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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

ARE FALSE RELIGIONS WILLED BY GOD? The Latest Error of Pope Francis

Written by  John Salza, Esq.
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Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb talks with Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb talks with Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi

In February 2019, on his visit to the United Arab Emirates, Pope Francis continued the ecumenical program of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI by conciliating the enemies of the Church, this time the Muslims, with yet another absurd “document” (that is, a non-Magisterial teaching) on” human fraternity.”[1]

The document, signed in Abu Dhabi by both Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, states that God wills the pluralism and diversity of religions. The document says: "The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives.[2] 

Thus, the Vicar of Christ presents false religions as a positive good, willed by God, on the same level as gender and color among human beings. But gender, color and other such innate characteristics among God’s creatures are positively willed by God, whereas false religions are not. Needless to say, a first-year seminary student understands the distinction between positive goods willed and created by God (gender, skin, eye and hair color, etc.) and evils of man’s own creation which God merely tolerates for a greater good. God does not will the existence of false religions because God does not, and cannot, will evil. He only wills to permit evil, including the evil of false religions, for a greater good (ultimately, to secure the salvation of His Elect and permit the reprobation of the damned, who reject the true religion He revealed).

This article appeared in the November 30th Remnant Newspaper.
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This is why Bishop Athanasius Schneider appears to have characterized the Pope’s statement as prima facie heretical when he said: “This phrase is in itself erroneous and contradicts Divine Revelation, since God has revealed to us that He does not want diverse religions, but only the one religion, which He commanded in the First Commandment of the Decalogue…” His Excellency went on to quote Our Lord Who affirmed this truth by saying: “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve”(Mt 4.10) and “He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (Jn 3:18).

On March 1, 2019, during an ad limina visit of the bishops of Central Asia to Rome, Bishop Schneider expressed concern to Pope Francis about this teaching. To his credit, Pope Francis attempted to clarify his teaching on the diversity of religions by referring to the “permissive will of God,” and he also gave the bishops permission to quote him accordingly. To his further credit, the Pope attempted to clarify his teaching on April 3, 2019 at his general Wednesday audience, when he stated:

Because there are many religions, and why are there many religions? Along with the Muslims, we are the descendants of the same Father, Abraham: why does God allow many religions? God wanted to allow this: Scolastica [sic] theologians used to refer to God’s voluntas permissiva. He wanted to allow this reality: there are many religions. Some are born from culture, but they always look to heaven; they look to God.[3] 

 Unfortunately, Pope Francis’ “clarification” is insufficient to save it from grave error against the Faith. Putting aside the misleading statement that Catholics and Muslims share the same patrimony in Abraham (the Old Testament father of the New Covenant which Muslims reject), Francis doubles down in his clarification by asserting that false religions are positive goods willed by God, albeit permissively. He does this by claiming that false religions “always look to heaven; they look to God.” However, just the opposite is true: false religions look to hell and away from God. They are obstacles to salvation. As Our Lord said, “No man cometh to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6), and “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mk 16:16). St. Paul also says that God will “inflict vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2Thess 1:8). Of course, this gospel is the Catholic Faith, revealed in Scripture and Tradition, and preserved and expounded by the Holy Catholic Church.

It is thus no surprise that Bishop Schneider was not satisfied with Pope Francis’ attempted clarification. His Excellency said: “The aforementioned remarks of Pope Francis at the April 3, 2019 Wednesday general audience are a small step towards a clarification of the erroneous phrase found in the Abu Dhabi document. Nevertheless, they remain insufficient because they do not refer directly to the document, and because the average Catholic and almost all non-Catholics neither know nor understand the meaning of the theologically technical expression “permissive will of God.”[4]

Neither does Pope Francis.

pope and imam abu dabi

While Francis refers to “Scholastic theologians” and their use of “voluntas permissiva” in his clarification, he fails to understand the key Scholastic distinction between what God positively wills (only good) and what God wills to permit (voluntas permissiva”), which are evils. In doing so, he commits two errors: First, by characterizing false religions as positive goods (“they look to heaven; to God”). Second, by suggesting that positive goods are only permissively willed by God.[5] Now, as we said above, false religions are not positive goods, but evils, because they lead man way from his supernatural end which is salvation. Further, positive goods are not permitted by God; if that were the case, then God would not be the author of all good, and goodness would escape His causality, which is metaphysically impossible. Rather, positive goods are positively willed and thus caused by God, because God’s love is the cause of goodness in all things, and love is an act of the (positive, not permissive) will. Thus, all goods, whether in the natural or supernatural order, are willed by God.[6]

These truths are revealed in Sacred Scripture. For example, St. James says, “Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17). St. John the Baptist says, “A man cannot receive anything unless it be given him heaven” (Jn 3:27). St. Paul says, “Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (1 Cor. 4:7). Jesus says “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). These truths are also affirmed in the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas, who says that “the love of God creates and infuses goodness” in His creatures.[7] He further says: “For since God’s love is the cause of goodness in things…no one thing would be better than another, if God did not will greater good for one than for another.”[8] He similarly says “the reason why some things are better than others, is that God wills for them a greater good. Hence it follows that He loves more the better things.”[9]

God Willing Good vs. Willing to Permit Evil

Because God’s will is the cause of all goodness in things and some things are better than others, it necessarily follows that God wills different grades of goodness in His universe. God wills this variety of goodness in His universe because it is befitting for the Supreme Good to communicate His goodness to the greatest extent possible. St. Thomas says, “Hence, if natural things, insofar as they are perfect, communicate their good to others, much more does it appertain to the divine will to communicate by likeness its own good to others as much as possible.[10] This is achieved by a diversity of created goodness, for if God created all things with the same grade of goodness, He would not be communicating His goodness to the greatest extent. Thus, it is correct for Pope Francis to say that the “diversity of color” among peoples (skin, eyes, hair, etc.) are “willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings.” Indeed, God willed to “create” (not just “permit”) this biological diversity among humans, just as He did with animals, plants, etc., to communicate His goodness to the greatest extent.

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However, it is a grave error for Pope Francis to lump the evils of false religions in with this diversity of created goodness (gender, color) as if they are both equally and in the same manner willed by God. That is not true. Unlike the diversity of goodness, which God wills in His wisdom to communicate His goodness, God does not positively will the existence of false religions, or any other evil. Rather, He tolerates false religions, made by men, and He does so for a greater good. In fact, evil (such as a false religion) consists in the absence of good and results from something that fails in its goodness. St. Thomas says “so the perfection of the universe requires that there should be some which can fail in goodness, and thence it follows that sometimes they do fail. Now it is in this that evil consists, namely, in the fact that a thing fails in goodness.”[11] Thus, God wills to permit things to fail in their goodness—and thus evil to result—to manifest His goodness to the greatest extent possible.

If God did not permit evil in the universe, then much good would not exist. St. Thomas remarks: “Hence many good things would be taken away if God permitted no evil to exist; for fire would not be generated if air was not corrupted, nor would the life of a lion be preserved unless the ass were killed. Neither would avenging justice nor the patience of a sufferer be praised if there were no injustice.”[12] In another article, he similarly says, “it belongs to His providence to permit certain defects in particular effects, that the perfect good of the universe may not be hindered, for if all evil were prevented, much good would be absent from the universe. A lion would cease to live, if there were no slaying of animals; and there would be no patience of martyrs if there were no tyrannical persecution.”[13]

God’s Will and False Religions

It follows that God wills to permit false religions to communicate His goodness to the greatest extent. God does this by willing to manifest both His mercy and His justice (and not His mercy alone). In His mercy, He saves the Elect, who follow the true religion. In His justice, He punishes the reprobate, who follow false religions. If God were merciful only, He would not communicate the good of His justice, for both mercy and justice are good. If God did not permit evil, such as the evil of false religions, then the universe would be deprived of the good of the martyrs who died for refusing false worship, and of God’s avenging justice against those who reject the true religion. The universe would be lacking good. This is why St. Thomas says, “The reason for the predestination of some, and reprobation of others, must be sought for in the goodness of God.”[14]

In fact, God “endures the vessels of wrath” precisely so that he might show to all creation “the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy” (see Rom. 9:22-23). God allows the reprobate to follow false religions so that the elect “may be unto the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12). God’s goodness and glory are more greatly manifested when He not only saves the elect in His mercy, but also when He condemns the reprobate in His justice. St. Thomas says, “God antecedently wills all men to be saved, but consequently wills some to be damned, as His justice exacts.”[15] Both predestination (for those who follow the true religion) and reprobation (for those who follow false religions) are for the greater glory of God, who orders all things to their final end. This is why God permits the existence of false religions. God’s permission of these evils has absolutely nothing to do with the diversity of goodness which He positively wills among His created order.

Closing Comments

What I have written above is the type of clarification we would expect from the Vicar of Christ, in normal times. But we are not living in normal times; rather, we are living in the worst crisis of Faith in the history of the Church, which has reached the very Chair of St. Peter, as Our Lady of Fatima forewarned. And that brings me to my closing point: Too many Catholic writers today are quick to condemn Pope Francis’ current program of indifferentism in a vacuum, without reference to the destructive pontificates of Paul VI and Pope John Paul II (and, to a much lesser extent, Pope Benedict XVI) which paved the way for the Argentinian Modernist. We rarely see criticisms of Francis which reference the carnage of the Modernist Popes who preceded and carved out the path for Bergoglio. Wake up traddies! Pope Francis is simply continuing the ecumenical “venture” launched by Paul VI at Vatican II and advanced to the point of idolatry by John Paul II (and Benedict at Assisi) in the wake of their super-council.

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Pope Francis seems worse than his predecessors because he has elevated the game by also attacking traditional Catholic morality, and not just doctrine. These attacks outrage average Catholics because they understand the Church’s moral teachings (e.g., sanctity of marriage, adultery, fornication) much more than her doctrinal and liturgical teachings (e.g., ecclesiology, law against communicatio in sacris, etc.). But note well that while Francis’ tacit approval of fornication is unprecedented and gravely sinful, John Paul II’s idolatry at Assisi and elsewhere is a worse sin, because sins against God and the faith are much graver than sins against man (and Benedict XVI and Francis have followed suit in this regard). In fact, the devil’s strategy would necessarily dictate an attack on the doctrinal aspects of the Faith first, since a collapse in morality generally follows a collapse in doctrine (and this is also why we are currently suffering through the sodomite and pederast crisis among the clergy).  This progression has certainly played out with Bergoglio following Montini, Wojtyla and Ratzinger.

My point is that Francis could have never succeeded the way he has without his predecessors having paved the way with their outright assaults on Catholic doctrine and praxis, and for decades. These assaults have razed the bastions that had once held-up the Faith and, by a process of gradualism, and have lulled many Catholics into a lukewarm slumber so that they no longer know what to believe. Just troll the internet to see how confused Catholics really are these days. These attacks, which began in earnest with Paul VI, have also prompted countless Catholics to leave the Church and follow the very false religions that Francis says God wills in His wisdom, and with which John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have publicly worshipped.[16] Pope Francis is simply continuing the program of his predecessors, although he has expanded it to include the Church’s moral teachings as well. And if you don’t think it can get any worse – well, it can and it will, until all things are restored in Christ through the papal consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

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[1] Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates, a document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, February 4, 2019, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/travels/2019/outside/documents/papa-francesco_20190204_documento-fratellanza-umana.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2019/documents/papa-francesco_20190403_udienza-generale.html

[4]  Exclusive Interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider, The Remnant, September 15, 2019, page 9. Bishop Schneider went on to rightly say “From a pastoral point of view, it is highly irresponsible to leave the faithful of the entire Church in uncertainty in such a vital question as the validity of the First Commandment of the Decalogue and the divine obligation of all men to believe and worship, with their free will, Jesus Christ as the only Savior of mankind.” Ibid.

[5] Francis gave the impression that he believes God wills some positive goods only permissively because he refers to the diversity of religions as both looking to heaven and God (positive goods) and also coming from the voluntas permissiva. Note again that Francis puts the diversity of religions on the same level as the diversity of gender and color.

[6] Because good is the essential object of the will, and love is the willing of good for another, love is the first movement of the will. See ST, Pt I, Q 20, Art 1.

[7] ST, Pt I, Q 20, Art 2.

[8] ST, Pt I, Q 20, Art 3.

[9]  ST, Pt I, Q 20, Art 4. For a detailed exposition of the Thomistic understanding of God’s will in light of good and evil, including a refutation of common errors, see my book The Mystery of Predestination – According to Scripture, the Church and  St. Thomas Aquinas, North Carolina: TAN Books and Publishers, 2010.

[10] ST, Pt I, Q 19, Art 2. The Catechism also teaches that “God’s plan” includes “the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect” (310) and “God created the world to show forth and communicate his glory” (319).

[11] ST, Pt I, Q 48, Art 2. St. Thomas also says, “And the whole itself, which is the universe of creatures, is all the better and more perfect if some things in it can fail in goodness, and do sometimes fail, God not preventing this” (Ibid).

[12] ST, Pt I, Q 48, Art 2.

[13] ST, Pt I Q 22, Art 2. The Catechism also says, “Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life” (CCC 324; see also CCC 311-314).

[14] ST, Pt I, A 23, Art. 5.

[15] ST, Pt I, Q 19, Art 6 (emphasis added). The truth of reprobation and divine justice is an unfathomable mystery, as Scripture says, “For many of his works are hidden: but the works of his justice who shall declare?” (Ecclus. 16:22).

[16] It should also be noted that Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI all shunned the Mother of God after reading the Third Secret of Fatima, by failing to obey Her commands to reveal the Secret and consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart in union with all the bishops of the world. Yet, there is no evidence that Bergoglio even cares about, much less has read, the Third Secret of Fatima.

 

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