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Push back against the age

This quote is lodged in my bones (it's from The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor, highly recommended -- affiliate link).

It is what I want to say to warn people when the subject of popular depictions of the faith arises: AI-generated attempts at religious or sacred art, TV shows about the life of Christ, or trendy movies about saints. 

If it's aimed at a mass market, it is *very unlikely* to be sound. On the surface these entertainments might seem appealing, but their foundations are something other than true principles and devotion to historical accuracy, and thus may harm our always wavering, always challenged, resolution to seek the Cross. 

Worse, they may harm our children's almost non-existent imaginations, starved as they are for time-tested cultural examples and references. 

It's possible, I'm not saying it's not. 

For instance, I came across the wonderful novel Peace Like A River, by Lief Enger (affiliate link), at Barnes & Noble, and it was advertised as a best-selling book club book. Due to the Scriptural title and a certain undefinable intuition about it, I had my doubts that the New York Times, for instance, understood it, so on a hunch I bought it. I was right. The fact is that it's so well written -- *and its art is hidden* as the poet Ovid recommended -- that it went over their heads. 

I love the Oscar-nominated film Doubt, incredibly featuring the major stars Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman as note-perfect nun and priest, respectively. Again, I note the New York Times missed the point entirely in their review, not unpredictably being taken in by the narcissism in an acting tour de force by Mr. Hoffman. Here's a case of the truth pulling one on "the world." 

But such occurrences are rare -- vanishingly rare. 

Our main stance as Christians must be the attitude of, as the Apostle says, testing worldly things, "examining them carefully," to make sure they meet our standards. We must, as Flannery O'Connor advised, push back against the age, not uncritically accepting its dubious offerings. Even if people mock us for being crabbed in spirit or too picky or never satisfied, well, so be it.

It's all too easy to wake up and discover oneself a comfort-seeking, happy-clappy Christian -- and, tragically, one's children apostates!

A Colloquy for Lenten Preparation

 A followup on my last post, Distant sound of Lent approaching:

As Ash Wednesday approaches, if you are thinking of doing the Septuagesima70 path, I highly recommend listening to the first colloquy with Fr. Mark Withoos. It is a helpful, gentle, and challenging exhortation to follow the old ways to live Lent. 

You can find it here

Father gives an overview of the spiritual goals of this journey (particularly meditation) and the navigation of the site and resources. 

See what you think! There's still time to get it all geared up -- that's the beauty of the traditional pre-Lenten season. Remember, you can tailor your penances to your own situation. As chaplain of the program, he is there to help. Your own spiritual director can help you with questions as well.

I also recommend Suzan Sammons' Stations of the Cross in Slow Motion for spiritual reading to nourish your Lent. If you sometimes get the feeling that the Stations go by too quickly of a Friday afternoon in church, I think her guide to them day by day is fruitful. It is a collection of meditations from Church Fathers and saints and is aimed to help the whole family, with questions for discussion and reflection. Perhaps a good way to focus dinnertime conversation! 

Distant sound of Lent approaching

A rare Sunday message today, about Septuagesima70, a plan that begins today and continues through Lent. 

I'm not a program person, because the Liturgical Year offers us what we need in the spiritual realm. This plan is simply a way to put into practice the change of heart necessary for Christian life. It begins today on the traditional day, Septaugesima Sunday, of heeding the Lenten call, albeit heard in the distance. 

It's not something separate, a sort of "brighter idea, added onto or replacing Lent -- I would be totally against any such thing. 

No, sometimes we just need something to be spelled out, and that's what this is.

We are still two (and a bit) weeks away from Ash Wednesday. In the Novus Ordo calendar, it's "Ordinary Time." But even so, we have been aware in the liturgy of a growing emphasis on God's Law and His holy ways, and the necessity of adhering to them. How to do it?

God has given us a way to go along with Him on the path to Heaven. It has to do with our inner life, the hidden closet into which we must go with a repentant heart, in order to find and follow Him.

A transformation occurs when we start to live in His divine life. It requires a visceral, interior cooperation from us -- especially in our willingness to start again and again, after each failure and fall, to acquire certain habits that ultimately become virtues. For a virtue is simply this: a good habit that becomes part of us, a second nature; it's just that for a Christian, that "second" nature is divine.

As with any habit, at first, effort -- sometimes great effort -- is needed. And this is where the Liturgical Year comes in. The cycle of days and seasons offered by the Church offer us the right moments in which to respond to God's call. Now is the acceptable time.

The best plan -- and it can be put into practice at any moment, but let's say now is a good opportunity -- has certain elements in it:

It motivates us to put forth the necessary effort, but also doesn't cause us to lose courage. 

It aims high, but doesn't dismay. 

It involves camaraderie -- knowing others are also trying, at that particular time, to get similar habits helps us run the race. 

It has the components that acknowledge our human nature: physical and spiritual. 

It also gives us the advantage of a spiritual director, so we don't go too easy or too hard on ourselves, by relying on ourselves. I know Fr. Mark Withoos, the chaplain, very well -- he is an old friend. He combines a thorough knowledge of traditional practices in austerity, penance, and self-abnegation with a generous, heartening, and cheerful attitude. 

The life of virtue is a life of good habits won through mortification in every area. Good habits require knowledge, practice, fortitude, prayer, self-awareness, and something outside of oneself to correct.

I think Septuagesima70 is a way to acquire a newness of life -- just in time for Easter! The practices start tomorrow. Today, reflect! 

St. Nicholas and St. Thomas Aquinas: Keeping Christmas

The Christian must never think he will someday be mature enough to be able to move on from a child's Christmas. No intellectual achievement, no humanitarian activity, no synthesis of faith can ever replace the treasure of wonder as one contemplates the Son of God made Man, the Divine Person taking on mortal flesh. 

The world -- and our families -- and the smallest child -- and the greatest theologian -- would be made bereft of the fulfillment of their deepest longings if ever we Christians were to abandon our simple observance of this time of preparing for and celebrating the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

Nothing can replace it; nothing can fulfill the longing and excitement of the preparations of Advent and the joy of a childlike Noël, lovingly prepared by Church, priest, mother, father, and grandparents, passed down through the generations. Many a convert has been made, secretly, in the love of Christmas carols and the dear crèche with its Infant and Mother, star, angels, shepherds, ox, and ass.

Today at 1Peter5, Peter Kwasniewski makes a brilliant connection between the great saint of charity, St. Nicholas, and the great saint of wisdom, St. Thomas Aquinas. Thinking in a worldly way, one might suppose the latter had found the key to transcendence in his own mind and been able to achieve a higher level of faith. Instead, we see that contemplation found him at the feet of Santa Claus (the identity of the great bishop, as Pope Benedict tells us, forged in the depths of history). 

It seems that St. Thomas, aided by St. Nicholas, saw the Christmas path and could no longer stop to write about it anymore; famously he compared his work to straw, which sounds sad but was a great joy for him. He found, like a child, the Christ whom Isaiah foresaw: "A Word completing and shortening in righteousness, because a shortened word will God make in the whole earth." 

All of Christendom has built up a wealth of customs, music, and art, all fittingly radiating the glory of this otherwise hidden event; let us dedicate ourselves to preserving this wealth and to protecting it from those who are arrogantly, erroneously beyond or above such things, who slothfully wish a change, or who fatally succumb to the world and its weary ways. 

Let us be as little children, the Angelic Doctor, and St. Nicholas, accepting what is so greatly given. Let us piously do our humble best to make straight the paths and keep Christmas.

The four groups entirely excluded by the Synod

Today in Crisis, the redoubtable Regis Martin remarks of the Synod on Synodality,

Think of all those matching tables and chairs so carefully arranged to ensure a level playing field for every marginalized member of the Church. In which there must be no hint whatsoever of hierarchy, of episcopal distinction among the many talking heads. Whether curial cardinal or college coed, it makes no difference; no one opinion is better than any other. Just imagine: 400 plus participants, each his or her own priest, prophet, and pope. 

I add: Think of those circles of chairs, with the participants facing inwards, towards that glowing altar of our time, the digital screen. They are gathered in a hall the aesthetics of which radiate a strange mixture of the technical, the utilitarian, and the ugly (that sculpture!). The images we, sitting at home, receive are lacking in any hint of the sacred, and yet, those who were there were dealing with sacred things after all.

The cold blue light emanating on these Synodal attendees and the absence of any Catholic imagery remind me of Ratzinger's observations about golden calf worship in The Spirit of the Liturgy: "a circle closed in on itself... no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources."

Of course, the Synodal meetings were not worship. But with this grouping of equal circles centered on screens, they were not meetings either, from what I can tell. They seemed to be more like futuristic, yet also banal, interactions with the disembodied. 

The Synod on Synodality was touted as being inclusive in its voting. For the first time, laymen and women were participants, we were endlessly told; and two of our most clericalist prelates (in a huge field), Cardinals Cupich and McElroy, presumptuously proclaimed their confidence that future synods would maintain this precedent.

I wonder if it occurs to any of these smug observers that there were four groups who were most definitely not represented: first, devoted wives and mothers seeking only "the noble office of a Christian woman and wife" (in the words of Pius XI) in the home; second, strong fathers who sacrificially take on the role of sole providers of their families; third, piously cloistered nuns; and fourth, committed pastors of parishes. 

Perhaps because these demographics consist of persons who are not interested in leaving their place (nor could they be spared), they were entirely omitted. Yet I would argue that it is precisely on the shoulders of these obscure figures that the Christian restoration depends. And each one of those groups could use a little encouragement at this point.

Sohrab Ahmari writes today that the synod was a big "apostolic nothingburger," an oddly dismissive turn of phrase in a piece meant to admonish critics for insufficient faith in and reverence for the pontiff's intentions. 

"No 'fundamental changes to Catholicism' took place. Nor was the faith radically deconstructed. That should alert hardcore traditionalists that perhaps they’ve got Pope Francis all wrong; that by constantly questioning his fidelity to the deposit of faith and striking an opposition-from-the-get-go posture whenever he tries to teach, they not only act without due docility toward the Vicar of Christ on Earth, but betray the older models of papal authority they seek to restore."

To be fair to "hardcore traditionalists," contrasted with liberals' perfervid, pentecostal promise of the outpouring of some new Spirit in the Synod's wake, "no change" seems a bit flat and possibly not quite trustworthy. Note that Cardinal McElroy saw it otherwise, on the question of deaconesses (surely they won't be called that, though -- seems sexist):  

"There's only one [question up for vote] that's called urgent. And that is bringing women into greater roles of leadership at all levels of the church. Not a single one has the word urgent or any equivalent word except for that one."

Ahmari admits that there is something a bit awkward about what was said ("not a small portion of the sort of human-resources and therapeutic vernacular that has sadly invaded the Church’s language: 'Our personal narratives will enrich this synthesis with the tone of lived experience....' ") and quickly pivots to that old standby, the assurance that performative worldliness is in fact supernatural, if only we had the right lens with which to view it, Mottram-like: "But I wonder whether appropriating the outward forms of the HR-therapeutic complex is precisely the Church’s way of repelling its substance."

That sort of thing is wearing thin. In any case, if that's the most we can say, that the worst did not happen, that a lack, a void, an absence, is a kind of triumph, well, that's a high price to pay for clinging to the fiction that Pope Francis is not actually in favor of "making a mess." Some of us cling more to the sanity that refuses to take and not take, simultaneously, a person at his word(s).

Personally, I couldn't assuage my fears in this negative view even if I wanted to -- not with my familiarity with another episode, the Amazonian synod, that resulted in similar crowings against naysayers. Even Cardinal Müller tried it; by now we see he eventually had to drop the delusion. "Pope Francis didn't say women should be deacons! Take that, Francis-bashers!" No, but neither did he mention in his post-synodal document Querida Amazonia, even once, motherhood, or the sacrament of marriage, or the importance of family in society, though the whole shebang was directed towards the role of women and the hopes of helping a culture flourish. All that was affirmed at that time was a dreary, administrative model of the Church in which neither the hierarchy nor the family turns out to be that important. In short, one where Christianity doesn't matter.

The chairs are put away now. They will be taken out again next year, I suppose. Regis Martin says, "The world having lost the poetry of the transcendent, everyone is left muttering prose [Ahmari agrees on that point, as we saw]. The world is fast losing its story, which is His-Story, told by the Artist himself, Christ the Savior God." 

Never mind, though. We can recover that story, in Truth, right where we are. A lot depends on our doing just that.

Be anxious for the fray -- news and commentary resources

Today I am sharing some resources I find myself returning to on a regular basis. If you are looking for good content, here you go.

Since people ask me what their kids can read or listen to for current events, I try to keep that request in mind as I am listening and reading. Back in the day, you could take the local and national newspapers and have your children read those. Today, the former has collapsed and the latter is simply an arm of the state (those two facts are not unrelated). 

However, since a lot of the news centers on gender ideology, it's simply not appropriate for children! What a problem... what's a parent to do? I am skeptical of so-called "neutral" news aggregator sites, as I think they end up promoting the state-approved narratives after all.

The following links might be appropriate for your high school student; you'll have to examine them yourself, because everyone has their own standards for their family (for instance, someone with generally good analysis might occasionally use salty language). 

My title on this post comes from the motto of The Federalist, a quote from Calvin Coolidge (a truly great president by the way), who said: "Be lovers of freedom and anxious for the fray." 

David Harsanyi ends each episode of the weekly podcast with Mollie Hemingway, You're Wrong, with this inspiring line.

They discuss the news, with analysis, and I always get a lot out of it. I appreciate Mollie's refusal to accept the terms set by the opposition -- she thinks clearly and insists on using her own vocabulary to characterize her opinions (e.g. "protections of the unborn" vs. "abortion bans"). She is articulate and informed, including about past events and figures. (I often worry about the current pundit class's ignorance of recent history, especially the intellectual background of conservatism in America.) I appreciate David's commitment to the rule of law. He often has insights about the larger meaning of the Left's attacks on our institutions. The two of them have a good rapport. I just wish their intro music weren't pure ugliness... why. 

The Washington Examiner is a newspaper (online) with content you won't see in the legacy media. Full disclosure: my son Joseph is an editor over there! Again, the issue is the barrage of gender ideology news, not fit for children even (or especially) to view the photos, but a teen could find current events there, perhaps with adult supervision.

Michael Knowles' podcast is one I often listen to. I agree with him most of the time. I like his mix of news and basic principles -- he will almost daily remind his listeners of fundamental truths that ought to guide our political and social thoughts and decisions, like the importance of marriage and family for flourishing, and the need to worship the true God. I just like it when people are not afraid to return to these guiding ideas often. We need the reminders.

I like the Substack of William Briggs. On Twitter he calls himself "Statistician to the Stars" to poke fun at our expert class regime, if that gives you a hint of his vibe, though he really does crunch the numbers and debunk the nonsense. He understands the relationship between science and philosophy. Today he talks about our need to take responsibility for our own defense in light of the Maine shooter incident. Do you have your Class A license to carry? I think you should get it if you can.

Our friend Dan has short and informative posts about the issues in his Substack, Corned Beef Catholicism. I think your high school student could get a good overview from his content.

The Naked Emperor has so much content, especially as relates to Covid politics and vaccine injury reporting. I can't keep up with it all, though if I'm looking for something, it's a good resource.

Victor Davis Hanson knows a lot about everything, especially military history and strategy. You can read his articles here and many other places. If you have a lot of time, you can listen to his podcast here (but he really does go on! it took me a while to get used to his monologues! that said, he really does know what he's talking about). I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say about the Speaker of the House choice, as he was expressing frustration at the removal of McCarthy and the subsequent chaos. 

Tucker Carlson had some simple points to make about our right to be concerned about preserving our society and the criteria we might consider regarding the question of foreign policy. You can follow him on Twitter for his updates.

And of course, my husband's site for Catholic information. Instead of following sites with no filter and lots of incendiary clickbait, go to Catholic Culture for the news and for Phil Lawler's analysis. (Click on the "news" tab for the headlines.)

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (politics-free over there!).

Do you have favorite resources to share? Let us know in the comments and I will try to check them out. 

The phony pedantry and empty metaphysical thrill of Teilhard de Chardin

The resurgence of the ideological, political, and emotional aura or atmosphere of the 70s, that incalculably influential decade (bursting forth as it did on the petard of one year, 1968, though of course having been sparking for much longer) means that we today must take care not to forget the figures and events of that time -- not if we want to escape its clutches. (And those of us who lived through that time would dearly love some respite!)

In the realm of theology, if we are going to identify some of the causes of our current plight, one priest, Teilhard de Chardin, exerts an influence far beyond his name-recognition today, yet his errors remain with us in myriad ways.

His ideas were formless from the start. He never had a theory or position that could be stated with much confidence. It's the very penumbra of drama, of poetic, vague spiritualism, braced up by the settled-science-y cachet of evolutionary theory that characterized his attraction and of which, today, his magnetism consists. For the confused and those who wish to confuse, his theology is perfect.

In one message to my husband and me, Fr. Paul Mankowski put it this way: 

Teilhard has always struck me as bogus the way Matthew Fox is bogus: his language is designed to make clear things cloudy rather than the reverse, and always promises some kind of metaphysical thrill he never delivers on.  He has his admirers, but nobody has been able to build anything on T's work, the way bright grad students go on to advance the arguments of the thinkers they study.  You either get intoxicated by the guy or you don't.

The Jesuits and the corruption of their charism exert a disproportionate influence on the Catholic Church today. Obviously, the Pope is a Jesuit. His closest friends and influencers are Jesuits. And Pope Francis clearly admires Teilhard, a Jesuit. 

So, as I say, even if trying to grasp the man's thought is hopeless, the way, as we used to joke, nailing Jello to the wall is hopeless, we do need to know what it is and what its current cognates are. His ideas lend themselves to endless iterations (without necessarily any acknowledgment of their source -- who needs to footnote a feeling?).

I recommend reading the four Substack posts on the topic by Peter Kwasniewski as a primer in the era and its confusions. In the first part, he remarks about the long passage quoted by Pope Francis recently, "A bit wild and wooly, but one might be able to read it all in an orthodox way." 

An aside: How often one has sat in the pew listening to some grandiose verbiage from the pulpit, words spinning around, creating a tangled ball of something that, overall, gives us a squirmy sense; yet as we attempt to resist spending yet another Sunday riled up about the state of things, we find ourselves saying, "Wellll, I suppose one could interpret it in a not-wholly-erroneous way..."

But why? Why do we have to do this? Why are things not clear, spiritually healthy, ringing with the familiar clear bell-like tones of the past? Why are we perpetually in a state of having to quell our uneasiness (at best) or standing athwart destruction (at worst, and who are we to take on this task)? 

Back to Teilhard. Peter Kwasniewski goes on to say, after the "wild and wooly" bit:

Yet Teilhard de Chardin, the Piltdown paleontologist and “Omega Point” mystagogue, is not exactly an uncomplicated and uncontroversial figure. Phil Lawler describes him as "a French author whose odd mixture of eugenics and evolutionary theory drew several cautions from the Vatican during the pontificates of Pius XII and John XXIII. More recently his work has drawn interest from exponents of New Age spirituality."

In the third of Kwasniewski's posts, he looks at the assessment of recent authors, including Fr. Mankowski, who writes:

Tall, dapper, handsome and aristocratic—I’ll have to take Kirsch’s word for it here—Teilhard de Chardin was essentially a fraud. At bottom, he was a Ramada Inn lounge singer posing as a metaphysician.

I cringe to admit I have weighty opinion against me. Both Joseph Ratzinger and Flannery O’Connor were deeply impressed by Teilhard. I can only explain this admiration by the surmise that neither admirer had any formal education in science, and both were thus innocently susceptible to Teilhard’s pseudo-scientific pedantries...

Had Teilhard stuck to his cotton-candy metaphysics, he probably would have been ignored by his principal antagonists both inside and outside the Church. It was his claim to be a serious paleontologist and unflinching respecter of scientific fact that put his theology in the crosshairs.


I must chime in here on the general assumption that Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, admired and was even influenced by Teilhard de Chardin. Maybe. 

Keep in mind that one way Teilhard retains his hold among the theological elites is by evoking that slipperiest of "settled theories," evolution. Most academics are loathe to challenge it, lest they be branded anti-intellectual, so tight is the fist that strangles true scientific inquiry -- or, I should say, so absolute is the dictatorship on this matter. Question evolution (as a unified theory of the world, that is; spotted moths aside) and be shunned forever, is how it goes.

I don't know why Flannery O'Connor couldn't sniff out Teilhard. Normally she had exquisite common sense. And it's true that on occasion, Ratzinger took Teilhard's ideas seriously, perhaps because he had that gentleman-scholar's way of graciously giving the benefit of the doubt, combined with the universally observed caution to avoid foreign, and in this matter, dangerous, academic ground. From what I've read, though, it seems more a case of the smarter person allowing someone's insights, however odd, to spark his own more profound thoughts, rather than delving into them on their own merit. 

Certainly, portraying someone's position should not be mistaken for agreeing with it, necessarily. Teilhard was influential enough to merit at least that, at least at the time. 

I'm not suggesting that some of Ratzinger's assessments weren't positive -- it seems as if they were. However, in our polarized age, we don't have what his attention could also be: patience. Ratzinger's overall demeanor was that of a gentle academic willing to hear everyone out (to the detriment, ultimately, of his disciplinary role as pontiff). My impression is that sometimes he was employing a Thomistic approach; he seems often simply to be holding Teilhard's position out at arm's length to get a good look at it for description's sake. To give him credit, how many of us are willing to do that -- to characterize our opponent fairly, even at the risk of being thought of as giving assent?

The point I want to make is that when Ratzinger was on his ground, he dismissed the man pretty decisively. In The Spirit of the Liturgy, one of his later, more mature works, Ratzinger spends a paragraph summarizing Teilhard's conception of the universe, which he saw as an evolutionary process in which the cosmos undergoes a "series of unions" towards "a growing synthesis, leading to the 'Noosphere', in which spirit and its understanding embrace the whole and are bended into a kind of living organism... In his view [emphasis added], the Eucharist... anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on." 

In the immediately following paragraph, Ratzinger offers a quite different, even opposing, view, and it is the one he commits to and expands upon for the rest of the chapter and, indeed, book. "The older tradition starts from a different conceptual model. Its image is not of an upward flying arrow, but of a kind of cross-shaped movement... " 

The ensuing treatment simply leaves behind Teilhard's idea -- his main idea -- and never picks it up again. It does seem to be the case that in his writings, Ratzinger never directly refutes Teilhard. But if we look at what he does say about his own thought, we understand that he seems to regard Teilhard as requiring mention, if only to juxtapose him against his, Ratzinger's, own solid grasp of "the tradition." 

In the same way, Teilhard requires mention today; he is that influential. If he didn't himself create the loopy, gnostic, pseudo-scientific claptrap passing for theology we endure today, he is a handy emblem of it. Sometimes it's helpful to put a face on bad ideas so they are recognizable

NB: Happy to know, thanks to Peter Kwasniewski, that along with Fr. Mankowski, my bestie C. S. Lewis also had no time for Teilhard: 

Ironically, the Anglican C. S. Lewis showed a much more “Catholic” sensibility than current Church leadership when, in 1960, he wrote to a Jesuit friend: “How right your Society was to shut up de Chardin!”



Bishop Athanasius Schneider: The Validity of the Pontificate of Pope Francis

Bishop Athanasius Schneider is a calm voice in a time of trouble. I pray that he will keep his rock-hard devotion to the truth while maintaining and promoting peace of heart. He has lived through enough turmoil himself (having been born in the Gulag, where his parents were confined) to have perspective as well as a firm understanding of where the evils of man can take us.

His commentary on the validity of the current pontificate (and how to assess it) is well worth reading -- a good follow-up to my previous post. It's hard to read on the site, so I will reproduce it here. (If you read it there on your phone, you can select “show reader view” to put the text in regular black and white text.)

Do read it all. 

Bishop Schneider is saying that no person or group can depose the pope -- at least, history and tradition do not support that idea. Even if some theologians might come to a different conclusion, due to the uniquely bad circumstances of this pontificate, that would take a tremendous amount of time -- time we ordinary people still have to live through and keep our faith.

One point that might be brought out, in relation to that scenario: there is one other way out of our troubles: for the laity, through prayer and insistence on the truth, to convince the bishops that they must confront Pope Francis with his wrongs and urge him to repent and amend. Such a thing did happen in another time, in the Arian heresy; and there has been a pope who repented, as St. Robert Bellarmine says happened with John XXII. I believe that it is the duty of the laity to speak out loudly enough for the bishops to hear.

You might ask: Is Bishop Schneider saying to give up hope? No. We must keep our hope. We must remember that the Church is the body of Christ and as such, will endure, will recapitulate, all His sufferings, including interior abandonment and desolation. 

Is he trivializing this matter? Again, no. Just as Our Lord did not trivialize his Passion, even though as God He could have, as the bad thief said, just shown His power, we must endure the bitterness to the end, if that is what He wants us to do. Bishop Schneider says, "The surer Catholic tradition says, that in the case of a heretical pope, the members of the Church can avoid him, resist him, refuse to obey him, all of which can be done without requiring a theory or opinion, that says that a heretical pope automatically loses his office or can be deposed consequently."

Let's support each other, tell the truth, and be of good cheer! What choice do we have?

Bishop Schneider: About the Validity of the Pontificate of Pope Francis

There is no authority to declare or consider an elected and generally accepted Pope as an invalid Pope. The constant practice of the Church makes it evident that even in the case of an invalid election this invalid election will be de facto healed through the general acceptance of the new elected by the overwhelming majority of the cardinals and bishops.

Even in the case of a heretical pope he will not lose his office automatically and there is no body within the Church to declare him deposed because of heresy. Such actions would come close to a kind of a heresy of conciliarism or episcopalism. The heresy of conciliarism or episcopalism says basically that there is a body within the Church (Ecumenical Council, Synod, College of Cardinals, College of Bishops), which can issue a legally binding judgment over the Pope.

The theory of the automatic loss of the papacy due to heresy remains only an opinion, and even St. Robert Bellarmine noticed this and did not present it as a teaching of the Magisterium itself. The perennial papal Magisterium never taught such an option. In 1917, when the Code of Canon Law (Codex Iuris Canonici) came into force, the Magisterium of the Church eliminated from the new legislation the remark of the Decretum Gratiani in the old Corpus Iuris Canonici, which stated, that a Pope, who deviates from right doctrine, can be deposed. Never in history the Magisterium of the Church did admit any canonical procedures of deposition of a heretical pope. The Church has no power over the pope formally or judicially. The surer Catholic tradition says, that in the case of a heretical pope, the members of the Church can avoid him, resist him, refuse to obey him, all of which can be done without requiring a theory or opinion, that says that a heretical pope automatically loses his office or can be deposed consequently.

Therefore being it so, we must follow the surer way (via tutior) and abstain from defending the merely opinion of theologians (even be they saints like St. Robert Bellarmine), which says that a heretical pope automatically loses his office or can be deposed by the Church therefore.

The pope cannot commit heresy when he speaks ex cathedra, this is a dogma of faith. In his teaching outside of ex cathedra statements, however, he can commit doctrinal ambiguities, errors and even heresies. And since the pope is not identical with the entire Church, the Church is stronger than a singular erring or heretical Pope. In such a case one should respectfully correct him (avoiding purely human anger and disrespectful language), resist him as one would resist a bad father of family. Yet, the members of a family cannot declare their evil father deposed from the fatherhood. They can correct him, refuse to obey him, separate themselves from him, but they cannot declare him deposed.

Good Catholics know the truth and must proclaim it, offer reparation for the errors of an erring Pope. Since the case of a heretical pope is humanly irresolvable, we must implore with supernatural faith a Divine intervention, because that singular erring Pope is not eternal, but temporal, and the Church is not in our hands, but in the almighty hands of God.

We must have enough supernatural faith, trust, humility, spirit of the Cross in order to endure such an extraordinary trial. In such relatively short situations (in comparison to 2000 years) we must not yield to a too human reaction and to an easy solution (declaring the invalidity of his pontificate), but must keep sobriety (keep a cool head) and at the same time a true supernatural view and trust in Divine intervention and in the indestructibility of the Church.

+ Athanasius Schneider

Is the Sede Vacans? Fr. Mankowski on the question

I am sure that many of my readers are followers of Fr. James Altman and have seen his latest video, in which he states that "Bergoglio is not the Pope" and indeed that is its title. You can read about it here in 1Peter5, and I agree with T. S. Flanders' analysis. 

Fr. Altman's mode is repugnant to me and his affect ought to set off warning bells; his words declaring his embrace of the rogue sedevacantist position repels me; his undermining of the careful work of faithful critics of this papacy over the years demoralizes me.

I have never liked Fr. Altman's abuse of the pulpit, where in my opinion, political rants from any side ought to be completely forbidden. There is plenty of scope for the homilist to impart as energetically as he likes the principles upon which one must act and judge in the public sphere. But Holy Mass ought to be a refuge from the sorts of fevered partisan polemics one meets everywhere else (and indeed legitimately engages in, without the fevered polemics part, in secular life).

I have been suspicious of his role in the "canceled priest" movement. It is undoubtedly a dire situation we have, where a priest can be sanctioned without due process, often for doing what the Church, in her perennial teachings and practices, urges him to do, such as admonish (austerely and without indulging his passions), teach, and carry out rituals according to prescription. However, there is scope for manipulation there and the faithful have to be alert. It grieves me to have to say so. Let's pray for all our priests.

In any case, one of my goals here is to share the treasury of correspondence and memory my husband and I had with our dear, departed friend Fr. Paul Mankowski. I don't see any particular mention of Fr. Altman in the archive, but there is an exchange that is pertinent to this situation. 

You see, the argument used to rationalize Fr. Altman's intemperance is that Pope Francis is just that bad. Believe me, we get the bad part. In fact, Phil and I have been accused of being schismatics for this reason: calmly arguing that he is a bad Pope. Our defense is that it's better than thinking he is no Pope at all. Why? Because it is for the bishops to decide such a thing. Yes, we understand their pusillanimity, their inaction, their strange, yet historically consistent, alas, state of denial. 

Our role as laity, as we see it, is to convince them that they must have courage. To do that, we need strong reasoning and a grip on sanity. 

Here is the exchange (from 2017! but remains relevant, until such time as the bishops do their duty by our confusion):

Fr. Mankowski to me: 

You're too young [not really, but kind of him to say so] to remember the comics in which Dagwood was hanging out his office window clinging to the ledge, while Mr Dithers stamped up and down on his fingers -- but in the same way I've felt myself suspended over the pit of Sede Vacantism while Francis comes out every other day to dance on my white knuckles.

Yet I tell myself that, strictly speaking, the sedes is not vacans yet.  The chair of Peter has a validly installed papal rump weighing upon it even though, alas, the rump is the only part of the pontiff that seems to be doing its job.

Ed Peters wrote earlier that, with regard to Canon Law, the current Code is in all matters of doubt presumed to be binding; i.e., unless a particular canon is explicitly deleted or altered in forma specifica that canon remains the authentically directive norm.

To continue to call myself a Catholic I'm applying the same reasoning to the Francis papacy.  Until and unless he formally and explicitly declares false the teaching of Familiaris consortio, Veritatis splendor, and the Gospel according to Matthew, I feel free to continue to regard them as current and directive Catholic doctrine.  In a word, everything above the papal shoulders may be vacant, but the See itself isn't.

I haven't said this in a homily.  Yet.

And my husband's reply:

That’s what I’ve been saying for a while now, to try to calm people down. There’s no reason to think of Francis as an Antipope, let alone as the Antichrist. Let’s stick to what we know and can readily demonstrate: he’s a bad pope. We’ve had bad popes before (although not quite of this variety), and survived. 

Even a year ago I would have thought it outlandish to say that you could comfort good Catholics by saying: We have a bad pope. But you can.