And it came to pass yours truly had to decide whether to dedicate the evening to blogging about the usual inane bishop (Chaput) giving the usual inane interview (“I know you should vote Trump, but I haven’t the gut to even suggest it”), or get away from all this squalor and spend an evening browsing my beloved Garrigou-Lagrange. Guess who won.
I re-read a passage in “Providence” that I thought I would share with you. Garrigou-Lagrange is expanding on the theme of “seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God and His justice: all these things shall be added unto you”. He writes:
Those who make it their principal aim to pursue their final destiny (God the sovereign good who should be loved above all things), will be given whatever is necessary to attain their end, not only what is necessary for the life of their body, but also the graces to obtain life eternal.
(Chapter XVII, pag. 193)
If you one of those who have a lingering fear that they might slip in mortal sin, and “happen” (in a way) to die in that state, deserving to to go to hell because you have died in mortal sin, these words should be very consoling to you.
Yes, it is true that if we die in mortal sin we will go to hell. But the healthier (and traditionally Catholic) thinking is that a life spent sincerely aspiring to the final destiny is a good indication that God, in His mercy, will providentially care that – wretched sinners as we are – we will not die in mortal sin.
Now, this does not mean that one can now “relax” and look upon sin with a less alarmed attitude, because he thinks that he carries in himself the antidote to whatever poison he might willingly ingest. In fact, such an attitude would, in case, cause every sound thinking person to openly question whether the pursuit of the final destiny is really the principal aim of such a man. If I fear I am in mortal sin, I run to confession and recite an act of (perfect) contrition on the way there; I do not lull myself into the feeling that God has chosen me because I am oh so good, and will take care that I do not die in mortal sin.
However, the quote above certainly means this: that the fear lingering every now and then in the mind of many a Catholic (“what happens if I am in mortal sin and the Boris Bus suddenly puts an end to my existence”) and often used by those who don’t like Catholicism and probably every other religion (“you have a religion in which the circumstances of one instant determine your alleged eternal destiny”) is a moot point.
God in His Goodness has ordained from all eternity that, at the moment of my impact with the Boris Bus, the state of my soul will be the one that he, in His Goodness, has ordained from all eternity that it should be, rewarding – or punishing – not the behaviour of an instant, but the state of his soul as the result not of a moment, but as the terminal point of one entire existence. I do not, therefore, have to fear that I might die in the, so to speak, casually wrong moment, or in the wrong state of my soul.
If salvation is my constant care, and I sincerely desire to live in a way that merits me heaven one day, I can have a solid hope that a merciful Lord will (from my perspective at least) arrange things so, that the Boris Bus does not knock me out of this world in a state of mortal sin.
Fear not the Boris Bus.
Fear the culture of abortion, euthanasia and sodomy instead.
They can knock your soul to hell more slowly, but more safely than every Boris Bus.
There are around books dealing with self-improvement, management, or the like who suggest that you think about how do you want to be remembered, what you would want people to say at your funeral, and so on. I chanced upon such a book, and I thought I would say a word.
I am sure most people would reflect that they want to be remembered as the kind of “kind”, “gentle”, “nice” person who always behaved as if life was an uninterrupted exchange of pleasantries; the one always ready to say to his neighbour: “nice day, isn't it?” or: “what a nice dog you have!”.
It makes sense. This is, in fact, exactly the kind of people who would want others to praise them after they have died, telling the world what capital fellows they were.
I beg to differ.
I want to be remembered as the kind of person who was always ready to say the “unkind”, “harsh”, “not at all nice” truth whenever prudential judgment made me deem advisable to say so; and who was ready and willing to earn scorn, mockery, or loss of friendship for it. The one who complained. The grumpy old man.
In this day and age, it is difficult to be considered the all-around-nice-chap without tackling the many issues around you that require you to say the “less nice” things. Show me the man liked by all, and I will likely show you a man who liked himself first, and never cared about the salvation of others. If you don't care, it's easy to be nice. If you care, it's a completely different ballgame. Ask any father.
As to me, I hope to be remembered as cantankerous, “unkind”, “uncharitable”, and all those other adjectives beginning with “un”; in the pursue of a good, for myself and others, more important than every popularity contest, and more important than the approval even of those dearest to me.
But then again I won't want any eulogy, either.
A small place in purgatory is all I ask. If I get that, nothing people say about me will ever count. If I don't get that, nothing that people say about me will ever count, either. Let those of the world care about what the world say of them; let them care for it so much, that they'll be very worried about what people say of them after they have died. I for myself will not care a fig in death as I did not care a fig in life, then we aren't on this life to procure sugary eulogies for ourselves after we have died.
How do I want to be remembered, then?
I want to be remembered like this blog: assertive, aggressive if needs be; sharp as a knife; always ready for a fight; utterly uncaring of the approval of the “nice folks”. But perhaps, perhaps, with Padre Pio in heaven smiling about all that “uncharitable” stuff a bit, and the Blessed Virgin looking with compassion on this wretched sinner. Oh, to have such an endorsement!
Seriously: who cares about the eulogy?
This happened in a big Cathedral, on the feast of Corpus Domini (or rather the Sunday afterwards).
The homily began with a mention of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Protestant theologian who observed that disobedience and rebellion cannot be indifferent to God, and if you stage a Holocaust you'll have to pay for it. That Bonhoeffer's Protestantism was a blatant example of that very disobedience and rebellion was left unsaid. Not one word of criticism of heresy in general, either. No: with all the fine saints and thinkers the Church gave us, the man – possibly a bishop – had to pick a Protestant; to tell us something, by the way, that wins the 2015 Captain Obvious Award anyway.
It followed a rather brutal description of how we all are sinners, disobedient and rebellious; and yours truly thought “aha, now it gets interesting, and orthodox”. Alas, it wasn't to be. The word “redemption” was sparsely used, but “making things right” was used many times. Christ's sacrifice on the cross “makes things right”, because God agrees with Bonhoeffer and must therefore demand atonement for evil deeds. Result? Men sin – Christ atones – things are even.
The message basically ended here: Christ's sacrifice “makes things right”. It goes for the Holocaust, our own sinfulness, everything. God has played the “universal atonement” Divine Card. Rejoice.
No distinction between redemption and salvation. No warning of hell for the unrepentant sinner. A message remained unsaid, but floating in the air: Christ's sacrifice on the Cross takes care of everything, because the Cross “makes things right”.
Please do not say that the priest simply implied, and knew that he would be rightly understood. This was a priest – or a bishop – and he has the darned duty to say, not imply. As to his public, the audience – Cathedral packed – must have been the usual mix of badly instructed Catholics and Catholics not instructed at all, with the rare soundly instructed Catholic thrown in for “diversity”. These aren't times in which a priest can imply orthodoxy. Particularly so, when he has just built his homily on a Proddie theologian. Bonhoeffer was executed in April 1945. Methinks, our chap thought this would give him special rights…
So, what do we have? A huge audience going away after the Mass with the vague feeling that Protestant theologians are fully OK, and we mustn't be worried about our ultimate destiny because Christ “made all right”.
Then we wonder why supposed Catholics vote for abortion and sexual perversion, do not raise their children in the faith and look with indifference as the Country slips into outright Heatenism.
The Conciliar Constitution Gaudium et Spes, faced with these questions that forever resonate in the hearts of men and women, states: “We do not know the time for the consummation of the earth and of humanity, nor do we know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away; but we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, and whose blessedness will answer and surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart” (n. 39). This is the Church’s destination: it is, as the Bible says, the “new Jerusalem”, “Paradise”. More than a place, it is a “state” of soul in which our deepest hopes are fulfilled in a superabundant way and our being, as creatures and as children of God, reach their full maturity. We will finally be clothed in the joy, peace and love of God, in a complete way, without any limit, and we will come face to face with Him! (cf. 1 Cor 13:12). It is beautiful to think of this, to think of Heaven. All of us will be up there together, all of us! [Tutti noi ci troveremo lassù, tutti.] It is beautiful, it gives strength to the soul.
In another astonishing show of unCatholic rubbish for the retarded, the new age freaks and the three-years-old, Pope Francis has generously granted salvation to all of us (“all of us!”), evidently feeling that God’s rules and Jesus’ explicit warnings in the Gospel are past sell-by date, and unfit for the Age of Mercy now ushered in by this evil man in his boundless insolence. Rorate vouches (and I, as an Italian, do it too) for the complete accuracy of the translation.
Francis uses here a variation of a tactic often employed by him on past occasions: Francispeak. As you can read in the link, he first introduces a more or less innocuous explanation of what the Church is supposed to do – lead souls to salvation – and then, in a huge leap of populism for the benefit of the kindergarten brains, extends the concept by simply assuming that this ambition will, ipso facto, translate into actual salvation for all members of the Church. Members of the Church who, far from being reminded of the Last Four Things and warned of the concrete danger of damnation as Our Lord Himself did, are encouraged to believe – nay, are openly told – that they will all be saved, “all of them!”
Clearly, we are here in front of a new religion.
But why would a Pope, of all people, propagate this new religion of drunken dreams and arrogant, blasphemous self-justification? Because, as it is by now evident to the stones, he either does not believe in God, or does not believe in the God of the Christians.
If a man so inebriated by popularity like Francis does not believe in God, everything will be expendable: if he thinks telling people that they will most certainly go to Paradise will make him more popular, one like him will see no reason to refrain from telling the masses exactly that.
Alternatively, one may think that Francis believes in some strange “spiritual presence”, like those people who rotate their hand in the air as they explain to you, with profound expression, that “there must be something over there”, though they have not managed yet to tell you exactly what. Like them, Francis has – in this scenario – shaped for himself a God so convenient, that the brainless masses cannot but be won by it.
In both cases, Francis is actively sabotaging Catholicism. He is, day in and day out, working at the demolition of our religion, so that his own cult may be fuelled by it.
All his public stunts can be explained with one of the two positions, and all of them make perfect sense once their rationale is correctly spotted. I personally believe that he is simply an atheist, because it seems more probable to me that one who has been many years in a Seminary may radically question the truth of what he has been taught, rather than thinking that these truths are true only by half. Still, I do not know what Francis was taught – or taught himself – in the seminary in the first place. Methinks, how to roll a joint might have been the most solid piece of theology gone out of those walls.
Speaking of seminaries, one wonders whether the seminary this man has led should not be, one day, burnt to the ground just for the shame of having had him as the rector.
But there is no need for burning. Jesuits like Bergoglio care for its utter destruction anyway.
I don’t buy your new religion, Francis. You may go to hell with that if you so like.
But as for me, I will serve the Lord.
Upon the election of Jorge Bergoglio, Rorate Caeli published the opinion of Marcelo Gonzalez, an Argentine Catholic journalist.
The Horror!Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst. Not because he openly professes doctrines against the faith and morals, but because, judging from his work as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, faith and moral seem to have been irrelevant to him.A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass, he has only allowed imitations of it in the hands of declared enemies of the ancient liturgy. He has persecuted every single priest who made an effort to wear a cassock, preach with firmness, or that was simply interested in Summorum Pontificum.Famous for his inconsistency (at times, for the unintelligibility of his addresses and homilies), accustomed to the use of coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions, it cannot be said that his magisterium is heterodox, but rather non-existent for how confusing it is.His entourage in the Buenos Aires Curia, with the exception of a few clerics, has not been characterized by the virtue of their actions. Several are under grave suspicion of moral misbehavior.He has not missed any occasion for holding acts in which he lent his Cathedral to Protestants, Muslims, Jews, and even to partisan groups in the name of an impossible and unnecessary interreligious dialogue. He is famous for his meetings with protestants in the Luna Park arena where, together with preacher of the Pontifical House, Raniero Cantalamessa, he was “blessed” by Protestant ministers, in a common act of worship in which he, in practice, accepted the validity of the “powers” of the TV-pastors.This election is incomprehensible: he is not a polyglot, he has no Curial experience, he does not shine for his sanctity, he is loose in doctrine and liturgy, he has not fought against abortion and only very weakly against homosexual “marriage” [approved with practically no opposition from the episcopate], he has no manners to honor the Pontifical Throne. He has never fought for anything else than to remain in positions of power.It really cannot be what Benedict wanted for the Church. And he does not seem to have any of the conditions required to continue his work.May God help His Church. One can never dismiss, as humanly hard as it may seem, the possibility of a conversion… and, nonetheless, the future terrifies us.
I will not beat around the bush here: one year later, every single word of the man has been proved extremely accurate. Let us see in detail. No links, because it would take me occupied for hours. Search this blog.
1. He openly professes doctrines against the faith and morals.
Check. Salvation for atheists. “Who am I to judge”. God slaps you on the wrist at the worst. Hold on to your Koran. Countless others statements of the same tenor.
2. Faith and moral seem to have been irrelevant to him.
Check. A notorious and scandalous homosexual at the head of the Vatican Bank, and left there after a worldwide scandal. The 300-page homo report buried in the sand. Creepy insistence on an imperfect church, that smells like the sheep. If you're orthodox and respect the rules, he doesn't trust you, and holds you for a hypocrite.
3. A sworn enemy of the Traditional Mass. Has persecuted those interested in implementing Summorum Pontificum.
Check, and check. The TLM is a “fashion” for “addicted”. The FFI is openly persecuted. There is clearly no interest in fostering Summorum Pontificum. A past of Pinocchio and Tango Masses emerges.
4. Famous for his inconsistency. Unintelligible.
Check, and check. Runs with the hare and hunts with the hounds. Gives air to his teeth without the faintest idea of what he is saying. Journalists all over the world wonder what he really wanted to say. Baffled readers decide he must have said something smart, because he is the … Bishop of Rome.
5. Entourage under grave suspicion of moral misbehaviour.
Check. I will say two words: Monsignor Ricca. In addition: mockery of those worried for the homo lobby; hey, they do not go around with the gay mafia ID card.
6. Has not missed an occasion for “dialogue” of the most extreme sort. Blessed by Proddie “ministers”.
Check, and check. With Francis, Christianity is at times a distant echo. Hold on to your Koran. The Jews have their own reserved lane to salvation. Personal message to Muslims for the end of Ramadan: he shares their joy. May their life glorify the Almighty. Observers are not sure whether Francis believes in Allah. Not improbable. A Proddie preacher is called “brother bishop”. Francis washes feet to infidels and women.
7. Coarse, demagogical, and ambiguous expressions.
Check, check, and check. “Casogate”, showing the extreme easiness with which taboo words escape his mouth. An orgy of Peronism for one entire year, showing the most appalling ignorance of basic concepts of economics. Francispeak and Doublespeak like it's going out of fashion.
8. No polyglot. No curial experience. Does not shine for his sanctity. Has not fought against abortion. Very weak against sodomarriage. No manners.
Check. Check. Check. Check. Check, and check. Italian is limping. English basically non existent. He reorganises the Curia by creating more red tape, and spending vast amounts of money for external consultants. He puts an homosexual friend at the head of a bank. He insists on a church that is, in a creepy way, dirty. He speaks against abortion only in private (with Bishop Scicluna, say), but never when he has a worldwide audience. He wants to avoid “obsession” with abortion and homosexuality. He does not show up at a classical music concert, and lets it be known he is not a “Renaissance Prince”. He is, simply, a boor.
9. Conversion cannot be excluded. Still, the future appears terrifying.
Check. And check. Think of the upcoming Synod, and all the archbishops and Cardinals now happily free-wheeling.
The author of the article (and Rorate by association) were, after the publication of this blog post, attacked for weeks in the most slanderous manner. Some of those who had accused them (like the Remnant troops) have made amend. Others have taken refuge in an extreme Pollyannism that refuses to see reality, merely because reality is not a pretty sight. Others still would attack one for saying the “Hail Mary”.
I have suspended judgment after the article, as I did not know the new Pope and, much as I listen with attention to what Rorate writes, I want to make my own opinion first. I think I can say that in the same way as I did not want to join the critics without proof, I have not been slow in looking at reality when it has progressively appeared to us in all its… horror.
One year later, the prophecy of the words reported above is absolutely uncanny. This again shows not only how well Mr Gonzalez had understood Francis, but also that Francis has – with the Uriah Heep ” 'umbleness” that is his own most distinctive mark – made no adaptation whatsoever to his new job, and has given us a Pope that is just as bad as the Cardinal Archbishop.
A vulgar man. Just as well at ease with, well, “casi” and coprophagia as he is with homosexuals in his own closest entourage. Who is he to judge?
A man with no fear of the Lord, who thinks He will slap one on the wrist at most. With no respect of Jesus, Whom he accuses of willing deception of the Apostles. With no respect for the Blessed Virgin, of whom he says she might have felt betrayed and lied to on seeing Christ on the Cross.
A man deeply confused, and who cannot give a justification for his job as Pope – even atheists are saved; Muslims should hold to their Koran; Jews don't need Christ anyway – other than helping people to feel more “joy” and to get more social justice before the inevitable salvation; a salvation from which he excludes, in case, only the “Neopelagians” who still love and follow Catholicism.
Horrible things are very probably about to come, with the Blessed Sacrament sacrilegiously offered to public adulterers. The Pope applauds the Cardinal who is at the head of the movement.
I am sure I am forgetting various other issues. No, I really am.
One year later, we can say it very loud: Bergoglio is the horror.
Let us pray for the restoration of sound Catholicism. Either with a converted Bergoglio, or with a Church free from Bergoglio.
“At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.”
This phrase of St. John of the Cross is, at times, misused by the usual cafeteria Catholics.
By mentioning it, they state or imply that love saves. I am sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but love doesn’t save.
Every monster is capable of love. Every serial rapist and killer can have people whom he loves. Most of them certainly have. Therefore, love is not the key opening the gates of Heaven.
Nor is that kind of love that translates into “doing good”, but with no faith in God behind it. It has always been Catholic teaching that salvation is the fruit of the works that come from the faith. Faith with no work will yield no salvation; but so will the works without the faith.
If you reject Christ until the end, Christ will reject you in the end. He that believeth not shall be damned. It follows that even being, say, an atheist Mother Theresa will be of no avail for he who believeth not.
Certainly, we can and must hope that Christ will help those who do good to others (which isn’t charity in the proper Catholic sense, but is still doing good deeds) to reach faith in the end. But we cannot say that their ability to love, or the good deeds this ability engenders, will save them. Certainly not if, as this is always the case, this “love” is meant as purely earthly, and the good deeds are made because it’s good to be good. If this were true, then fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of themselves with mankind,thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners would all inherit the kingdom of God, provided they love and do good. Which most of them assuredly do.
This “having one’s heart in the right place” nonsense is one of the most dangerous pieces of rubbish spread in modern times.
In the end, everyone has his heart in the same place, and most people love others. Even the Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Obama, and Sebelius.
I can’t imagine countless atheists do not love their offspring to distraction. Will this save them from hell unless they repents? Assuredly not. Not if Christianity is truthful, and makes sense.
Beware of pious hogwash.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.1Co 6:10
The sad – though self-inflicted; just so we do not get into the whiny V II “tambourine mode” – death of the great actor Philip Seymour Hofmann should, perhaps, be cause for a couple of politically incorrect and very un-V II reflections to the best of my ability. Some of you will be grated by them. So be it. I don't write this blog in order not to grate anyone. Actually, I write it in order to grate the one or other among them. I find this not only sound Catholicism, but even charitable. Imagine that.
Unless the New Testament has deceived us this last 2000 years; or we have not been able to read for the same amount of time; or the Holy Ghost has miraculously changed His mind upon witnessing the wonder of V II, people who gravely poison themselves will not inherit the kingdom of God. I will not insult your intelligence explaining to you that what is true for the drukard is also true for the heroin addict, though St. Paul could not have mentioned heroin. By the way, notice how uncharitable St. Paul is in using this word, “drunkard”. What a self- righteous, judgmental hater, nicht wahr?…
Still, like every other grave matter, the passage mentioned above must be read in the light of Church teaching: the mortal sin entails not only a behaviour that can be considered “grievous matter” (Baltimore catechism), but the subjective elements must be present; to put it again with the Baltimore Catechism: sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will.
Now, no one of us can know what went through the mind of Mr Seymour Hoffman as he was injecting himself the fix that was to prove fatal to him; but in the realm of those sober observations we are rather obliged to make on this earth – if we care for our salvation, at least; and if we do not think God will “slap us on the wrist” at worst – the full consent of the will is, reasonably, not present in the heroin addict as to what concerns his very act of injecting himself the fix; at that point, Seymour Hoffman was, reasonably, not able to take a deliberate, free decision to take the heroin; rather, one can reasonably say that very probably such a biological compulsion would have acted on him, that it is at least sound to assume the man was compelled by his altered biological functions to act against his better judgment; so that, to say it with the immortal words of St. Paul, he “did the very thing he hated”.
The V II crowd would probably stop here; declare Seymour Hofmann happily in Purgatory; or possibly even decide he had his purgatory here on earth – a fashionable, often-used statement nowadays, as it allows one to happily remove the reality of purgatory without denying its existence – so no need for that, thank you very much.
I do not think it's so easy.
Very few people (fairly: only the very wicked ones) go through life with the cold-blooded intention of being evil. If God had meant hell only for those the entire Gospel would make no sense, because Jesus very obviously threatens with hell at a far less extreme – or at least: less extreme when measured with the usual human metre – stage of wickedness. For example, not believing in Him is enough, even if one is the most excellent father, husband, and chairman of the local “save the hearth” group. Sin is offence made to God. Taking hard drugs, or drinking oneself to stupor, is a very serious offence. No amount of pussyfooting around facts will ever get rid of this simple truth.
No. If Christianity is to make sense, and if we want to be realistic about our own situation, we must soberly realise that damnation is a concrete possibility for everyone of us, the loving and nice members of our community always ready to defend the Amazonian Forest from imminent destruction, and very concerned about the fate of the red squirrel.
This means that “being a drug addict” is just not enough to get away with it. In the same way that if I fill myself with cocaine before robbing a bank and then kill the teller in my coke-induced madness I am responsible *for having put myself in the position to kill the teller*, the question arises how Seymour Hoffman – and all those who kill themselves with the nail, or with the bottle, or playing russian roulette because of their addiction to bet and danger – can get away with having put himself in that situation of addiction in the first place.
This must be, I am afraid, a very sobering thought, as whilst people can and do at times slip into alcoholism a bit at a time, without noticing and without being able to recognise the point at which the pathology has set in until it is very late, the same cannot be said of substances whose assumption is punished by the law with several years of jail, not to be obtained at all without a deliberate effort, and of whom a child of eleven must know, unless he is gravely retarded, what he is doing.
Again, whilst drunkenness can be involuntary if one does not realise what effect the drink is going to have on him, heroin intake must perforce be a mortal sin in that it requires a Francis-like fantasy to think it can be, in the usual cases, taken without deliberate intent (there are extreme exceptions, of course: I read once Hermann Goering became an addict because they gave him too much drugs in the hospital whilst curing him).
As always in these complex cases, the greatest thinker of all times helps us greatly at Q150 of the summa theologica, answering all our doubts as he deals with drunkenness. As to whether drunkenness (and we can say: deliberate heroin taking) is a mortal sin, the Angelic Doctor states:
“it may happen that a man is well aware that the drink is immoderate and intoxicating, and yet he would rather be drunk than abstain from drink. Such a man is a drunkard properly speaking, because morals take their species not from things that occur accidentally and beside the intention, but from that which is directly intended. On this way drunkenness is a mortal sin, because then a man willingly and knowingly deprives himself of the use of reason, whereby he performs virtuous deeds and avoids sin, and thus he sins mortally by running the risk of falling into sin.”
Note here that drunkenness deliberately induced is a mortal sin qua drunkenness, not only if a further sin ensues. It would be a mortal sin even if the man would get drunk locked alone in a jail cell. Or would inject heroin in himself in his own bathroom, whilst alone at home.
Therefore, we know that deliberate drunkenness (and by logical extension: heroin taking) is a mortal sin by itself, and that one cannot reasonably become a heroin addict without committing a series of deliberate mortal sins; until at some point the deliberation is diminished, and in the end probably ceases, because an addiction has now taken roots which make the deliberate decision not to take drugs an extremely difficult one. Whilst at this point the sin committed whilst “under the influence” can be diminished (and St. Thomas states as much, making the example of Lot), the mortal sin that originated the subsequent sins clearly remains (Article 4).
I can, therefore, not buy the idea that Seymour Hoffman – and clearly everyone who kills himself by drug taking, or by drinking – “will be just fine” because “he was addicted”. Rather, unless I want to sink in a lake of molasses I must admit that he must have been in mortal sin several times as he was in the process of becoming an addict; mortal sins which – unless repented by a suitable perfect contrition before death, or valid confession at any point – would merit him hell.
A different reasoning could also be made as to what Seymour Hoffman's – and every drug addict's, and every drunkard's – attitude towards his addiction was. Did he have a firm resolution not to sin anymore, expressed to a priest in a good confession? Now of course a firm resolution does not mean one will be freed from the addiction, but as far as I know it is simply a requirement of our religion *that the firm resolution be there*. Again, we must soberly observe reality and decide that unless Seymour Hoffman was a *practicing* Catholic – of which I have no information, but is to be hoped – his confessing his sin and firm resolution of amendment was, reasonably, not there.
Is, then, the man very probably screwed? Thankfully for him and all of us, it does not have to be so. By the grace of God, things are not so black and white that we can say that either he went to confession, or he went to hell. We cannot know whether on that day – and certainly not by coincidence; because if it has happened, it was Divine Providence that ordered things so, and gave him the efficacious grace to do so – the man managed a perfect contrition, and gave way to his addiction in a state of diminished guilt, such that the perfect contrition would procure him absolution from his past mortal sins and the now present addiction would (confront Thomas above) allow him to escape from a mortal sin for his last and fateful act.
What do we, therefore, conclude from all this? In my eyes, we cannot but conclude the following:
1. that we cannot simply say that the addiction excuses from the mortal sin; behind the addiction must reasonably stay several mortal sins: mortal sins which many people nowadays do not care to entrust to the mercy of the Lord in a good confession, thus remaining in mortal sin whatever the goodism of the day may suggest.
2. that it is foolish for the addict to remain in his state of mortal sin without a firm resolve of improvement, as this would make his confession's validity questionable at the very least. One thinks of John Belushi – another great actor I really liked and still miss after all these years – and, well, shudders. There can be no doubt that all those who are near such a person, and a priest if he has the fortune of having such a one near him, should feel the need to help him to such a firm resolution of amendment; in which, by the way, is the true charity.
3. that we are always allowed to hope, because it can always be that, unknown to the world, the Seymour Hoffman of the day managed that all-important perfect contrition. As long as there's life there's hope, as they say, and the other one about the ways of the Lord certainly comes to mind.
I would also add this: that a society in which one dies of drug addiction and only a tiny minority of people – who are then accused of being “uncharitable”, of course – wonders in a serious way about what it is with salvation in such cases is a society that has almost completely lost the fear of the Lord and every Christian common sense, and has managed to, well, drug itself with political correctness and the all pervading “niceness” of our times to the point of removing the reality of judgment from their consciousness even when events happen which, in fact, scream alarm. No: the V II crowd will in this case simply remove the problem by saying the fashionable “who are we to judge” or by creating a fantasy Christianity in which neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will be denied the kingdom of God no matter what, because He is so merciful. These people endanger their own salvation, and the salvation of those who listen to them.
If there's one thing for which we should pray, it is the grace of final perseverance. A grace I wish to Seymour Hoffman, to John Belushi, to Amy Winehouse, and – heck – even to Jim Morrison: and to all drunkards and drug addicts of this world; for whom we must pray, without wishy-washing the simple fact that they are – as the saints used to say before the world became so much better than them – drunkards, or today's drug addicts; and immortal souls, in clear danger of damnation and therefore, again, clearly in need of our prayers.
And it came to pass the well-known blogger priest wrote a (beautiful) blog post about the alcoholic who drank himself almost to the point of self-annihilation, but this time knocked at the priest’s door not to ask for money – which I am sure Father would not give him, lest he fuels the other’s addiction – but to care for his own salvation, proceeding afterwards to produce a serious, and very beautiful, prayer effort according to his lights.
We are, I am sure, all pleased for this change of mind and wish the chap all the best, and a future without alcoholism to the point of self-destruction. I am reminded of Lucia’s words in the Promessi Sposi: “Dio perdona tante cose per un’opera di misericordia!”, “God forgives (so) many things for a work of mercy!”.
All fine up to here. A good priest, this one, who inspires drunkards to spend half an hour kneeling in prayer.
What seriously angered me immediately upon reading the post is the comment of an obvious V II ultra, who then proceeded to say to Father: “Remember your soul is more at stake than his; God loves Poor Lazarus”, clearly stating that his (the priest’s) own soul is more in danger of damnation than the soul of a possibly terminal alcoholic who has managed a beautiful feat of faith, once. As I write this blog post, no other commenter has questioned these words.
Let me make a couple of observation on this, then, because I can’t read such crap without saying a word or two; and no, don’t give me any of the usual sensitive, PC bollocks, because I have enough of it and won’t even read your comment to the end.
It is a strange, and rather perverted Christianity in which a man who consecrates his life to Christ – and, I am sure, makes a very good job of it – is considered in graver danger of damnation than a self-demolished alcoholic. It is the result of an orgy of goodism that is so worried of feeling good with itself that it forgets goodness in the process.
According to such perverted Christianity, it is better – and as a result, more advisable – to waste one’s life drinking oneself almost to death, and then spend half an hour in prayer in front of the altar, than to dedicate one’s life to Christ and to the salvation of the sheep. The stupidity of this thinking boggles the mind: it devalues – nay: it humiliates – virtues at the same time as it positively encourages to sin. In fact, it makes of sin – of very grave, constantly repeated sin – the best and surest way to Jesus’ love.
I know, it sounds oh so fine. Much of the populist V II crap does. As if Jesus would love the sinner in proportion to his sinfulness. “Blessed the child rapists, because theirs is the Autobahn to heaven?” But you see, in these egalitarian and very stupid times it seems the Gospel’s prodigal son is the better son and the better soul; which is nowhere to read in the Gospel; but boy, it sound sugary enough for nowadays’ saccharin addicted.
And let us talk of Lazarus the beggar, too, the specific man mentioned in the comment. Last time I looked, Lazarus is described as destitute and either a leper or one with huge health issues, but not an alcoholic. And he doesn’t go to heaven because he is a beggar, but because he is good in the eyes of the Lord. Similarly, the rich man is not damned because he is rich, but because he is not good in the eyes of the Lord.
We live in a world that has so much lost the sense of sin, that it even puts the alcoholic above the priest at the price of half an hour of prayer. Then we complain about vocation crisis. Ah, those stupid people of our Christian past, who considered the priest, and not the alcoholic beggar, the example to follow, and the good soul! They should have reserved their esteem and consideration for the drunkard instead! Hey, he has spent half an hour at the altar, has he not! You see, this clearly puts him in a better position in Jesus’ eyes than the one who spends an entire life for Him, because the best triggers of Jesus’ love are just not there: like being an alcoholic, say; or a whore, or a child rapist, or a professional killer. Jesus loves a sinner! Alleluia! That Padre Pio, who was obviously so boringly good… one wonders whether Jesus loved him in the first place. I bet the man never even got drunk once in his life! So sad.
Happily, Christianity tells us exactly the opposite, though this isn’t heard much nowadays: those who are better are those God loves more, and His great saints – many of them, of course, unknown to the world – are those whom He loves most. Christianity also tells us that to be good is good, and we must strive to live a life as devoid of sin as our energies – which we, again, train by living a good life – allow. We do our part to earn Paradise – or rather: to earn Purgatory – by living well, not by living badly; by staying near to the sacraments, not by becoming alcoholics; with fear and trembling, not with utter disregard of God’s laws. I though it was “if you love me, keep my commandments”, not “if you want to be loved more by me, trample them”.
And yes, thankfully for all of us, the Mercy of the Lord is always there just for the asking – which goes with the repenting, of course -. There is always hope, even for the alcoholic, the whore, and the child rapist. We pray that everyone may be saved, as we hope for salvation ourselves; and we are consoled by every show of God’s mercy, because we are also in great need of it. Therefore, we try to walk through life in the fear of the Lord, but we also trust on His mercy when we stray, as we all do. We stay near to the confessional, because we know that in the same way as we rely on God’s mercy, God demands of us that we work towards it; & Co., & Co.
Or perhaps we should forget all this: the Mass, the prayers, the confessions, and the struggles with sin, and become stupidly drunk and, in time, self-demolished alcoholics instead.
Hey, upon a single act of faith our souls would be less at stake than the one of a good priest.
The Bishop of Rome finds it, as we are informed, “frightful” to think aborted children will “never see the light of day”.
I do not know you, but to me this says once again how worldly, how simply forgetful of heaven – if he believes in it, which isn't sure – the man is.
Where I come from, we were always under the impression, which was (cough) somewhat reinforced by 2000 years of Christian belief and constant teaching, that aborted children are – as a rule – deprived of the Beatific Vision.
Francis doesn't seem to care much for the Beatific Vision. To him, the “light of day” is clearly more important. “What a beautiful morning!”, he must say to himself on waking up to another beautiful Roman day, “to think that aborted children miss it! Frightful! I'll have to mention this in an homily one of these days…”.
Honestly, one like that doesn't even need to believe in God. A pro-life atheist will certainly deplore the loss of life experiences and various beauties connected with the abortion in exactly the same way.
Unless you think, as you well might, that in Francis' strange religion of course aborted children enjoy the Beatific Vision. If Francis thinks so, this has any or all of the following consequences:
1. Paradise is a very boring place, and the Beatific Vision not worth much. Hey, the poor souls could have enjoyed an earthly existence, and many glorious mornings to boot. And now that..
2. In Paradise the enjoyment of earthly condition is desired, but not possible.
Child: “Dear God, may I see the light of day?”
God: “How often do I have to tell you this? No, no, no! You have been aborted! You can't have any light of day!”
3. The mother who aborted the child actually gave him the most precious gift, security of the Beatific Vision without the risk of going to Hell, and all this at the extremely convenient, infinitely small price of few decades of fleeting pleasures, which would have been mixed with a lot of suffering anyway and, let us say it once again, the risk of eternal damnation. Seriously, there is no better deal this side of Heaven.
Actually, in this case it is the mothers who do not abort their children who are the cruel ones, because they expose their children to a concrete risk of damnation – an infinite punishment – and endanger for their child the possibility of the Beatific Vision – an infinitely worthy good – against the infinitely small satisfaction that can be derived by dubious and temporary wordly pleasure, limited both in kind and duration of enjoyment.
Unless – and here things become really strange – Francis should believe that, through Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, absolutely each and everyone is saved: born and unborn, baptised and unbaptised, slapped on the wrist or not slapped on the wrist. In this case there is no need for priests or friars, or for missionaries, or for the Vatican, or for the Church Christ founded, or for the Pope who should run her; unless it be, perhaps, to avoid the slap on the wrist, or enjoy the light of day, or help the delicate Francis not to have frightful thoughts whilst he subects the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate – those horrible people who keep believing in Hell and terrorising the faithful – to a… frightful persecution.
Once again, Francis says things that sound well, and don't make sense. They don't, because his entire new religion just does not stand the exam of reason; besides being in obvious contradiction with Catholicism, that is.
Pray for the Pope. Pray more, the more he says such things. If you don't really feel like doing it for him, at least do it for the Church that he should protect, for the truths he should transmit intact, and for the countless souls damaged by his shallow, emotional, wordly, self-centred, un-Catholic thinking.
Ann Coulter's statement that if the Pope believes you don't need to be Catholic he may as well work as an anchor for some TV outlet is quite right.
Extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Jesus will certainly admit, in the last moment before death, some unbaptised, and certainly a greater number of non Catholics into that Church outside of which there can be no salvation; but this is subject to very strict criteria, chief of which is Invincible Ignorance, and it certainly requires an uncommon amount of stupidity – or else, Jesuitism – to think this “escape hell” card is something one can confidently expect. Two thousand years of Catholic tradition, and the clear mandate of Jesus Himself, show this beyond doubt.
If, therefore, someone believes that belonging to the Only Church is some kind of nice, “joy bringing” accessory whose lack does not stay in the way of salvation provided one is a good chap of more or less humanitarian attitude, he has no business being the Pope.
St. Augustine refuses the book of vices. Francis would ask whether they are committed in conscience.
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
Mk 16: 15-16.
Given that – and this is fundamental – God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision.
Pope Francis, Letter to Eugenio Scalfari.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
The phrases above frame the content of this blog post: Francis has, once again, denied Jesus’ message concerning atheists. This time, he is even more brazenly heretic than in the past (I have reported), but it is clear in Francis’ world Jesus’ brutal message – the message Christianity has propagated these 2000 years; the message that makes evangelisation so necessary – has no place.
Being a Jesuit, though, Francis is subtler than that. He first repeats the Christian message and then adds a new religion for the sake of the atheists, and of his own popularity.
Let us see in detail the working of a Jesuit mind from the text of the letter, published in its entirety in an excellent English translation on Rorate Caeli.
The question here is “the Church’s attitude towards those who do not share faith in Jesus”, and more specifically “if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith.”
Christianity has a clear answer for that, and it is in the – again – unmistakably brutal words of Jesus mentioned above. If you refute Jesus, Jesus will refute you.
There is nothing here about conscience. Jesus is not a matter of conscience. Christianity is not a matter of conscience. Salvation is not a matter of conscience. Truth is not a matter of conscience. Salvation depends on being accepted by Jesus as worthy of salvation, which cannot be separated from a more or less imperfect, ignorant, even very lazy – and at times yet implicit – desire to be saved by that Jesus from whom only one’s salvation depends.
Consequently, Francis’ answer to Scalfari should have been very short and very easy, along the lines of: ” Dear Dr Scalfari, the Gospel is very clear about what will happen to you if you die in the refusal of Christ. What you believe, or not believe, “right” or “wrong” is simply neither here nor there. Similarly, your “conscience” is neither here nor there, because you aren’t God, Jesus is. Think of this now, and pray the Blessed Virgin much that she may help you to pass the hurdle the day you die; because as you think and write now, I would not bet my pint that you would”.
An answer along these lines would have been very orthodox and very charitable. It would have gone around the world in a matter of hours. It would have been a most powerful testimony of the hour awaiting all of of us, when the Rex tremendae majestatis, and not a journalist, will decide what is right and what is wrong.
Still, an answer along these lines would have destroyed the liberal reputation of Francis. His popularity among atheists, perverts, and assorted anticlerical activists would have been in tatters. He could not allow that.
Therefore, as a true Jesuit, he mixes the waters. He explains some of the Catholic truths – so it cannot be said he is not being orthodox – but then, practically in the same breath, completely ignores them and invents, out of some masonic fantasies of his, a second religion, applicable to atheists and very convenient to him.
Read again his words above. The first part is fine: God’s forgiveness is stronger than every sin, if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart. Francis has made his homework, so to speak, and has appeased the Catholics. Now that he has done the running with the hare, he can do the hunting with the hounds. Mysteriously, from the basic Christian concept that perfect contrition leads to the remission of sins a new religion is born, through the use of the perfectly illogical words “given that God’s mercy has no limits”, with which everything he has just said about the necessity of contrition is completely forgotten. The new religion has as its fundamental tenet that “the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience”.
Whatever this is, this isn’t Christianity. This is, very simply, a new religion; a religion in complete and utter opposition to the words of Jesus mentioned above, and by which the words “let him be accursed” are more than appropriate. I cannot imagine a past epoch of serious Christianity when such an astonishing phrase from a priest or a bishop would not have attracted the entire Inquisition on Francis, and death at the stake would not have appeared a very concrete possibility. Blessed times, sadly gone.
Read Francis’ words again. And again. This is a Kindergarten-cum-Freemasonry wannabe religion, by which every atheist relates to God according to his own conscience and is saved through this means; because hey, he does not believe, does he now?
There is here, of course, a huge non sequitur, as Francis jumps with utter lack of logic or reason from the necessity of repentance to the sufficiency of “obeying one’s conscience”. Not only the two aren’t related, but they are in mutual exclusion. If obeying my conscience is sufficient, there is no need whatever for contrition. If contrition is necessary, my thinking what is right “in conscience” will never equate to contrition.
Pope Bishop of Rome be such a nincompoop as not to get these simple things? Yes, of course he can! John XXII believed for many years that there is no beatific vision before the Last Judgment! They are heretical Popes, is all. Popes can be heretical and in fact have been heretical. They will simply not proclaim any dogma contrary to Christian teaching. If they should try (the operative word here is “try”, as opposed to “succeed”) then ipso facto the sea would be vacant, because opposition to Christian dogma is not something you can put to a vote, or that would need so and so many cardinals or bishops to be effective.
Back to our disgraceful bishop. How does Francis, then, avoid being exposed as openly heretical besides relying on the usual blindness of his not very well-instructed “this is the Pope so the Holy Spirit must be wanting heresy” crowd?
By being a Jesuit.
If you read the letter in its entirety, you will see that Francis has a two-railway system, by which the believers follow rules of Christian behaviour because it is oh so extremely joyous to live a life which prohibits a lot of rather savoury things, and those who do not believe can blaspheme, fornicate, contracept, abort, yeah, stage a Holocaust or a genocide provided this is what their conscience tells them.
In Francis’ new religion, Lenin and Pol Pot are clearly in possession of all the credentials to be saved, because there can be no real doubt about their complete atheism and their following their conscience. For others – like Hitler, who was said to be a believer, though obviously in his own way – it is more complicated, because apparently he did believe in some Nazi God. Still, if he followed his conscience, how can Francis deny to him, too, the “get out of jail card”, if it is true of the conscience that “listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil,” and “the goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision”?
What the hell is that? This is hell at work, that’s what it is.
But how does Francis come to these astonishingly heretical conclusions? It would appear, from not only this letter but other – and already reported – interventions of him, that to him hell isn’t really a realistic option.
If you read the letter in its entirety, you will find some traces of clear orthodoxy – for example the repeated affirmation that there is only one Truth, and this Truth is in no way subjective, and is Jesus Himself -. But this is an orthodoxy without a leg, or a body without a head, because to this orthodoxy Francis does not attach any real consequence (as in: he that believeth not shall be damned), but creates a second, in my eyes clearly masonic religion, with which according to Francis Jesus would help those who, as He said Himself, would otherwise be damned.
If you remember my blog post titled “Rehab”, you will recall that Francis is on record with saying:
“Do you need to convince the other to become Catholic? No, no, no! Go out and meet him, he is your brother. This is enough. Go out and help him and Jesus will do the rest”.
This letter sings the same song: we are so joyously Catholics, but we do not need to really convert others, because it is not necessary. How can it be, if following one’s conscience can be enough? We are all brothers, and God’s mercy will reach all of us.
In this very letter, we find other hints of this new religion. Take this paragraph (emphases mine):
And it is then – as the Roman centurion exclaims, in the Gospel according to Mark – that Jesus is paradoxically revealed as the Son of God. Son of a God that is love and that wants, with all of himself that man, every man, discovers himself and also lives like his real son. For Christian faith this is certified by the fact that Jesus rose from the dead: not to be triumphant over those who refused him, but to certify that the love of God is stronger than death, the forgiveness of God is stronger than any sin and that it is worthwhile to give one’s life, to the end, to witness this great gift.
It is worthwhile to give one’s life to “witness a great gift”, but this gift cannot be very great if Salvation can be attained without it. Still, for Francis the ones die joyously to give witness, and the others go to heaven by killing them – or aborting, murdering, or committing holocausts or genocides – in accordance with their own conscience. Extra Ecclesiam Omnia Salus.
This is a Christianity presented as nothing more than an optional, whilst Freemasonry – I keep coming back to this, because this letter has disquieting analogies to Freemasonry, where everyone picks and chooses his own relationship with his “supreme being” and tailors it exactly to his needs, without having to give account to anyone; hey, in the end… “who am I to judge?” – is the parachute for those who, in conscience (Hitler again!), refuse the option of Christ.
Note the other statement: Jesus did not rise from the dead in order to be triumphant over those who refused him, but to certify that the love of God is stronger than death, the forgiveness of God is stronger than any sin. There is nothing here about this forgiveness being conditioned. If contrition doesn’t work, conscience will have to intervene. As an atheist, one does not have to convert, simply to use his conscience. Chocolate (Christ) or vanilla (conscience). Pick your flavour. God saves you anyway, because “God’s mercy has no limits”.
This letter, which I think will remain in infamy in the history of the Church, would give many more arguments of discussion, as from it emerged a deeply, deeply confused man with the theology of an eight year old unable to come to term with the harsh reality of damnation and desirous to save everyone in some way whatever. However, I have already surpassed the 2000 words, and I think I have abused of your patience for long enough.
Still, when the eight year old tries to “save humanity” you can forgive him for playing God, because he does not understand the consequences and the reach of his error. Though I am sure my grandmother would have slapped him anyway.
When a Pope (even if he does not call himself that way) confuses Catholics in such a way, and confirms countless immortal souls in their atheist complacency, I dare to say it is an entirely different matter.
Pray for the Pope.
And if you can, pray for a new one.
I wrote this comment very late at night, reacting to the request of a reader. It being very late, and not wanting to write a complicated piece, I managed to say all that is – I think – important in a way that can be read and digested rather rapidly. The advantages of being tired, and not having time.
I have re-read this, and found it in order. So much so, that I have decided to post it as autonomous post, and put it in my “Vademecum” (see the bar above).
I hope you’ll find it useful. The text follows below, with little modifications for comprehension.
Ah, that’s a complicated issue. I have wanted to write very often, but it’s very complex. It’s also very late, so forgive me if I say something stupid.
In three words, Calvinists (and in a way their Catholic fans, the Jansenists) believed that God makes some **to be damned**. Once born a reprobate, one is irresistibly screwed. End of story. There’s nothing he can do. He will go to hell, period. Sorry mate, yes, please go down that warm corridor…
Catholicism believes that God makes, said very brutally, two kind of people: the predestined and the reprobates. To the first He gives **efficacious** grace, meaning that they will be irresistibly led by Him toward salvation. To the seconds He gives **sufficient** grace, that is: a grace really sufficient to be saved, but that the reprobates nevertheless do not use, choosing of their own will to behave and think in a way that ends up meriting them hell.
No one, therefore, goes to hell who really has not himself to blame for it. At the same time, no one who avoids hell can boast of his goodness. All graces and all goodness come from God, so for every prayer, for every work of mercy, for every salvific act we do not really have the right to boast that “we did it”, though in a way we do really want to pray etc.
What happens is that we do want to act freely, because God inspired us to, freely, act in that way. Think of a mother who knows her child so well she knows what she must do to motivate him to do his homework, though in the end the child really is the one who wants to do his homework. This subtle, but irresistible influence of the efficacious grace is called, if memory serves, “physical premotion” (in the sense, always if memory serves, that it prompts to real, physical action on our part).
The mystery of predestination (one flip of the coin) is therefore fairly easy to grasp: God gives us efficacious grace, and this grace – like the mother above – irresistibly motivates us to, so to speak, do our homework. We do want, because God wants. Still, we do fully want. When God wants one to be saved, He will take care that the chap does not die in a state of mortal sin, giving him the efficacious grace necessary to the purpose. Again, he (the chap) will have nothing to boast about: without God’s help, he would have been nowhere, or rather in hell.
Things become far more terrible when we see the other flip of the coin: the reprobates. The reprobates freely choose (operative word here is “freely”) to think and behave in a way that merits them hell (though they might not even believe in hell); and they do so notwithstanding the fact that they have sufficient graces (the operative words here is “sufficient”; actually, more than sufficient) to avoid hell. But they do not do it and God **allows** them not to do it, and to deserve their punishment. Punishment that is, then, fully deserved, and entirely merited by their own thoughts, actions or omissions.
Why does God do this? Why does he infallibly decide, out of all eternity, that Titius *has to* be saved and will therefore irresistibly be attracted toward salvific acts, and Caius will, out of all eternity, be **allowed** to damn himself? Why one is born a reprobate, and another a predestined? This is a mystery we will only know – and not in its entirety, not in the way God knows it – when we die.
Still, we can throw some light on it even in this life. St. Thomas Aquinas said that every goodness comes from God, because God is the very source of everything that is good. Therefore, those who are exceptionally good (like St. Francis, or Padre Pio) are exceptionally loved. Conversely, there is no other reason why some are better than the fact that they are more loved. Some, God loves so much that he will never allow them to go to hell (giving them efficacious graces), or He will in rare cases even allow them to become, **out of their own will**, great saints; some others, he will still love enough to give them more than sufficient graces to save themselves, but he will **allow** them to choose evil instead. St. Thomas said that this must be so in order for the goodness of God to be revealed. God’s goodness is both mercy and justice. In those whom he saves, he shows His mercy (remember: the graces are unmerited, and purely due to God’s love), and in those whom he damns, he shows His justice. He does not do any injustice to anyone, he simply gives more than it is just to the predestined, without being unjust in any way to the reprobates. Difficult to chew for our egalitarian society, but that’s how it is.
Think to David Cameron. He has all the instruments to decide. He freely chooses the path to hell. Unless he repents, hell is what he will have freely chosen and fully merited. But if he repents, this is because of the efficacious grace of God. If he doesn’t, this is notwithstanding the (fully, and more than) sufficient grace he has received.
“Fine (or rather not!)”, you will say. “How can one know whether he is a predestined or a reprobate?” Well one can’t, of course. If we could, we would know for certain who is sent upstairs and downstairs. But as we are each and every one of us fully in charge of our own destiny (herein lies the real, ultimate crux: that one is full in charge, and STILL nothing happens against the divine decree: the reprobates will go to hell, and the predestined to purgatory or straight to heaven) we can see in our lives signs of predestination, or signs of reprobation, that are indications as to the possible destination of a person. Being born and baptised a Catholic has always been considered a great sign of predestination, which is probably why Catholic countries have historically always been more relaxed about hell than Protestant ones. Praying every day is another sign. Having masses said for one is another one. Having prayers said for one’s own salvation is another one, as are works of mercy. Praying the Rosary devoutly every day is a great sign of predestination (which is why I always insist on it), and so on.
In the end, we are in full control of our destiny, but at the same time everything is already preordained by God from all eternity; then otherwise, God wouldn’t be God: he would be determined by our actions rather than decide himself things of infinite importance like the salvation or damnation of souls. If we are predestined God, like an omnipotent mother, will steer us toward salvation, motivating us to perform salvific acts, etc. In turn, one that performs these acts can see them as a reasonable indication that he is being steered toward a good death (“final perseverance”, the grace of all graces).
Yes, a mother would not allow her child to freely choose hell. But then, this is why we say “God the Father”, and know that the God of the Christian isn’t the sugary “get-out-of-jail-card for everyone” some Proddies would want us to believe He is. God is terrible in his punishment, and wonderful in His love. His justice and His mercy, together, are His goodness. We can’t fully understand the inner working of this goodness, because we … aren’t God. But that’s what it is. God never told us we only have to “luv” and everything will be fine. Actually, Christianity shows that the contrary is the case.
Unfortunately, the cognac and chocolate did not provide for the entire reading of the encyclical, because the work is rather long. Still, I finished the reading after my breakfast this morning, and I must say I am underwhelmed.
First of all let me say Pope Francis is clearly not the author of the greatest part of this, the general quality of the exposition being brutally above the Pontiff’s paygrade as abundantly seen in three months of off-the-cuff waffling. One has the impression he is reading one of the many books published by the Pontiff Emeritus, as the style is very recognisable: full of quotations and interesting comparisons, perspectives, and historical references, it makes for a robust and enjoyable reading. There are here and there sudden falls in the lofty style, with the insertion within a brilliant exposition of examples or reflections or digressions of striking banality, and which I suspect constitute the vast part of Francis’ additions (we’ll never know about the possible subtractions). Several times, I had the impression of an aeroplane suddenly losing altitude and, after four or five periods, recovering it again. Whilst this is not extreme, it is noticeable, and I think many of the readers who have gone through the work will share my view. An example is in paragraph 57:
Let us refuse to be robbed of hope, or to allow our hope to be dimmed by facile answers and solutions which block our progress, “fragmenting” time and changing it into space. Time is always much greater than space. Space hardens processes, whereas time propels towards the future and encourages us to go forward in hope.
When I read this, I instinctively looked for the “no?” at the end… The next encyclical will have a lot of this “wannabe deep” tofu nonsense, I am afraid.
As to the content of the encyclical itself, no doubt many who are more learned and versed than I am will make their opinion known in due time, and I myself might get further insight from re-reading. Still, where the problem with this encyclical lies is, in my eyes, that it does the following:
1. It does not go to the very core of the matter.
2. It preaches to the choir.
3. It is descriptive and suggesting, rather than assertive and demanding.
As to 1, it is as if the encyclical would fly around faith examining it in all his historical, psychological, and even sensorial aspects, without insisting on the only concept worth insisting about, and without the insistence on which the entire exercise appears certainly interesting reading, but ultimately futile: that faith is, together with works, necessary for salvation. There’s no going around this and every discussion about faith that does not forcefully smash this point in the face of the reader has, if you ask me, missed the mark. In pure V II style, this encyclicals dissects faith in its various aspects, but doesn’t tell you loud and clear why it is so important. It is like a doctor talking about the human heart for 88 pages of the .pdf file and not telling you in a very clear way that when one’s heart stops beating, one dies. Perhaps, looking with the lantern one could find some veiled warning. Perhaps. If I had been an atheist, or a man of troubled faith, or one of the obviously extolled agnostic “seekers”, I would most surely have emerged from the reading without any impression that I have been warned. Then one wonders what use not 88, but even 888 .pdf pages on faith would have been.
On the contrary, the usual waffle sneaks in. Just to mention an example, the part entitled “faith and the search for God” opens with the words
“The light of faith in Jesus also illumines the path of all those who seek God, and makes a specifically Christian contribution to dialogue with the followers of the different religions”.
Read this and tell me whether faith is not reduced to a tool for “dialogue” rather than an indispensable tool for salvation. It is here as if “dialogue with the followers of different religions” were the aim, and “the light of faith in Jesus” the tool with which Catholics pursue this aim.There are other points that are almost as worrying, but this is the one that strikes me most.
Or think of this, further in the same paragraph:
“Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith”.
Faith has to do with those who don’t have faith. If they are “open to love” (something not only the usual man “with the heart in the right place”, but every child-raping, dog-foxtrotting, sodomitical man will say of himself without any hesitation) they are “already on the path”, and the suggestion that at the end of the path is, automatically, salvation remains unspoken, but is hinted at very strongly; strongly enough to lead everyone who wants to read it this way to feel satisfied.
As to 2, I have started reading this encyclical thinking this would be a work fitting for evangelisation. Whilst I do understand this is not the primary aim of an encyclical letter, both the object and the natural curiosity linked to this being the first encyclical signed by Francis should have, in my eyes, moved the authors to make of this a more openly catechetical work. Unfortunately, though, there is no mention of , say, the frequent categorisation of faith as logical faith, rational faith, and mystical faith. There is no explanation of why the first two must be compelling to us if we do our homework. There is no taking the unfaithful by the hand and saying “you think you’re smart, right? You think you’re logical, right? Well let us see how you react to this …
For example, the encyclical explains why Abraham believed in God, but doesn’t explain why an atheist should believe that God truly spoke to Abraham. Faith is analysed from the point of view of faith or if you prefer, it is an encyclical on faith in which the faith of the reader is taken for granted. Again, this is perfectly legitimate, but I think it is also a lost occasion.
As to 3, this is once again a reflex of the reigning V II mentality. This is a work on faith in which Hell – through refusal to have faith – is not mentioned once in 88 .pdf pages; in which marriage is suggested as being good, without a word against the abominations some people would call marriage; in which baptism is extolled as being oh so fine, without saying that without baptism (of water, blood or desire) there is no salvation. The encyclical suggest to the reader that the Church and her sacraments are mighty fine things, but doesn’t say one strong – and by strong I mean unmistakably clear to one who disagrees – word about what happens to those who remain outside of her, are not baptised, refuse Christ, refuse the Church, but “do good” as, hey, everyone does.
As always with V II documents, one has the strange impression if one were to re-read everything three times he might find, with much exertion, something which, if twisted in a certain way, might, arguably, be read in the desired way. But the message doesn’t come out of the work, full stop.
In the end, I do not regret the time spent reading this letter. It is very Ratzingerian in its complex, “meaty” exposition, elegant in the presentation, and intellectually instructive in its content. Still – and we will never know whether this is the result of Francis’ “adjustments” or in the original blueprint – it does not get to the heart of the matter. It is an encyclical about faith that does not give a person without faith any serious reason to start looking at it, and does not present faith in a way that would challenge him intellectually and logically (as for example St Thomas Aquinas, the prince of those faithful “writing for atheists”, actually even “thinking like an atheists”, does so well).
Summa summarum, whether this was the original Benedict’s plan or the result of Francis’ rework, this encyclical is very much a piece of the V II church: an advertisement for those who already like the product, and overly concerned with not offending or “provoking” those who don’t.
The acclaimed actor James Gandolfini died suddenly of a heart attack, and the entertainment establishment was not slow in lavishing praise on James Gandolfini, the actor. Wonderful publicity, by the way, to have one’s tweet in the world press.
We Catholics, though, cannot, on such days, avoid reflecting on the caducity of life in general, and the destiny of Gandolfini’s immortal soul in particular.
The son of Italian immigrants of – says Wikipedia, for what is worth – devout Catholic faith, the probability that Gandolfini was not at least halfway instructed is very thin. Still, Gandolfini was – again, says Wikipedia – divorced and remarried, and unless he had things made by the book (say: first marriage annulled; Wikipedia doesn’t say, but that doesn’t mean much) I cannot but smell danger.
A heart attack is, if you ask me, not a bad way to die. One does not have the time to call a priest, but in many cases he will, one supposes, have a clear perception that the bus has reached its destination, and he must get out fast. I can’t imagine that this does not concentrate the mind wonderfully, and the effort of one’s Guardian Angel must be supreme in those moments. It is fair to say if those twenty or forty seconds were not sufficient, then a long additional life would not have been sufficient, either (which would lead me to write about Providence and Predestination, but it would be too long a digression).
One reads about Gandolfini’s death, and wonders. Did he recite the Hail Mary every day, at least when he was a child. Did he stop afterwards. Did he grow indifferent as honours and praise were lavished on him, and lost sight of what really counts in life. Did he – horribile dictu – in the end fail to achieve the only real aim in life, the only metre of failure and success, the all-deciding admission to Purgatory.
We hope he did make it, and I invite you to remind him today in your prayers. But please notice this little Catholic detail: that the world famous, rich, celebrated James Gandolfini appears, at first sight, to have been in far greater danger of damnation than his obscure, poor, simple, not educated, but devout parents.
A prayerful mother is a thing of heaven, and if it is true that Gandolfini’s parents were devout Catholics I smell here the sweet fragrance of endless prayers of a mother for the eternal welfare of her child. I like to imagine that even if the son was going astray, his earthly and his Heavenly mothers were helping him, silently, every day.
Let us hope that this motherly help succoured James Gandolfini in the hour of truth, and supplied every deficiency that he might have had; and that the same may happen for us, when the moment arrives; and let us reflect that in those solitary moments in a hotel room in a foreign country honours and prizes and wealth already counted for nothing, and the only currency accepted was prayer and, if needed, perfect contrition.
We have a mother in Heaven. Let us ask her for her help in those moments every day, lest we discover on our skin how little every earthly pleasure or achievement is worth in the end.