It is Sunday morning and as far as I know Francis is still alive and kicking. Every man of faith knows the Holy Ghost can take him down in an instant.
The Church has traditionally thought canonisations are infallible, and I remain – until a valid argument to the contrary – of the opinion that where 2000 years of Christian convictions lead, Mundabor should bloody well follow. I have still not found any argument explaining to me why God would have allowed the formation of such a strong and diffused belief concerning things that cannot be verified, unless it be to teach us to trust God’s work in those things that cannot be verified.
This does not mean that these canonisations are not a disgrace. Of course they are.A canonisation often has a political element in it. It was always so. Kings were made saints, and founders of religious orders. The economic and political implications were immense. But we have never thought, because of that, that King Louis IX (canonised very meager 27 years after his death) or St Francis (less than two years) were not in heaven.
Look at it this way: St Dismas and countless other sinners managed to get to paradise not because of, but notwithstanding their shortcomings. We are not required to believe in heroic virtue as infallible corollary of canonisations, though it is very obvious the faithful should have the right to expect that heroic virtue be considered a requirement so that devotion to the saint be made more natural, and the canonisation better understood. In both today’s cases, it is very difficult to say that this was the case if we consider the public work of both Popes. I agree with that. But you see, pontificates are not canonised. People are.
At the end of all discussions, Francis is still breathing as I write this. I am absolutely sure the Holy Ghost is never late. Therefore, if he wants to have Francis taken out of circulation I am sure he will not, so to speak, arrive to the station when the train has already left.
No. The Holy Ghost is in control. If he allows Francis to say to the planet what the Christian has generally believed infallible these two thousand years, then in my humble mind it means he has not waited until 2014 in order to suddenly teach us to properly understand infallibility; on the contrary, he is asking us to continue to believe what has been generally believed in these two thousand years. Oh what a man of little faith, the one who doubts what the Church has encouraged the faithful to believe, has implicitly given for granted for these 2000 years, merely because the seal of formal infallibility has not been given. What sixty of generations of Christians have believed is good enough for me. I trust God would not allow a mistake of such magnitude.
Still, this is a day of infamy, in which not only V II is factually extolled as the way to go, but Francis himself is actively pushing toward his own beatification, because it is clear by now no V II pope should be considered below at least that.
Of course, these canonisations will be used to push all kind of nonsense. Of course, none of the nonsense will make sense, after the canonisations as well as before. Yes, there can be no doubt a tambourine offensive is upon us, and it will be fueled – among many other things – by these canonisations. But in my eyes the most important thing now is that we do not lose faith in the minimum meaning of canonisation, and my greatest fear is not that thinking people may be swayed toward acceptance of V II because of the canonisations (thinking and properly instructed people would find the thought hilarious), but that they may be tempted by Sedevacantism.
As to the attempt to “canonise V II”, I will fight this battle with relish, and I am sure you will do the same. The battle would be upon us anyway, seeing the kind of man we have as Pope.
The day of infamy has come. The Church still stands. The Holy Ghost sees everything.
The right way to react to this is to intensify criticism of V II. And of the two new Saints. because it’s not that saints are ipso facto infallible, and if you make someone who has made huge mistakes a saint you will have to be reminded of the mistakes every time you mention he is a canonised Saint.
A lot of people go to paradise. Only very few are canonised. There was no need to add these two disastrous pontiffs to the list.
Difficult times are in store for Catholics. Besides the already questionable canonisation of JP II, the even more questionable “miracle” attributed to Paul VI, and still called “miracle”, opens even more disquieting questions about what is happening with the canonisations, and how a Catholic is to react to such news.
To me, the question is very simple: either canonisations are infallible, or they aren't.
It is my understanding that canonisations are infallible. That is, that God will not allow canonisations of people who are not in Paradise. If you read attentively the relevant entry in the Catholic encyclopedia, you will see that this opinion is so dominant as to allow us to consider it what the Church has generally believed: not because it is a self-evident truth, but because it appears a rather logical consequence of the cult of the Saints, and it is not given to see – to me at least – how the first can be crushed without very gravely damaging the second. I do not need to tell you that with a decree of canonisation the Pope orders (not allows) to believe that such and such is in heaven.
This is, mind, not dependent on the actual ways or procedures which led to the proclamation of someone as a saint. The highly structured process we know today – and which remained structurally unchanged until JPII raped it with the abolition of the advocatus diaboli – was not followed until many centuries after the first martyrs; and whilst we know in the earlier times martyrs had a kind of monopoly on the canonisations, I can't imagine we can get certainty of rigorous procedures for several centuries of Church history. Again, the Catholic encyclopedia has interesting words about the confessors and the gradual evolution of the process.
What shall we do, then: divide the saints into those with the “quality seal” of a rigorous procedure, and the others? Does everything come down to picking a “safe bet?” Is a martyr a “safer bet” than a confessor? As far as I know, many are the Saints who were acclaimed such by the Christians in Rome. Were they all martyrs? Are we so sure? And what about those believed saints in force of strong conviction of the Catholic world?
Does not the entire concept of the culto dei Santi repose on the concept of infallibility? Who of you, on buying a book about the Saints, questions the legitimacy of some of them? “Hhhmmmm… Saint such and such. Canonised in 931. A period of great Church corruption. Hhhmmm… No, I don't really trust this one”.
I am at a loss to understand how it can work this way. If the Church tells me that Saint Quisque is in Heaven, and She orders me to believe it, either she says it infallibly or the statement makes no sense, because there is no way to verify the entrance of the saint in Heaven with the measure of Church doctrine. When Francis tells me this or that rubbish about, say, the Blessed Virgin, I can check whether it is conform to tradition or not. When he tells me that Paul VI is in heaven, I must believe that God does not allow him to cheat me on that.
And in fact, it seems to me that to be a “doubter” implies the belief in a rather timid God, who would allow a Pope to cheat us in such a way that we cannot see that he is cheating, whilst allowing him to order us that we believe him without proof, and merely on faith.
Or you can say it in this way: no one can, without committing a mortal sin, allow himself an authoritative statement that, say, Paul VI is not in heaven. If, therefore, we cannot demonstrate that he is not, we must believe that God did not deceive us when He allowed the Church to believe for 2,000 years that a Pope can tell us that someone is.
I have more confidence in God's work than to doubt a canonisation, unsavoury or seemingly absurd as it may seem. I think that God stays behind the deal He has given us, and will crush Francis like a mosquito, or otherwise impede the canonisations, if JP II and John XXIII are not in heaven on the day appointed. This is what our forefathers have always believed, and this is what I will continue to believe, in the confidence that what was held sacred by all generations before me applies to this wretched generation, too.
“Ah, but this time is different!”, some will say.
Look: a lot of times were “different” already. Nihil sub sole novi. We have gone, in the history of the Church, through astonishingly corrupt times, and with Popes to match; but still, our forefathers trusted God not to allow a Pope to cheat them in such matters; not ever, irrespective of the deficiencies of the Pope, the canonisation process, or the mistakes made in life by the canonised person. Nor do we divide the Popes in Popes of First, Second and Third Class concerning canonisations.
Will I, then, erect myself as judge of another's acceptance in Heaven, when God does not give me a way to make a judgment, nay, he explicitly forbids me to make it? Will I die with such a sin of presumption on my conscience when I know, absolutely know, that this is just the thing concerning which it is part of the Divine Plan that I should not be allowed to judge for myself?
How can I know what tests Paul VI had to pass? How do I know with what virulence he was attacked? How do I know he did not get a valid plenary indulgence, dying – after all his mistakes – perfectly contrite for them, absolved of everything, and with nothing more to pay? How can I know that, if he did go to purgatory, he is still there?
“But Mundabor! He had no heroic virtue! He was an appeaser to his last breath!” It might well be so; it was very probably so; but whilst heroic virtue is a frequent appearance by canonised saints, it is not a requirement. The canonisation decree does not require you to believe in one's heroic virtue, merely that he is in heaven.
I am, as you might or might not have noticed, unhesitatingly critical of the Bishop of Rome when I think he is way out of line. I do it whenever I can see – through the comparison of his own behaviour and statement with objectively recognisable Church doctrine, basic decency, or common sense – that he is behaving in strident contrast to what is required of him. I do so persuaded that as God gives us a clearly recognisable set of rules, He also puts on us the duty to verify their observance, and to make us heard if this is not the case. If God has allowed you to see, you have no right to make yourself blind.
If, however, it is not given to me to verify that what the Pope states is in accordance with God's rules, but the rules of the Church tell me I have to believe it anyway and God will take care the Pope does not mess around, then I will do the only thing I am able to do, and the only thing that is left to do: submit, believe, and obey.
How can God allow that there be officially canonised bogus Saints? Would this not be an offence to all the true ones, a mockery of their sainthood, and a bomb put under the devotion of the Church Militant? How can this be squared with what your grand-grandmother has always believed, and believed because this is what the Church has constantly taught? What kind of Traditionalism is that?
Now, I am absolutely sure in the next weeks and months all kind of theories will emerge. Minority positions held once upon a time by the one or the other. Strange theories about the Church not really saying what everyone has always believed the Church was saying. Outlandish snippets of Saints of the past taken out of context.
I promise you, I will read whatever comes from worthy sources – like the SSPX, of course – with great attention; but frankly, the obstacle as we write the 5 March 2014 seems insurmountable to me, because against it is the huge wall of an infallibility I cannot but see as generally believed these last 2,000 years.
When it is not given to understand, then, I think, is the moment to obey. I cannot understand everything, but – sinner as I am – I will strive to obey in everything I can. Christ will not ask me, on that fateful day, if I was the smartest of the bunch, or had not come to the conclusion that the Church He found was wrong in what I can't prove wrong. I hope He will, at least in this matter, be satisfied enough that having been given no instruments to understand which is which, I have trusted what He said I have to believe in the matter.
Terrible times are awaiting us. We have apparently arrived to the mockery of the miracle – just to be logical: the “cure” of a feared malformation, or disease, is no cure at all -. But even a miracle is no necessary component of God calling one to heaven; and it is merely a procedural – and again: not obligatory – step of the current or even the old canonisation process. Let the proclamations of “miracles” become as stupid as they want. God will not be fooled by them.
I will therefore believe – until sensible evidence to the contrary – in the infallibility of canonisations.
If Francis is playing fast and loose with God even on this, I trust God will rid us of the canonisation, and possibly of the Pope himself; because whilst God will allow him to say he slaps people on the wrist at the most – which every Christian can see is rubbish – God will not allow him to make a mockery of Sainthood.
Put your trust in the Lord. Faith is the evidence of things not seen.
I am now in the process of reading (and digesting) Romano Amerio’s Iota Unum. Professor Amerio was chosen as perito from the Bishop of Lugano during the fateful years of the Second Vatican Council and therefore not only had all the documents going through his desks, but was also best informed on the background events.
Professor Amerio’s ruthlessly honest analysis of the changes experienced by the Church in the way it presents itself – and of how the Church hierarchy has modified the way of interpreting Her role – offers the starting point for a vast number of discussions. Today I would like to dwell on the role of the Pope.
Professor Amelio identifies the role of the Pope as being basically twofold: direction and prescription. The first is the identification and formulation of proper rules of conduct which are in themselves not binding but mere suggestions; the second the prescribing and enforcing of a certain behaviour. Historically, Popes have used both functions in various ways, but the ability of the Pope to act as a source of prescriptive law (that is: to demand and to enforce rather than merely to suggest) has never been downplayed.
With the Second Vatican Council, a dramatic change occurs. The papacy shifts, to use Amerio’s words, “from governing to admonishing”. The first function is clearly downplayed and considered more or less obsolete, the second one is now declared to be the weapon of choice.
Let us read from the Opening Speech of the Council: confronted with the problem of how to deal with error, John XXIII declares that the Church
prefers today to make use of the medicine of mercy, rather than of the arms of severity.
John XXIII indicates that the Church wants to resist error
by showing the validity of her teaching, rather than by issuing condemnations
This concept that mercy and severity be intrinsically opposed (so spread today, even in the everyday language) is a novel idea. It is, in fact, contrary to the firmly held belief of the Church that, as Amerio beautifully puts it,
the condemnation of error is itself a work of mercy, since by pinning down error those laboring under it are corrected and other are preserved from falling into it.
This tragically weak conception of the role of the Papacy rests on the rather naive idea that errors be, in the long term, self-correcting; that in other words be sufficient for the Church to merely point out to the right thinking in order for the straying sheep to, in time, see the errors of their ways and naturally come back to orthodoxy.
This new concept of the way a Pope exercises his powers – which Amerio aptly calls, with Isaiah, Breviatio Manus Domini or “foreshortening of the arm of the Lord” – does not die with John XXIII but continues unabated, and even in a dramatically accentuated form, under the pontificate of his successor Paul VI.
Paul VI is so weak that when the “Dutch schism” occurs (an unbelievable event in which a so-called “Dutch Pastoral Council”, a gathering of more than 5000 representatives of the Church in Holland, convened in the presence of the Bishops and voted with a 90% majority for the abolition of priest celibacy, the employment of secularised priests in pastoral position, the right of bishops to exercise a deliberative vote on papal decrees and even the ordination of women) his reaction is to point out to all the errors of the deliberation, but at the same time to ask the bishops: “what do you think that We can do to help you, to strenghten your authority, to enable you to overcome the present difficulties of the Church in Holland?”.
This is breathtaking. Paul VI is confronted with a compact group of heretical bishops and far from severely punishing them, he asks them what he can do to strenghten their authority. Here we see not only the great personal weakness of the Pope, but the utter inability of the new “soft” approach toward error to avoid its spreading and its becoming more and more aggressive. The Dutch schism was in fact not silenced until John Paul II demanded obedience rather than meekly suggesting it.
But Paul VI was not the only one. Let us read the words of Cardinal Gut, the then prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, regarding Paul VI’s approach to liturgical abuses:
“Many priests did whatever they liked. They imposed their own personalities. Very often unauthorised initiatives could not be stopped. In his great goodness and wisdom, the Holy father then made concessions, often against his own inclinations”.
Here, a Cardinal sees in the giving in to unlawfulness an indication of “goodness and wisdom”. Furthermore, the repeated indication of initiatives which “could not be stopped” by those whose job would have been to stop them reveals all the scale of the weakness dominating the Vatican corridors in those fateful years.
Even heresies can be stopped. Even extremely spread ones. It just takes the right people at the helm.
Only two days ago I have pointed out to the great courage and firmness showed by Pope Pius XII in front of Nazi evil. Today I point out to the “self-demolition” (not my words: Paul VI’s) started just a few years after the death of that great Pope.
The contrast couldn’t be more dramatic.