The recently concluded Synod on the Family was a masterpiece in this regard, crowned by the Holy Father's closing address (whose sleight of hand was very ably “decoded” by one Remnant writer here) which clearly targeted and denigrated devoted Catholics for their fidelity in safeguarding the deposit of Faith and the moral mandates given to us by Christ, Himself; condemning as evil the manner in which the Church has always safeguarded and taught the Faith and what it requires of us, and commending as good, the equivalent of moral indifferentism which the Church has always censured.
While we as Catholics are bound to be respectful of the Papal Office, such respect does not preclude an honest Catholic critique of statements made by the Holy Father in such a public, categorical manner. For the sake of our own souls and those of others, Catholics are – in fact – bound to oppose error whenever it is imposed in this manner.
Before passing on to some very powerful and elucidating passages from the Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena which treat of the current Modernist errors concerning the moral teachings of the Church and the manner in which they are to be upheld by the Church's hierarchy, let's examine an example of sleight of hand in the Holy Father's closing address upon the conclusion of the Synod on the Family.
These remarks – representative of the forces within the Synod which fought to achieve at least an implicit, if not express, compromise with respect to future “praxis” in the matter of Holy Communion and perceived “status” for the divorced and civilly remarried, as well as those who cohabitate – serves to illustrate just how deftly the Modernists deform and denature the entire import of the Life and preaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the point of reducing Christ – The Logos, the Alpha and the Omega – to a sentimental, one-dimensional caricature of the God-Man.
In his concluding remarks, Pope Francis stated: “[The Synod] was also about laying bare the closed hearts which frequently hide even behind the Church’s teachings or good intentions, in order to sit in the chair of Moses and judge, sometimes with superiority and superficiality, difficult cases and wounded families....Dear Brothers, the Synod experience also made us better realise that the true defenders of doctrine are not those who uphold its letter, but its spirit; not ideas but people; not formulae but the gratuitousness of God’s love and forgiveness.”
Here, with the sleight of hand of a deft magician and with words intended to shame, Pope Francis transforms the pure intentions and fidelity of those who strove to uphold the teachings of Christ throughout the Synod into “superficiality”, “closed-heartedness”, and “judgmentalism”, rather than their simply being faithful to Christ's teachings, out of true love for the souls of their fellow men.
With breathtaking deftness, he further “magically” transforms their faithful witness into treachery, “laying bare [their] closed hearts” and accusing them of “hiding behind the Church's teachings and [their] good intentions”, rather than their doing exactly what they were eternally bound by Christ to do in His last mandate before His Ascension: “Going therefore, teach ye all nations...Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
Further, this statement by Pope Francis constitutes one of the more egregious false dichotomies noted by not a few concerned Catholics. How exactly does the “spirit” of Christ differ from the “letter” of His doctrine (not ours) in the teachings which Christ imparted to His Church? To cite just a few:
Mark 2:2-12 (coincidentally the Gospel from the Novus Ordo Lectionary which fell on Sunday, October 4, the opening Mass of the Synod):
And the Pharisees coming to him asked him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you? Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away. To whom Jesus answering, said: Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you that precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.
And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing. And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
Matthew 5:17-20, 27-30: Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled. He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.
John 8:11: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.
Pope Francis has repeatedly characterized as latter day Pharisees those Catholics who show concern that the teachings of Christ be upheld by His Church. But note that the original Pharisees were actually doing the opposite; they were trying to circumvent the law of God as concerns the indissolubility of marriage by “tempting” Our Lord with this question, not trying to uphold and safeguard the law as faithful Catholics today are struggling to do.
In fact, this denigrating comparison which Pope Francis frequently makes of faithful Catholics to the Pharisees is yet another sleight of hand. It was for just such treachery – finding ways in which to circumvent the Law with casuistry, and/or to use the Law for their personal advantage – that Our Lord condemned the Pharisees. The truth must be stated: Pope Francis and his reformist coalition are attempting to do precisely what the Pharisees did. It is they who tempt our Lord with their trickery concerning a false “mercy” which is nothing more than acquiescence before sin. Whereas, faithful Catholics wish at all costs to uphold God's Laws out of love for Him, and to assist others in doing so as well.
And how does Our Lord answer the Pharisees when they tempt Him concerning the question of marriage? He states unequivocally that divorce and remarriage constitute adultery. He doesn't begin to extemporize about why we can still make exceptions for “hardness of heart”, why we should give people a chance to get used to this law concerning marriage and “accompany” them on their journey toward the “fullness” of marriage while allowing them to continue undisturbed in their adultery, even suggesting that they be provided with greater “integration” into the faith community until they feel ready to abstain from their adultery.
No, on the contrary, Our Lord goes so far as to say that we ought to pluck out our eye, cut off our hand, if they cause us to sin, rather than risk the eternal fires of hell.
Yes...Christ was intransigent toward sin – and with urgency! – while yet opening the path of salvation to repentant sinners who were willing to leave behind all transgressions against the Laws of God. Why? Because sin is beneath us and debases us – it cuts us off from the Divine Life of grace which ought to infuse and inform our entire being. To choose sin over our union with God is to outrage God and to value Him and His Will as something less than the nothingness of creatures, to subordinate His Divinity to our depravity, to tell God to wait while we decide whether He's important enough for us to abandon our sins.
Note, we are not talking about the wanderings of sinners outside the Church who may have no understanding of such things until they encounter an honest and holy priest who is willing to tell them the truth. No, Pope Francis and his minions are suggesting that these prevarications – and their “tender accompaniment” of sinners in their sins while they make up their minds about whether to conform their lives to God's laws – should be a pastoral model for the treatment of souls within the “new” Church.
While we await their decision, however, they should be welcomed as Godparents, Confirmation sponsors, lectors, Catechism teachers and so forth, while continuing to reject the teachings of the very Church that is accommodating them (“84. The baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried are to be more integrated in the Christian communities in the various possible ways...it is therefore necessary to discern which of the different forms of exclusion currently practiced in a liturgical, educational, pastoral, and institutional role that can be overcome.” Synod on the Family Final Relatio, 2015)
No good Catholic would ever say that the unfortunate souls who have been divorced and civilly remarried should be treated with disregard and not warmly welcomed to worship at Mass with the hope that they will be moved by grace to take whatever steps are necessary to return to the Sacraments in a manner which conforms to the Church's perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage until now. We are – each of us – sinners; and each of us is in need of continuing conversion and generosity in responding to the exigencies of God's Laws. Yet, Christ never engaged souls without inviting them at once to conversion. And the Church He founded for this purpose must do the same.
However, this “new Church” of “mercy” is simply a thinly veiled repudiation of the Church that Christ founded, the Church that converted the world and brought men the freedom of the sons of God under the Law of the Gospel, breaking asunder their slavery to sin, and transforming entire civilizations! Christ declared that it is the truth that makes us free. But Francis and his coalition of “reformers” deride the truth as mere lifeless doctrine imposed on the suffering masses by hardhearted Pharisees who know nothing of “tenderness.”
We are witnessing a diabolical caricature of the Church by men who are determined to remake it according to their twisted vision. And we can see the destructive fruits of this “vision” in the devastated vineyard Pope Francis left behind in Argentina during his tenure there.
But those who retain the Faith of our Fathers know that sin is the leprosy of the soul. Who among us would not be lacking in love – for ourselves and others – if we did not follow the mandates of Christ and quickly leave behind the slavery and bondage of sin and encourage others to do so at once?
By way of full disclosure, I will admit to being one of those wayward souls while still very young. A child of the 60's and 70's, without the benefits which the Traditional Catholic Faith brings to illumine one's understanding, my family and I were “unchurched” until we encountered the powerful witness of Traditional Catholicism, priests and laity.
It was at least two of these Traditional Catholic Priests who did not mince words in my presence about what God expects of us if we hope to gain heaven. Their “fiery reproofs” were not lost on me and in a very short time effected my conversion.
It is to their courageous, uncompromising witness to the truth that I owe the lights which brought about my conversion. How long, I often wonder, would my soul have remained far from God if these priests were too “tender” to say what needed to be said; if we had not encountered the undiluted “Faith of the Ages”, with its compelling witness to the Divine and the Eternal?
So it is not as a “Pharisee” or cold-hearted “ideologue” that I pen this article on why it is so imperative that the Church continue to call sinners with urgency to conversion, as the only way to restore their souls to the life of grace. We all – each one of us – must make sacrifices if we are to enter Heaven. Heaven comes at a price, at the price of mortifying our concupiscence and overcoming our sinful nature; at the cost of any and every other idol which we erect in the place of God.
God’s grace enables us to do the works His Law commands. Pope Francis’s post-Synodal declaration that salvation is entirely gratuitous and that we are not at all saved by our works – the works produced by the operation of grace in our souls, which grace we surely can resist in our perversity if we choose not to cooperate with God – is simply the heresy of Martin Luther, condemned by the Council of Trent.
Yet the Modernists would rather deaden consciences with soothing words and improved “status” within their parishes, than speak the hard words that must be spoken for love of their immortal souls. What compelling need will souls living in adultery feel to convert once they are fully “regularized” and comfortable in their parish setting?
Why would they choose to follow the heroic path of the continence which God asks of them in their second “marriage” if they already have all the apparent “benefits” of their Catholic “status”? How will anyone enlighten them concerning the nature of grace in the soul, and the need to be free of grave offenses before God in order to advance in their relationship with Him if they are received into the Church with no apparent or compelling expectation that they conform their lives to God's laws concerning the indissolubility of marriage?
All discussion of the supernatural realities, the entire teaching of moral theology, will be lost to them, and – eventually – to the Church. We will have become Protestant, abandoning the Church's mission from the very outset of calling souls to conversion:
And in those days cometh John the Baptist preaching in the desert of Judea. And saying: Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand...Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths....Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about Jordan: And were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them: Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance...Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire.
I indeed baptize you in the water unto penance, but he that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:1-12)
Which brings me to the concluding segment of this article. Let us read what the Eternal Father Himself revealed to Saint Catherine of Siena concerning the pressing and urgent need there is to correct souls and call them forth from the death of mortal sin with urgency. His words should shame the Modernists:
And prelates, placed in the position of the prelacy of Christ on earth, offered Me the sacrifice of justice with holy and upright lives. The pearl of justice, with true humility, and most ardent love, shone in them, and in their subjects, with the light of discretion. In them, principally because they justly paid Me My due, in rendering glory and praise to My Name, and, to their own sensuality, hatred and displeasure, despising vice and embracing virtue, with love of Me and of their neighbor. With humility they trampled on pride, and, with purity of heart and of body, came, like angels, to the table of the altar, and, with sincerity of mind, celebrated, burning in the furnace of love.
And, because they first had done justice to themselves, they therefore did justice to those under them, wishing to see them live virtuously, and correcting them without any servile fear, because they were not thinking of themselves, but solely of My honor and the salvation of souls, like good shepherds, followers of the Good Shepherd, My Truth, whom I gave you to lead your sheep, having willed that He should give His life for you.
These have followed His footsteps, and therefore did they correct them, and did not let their members become putrid for want of correcting, but they charitably corrected them with the unction of benignity, and with the sharpness of fire, cauterizing the wound of sin with reproof and penance, little or much, according to the graveness of the fault.
And, in order to correct it and to speak the truth, they did not even fear death. They were true gardeners who, with care and holy tears, took away the thorns of mortal sins, and planted plants odoriferous of virtue. Wherefore, those under them lived in holy, true fear, and grew up like sweet smelling flowers in the mystic body of the holy Church (because they were not deprived of correction, and so were not guilty of sin), for My gardeners corrected them without any servile fear, being free from it, and without any sin, for they balanced exactly the scales of holy justice, reproving humbly and without human respect.
And this justice was and is that pearl which shines in them, and which gave peace and light in the minds of the people and caused holy fear to be with them, and unity of hearts. And I would that you know that, more darkness and division have come into the world amongst seculars and religious and the clergy and pastors of the holy Church, through the lack of the light of justice, and the advent of the darkness of injustice, than from any other causes.
Neither the civil law, nor the divine law, can be kept in any degree without holy justice, because he who is not corrected, and does not correct others, becomes like a limb which putrefies, and corrupts the whole body, because the bad physician, when it had already begun to corrupt, placed ointment immediately upon it, without having first burnt the wound.
So, were the prelate, or any other lord having subjects, on seeing one putrefying from the corruption of mortal sin, to apply to him the ointment of soft words of encouragement alone, without reproof, he would never cure him, but the putrefaction would rather spread to the other members, who, with him, form one body under the same pastor.
But if he were a physician, good and true to those souls, as were those glorious pastors of old, he would not give salving ointment without the fire of reproof. And, were the member still to remain obstinate in his evil doing, he would cut him off from the congregation in order that he corrupt not the other members with the putrefaction of mortal sin.
But they act not so today, but, in cases of evil doing, they even pretend not to see. And do you know why? The root of self-love is alive in them, wherefore they bear perverted and servile fear. Because they fear to lose their position or their temporal goods, or their prelacy, they do not correct, but act like blind ones, in that they see not the real way by which their position is to be kept. If they would only see that it is by holy justice they would be able to maintain it; but they do not, because they are deprived of light.
But, thinking to preserve their position with injustice, they do not reprove the faults of those under them; and they are deluded by their own sensitive self-love, or by their desire for lordship and prelacy, and they correct not the faults they should correct in others, because the same or greater ones are their own. They feel themselves comprehended in the guilt, and they therefore lose all ardor and security, and, fettered by servile fear, they make believe not to see.
And, moreover, if they do see they do not correct, but allow themselves to be bound over with flattering words and with many presents, and they themselves find the excuse for the guilty ones not to be punished. In such as these are fulfilled the words spoken by My Truth, saying: "These are blind and leaders of the blind, and if the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch."
My sweet ministers, of whom I spoke to you, who have the properties and condition of the sun, did not, and do not (if there be any now) act so. And they are truly suns, as I have told you, because in them is no darkness of sin, or of ignorance, because they follow the doctrine of My Truth. They are not tepid, because they burn in the furnace of My love, and because they are despisers of the grandeurs, positions, and delights of the world. They fear not to correct, for he who does not desire lordship or prelacy will not fear to lose it, and will reprove manfully, and he whose conscience does not reprove him of guilt, does not fear.
Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena, “Treatise on Prayer”
Oh Mary, Help of Christians, Mother of the Church, Pray for us! Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, intercede for us!