Monday, March 25, 2013

Pope Francis Reaches Out To Islam -- And Why It Matters


On Friday, March 22, 2013, Pope Francis did something remarkable.  In honour of his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, he reached out toward the Muslim people in the name of fighting poverty and building bridges of peace.  To do this, he cited a phrase used by his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, which defined his papacy.  With many of the world's leaders in audience, Pope Francis stated...
But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth...   In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. 
Read the full address here.
THUD!  There it is.  We now have the whole mission of Pope Francis' pontificate laid out before us, and it is an uncomfortable one.  He will work by any means necessary, including cooperation with Islam, to fight physical poverty in the poor developing world. Meanwhile, he will simultaneously work, even to the point of cooperating with Islam, to fight spiritual poverty in the rich industrialised world.  Is this uncomfortable?  It should be.  He intends it to be.  However, we should be careful not to jump to conclusions.  Pope Francis is a staunchly orthodox Catholic, and everything he says should be interpreted in a strictly Catholic sense.

Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI are two sides of the same coin, and their relationship with the pontificate of Pope John Paul II is now impossible to deny.  The mission of Pope John Paul II was to defeat communism with faith.  He accomplished this not only in Poland, but on the world scene in general, by providing a consistent obstacle to Marxist ideologies arising in Europe and Latin America.  The source of conflict between the East and West during that time was ideological.  It was Marxism that drove it, whether it be in the form of godless communism in the Soviet Union and China, or the white-washed Christianised version called "Liberation Theology" in Latin America.  The result was always the same.  Faith in God played second-fiddle to the cult of the omnipotent state!  The Church was expected to bow the knee to the government, thus diminishing her role as the harbinger of salvation to the lost and relief for the suffering.

The mortal blow to classic communism was delivered on December 8, 1991, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception according to the Catholic liturgical calendar, when the Soviet Union was dissolved.  Communism still exists of course, and we are seeing it rear its ugly head in many places, but the biggest proponent of communism is dead, and so the devil has surely focused his attacks on Holy Mother Church elsewhere.  His new antagonist is the secular West.  That's right.  It's us!

Now that's a hard pill to swallow.  How can it be us?  When we look at the relentless attacks against Christians in Islamic nations, particularly by radical extremists hell bent on jihad, and when we look at the continual oppression of Christians in what remains of communist nations; how can anyone say that the secular West is the problem?

Well, I don't think anyone is saying that the secular West is THE problem.  Rather, it is the LATEST problem.  Persecution of Christians in Islamic nations has been going on for a very long time.  It is certainly intensifying in recent decades, but it's always been there.  Persecution of Christians in communist countries is the norm, and has always been a hallmark of communism.  There's nothing new there.  What is new is what's happening in the secular West, and it's a really bad kind of new.  For the last two centuries, the secular West has been a refuge for persecuted Christians around the world.  That is starting to change, and in its place, is arising a new kind of tyranny that not only demands the Church to bend the knee to a foreign moral paradigm, but a moral paradigm that itself justifies its own meddling in the poor developing world for the benefit of the rich industrialised world.

That new moral paradigm is called militant secularism, and it is characterised by a growing open hostility toward traditional Christianity, Islam and Judaism, in favour of moral relativism.  We see it develop in the insistence that religion must retreat from anything associated with the government, while simultaneously, the government advances everywhere, into every sphere of human existence: civics, education, charity, welfare and medicine.  We see it in the demands that religion must adopt the morality of relativism, particularly in areas related to: life, sex, marriage, gender, and family.  We see it in a willingness by certain Western governments to financially persecute, and possibly even legally prosecute, religious businesses and institutions that fail to adopt this new moral paradigm.  It is a moral paradigm promoted by the mainstream press and entertainment industry, indoctrinated into our youth through the universities and school systems, and ultimately enforced by the power of the government itself.  It is in every way a "tyranny" to people of faith; Christians, Muslims and Jews, but most especially Christians, who seem to be the primary target of this new moral paradigm, this new "tyranny of relativism," this emerging persecutor of the Church that is the secular Western world.

What Pope Francis has done here is remarkable, and is 100% consistent with his predecessors Benedict XVI and John Paul II.  He has effectively drawn the battle lines.  His address to the leaders of the nations is warm and cordial.  The conflict is not with them personally, nor with their governments respectively, but rather with the ideology some of their governments and people are gradually embracing -- militant secularism.   It is this militant secularism that is a "tyranny of relativism" that attacks people of faith, most especially Christians, but not excluding Muslims and Jews.  The result is poverty!  This is manifested in the spiritual poverty of the rich industrialised nations, that leaves people without direction and purpose, thus condemning them to a future of endless materialism.  It is also manifested in the physical poverty of the poor developing nations, that leaves the people therein exploited and destitute, for the benefit of the rich.  He has called out militant secularism for what it is -- A FARCE!  It's a complete lie!  It claims a moral paradigm that is supposedly superior to all religions, but in practical reality, it is the most debase of all ideologies, on par with the hedonistic Paganism of antiquity.  It creates an image of morality, but it is a false image, that is clearly demonstrated by the spiritual and physical poverty abounding throughout the world today.  It is an idolatrous system that sets the practitioner up as a paragon of virtue, but in reality, he is a hedonistic tyrant.  The Muslims of the world have seen this developing trend in the West for some time, and while most have simply tried to live apart from it, some have openly rebelled in the form of senseless violence, thus giving the tyrants in the West more justification for their tyranny.  Some of these Muslims have made the egregious error of connecting Christianity to militant secularism, and this of course has fuelled their persecution of Christians in some places.  What they fail to understand is that militant secularism is rooted in Marxist ideology not Christianity, and that Christians themselves are suffering at the hands of militant secularism, just as they did under godless communism.  The persecution itself comes in a different form.  While communism sought to rid the world of Christians, secularism now seeks to rid the world of Christianity.  Which of the two is more insidious?  Are they not evil sisters?  Are they not the wicked witches of the East and West?  Some Muslims error in connecting the persecuted with the persecutor, and in this it would appear Pope Francis is beginning to set the record straight.  So the modern Franciscan dialogue with Islam begins.

In AD 1219, discouraged by the horrors and suffering of war, Saint Francis of Assisi left the camp of the crusaders besieging the Egyptian city of Damietta.  He crossed enemy lines to meet with the young Muslim Sultan of Egypt -- Malik al-Kamil.  As the story goes, the young sultan was very hospitable to Saint Francis and spent many days in dialogue with him.  Saint Francis naturally hoped the sultan would convert to Christianity, which of course would result in the instantaneous end of the war.  Legend has it that Saint Francis was even willing to risk immolating his own body with fire to prove the power of Christ to this young Muslim.  The sultan pleaded with Francis not to harm himself.  In the end however, the one who converted was not the sultan, but Saint Francis of Assisi, who learned that peace is possible with Muslims even outside of conversion.  He eventually returned home to his friary in Italy.  There he instituted certain reforms that allowed Franciscans to work together with Muslims, without constantly seeking their conversion.  From this comes the statement Saint Francis likely never said, but is often attributed to his life and ministry: "Evangelise always, and if necessary, use words."  This of course points to the corporate works of mercy often associated with the Franciscan way of life.  By our mercy and compassion, Jesus Christ will be made known to the unbaptised.

So Pope Francis here moves forward with this in mind.  The Muslims are not the natural enemy of Christians.  They never have been.  The conflict between Christianity and Islam is artificial and contrived, often motivated by people of neither faith who tend to benefit the most.  In our modern times, the only natural enemy of Christians is the same enemy we have in common with the Muslims.  It is the godless ideologies of communism and militant secularism that find their root in Marxism.  They have left Christian societies in spiritual poverty and Muslim societies in physical poverty.  Militant secularism, this "tyranny of relativism," must be resisted in the same way communism was resisted.  For their goals are one in the same.  This is something Christians, Muslims and yes even Jews, can work together toward.  For there is only one God, and God alone is sovereign.  He will not bend the knee to any government or ideology.  This much our three religions can agree on; and it is this very thing militant secularism, like her godless sister communism, fears the most.

Pope Francis is an ecumenist but he is not a syncretist.  He is a Catholic Christian through and through.  There is nothing in this cooperation with Islam that smacks of merging with Islam.  So the hysteria among Fundamentalists of all stripes can cease.  Pope Francis was born a Catholic and he will die a Catholic.  He asks no more or less from all Catholic Christians.  When it comes to this "tyranny of relativism" however, this product of militant secularism in the West, this FARCE of a new moral paradigm; does it not threaten Christians and Muslims equally?  Abortion shows no partiality between Christian and Muslim babies.  Same-sex marriage threatens Muslim society just as much as Christian society.  Physical poverty in the name of rampant consumerism starves Christian children in Latin America just as it starves Muslim children in Africa and Asia.  Spiritual poverty threatens the Christian youth of Europe and North America, just as it does the Muslim youth in those same regions, as well as the wealthy in Arab nations.  The modern conflict between the Western world and the Muslim world is primarily driven by money (the flow of oil) not religion. Herein lies the greatest threat of our time, the threat of war.  We have already seen how this is playing out in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the American sponsored uprisings (so-called "Arab Spring") in Egypt, Libya and Syria.  It's one disaster after another, not unlike the crusades nearly a thousand ago. The only difference is, these modern "crusades" have nothing to do with Christ nor Christianity.  They are driven entirely by secular interests.  Perhaps they would more accurately be called the "secularades."  Whatever we call them, the greatest conflict has yet to unfold, and this will only result in the greatest horror and poverty for all those involved.  It is in this time, the calm before the storm, that a pope named Francis crosses enemy lines to meet with the leaders of the Muslim world.  His hope and desire is to find common ground for working together to fight the poverty of this modern world, which was originally started by godless communism, and now continues under her wicked sister of militant secularism -- a tyranny of moral relativism that impoverishes everyone!

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Pope And The Press


Pope Francis prays at St. Mary Major on 3-14-2013
Video Courtesy of Catholic News Service

In a previous article (see here), I pointed out the boorish predictability of the mainstream press in their dealings with the papal conclave.  Equally crude and reliable will be their dealings with the new pope.  Why?  Because we've seen it all before.  We saw it with the way the press dealt with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and the late Pope John Paul II.  Of course, this is how it played out in the conclave as well.

To review...
So almost immediately after His Holiness Benedict XVI announced his abdication, they went to work, putting forward the so-called "frontrunners" that the news media decided should be the "frontrunners," along with ignoring any cardinal who may not fit the media's ideal profile.  So what is the media's ideal profile?  Well for starters, none of the current cardinal electors fit it, so that must be a bit frustrating to the press.  Instead they have to focus on ignoring, or downplaying, anyone who overtly contradicts it.  Their profile is a man who is charismatic and likeable -- which is a virtuous character by any standard really -- but also one who is open to "change," and this "change" is the devil in the details of the media's thought process.  Most news people are overt liberals, and a good number are militant about it.  That's just a statistical fact.  They want the Catholic Church to become more "politically correct" in its business, and so that means they want women-priests, more homosexual clergy, as well as an openness to artificial contraception, abortion, and same-sex "marriage."  They know they're not going to see any of that happen any time soon.  This is not the Episcopal Church USA, or the Anglican Communion, but if they could see the Catholic Church just give an inch on these matters, an entire army of progressives within the Church eagerly await the opportunity to take a mile.  So the man the media wants as pope is a man who seems most likely to be willing to "give in a little" on this issue or that.  Now that doesn't mean they are right in their presumed selection of "frontrunners," as a cardinal may say one thing in public, but then hold to a much more strict view behind closed doors, but it does give some insight into the mindset of the people reporting the news.  They're putting forward their favourites, and hoping the cardinal electors are reading and watching what they report...

It seems that CNN, and many other mainstream news networks, newspapers, and media outlets have peppered themselves with "cafeteria Catholics," the likes of Piers Morgan, who are really liberal Anglicans with an identity crisis.  Before Morgan encourages the bishops to "come out of the closet" on matters related to human sexuality, he may do well to come out of the closet himself, and finally face the fact of what he has become -- a Protestant of the very liberal persuasion -- but the same could be said of many on the CNN staff, as well as other news outlets.  It is incredibly rude, disrespectful and downright wicked, to attempt to change another man's religion to suit your own fancies.  Yet this is exactly what the Borgias in the mainstream press have attempted in recent weeks, as in 2005 and perhaps even 1978.  They have an agenda, they find "cafeteria Catholics" (really closet Anglicans I suppose) who agree with them on it, and then trot them out in front of the cameras, like the 1960s dinosaurs they are, to tell the world how the Catholic Church ought to do things. All the while, they hope the cardinal electors are listening.
So let's just get down to the heart of the matter, shall we?  According to the mainstream press, the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic, meaning one who doesn't believe or practice the faith.  Catholics who break the rules are pushed to the forefront in the media, and made out to be the spokespeople for "most Catholics," who just happen to want the exact same thing the mainstream press wants.  While those who actually believe, practice and defend the religion are made out to be some kind of backward medieval inquisitors, who still believe the world is flat. Worse yet, the majority of Catholic faithful (especially in the third world) are made out to be "prisoners" of a religious system that "controls them like cattle," with the assumption that if only these people could be "enlightened" they would throw off this "heavy yoke" of Catholicism at the first opportunity, becoming more like their liberal American counterparts.  "Why won't the Church let women use contraception?  Why won't the Church let priests get married?  Why won't the Church stop discriminating against homosexuals?" etc.  Such questions are commonplace in the mainstream press. Then when anyone dares to retort this portrayal, the subject of the clergy sex-abuse scandal immediately comes up, with the news commenter throwing in the word "credibility" a few times just to make sure the point is made.  This is the template anyway, the way Catholics are portrayed, and it's almost universal now.  It didn't just play out during the conclave.  It plays out all the time, constantly, with incredible predictability, and as I said, it's terribly rude.  No, it's worse then rude actually -- it's wicked.

So that being said, allow me to do a little prognostication here.  Currently, as of the writing of this article, it's been just two days since the selection of the new pope.  The "new" hasn't quite worn off yet, but don't worry, it will.  It's too early, as of yet, for the mainstream press to level any kind of serious criticism of the new pontiff.  In fact, it only makes sense right now for the media to play along actually.  They'll build this guy up for a while, and sing his praises with the rest of them, but keep in mind this is only an illusion.  (They've already let quite a few things slide actually.  Things they would normally have pounced on.)  Then, in time, after all the excitement has died down, the pope will say something.  It might be a pronouncement of orthodox teaching.  Maybe it will be an apostolic letter.  Something will happen, and I guarantee, it will be something perfectly normal for any Catholic pope to do.  However, it will go against the "politically correct" orthodoxy of the mainstream press and liberalism in general.  Once that happens, the fangs will begin to come out.  It will start very subtle you see.  The press will begin talking about what a "disappointment" this is, as they suggest the idea that this hopeful reformer appears to now be "taken over" by the "Vatican machine."  (Of course, the media's idea of the "Vatican machine" is nothing more than Catholic orthodoxy.)  Then will come the editorials, wherein supposedly "devout Catholics" (really liberal Cafeteria Catholics) will opine that they "fear for the future of the Church."  They'll lament that the Church appears to be "going backwards" with this new pope, and they will "hope" that the Church doesn't become "irrelevant" in the process.  (Of course, they'll just assume that nobody is smart enough to catch on that the very fact they're writing these editorials about the Church only proves the Church is more relevant than ever.) So, once the seeds of doubt are carefully planted, then they'll subtly attempt to disassemble his papacy.  They have to be coy about these things you see.  They can't just come out and attack him, like many liberal activist groups do.  No, that would be too obvious.  They might lose their credibility you see.  So the strategy of the press is to introduce doubt and uncertainty.  Then, just as soon as the first whiff of a scandal arises, whether it's really a scandal or not, the media will play it up to the fullest!  After all, they're good at it, and that is; what.. they.. do..

There is no use trying to prevent this from happening.  It's going to happen.  It always does.  As I said, it's rude and it's predictable.  They always do it.  What remains to be seen, however, is how our new pope will handle it.  I can't even begin to speculate on that.

For faithful Catholics, this is just part of the game.  Jesus had to deal with the Pharisees, and we have to deal with the mainstream press.  Get used to it.  If you are a faithful Catholic, I can give you some good advice about how to deal with the way the press treats our religion.  Turn it off!  That's right; just ignore it.  Tune into EWTN or Catholic radio for news about the Church instead.  Don't worry, they won't be afraid to address tough issues like scandal.  Nobody there is going to fluff what's really going on in the Church.  However, they will deal with the topics in a way that doesn't undermine or berate what the Church actually teaches in regards to faith and morals.  In other words, you'll get the news about the Church (the good, the bad and the ugly) in a way that doesn't attack or insult your Catholic faith.

Some time ago I decided to stop watching CNN and FoxNews entirely, especially about any matters related to the Catholic Church.  I am able to acquire most of my secular news from various Internet websites, and for Church news, I look to EWTN (television, radio and Internet feeds), Pewsitter.com, and various Catholic blogs.  I cannot begin to tell you how much better I feel as a result.  I mean, I actually feel better, physically.  That's how much of a drain the mainstream press was putting on me.  I had no idea how bad it really was until I turned it all off.  These news networks are toxic to the soul: CNN, FoxNews, NBC, ABC and CBS -- all of them!  It's not just television media, but radio and print media as well.  I turned off all the AM talk radio.  I refuse to even look at certain newspapers and magazines.  It is all very liberating and refreshing!  I encourage every faithful Catholic to just do the same.  It's the most powerful way to fight back ever devised.  Just turn them off -- all of them.  You will hurt their ratings, cost them money, and feel better in the process.  I know it's hard to believe that the solution could really be so simple, but it really is.  They lose their power of influence when their audience gets smaller.  Just do it.  You'll be glad you did.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Welcome Holy Father Francis !!!

Jorge Mario Bergoglio
Pope Francis
Yesterday my eyes were glued to EWTN as I watched the white smoke billow from the Sistine Chapel chimney, followed by the bells, the pageantry, and then this meek and unimposing figure appeared on the balcony of St. Peter's.   He was not wearing the traditional red cape, and he saved the pallium strictly for prayer.  The pectoral cross was a simple one, unlike the gold and jewelled cross usually worn by popes.  It was quite a unique and fascinating spectacle.  Then he did something truly amazing.  He asked the people to pray that God would send him a blessing, as he bowed his head to pray with us.  After, he gave the traditional papal blessing to the people.  What a way to start a new pontificate!  So different, yet so refreshing.

I wish to thank the Holy Spirit, and the cardinal electors, for giving us this pope.  I know that I am only just now beginning to understand the reason why they selected him.  I have received word, via various Internet sources, that His Holiness Pope Francis has already made contact with His Holiness Benedict XVI.  This is good to know.  Considering the humility the Holy Father has already displayed in less than the 24 hours since his selection to receive the Keys of Peter, I feel confident that he will avail himself the opportunity to consult with the pope emeritus on many issues, and this I believe to be a very good thing.  Just imagine it!  For the first time, perhaps in all of history, two papal minds will work on solving problems together, one currently reigning, the other retired.  Those who said the pope emeritus will have no contact with the reigning pope were living in fantasy land.  Perhaps in saying such things, they inadvertently revealed something about themselves, something about their feelings toward the last Holy Father.  No, these two men will pray together.  They will consult together, and yes, they will solve problems together.  To even suggest they won't is to escape reality.  What current pope would not avail himself the opportunity to pray and consult with an experienced predecessor?  It's an opportunity that has not existed for some 600 years!

By now the stories of Pope Francis' meek humility are circulating throughout the world.  I could recount them here but for the sake of brevity I will not.  I will only say that I am impressed and pleased beyond words to describe.

Now I feel compelled to deal with an unfortunate matter of business.  It seems some traditionalist Catholics were expecting to see a Cardinal Ranjith, or a Burke, appear on the balcony of St. Peter's.  Previously, on this blog, I publicly made known my own affections toward Cardinal Burke.  Of course, I maintain a very high regard for him, and of course, part of me would still have preferred to see him on the balcony.  Yet, I know that I am not a conduit to the Holy Spirit.  That duty is reserved for others, and so, with thankful affection, I praise the Lord God for the selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis.  I am a traditionalist of the Anglican sort, based on my journey into the Catholic Church through Anglicanism, and so that is where my love of liturgy was born.  Nevertheless, because of the lack of availability of an Anglican Use mass in my area, I have also gained a strong affection for the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite).  I attend an Extraordinary Form mass as often as I can, sometimes even weekly, as well as an Ordinary Form mass.   I have a deep love for Catholic liturgy, properly celebrated of course, so if you're a traditionalist, don't lump me together with those who never blink an eye to liturgical abuses.  Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm about as conservative, orthodox and traditional as they come, but anyone who knows me will also tell you I am not one of those who thinks he is more Catholic than the pope!  I occasionally get emails from various people who think they are, and while I do read them, I usually don't bother engaging in a debate with such people.  Based on past experience, I've found it to be a waste of time and energy.  I would have much better luck debating with a hard-core Protestant Fundamentalist.

So the following is not directed toward anyone out there who already thinks he (or she) is more Catholic than the pope.  It is directed toward regular traditionalists, who just love the ancient liturgy and mourn the loss of solemnity and reverence in the modern Church.  To those people I say the following...

Don't believe everything you read.  In some groups there is a lot of sour grapes right now because they didn't get what they want.  Emotions are running high, and wherever emotions run high, that is the devil's playground.  There are only two things a tradition-loving Catholic should be doing right now.  One, have a glass of good wine and relax to enjoy the moment.  Two, start praying hard for Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.  God has allowed this unique circumstance in history to transpire for a reason, and guess what?  You're prayers for these two men are part of it!  Time to get busy.

Now as for all this nonsense floating around the Internet right now, let me just say this.  Two-thirds of the cardinal electors were made cardinals by Benedict XVI.  The other third by John Paul II.  There was no way that anyone could have been elected pope without getting at least a third of the Benedict cardinals on board, and based on some of the accidental slips of the tongue that have come from the cardinal electors already, it would appear Cardinal Bergoglio got well over the votes required to be selected pope.  Based upon some of the reports coming out now about the conclave in 2005, he was Cardinal Ratzinger's biggest opponent then.  (When I say "opponent" I mean it in a friendly sense, like two competitive brothers.)  There was a reason the cardinal electors chose him, and now we just have to wait and trust it was the Holy Spirit who led their hand.  To come out with all sorts of assumptions this early in the game is a huge mistake.  The Keys of Peter have a way of changing the very character of the man who holds them.  Pope John Paul II was not the same as Cardinal Karol Wojtyła when he received the keys.  We saw the papacy change him.  He started out very dynamic and non-traditional in the beginning, but toward the end (from 1988 onward) he slowly leaned back toward tradition.  Pope Benedict XVI was not the same as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.  When elected, everyone thought "God's Rottweiler" would snarl his so-called "fangs" and excommunicate every liberal modernist in sight.  Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI did take many disciplinary actions toward many individuals and groups, but overall we came to know him as a gentle and humble man, who preached the joy of the gospel at every turn.  Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio will likewise experience a transformation.  That's not just some wild prediction.  That's guaranteed based on history.  What remains to be seen is what he will be transformed into?  That is the Holy Spirit's business right now.  Our business is to pray.  So let's keep our noses out of God's business and get back to ours.

From a traditional perspective, there are some first actions that look rather encouraging.  Today, the first full day of his pontificate, his first official act as Pope was to go to St Mary Major in Rome and offer flowers before the painting of Our Lady titled Salus Populi Romani.  Then he prayed at the tomb of Saint Pius V, the reforming Pope who; presided over the Council of Trent, gave us the Traditional Latin (Tridentine) mass, excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, and formed the Holy League, which defeated the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto, which he attributed to the intercession of Mary.  What does this all mean?  It means Pope Francis sees himself as a reforming pope who is heavily Marian and has pleaded for her intercession and the intercession of Saint Pius V.  I'm I the only one seeing a traditional streak starting to develop in this man?  I wonder how his future conversations with His Holiness Benedict XVI will play into this?

In my opinion, the only people in the Church who have good cause to fear and tremble right now are those part of the "business as usual" crowd, who like things the way they are, and don't want anybody messing up their cushy ride.  If you're one of those people, go ahead and complain.  You've actually got a good reason.  As for the rest of us; sit back, enjoy the moment, and start praying daily for our new pope and pope emeritus.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Conclave And The Press


The procession of cardinals into the 2013 conclave.

As I write this, the cardinal electors are locked inside the Sistine Chapel casting their first round of votes for the new pope.  They are completely cut off from the outside world, finally, and there is nothing to interfere with their decision making process.  Even electronic devices will be useless within that sacred space during this time, as telecommunications are currently being jammed by devices beneath the Sistine Chapel floor.  It's as secret as anything can be made without burying these guys in a cave somewhere, and all I can say is THANK GOD for the secrecy!  There are some things the news media should never be part of.

As I reflect on the last month, since His Holiness Benedict XVI declared his abdication to take effect on February 28 of this year, I finally have a moment to pause and take a deep breath.  For the first time, just today, the behaviour of the press finally makes sense.  The cardinals are now beyond their reach.  Their time of influence is over.  Now, like the rest of us, they must wait, watch and see.

What the press failed to understand in 2013, just as it did in 2005 and 1978, is that the selection of a pope is not the same as an election of a president, prime minister, or even an elected king.  You see the press is looking at this through entirely carnal vision.  They see it simply as politics, wherein candidates are jockeying for a frontrunner position, trying to win the approval of their fellow cardinals to "get enough votes" to seize the moment.  Naturally, as in all democratic processes, the news press hope to throw its influence into the race as well.  You see, in today's world, the news media has come to assert a tremendous amount of control over the leaders of the West.  Not only can they promote a political candidate by the stories they choose to run, but they can eliminate candidates by the stories they choose not to run.  Their power is not only seen by what is broadcast on the evening news, but even more so by what lands on the cutting room floor.  They have become accustomed to this power, and they literally expect to have some kind of influence over the outcome of any election.

So it only stands to reason that the news media would have the same expectations over the papal election - right?  There is only one hitch, or so the press assumes, there are a limited number of "voters" (this year 115 in all) and a very limited amount of time to influence their thinking.  So almost immediately after His Holiness Benedict XVI announced his abdication, they went to work, putting forward the so-called "frontrunners" that the news media decided should be the "frontrunners," along with ignoring any cardinal who may not fit the media's ideal profile.  So what is the media's ideal profile?  Well for starters, none of the current cardinal electors fit it, so that must be a bit frustrating to the press.  Instead they have to focus on ignoring, or downplaying, anyone who overtly contradicts it.  Their profile is a man who is charismatic and likeable -- which is a virtuous character by any standard really -- but also one who is open to "change," and this "change" is the devil in the details of the media's thought process.  Most news people are overt liberals, and a good number are militant about it.  That's just a statistical fact.  They want the Catholic Church to become more "politically correct" in its business, and so that means they want women-priests, more homosexual clergy, as well as an openness to artificial contraception, abortion, and same-sex "marriage."  They know they're not going to see any of that happen any time soon.  This is not the Episcopal Church USA, or the Anglican Communion, but if they could see the Catholic Church just give an inch on these matters, an entire army of progressives within the Church eagerly await the opportunity to take a mile.  So the man the media wants as pope is a man who seems most likely to be willing to "give in a little" on this issue or that.  Now that doesn't mean they are right in their presumed selection of "frontrunners," as a cardinal may say one thing in public, but then hold to a much more strict view behind closed doors, but it does give some insight into the mindset of the people reporting the news.  They're putting forward their favourites, and hoping the cardinal electors are reading and watching what they report.

It's more than that really.  The interregnum period between popes is a grand opportunity for the press to begin trotting out all the dissidents in the Catholic Church, who champion the same views the press holds dear, and we saw no shortage of this over the last month.  In this particular case, without the death of a pope to mourn, the news media wasted no time jumping into heavy criticism of the Church, the Vatican and the last pope in particular.  "Crisis" and "scandal" became the oft chanted mantras over the last month, repeated so many times that the words themselves begin to sound funny.  These are the tools of the trade as far as the press is concerned, designed to destabilise an institution and make it more vulnerable to suggestion.  No broadcast minutes were wasted, no ink left unprinted, to make sure this message was clearly conveyed.

Alas, however, their time is now over.  They now have no more control over the process than any one of us, and that my friends is a very good thing.  In recent decades, the mainstream press has attempted to become a kind of Borgias, seeking to influence (and possibly control) the election of the next pope for the reasons I just cited above.  It's a very disrespectful and wicked thing when you really stop and think about it.  Even the famous atheist entertainer, Penn Jillette, recently said in regards to the Catholic Church: "Well, I think I may be somebody who believes in the Pope's position more than most Catholics. I really take people at their word. And it seems like all of the cynicism and all of the -- who are we going to get in, modernizing -- there's not supposed to be modernizing. It's supposed to be word of God."  He was taking CNN reporter Pierce Morgan, a professed "cafeteria Catholic," to school on what it means to be a Catholic.  After Morgan objected with the idea that the Church needs to change with the times so as to save lives and prevent suffering, Jillette continued: "This is great, what side you're picking here. I would say on my side that if you have someone who is a conduit to God and is speaking God's word, even if you can't understand exactly what God's plan is, even if you do see suffering, that you consider unacceptable, or any suffering is unacceptable, that still doesn't mean you get to vote on what God actually believes."  Again, the "Catholic" CNN journalists objected, saying that Catholics should be allowed to use condoms, women should be made priests, and that all of these things are just a matter of private interpretation, only to be put in his place by the avowed atheist Penn Jillette: "Absolutely. But now you're talking Martin Luther. That was Martin Luther saying that an individual -- I don't think he actually mentioned you by name, but an individual could interpret the Bible themselves. The idea, as I understand it, of the Catholic church is that it's not interpreting the Bible yourself. You have somebody who is actually able to do that.  Once you have somebody that is telling you, we are interpreting God for you, it seems like you either agree or you don't. You either say, like Martin Luther, I'm going to have a direct relationship with the word of God, or I'm going to go through a conduit of God on Earth, which would be the Pope."  Slam dunk!  And in the days leading up to this conclave, an outspoken (and remarkably frank) atheist has just pegged liberal Catholics for what they really are  -- Protestants!  (No offence intended toward my Protestant friends and readers.)

It seems that CNN, and many other mainstream news networks, newspapers, and media outlets have peppered themselves with "cafeteria Catholics," the likes of Piers Morgan, who are really liberal Anglicans with an identity crisis.  Before Morgan encourages the bishops to "come out of the closet" on matters related to human sexuality, he may do well to come out of the closet himself, and finally face the fact of what he has become -- a Protestant of the very liberal persuasion -- but the same could be said of many on the CNN staff, as well as other news outlets.  It is incredibly rude, disrespectful and downright wicked, to attempt to change another man's religion to suit your own fancies.  Yet this is exactly what the Borgias in the mainstream press have attempted in recent weeks, as in 2005 and perhaps even 1978.  They have an agenda, they find "cafeteria Catholics" (really closet Anglicans I suppose) who agree with them on it, and then trot them out in front of the cameras, like the 1960s dinosaurs they are, to tell the world how the Catholic Church ought to do things. All the while, they hope the cardinal electors are listening.

Yet perhaps it is their ignorance that is our saving grace.  For the mainstream news media does not really understand the conclave, and that may be a blessing in disguise.  You see, a conclave is not "politics as usual."  It's far from it actually.  You see, the cardinal electors go into a conclave with an entirely different mindset than election candidates and campaign voters.  These men enter the conclave with the fear of God weighing heavily on their souls.  At every turn, from images on the walls, to the prayers that are chanted, they are reminded of the literal Hell that awaits them if they fail to execute their most solemn duty.  Their votes are forever secret, and they know that, as their ballots are literally burned in the stove that emits the black or white smoke from the roof of the Sistine Chapel.  Whatever influences that came with them from the outside world will be evaporated with the first puff of black smoke that rises from the chimney.  In the hours, or days, that follow no outside influence stands between them and the voice of the Holy Spirit.  The pestilence of the mainstream press is over, beyond their reach, no longer able to affect their minds.  Their decision really and truly is between them and God now, and the mainstream media can just shut its mouth and wait with the rest of us.  For the men inside will not vote for a man who seeks the office.  Any "campaigns" or pre-conclave "rallying" behind this candidate or that will quickly fall apart.  The cardinal electors enter the conclave with one thought in mind.  God has already selected the next pope.  He is here among us, and it is our solemn duty to figure out who that is.  In the end you see, the conclave is not really an "election" at all.  It's more of a "selection," and that is something the mainstream news media has never understood, does not now understand either, and probably never will.  For faithful Catholics, and for the Church in general, considering the nature and intent of many within the press, that is probably a very good thing for which we could be thankful.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Monday, March 04, 2013

Cardinal Raymond Burke -- My Hope For Pope


I want to begin by saying that I will gladly submit to the authority of the next pope no matter who he may be.  However, that being said, everyone has his favourites.  I've been asked this question dozens of times now and this is my answer...
"I don't believe the cardinals will elect an American, but if they did by chance, there is one whom I am very partial to, and that is Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, the former Archbishop of Saint Louis."
My family and I have twice visited the Cathedral Basilica in Saint Louis, and upon seeing it, it's no wonder Saint Louis used to be called the "Rome of the West."  In truth, I once wrote a letter to Cardinal Burke, back when he was the Archbishop of Saint Louis.  I offered him my support and prayers as he endured the ridicule of the Saint Louis press for no other reason than being a strong, sound and orthodox bishop!  I told him plainly, that he and Pope Benedict XVI speak with one voice to me.  The same held true all the way up to the Holy Father's abdication of the papal throne on February 28 of this year.  Oh, how much I would love to hear his voice again, spoken through the mouth of Cardinal Burke as our next Holy Father.

The general consensus is that being an American is a handicap in the college of cardinals.  With America's superpower status, it would seem (as the public consensus goes) that the cardinals would passover even the most capable of candidates for the papacy.  I'm not sure if this is really true.  Of all the countries in Europe, Germany is the economic and military powerhouse driving the European Union, and when you add up the economic and military clout of the European Union, it is essentially a superpower.  Pope Benedict XVI was from Germany.  So, I suppose based on that, an American pope is not completely out of the question.  Another blogger, Dr. Taylor Marshall, has speculated ten good reasons why Cardinal Burke will be elected the next Roman pontiff (read it here).  I hope he's right.

After all is said and done however, Catholics must pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire the college of cardinals to elect the pope God wants, and that's what really matters.  Whoever he may be, I look forward to his arrival.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today

Catholicism and the "Big Bang" Theory


No, this is not about the comedy television show.  I'm talking about the mathematical theory on the origin of the universe.  The so-called "Big Bang" theory was created by a Catholic priest named Father Georges Lemaître.  (Yes, it's true, Google it.)  Now Father Lemaître didn't call it that originally.  He called it the "hypothesis of the primaeval atom" and Albert Einstein gave him full credit for this, even though the press tried to give it to Edwin Hubble instead.

Now, any scientific theory is defined simply as this: "the best explanation we have for the scientific data... until a better one comes along."  That's why it seems like scientific theories are always changing.  Because they are changing!  They are not designed to be constants.  They are not intended to be dogma.  Rather, they are designed to be models.  These are mere models, which scientists use in an attempt to solve more problems.  They continue to use these models, until they stumble across data that would appear to contradict these models.  Then their scientific theories must be rethought.  Sometimes they are merely modified to accommodate the new data.  Sometimes they are scrapped all together in favour of newer and better theories.  That's science you see.  It is always in a state of fluctuation.  It is never absolutely solid.

The problem here is not so much science as it is Modernism.  Now Modernism is a social ideology with religious undertones.  It has many amorphous meanings and implications, but probably the best way to summarise it is to say that it promotes a break with historical Christian thought, understanding, religion and morality, in favour of a new world view based on science and human reason.

Unfortunately there is a problem with this.  People, by human nature, require dogma to base their lives on.  Modernism has obliterated classical Christian dogma, and replaced it with science.  Now science was never intended to serve as dogma.  That was never its function, and it is wholly inadequate for this purpose.  That's why the Catholic Church has encouraged science, yet at the same time, kept a strict separation between science and religion.  Science is the search for data.  Religion (particularly Catholic Christianity) is the revelation of absolute truth.  See the difference? 

There is nothing wrong with subscribing to scientific theories to solve scientific problems, but to substitute those theories for the dogma, upon which we build our lives, is a horrible mistake.  It is an abuse of science, dogma and humanity. 

Father Lemaître understood this all too well.  Which is why he convinced His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, to stop using his "Big Bang" theory as a scientific justification for creationism.  It was a bold but wise move for a lowly Catholic priest to council the Holy Father in such a way, but I think it was the right thing to do.  Today, modern science has moved on from the so-called "big bang," and modified the theory into what appears now to be a "Big Push."  This was to be expected because no scientific theory is dogma.  It can never be.  Father Lemaître would agree. 

What should Catholics take away from this?  We should remember that God has revealed that the universe had a definite beginning. Science for centuries asserted that the universe was eternal.  Father Lemaître used science to prove them wrong.  The universe did have a beginning and that is mathematically indisputable now. So on this one thing, science has now been forced to agree with religion, even though most scientists were dragged kicking and screaming into it.  As for HOW that beginning happened?  Well.... that's just a matter of theory.  The current scientific understanding will remain, until a better one comes along, but God's dogmatic truth is unchanged, and in this case, scientifically vindicated.  No, the universe is not eternal.  Yes, the universe did have a beginning.  Thank you Father Lemaître for putting science in its place on that one.  That's what we Catholics should take away from all of this.  Don't base your life or world view on something that is constantly changing.  That's what scientific theories are.  They are designed simply as temporary models to solve scientific problems.  You can't build your life on shifting sand like that.  When it comes to our lives, we must based them on the revealed truth of God.  This will make the only solid foundation.  If you want to flirt with scientific theories, that's fine, so long as you understand what they really are.

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of the Roman Catholic faith as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is approximately 100 print pages, and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Evangelical Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!  Order Your Copy Today