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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

He may be the “God of surprises” but He’s not the God of contradictions Featured

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Televangelist Kenneth Copeland "Blesses" Pope Francis? Televangelist Kenneth Copeland "Blesses" Pope Francis?
Today the internet is buzzing, again, with something that Pope Francis has said that could be seen as a heresy by Catholics paying attention. And once again, it comes in the form of vague, indefinable, platitudinous terms that could be interpreted any way the listener wants. But we have another little Franciscan gem that hides something very pernicious indeed: the notion that God can change His mind.

Our friend Carol Glatz reports
"Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox must pray together and work hand-in-hand helping the poor, Pope Francis told thousands of Catholic charismatics and members of other Christian communities.

If the devil “unites us in death, who are we to divide ourselves in life?” he said, adding that all Christians can and must pray together, as they have all received the same baptism and are striving to follow Christ." The pope said Christian unity was the work of the Holy Spirit, which meant Christians need to pray together in a “spiritual ecumenism, an ecumenism of prayer.”


He said some people may not realize they can pray with Christians of other denominations, adding that people must do so because “all of us have received the same baptism, all of us are following the path of Jesus, we want Jesus.”

All of us have caused these divisions in history, for many — but not good — reasons. But now is the time that the Spirit is making us think how these divisions will no longer do, that these divisions are a counter-witness and we must do everything to go together” in prayer, charity, work and reading the Bible because “then the Spirit will do the rest. 

But now is the time that the Spirit is making us think how these divisions will no longer do…”
Oh? Really? So, “the Spirit” (not, one might note, the “Holy Spirit,”) is now directing us to contradict the words of Christ? Including, perhaps: “Think ye that I have come to give peace in the earth? Nay, I say to you, but rather division…” 

I feel sorry for the self-appointed papal interpreters. It is certainly becoming very difficult to maintain the idea that the pope is saying these things without knowing that they at least sound heretical. This especially seems deliberately aimed as a refutation of previous Catholic teaching, (namely, extra ecclesia nulla salus) and certainly seems to imply that he believes that, whatever the Church used to teach, she ought to teach it no more. 

It’s just words in a book, after all. And Jesus was a man of his time… right? I wonder what other things Our Lord said that are no longer applicable in our more enlightened times? Perhaps we will learn in October.

This of course is going to be explained away, as is everything the pope says and does, by the papal apologists. Which is fine. Go to it, lads. But it’s a job of work, and not one I’d like. Indeed, so incomprehensible have Francis’ pronouncements become within the context of the traditional methods of papal expression, that Fr. Lombardi himself was recently forced to offer the excuse that Francis’ has a “new style” of teaching, one that has little to do with clarity, traditional theological precision or expressions of ... well... facts. But if you chaps think you can manage what the official papal spokesmen cannot, more power to y’all.

Francis is a master of the ambiguous, indefinable, plausibly deniable, vaguely Catholic-sounding babble that allows a listener to apply over it any personally preferred interpretation. Nailing down what he actually means within the framework of Catholic orthodoxy gets left up to the rest of us, but this is a losing game. The point is that it is the entire purpose of the papacy not. to. be. vague.

His very vagueness, the same quality that makes it so appealing to the thousands of “charismatics” in the audience, make the pope’s instructions impossible to follow rationally, even if there were not already clear instruction on the matter to the contrary (see below). As someone has said elsewhere, there are two kinds of orders a soldier cannot obey: those that are outright unlawful, and those that cannot be understood.

As we know, Francis himself has decried clarity of doctrine because, as he says, this locks people into “small-minded rules.” Of course, being Francis, I’m sure he contradicted himself on this within 24 hours. But the whole point of the clarification of doctrine - the working out over the last 2000 years of exactly and precisely how the Scriptures and Traditions of the Faith are to be interpreted and understood - is that error is fatal. And not just fatal like a train accident is fatal. We're talking about eternity and how you and I are going to spend it.

As far as I understood it, Catholic teaching was not meant only for previous ages. A quick glance at the global abortion rate might suggest that we are not in a time of some kind of new, Teilhardian Omega Point enlightenment where we have evolved beyond the dictates of the previous dispensation. But more importantly, God does not say one thing in one age and another thing in the next.

It might be worth noting also that the idea that God could change His mind, could contradict something He had previously ordained and replace it with something new, is actually a description of one of the attributes of Allah. The “god” of the Muslims changes its mind regularly, which is one of the reasons there can be no systematic theology in Islam, only private opinions of individual interpreters. Plenty of small-minded rules, of course, but no hard and fast teaching. Of course as we have seen with Islam, as with the history of the English Reformation, when it is just one opinion against another, he who has the most thugs wins.

The principle that Francis appears to be proposing – of personal interpretation of a changeable, whimsical god – has produced in Islam a horrifying, murderous, totalitarian ideology.

Is Francis a heretic? If he is, is he a material heretic, someone who has never known better, could not know better, and does not realise it? Is he a formal heretic, someone who, once having known and admitted the truths of the Faith has culpably rejected it? Is he some other previously unimagined thing that defies categorisation because it rejects the very concept of specific teaching or belief, the whole concept of meaning? Is it even possible to identify his thought when he seems unaware of the basic requirements of rational expression?

I don't know. But I know that most of what comes out of his mouth is either so nebulous as to be meaningless of itself within the Catholic theological framework, is contradictory to something he said the day before, or outright in error. Attempting to defend his...orations on the basis of traditional Catholic teaching is like trying to interpret Hallmark card platitudes or the slogans on office motivational posters through the lens of formal Thomistic theology. Why bother?

From the regularity with which he contradicts his own words, it’s clear that he does not regard as important the actual content of anything he says. The notion that words have meaning, that words are meant to express objective realities, seems to mean nothing to him. As with so many clerics of his generation, the only important thing is feelings. His words are probably better understood as soothing noises ordered only to generating an emotional response - as one would make soothing sounds to an infant - from an audience who aren’t too well informed or quick on their mental feet. And as such, I must say, they’re a grand success.

Is it his fault that he thinks and speaks so? I don’t know. I know that he was educated as a priest in a time when the currently fashionable heresies - religious indifferentism among them - were starting to be taught to seminarians as though they were the doctrines of the Faith. I know that the Jesuit education of that time was deeply twisted and intellectually perverted by Modernism. I know that the Latin American Church as a whole has been and remains deeply perverted by the poisonous ideologies of Marxism, so much so that a man raised in that atmosphere might not be aware of it, like a fish being unaware of water.

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I also know that these heresies, these theological and philosophical perversions, have become aerosolized throughout the world’s hierarchy to the point where very, very few even know the difference any more and even good men try to make accommodation with them. It’s certainly been true in the last 50 years that more clerics hold them than don’t.

I know also that these intellectual perversions are very, very tempting in that they make a person sound acceptable and even lovable to a grossly intellectually and morally corrupted modern secular world. I expect that a man who likes to be liked could easily convince himself that he is doing right by telling people what they want to hear. (And the lesson of the viciousness displayed within the hierarchy towards Pope Benedict XVI, and what it finally did to him, would not be lost as a warning about what happens when you try to tell the world even a tiny fraction of the hard truth.)

What will become of Pope Bergoglio in eternity for leading the little ones so drastically astray? I don't know that either, but I suggest that the time has come to pray very hard when a pope says such things.


In case we have completely forgotten, here is what popes used to sound like when they say things that are hard and true:

What a Pope Looks Like (Pius XI)
pius xi
On the correct understanding of Christian unity, and the growth of the "ecumenical" and "interfaith" movement that was starting in his time, Pope Pius XI warned...

For since they hold it for certain that men destitute of all religious sense are very rarely to be found, they seem to have founded on that belief a hope that the nations, although they differ among themselves in certain religious matters, will without much difficulty come to agree as brethren in professing certain doctrines, which form as it were a common basis of the spiritual life.

For which reason conventions, meetings and addresses are frequently arranged by these persons, at which a large number of listeners are present, and at which all without distinction are invited to join in the discussion, both infidels of every kind, and Christians, even those who have unhappily fallen away from Christ or who with obstinacy and pertinacity deny His divine nature and mission. Certainly such attempts can nowise be approved by Catholics, founded as they are on that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy, since they all in different ways manifest and signify that sense which is inborn in us all, and by which we are led to God and to the obedient acknowledgment of His rule.

"Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it, and little by little. turn aside to naturalism and atheism, as it is called; from which it clearly follows that one who supports those who hold these theories and attempt to realize them, is altogether abandoning the divinely revealed religion.

But some are more easily deceived by the outward appearance of good when there is question of fostering unity among all Christians.

These things and others that class of men who are known as pan-Christians continually repeat and amplify; and these men, so far from being quite few and scattered, have increased to the dimensions of an entire class, and have grouped themselves into widely spread societies, most of which are directed by non-Catholics, although they are imbued with varying doctrines concerning the things of faith. This undertaking is so actively promoted as in many places to win for itself the adhesion of a number of citizens, and it even takes possession of the minds of very many Catholics and allures them with the hope of bringing about such a union as would be agreeable to the desires of Holy Mother Church, who has indeed nothing more at heart than to recall her erring sons and to lead them back to her bosom. But in reality beneath these enticing words and blandishments lies hid a most grave error, by which the foundations of the Catholic faith are completely destroyed.

Admonished, therefore, by the consciousness of Our Apostolic office that We should not permit the flock of the Lord to be cheated by dangerous fallacies, We invoke, Venerable Brethren, your zeal in avoiding this evil;




From Pope Leo XIII on the true meaning of "unity" in the Church:

The Church, founded on these principles and mindful of her office, has done nothing with greater zeal and endeavour than she has displayed in guarding the integrity of the faith. Hence she regarded as rebels and expelled from the ranks of her children all who held beliefs on any point of doctrine different from her own. The Arians, the Montanists, the Novatians, the Quartodecimans, the Eutychians, did not certainly reject all Catholic doctrine: they abandoned only a tertian portion of it. Still who does not know that they were declared heretics and banished from the bosom of the Church? In like manner were condemned all authors of heretical tenets who followed them in subsequent ages. "There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition" (Auctor Tract. de Fide Orthodoxa contra Arianos).

The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium...

Those who acknowledge Christ must acknowledge Him wholly and entirely. "The Head and the body are Christ wholly and entirely. The Head is the only-begotten son of God, the body is His Church; the bridegroom and the bride, two in one flesh.

All who dissent from the Scriptures concerning Christ, although they may be found in all places in which the Church is found, are not in the Church; and again all those who agree with the Scriptures concerning the Head, and do not communicate in the unity of the Church, are not in the Church" (S. Augustinus, Contra Donatistas Epistola, sive De Unit. Eccl., cap. iv., n. 7).

SATIS COGNITUM - On the unity of the Church

Pope Leo XIII


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Last modified on Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Hilary White

Our Italy correspondent is known throughout the English-speaking world as a champion of family and cultural issues. First introduced by our allies and friends at the incomparable, Miss White lives in Norcia, Italy.