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Friday 6 January 2012

Part One: On cults among Catholics...relativism and Gnosticism again

I am getting more concerned about the existence and prevalence of cults, and, importantly, the appearance of a new acceptance of cults. Cults were big news in the 1980s and 1990s, when some people rushed off to the Moonies, or when international groups waiting for comets and the alien space ships committed suicide. I do not have to go into detail, as there were several infamous situations. I lost a friend to the Moonies and I have another friend who was rescued from a cult years ago. Another friend of mine had to help the children of a woman who got so involved in Scientology that she neglected to feed her children. That group broke up her marriage. My heart has been broken by the friends of mine who have suffered manipulation at the hands of cult-leaders. I have tried to help by love, praying for the healing of the scars of abuse, in some cases.

My concern is that cults are proliferating with prophecies of the end times, with the problems in established religions, and with the popularity of New Age ideals. Cults are usually defined as religious worship or a community surrounding a charismatic leader with bizarre teachings. This covers many groups today which have not been labeled as cults. In Ireland, there seems to be more than enough self-professed seers who are not "real" visionaries, as the Church would define, and there are groups which pander to wealthy, religious families in order to sustain certain hidden, sometimes, extravagant lifestyles. One thinks of Christina Gallagher.

My concern is that Catholics are not immune to cultic thinking. I have good friends who follow private visionaries to the point of not reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or the encyclicals, or even the Bible in some cases. Now, these people are intelligent and good, but lacking in discernment, chasing yet the next elocutionary or visionary on the scene. I have warned friends in America about this. This is not to say that many people are not in tune with the signs of the times, and have some discernment over an above common sense. What I am concerned about is that these private revelations are becoming more important than the teachings of the Church,

I had a long discussion with an excellent priest from New York on this point last year, as I was trying to steer some friends away from certain private revelations and from being so caught up in the phenomenon. He said that something was missing in their spirituality, some type of understanding of the deep and long history of mysticism in the Church -- that their search for experiential Faith indicated a lack of catechesis. I could not agree more. The problem is that these people are frequently on their way to holiness, but get side-tracked by private revelations, some, even most of these revelations or visions, not affirmed by the Catholic Church. In fact, I think that some of these experiences tend to divert attention from the affirmed messages, such as at Fatima, and lead people into confusion.

My rule is this. If the Church approves something, I shall look into the revelations, maybe. If the Church has not approved something, I can use my time in better ways, such as studying the teachings of the Church and reading the greats such as SS. John of the Cross, or Teresa of Avila. I can wait and maybe some current visions will not be approved in my lifetime. It does not matter. My second rule is that if there is a whiff of disobedience to either bishops or priests, or even the Tradition and Revelation of the Church, the seers are wrong. Obedience and meekness mark a holy man or holy woman.

My concern centers on why intelligent people seem to need these things. My answer is that it is a form of the oldest heresy in the Church, Gnosticism. For centuries, some have wanted special, private knowledge to affirm their Faith. They have needed to identify with certain groups, or to pursue holiness in a way outside the ordinariness of the lay life. Gnosticism is a form of pride. Gnosticism is also connected to the great Modernist heresy of our age, relativism. One can just accept one's own opinion of what is real religion, or approved visions, or philosophy, whatever. Gnosticism and relativism have entered the Church again.

I can admit freely that I am an ordinary Catholic, albeit traditional, trying to work with grace and the Sacramental Life of the Church to get to heaven. Simple really; prayer, rosary, daily Mass, frequent Confession, spiritual director if I can find a trad one, and so on. If I just read, outside the encyclicals and catechisms, Aquinas and Benedict XVI for the rest of my life, that would be sufficient. Of course, the Divine Office and the Bible are essential. By the way, I highly recommend the Navarre Bible. Fantastic.

When Padre Pio was declared  St. Pio of Pietrelcina, I read more about him than I did before he was declared a saint. He provides an example of approved and obvious holiness as well as spiritual gifts and elocutions. I am concerned at the number of good Catholics straining after private revelations, as there is simply no need with the wealth of saints and the Tradition, the Teaching Magisterium of the Church given to us, not to mention the Traditional Latin Mass, the greatest gift to the Church for our growth in holiness.

My online mentor...who keeps me sane about the American political scene

Several journalists today have finally seen the true political bias of the present administration in the US as tyrannical. LOL. Sorry, but this was obvious to many of us in the run-up to the 2008 election. The best blog on my favorite topics of narcissism and ugly self-interests in money and politics is Dr. Sanity. The woman is brilliant and as she has political savvy as well as psychological insight, follow her during this campaign. You will learn about yourself and your fellow voters, as well as those who are trying to destroy the Constitution and are succeeding bit by bit. When Dr. Sanity disappears, we shall be in big trouble, as she is a really astute gal and prophet for these troubled and complex times.

And for those of you who are waiting to read another Supertradmum critique of Gramsci, watch this space.

Let the great John Donne speak for me today...


THOUGH counsel seem rather to consist of spiritual parts than action, yet action is the spirit and the soul of counsel. Counsels are not always determined in resolutions, we cannot always say, this was concluded; actions are always determined in effects, we can say, this was done. Then have laws their reverence and their majesty, when we see the judge upon the bench executing them. Then have counsels of war their impressions and their operations, when we see the seal of an army set to them. It was an ancient way of celebrating the memory of such as deserved well of the state, to afford them that kind of statuary representation, which was then called Hermes, which was the head and shoulders of a man standing upon a cube, but those shoulders without arms and hands. Altogether it figured a constant supporter of the state, by his counsel; but in this hieroglyphic, which they made without hands, they pass their consideration no farther but that the counsellor should be without hands, so far as not to reach out his hand to foreign temptations of bribes, in matters of counsel, and that it was not necessary that the head should employ his own hand; that the same men should serve in the execution which assisted in the counsel; but that there should not belong hands to every head, action to every counsel, was never intended so much as in figure and representation. For as matrimony is scarce to be called matrimony where there is a resolution against the fruits of matrimony, against the having of children,[285] so counsels are not counsels, but illusions, where there is from the beginning no purpose to execute the determinations of those counsels. The arts and sciences are most properly referred to the head; that is their proper element and sphere; but yet the art of proving, logic, and the art of persuading, rhetoric, are deduced to the hand, and that expressed by a hand contracted into a fist, and this by a hand enlarged and expanded; and evermore the power of man, and the power of God, himself is expressed so. All things are in his hand; neither is God so often presented to us, by names that carry our consideration upon counsel, as upon execution of counsel; he oftener is called the Lord of Hosts than by all other names, that may be referred to the other signification. Hereby therefore we take into our meditation the slippery condition of man, whose happiness in any kind, the defect of any one thing conducing to that happiness, may ruin; but it must have all the pieces to make it up. Without counsel, I had not got thus far; without action and practice, I should go no farther towards health. But what is the present necessary action? Purging; a withdrawing, a violating of nature, a farther weakening. O dear price, and O strange way of addition, to do it by subtraction; of restoring nature, to violate nature; of providing strength, by increasing weakness. Was I not sick before? And is it a question of comfort to be asked now, did your physic make you sick? Was that it that my physic promised, to make me sick? This is another step upon which we may stand, and see farther into the misery of man, the time, the season of his misery; it must be done now. O over-cunning, over-watchful, over-diligent, and over-sociable misery of man, that seldom comes alone, but then when it may accompany other miseries, and so put one another into the higher exaltation, and better heart. I am ground even to an attenuation and must proceed to evacuation, all ways to exinanition and annihilation.

On the intention of the Holy Father and the Ordinariate

Out of Bishop Kevin Vanns' statement on the Ordinariate Portal seen at the right here, one comment struck me as all important for those Anglicans coming in through the English Ordinariate, or the American one. It is of the utmost important that the communities who come in together, those parishes and priests, are given the support of the dioceses to stay as one with there own local church facilities. This is not always happening in England, and I, for one, am concerned about this. Here is the paragraph from Bishop Vann:

Not many years after the establishment of the Pastoral Provision by Pope John Paul II in 1981, its lived reality proved to be a blessing and a part of the life of the local Church of Fort Worth – where life long Catholics and priests, and priests and individuals and communities who came through the Pastoral Provision have lived and worked together to proclaim the Kingdom of God and built up the Body of Christ.

This idea of staying together is being eroded in some dioceses. Let us pray together that the Vatican intention is fulfilled today under the Anglicanorum coetibus.

If this system is not successful because of shortsightedness or obstruction, (both a lack of shared vision with the last two Popes), I cannot see an easy reconciliation with the SSPX, who could easily come in as a personal ordinariate, that is, if  the offer was accepted.

Here is a paragraph from another article on the Portal today, which is important and eloquent, by William Johnstone.

It is ecumenical in a cultural sense as well. Rather than forcing Anglicans to deny their heritage – and no one who has attended choral evensong can fail to be impressed by the glories of the Anglican tradition – Pope Benedict is encouraging some of the distinctive aspects of the tradition to be retained. They are treasures that can contribute significantly to the universal Church. In a similar way, the fruits of communion with Peter will breathe new life into this heritage. This is what it meant by a “mutual exchange of gifts”.

Read the entire article

Open Letter to the Knights of St. John, the Knights of Malta

I wrote this open letter to the Knights of St. John, the Knights of Malta. There is a crisis of liturgy happening in Malta at this time, more developments which I am tracking and will share on this blog. Some of you might think, who cares, as it is such a small nation and what effect will events or attitudes there have on me? Malta is the gateway to the East. It is only 220 miles of so from Libya. The Great Siege was a miracle of grace in its victory. . One cannot walk over those tombs day after day in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and not be moved by the bravery and commitment of so many men. I am not stating that they were all saints, as we know from history, but we need the intercession of those who stand before God in Heaven.

Dear Knights of St. John,

For two months, when I visited Malta, as I attended Holy Mass, I daily walked on the marble which covers the dust of the great heroes of Malta. With the limited knowledge of Latin that I know, I read of the deeds, charity, and deaths of the old and even the very young who died for a cause greater than themselves. As I prayed for those holy souls who still needed mercy and to those saints who intercede for Malta, I felt as if the dead were reaching up from those vaults into the life that is the Church and pleading for a renewal of the vital energy which they commanded when on earth. Those Knights gave of themselves in sacrifices which modern men and women rarely conceive. Their lives were reflected in their deaths. Some died on the battlefield, some in the hospitals of the Order, some in the peace of their palaces. Yet, their days of violence and prayer produced fruit which lasted throughout the centuries, until this present day. What impressed me was their love of the Church, the Bride of Christ, and their love of the Pontiff, the Bridge between Christ and us, the Pope.

These men were not afraid. Their fearlessness to stand up for the Faith, in a manner which now seems foolish and over-zealous to some, is needed as much today as in the days of the Great Siege. The Church is under the greatest siege She has ever seen since those days of bloodshed. The persecution is more subtle, but as dangerous and as deadly as then. As our dear Pope recently stated, the Enemy is within. The Enemy of the Church is a protean being which changes like a chameleon to capture the hearts and minds of the Faithful, turning goodness into mediocrity, and labelling sin as normal. One of the greatest evils is the mindless disobedience to Rome in matters regarding the Liturgy. Holy Mother Church has been given the Pearl of Great Price. This Pearl in the Tridentine Mass, the Traditional Latin Mass offered up for centuries in the very Co-Cathedral which houses the dust of those who died preserving that heritage. Today, I wonder whether the Knights of St. John realize that the real resurrection of the Faith, in Truth and Beauty can only happen with the renewal of the Traditional Latin Mass? The holiness of the past cannot be relied upon in story or in fiction. The past is only a primary structure, a foundation for the future. If those who followed the brave and the bold settle for what is less than perfect, settle for the easy and the mediocre, the building which is the Kingdom of God on earth cannot stand.

Why do I make this connection between the Knights and the Traditional Latin Mass? The ancient words of Consecration, the silence of the Canon, the unspeakable Beauty of the Chant created a sublime experience for all,even those who were illiterate. Today, we in the Church are in great need for a challenge to the ugliness of sin. We need chevaliers who would die for the Glory of God. For me, and for our present Pope, this Glory is seen in the Liturgy which feeds the mind, the heart, and the soul in ways which are not even understood. Yet, the Knights of St. John, whose Patron is the Greatest of Men, as Christ Himself stated, and who is the Greatest Prophet, those very Knights fail in the prophetic role which Pope Benedict XVI has presented to the world. The motu proprio of July 2007, Summorum Pontificum  is not only ignored, but blatantly suppressed in Malta. Why? And, where are the champions who would be obedient and see the necessity for this Great Gift in the face of a crumbling culture? I challenge the Knights to renew their allegiance to Rome by championing this one Gift-the Tridentine Mass. 

One might say to me, who are you to challenge the Knights? It is not my challenge, but that of the Church. The old Latin phrase, lex orandi, lex credendi, how we worship is how we believe, is the reason that Pope Benedict instituted the motu proprio. He merely carried out the words of Vatican II, in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy section 36, that Latin was to be maintained but the vernacular allowed. 

Why the Traditional Mass is so important is not merely that the Church wishes to preserve the sacred language of ritual, but that the People of God are lifted out of the ordinariness of the daily life of sin and anxiety into a Mystery of Faith which defies explanation. The great mystery of Transubstantiation was one of the causes for which the Knights of old died. Rather than deny the True Presence, rather than deny the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and His Representative on Earth, the Pope, they fought to the death. And, here, in the Co-Cathedral, we have a testimony to their awareness of the Truth and their courage to defy convention and ease, acceptance and perhaps, slavery, facing what few in our times would even consider, that is to die for Truth and Beauty.

If I seem presumptuous in challenging the Knights, it is because I passionately love the Church, and the Tridentine Mass. I am convinced that Malta, like a child dying from malnutrition, needs the New Evangelization called for by Blessed John Paul II. And, I am convinced that the Traditional Catholic Mass will lead to the revitalization of real Faith among the Maltese, who, like the Church of Ephesus, are being addressed by Christ, Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place. Revelation 2:4-5

Knights were made for battle, not for honors or status, or pageantry. The battle is raging. 

On Layclerics...

Today, I was discussing the teaching of non-clerical Eucharistic Services to seminarians. Many years ago, when I was in the Diocese of Calgary, I had an extremely interesting discussion with Bishop Frederick Henry about such things, as some people, who were laymen and laywomen working with youth in the high schools, were pushing for Eucharistic Services without priests. These services, normally labelled Communion Services, are intended to provide the Holy Eucharist to a congregation on a Sunday when the priest is absent. Bishop Henry was adamant that such things lead to the undermining of the priesthood and the reverence of the Sacrament.

He was and is correct.

Many bishops have moved away from such quasi-clerical lay services for many reasons, the main reason which is the confusion it causes those attending. Nuns or laypeople who hold up the Host and say, "This is the Lamb of God" and so forth are acting in the place of the priest in such a way as to undercut the vocation and sanctity of the priesthood. I am totally against seminarians doing such pseudo-liturgies, and I think that the laity conducting such, especially EMHCs, is simply wrong. In some dioceses, layman and women who are not EMHCs have conducted such services. It is all wrong.

One of the greatest errors of the Post-Vatican II wave of abuses has been the clericalization of the laity. Laypeople have great work to do without prancing about the altar and leading Communion Services. The New Evangelization should be the main work of the lay person in the marketplace. Having lots of babies is another thing the laity should be providing for the Church. That America and other countries have such a priest shortage is no excuse for the clericalization of the laity.

One person said to me, "Then, what does one do without priests and no Masses?" My answer was that if parents have been so selfish as to discourage vocations and if they have contracepted, creating the shortage of priests, no Mass is a logical consequence of this lack of generosity. Consequences, the lost concept of irresponsible parenting...Why should not the laity have consequences from their own life choices? No priests, no Mass, no Communion. Why do seminaries and parishes make up for a deficit which is natural and possibly, a cause of suffering which might lead to conversion among the laity?

Communion Services simply should not be allowed under any circumstances except in war. That those who teach our young men to conduct such services do not even see that they, as teachers, are undermining the priesthood, is ironic. Obviously, the permanent deacon would be the person of choice if a priest is unavailable, but why go to such lengths to provide Holy Communion outside of Mass, when the laity will not continue to encourage their boys to become priests? Is there a one-to-one correlation between dioceses which have these services and low vocation statistics?  The fact that these services are being taught indicates a lack of sensitivity as to what a lay person is. We have enough to do without pretending to be clerics.