Trying to Break In

Day Four of the Year of Mercy, and I am suffering already from “mission fatigue.” This because I doubt we are on the right mission.

Worse, this may be true of almost everyone I know who is Catholic, except those who do not take their religion seriously. I don’t get bored with the Mass, except when it is happy-clappy; in which case I am less bored than appalled, to see Christ so insulted.

There is a girl I know with a big mouth. Twenty-something: perhaps I’d better say “woman,” reserving the more affectionate term “girles” to the Scottish sense: younger than fifteen and older than fifty. By “big mouth,” I mean that she says things that are bold, and does not limit herself to the politically correct. True, I adore people like that, who will not be intimidated by the Zeitgeist.

But what convinced me that she is Christian; and not only Christian but Catholic; and not only Catholic but profoundly so – was her response to an item of news from Argentina.

It was not about our pope, incidentally; except insofar as an effigy of him was being burned.

It was “about” a bunch of topless feminists, chanting obscene slogans, performing obscene acts, running helter skelter and physically charging a line of men who were blocking their entry into the Cathedral of San Juan. The girls were spray-painting their crotches, and so forth. (Not one of them retaliated.)

This was part of an annual, state-sponsored “cultural event,” during which prominent churches across Argentina are attacked and when possible, vandalized. (Plenty of film available.)

Argentine defenders
Argentine defenders

The young lady I know, has the hide of a rhinoceros when it comes to being insulted, herself, by leftists and feminists up here. I had never seen her cry. But at the sight of this desecration in suburban Buenos Aires, she was weeping. Her only comment was, “They are doing this to Our Lord.”

“The world is turning into Argentina,” according to one of my Argentine correspondents, who travels. He has a love/hate relationship with his own country, as many of us do today. He has plenty to say on the phenomena of Justicialismo – or “Peronism” as we call it in our northern naiveté.

At the time of this “story,” which made world news two years ago, he tried to explain to me the deeper psychic roots of this totalitarian ideology, which can express itself in quite various, often contradictory ways.

“It is neither Left nor Right; it can dress up or it can dress down. It is always populist and demagogic, however; always essentially fascist in its street manifestations. It feeds on the ‘madness of crowds’. And it is always anti-Christian, even and especially when it masquerades as Christian.” (I paraphrase from memory.)

He said much more, with emphasis on a “malign dialectic.” In a strange curious way, Peronism and anti-Peronism are the two poles of the same “magnetic field.” In the same way the true fascists of today call their opponents fascists – the truest Peronists declare themselves anti-Peronist, while condemning, in effect, their own behavior.

By contrast, Tuesday’s son-et-lumière at Rome – a massive, multi-million dollar spectacle mounted for an audience in Saint Peter’s Square, and watched by millions around the world on streaming video – was a much tamer affair. In what I could see of it through links, there were smiling nuns and enchanted children in the big crowd.

It was a day to ignore the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. For the “Year of Mercy” was being kicked off, in this media circus, with a message too political to leave any room for religion, except in the sense that “climate change” is, itself, a political religion.

Sponsorship and support came from various environmentalist organizations, also active in the cause of “population control.” So far as I follow, the Catholic Church supplied only the endorsement – the pulpit for their preaching – while Our Lady stood neglected, aside.

This incredibly extravagant propaganda display, toggling back and forth between sweet images of animals and nature, and simplistic depictions of threats to them, was reminiscent of the great son-et-lumière demonstrations before the crowds in pre-War Italy and Germany. It is political theatre designed to appeal to the child-like: to mobilize them into some kind of “children’s crusade.”

Now, I’m going to risk saying something controversial here. The contrast between the spectacle at Rome, and the spectacle before San Juan Cathedral, is outwardly quite stark.

Vatican monkeyshines
Vatican monkeyshines

This latest was a high-tech masque of “niceness,” at least until the observer thinks it through.

That earlier was, to look at, nasty indeed. Even “liberals” in the Argentine media, I am told, reacted to it with disgust and condemnation. Hardly anyone cried, however.

Both were of course intended to be theatrical. To my mind, one gets you coming, and the other gets you going – a tactic Hollywood well understands.

Nor, of course, were the two presentations organized by the same people, although it could be said that the ideological overlap between the two causes (radical feminism and radical environmentalism) is near total.

I suppose a very cynical person (I know a few, all atheists I think) could argue that the Mass is “a show,” too. But not such as can compete with this theatre for “the masses”; or vice versa. And entirely opposite to them by intention.

Whether in Buenos Aires, or in Rome, we find these new messages emblazoned (quite literally) onto our most visible churches, with the promise of more to come. We are already getting, and will get “the nice” and “the nasty” by turns; both in opposition to “the good.”

For it is as Saint Paul said, and warned, about their common origin. That: “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.”

At the portals of the Sanctuary, lo, and trying everywhere to break in.

David Warren

David Warren

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist with the Ottawa Citizen. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at:

  • sg4402

    The palliative: turning a selfish attitude (closed to life) into an caring attitude (heroic protector of the environment). A transformation which, at its core, is materialistic and disingenuous. Like the ‘population bomb’, ‘global warming’ serves a need, hardly the truth. Politics, pure and simple.

  • PCB

    I’m half-surprised they didn’t have Our Lady dressed like “Mother Nature”, as in that old Chiffon margarine commercial, wagging her finger at the crowd and saying, “Oh, It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” – appalling in both instances!

  • DeaconEdPeitler

    There was a time that what happened in Buenos Aries and Rome would have elicited the reaction of “Shame on you!”

    Alas, we live in a shame-less culture. We need to revive the use of this most powerful term before it is too late. There was a time when good pedagogy required an adult to admonish certain childhood behaviors with a “Shame on you” comment. Now, those children of more recent days having never been advantaged with this comment are standing, as adults, on the doorsteps of our churches.

  • Michael Dowd

    Thanks David, good article. You have portrayed the ‘culture of death’ at work. In all the darkness we have the light of Man and his interests shinning on the Vatican obliterating the image of God as it were. How up-to-date that is! Nice promotion Pope Francis, bet you got big bucks for it.

    And in Argentina we see what happens to folks when the Catholic Church doesn’t do it’s job contributing to the moral collapse of society.

    Now, how long before Big Brother is on the screen? Oh wait, we have him, he’s called Pope Francis.

  • Nancy Lynne

    I didn’t’see the show. Were there any sweet images of smiling innocent baby humans and then some simple stark images of their ripped apart bodies in abortuaries? Probably not since there are no innocent humans; they are the desecrates of Mother Nature.

  • Manfred

    “You have seen Hell, where poor souls go who have no one to pray for them.” Our Lady to the three children at Fatima, 1917.The difference between Rome, Buenos Aires and Hell is that Rome and Argentina will end, while Hell and the damned souls will go on for eternity.
    The difference between Caholicism and EVERYTHING ELSE is that only Catholicism offers Eternal Salvation if the believer strives evert day, while everything else can only lead to Hell.
    Think of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, whose uncorrupted body lies in her convent in Nevers, France, who, when she asked The Lady in the grotto in Lourdes in 1858 her name, was told “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
    The Immaculate Conception medal, which soon became known as the Miraculous Medal, was ordered by Our Lady of St. Catherine Labore in her convent in Paris in 1830. I have worn that medal every day for the last fifty years.

    • Alicia

      I love my Miraculous Medal too. Never take it off.
      God bless.

    • guest

      Oh, so you think only Roman Catholics can go to heaven? If so, this is pure religious arrogance, and not what the magisterium teaches. Consult your local bishop and the Catechism.

      • Phil Steinacker

        No, perhaps YOU should research and accept what the Church has ALWAYS taught (until the 20th century, that is). that outside the Catholic Church there is NO SALVATION (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus).

        This is no small claim. It has been affirmed by several Church Councils and their popes. Modernist popes set aside or just ignored this teaching, and the alleged (by three popes) non-dogmatic Vatican II council made several claims overturning doctrines while its adherents speak out of both sides of their mouths, as it suits them.

        OTOH, the popes and others claim no new doctrine was declared, but OTOH, by overturning doctrines such as Extra ecclesiam nulla salus and demanding Catholics submit to the new interpretation as if it were a legitimate part of the Church’s Magisterium and Tradition, progressive elements in the Church treated that new interpretation of old doctrine as doctrinal in and of itself. Anyone suggesting the original understanding of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus – held by the Church for nearly two millennia – is tersely instructed that they are in error when, in fact, it is they who are in error.

        Popes and councils have authority, it is true, but that authority is to be wielded ONLY to receive, preserve, protect, and pass on that which is handed down from Peter and the Apostles. Vatican II did a lot of damage, but one of the most destructive to the eternal welfare of souls was the perpetration of this lie which says anyone out side the Church can go to Heaven. There will be hell to pay for that one, I assure you.

        If you don’t believe me, then do your own research but to do so willingly will require you to skip past the modernist Catechism and the bishops to examine the binding papal decrees from past councils on this point alone.

        Honesty demands this of you; Christ Himself demands this of you.

  • RW Cross

    Mr Warren makes a very cogent observation. It led me to realize that another feature of these pleasant natural spectacles is that they are not “natural”, rather, they are carefully scripted images, but they do NOT show nature as it really is. Further, they contain no “Liturgy of the Word”; their core content is imagery, not language. Because language is little or absent, the observer can make of it what he or she will. This is clearly an appeal not to the reason or to the spirit —which is always rooted in the Word—but is a form of emotional conditioning only.

  • Alicia

    I have already read articles of writers twisting themselves into ridiculous knots trying to give a deep Catholic meaning to the Animal Planet show at St. Peters on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
    She was left all alone at the Vatican. I can see Her sitting on the sidelines and crying like in the apparition at La Salette.
    Sad, very sad. No reparation will make up for this after all she went through and suffered for us.
    We must all pray, pray, pray.

  • Tom Williams

    The trumpet has sounded…it will get worse….where do we go? I am old and see little hope of a restored Church effectively addressing the evil that is upon us in my lifetime. I see little opportunity for my young children (adopted) to bring the experience of living their faith (we home school) into the world and making a difference. They are simply outnumbered and will be regarded as degenerate in the emergent society to which they are to participate as citizens in.
    The moral compass has been broken, there is timid leadership in The Church, reason has been trumped by emotion and the legal system favors the darkness.
    In this we are joyful for in and of ourselves we can do nothing. Everything depends upon God doing in us what we cannot do for ourselves.
    He came into the world to show us the Way, and that way does involve suffering. I don’t know how it is all going to play out, but I’m hangin in there.

    • kathleen

      Me too! I pray for holy perseverance. And, yes, ‘we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us’.

    • ThirstforTruth

      Read Revelation….we DO know how this will play out….Christ is victorious and so are
      we as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.
      Also read #675 in the Catechism that supports this truth.

  • The Vandals have invaded the Vatican. Vandals only destroy, they never create.

  • Isabel

    One of the best analyses I’ve read yet of the shocking, disgusting spectacle at St Peter’s. To me, this one is actually much worse than the Buenos Aires event.

    Government authorities all over the world are sponsoring attacks on the Church in the form of “art” or “performance,” even in Spain, where a government commissioned art show (in a Church-owned building!) used consecrated hosts to spell out the word pederastia. (And the bishop forbade Catholics to have public acts of reparation, which they had sorted, because he said it would annoy the leftists.) But attacks on the Church are pretty standard in leftist countries.

    To me, the shocking thing about St Peter’s is that it was done with the connivance and approval of the Pope, who was thanked by the World Bank and included as one of the sponsoring “agencies” in its announcement. He obviously knew it was an offense, which is why no notice was given of it until about two days before. It was anti-Christian and anti-human and highly political.

    But the Pope was clearly on board with it, because the next day, he announced he would “intervene” in the climate talks if he felt it necessary to promote them, but that he wouldn’t yet do it “with force.” What does that mean? That he’s threatening to excommunicate people who don’t believe this new creed he has substituted for the worn out old one?

    Furthermore, right after that, Cdl Turkson announced that the Church had to do more to help with population control and that Catholics were to blame for the supposed overpopulation that is causing “climate change.”

    One can always expect the left and even governments to attack the Faith. What’s truly distressing and in fact almost unprecedented is when it is being done from the inside, by those charged with defending it.

    • Dave

      The desecration of the Host occurred in Pamplona. Catholics there demonstrated peacably in front of the Town Hall and at the Plaza Conde de Rodezno. There was also a Mass of Reparation at the Cathedral. A young Pamponese friend told me all those manifestations were packed to the gills. I don’t have info on whether the exhibit was withdrawn. The friend told me that the poor artist had a history of psychological trouble ad family instability and that we should pray for him.

      I agree that the shocking thing was the suppression of the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. What greater demonstration of the mercy of God, toward our Blessed Mother and to humanity itself, than to assure that she who was to bear the Son of God and give him human flesh should be the first to receive a perfect application of the merits of the Redemption at the very first moment of her conception. But our Lady is all about purity; and the globalist agenda, which the Pope and Vatican seem to be supporting, is not.

      Cardinal Turkson’s remarks are of a piece with everything else emanating from Rome these days. Truly, we are on our own. Pray for the faithful bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and faithful.

  • augury

    Pope Francis believes, with good reason, that capitalism is wrecking the environment. He perhaps also believes his predecessors in Church leadership have been too cozy with those destroyers, and have alienated from the Church, and from God, those who might otherwise awaken from concern for the natural world to reverence for its Maker. Hilaire Belloc lays much of the blame for the excesses of the French revolution at the feet of corruption within the French Church. Perhaps Francis saw in the Argentinian excesses a reaction against an Argentinian Church whose history isn’t exactly clean of the same corruption Belloc condemned?

    • Mack


      • augury

        I assume ” no” means you think Francis sided w/ the Junta in the Argentine Dirty War, right? Like The New Yorker says. Personally I find the accusation scurrilous. You should really stop reading that rag. Thanks though for your enlightening response.

    • Dave

      If you are right, augury, then Pope Francis hasn’t read what St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict wrote about the excesses of capitalism and the need to restrain it. Or he has and he wants to put a different, and, let us say it, a more political spin on it.

      • augury

        I’m actually trying to be an optimist Dave. I pray Francis is not taken in by New Age-ism and am trying to offer a plausible alternative.

    • sg4402

      “…concern for the natural world to reverence for its Maker”? Hardly. Don’t you know “God is dead”? He is man.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Sheer nonsense.

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    At the portals of the Sanctuary David? I know. Too dreadful a thought.

  • Dan

    This event crystallized things for me. Aside from celebrations of God Himself, there is nothing more profoundly spiritual and anti-worldly than the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. To sully the feast in this fashion is to expose the climate movement for what it is.

    I have been saying for over a year now that the Church is heading toward a grave crisis. I do not know when the crisis will come to a head. However, things seem to be accelerating.

  • Beth

    I beg the Mercy of the Lord, not this world.

  • Mack

    Well and truly said, David.

  • Dave

    The Lord told Adam and Eve that they were to have dominion over the earth, a dominion that includes at its heart a stewardship of accountability to him as well as commitment to the universal destiny of goods. Here we see that the stewardship is directed to subordinate beings — the plants and animals, and to the earth itself. I cannot help but think this is the most important inversion of Christian ecology that we may have ever witnessed.

    People have asked me to write more succinctly, so I will stop here, with a smile.

  • 3221

    Thank you, David, for your insightful analysis of what is happening in the Church political world. I especially liked this: “We are already getting, and will get, ‘the nice ‘ and ‘the nasty’ by turns; both in opposition to the ‘the good’.” As one’s distancing from the grace of God is proving, genuine ability to think and see through lies diminishes. Hence the presence of the ‘nice and the good’ smiling warmly at the recent light show at the Vatican. Again, thank you for spelling out what one can feel in one’s bones.

  • sg4402

    Given a choice between God and mammon, is there any question which this Magisterium will choose?

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    New Age belief recreates existence. Our consciousness is empowered to change nature itself. What is psychically determined to be good becomes good. Good and bad replaces good and evil. The appeal is to global concerns and values. “The warmth of Mother Earth, whose divinity pervades the whole of creation, is held to be the bridge between the transcendent Father-God of Judaism and Christianity, and removes the prospect of being judged by such a Being” (Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life. New Age. 2.3.1. Vatican City: Pontifical Council for Culture, February 3, 2003). The association of nature with the divinity is ancient and has its roots in Buddhism and Hinduism. Pantheism finds its home in views of existence that equate the natural with the supernatural and extraordinary psychic power with divinity.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      ” The association of nature with the divinity is pantheistic and has its roots in Buddhism and Hinduism.”

      It has been a commonplace in Catholic thought for centuries, perhaps, nowhere better expressed than by the grat Catholic poet, Alexander Pope.

      “All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
      Whose body Nature is, and God the soul;
      That, chang’d through all, and yet in all the same,
      Great in the earth, as in th’ ethereal frame,
      Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
      Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees,
      Lives through all life, extends through all extent,
      Spreads undivided, operates unspent,
      Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,
      As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart;
      As full, as perfect, in vile man that mourns,
      As the rapt seraph that adores and burns;
      To him no high, no low, no great, no small;
      He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.”

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        I do appreciate your knowledge of poetry. Please don’t mind my occasional humor.

  • Thomas

    New modes of art can be jarring, but my reaction to the images was quite positive. I immediately thought of the creation narratives in the Book of Genesis and especially liked the images of God’s creation juxtaposed against the man-made creation of St. Peter’s.

    BTW – For anyone who did more than just look at pictures, there was a clear focus on Mary and the Immaculate Conception in the Mass propers, the sermon and the Angelus.

  • Jill

    If Jesus had been there, He might have made a wrecking ball out of handy materials and overturned St. Peter’s. They had turned His Father’s house into a movie screen! Whose idea was this??

    • Dave Fladlien

      I think this is exactly the point. I have nothing against art at all, and some of the scenes may have been beautiful, but at least where I live we have Art & Environment Committees to make sure that audio/visual materials in churches are done according to an appropriate protocol to be respectful of the sanctity of the place. Evidently in Rome they not only don’t have that, but have no sense at all that St. Peter’s itself isn’t a Century 21 theater. I’ve read that they were very respectful of Our Lady; even if they were, it doesn’t justify making God’s house a theater for anything, especially a very scientifically suspect hypothesis.

  • Diane

    This was diabolical and disgusting. It was a circus at the Vatican. The people who sponsored this event, promote population control through abortion, contraception, and euthanasia. It was a pagan event and it showed distain for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. We are being deceived by the term Mercy here. I am afraid that to this pope it isn’t about the Corporal Works of Mercy it is about condoning sin and the reception of the Holy Eucharist while in mortal sin.

  • Rene

    A first reaction to what happened in Argentina and Rome in this Year of Mercy, is not to get mad, but to weep for Argentina, the world, and Rome.

    • kathleen

      Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. She came then as a mother and said to St. Juan Diego “am I not here who am your mother?” She is still with us and has shown herself at Lourdes and Fatima and LaSallette, to name a few Church approved apparitions. Also, Akita in Japan in the 1970’s with a grave message for the Church and the world. Akita was approved by the local ordinary. Our Lady’s statue at Akita shed tears. Check it out for those who may be unfamiliar. Our Lady, our mother, must be weeping copious tears for her Daughter the Church in these very sad times for the Church and the world. Pray the Rosary. Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us.

      • Rene


  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    The amorphous world trend known as New Age has a common denominator which is the association of the supernatural with the natural. Global issues like Warming, population control, are perceived as moral issues that supersede Catholic moral teaching. The paring of the New Age Mother Earth with the Mother of Christ on her Solemnity is a form of sanctification by association. It is of course an evil prescription. I believe David Warren indicates a sense of that.

  • Morton

    I can’t get the image of the monkey on St. Peter’s out of my head. Distressing and disturbing.
    I remember being vaguely disturbed by Cardinal Sodano’s homily at the mass before the last conclave started. It read like it had been drafted by a committee of the UN. Interesting times in the church to say the least.
    Brilliant and compelling juxtaposition of the events in Argentina and Rome Mr. Warren.

  • William Beckman

    It’s more than a “year of mercy.” It’s a Jubilee. The distinction is important.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Ordinarily, it would be. But when in its very conception authentic mercy has been high-jacked and transformed into what Dietrich Bonhoeffer might have called “cheap mercy.”

      As progressives masquerading as faithful Catholics exploit this year of faux “mercy” by setting aside sins for which there is no true repentance (i.e. true contrition manifesting an honestly chosen change of direction), we will see the ancient Catholic understanding of that word eviscerated by ignoring or at lease downplaying its essential partner, justice.

      So what if this year is also a jubilee year; it is stripped of meaning and grace.

      I choose to ignore any “official” Church events and pronouncements about the year of mercy until I see evidence that this pope changes course.

      • Bill Beckman

        You are sorely confused.

  • ranger01

    The World Bank and Pope Francis, partners forever.
    Good one, Francis. Our Lady is most proud of you.