Whatever happened to death?
A few weeks ago I was enjoying a video by an American Orthodox priest talking about Covid19 and the spiritual poverty of the modern attitude toward death, even among believing Christians. Fr. Josiah Trenham is the pastor of St. Andrew Orthodox Church in Riverside, California, and he quoted another priest, who observed, “You know, no one wants to die anymore.” The comment is arresting. It cuts right through all our unconsciously secularist assumptions.
The Orthodox retain the ancient Christian view – elucidated by the Patristic Fathers – of death as the “catharsis of evil,” meaning the purgation or purification from our own evil and that of the world.
Church of terminal tone deafness
If you've been thinking the Bergoglian Vatican has been a bit quiet lately, today's your day for some excitement. The Congregation for Clergy has released an Instruction: “The pastoral conversion of the parish community at the service of the evangelizing mission of the Church” ... and it only gets better from there.
Imagine the kind of mind that would think, in the middle of 2020, that this was a good way to start:
"The ecclesiological reflection of the Second Vatican Council, together with the considerable social and cultural changes of recent decades, has resulted in various Particular Churches having to reorganize the manner in which the pastoral care of Parish communities are assigned. This has made it possible to initiate new experiences..."
You don’t say! Yep! We’ve certainly had quite a lot of new experiences, especially recently!
I'll see if I can do an approximate, on-the-fly translation:
In the last 50 years, the Catholic Church has flowed merrily along with the secular world down the sewage pipe of Modernity. We are now in such a calamitous state that the institutions of the Catholic Church are barely capable of even pretending to continue to function. We are therefore dedicated to finding new ways to carry on toward our all-but-inevitable total collapse, without ever admitting that the Big Giant Trouble is in fact something we ourselves are responsible for.
"Far from being deterred by our impending doom, and following the divine precept: 'Never let a crisis go to waste,' we are pleased to announce the next round of 'new experiences' that we know you're going to love..."
Some pertinent quotes the mainstream media are certainly going to love:
The Parish no longer being the primary gathering and social centre, as in former days, it is thus necessary to find new forms of accompaniment and closeness."
"The current Parish model no longer adequately corresponds to the many expectations of the faithful."
"The Parish in a contemporary context, the aforesaid missionary conversion, which naturally leads to a reform of structures, concerns the Parish in particular, namely that community gathered around the Table of the Word and the Eucharist."
And the money quote that is going to get all the attention:
Where there is a lack of priests and deacons, the diocesan Bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages."
What is it actually about?
In one sense – perhaps the sense intended – it’s an attempt to reign in some of the abuses the Catholic world has been seeing recently, with bishops ordering “amalgamations” of parishes – often significantly reducing availability of the Sacraments – and replacing pastors with lay “pastoral administrators” or mixed clerical and lay “pastoral teams”. But as always with the Vatican bureaucracy, it fails completely at addressing the actual problem: why is parish life dying out, and what can we do about that?
And of course, the impenetrable language it uses – that special brand of brain-clogging, soul-deadening NuChurch Bergoglian buzzword gobbledygook – will give anyone incautious enough to actually read the thing without special breathing apparatus a potentially deadly case of hypoxia.
Which is why I consulted a professional. A friend, who gave me permission to say he works for “a Vatican Secretariat,” told me that it’s not entirely a bad document, at least in its probable intentions. But he adds that its impenetrable language is not just an annoyance for journalists but a genuine part of the problem.
“At its core this is an attempt by the Congregation for Clergy to get bishops to follow existing rules and preserve the traditional structures of the parish, including the genuine communities they foster. They’re trying to protect pastors from arbitrary unilateral parish closures and especially amalgamations. It’s about parishes being the focus of what the Church does.”
Once you get past the thickets of verbiage, the purpose of the thing is to tell the ordinaries, “You can’t just suppress pastors by bundling parishes into amalgamations and putting these in the charge of (usually lay) parish administrators.” He says it is probably a response to a recent rash of German attempts to drastically reduce the number of independent parishes. In a couple of notable recent cases, ancient dioceses have proposed to amalgamate or suppress up to a thousand parishes down to a couple of dozen.
This way bishops are handling the priest shortage, which is a genuine problem, creates a toxic weed patch of potential abuses. First, it places the church in the hands of unconsecrated persons, hired in a secular way as employees, who can’t help but think of the Church not as the mystical body of Christ, or even as a coherent community of believers, but merely as a corporate employer.
My friend continued, “The document says you have to have some regard to canon law which envisions a more ancient parish model that includes a pastor for each parish, not merely a corporate-style administrator. You can’t simply exercise your power as bishop to eliminate the nature of parishes or the role of priests as the head of a parish.”
“This has been the model for bishops for some time, especially in Germany, France and the Low Countries [Belgium, the Netherlands]. But it’s happening more widely throughout the West because there is a genuine priest shortage that is already extreme or on its way to extreme.” Bishops have been consolidating parishes, or just suppressing and closing them, breaking up communities and simply relieving priests of their duties. In many places one or two priests are left in charge of numerous churches, run ragged to provide sacramental services and leaving administrative tasks to lay employees.
Sometimes the priest ends up reduced to a sort of sacramental delivery driver, a kind of employee in his own parish, subordinate to an administrative committee, meaning lay people are now supervising the clergy. Moreover, this new model of lay-committee-led parishes leaves laypeople at the mercy of bishops, who have few canonical restraints on how to treat lay employees and often little regard for secular labour laws.
But it’s a dead letter before it even gets read by a bishop
The document is a work of Italian bureaucrats with a fief to protect, namely the rights of clergy. To this kind of mind, the most important thing is to have “done something”. A document has been produced. Work has been accomplished. The question of whether that something is in any way effective is a matter of absolutely no importance. But like nearly anything from the Vatican in recent decades that might have been useful if handled better, this latest from the Congregation for Clergy, has shot itself in the leg before it gets out of the gate.
First, and perhaps from their perspective least important; the mainstream media are going to latch like remoras onto the references to laity, particularly women, being allowed formally to conduct priestless services, and even preside at marriages and baptisms. No secular journalist will, of course, stop to ask if this situation existed before this document was released, or if indeed it has been the case in canon law all along. The headlines just write themselves: “Catholic Church faces priestless future! Laywomen to conduct marriages!” The impossible opacity of the text itself, with the meat and bones in the middle rendered in parching of canonical legalese, will ensure no editorial staff will think twice.
But more importantly, its precepts are not going to make it to any bishop’s to-do list. Since the 1970s the most important rule about any instructional document from Rome is that enforcement is, at best, selective. To the bureaucratic minds that wrote it, the most important thing is that a document has been written. Job done. Enforcement – in other words, effectiveness – isn’t their problem. And every bishop in the world knows he can ignore it.
To understand why it was written one has to know that the Congregation for Clergy is always pushing back against bishops – who like to be far away from Rome so they can do whatever they like in their own dioceses. The total lack of enforcement of canon law in the last few decades have left priests caught in the middle between huge often hostile powers all around, with very little back up. Priests, especially pastors of parishes, if you swear you won’t tell anyone, will often admit that their lives are a delicate, and extremely stressful, balancing act between keeping the bishop happy (or at least at bay) and also keeping the parish busybodies – who like to complain to bishops – happy. Every priest knows the axiom, “Never, ever, ever go to the chancery.”
Buzzwordiness as defensive camouflage
The problem the Congregation has is that it must not only carry out its main task of protecting the rights of clergy, usually against their own bishops, but now must slide their work past the Bergoglian clique. This means everything must be marbled through with the signals of the Bergoglian agenda. And this has ramped up the normal Vaticanspeak to the level of totally impenetrable brambles of buzzwordiness and trending papal neologisms.
The strategy might not have exactly the desired effect outside the Vatican curial bubbleverse. As our friend Fr. Paul MacDonald, a fellow Remnant columnist and parish priest in Ontario, wrote to me: “I’m up to number 41. I have not read such dreary, depressing, revolting and simultaneously infuriating drivel in my life. The following words never occur: truth, heaven, hell, purgatory, eternity.” It’s notable, perhaps, that in a document of 16,413 words (including footnotes) the holy name of Jesus is mentioned 8 times, which is actually pretty good for the modern Vatican.
My friend in Rome reiterates that it is “an attempt to roll back the trend of blurring the line between the role of the clergy and the role of laity. On the whole, the document is something faithful Catholics should get behind.”
Can you all please stop helping? Thanks.
But its failing is the same as ever; the Vatican simply refusing to notice that the ship is sinking and that it’s their fault. “It flatly refuses to address the actual question,” he continues. “Why are parishes dying across the Catholic world? It acknowledges that it’s happening, but refuses to address it. Which on the face of it is bizarre.”
“It’s not exactly rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s saying that while we deal with the inexplicable sinking of the ship we can’t have the captain doing the job of the engineers or passengers. It doesn’t address the main concern that the ship has hit an iceberg and we have to do something about that.”
My friend, who has worked in the Vatican for almost a decade, describes the Vatican bureaucratic mind as “existentially incapable of ever saying anything clearly, simply and forthrightly.”
“They simply cannot speak in normal, comprehensible language.” And their inability to think outside their curial bubbles leaves them baffled as to why their efforts are ineffectual, why bishops feel free to ignore them, clergy don’t trust them and laity don’t respect them.
But at the same time, he says, whether consciously or not, the impenetrability of the verbiage is in fact a defensive strategy. “If they were to speak plainly it would force them to acknowledge the existence of the fundamental problem, and their own complicity in it. It offers a wasteland of ambiguous platitudes before it gets to the unreadably dry bones of legislation, details of bureaucratic arrangements of parishes.
“It’s the language of an insipid bureaucracy helplessly caught in its own tangles, that is incapable of forthrightly addressing anything real. Another sign that the Church seems utterly incapable of actually talking to people, having any sort of conversation, that doesn’t immediately fall into Orwellian churchspeak that is at best incomprehensible. So the real positive aspects of a document like this get buried in the infuriating verbiage.”
 In Germany this has been going on a long time with the Catholic Church, thanks to the Church Tax, being the nation’s second largest employer.
To bear wrongs impatiently, to keep and nurture grudges, offences and scandals; the creation of the valiant victim
Yesterday I had the great joy of a brief but fruitful visit up to the monastery at Norcia for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Among the many treats was a little time spent chatting with my old friend, Br. Porter. Back in the day, when I lived in Norcia, this worthy would frequently invite me to sit a spell and chat in the monastery’s Portineria. I would tell him about my day and he would give me useful instruction in the monastic way of thinking, among the most important principles of which was “Don’t complain.” Yesterday we were able to re-create those happy days, sitting outside the monks’ little portable Portineria, in the peace and loveliness of the mountain setting, birds chattering and the monastery’s dogs, Primus and Secundus, at our feet.
Sometimes you just want to shake people
Another item for our endlessly expanding “It’s not the same religion” file has popped up in the internet feeds this week. Catholic websites and blogs, commenters on Twitter and Facebook are howling over the outrage and “shock” of an Italian bishop who announced he would be omitting the Nicene (or any) Creed at Mass for the Feast of the Epiphany. LifeSiteNews’s ever-alert Diane Montagna reports the bishop said quite specifically that he was doing so in order to “avoid offending” any non-Catholics who may be present.
WHEN THE LEADERS of Caritas Internationalis – the Catholic Church’s umbrella organisation overseeing charitable aid in 200 countries - sent Fr. Luk Delft to take charge of operations in the Central African Republic (CAR) they had already been informed by a psychologist that the priest had to be kept away from children. In fact, Nicole Winfield reports at Associated Press that Delft already had a criminal conviction on charges of pedophilic sex abuse in his native Belgium, though he had received only a suspended sentence. The priest had been forbidden by the court to have contact with children for ten years.
In a public statement November 21, Michel Roy, former Caritas secretary-general (2011-2019) denied having known about Delft’s criminal conviction until this year, but said he had “been informed in 2017 by a therapist that Delft shouldn’t be in contact with children.”
Let’s talk for a few minutes about the Bergoglians’ tactics and how we can easily bat aside the accusations we are already seeing leveled at objectors. Two days in and the screeches of “racist!” and similar nonsense are already being lobbed at people asking awkward questions and making awkward observations.
Can they use the papacy to destroy the papacy?
As things are gearing up for the start of the Amazon Synod, and the apparently imminent triumph of the Bergoglians over the old Catholic Faith, we struggle to make sense of what we see. And we start to understand that our current crop of ecclesiastical tyrants want to remake not any mere human society, but to annihilate a society directly created by God, a holy and divine reality. This new phase of hubris can only be described as diabolical; it is the incomprehensible urge of Satan that wants to remake reality itself in his own image. It is significant that it is contemporary with secular society that is grasping to itself the right to re-write the nature of man himself as male and female.
"Pope Francis does not speak like a Catholic, and much of what he says – many of his oft-repeated tropes apparently being the common tongue of forward-thinking Jesuit academics – can easily be mistaken for gibberish. But over the last few years it’s possible to discern a pattern and perhaps even get a knack for interpreting him." - Hilary White
Exciting times! Heresy! Schism! Everyone pointing and yelling at everyone else: “You’re a schismatic!” “No, you’re a schismatic!” “No, YOU!”…
People taking bets on whether any of the bishops at October’s Amazon Synod are going to haul off and punch someone, just like in the good old days. It’s certainly a blast to live in interesting historic eras, eh?
You’ve heard of WikiHow? Well, here’s RemnantHow!
We’ve all heard the hype:
St. John Paul II, Message to participants in the 1st World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities (1998):
“Ecclesial movements…represent one of the most significant fruits of that springtime in the Church which was foretold by the Second Vatican Council … Their presence is encouraging because it shows that this springtime is advancing and revealing the freshness of the Christian experience based on personal encounter with Christ.”
The Pontifical Council for the Laity:
“Unfortunately, movements and new communities are still a resource not fully valued in the Church, a gift from the Holy Spirit and a treasure of graces still hidden to the eyes of many bishops, probably afraid of the novelty they might bring to the life of their dioceses and parishes.
“A real ‘pastoral conversion’ is demanded on the part of bishops and priests, called to recognize that movements are, first of all, a precious gift rather than a problem.”
The so-called “New Movements” or “Lay Movements” or “New Ecclesial Movements” have been a feature of Catholic life since the total collapse of normal Catholic life for the laity became the abiding reality for the Church. The largest and most influential of them are consulted by world leaders and enjoy the approbation of the whole world, having seats at the UN and European Union and feature regularly at international events of the global elites.
And BOY-HOWDY are they popular!
The Vatican’s website lists no fewer than 122 officially recognised “International Associations of the Faithful” as they are called in canon law, many of them founded by ordinary laymen just like you!
You might be asking yourself right now, “How can I get in on this racket?”
We’re here to help. Just follow these simple steps:
1) Be a sociopath.
While this isn’t completely necessary, it sure seems to help.
Carefully create a persona of warm and benevolent wise superiority – that it would be mad and evil to disobey. Imply – but never specify – that you know things other people don’t know and that the Church has never known before in all the centuries of saints and mystics and if they hang on your every word long enough they will be initiated into the Cult of You and come to know things and be mysterious and wise too, like Gandalf.
Make sure you publicly declare that you “have faults too, just like everyone else.” Never be specific or, if asked directly, list faults that are the exact opposite of your real faults. (Make sure you write these down for later reference in case anyone asks again.)
Practice a “warm, mysterious and wise” smile in the mirror until you can do it on command.
2) Choose a simple catch-phrase or word upon which to found your movement.
Make sure it’s something easy to remember but difficult to define. It must be a concept that everyone can get behind without requiring specifics, like “unity,” or “mercy”. The key here is to have something absolutely impossible to refute without coming across as a complete jerk.
The test for the usefulness of your catchphrase will be, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you like [X]?” Be ready at the drop of a hat to go on the offensive when challenged. Claim that anyone asking for clear definitions are “rigid” and “retrograde” and “against [X]” and trying to force the Church to adhere to “outdated norms” and “ways of living the Gospel.”
Imply they are anti-Semitic.
3) Pick 2-5 Scriptural passages that “speak” to you personally. Claim to reinterpret them “for today’s needs” or for the “needs of today’s Church.”
Create a brief narrative that links your catchphrase to these passages. Make sure this narrative can be given easily – as in a pamphlet or website – in a bullet-point list. Stick to these like glue. Repeat them in every interview, article, book, speech and talk.
Starting with your bullet-point list and your catchphrase, pad the rest of your material – your “commentaries” on Scripture, public letters, interviews, talks, lectures and books – with vaguely Catholic-sounding nonsense.
(NB: with today’s technology it shouldn’t be difficult to get one of your more tech-savvy young followers to create a helpful algorithm to allow you to mix and match.)
Never forget, your target audience isn’t people with real degrees in Catholic theology. If you are attacked or challenged in any way by these, claim that your knowledge comes from “Above”. Exhort your followers to abandon “mere” book learning and to adopt a “deep, holistic interior knowledge of the Gospel.”
Claim that everything you say is “Thomistic.”
4) Say incomprehensible, nonsensical and/or logically contradictory things as your personal “aphorisms” or “maxims” which followers are obliged to learn.
Make sure these are literally impossible to fulfill, or contradict the essential purposes of Christianity, or the actual plain meaning of Scripture or common sense.
Alternately, make them so blindingly self-evident and simplistic that your followers will assume there must be some “hidden deeper meaning” that has to be acquired through greater “growth in the Movement.” Or have them be mostly empty of any meaning at all, and so interpretable in any way.
“Lose everything, even the attachment to holiness, so that you aim only at one thing: to love.”
“Let us allow God to act. Let us not block His omnipotence with the narrowness of our views.”
“Let’s rewrite the Gospel with our lives.”
5) Attack the old ideas of Catholic authority (ie: priests and especially “tradition”).
Say that “people of today” have matured in their understanding (“Everyone’s literate now.”) and that “new ways of understanding” and living the Gospel are needed “for our times”.
Make sure to say that things in the world are generally moving along in your intended direction, but that more “work” is needed to help people “overcome intransigent attachments to past models” based on “fear”.
Something like this:
Some symptoms of this breath of the Spirit are certainly present today in Europe. To find them, to support and develop them, it is necessary at times to put aside atrophied schemes to go where life begins, where we see fruits of life produced ‘according to the Spirit.’”
The key is to imply that modern people have spiritual needs and concerns that no one in the past has ever had before, but at the same time that “hierarchical structures” are no longer needed (except yours). This will be because the modern world is so different from the old world and people are therefore also different and, crucially, that only your Movement has the key to knowing how.
This leaves a door open for you to say whatever you like and be completely at variance with every interpretation of Scripture the Church has ever had before, because that was all in the Before Time.
Of course all that was right for Catholics in those times. But we have to move forward, and offer the People of God a way of living authentically in the here and now… ”
Quote the recent popes frequently.
6) Say that this “new way of living the Gospel” is in fact a return to the practices of the Early Church.
Never acknowledge or show the slightest sign of awareness that this is a contradiction to everything else you’ve said, or that “contradictions” are even a thing.
Whatever odd practices you dream up for your followers to do, teach them all to repeat that the Movement is “just the normal practice of Catholicism.”
7) Do your research.
Find out what a great proportion of your potential followers want in life and are afraid they won’t get from the usual ecclesiastical channels. Have the parishes given up normal, weekly parish devotions, with Father and Sister Mary Pantsuit spending all their energy going to “pastoral leadership workshops” and conferences? Create paraliturgies that can replace these normal Catholic devotions.
Use the old liturgical books to mine for general parameters of what liturgy looks like. Make sure they include simple, repetitive and Catholic-sounding Latin phrases like, “Jubilate Deo omnes gentes,” that can be incorporated into your bullet-point lists of meaningful interpretations (as above.) Make sure the tunes are simple and catchy and can be quickly memorised like a mantra. Hire an expert in Gregorian Chant to give the whole business just enough air of authenticity.
Produce a pamphlet with each of these paraliturgical functions that explains – with a bullet point list – how they relate to your catchphrase.
Use a lot of incense.
8) Claim that you have had a special revelation from God.
Be careful with this. While it is an absolute necessity, this step has to be handled delicately, particularly with regard to timing.
The following method is well-tested by many Movement founders:
Having done the ground work of implying that old Catholic interpretations are no use to “people of today,” your reputation for personal revelations from God or the Blessed Virgin will be easier to believe. Once it is established among your inner circle, it can be allowed to spread abroad.
NB: Never come out and say that you are personally privy to a heretofore undisclosed-by-the-Holy-Ghost, at-long-last-revealed true and authentic meaning of these passages. Let your followers say it.
Practice acting surprised and embarrassed in the mirror.
9) Reveal this meaning only to your closest associates.
But strongly hint to followers that you know something – lots more things – they don’t know, but really need to know and if they stick with you long enough they’ll be like Gandalf too.
Release each new revelation in a drip-feed fashion as the follower “grows in the Movement.”
It’s quite safe to make it something obvious; the more obvious the better, since it will help convince the subject that he is indeed “growing spiritually” and will soon be having his own little private revelations.
10) Create a hierarchy.
Very simply, allow your inner circle to take over various tasks and governance of the lower levels on the grounds that they have “grown spiritually” and are now more wise and mysterious and like Gandalf than the next circle out. Create a graduated stair of classifications that a follower can gain as he becomes more wise and mysterious and Gandalfian.
A useful tool for this is the creation of “courses” or “workshops” to be held at annual mass gatherings followers are obliged to attend.
Make sure each of these levels comes with certain privileges.
11) “Love bomb” priests and bishops, by inviting them into your inner circle.
Especially invite them to speak at your events. (Make sure their accommodation at these events is nicer than that of your inner circle, and invite them to have “private” dinners with you. During these dinners you can imply that the bishop will experience a genuine “pastoral conversion” by attending more of these events.)
Getting ecclesiastical approbation and protection will be crucial. Your air of wise and mysterious Gandalf-like superiority, carefully bolstered by the deference of your inner circle, will allow you the leeway to be ostentatiously deferential to your potential ecclesial patrons. Remember that a bishop was never born who didn’t like to be deferred-to.
Teach your followers to remind the bishop that he is being deferred to by a person (you) who is the subject of a massive cult of adulation but who at the same time is publicly deferring to him because he’s a bishop. The subject of the cult of adulation (you) has “great respect” for the Church.
Given them nice presents.
Here’s a handy list of descriptions you can use to explain the divinely inspired meaning and purpose of your Movement.
“We emphasise sanctification of ordinary daily life, in keeping with the exhortation of the Second Vatican Council that all must strive for holiness in every state of life.”
“We take the Catholic concept of the ‘priesthood of the people’ and live it in our daily lives according to our state in life.”
“We live the Gospel according to the promptings of the Spirit in regular parish life.”
“We bear witness to the loving and liberating presence of God, particularly in the service of the young and the poor.
“We take careful account of different family, social and cultural situations in which contemporary men and women live…”
“We combine the truths of the faith with the needs of the times, and for a new type of education for the young people entrusted to his care, springing from the intimate depths of man, making people free and capable of making responsible choices.”
Some handy gobbeldygook:
“The missionary zeal of the new realities, indeed, does not surge from emotional and superficial enthusiasm, but springs from intense experiences.”
“an extraordinary missionary thrust characterized by courage, joy of announcing Christ and an amazing creativity.”
“…it is enveloped the most profound secret of the fecundity of the evangelizing thrust not only of the ecclesial movements, rather of the Church of all times.”
“This witness gives rise to the desire to be involved in the great parable of communion that is the Church.”
“God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel.”
Learn the following expressions. Mix and match and use them regularly. After a while, they will become second nature.
(NB: Make sure you never offer clear definitions.)
“gifts of the Spirit”
“way forward in our challenging times”
“carry out an effective work of evangelization.”
“effusion of the Spirit”
“the first breath of authentic evangelization”
“the freshness of the Christian experience based on personal encounter with Christ.”
“spiritually centred on Mary and on the Founder
And that’s about it. Just keep applying the steps and get ready to welcome your thousands or even millions of followers and accept your international awards for “progress in religion,” meetings with popes, NGO status at the UN and a host of other perqs.
Iceland is aborting Downs babies into extiction while the Vatican helps the country mourn the loss... of a glacier.
A monument to future generations, a bronze plaque, that apologises to our descendents for our stupidity, really doesn’t sound like that bad an idea, right?
I mean… assuming there are any descendents…
I mean, the whole Demographic Winter issue is getting to be a pretty big concern, right?