an unspeakable bastard like Maciel. St. Francis was not homosexual. St. Dominic was not a child molester. St. Benedict didn’t have a double life with lover and several children. St. Ignatius was not an embezzler. Maciel was all these things together. They were all Saints.
Do we really want all the detractors of the Church to point out, in two or three hundred years’ time, that one of the Church’s biggest orders was founded by such a (I must say the word again) bastard? Do we really want the Church getting on record for having allowed the Legionaries to go on? How can the Church allow such stain to haunt her for all the centuries to come? Is this the prudent thing to do? The extremely prestigious seminary of Sankt Poelten has been closed down after its homosexual scandal; the reasoning was that there are failings an organisation cannot survive, shames from which it can never recover. Exactly.
Allow me to make a (politically incorrect, which is always good) comparison with the Waffen-SS. The Waffen-SS – not to be confused with the notorious SS, to which they were linked in name only – were arguably the most brilliant military force ever to thread the fields of WW II. They were selected among the Third Reich’s best of the best, were revolutionary in their being multinational (“The first modern European army”, as it has been rightly said) and were highly admired even by their enemies. Have they been allowed to survive after Hitler’s fall? Nope. Why is that? Because good as they were, their indefensible founder made them indefensible. Because good as they were, their rotten ideology made them (collectively) irredeemable. Because had they been allowed to go on after the fall of their founder, it was clear that they would have continued to share the values in which they were totally immersed. Because there are situations where how good you are is not the point anymore.
Exactly the same considerations can be applied, I think, to the Legionaries of Christ. No one doubts their devotion to the cause and high efficiency in what they do; but one must recognise that they are pretty much brainwashed by the personality cult they have lived in for so many years and that by allowing them to remain within the organisation this brainwashing would never be “washed away”. They will therefore (like the Waffen-SS) have to be disbanded and their people (the good ones, I mean) placed elsewhere, where they will be able to progressively shed their “legionary” thinking.
The Legionaries of Christ must be disbanded. It doesn’t make sense to keep an organisation so horribly tainted. What has happened is beyond reconstruction and beyond redemption. As the post-Maciel years abundantly prove.
The Catholic Herald deals with the effects of the Papal visit, or better said with the hopes of Archbishop Nichols about the same.
My personal opinion is that the effects of the papal visit are being vastly exaggerated and that this exaggeration is conveniently used to cover the fact that like their American counterparts, the bishops of E & W can’t do their job.
These events only have a momentary effect due to some days of intense media coverage, but are largely forgotten once the media coverage has shifted somewhere else. There will certainly be a positive effect on some individuals, but the work and the future of the Church in England cannot be based on short-lived media events. On the contrary, the future depends on serious and courageous work made on the ground every day. Looking at the English clergy it is clear that this is exactly what is not happening.
The past, “historic” visit of JP II – a success by any standard with vast media coverage, massive popular participation and many people touched at a personal level – has been followed by a sharp decline in mass attendance in the following decades. There can be no better evidence that no amount of media coverage can take the place of making one’s homework.
Archbishop Nichols has just seen the last Catholic adoption agency forced to abandon its Catholic character or close altogether. In front of the current situation of Catholic adoption agencies, a courageous Archbishop would have been firing from all cannons for months now, not neglecting one single occasion to make his voice strongly, aggressively heard, rallying his sheep to vocal and organised protest, becoming a serious electoral threat for all those publicly advocating anti-Catholic values and not hesitating to distribute all the excommunications needed to give force to his battle.
Archbishop Nichols prefers to give interviews about the Papal visit instead.
The real problem in this country is not the organisational blunders of the Papal visit, but that we have a toothless clergy feeling perfectly comfortable with their own irrelevance.
Archbishop Nichols is not delivering the goods, nor is any one of his E & W colleagues.
No degree of success of the Papal Visit will ever be able to counteract this.
Beautiful article in the Remnant about the reasons why the “luminous mysteries” should be discarded.
The first one is the historic origin of the Rosary in the Psaltery. When monks started to have the obligation to read all the Psalms (150 in number) every day, the increasing number of conversi (lay people who lived in the monastery helping the monks, generally to expiate grave sins or otherwise to perfect themselves but without becoming monks) made it necessary to create a comparable devotion accessible to them. As most conversi were illiterate, they started to be given the task of reciting 150 Pater Noster every day. In time, this devotion spread to the generality of the lay people in form of 150 Ave Maria. Thus we have a direct link to the Rosary with the Psaltery. An addition of a fourth cycle of mysteries makes of the entire rosary a cycle of 200 Hail Marys and the traditional link with the Psaltery is lost.
Secondly, the division of the Rosary in three parts and three sets of mysteries has been traditionally linked to the Trinity. This is why Pope Paul VI says that the Rosary is wisely distributed in three parts. The addition of a fourth part destroys the traditional link of the Rosary with the Trinity.
Thirdly, in any innovation of the Rosary there is an element of change. After the innovation madness of the last decades, we now know that change is not something good in itself; on the contrary, it creates confusion. What has been honoured and considered orthodox praxis by the centuries should be transmitted unaltered to the following generations. If it ain’t broken…….
Fourthly (and this is not in the article, but is a fact nevertheless) the Rosary has been shaped in his main traits by Marian apparitions to St. Dominic, Blessed Alan de la Roche and lastly to the children of Fatima. The idea that a Pope should add his own suggestions on how to improve on various Marian apparitions really, really doesn’t feel right.
Further interesting elements emerge from this article: the first is the attempted ravaging of the Rosary by the notorious Annibale Bugnini (it is amazing not only what damage the man has caused, but what further damage he wanted to cause), attempt stopped by Pope Paul VI who therefore spared the Rosary from undergoing the same treatment Bugnini inflicted to the Mass. The second is the laud given by the notoriously anti-Catholic New York Times to JP II’s “suggested” changes. Please note the words of the Article: JP II is commended for “crossing another frontier”, because in the NYT’s world if you cross a frontier of traditional Catholicism you must be doing something good. More explicitly, the NYT informs his probably unaware readers that the Pope will be “making a significant change in the Rosary, a signature method of Catholic prayer for centuries now”. Now, the NYT is certainly not interested in the improvement of Catholic spirituality. What it is interested in, is that something which has gone on for centuries is now going to change. They know very well that every time someone gives a shove to a traditional devotion, the faith is weakened as a result. The third is that even in the Vatican’s mind the changes reflect the late Pope’s “creativity” and “courage”. That “creativity” in relation to traditional Catholic devotions be not only contemplated, but even praised speaks volumes about the theological approximation and tireless devotion to “change” which used to afflict the Vatican in those years. Only eight years later, we read these words with stunned disbelief. That they could come from the Vatican is even more disquieting than the fact that they should be praised by their enemies at the NYT.
A bad History teacher doesn’t change History and a bad teacher of Catholicism doesn’t change Catholicism. But both will transmit their mediocrity to their pupils.
This is, of course, no theological matter. Still, traditional Catholic devotions play (or should play) an important role in a Catholic’s life and should be therefore left alone. It is now high time to abandon the shallowness and fashion-conscious thinking making us believe that “change” be something good. Change for the sake of change is not good and is not courageous, and “creativity” is nothing to do with tradition.
I invite you to recite the Rosary every day, and to do it as many generations before us have done.
One of the consequences of the remarkable levelling to the minimum common denominator of almost every conceivable activity is the scaling down of those elements of ceremony once cherished as beautiful and today considered arrogant or elitist. In fact, one can go as far as to say that nowadays whatever is not absolutely and tragically plain is at high risk of being labelled as “elitist” or “snob”. We see this everywhere but what I would like to mention with you today is the style of Papal appearances.
There was a time where a Pope would – on certain and particularly solemn occasions – be carried on a sedia gestatoria. This was a kind of movable throne, splendidly adorned, offering the advantage of making the Pope visible by a large crowd whilst at the same time beautifully stressing his (literally) exalted position. It goes without saying that the entire exercise was not entirely “democratic”, but as the Church never was and never would be no one really cared for such matters. On the contrary, in former times – before egalitarianism started to infiltrate every aspect of public life – such shows of authority were expected, respected and not disliked at all. Men need symbols and something like a sedia gestatoria had a highly symbolic meaning.
Not anymore, at least for now. John Paul II first refused to use it, evidently considering a Pope unworthy of being revered and honoured as such. John Paul II also started to dress down in other ways (for instance: no papal tiara).
If you ask me, dear reader, this is all very wrong. Men need symbols. They breath them. Few things are more natural and speak more directly to the human mind than the visual or aurial experience of power and authority. The Pope is powerful; he has authority. A lot of it, in fact, as we would be at a loss to find another person on the planet with the authority to remove or fire anyone of more than 400,000 employees of his organisation at will and with the only appeal given to…. himself; let alone a person with such a high moral authority over 1.15 billion faithful.
Men need symbols and those in position of power and authority have always naturally availed themselves of various means to stress this authority and to make it visible, palpable, audible. There is nothing wrong with that.
Pope Benedict is showing some timid signs of wanting to recover the rich symbolic tradition of the Papacy, but he has still not revived the use of the sedia gestatoria (nor that of the papal tiara). The nowadays omnipresent “security reasons” cannot be brought as an excuse because the use of the sedia gestatoria can be modified to make it safer (say: only within a church) and increase both the visibility and the safety of the Holy Father. Had a sedia gestatoria been used, last year’s episode in St. Peter could not have happened at all.
We are now seeing the first signs of a change of direction, albeit things proceed – as so often in Church matters – rather slowly. We can only hope that, in time, the vast symbolic patrimony of the Church will be fully recovered and proudly considered a powerful symbolic weapon instead of an embarrassment.