Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Joy of Assisi – Part 6

IMG_1200On our last day in Assisi, we moved out beyond the gates of town to the great Basilica on the plains below. Inside the massive Basilica of St Mary of the Angels (, I discovered the reason for my  pilgrimage.

I entered on the left side of the church and saw the crowds of pilgrims gathered for the start of the Feast of the Pardon of Assisi.  Eight hundred years ago, St Francis petitioned the Pope to grant an indulgence to those who would visit the tiny church that was the home to all franciscans and it was granted for those who visit on this feast day.

As I walked towards the center, I saw thousands of pilgrims in prayer as they waited for one Mass to finish and another Mass to start. In the center of the Basilica, surrounded by the crowd, was the tiny church of the Porziuncola. This was the last church that St Francis rebuilt with his own hands and the one he made the home of all franciscan orders. This was where St Francis lived and prayed.

Our pilgrimage group celebrated our Mass in a small chapel on the side of the great Basilica. I remembered that a pilgrim must leave something on their journey and bring something back, so I brought out two small candles which I had received at my franciscan profession ten years before and we used them for the alter. After Mass, I knew I had to go back to the tiny church in the center of that massive space. I don’t know exactly why, but at that moment I knew this was why I came. This was the heart of my journey.

The crowds where larger now, and even though the doorway was now roped off, the tiny church was surrounded by a sea of pilgrims. The friar that accompanied our group came with me and helped my youngest son and I push gently through the crowd. Finally, we made it to the entrance and I knelt with my hand on the same entrance that St Francis would have held onto so many times in his lifetime. As I started crying, I recognized this was the destination of a journey I began many years ago.

I was finally home.


Conservative attacks and liberal fawning over the Pope are silly

Pope Francis’ visit to the US in the last week of September 2015 received blanket media coverage. The coverage was mostly positive because liberal elites generally love this Pope. The blogosphere also lit up during the Pope’s visit but this time opinion was more divided. Liberal bloggers generally praised the Pope and exulted in the Pope’s ability to still the usual anti-Catholic diatribes put out by the press and thus the Pope was universally praised by liberal bloggers.

Conservative bloggers however took a page from their liberal counterparts during the Benedict years. All kinds of shrill, stupid, crazy, non-sense was printed by otherwise admirable conservatives during the Pope’s visit.  A new low was reached by so called conservative Rep Gosar who refused to attend the Pope’s address to the congress claiming that the Pope sounded like a leftist politician. I don’t care how the Pope sounds…. when a Pope addresses congress and you are a congressman you attend whether you like it or not.

Conservative bloggers raged in particular over Pope Francis’ call to action on the environmental destruction of the earth. Strangely these same so-called conservative never criticized Pope Benedict when HE sounded the alarm over environmental destruction. Indeed Pope Benedict was even more explicit about human contributions to climate change that Pope Francis has been…Pope Benedict several times called for dramatic reductions in fossil fuel usage that far surpasses what Pope Francis or President Obama have called for. but conservative bloggers never commented on Pope Benedict’s initiatives around climate change. Why then are they so riled up over Laudato Si?

it is time for conservative to actually READ previous Pope’s on the sin of leaving an environmentally impoverished earth to our children. It is time for conservatives to actually read the scientific papers on environmental polutants and climate change and address THAT science. It is silly in the extreme to complain that a leftist group of cardinals worked for years to elect Cardinal Bergoglio to the papacy. before that conservative cardinals worked for years to elect John Paul II and Benedict.

We need grown-up evaluations of Pope Francis–not silly sarcasm and mockery that is the stock in trade of conservative bloggers these days. We need grown-up analyses of Pope Francis’ actions not the typical liberal fawning and wishful thinking typically posted by liberal bloggers and passed off as reasoned analysis by these inane bloggers.

New Oxford Review Featured Article ( I know, I know!)

Offered by Allan Gillis

gladius sotto luna    I promise to knock this off – but, I couldn’t resist again! Ya gotta see this!  It’s great writing and it has a sweet little “edge” to it! From the highly-esteemed New Oxford Review:

Where Have All the Protestants Gone?

January 2006 By Thomas Storck

Thomas Storck is a Contributing Editor of the NOR and author, most recently, of Christendom and the West: Essays on Culture, Society and History.

Has anyone noticed the almost complete disappearance of Protestants from our nation? “What!” I can hear my readers exclaim, “Storck has really gone off his rocker this time. Why, just down the street there’s an Assembly of God church and two or three Baptist churches and the Methodists and so on. My cousin just left the Catholic Church to become a Protestant and my niece just married one. Moreover, evangelical Protestants have many media outlets of their own and they have great influence in the Bush Administration. They’re everywhere.” All this, of course, is true. Except that for some time, they no longer call themselves Protestants, but simply Christians, and increasingly they’ve gotten Catholics to go along with their terminology.

I recall over 10 years ago when I was a lector at Mass, for the prayer of the faithful I was supposed to read a petition that began, “That Catholics and Christians….” Of course, I inserted the word “other” before “Christians,” but I doubt very many in the congregation would even have noticed had I not done so. Just the other day I saw on a Catholic website an article about a Protestant adoption agency that refused to place children with Catholic parents. The headline referred not to a Protestant adoption agency but to a Christian one. And how often do we hear of Christian bookstores or Christian radio stations or Christian schools, when everyone should know they are Protestant ones?

Now, what is wrong with this? Well, it should be obvious to any Catholic — but probably isn’t. Are only Protestants Christians? Are we Catholics not Christians, indeed the true Christians? About 30 years ago, Protestants, especially evangelicals, began to drop the term Protestant and call themselves simply Christians as a not too subtle means of suggesting that they are the true and real Christians, rather than simply the children of the breakaway Protestant revolt of the 16th century. This shift in Protestant self-identification has taken on increasingly dramatic proportions. A recent Newsweek survey (Aug. 29-Sept. 5, 2005) found that, between 1990 and 2001, the number of Americans who consider themselves “Christian” (no denomination) increased by 1,120 percent, while the number of those who self-identify as “Protestant” decreased by 270 percent.

But perhaps I am getting too worked up over a small matter. After all, are not Protestants also Christians? Yes, I do not deny that. But usually we call something by its most specific name.

Protestants are theists too, but it would surely sound odd if we were to refer to their radio stations and bookstores as theistic radio stations and theistic bookstores. Language, in order to be useful, must convey human thought and concepts in as exact a way as it can. And, in turn, our thoughts and concepts should reflect reality. As Josef Pieper noted, “if the word becomes corrupted, human existence will not remain unaffected and untainted.”

Moreover, words often convey more than simple concepts. A certain word may seem only to portray reality, but in fact it does more. It adds a certain overtone and connotation. Thus, it is not a small matter whether we speak of “gays” or of homosexuals. The former term was chosen specifically to inculcate acceptance of an unnatural and immoral way of life. When I was an Episcopalian, I was careful never to speak of the Catholic Church, but of the Roman Catholic Church, as a means of limiting the universality of her claims. I always called Episcopal ministers priests, again as a means of affirming that such men really were priests, in opposition to Leo XIII’s definitive judgment that Anglican orders are invalid and thus that they are in no sense priests. Perhaps because of these early experiences, I am very aware of the uses of language to prejudge and control arguments, and I am equally careful now never to call Episcopal ministers priests or refer to one as Father So-and-So. And I think we should likewise not go along with the evangelical Protestant attempt to usurp the name Christian for themselves. They are Protestants, and public discourse should not be allowed to obscure that fact.

Apparently, though, it is the case that some Protestants call themselves Christians, not out of a desire to usurp the term, but out of an immense ignorance of history. That is, they ignore history to such an extent that they really don’t understand that they are Protestants. Knowing or caring little about what came before them, they act as if their nicely bound Bibles had fallen directly from Heaven and anyone could simply become a Christian with no reference to past history, ecclesiology, or theology. The period of time between the conclusion of the New Testament book of Acts and the moment that they themselves “accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior” means nothing. Even Luther or Calvin or John Wesley mean little to them, since they can pick up their Bibles and start Christianity over again any time they want. These souls may call themselves simply Christians in good faith, but they are largely ignorant of everything about Church history. They do not understand that Jesus Christ founded a Church, and that He wishes His followers to join themselves to that Church at the same time as they join themselves to Him. In fact, one implies and involves the other, since in Baptism we are incorporated in Christ and made members of His Church at the same time.

So let us not go along with the widespread practice of calling our separated brethren simply Christians. They are Protestants. Let us begin again to use that term. It is precise. It implies Catholic doctrine in the sense that it suggests that such people are in protest against the Church. Moreover, it forces them to define themselves in terms of, rather than independently of, the One True Church. And if we do resume referring to our separated brethren as Protestants, perhaps a few of them might even be surprised enough to ask us why — and then, behold, a teachable moment!


I Hate To Do This!


Offered by Allan Gillis

vINCENZO A sAN pIETROOK… I’ve been thinking that the writing has been less than optimal on this site for a while. I have been remiss in only sending in pieces from other blogs – bad me!   I CAN do better – just been too busy with work. I apologize sincerely… BUT, I MUST bring this to your attention dear reader!  I found this at The Remnant:

Mitis Iudex and a Centrifugal Church

Written by Thomas A. More

“And, if I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing.” St. Paul, 2 Corinthians, 13:3

It should not be too much, should it, to expect, at the very least, honesty from our bishops? After all of the physical, psychological and pecuniary harm that the laity have endured through clerical abuse of persons and power, perhaps clarity and transparency should be the rule of the day? Surely to facilitate a centripetal rapprochement between the hierarchy and the faithful, the faithful should be reassured by demonstrated hierarchical faithfulness to the beautiful teachings of Our Lord and his apostles governed by the Spirit of Penance and Charity?

But instead of honesty faithful Catholics are chided and suffer repeated insults to their intelligence; instead of clarity there is obfuscation; and, instead of the centripetal force of Penance and Charity a centrifugal force of Mercy threatens to fling us all away on the winds of modernity in the vain and misinformed hope that the ensuing vacuum will somehow suck in those on “the margins of society.”

As we all know by now, Pope Francis in Laudato Si chose to focus on earthly garbage heaps rather than the filth in the seminaries that his predecessor saw. Now, to many Catholics it would seem that this filth in the seminaries is to be integrated rather than disinfected.

In Evangelii Gaudium the Holy Father championed accepting new forms of worship so that we not allow ourselves to be handcuffed by Tradition. In service of this new missionary Christianity he has said that there “is no Catholic God,” he publically mocked a woman who confided in him her concerns about having children by saying that we need not breed like bunnies; and, he has also infantilized the beliefs of those who “count rosaries.” These are incontrovertible facts.

It would appear that Francis believes that the Holy Spirit is telling him that it is required to reinterpret the role of the Catholic hierarchy as an international socialist eco-ecumenical super-pac. Those who disagree with him disagree with the Holy Spirit. Such people, including his own Catholic flock, he said recently, are “fundamentalists” and “terrorists.” Such a hyperbolic mischaracterization is as uncharitable as it is untrue. Catholics have the canonical right, and duty, to question their pastors, and the attempt to chill debate through negative and incorrect labelling is nothing more than a bullying tactic and under the present circumstances it is very dangerous.

Sadly, through his unkind words and his apparently unfaithful actions Pope Francis is forcing many of us who were merely loyal John Paul II and Benedict XVI Catholics up to this point—and who, I might add, defended and supported the Church in her darkest days—to reconsider our affiliation with the current Catholic hierarchy. Soon it may be us whom the shepherds seek on the margins.

In that regard, the latest insult to our intelligence is the Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, which purports to change merely the process through which annulments are granted. However, as any philosopher, lawyer or theologian worth his or her salt will tell you, process, praxis or form shapes substance and doctrine, and the two concepts cannot be separated from one another.

In terms of Mitis Iudex, specifically, according to Benedict Nguyen, a canon and civil lawyer in Texas:

Mitis Iudex has created a situation where marriages are [in some cases] presumed to be invalid and that validity must now be proven. This is tantamount to adopting a “guilty until proven innocent” approach and will be detrimental to the notion of the indissolubility of marriage.

Moreover, as Nguyen states, Mitis Iudex was introduced as a fait accompli, with no consultation sought from bishops or canon lawyers. The irony of such an imperious, unprecedented and rash action under the guise of a Vatican II papacy of collegiality is hard to ignore.

According to Patheos, Kurt Marten, a professor of canon law at Catholic University said that:

the expedited process would apply to Catholic couples facing certain conditions, including those who have an abortion, a grave contagious disease, children from a previous relationship or imprisonment. Essentially, Martens said, the church is providing a path that looks like the Catholic version of no-fault divorce.

“If I were a bishop, I would be upset,” Martens said. “It’s a bit strange and even a sign of contradiction that a pope who is big on consultation and collegiality seems to forget that on something like this. It’s highly unusual for legislation like this to get through that way.”

Meanwhile, despite all of this, Catholics are to accept that the changes are merely procedural and not doctrinal or substantive. It bears repeating that Nguyen and Marten both agree that in some cases the burden of proof as to whether there has been a valid marriage has been reversed from validity to invalidity. Imagine if the legislature of your state were to reverse the presumption of innocence in a criminal trial. Would that be merely procedural and not substantive? I do not think so.

Moreover, both canonists agree that we are on the verge of no-fault “Catholic” divorce if Mitis Iudex is implemented “as is.” So, even though the changes have been characterized as procedural, they are in effect substantive and doctrinal: A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, as Juliet tells us. Remember, Vatican II was merely pastoral, and not doctrinal!

In response to what one must assume was a public outcry (or celebration) in Brazil, the Bishop of Palmares, Bishop Soares, attempted to rely on the same old worn refrain that the Media Invent a fake Pope by Misusing his words.

For a start, the papacy is under a duty to its Founder and its flock to express its intent and Church doctrine unapologetically and unequivocally. A failure on the part of the papacy to act in this way is as a result of its culpable error and not media manipulation. This is especially so when legislation is involved. At this stage, listening to Pope Francis is, at best, as psychologically and existentially uncomfortable as reading Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

Moreover, Bishop Soares defends Mitis Iudex by merely begging the question and acting like Mitis Iudex does not exist. He starts by saying that he is tired of newspaper headlines like:

“Pope simplifies process of ending a marriage”, “Pope Francis’ reform allows a marriage to be ended in 45 days”, or “Pope Francis facilitates and lowers cost of ending a marriage in the Church”.[Then] Bishop Soares noted that “the Church doesn’t end marriages. Christ did not give her that power. He also explained that the Church recognizes that “under certain circumstances there really wasn’t a marriage,” and that those cases are declared null.”A lasting and consummated marriage, with everything in order, continues and will continue to be indissoluble, and the Church can’t do anything about it because her Lord and Master did not grant her that authority. We are all disciples before Christ: only one is the Master, only one is the Guide, only one is the Lord,” he affirmed.The Bishop of Palmares emphasized that the measures enacted by Pope Francis are intended to simplify the process of recognizing the nullity of a marriage, which does not affect the indissolubility of marriage.”Summing up: the pope is doing nothing extraordinary or contrary to the faith of the Church,” he emphasized.
Of course, Bishop Soares is correct, the Church lacks the power to end marriages. However, that is not the issue. The issue is whether under the chaos of the scheme established by Mitis Iudex, and in the context of everything we know about the current pontificate, the Church hierarchy is deliberately or negligently about to co-opt that power.

Surely after everything the laity has endured at the hands of the hierarchy in recent years we can demand faithfulness, charity, clarity and honesty from them? And, if Francis will not discharge his duty in this regard, surely the responsibility falls to the bishops at the upcoming Synod on the Family? Surely these men must speak with the Holy Father and demand such clarity and an unequivocal reaffirmation of doctrine?

If not, the question then becomes, what is a “fundamentalist” to do in a centrifugally Merciful Church?! Let us hope that it does not come to that, but we can take comfort in the fact that, if even atheists of good will find salvation, then how much more Mercy will the Lord show His own “fundamentalists.” Let us wait for the Synod and pray to the Blessed Virgin.

A Tid-Bit from Sandro Magister


By Allan Gillis

Perhaps you’ve heard of Sandro Magister? He is an Italian journalist who contributes to the Italian magazine “L’espressso”. He writes mainly on Vatican issues and religious “happenings” as it may affect Italians and Roman Catholics around the world. He recently had his Vatican press credentials revoked by the Bergoglio Vaticanistas for L’esppresso’s “unorthodox” handling of the “publication/timing” of the pope’s recent “global-warming/Capitalism’s gonna kills us” encyclical. But, I think he as a veteran Vatican reporter has some wonderful insight and certainly still has his contacts which render some interesting tid-bits of the daily extrusions of this loose-canonist pope of ours. I offer this to you dear reader from “L’espresso”:

United States and Cuba, the Devil and Holy Water

They are the two destinations of the next journey of Pope Francis, at the opposite poles of his geopolitical vision. The enigma of the pope’s silence on the absence of freedom in the regime of Fidel and Raúl Castro

by Sandro Magister ROME, September 11, 2015 – The United States and Cuba, or the devil and holy water. The journey that Pope Francis has scheduled from September 19 to 27 will take him to the two opposite poles of his geopolitical vision: to the temple of the “economy that kills” and just beforehand to the outpost of the peoples on the path of redemption.

In the island of the Caribbean and in the “Alianza Bolivariana” already established between Cuba and the populist regimes of Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio in fact sees a preview of the “Great Homeland” that he longs for so much, the springtime of an integration of the Latin American continent in a Catholic and anti-capitalist vein.

He has already visited two of these countries, Ecuador and Bolivia, and will soon arrive in the third, Cuba. And he has always treated their rulers with great regard and even with cordiality, including when they have presented the greatest trials.

Against the totalitarian trend in the Venezuela of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro he has never expended a single word, nor has he ever responded to the appeals of a population reduced to hunger. He has promoted the unworthy Bolivian president Evo Morales to de facto leader of those antagonistic “popular movements” that are for him, the pope, the future of the redeemed humanity. As for Cuba, here too what is startling about Francis is his silence.

Of course, once he has landed in Havana Francis will speak. But in skimming the program of the visit, it is striking how scanty it is. In other countries the pope has never failed to enter a prison or to meet with refugees and the homeless. In the United States it is already known where and when he will do this. But not in Cuba.

In Lampedusa he threw flowers into the ocean and cried out, “Shame!” but it is unlikely that he will do so from the Malecón in Havana, in front of the ocean strait that has swallowed up thousands of Cubans fleeing toward the coasts of Florida.

In a prison it would be difficult for him to encounter any of the hundreds of political detainees.

The Damas de Blanco, wives and mothers of dissidents in prison, who go to Mass every Sunday dressed in white and brave the insults and violence of the police, would have a hard time finding a place in the front row of the pope’s Masses.

As for the dissidents living in surveilled and intermittent freedom, many of them Catholic, the only hope is that the pope may be able to meet with one of them away from the spotlight and outside of the official program, as the regime benignly allowed American secretary of state John Kerry to do on the day of the inauguration of the restored United States embassy in Cuba.

There is a great deal of Realpolitik in the silence maintained by Pope Francis so far on the lack of freedom for the Cuban people. Vatican secretary of state Pietro Parolin and his substitute Angelo Becciu were raised in the school of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, a great diplomat at the time of the Soviet empire, and were nuncios in Venezuela and Cuba respectively. They know the country profiles, and Francis seems to adhere diligently to their instructions.

What the pope adds of his own is his personal, confidential approach, almost as a confessor, with the despots he encounters. He has succeeded in touching the notoriously stony heart of Raül Castro, leading him to express, after a private conversation at the Vatican, intentions of returning to the practice of the Catholic religion. Fidel can be counted on for an encore. The wager is that during his three days on the island Francis may come up with something else unplanned, capable of giving a minimum of substance to the cry “Libertad” already raised in vain by the Cuban crowds during the visits of the two previous popes.

In the United States it will be a completely different tune. Bergoglio has never been in love with what amounts to the greatest power of the West and of the world. And in his personal relationships too he makes no mystery of preferring a Vladimir Putin to a Barack Obama.

But the pope displays the same coolness toward the country’s body of bishops, many of them unrepentant Wojtylians and Ratzingerians. Because the bishops are also critical of the Obama administration, but for reasons different from those of Francis.

For the bishops what is under attack are the identity and freedom of man as issued male and female from the hands of God, while for the pope the supreme threat is the overweening power of the free-market economy.

In the scheduled speeches to Congress, at the UN, and to the bishops, it will be seen to what extent Francis will push his reprimand.


This commentary was published in “L’Espresso” no. 37 of 2015, on newsstands as of September 11, on the opinion page entitled “Settimo cielo” entrusted to Sandro Magister.

Here is the index of all the previous commentaries:

> “L’Espresso” in seventh heaven


The program of the journey to Cuba and the United States:

> Apostolic Journey of His Holiness Francis, 19-28 September 2015


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.

Conservatives vs liberals in the church

By Augustinus

Pope Francis’ actions continue to cause controversy in the church. The Washington Post yesterday published a story detailing the alleged rise of an emerging conservative backlash against the reforms the Pope has instituted. While the secular press attempts to frame the Pope and the church’s recent actions in terms of a conventional liberal vs conservative struggle within the church, the Catholic blogosphere is not doing much better. It is, of course, natural that the secular conflicts that rage within the society as a whole inevitably get reflected within the church herself but that is certainly not the whole nor even the most interesting story.

We all have a responsibility to take a stand regarding the great political conflicts fo the day but we need to do so with wisdom. Wisdom suggests that the putative differences between conservatives and liberals are really not that great. Both wings of the American political establishment are utterly and entirely invested into the worst aspects of the modernity. The republicans are a little less bamboozled by the endless creation of victim groups than are the democrats and the democrats are a little less bamboozled by the endless military pursuit of “freedom” and “democracy” across the globe both wings of the Americanist heresy endorse the positing of sovereignty within “the people” rather than with God and by extension his Church.

Both conservatives and liberals tend to see the church as nothing more than just another interest group, just another power bloc. because it has a little bit of power the church needs to be occasionally placated but basically it is a non-entity for American elites. These elites would like to have the church endorse its policies but beyond that endorsement they do not much care about the church.

American elites certainly do not see the church as the body of Christ or as a site of God’s authority and sovereignty and therefore the “thing” of ultimate importance in any culture or political system. The elites and their media and press outlets therefore are not equipped to see what is really occurring in the church today.  What IS occurring is what always occurs in the church. It continually rediscovers truths hidden within the ancient deposit of faith and it does so, as John Henry Newman pointed out, by struggling against heresy.

While the wrapping or package changes the content of heresy does not change very much over the course of the ages. The battles within the church therefore are battles against heresy-not struggles within the conventional conservative vs liberal storyline.