Saturday, March 21, 2015

Children's Crusade and the Age of Mercy


Our Holy Father Pope Francis has declared the jubilee Year of Mercy, which will begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception this year and run through the Feast of Christ the King in 2016. I praise God for His mercy, which is one of His greatest attributes. "Mercy triumphs over judgment", the Epistle of James tells us (cf. Jas. 2:13), and the chorus of Psalm 136 contains the response "His mercy endures forever" twenty-five times, lest the devout reader ever doubt God's great mercy. God has shown me great mercy in my life, and I will always rejoice in His loving-kindness and long-suffering.

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Still, we live in an age of grayness, an age of ambiguity, of ignorance and shadows - an hour of darkness where the power of evil moves most freely and audaciously (cf. Luke 22:53). Words are as fluid and ethereal as mist. One striking characteristic of our time is the degree to which words have been redefined away from their classical connotations; concepts such as the state, nature, grace, judgment, punishment, love have all been redefined in the image of post-Christian man. Since the announcement of the Synod of the Family early in 2014 and the ascent of the Kasper party, we have seen a similar attempt to redefine "mercy."

Aquinas defines mercy as the virtue by which one experiences grief for another's distress (STh II-II, Q. 30, Art. 3). The causes or "motives" of mercy are "corruptive or distressing evils, the contrary of which man desires naturally, wherefore the Philosopher says that "pity is sorrow for a visible evil, whether corruptive or distressing" (ibid., Art 1). 

Thomas is speaking here of natural evils, not moral evils, for St. Thomas says that evils are most worthy of pity when they are contrary to a deliberate choice. Since the very essence of a moral act is its voluntary nature, we more easily extend mercy to people to whom "something happens" rather than those who merely suffer the consequences of their deliberate choices (ibid).

He goes on to say that the greatest motive of mercy occurs when the evil occurs not only without deliberate choice but absolutely contrary to a person's will, such as when something bad happens to a man who only desires to do good. Quoting Aristotle, he notes that "we pity most the distress of one who suffers undeservedly" (ibid).

Then how can a sinner ever obtain mercy, since people sin voluntarily? St. Thomas notes that though sinners suffer deservedly, the punishments of their faults are not willed; a repentant sinner acknowledges their fault and the justice of punishment but simultaneously wishes to escape punishment, as the punishment due to sin is contrary to their will. In this sense we are able to feel pity for sinners: "It is essential to fault that it be voluntary; and in this respect it deserves punishment rather than mercy. Since, however, fault may be, in a way, a punishment, through having something connected with it that is against the sinner's will, it may, in this respect, call for mercy" (ibid).

The Thomistic doctrine of mercy, therefore, is that the motive or cause of mercy is evils experienced by another, especially when these evils are undeserved and contrary to the will of the one experiencing them. Therefore, it is an essential aspect of mercy that the one experiencing the evil not will the evil he is experiencing. It is this repugnance to the evil endured that becomes the bridge linking the suffering of the individual with the mercy of another.

This means, from Thomas' point of view, those persons who do not oppose the evil they endure cannot be the objects of mercy, properly speaking - much less those who don't even admit that they have committed any evil. A sinner who does not fear the punishment for his sin but rather abides in his sin and even demands it be praised and accommodated does not elicit mercy. The accommodation of people in this scenario is not an act of mercy, but rather an act of complicity in the sin of another. Or, to put it more plainly, only those who repent can be the recipients of the mercy; an unrepentant person is incapable of receiving mercy.

Repentance, of course, means not only admitting an action to be morally wrong, but taking active steps to remove oneself from the state of sin with the resolution to avoid committing that sin again in the future.

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What aspects of mercy will be stressed in the upcoming Year of Mercy? No doubt this jubilee year is connected with the 2015 Synod on the Family, where the debate of the Kasperite doctrine of mercy will be front and center. The Holy Father is trying to push a coup de force in preparation for the synod by focusing the attention of the public on "mercy." The Year of Mercy will begin shortly after the close of the Synod; presumably there will be a post-synodal exhortation of some sort. The Year of Mercy is a propaganda tool to shape public opinion in such a way that bishops who dissent from the Kasperite heresy are under intense pressure to comply; they will be made to look "unmerciful." It is an attempt to create a false dichotomy between the "merciful" progressive and the Pharisaical conservative. This is the simple "politics" behind the Year of Mercy - to make the triumph of the Baldisseri-Forte-Kasper axis a fait accompli, which the smiling Holy Father will proclaim to be a movement of the Holy Spirit, with the accolades of the press.

In case you are inclined to disbelieve the connection I am positing between the "Year of Mercy" and communion for adulterers, only four days after announcing the Year of Mercy, Francis made the following comments in a homily:

"A man - a woman – who feels sick in the soul, sad, who made many mistakes in life, at a certain time feels that the waters are moving - the Holy Spirit is moving something - or they hear a word or ... 'Ah, I want to go!' ... And they gather up their courage and go. And how many times in Christian communities today will they find closed doors! 'But you cannot, no, you cannot [come in]. You have sinned and you cannot [come in]. If you want to come, come to Mass on Sunday, but that’s it – that’s all you can do.’ So, what the Holy Spirit creates in the hearts of people, those Christians with their ‘doctors of the law’ mentality, destroy. This pains me...It’s Jesus’ home and Jesus welcomes [all]. But not only does He welcome, He goes out to see people just as He went out to find this man. And if people are hurt, what does Jesus do? Scold them because they are hurt? No, He comes and He carries them on His shoulders. And this is called mercy. And when God rebukes his people - 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice!' – He’s talking about this " (source).

There is much one could say about this passage, but it suffices to note that the phrase "If you want to come, come to Mass on Sunday, but that's it - that's all you can do" clearly indicates that Pope Francis disapproves of the non-admission of adulterers to communion. It is not sufficiently welcoming; to disagree is to be a Pharisaical "doctor of the law." To admit them is "mercy." Make no mistake about it, the Year of Mercy is yoked to the Synod with the purpose of pushing through Kasper's designs.

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The constant assignment of a particular theme to each year by the Holy Father is a modern phenomenon begun, I believe, under John Paul II. It has grown extremely tiresome. Does anything positive truly come out of these annual assignments? Are Catholics any more knowledgeable about St. Paul after the 2008-2009 "Year of St. Paul"? I seriously doubt it. Like World Youth Day, this "Year of" phenomenon seems to be more about feeling good than accomplishing anything enduring.

At the beginning of the crisis in the Ukraine, Pope Francis had two Ukrainian children release doves as a prayer for peace in the Ukraine. The doves were immediately set upon and killed by a crow and a seagull; the whole episode was caught on film (see pictures at the top of this post).

A similar phenomenon happens with these "Year of" designations. Whatever topic the Holy Father assigns for a year, the Church ends up suffering severe attacks and setbacks in that area. The Year of the Priest saw global assaults on the priesthood; the Year of Faith saw an unprecedented advance of militant atheism; and the Year of the Consecrated Life has witnessed, among other things, the destruction of the FFI.

If you think I exaggerate or am drawing connections where none exist, let us consider this a little deeper:

The Year of the Priest (2009-2010) saw the Archdiocese of Milwaukee go bankrupt due to its financial obligations to sex abuse victims. The Irish clerical abuse scandal broke in 2010, the depths of which were so horrid and despicable that it prompted an unprecedented personal letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics in Ireland. As the Year of the Priest wore on, further clerical abuse scandals broke in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Brazil, and many other countries. CNN ran a headline titled "Catholic Church Sex Abuse Scandal Goes Global." Only months after the Year of the Priest ended, 300 priests in Austria signed a document called the "Call to Disobedience", pledging resistance to Rome until ultra-liberal reforms of the clerical class were implemented, including women's ordination. The Year of the Priest thus closed with a mockery of the priesthood throughout the world.

The Year of Faith (2012-2013) witnessed an unprecedented attack on the very notion of faith as the proponents of the 'New Atheism' launched broadsides against revealed religion. Lawrence's Krauss's A Universe From Nothing made big headlines in 2012, but a whole slew of other atheist books made their appearance during the Year of Faith, including The Manual for Creating Atheists, Drunk With Blood, Hope After Faith, Atheism for Dummies, The Skeptics Annotated Bible, and Beyond Belief, all of which appeared during the Year of Faith. Meanwhile, the Year of Faith saw atheist Richard Dawkins humiliate Cardinal Pell on Australian television over the question of Original Sin while 2012 saw the first ever Global Atheist Convention. While atheists were trashing religion all over the world, the Vatican held a scientific exhibit in which the Chief Astronomer of the Vatican, Fr. Gabriel Jose Funes, declared triumphantly that evolution was perfectly compatible with Catholicism. Thus the Year of Faith saw the very notion of faith ravaged by unprecedented atheist propaganda and faith undermined within the Church by a continued enthronement of the principle of evolution within the Church (cf. "Solemn Enthronement of Evolution").

The Year of Consecrated Life (2014-2015)
, still ongoing at the time of this article, has seen perhaps the greatest undermining of consecrated life in modern times with the unwarranted persecution of the FFI, one of the most faithful exemplars of consecrated life in the Church. Simultaneously, the apostolic visitation to the women's religious orders in the United States ended with a feeble report gushing with praise for American nuns and lacking any disciplinary measures whatsoever. The Year of Consecrated Life saw a faithful order destroyed and the neo-pagan dissenting American nuns praised. In both instances, consecrated life was mocked, not upheld.

Just as the doves released by Pope Francis were destroyed before they could take flight, the themes proposed by Benedict XVI and Francis have similarly been the subject of distortion and destruction.

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Therefore, we have good reason to suppose that the 2015-2016 "Year of Mercy" will result in an unprecedented attack on the Catholic concept of mercy, both from within the Church and without. The Church's traditional understanding of mercy will be ridiculed and distorted to be more palatable to the perversions of modern man, who desires to be told that he need not renounce his concubine in order to receive Holy Communion. We should mentally and spiritually prepare ourselves for a very fierce onslaught on the Church's praxis in the next year and a half, such that will make 2014 seem like a mere rehearsal.

Still, God is in control. God either wills all things positively or else permits all things for a greater good. We have documented how the Year of the Priest, Year of Faith and Year of Consecrated Life were all failures - setbacks for the very objects they were supposed to promote. Why is God allowing this? Why has God so orchestrated things that, in His Providence, the themes proposed by the popes are being thwarted?

I believe the answer lies in the Scriptures. Let us begin with the Book of Isaiah. The prophet begins in chapter 1 by recounting the sinfulness of Israel and the poor state of the Israelite kingdom:
"Woe to the sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a wicked seed, ungracious children: they have forsaken the Lord, they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel, they are gone away backwards. For what shall I strike you any more, you that increase transgression? the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is sad. From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness therein: wounds and bruises and swelling sores: they are not bound up, nor dressed, nor fomented with oil.Your land is desolate, your cities are burnt with fire: your country strangers devour before your face, and it shall be desolate as when wasted by enemies" (Isa. 1:4-7).

Despite that Israel is "laden with iniquity", they continue to participate in the feasts and sacrifices without repenting and changing their ways. Because they refuse to acknowledge their corruption, their participation in the festivals, the new moons, and the sabbaths become especially displeasing to God, such that He even compares them to Sodom and Gomorrah:

Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats.“When you come to appear before me, who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow (Isa. 1:10-17).

Because Israel has "forsaken the Lord" and "blasphemed the Holy One of Israel" and refuse to repent, God is so angry that He says He "hates" their festivals, that he "cannot endure" them because of their iniquity. Thus, though the people may pray and stretch out their hands - though they may call for Years of Faith, Years or the Priest, etc. - God says "I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen."

The prophet Amos gives a similar admonition. God says:

"I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream" (Amos 5:21-24).

How can God bless the Year of Consecrated Life when the Church allows consecrated life to be mocked? How can He bless the Year of the Priest when corruption is not rooted out from the priesthood? How can He bless the Year of Faith when prelates and theologians continue to worship before the idol of evolution and reductive scientism? And how can He bless a Year of Mercy when most in the Church are only interested in promoting a worldly, false mercy? These endeavors will continue to fail until we recognize the depth of our sickness and return to God in spirit and truth.

Brethren, what shall we do?

God's word helps us identify the problem, but it also gives us grounds for hope:

"Thus saith the Lord to you: Fear ye not, and be not dismayed at this multitude: for the battle is not yours, but God's"  (2 Chronicles 20:15).

"And all this assembly shall know, that the Lord saves not with sword and spear: for the battle belongs to the Lord..." (1 Sam. 17:47).

May the Lord bless and keep our Holy Father, and may His will be done at the 2015 Synod on the Family. May sinners, in the great mercy of God, be brought to repentance, turn from their evil deeds, and embrace the fullness of the Gospel. May this repentance begin with myself and all who read these words. Amen and amen.

Contact: uscatholicam [at] gmail.com


16 comments:

Raider Fan said...

Dear Brother Boniface, You have written many excellent and wise posts but this is perhaps your best piece ever; it is instructive, incisive, and it cuts right to the heart of the anthropocentric matter that is being shoved down our throats.

Kudos, good Sir

M. Prodigal said...

Yes, but the pope does not like rosary crusades, especially if they are counted, remember?

Tom Healey said...

Right on. A great post Boniface. Your quotes from Pope Francis' homily are very telling about the spiritual state of his soul. I've heard several comments about whether God is punishing the Church and not just in reference to Francis. For the first time I'm asking myself if it could be true and not just as a theoretical possibility.

I've always understood JP11 and BXV1 as intellectual geniuses with profound spiritual lives. Yet there are unanswered questions about the appointment of so many mediocre or corrupt bishops. Can that be completely explained by liberal bureaucratic machinations completely beyond the pope's control. And if true, is God punishing JP11, personally a holy man? I remember many years ago reading the late Fr Richard j Neuhaus in First Things, before it went on line, puzzling over why good men were not appointed to head up dioceses. Neuhaus had no answer. I really have no idea what unfortunate conditions would have to be present for God to chastise His own Church in this way. Perhaps Boniface you could write a post on this very subject if you haven't already.

I know that as a pre Vat 11 catholic my education in the Faith was sturdy but lacking sophistication. One thing I've had to come to terms with re Francis was my implicit assumption the " the centre has to hold" else the edifice would collapse. Which of course is absolutely true as long as I realize that Christ is the true centre no matter what terrible crises overtake the Church.

Boniface said...

M. Prodigal, yeah, he doesn't like "rabbits" either, but that's his problem, not mine.

Anonymous said...

Dear Boniface, Where does one find accurate information on Pope CelestineV and Pope Boniface VIII and that time period in Church history.

Anonymous said...

“This does not resolve anything,” Pope Francis has said with regard to the idea of giving communion to the divorced and remarried. Much less if they “want” it, demand it. Because communion “is not a badge, a decoration. No.” In his latest big interview Pope Francis threw cold water on the expectations for substantial change in the doctrine and practice of Catholic marriage, which he himself had indirectly fostered: “Overblown expectations,” he called them.

'DIS & 'DAT said...

Pope Francis pandering to popularity and his use of spiritual welfare--unearned, cheap grace-- to draw more folks into the fold is a short run strategy at best. In the long run the elimination of conditions for repentance will result, as it has, in no need for confession and ultimately in no need for the Church at all. Pope Francis is now saying, it seems, that there is no hell--no punishment for sins after death. Sinful souls will merely be exterminated. It is going to be very difficult for Bishops and priests and the laity to resist such a generous welfare program What we have here is Franciscare. You will have to wait till the afterlife to learn what it really means.

Boniface said...

Anon-

That is just a tactic. You are presuming a consistency in the man that does not exist.

I remember in my home state, several years back, our governor stated that he had no intention of pushing through a particular piece of controversial legislation. But then all his people in the Legislature came and pushed it through to his desk, such that it appeared to be the will of the Legislature, and he signed it. He was able to sign it while suggesting that the impetus for it did not come from him.

Francis will say he does not want to change anything, but he is creating momentum towards it with his pronouncements. You are right that the people as such are not demanding it, but a certain cadre of bishops will demand it. Then Francis will play the role of the humble pontiff merely assenting to the wishes of his bishops.

This is all politics.

'DIS & 'DAT said...

Boniface, yes, all politics, bad politics. Give them what they want not what they need. Then when the whole thing continues to go down hill blame it on them. For the folks in the pews it's lose lose.
Say it ain't so Francis!

Michael Dowd

Peter Lamb said...

Dear Brother Boniface,
I have just visited your blog for the first time and read your very erudite comments on mercy.It seems to me you are just the man I have been looking for to ask a question bugging me. Why are so few true, traditional Catholics sedevacantists? I have always tried to be a devout Catholic. I was educated in the Faith by holy, Irish Catholic Nuns, Brothers and Priests before Vatican II. I am keeping it very short. Why can't Trads perceive the heresies of the conciliar popes? Why can they not understand that, in terms of the teachings of Robert Bellarmine and others that heretics can't be Popes formaliter. Why can't SSPX realise that their position is schismatic? Why can't they see that the novus ordo church is the ape of the Catholic Church foretold by Our Lady and others? Why can't they see that sedevacantism is the only safe position a true Catholic can take which is consistent with the Faith of 2000 years? Why is it so obvious to me? Am I missing something? Why do you not have a link to Novus Ordo Watch where sedevacantism is discussed and presented in depth? Have you ever written on sedevacantism? The Church is indefectible, the Faith is absolute, not relative. There is no place for novelty. There are only Catholics - no such thing as liberal Catholics, conservative Catholics etc., etc. The Church is ONE. Why are all Traditionalists not sedevacantists?

Boniface said...

Peter,

Because I am not a Sedevacantist. Because Sedevacantism is itself a heresy that divides the office of the papacy from the person of Peter, and denies the never-failing faith of the Roman pontiff; because it attributes absolute importance and authority to the opinions of theologians; because it is a heresy built of despair which has lost the virtue of Hope; because there is not a one-to-one correlation between a mere heretical statement and "losing the faith" in a theological sense; because Sedevacantism leads to an overthrow of the Church and its divine constitution and leads souls out of the Church.

Yes, my friend, there is quite a bit you are missing. We do not tolerate promotion of Sedevacantism on this blog.

convertenos said...

Peter Lamb,

Being a sede is not the answer. You cannot call yourself a traditionalist if you are not in communion with Rome because it is that particular communion that makes us Catholic. Actually, the heart of tradition is loyalty to the Holy Father and that is why I will never step into a SSPX chapel.

So if you are a sede or you are thinking about becoming a sede, DO NOT DO IT. Do not lose your soul in the midst of the chaos. Stay loyal to the Holy Father, attend the TLM if you can (FSSP, ICKSP, Diocesan, Norbertines, whoever else is in communion with Rome), work, and save your soul.

Boniface, I have a quick question for you. Is it wrong for Catholics to hold a Theistic Evolution stance?

Boniface said...

Convertenos,

In my opinion, theistic evolution is problematic. I recommend this article I wrote some time ago on the question:

http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/theology/81-theology/451-catholic-solemn-enthronement-of-evolution.html

If you have further questions of requests for posts, visit this page and use the contact form so that the thread doesn't get thrown off topic:

http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/home/contact-us.html

brian springer said...

I shared some links and the location thereof concerning the compatability of evolution and Aristoliean metaphysics some time back. Did you ever get around to reading them Boniface? I made clear that I was not entirely sure what to make of them, so I was hoping you did.

Anyway, great analysis as always. I didn't notice that this "year of" thing jinxed whatever it was intended to honor.

Boniface said...

Brian,

I did read them, but it has been awhile and I have quite forgotten the content of them.

If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you send them again, but this time send them to the email uscatholicam [at] gmail.com? That way I can put them on my every growing "to do" list to review and write on.

Pax.

Laura Yunque said...

Very well done with insight I have not previously heard. Yes, the battle is God's and for our part, we must remain steadfast and trusting and continue in doing His Will in our individual lives. I have to remind myself of that...this is my first visit to your blog. I'll be back...thank you!