A Deeper Vision of Faith and Reason

One of Pope Francis’ primary principles, going back to his days in Argentina, is that “People are more important than ideas.” A paradox, that, since the statement itself is an idea, and rightly understood can lead to great good, or wrongly (which often seems to be the case) to great evil. It makes all the difference, to take just a few examples, what ideas we use to define currently prominent notions in the Church such as mercy, discernment, and accompaniment.

Some interpret the pope’s view (and many of his acts) to mean that whatever people today regard as good for them should take precedence, even over and against classical Christian faith and morals, and the words of Jesus himself. Which, whether anyone likes it or not, forces a decision upon us: which ideas or principles, then, will guide us?

Will they largely be a reflection of current popular culture and the pandering populist politics of the advanced nations? Or something else?

We may, for instance, with St. John Paul II in Centesimus Annus, seek to clarify matters by referring not to “people,” but to the Christian idea of the “human person.” He argued there: if you look back at the multiple human disasters of the twentieth century, they mostly stemmed from wrong ideas of the human person.

As I’ve often said, without solid truths, the Church is like a doctor with a good bedside manner who can comfort in the immediate moment, but doesn’t know enough medicine to cure.

That’s the central question I try to look at in my new book A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, which is being published today by Ignatius Press.

I finished it before the current controversies in the Church emerged fully. And it is not a polemical book, or at least not primarily so. There are lots of very good books of that kind available at the moment, most prominently Cardinal Robert Sarah’s God or Nothing (also published, in English, by Ignatius Press).

Such books tend to speak effectively only to Catholics or people on the verge of becoming Catholics. That’s a very important function, of course, but I’ve tried to do something different, in a readable narrative.

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First, I wanted to speak to everyone, Catholic or not, who want to grasp what Catholic thought in the twentieth century added to global culture. My experiences doing public Catholicism and dealing with secular media figures may have distorted my judgment, but many non-Catholics look at Catholic teachings on moral and social questions, and think we must be fundamentalists of some kind. (While also semi-consciously fearing that there is much more behind it all.) Any fair non-Catholic, reading a few of these pages, will, I think, abandon that bias.

That’s the mission ad extra, so to speak. But there’s another ad intra, to Catholics themselves. As Cardinal Newman frequently affirmed, a Christianity without dogmatic content is impossible. We had a tremendous flowering of Catholic philosophy, theology, Scripture studies, literature, art, cultural analysis, and much more prior to the Second Vatican Council, which continued on in St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI in the much less fertile, post-Conciliar decades.

To be clear, the period after the Council was less fertile both in terms of Catholic culture and world culture more generally. Cultural troughs are common, and quite familiar to anyone who studies history. The twentieth century began – to take only secular examples – with figures like Stravinsky, Picasso, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and many others. Who could you find, however, in the music, art, literature of the last third of the century on a par with such geniuses?

In a similar way, in the Catholic sphere, you can point to philosophers like Jacques Maritain, Josef Pieper, Edith Stein; theologians as different as Romano Guardini, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar; poets like Péguy, Claudel, Hopkins (who wrote in the 19th but was published in the 20th century); novelists like Waugh, Mauriac, even the middle-period (and still Catholic) Graham Greene. There is a spiritual ferment and richness among such figures that it would be difficult to find after 1965 (Wojtyla and Ratzinger, again, excepted).

We can lament the disappearance of such talents and bemoan the ways that the world – and sometimes Rome itself – now seems to discount such a wealth of achievement. Or we can take a page from that nice pagan, Aristotle, and review the past to see where we stand: “it is not possible to untie a knot of which one does not know. . .he who has heard all the contending arguments, as if they were parties to a case, must be in a better position for judging.”

To recognize what existed within the borders of Catholicism – and to see how much that was appreciated even in the non-Catholic world just a few decades ago – can help us to maintain a certain serenity despite the general cultural decline. We can’t know when conditions will allow such a flowering again, but we can be sure such cultural riches will not forever remain without new growth.

This book deals primarily with non-American Catholic figures – though I turn to Avery Dulles, Ralph McInerny, Jude Dougherty, Robert Sokolowski, and other personal friends (some now deceased) for help with certain topics. I am already working on a companion volume that will deal with American Catholicism (more briefly, I hope, than these 615 pages).

My original title – now altered a little by the good people at Ignatius – came from the famous concluding lines of one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ great sonnets, which should continue to give us hope even today:

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

 

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Dr. Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

  • Trust - Monday, August 13, 2018
  • agape

    Mr. Royal, I am sure I will read your book, and I thank you for giving us a taste before hand. But I will sure miss not seeing the outstanding theologian Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange among those pages.

    • RobertRoyal

      Don’t worry. He’s in there, with many others.

      • maxmarley

        And Olivier Messiaen in the sphere of classical music.
        This Catholic colossus straddled the second half of the twentieth century.

  • samton909

    “People are more important than ideas.”

    We don’t have a Pope, we have a lame slogan generator. In contrast to earlier Popes, there is no “deep” there. More than anything else, he presents false choices. There is no conflict between people and ideas. There is no conflict between Catholic doctrine and mercy.

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    Truth is an idea. Yet, Christ identified Himself as the Truth. Methinks, the Holy Father has proposed a false dichotomy – surprising coming from the Vicar of Christ on earth.

  • o_mlly

    ‘“People are more important than ideas.”’

    The object of catholicity is human beings (“make disciples of all nations”); the subject of our unity is ideas (“preach the Gospel”). People are always and everywhere important; only ideas that conform to reality are important.

    Those who would make ideas more important than people make the error of allowing their feelings about erroneous ideas to shift and become the same as their feelings about those who hold erroneous ideas. They think that just as error has no rights of its own and should be banished from the mind, so humans, when they are in error, have no rights and should be banished from the Church. Holiness, charity and humility toward all humanity, enlightened and unenlightened, prevents us from transferring righteous negative impulses toward untruths to the persons holding those untruths.

  • Manfred

    I was with you, Robert, until your first sentence in which you quote Pope Francis (with all the chaos and damage he has brought to the Church in the two and one half years of his pontificate) that “people are more important than ideas”.) I am one of those he continually attacks as hiding behind dogmas and doctrines (Sacred Tradition).
    Prior to Vat. II the Church was on the cusp of converting America to Catholicism. Fulton Sheen was on T.V. each week with a program entitled “Life is Worth Living” (I watched it). The Legion of Decency had been handed from Protestsnt leadership to the Church. Many people were following Catholic teachings without even realizing it. But no, John XXIII thought the time was ripe for a Council. John Courtney Murray, von Bathasar (a disciple of Protestant Karl Barth, who died in his sleep the night before he was to receive a Cardinal’s hat), Josef Ratzingef in his black suit and black tie (instead of his clericals), and others, took the schemas out of Pope John’s hands and substituted their own.
    Catholicism is not esoteric. Think of Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes.
    Good luck with your book!

    • Rick

      Years ago, for a college class, I wrote a paper about Vatican II. In doing so, I studied movements within the history of the Church (I am by no means an expert), but I realized that the Church, as an institution, mirrors the social and political ideas of any given period. Call me naïve, but I wasn’t expecting this. I expected the Church to take the lead. In retrospect, this is quite understandable. The bishops aren’t hatched from beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, they come from towns, cities, and universities from all over the world.

      Later, I told myself that the Church was like a coffee filter, removing the bitterness and retaining the good flavor. After reading about Vatican II, and living through and reflecting on the countless changes that the Church has made since 1970, I am not even sure of that. It seems to me that we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

      • sg4402

        As soon as Christ’s kingdom comes to terms with the world, Christianity is abolished. He did not suffer Himself to be transformed by men and be a nice, human God: He will transform men, and that He wills out of love.

        To posit that people are more important than the truth is blatant heresy, no matter what quarter it comes from.

      • TomD

        Rick, I look at the dilemma you have cited in this way: In many respects, there is a parallel between the experiences of the Old Testament/Israel and the New Testament/Church. It’s not that simple, but there is a parallel.

        Just as the truth of God through the covenant with Israel was promised to prevail, and has through Christ, so too the truth of God through the Church will prevail. Members of Israel and members the Church have, are, and will continue to fail, often miserably. Sometimes prominent members. But, in the end, God will prevail.

        In the meantime, many will fail. The ways of the world are ever present and constantly pulling at us, tempting us, calling us, to look to ourselves, our needs, our desires and our wishes, rather than to God. This was true for both Israel and for the Church. There have been, are, and will be periods of confusion and turmoil. But we must persevere, seek the truth, and have faith in God.

    • StatusQrow

      Good Pope John wanted merely to “open a window” to let into the Church a fresh breeze from the world. Francis seems to have flipped the “ON” switch to a wind tunnel.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    The issue as stated by Pope Francis falsifies the complete premise which is “people are more important than ideas” but not more important than the Truth to which we all owe assent.

    • Greg

      How does his statement falsify the complete premise, as you put it? Do you really think Francis meant the truth can be abandoned? I hardly think so. I don’t get what you’re after, here.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        There was a post I revised above that better explains my position. First I’m not putting myself in Pope Francis’ mind and neither can you. I’ll let God be his judge. I’m getting at what he has said and done which is clear to mostly everyone on this site and in the Church at large that he suggests radical change to Church teaching on divorce and remarried receiving communion without reconciliation by adapting a way of life that in the external forum proves what is required in the internal forum. Confession and penance alone without that external evidence means we are not required to change. The same holds true for homosexual behavior. Christ called us to repentance and not to hold hands and sing Kumbaya. That’s already been tried by the Dalai Lama and it doesn’t work but only sanctions and exacerbates the proliferation of evil.

        • Greg

          Where are the radical changes to Church teaching he has proposed? None of these fears have become a reality, to this point. Quite right, neither you, nor the rest of this echo chamber, can know the mind of Francis. Yet the rhetoric, in here, has become alarmist and extreme in a way that is ideological, rather than self-aware for the fact we are speaking of deep mysteries. We are not dealing with certainties. The gospel was not given to us as a set of logical propositions and syllogisms. It was given to us by Christ in parables and, sometimes, paradoxes, long with his gestures and other actions. Humility is the only logical way to the truth.

          It seems to me Francis is doing the Church a service, by starting a conversation that forces us to re-appropriate the things we say we believe as Catholics. He hasn’t said, at all, that we should hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and ignore untruths. On the contrary, he is starting the kind of conversation that forces us to reaffirm what is true.

          • SD

            Oh, please. We have the answers given to us, explicitly, by Christ Himself. The issue is not “questions”. The issue is that too many reject His answer.

          • Rick

            Maybe the issue is “questions”…meaning you keep asking the question(s) until you get the answer you want. A tactic my kids mastered by age 10.

          • Greg

            It is hardly as clear as you want to make it seem, first of all.

            Secondly, ideas accepted, generation after generation after generation after generation, without conversation and uncritically become ideologies. This is dangerous. There is absolutely nothing wrong, and in fact something profoundly wise, in the conversation Francis has provoked.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            I agree with you here insofar as we remain true to Christ’s definition of love not our own.

          • PCB

            You are in error to suggest these ideas were accepted “without conversation and uncritically become ideologies”, you really seem to mean, “without benefit of “current enlightened thinking” which necessarily must be more correct and more democratic. In fact, they are less democratic, in that they discount or reject generations of the “Church Triumphant and Suffering”, for their contributions not only to Church Magisterium and tradition, but also to the shaping of modern thought.

          • Greg

            That’s not at all what I mean. This has nothing to do with the Enlightenment, and everything to do with the best of what is represented in the Council of Nicea. Teachings and beliefs must be appropriated to be authentically and clearly held, and this is facilitated by conversation and questions. This is how the faith stays alive, fresh, and relevant. Coming to faith is a lived experience, not a blind unquestioning reception of propositions. The latter will not stand the test of time. It is a dead faith.

          • StatusQrow

            The story is told that Lao-Tzu, the founder of Taoism, and Confucius were standing on a stone bridge, watching fish swimming in the stream that flowed under it. At one point, Lao-Tzu exclaimed “Behold the fish, how joyful they are!”

            At this, Confucius turned to him and remonstrated “You’re not a fish. You can’t know that the fish are happy.” To which Lao-Tzu replied, “You’re not me; you can’t know whether I can know the happiness of fish.”

            I won’t make the claim for myself; but perhaps some do know the mind of Francis.

          • DeaconEdPeitler

            And not to forget that he is also accompanying us

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            Greg I surely appreciate your knowledge of St Thomas Aquinas because I did my doctorate on his ethical doctrine which is spread throughout his works. It was an enormous study. If I could bring myself to accept that your assessment of Pope Francis’ intentions are morally correct I would agree with you. True he has not formally changed doctrine. He has clearly impressed us that he wishes to do so informally. The difficulty is in distinguishing mercy from licence. Thomas Aquinas gives clear rational guidelines to apprehending justice which in his understanding is ultimately loving our neighbor. That appreciation of love for neighbor is actually abhorrent to homosexual behavior in Aquinas’ works. Not that we should not show compassion to the homosexual. He was also the greatest defender of the Word of God and doctrine based on Christ’s words. Moral virtue: For example moral virtue is expressed in a ‘virtuous mean’ between excess and defect. There is no median between acts that according to Aquinas and the Apostles that condones homosexuality or divorce and remarriage because they are considered acts that are intrinsically evil. They oppose Christ’s and His Apostles’ teaching. Again what Aquinas would commend is understanding, compassion, and good counsel not sanction. Merciful love in our tradition is precisely what it says, mercy toward the sinner.

          • Greg

            You have made the distinction yourself, Father, elsewhere, between the “internal forum” and “external forum,” so how would you handle the following pastoral situation:

            A parishioner admits to you they are divorced and remarried, the first marriage was performed in the Church. The parishioner then admits their fault in the breakup of the first marriage, they were young, they were naive, they didn’t know the person as well as they thought. In the course of the conversation you can sense a real pain felt by the parishioner for the mistake and their inability to live out the covenant of the first marriage. In other words, there is a rather clear sense the parishioner is living with a repentant and contrite heart. Is it your pastoral judgement this parishioner must refrain from participating in the Eucharist? Second, if it is, and the parishioner says they are willing to accept a continent lifestyle, but struggle still to live out their repentant heart in this action, would you still deny them participation in the Eucharist, Father?

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            The circumstances described could be grounds for annulment due to immature comprehension of what marriage means. That would need examination by canon lawyers and likely a psychologist like the one who posted an article on this site. I could not make that assessment either in the confessional or outside of it since I don’t have the credentials. I would recommend in the application for annulment the question of immature comprehension. If the annulment procedure did not succeed I would encourage them to attend Mass but refrain from communion. I would also encourage them to be involved in Church activity [as I would have from the start] as a number of very fine faithful parishioners have and are doing in parishes where I served giving heroic witness of their faith to the community. In answer to your second question I would hear their confessions and invite them to receive communion. If in accordance to the agreement of living as brother and sister they have difficulty on occasion in refraining from conjugal relations there is always the confessional.

          • Greg

            I appreciate the thoughtful and sincere response, Father.

            It is always helpful, at a certain point in the conversation, to move beyond a simply theoretical discussion and enflesh the theory in action.

            Pax.

          • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

            Also Greg you compare an act of generosity going beyond the bounds of an expected just response as argument for your views. The comparison of a generous act that extends beyond expected justice but whose object is intrinsically good to sanction actions whose object is intrinsically evil does not correspond to Aquinas, to sound logic, or justice for that matter.

          • Greg

            Not precisely. In fact, not at all, Father. I was quoting Thomas to bring back to the conversation the notion of mercy, since the discussion thus far in this forum (of Catholics) is occurring through the heuristics of truth, justice, and judgement with absolutely no reference, explicitly or implicitly, to mercy. This is decidedly un-Catholic. Thomas reminds us, and we would do well to listen, that love and mercy are the higher principles. I was not making an attempt to sanction evil behaviour, nor did I say Aquinas does this somehow.

          • samton909

            The last thing we need are people to “start conversations”. Whenever I hear people say that, it is to excuse the fact that what they are saying is complete nonsense. Once it is pointed out to them that it is complete nonsense, they fall back on “I was only trying to start a conversation”.

            Either you can speak clearly or you cannot .When people cannot, they claim they were just trying to start conversations.

            Pope Francis might have a deeply beautiful conception of mercy. However, so far he seems utterly incapable of defining what the hell he is talking about. He talks in circles that go nowhere and enlighten no one. Each hearer is free to interpret his words to back whatever that hearer wanted to hear. I count that as a big fat failure.

      • StatusQrow

        And yet you challenge…

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    To add ideas or concepts exist in the mind. Truth is what actually exists. Ideas are true only insofar as they exactly reference what is, which is Truth.

  • Jack

    Mr Rotal, totally off topic but I did want to congratulate you on your letter to the WSJ editor, last week. Brilliant wordsmanship.

  • I can no longer reconcile Pope Francis with himself. Without the ideal and ideas, people will be destroyed.

  • Tanyi Tanyi

    Under Francis, those who struggle to make use of the tradition are considered heartless hypocrites! He constantly castigates intellectuals, since he himself cannot live up to the intellectual standards. He has landed Catholicism into a crisis of identity. Catholics need to rethink the entire ministry of the Bishop of Rome, perhaps to create other centers of power way from Rome, so that we don’t find ourselves in more disastrous conditions.

    • PCB

      As temping as it would be to seek “to create other centers of power way from Rome”, I think this would only create greater or additional risk of schism – any retreat from Rome we might encounter Our Lord, making his way towards us along the path in the opposite direction; He again responding to the inquiry, “Eo Romam iterum crucifigi.” (I go to Rome to be crucified once again). No, I think this must play out in Rome.

  • StatusQrow

    One of my favorite observations by Maritain has always been “Whereas Descartes divided in order to separate, St. Thomas distinguished in order to unite.”

    Francis seems entirely Cartesian in his understanding of ideas; he thinks they divide us. We make distinctions, though, precisely in order to be united in the Truth.

    • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

      You probably said what I tried to say better.

    • Greg

      Here is one of my favourites from Thomas:

      “God acts mercifully, not indeed by going against His justice, but by doing something more than justice; thus a man who pays another two hundred pieces of money, though owing him only one hundred, does nothing against justice, but acts liberally or mercifully…And thus it is said: ‘Mercy exalteth itself above judgement’ (James 2:13).” ST I, q21, a3

    • Greg

      And another:

      “Whatever is done by Him in created things, is done according to proper order and proportion wherein consists the idea of justice. Thus justice must exist in all God’s works. Now the work of divine justice always presupposes the work of mercy; and is founded thereupon.” ST I, q21, a4

      • samton909

        This is pretty much irrelevant. Thomas is not making the point that mercy must be stressed over justice. He is simply saying that inherent in justice is an element of mercy.

        • Greg

          You miss the point entirely. Thomas says something much more radical than mercy is an element of justice. That is an over simplified and diminished reading.

    • Greg

      Francis is wise to start a conversation that forces us to confront our notions of divine justice and mercy. According to Aquinas, justice does not reign over mercy and love, in fact it is love and mercy that are the higher principles. This is the Truth we are to be united in, not a judgemental truth absent of mercy and love. Merciless truth divides.

      • StatusQrow

        Indulgence of sinners in their sin—our sin—is not mercy. Permissiveness is not mercy. If Francis thinks they are, then he has the moral understanding of a two-year-old.

        Mercy means forgiving 70 times 7 times, when a sinner falls. It means forgiving him and telling him “no matter how many times you fall, as long as you get up with the intention of trying again, you’re on the right track.”

        It doesn’t mean telling him “That’s ok, God loves you anyway” and telling the world “Who am I to judge?” If you’re the shepherd, you darned well better be able to judge the difference between the real sheep and the wolves in sheep’s clothing. He’s the Supreme shepherd; that’s who he is to judge!

        • Greg

          You’re quite right about the liberality of mercy. And again, about the distinction between indulgence and permissiveness, on the one hand, and mercy.

          But your notion of mercy is tragically impoverished. Mercy is quite a bit more than saying “you’re on the right track.” That is not the mercy modelled by Christ in the gospel. Christ immersed himself in the condition of sinners. He sought to relate to us in the ways we are most capable of understanding; through words, through gestures, through actions. It was always personal, even intimate, showing us the way. It was never distant, aloof, and reserved in the way you seem to understand it. Where is the extended hand in your mercy?

          I can see why you have such a problem with Francis. He is willing to extend a hand, and risk getting dirty. You prefer, it seems, to stay back, and involve yourself very little, lest you get sullied by the unwashed.

        • DeaconEdPeitler

          Mercy is not telling the person who has fallen down that, in reality, they have not fallen down at all. In fact, it betrays a lack of charity because that person is likely to remain fallen down thinking that’s where he ought to be. Francis causes confusion among the fallen down.

          • Greg

            The Pope hasn’t said to the groups I presume you are referring to that they have not fallen down, in your words. He hasn’t said to them they stand in righteous conformity to Christ. It is simply untrue to suggest he has.

      • samton909

        But once again you posit false things in order to divide us. Why is all truth a “judgmental truth” that lacks mercy and love? Why do you try to divide us into two false camps, and pretend that truth is in opposition to mercy? Far from it, truth is hardly ever lacking in true mercy. You want to avoid delving into the truth, so you caricature one side to make it automatically bad. This approach is simply disingenuous, unfair, and it indicates a lack of confidence that your point can be made without distorting the other side. Therefore, you must, of necessity, distort the other side. Otherwise you simply cannot prevail.

        • Greg

          That’s not at all what I said. In fact, I said the opposite. Rather, St. Thomas Aquinas says the opposite, and I agree with him.

        • DeaconEdPeitler

          Nailed it.

          • Greg

            Not really DeaconEd. Love and mercy are not in opposition to truth and justice. I never said that, and I never said St. Thomas said that. It’s more like he missed and hit his thumb with the hammer.

      • edith wohldmann

        mercy might overrule justice on sincere repentance, change of ways and conversion, adjusting your life according to the commandments and the word of God. What do you make God out to be? Justice is amending for disobedience, pride and insults towards the love God poured out on the cross. God in his Glory is Holy “Be holy as your Father in heaven is holy”

        • Greg

          Nope. Divine mercy does not have these pre-conditions, and praise God they do not or there would be no Christian hope. The great mercy of redemption and salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, was not a divine response to human repentance and conversion. It was to bring about our repentance and conversion. “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36 (KJV).

          • edith wohldmann

            you are correct, repentance and conversion follows.Love is the highest principal.Its all about the Lord first – love him with all your heart and everything else with fall into place.

  • James

    Faith and reason seem to have been abandoned definitively for the duration of this pontificate.

  • Alicia

    This tops everything !
    The Pope told a Lutheran woman to talk to the Lord about receiving the Eucharist. WOW ! Then added that he couldn’t do it.
    Is he sending a message to the divorced and remarried, and to sexually active, ‘married ‘ homosexuals ?
    Someone should follow this pope around, and everytime he speaks, raise his hand and ask respectfully ” Your Holiness, would you please give us a ‘ for instance ‘ so we know what you mean and what you’re talking about because we don’t have a clue.
    Everybody must pray, pray, pray for our beloved Catholic Church

  • bernie

    “We had a tremendous flowering of Catholic philosophy, theology, Scripture
    studies, literature, art, cultural analysis, and much more prior to
    the Second Vatican Council, which continued on in St. John Paul II
    and Benedict XVI in the much less fertile, post-Conciliar decades.”

    In that succinct statement of fact also lies a great mystery for me.
    How could our Church have lost so much ground, so miserably and with
    such shame, post VCII, and persisted in this wallow through even today
    in the post JPII/BXVI period? When we think of the, perhaps,
    unprecedented spiritual, intellectual and literary guidance and
    achievement since the Popes of the 19th Century, and the great
    abundance of Sacramental life made available to us in the West, it
    all seems so counter-intuitive. Less the 19th Century obviously, I’ve been
    alive through a central part of the whole thing, and I am tempted by
    bitterness and bewilderment. It is no coincidence that the spirit of
    “Progress” has been with us through the whole
    period, both as a seemingly obvious political and scientific reality,
    but also as a spirit within the Church that found nothing seemingly
    fixed and static which shouldn’t be changed. Such an attitude would

    betray a surprisingly shallow spirit among those of our
    people who fell for it, despite the incredible wave of apostolic and
    consecrated Religious life that exuded such good example before the
    cultural shift of the 50s and 60s. Perhaps we may still reap the
    benefit of that earlier period in some mysterious economy of the Holy
    Spirit. But what a shame. We had the Truth while the whole world was

    screwed up and we acted as stupidly and unfaithfully as everyone else

    • StatusQrow

      At the risk of sounding superstitious, in the vision that Leo XIII had at the altar, after praying Mass on Oct. 13, 1884, he is said to have heard two voices speaking:

      The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: “I can destroy your Church.”

      The gentle voice of Our Lord: “You can? Then go ahead and do so.”

      Satan: “To do so, I need more time and more power.”

      Our Lord: “How much time? How much power?

      Satan: “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.”

      Our Lord: “You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.”

      It was immediately after this vision that Leo composed the “Prayer to St. Michael,” directing that it be said at every low Mass throughout the world. Maybe the loss of this practice is a small piece of the puzzle explaining why good seems to have fewer and fewer substantial victories, while evil seems to have ever greater victories on every front throughout the world.

      • Tarzan

        I don’t know the history of this private revelation, but I have to think that if God revealed this to the Holy Father, he had a reason. And since God is love and truth itself, his reasons are pure and for our good. Maybe this was a wake-up call, or maybe this was a reminder that God is still with us even when the world seems to be crumbling. I don’t know. But I do know that the gospels say just prior to the temptations of Jesus in the desert that “Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit”.

        The Holy Spirit is always with the Church. Maybe we have been led into the desert of temptation by socialism, hedonism, and relativism. Maybe the Prayer to St. Michael is part of our response, as is the rosary and the chaplet of divine mercy. I don’t know, but I know that Jesus told St. Faustina that we must trust in his mercy completely.

  • StatusQrow

    “It’s always darkest just before it gets pitch black.” -Pogo

  • Jesus said “I make all things new.” Yet once again in TCT there is the lament that everything was better before Vatican II. Why did the Church have to change so much? Why can’t everything stay the same as I knew it? Everybody on here claims to be more intelligent than Pope Francis and tends to forget that the Pope was chosen by the Holy Spirit to lead us. Robert Royal claims to have a “deeper vision”. Really! Did he share this with Pope Francis so that our pope could be enlightened?
    We are suppose to be of the world and called to bring it to Christ by sharing His good news. But many commenters here would rather see our Church get smaller so that it would have the select few who follow the Traditional Catholic Way that only they comprehend.
    There is a cry for mercy if I’ve ever heard one.
    Scripture calls us to “trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” How about we trust that our Pope is following the way of our Lord.

    • Greg

      Amen brother.

    • Rick

      Your first 2 questions are good ones. Here are some more.

      Why do we not face liturgical east?
      Why did we take the communion rails down?
      Why is the mass a celebration and not a sacrifice anymore?
      Why is there now a lack of reverence?
      Why are parishioners dressed like its NFL game day instead of the Lords day?
      Why do we shake hands and slap backs just before saying the Lamb of God?.
      When was the last time you heard “Adoro Te Devote”, “Ave Maria”, “Immaculate Mary”, “Salve Regina”, “Sanctissima”, etc???. Look these up on youtube. These are some of the most beautiful chants ever. If these didn’t come from the Holy Spirit, then I don’t what does.
      So why? Why? Why?

      In one sentence we are told that there needs to be a discussion, and in the next sentence, we are told to sit down and shut up. Am I an ostriches or a sheep? Last time I looked at my catechism, I was made in the image and likeness of God, or is that up for discussion too?

      • Quo Vadis

        The answer to some of your questions, I believe sits with the preference of the individual priest. Our priest has decided to conduct the morning liturgy in the chapel, ad orientem, where he will be facing east away from the people. As I understand it, there are instructions in the rubrics of the Roman Missal that calls for the priest and deacon to face the people six times during the Mass. So as long as he does this, this is allowed and one has to ask, why is this instruction still there ?

        Additionally, many of the above mentioned hymns as well as some Latin, has been used and admonishment for proper dress to church.

        So not to lay blame but I have had the occasion to attend mass in different parts of the country. The priest has a lot to do with the way things are done and quite frankly some of his reverence, attention to detail and what he allows leaves much to be desired. Is it “liberal vs “conservative” view of the Church ?

        • Rick

          Recently (last 5 yrs), my former priest (he was transferred) did his Masses ad orientum. The bishop told him to cease and desist. The bishop wanted uniformity among all Masses in the area. It’s allowed but don’t do it.

    • PCB

      Mr. Sheahan – You say, “We are suppose to be of the world”. You got it wrong. We are told to “be in this world, but not of this world”. You are in good company, Francis and many others seemly also got this exhortation wrong. It must be remembered, that while the Holy Spirit may have chosen the Pope to lead us, the Pope retains his free-will, of which God respects and permits him to exercise freely. Secondly, nobody would rather see the Church get smaller, but attempting to change the Truth to make It accommodate (conform to) the world is not an option for filling the pews. We are ALL called to conform our hearts and minds to the Truth, not conform the Truth to our hearts and mind. Our Lord anticipates, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
      The hardest thing for a man to do is change. – this has nothing to do with favoring the Latin Mass over the New Mass, etc. Those are all things that “could change” and “did change”. But, the Truth remains constant, as given to us by Our Lord as Deposits of our Faith – this can not be changed.

      • Greg

        This is a trivial matter of grammar you want to take as your basis for saying Patrick is wrong, whereas most of what he says is a fair reading.

        He is absolutely right that Christ’s vision of the Church is a ‘we’ that embraces sinners in a substantial and helpful manner, rather than a patronizing ‘us and them’ approach. This embracing ‘we’ was re-lived, again, when the Apostles made the historically crucial discerned choice to extend the faith beyond the Jewish community to include Gentiles in the early Church. But for those mercies, it would be a terribly small Church, likely not including most of us in this forum.

        The Truth you are so quick to defend is essentially and deeply merciful and salvific. In other words, being right cannot come at the expense of being merciful. The moment you are no longer graciously merciful, you are outside the Truth of Christ.

    • StatusQrow

      Why didn’t you just let Our Lord write this for you instead of getting all upset yourself? Why didn’t you let the Holy Spirit correct Mr. Royal; how come you don’t let Him lead TCT and friends unto the straight path? What’s a mind for, anyway?

      • Greg

        Why don’t you and the rest of the anti-Francis cohort take the same advice, i.e., remain silent and trust in the Lord and the Spirit? It seems to me the anxious and vitriolic responses toward his papacy, here, show a remarkable lack of faith in the grace of God. It cuts both ways StatusQrow.

        • StatusQrow

          I know it gets tricky following threads, Greg; but you seem to have an unusually uncanny knack for consistently missing the point.

          Mr. Sheahan was admonishing writers to this page for expressing their disagreements with the Pope: why not just trust the Holy Spirit to work everything out.

          I decided to show Mr. Sheahan the irony of his position. He and you both feel the need to correct everyone at TCT—precisely by writing your own opinions. Yet the thing you object to is OUR writing.

          So, I took Mr. Sheahan to task: if you’re going to tell us to pipe down and leave it all up to God, why don’t you follow your own advice. The fact that he, and you, choose to write indicates that you want to be the teacher, not the Holy Spirit.

          I have no objection to either of you writing; it’s just sort of rich when you suggest that the writing of those who disagree with the Pope is a sign that we aren’t trusting in God.

          “It seems to me the anxious and vitriolic response” to what we write shows “a remarkable lack of faith in the grace of God.” Find a forum of yes-men for yourselves. And relax.

          • Greg

            There is nothing ironic in his position, StatusQrow. Patrick never said you should be silent about your disagreements. He correctly points out the anti-Francis rhetoric in this forum never once acknowledges the fact of the work of the Spirit in the world, and perhaps most poignantly during papal conclaves.

            It would most definitely be ironic, however, absurd really, if you now try to twist what I say now to mean the work of the Spirit is active in all of the coarse dialogue of this forum in the same way as it is during papal conclaves.

            I think I am tracking the hysteria just fine.

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      I am not sure that it is Holy Spirit-inspired for the Pope in Rome to make castigating remarks about many of the flock he purports to shepherd. We are picking up a certain vindictive, mean-spiritedness from this Pope which hardly seems inspired by the Holy Spirit.

      • Greg

        Castigating remarks such as? The encouragement to examine our conscience?

        This is our pastor, the pastor of pastors and deacons, reminding us we are all sinners. He has said the same about himself, that he is a sinner. I see nothing wrong with the Pope encouraging us to be self-reflective and to seek moral improvement. It’s honest. He’s right. He said the same to the members of the U.N. during his address.

        St. Paul says the same, i.e. to examine our conscience, (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29), which, incidentally, is the same received teaching of the Fathers taken to be support for the prohibition of divorced and remarried Catholics from receiving Communion. If we are to insist divorced and remarried Catholics examine their conscience and conform their lives, the teaching is good for all Catholics. It is simply good spiritual direction.

        In any event, it’s hardly castigation. It’s moral edification of all Catholics the Pope seems to be after.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Either Pope Francis is an enlightened visionary or a victim of his own idea. Young Jorge assessed the succession of sociopolitical policies of Argentina from the social Darwinism of cultural elites to the Catholic oriented social humanism of Peron. Eventually the Church realized its growing ownership by the State and asserted its independence. Peron then became the beloved benevolent dictator told in song in Evita. Jorge Bergoglio concluded that reality is more important than ideas. For the young priest the reality of the lower classes was not addressed in politico social ideas. That was transposed to people are more important than ideas. Love and mercy were the right response to the poor in the barrios not the imposition of justice and rules. There is another side to the story. When I first visited Africa in 74 the people in tattered clothes had a vitality for the faith lacking back home. There was a strong positive response to the direction and humane justice the Church offered. When I returned to teach again in 2004 the Africans now exhibited an impervious and wary attitude. Was I another progressive priest trying to change their beloved Church? There was a sense of ownership that no one would be allowed to take away. We have a choice. It is the view of Greg and VinceWhirlwind which makes sense to them and to me if it were not for the naked truth of the words of Christ. These are spoken most exquisitely and eloquently by Truth hung naked from the Cross “When I am lifted from the earth I will draw all men to myself”.

    • Greg

      You present ‘my view’ as if it is opposed to the naked truth of the words of Christ, yet you have not asked me what my view is, except that you seem to take from my comments that I wish to abandon Church teaching and tell those folks that seem to be at the centre of this controversy and hysteria that an unrepented life of sin is just fine by God. That is not the case. To be sure, the truth of reality has been revealed by Christ. It is from and in Christ that I seek the Truth.

      As I said, already, perhaps my strongest objection to all of the conversation in this forum is the hostility toward Francis. The anger and trial and judgement applied to him prior to any real facts that he seeks to radically change Church teaching, as you put it yourself below. Francis has not yet done away with one letter of the law. To me, the discussion needs more humility and mercy, and less strident screaming for truth and justice that makes no mention whatsoever of other Catholic values. It seems amply proven, here, we are woefully incapable of having an open conversation of potentially difficult or sensitive topics without becoming immediately and prematurely defensive and vicious. That doesn’t say much for our ability to embrace the stranger.

      Frankly Father, I expected you most of all to see that I have not declared or described myself as holding a position outside of Church teaching or contrary to the gospel. You, too, have missed the nuance. There is a ‘middle’ being excluded, here. Most voices in this forum are speaking ‘as if’ truth and justice are opposed to love and mercy, when in fact they are not. The conversation is righteously focusing on truth and justice, in nearly complete ignorance to the fact Christ, the gospel, is essentially and deeply merciful. Mercy needs to be brought back to the conversation, and the Church needs to explore deeply and act more consistently in conformity to this essential aspect of Truth.

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        Clarify precisely what your viewpoint is Greg so I can correctly understand and reply to it. You need to specify how mercy as you perceive it is applied in our ministry. If I misunderstood I apologize.

  • Alicia

    Please read on today’s Aletia the exchange between the Pope and the Lutheran woman who was sorry that, even though she shared a wonderful marriage, children with her Catholic husband, she couldn’t share with him the Supper and receiving the Eucharist.
    His answer?
    The Pope, our Catholic Pope, our guide actually said that he didn’t know the answer to this because his knowledge of theoligy is limited, and it required a brilliant theologian like Cardenal Kasper ( who was present there.) He went on and on about his ignorance in theology and his inability to answer her. However, he said that in his opinion we are practically the same (Lutherans and Catholics) because both have a baptism, believe in Christ, and follow him, so maybe…Then again, over and over – his ignorance, bla, bla, bla. He said that the only thing he knew was that he was not permitted to let her receive communion, but he couldn’t explain why.
    How about – convert to the Catholic Church where you’ll be received with open arms.
    Maybe, in light of his ignorance (his words) , he should resign and go back to the seminary and study.
    In my opinion, the woman’s question was so ridiculous, that I’m wondering wether she was a plant. By Cardenal Kasper or maybe by both ?
    God forgive me for thinking this way, but I don’t want to be naive. I just can’t believe a Catholic Pope would answer this way. Incredible !

    • C.Caruana

      I followed the dialogue in Italian, and seeing and hearing Bergoglio’s painfully contorted and flailing response , the equally painful sensations that gripped my heart crystallised in these words: inadequate. .. not fit for purpose. The passion of our Church has started for real.

  • Rick have any of the changes you talk about stopped you from attending Mass? From receiving the bread of life? From sharing the good news of the gospel? Do you still rejoice that you are a member of the one, holy, catholic Church? I lived through all of those changes and I’m sure I will see more in whatever time I have left on this earth. It might seem tragic to have to change but this is 2015 and the Holy Spirit will lead us and Pope Francis to a vision that only God can control and we can treasure all that is in store for us and continue to share with those who search for what we have.

    • Rick

      To answer your question, I will never leave the Church.

      I do like most of the Mass said in the vernacular, and communion in the hand, but what was the purpose for all the other changes I mentioned except to give us the look and feel of protestant churches. And what have those seeds sown for us? We jettisoned so much of what was beautiful and spiritual from our Mass. We removed the ‘C’ from Catholic.

      Btw, I have a Pope Francis key ring. It was a gift from mi amiga de Argentina. I carry it proudly.

      Also, I see these discussions as passionate and fruitful, not mean-spirited. I hope everyone feels the same way. I keep an open mind and I have been know to change my opinion…rarely though…hahaha.

  • Brad Miner

    Ladies and gentlemen: If I may ask, please keep comments to this and every other TCT column to the point at hand. Above all, let’s avoid invective, especially when directed at one another.

    • Dave Fladlien

      With all due respect, Brad, and I mean that very seriously, not sarcastically, I don’t understand your comment. I’ve followed this debate pretty closely for two days now, and I would very, very much have liked to join in, and I haven’t for several reasons. One of those is that I thought the participants, especially Greg and Fr. Morello (who were doing the major part of the exchange), did such a wonderful job of keeping it a clean and on-subject discussion. I decided not to join in partly because I thought they were doing a great job and I was afraid my comments, which can be complex, would be just as inclined to confuse the issues as to contribute.

      There are a couple of comments in other contributions that I too thought were a little abrasive (one in particular), but considering how strongly everyone feels about this particular topic (the Synod in the broad sense), I thought we were mostly doing pretty well. I respect your opinion, and your right to express it, but I respectfully disagree.

      • Brad Miner

        Mr. Fladlien: I mentioned no names. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.



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