Of course, I was wary when a Latin American Jesuit was elected pope. But I still hoped for the best. I was alarmed by this statement from the early interview which appeared in the Jesuit journal America: “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."
How is truth disjointed or disconnected from itself? [Good Question! The pope's comment is like a math teacher saying math rules encompass a "disjointed multitude" and shouldn't be "imposed insistently." If the students want to say 2 + 2 = 5 who are we to judge? Only pharisees and disturbed individuals insist on rigid rules]
One major fault with Bernardin’s “Seamless Garment” was its treatment of “Life Issues” apart from all the other commandments. Support for the good of Human Life could not include Socialism since Socialism is contrary to the commandment against theft. [Absolutely, it violates the right of a person to the fruit of his labor. Redistribution of income by force is not charity; it's confiscation!] Also, the right and duty of civil authorities to punish offenses against sexual morality (offenses which cause a large percentage of the poverty in the West) is ignored in the “Seamless Garment” approach.
The internal unity of Natural and Divine law is largely ignored both by Bernardin and Pope Francis’ statement in this interview. The "seamless garment" does not go far enough, so it fails.
If the average Catholic views the church’s moral teachings as “disjointed” then the remedy should be in improved catechetics, apologetics, and homiletics -- not in a “pastoralism” which treats Natural and Divine law as mere ideals rather than as part of the essence of ordinary Christian life (no matter how often even the most devout Christians fail to live as they should).
So much which has happened since only fits with the concerns that one statement by Francis stirred up in me. Ok, so there was a group trying to get a liberal pope elected, and it’s called the St. Gallen Mafia. It fits with the rest. I have no expertise in canon law and must presume Francis was validly elected. He has not bound the faithful formally in heresy (no matter that I think his words and acts manifest his material heresies).
There was a time when I thought being “orthodox Catholic” meant “Ultramontanism”. [For those unfamiliar with the term, ultramontanism is a clerical political conception within the Catholic Church that places strong emphasis on the prerogatives and powers of the pope.] But Francis has dispossessed me of that simplistic attitude, and it seems OK now even to question two popes I love and admire, (St.) JPII and BXVI.
My reaction to the “canonization” of Paul VI (which I’ve shared with others):
"Though I do hope that Paul VI made it to Heaven, I don't think I could ever think of him as a "Saint". A Saint is an exemplar, but many souls who are saved in the end were not good examples to follow for most of their lives. Once read that Paul VI did two good things, Humanae Vitae and the Credo Of The People Of God. But he also enabled and collaborated with the destruction of so much else. I hate to think of any soul as damned, so I think it more likely that he is one of those souls trapped in Purgatory until the General Judgement. Ordinary souls who made similar prudential errors may not be judged harshly and therefore enter Heaven after a short time of purification. But a soul in a high position who failed so greatly in his duty to Holy Church, and who perhaps even collaborated with those who wished to transform Holy Church from within into a vehicle for worldly ideologies too much in tension with The Gospel of Christ and Deposit of Faith should not be presumed to pass into full Beatitude before simpler souls who themselves may be waiting until the End of Days to behold the Face of God. "All these concerns do not ruin my faith. We had a good run before the reforms of Trent were overtaken by the doctrinal liberalism which Bl. Pius IX and St. Pius X warned against. Many true Saints got us through comparably chaotic periods in church history.
Even the widespread influence of the heresy of Arius did not invalidate the sacraments (as far as anything I've read). This present crisis has a lot in common with that period.
One immense benefit we have now is the availability of public domain English language pre-VII Catholic literature for free through Internet Archive and Google Books. And there also seems to be an increasing demand for hard copy reprints of older books.
Though I long for greater continuity with both big and small "t" tradition, I do not think everything which has happened since VII is bad. I don't think the sacraments celebrated according to the Novus Ordo are automatically invalid. I do not believe that all aspects of the post-conciliar "reform" were done with malign intent, nor do I believe they were all without exception harmful.
I do believe we have been thrown into chaos by so much change in Catholic culture, art and architecture. Truth, centuries of reflection upon and implementation / application of Catholic Truth are mediated by elements of human culture. The wildly imprudent changes of so much of Catholic culture in a couple of decades served both to distract from the ferment of theological challenges to unchangeable dogmas and moral principles which have the weight of dogma through centuries of consistent and approved teaching and these cultural changes themselves shifted how the faith was communicated, formerly this communication of the truths of faith was more God-centered but then it became more man-centered and worldly.
The precision of many centuries of dogmatic theology in Latin and its inter-relationship with the slow (very slow?) organic development iof Liturgy was disrupted by a too quick shift to the vernacular. And we do have documentation that Bugnini wanted a liturgy more hospitable to Protestants. Some of what is essential to Catholicism, to authentic Christianity, would be lost or downplayed. There is no getting around this fact. [Absolutely true! Bugnini wanted Cranmer's mass and got it!]
Orthodox Catholicism today is treated dishonestly by Modernists as Jansenism and Monophysitism by libertines and those who conveniently overlook the unity of the two natures of Our Lord in His single Divine Personhood.
Do I object to John Paul II's adventures in Phenomenology? How could I appreciate Dietrich von Hildebrand if I completely rejected any value in a Phenomenological or quasi-Platonic approach? But the clarity and boundaries set by a more Scholastic or Thomistic approach are necessary. We cannot live in the vague theoretical. We have a need for some definite "this is is this and cannot be that" absolutes. [Sadly, Catholics today who adhere to the rock of truth are ridiculed as rigid and pharisaical by Pope Francis. It is similar to the Democrats calling conservatives "deplorables."] All other philosophical approaches must fit within a larger definitive framework. St. Thomas, the Scholastics, and those terrible manualists give us that framework. We need this. We cannot practically order our lives to abstractions, we need some defined distinctions between what is true and false and what behavior or conduct is pleasing or abhorrent to God.
The Old Law of the pre-Incarnation covenant made less distinction between the religious and civil realms of human life. We balk at the idea of the 613 laws of YHWH the rabbis identify in the Torah and think of Pharisees as obsessively "legalistic" while supporting and submitting to seemingly endless civil statutes and regulations.
(Hoping you do not mind my ramblings, I do not claim to hold this all as a set of certainties in no need of revisions, I am continually learning, I welcome your criticisms.)
I'm convinced that Same Sex Attraction Disorder can easily tempt souls to deep distortions of what it means to be a human person. [I think whenever a person suffers from a serious sinful inclination, it is likely he looks at the world as in a fun house mirror. His inclination distorts the truth. One become more whole by striving for holiness, but it only makes sense to avoid the near occasions of sin. So an alcoholic shouldn't work in a bar and a homosexual shouldn't be volunteering at the local boys' club.] But this is just one aspect of the revolution in how we think of ourselves which has been aggravated and encouraged by the Protestant Deformation and so-called "Age of Reason".
Formerly, I thought of elective abortion as the greatest evil of modern times. Then I saw how it was tied to the contraceptive mentality and how this contraceptive mentality was tied to an attitude of self-directed worldly humanism and also that sexual "liberation" which lead eventually and necessarily to widespread acceptance of same sex perversion. [I went through this same enlightenment process.]
But even more than all this, I seem to see that the central problem is with the rejection of the truth of The One True Church and the necessity of becoming a part of the Body of Christ in a deeply sacramental life.
Despite past involvement with the Charismatic Movement, I have become wary of the ecumenical impulse and I'm much less trusting of every interior (seemingly) spiritual intuition. [Strong feelings can definitely mislead. I have seen many people go into the Catholic charismatic movement and leave the Church for Protestantism because they loved the feelings and the fellowship.]
I am so very grateful for your work with Les Femmes along with the work of Fr. John Hardon.
St. Joan of Arc is one of those surprising Saints who in her submission to God's will defies easy analysis by modern simplistic ideological perspectives.
If we accept her, we cannot be absolutist pacifists.
Yet her care of the dying from both sides on the battlefield reminds us of the love and mercy of God even for our enemies (and we do have enemies).
The Justice of God is certain, but hope in His Mercy is always necessary.