Saturday 26 March 2016

Wednesday 23 March 2016

The Church and the "New Realities"

I recently saw in a Brighton cafe a young woman dressed up in what I had thought was a fancy dress costume. Because I know the cafe well and the man who served the girl dressed in a pin striped suit, a brylcreamed male hairstyle and some strange make-up, I asked whether she was part of a fancy dress event during the day.

"Sort of", he replied. "It's cosplay."
"Cosplay?" I asked, mystified.
"Basically," he explained, "you dress up in a persona, whatever persona you want, whenever you want. You can do it as much as you want and kind of slip into it for a day or for a period of time and then come out of it and go back to how you normally are."
"How very Brighton," I thought.

The youth, eh? It's not like how it was in my day. In my day, it was called fancy dress. It was unusual. There was a young woman, in a cafe, sitting down in what I would call "fancy dress" but is now known as "cosplay" with her girlfriends sipping a cappucino, while her friends were dressed in a way which I - in my unreconstructed bigotry - would call 'normal' and her friends were not joking about the outfit nor was it part of a 'fun time to be had by all', but it was a situation of total acceptance as if nothing unusual was going on at all.

In other words, it seems to be a trend for people to develop altar egos and alternative personalities that they slip into whenever they want and for this strange situation to be welcomed - a situation that I would find a little confusing in my 'traditional' mindset - a mindset that has developed over years having removed myself, with God's grace, from a more 'bohemian' existence to one that is decidedly more straight-laced. In fact, despite the inner struggle for 'my ego's constant demand for a really exciting existence' that once haunted me, I crave more and more simplicity in life. It really goes back to the desire for the authentic - the real - that I have blogged about recently.

We keep hearing of how the Church must respond to "new realities". Fr Ray Blake has recently blogged on the subject of a papacy that promotes reality or wants to deal with 'realities' perhaps to the detriment of 'ideas' but some 'ideas' are 'ideas' for a while before they become 'realities'.

Pope Francis himself has suggested that for the Church to 'help people' the Church must be in touch with 'reality'. Thinking of the way in which society promotes "new realities" - or "alternative realities" to the point that good, old-fashioned "REALITY" which we would once have called "NORMALITY". The Church, says Francis, needs "healthy contact" with reality, what people are "going through", "not to indulge them" said the Pope, but to "communicate with them". The problem is we rarely hear of any dialogue or communication that suggests that there really is a 'normal' or that there really is a 'abnormal' or, dare I say it, 'disordered' way of life.

The anti-objective Truth movement that has resulted in society's creation of and embracing of "new realities" is no great surprise, nor the vehemence with which the Church's Truth is rejected in favour of those subjective 'realities' that people either create or have been created for them only for them to adopt. The obvious 'reality' is the LGBTQ (add letter here) movement for whom gender and identity is an ever-increasing area of personal discovery in the subjective sphere with a new label just waiting to be added to the list of 'new realities'. However, the 'cosplay' woman I saw in the cafe just goes to show these 'new realities' don't have to be even pinned down to 'trans-anything' or even a fixed personal identity. People can - if there is no objective reality, no objective truth, just wake up one morning and dress up like a four-footed mythological beast (whatever is she wearing?) and turn up to a cafe while everyone else is dressed in 'normal' clothes.

The 'cosplay' trend in society - something I had never heard of until recently - really does speak of a kind of supposedly harmless alternative sub-culture that amplifies the sense of chaos that is being promoted by liberalism under the guise of personal freedom. The 'I exist', the 'I am', the 'I will be whatever I want to be' movement - which almost certainly pre-empts the 'I will live as I choose to live' culture, I am sure - for many starts out in the realm of fantasy, as personal fantasies are born out before arriving within a 'scene' in which other fantasists can support you.

However, we are moving towards a society that is unable to tell people that there really is a difference between a fantasy and the real world. More and more, the Church is surely called to impress upon people the glorious Reality of Jesus Christ. and a relationship with Him because that is not fantasy. That is life-giving, soul-saving. Fantasy  - though initially appealing - is really grounded in nothing but illusion. In fact, it really is nothing at all. It is and a kind of artificial perception. As human beings, there is a natural yearning for the authentic, the real, the truly real, even a deep down revulsion that we feel about the seductions of artificial realities.

With technological progress it is promised that the encouragement of our Western societies to embrace 'alternative realities' will inevitably lead at least to that attachment to the  slavery of passing fancies and transient forms of over-stimulation that made Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' so popular - not because it talked of these things as a trend to be desired or followed, but one to be feared above almost anything else.

A Church that simply communicates with those living 'new realities' concedes ground straight-away with no original principle guiding it that a definitive reality exists, a supernatural reality of Grace that enables us to move out of the shadowy world of sin and darkness into the true freedom and light of the sons and daughters of God. Much of Lent, I think, is about being stripped of things that amuse us and give us passing pleasure in order to keep us artificially satisfied so that we might know our weakness and our nakedness before the Lord and learn more deeply of our need for Him, our Crucified Saviour. He, Jesus, alone can give us true and lasting peace and satisfy our hearts. The Saints and Martyrs tell us clearly that nothing on Earth but the Cross of Jesus Christ will satisfy us, because only through the Cross will we attain to the Resurrection.

Let us fix our gaze solely on Him.

Thursday 17 March 2016

Pope Emeritus Benedict Reminds the Church of What We Had

When Pope Benedict XVI was removed from the summit of the visible Church, what lay beneath him was revealed. I use the passive in this instance not in order to provoke controversy regarding his 'removal' in the sense of a conspiracy that achieved it, but rather to place Benedict XVI's pontificate in its proper place, within history. After all, history sees everyone removed from every position of status in the end and the same will happen, eventually, to Benedict's Successor(s). Every priest, every Pope is in the soul eternal. Every priest, every Pope, though, is in the body transient.

Since Benedict XVI's departure into a new role of prayer within the Church, while 'remaining in the enclosure of St Peter', what has created a terrifying tempest within the Church and - in as much as it cares - the World, has really been the difficult digestion of difficult truths. Whatever you think of Francis and his 'effect', the deeply insightful interview with Pope Emeritus Benedict covered here by Life Site News and here by Fr Z positively glows with a clarity of thought that so many miss in the Church today. One Peter Five also covers the news of the sweeping interview.

Since his abdication, the Pope Emeritus has been a man of few words, so those words which he does speak are - in contrast to the abundance of words produced by his Successor - all the more interesting. In this sense, less becomes more. Truth and opinion becomes concentrated, crystalized. True to his previous form in his intellectual and spiritual combat against the relativism of our times, again Benedict's battle is against ideas, not against the people who hold them. They can glean from it what they want. So it is, then, that the Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger and the Pope, Benedict XVI and the Pope Emeritus, Benedict, is able to hold court in tackling ideas to the ground, but leaving the people who hold them in place, even while figures such as Cardinal Kasper, who have long since outed themselves as theological oppponents of all that Benedict XVI stood for, declare victory with gladitorial glee over Benedict's 'outmoded' concept of Faith.

So because of the wait for his opinion on the state of the Church today, what Benedict has said is all the more pointed. It is made even more so, because Benedict is talking about things that Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper had relegated as non-issues. Baptism as necessary for Salvation? The possibility of Hell and separation from God eternally? The breakdown of Catholic culture and identity? The collapse of the Church's mission? These are different issues to climate change, poverty and structural economic injustice. We see, in just one interview, the striking contrast between the Church obsessed with the secular and the Church obsessed with Faith, with Divine truths, with the sacred, with holiness, with a relationship with Christ. For this reason, I do hope Benedict gives another interview soon. It's like hearing from your Dad after a long time of no communication at all.

Of course, Cardinal Kasper - and all those who have promoted his truncated, frankly man-made, counterfeit vision of the Gospel - are unable to declare a victory that is in any sense coherent, or intellectual, or even moral. This is victory for victory's sake. When Cardinal Kasper says that the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis will turn a page over 1,700 years of Catholic history, we can be sure that this is not evidence of the vindication of his intellectual position in his tussle with Joseph Ratzinger and Benedict XVI, but rather a groundless assertion of might over right, an indication of what can happen when the Church, imitating the levers of the State, becomes not a lover or sanctifier of mankind, but 'a band of robbers'. And it is interesting that Cardinal Kasper cannot talk so contemptuously of the Catholic past, in the Catholic present, without looking towards the Catholic future.  But what is it? As Fr Ray Blake asks, what is that future? Where does the Church have a future?

Benedict XVI was and is able to see that there is, in fact, no Catholic future unless the Church rediscovers Herself and her Lord in seeking His Face, in accepting the fullness of divine revelation, of coming to terms with Her traditions, teachings, beliefs, customs and her ancient Rites in loving what has been entrusted to us and passed down to us by previous generations.

Cardinal Kasper's theology which wafts that acrid 1970s scent that the presence of Benedict XVI at the helm of the Church had for so long masked so effectively (but which now no sweet fragrance can cover), disregards the future of the Church being in any sense 'Catholic' or even exclusively 'Christian'. This is not even an 'evolution of dogma', but nor really 'a new page'. This is not simply even a blank sheet. This is a new book entirely.

Divorced from Christ, separated from her roots, remarried to the World, the State and the age, the Church of the future could write a new story concerning man, God and man's place in the drama of Redemption. It can write new rules, new customs, a new theology, a new Mass even. Nothing previously received has to inform the new story. Benedict XVI must have known and still knows that such could happen and such might very well happen. All he did, all he said, all he is saying now is that the Church could indeed - and very well might - do that.

What concerns Benedict XVI, but does not concern Cardinal Kasper and almost certainly not Pope Francis is this question: Would that be a true story? Would that be a faithful story? What is the cost to this abandonment of the authentic Christian message? Did Jesus Christ really give the Church the authority to write a new story that was different to the real one? Most readers of this blog, I and the Pope Emeritus can answer to that question a definitive 'No', so those already calling Benedict XVI out as a modernist, I would say, need to take a step back and recognise - at least - the gulf in the concerns between the present Vicar of Christ and the 'ex-Vicar of Christ' who lives down the road, for it appears to be a gulf similar to that between Lazarus and Dives. Ultimately a new faith, not a 'continuation', not a development of dogma' is where the deep, two-sided crisis of faith leads. It is there hidden, in plain sight, between the lines of Cardinal Kasper's 'prep-work'.

Pray for the Pope Emeritus. He clearly isn't going to simply watch the foundations of the Church be destroyed without saying anything at all. The wolves he warned us about are sensitive creatures, not wishing even the precise nature of the errors that they promote to have light and clear thought penetrate their being. That is the nature of the dictatorship of relativism. It seeks to use authority to stamp upon Truth rather than serve it and proclaim it. Pope Francis will be held accountable to God - as all bishops shall be - for his governance of the Church entrusted to him, but the servant of the servants is also accountable to the flock of Christ. It may well be that he needs to be reminded by 'the little ones' that a lie does not become the truth by telling the lie and passing it off as truth, merely by virtue of the power and the authority wielded in the process.

Remember that Benedict XVI rarely, if ever, as Pope imposed from above, in a dictatorial manner, the truths which he guarded, defended and proclaimed, and, far from exiling figures such as Cardinal Kasper and those he knew to hold views that Catholics in previous times would regard as dangerous, held his brethren in great esteem and truly respected, if not their opinions, then their persons. Benedict's style is now and always was to convince and persuade appealing to reason and to counsel gently those who needed clear instruction. Now that the reigns of Church governance are in the hands of his opponents, much power has been entrusted into their hands. The wise will deal mercifully, kindly and even gently, even with their ideological opponents, but those who are less schooled in the love of truth, virtue and meekness, are more prone to act rashly, exercising power, but without a sense responsibility.

Pray therefore, too, for those also. Whatever Saturday - the Feast of St Joseph - and beyond brings, pray to the Patron of the Church for unity in Christ. 

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Latin America and the World Warned of Danger of New Virus

Scientists claim the mysterious disease may have originated in Buenos Aires
Rorate Caeli reports today on the renewed threat that a virus known as Franciska poses to the world.
Symptoms of the disease which has seen victims lapse from attendance at Church while complaining of an unformed conscience include moral confusion, a descent into relativism, a propensity to grave errors, the sudden and unexpected promotion of an environmental agenda at times of mass apostasy within the Church and the projectile vomiting of ones own opinions at unnecessary times and outside of the spheres of the victim's own competence. It is passed on through word of mouth and also by hearing or reading media reportage of Catholic affairs emanating from Rome. Rome itself, however, is not thought to be the origin of the disease. Scientists believe the origins of the disease lay elsewhere and may have started life in Buenos Aires in 1936.

Scientists and theologians suggest that the virus is believed to be a resurrected strain of the Bergogika Virus that inflicted untold damage, devastating the Church in parts of Latin America, such as Argentina, where Faith in particular was once strong. The Franciska virus, like the Bergogika Virus, poses no risk of loss of mortal life but does increase severe risks to spiritual health and the life of immortal souls. In Catholic families, the passing on of Franciska is suggested to have caused severe and ugly abnormalities in the Faith of children born to parents infected with the disease. The emergence of Franciska has even led Catholic parents to question the licitness of abortion since the virus has led some to consider abortion at one moment to be a crime, but in another moment led to scandalous praise for those infamous persons who have practiced it.

A Mexican Bishop deals with an outbreak of Franciska in Mexico

The disease, which has given women and men, a great excuse to use artificial contraception against the teachings of the Catholic Church and contrary to the Law of God, cannot be passed on by sexual contact, but it is thought that the divorced and remarried are particularly at risk from the disease, since it takes advantage of those in a vulnerable situation by calling them obliquely and by means of gesture, evasiveness and through traces of heretical bacteria by word of mouth, to receive Holy Communion in a state of objective mortal sin which in turn leads to spiritual sickness and even complete spiritual death.

Neither the Bergogika virus nor the Franciska virus should be confused with the controversial Zika virus which has caused headlines around the world, the origin and spread of which has not yet been comprehensively proven. Ban-Ki-Moon of the UN, Barack Obama and Heads of State around the world have publicly pleaded that those concerned about Franciska calm down and refrain from causing any sense of public panic. Mexican Bishops, however, remain sceptical and maintain that the threat to spiritual health is real and has been described by some as "an emergency".

Saturday 5 March 2016

In Search of the Authentic II

As well as Pope Francis, whose verbosity is already the stuff of Catholic legend, other senior figures in the Church too are unshy of granting interviews on the current state of affairs within the Catholic Church. They do so now in a climate which could well be one that carries considerable risk to themselves. I really expect that few, if any, Catholic Cardinals, Bishops or Priests wish to be seen as in any sense wishing to contradict or oppose what the Supreme Pontiff teaches.

What marks out a prelate like Bishop Athanasius Schneider, or Cardinal Raymond Burke, or Cardinal Robert Sarah from our beloved if sometimes contradictory Supreme Pontiff is the clarity of the message, but also the due reverence and respect they pay to the Pope, the Chief Shepherd of the Faithful, upon whom has been placed the task of feeding Christ's flock with spiritual nourishment. Bishops and Cardinals, however, also have this task of teaching Christ's flock. The internet, in particular, gives Bishops, Cardinals and Priests a particular opportunity to perform this ministry and we must be very thankful that the new media is being utilised to do just this, in a time when the Mass Media, while taking the lion's share in terms of conveying 'the message', does not have the monopoly.

In the wake of the storm left by His Holiness's recent interview at 35,000 feet it was refreshing and heartening, as always, to read the common sense, unsensationalist and very reasonable Daniel Blackman interview with Bishop Athanasius.

Messengers of authentic love
Like Cardinal Burke, it is very encouraging to hear and read of a Bishop's willingness to act as a correction on the exaggerations, distortions and mixed messages received when the Vatican and the Pope are so ready to engage perhaps somewhat recklessly with a mass media eager to present the Papacy as a purely political position with slogan or sound-bite teaching that threatens to undermine the Faith of the Church and the Faith of Christians everywhere.

Authenticity is really a very important part of the Church. It is vital to the life of the Church, to what we believe and how we worship. We worship the authentic Christ, and when we worship an inauthentic Christ, we do not worship Christ at all. We do ourselves and others harm.

Perhaps one problem with Pope Francis's style and delivery - the often confusing messages we receive from him, is that if a particular teaching goes against that which we have received - at least the catechised - then people will quite naturally go towards the Shepherds who are happy to simply pass on that which sounds authentic, that which is authentic, that which has been believed always, everywhere, by all Christians.

The subtle weaving in of confusion and what a number regard as error in with truth will never satisfy or encourage in their spiritual life and growth those who ardently - or even tentatively - seek the Truth. The artifice, the pretension of so much of our modern existence pushes many towards a search for the authentic. I am so grateful to Bishop Athanasius and to other Prelates who are willing to stand up and defend the authentic Catholic Faith without apology - not wishing to cause offense or to scandalise those who should have the utmost respect for the Pope, but only to act as a correction on the excesses or excessive confusion that is bound to occur should a Pope open his heart, his mind and his mouth too willingly and with an unhealthy lack of regard for the effect these messages may have on souls, faithful and unfaithful alike.

The authentic Catholic teaching on Christ's divinity and humanity, the authentic Catholic teaching on the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, the Holy Eucharist and Confession, the authentic Catholic teaching on life, love, sexuality. These are all so important to our growth as we wish to follow Our Lord and attain to everlasting Life, the supreme gift which Christ so wishes to bestow upon us, the gift of knowing and loving God that He has given to us by His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

If any Churchman presents us with an inauthentic vision of the Catholic Faith - in any of its aspects - we have every right as Catholics to reject that vision. The Church has always been dedicated to verifying the authenticity of visions, apparitions and messages that people claim come from a Heavenly source. She tests the spirits, discerns what is true and what is false and has criteria for doing so. May God be praised that senior figures in the Hierarchy are willing to speak out and defend the timeless, authentic Catholic Faith from those who, lacking the necessary prudence that an occasion requires, may be seen to lead people away from the path traced by the Son of God.

We are not Angels. We do not have their superior intelligence. We can be easily misled, easily confused, easily scandalised and quite easily believe or live a lie, but deep within us we do have a longing for absolute Truth, the Truth Who is Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. We have an Enemy who wishes to sow within us discord, enmity with God and enmity with each other. He knows all our weaknesses, the ease with which we can be attracted towards a perversion or distortion of the good. Deep down, we want authentic relationships with others, we want to experience authentic love, not a worldy shadow or imitation of it and we ourselves want to love others authentically. We can, too, with His grace, love God with an authentic love and our neighbour as ourselves. We can earnestly seek authentic virtue and reject,and hate evil. We can love goodness and truth. We have been set free by the Precious Blood of Christ to love Him in return for the love with which He loves us, for He has loved us first.

Perhaps you have been or are going to a 24 Hours for the Lord event in your parish, a now annual event of intimacy with Our Eucharistic Lord for which we can thank His Holiness Pope Francis in this time of grace and penance in preparation for Easter. Pray that more and more Bishops, Cardinals and Priests and Pope Francis leading the flock of Christ will feed us with the authentic Faith with zeal and with the charity of the Son of God. We need Shepherds and teachers set in authority over us who wish to share with the Church's children the authentic vision of Christ and the Christian life safeguarded and passed down the centuries for the Salvation of souls. We are called to imitate Christ. We are not called to accept a mere imitation or any false presentation of the Gospel.

The Pope Who Won't Be Buried

It has been a long time since I have put finger to keyboard to write about our holy Catholic Faith, something I regret, but which I put larg...