St. Hildegard Warns on Compromising Church Authority

In 2018 the Pope cut a deal with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) which gave the Chinese government the power to make episcopal appointments. While the Vatican can accept or reject the candidates, history shows that papal accords that compromise its authority end badly and this one is ending very badly.

Hildegard detested Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (AD 1122-1190) for his determination to make ecclesial appointments. Not uncharacteristically, she responds by assuming her role as a prophet of the Old Testament type, delivering threats in the first-person voice of God:

“He who Is says: By My own power I do away with the obstinacy and rebellion of those who scorn me. Woe, O woe to the evil of those wicked ones who spurn me. Hear this O king, if you wish to live. Otherwise my sword will pierce you”.†

She was feared in her day.

Hildegard soon learned that Pope Anastasius IV (AD 1153-1154) was negotiating a compromise with Frederick over certain bishop appointments. She quickly redirected her righteous anger to the elderly Pope:

“…Wherefore, O man, you who sit in the Papal throne, you despise God when you embrace evil. For in failing to speak out against the evil of those in your company, you are certainly not rejecting evil. Rather, you are kissing it. And so the whole world is being led away by unstable error”. ††

Hildegard’s warnings went unheeded.

Not satisfied with the compromise, a year later Frederick assembled his armies and marched on Rome determined to seize the papacy. The Emperor may have succeeded were it not for divine intervention: a sudden plague incapacitated his troops.

Not satisfied with Pope Francis’ compromise, in February of 2020 new laws will be enforced that give the Chinese government almost complete control of the Christian religion in that country. Art. 17 states:

“Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support  the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism…”

Once Pope Francis capitulated to the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops, they responded by tearing down 1200 public crosses and demolishing churches. They are now demanding under threat of penalty that Christians incorporate communist ideology in their doctrines of the faith.

If there is any hope, it’s in the numbers: there are somewhere between 67-100 million Christians in China and they are growing dramatically. Most are Protestant, and much of the expansion is in the underground, or “house” churches. Beijing can try to stop it, but will they succeed?

…rjt

Baird, Joseph L. The Personal Correspondence of Hildegard of Bingen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Letter #44, p.78.

†† Baird, Joseph L. and Ehrman, Radd. The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, Volume I. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994, p.42.

Judas Lectures Jesus on the Poor

On the eve of Passion Week, Jesus spent the Sabbath at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, who He had recently raised from the dead. In an act of love and gratitude Mary broke open a container of expensive perfumed oil to anoint Jesus’s feet. John’s eyewitness report has Judas boldly accusing Mary and Jesus of insensitivity towards the poor:

Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” (John 12 :3-6)

Continue reading “Judas Lectures Jesus on the Poor”

Pope Francis: A Perspective on his Infallibility

Until the First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution, Pastor Aeternus (1870), papal infallibility had never been formally defined by the Church:

[W]hen the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.

Continue reading “Pope Francis: A Perspective on his Infallibility”

‘Let Your Yes Mean No and Your No Mean Yes’

Didn’t Jesus teach us not to speak with equivocation or ambiguity?

“Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37).

Does this not also apply to Church authorities? Every day they send mixed signals on matters of faith and morals that had been historically established as revealed tradition and steadfastly upheld for millennia.

In some dioceses priests are expected to accept to Holy Communion remarried couples whose marriages were never declared null based on an understanding of a brief footnote in Pope Francis’ encyclical Amoris Laetitia (e.g., San Diego).  Others bishops see it differently and have forbidden their priests to give communion to those whom Jesus regarded as adulterers (e.g., Philadelphia). And Rome is fine with this? Continue reading “‘Let Your Yes Mean No and Your No Mean Yes’”

Political Activity is Not the Service of the Kingdom

The account of the feeding of the 5000 as reported in John chapter 6 is really a tragic story; the same people Jesus had miraculously fed eventually rejected Him. Their expectations were for a political solution to their plight, and a king who can produce food instantaneously for thousands of people would have made a good candidate:

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone (vss. 14-15).

He gives them the slip until they catch up to Him in Capernaum: Continue reading “Political Activity is Not the Service of the Kingdom”

Five Reasons to Add Josephus to Your Summer Reading List

The Jewish War is Josephus’ personal account of the Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and is indispensable to anyone interested in the New Testament. Once started, it is very hard to put down.

Josephus had been the general in charge of protecting the Galilee from the Roman legions who were on the march. After his capture by Vespasian, who was not yet emperor, he defected to the Roman side and tried to negotiate with the Jews of Jerusalem on its behalf.

His real name was Joseph Matthew but changed it to Flavius Josephus when he was granted Roman citizenship. Flavius was the family name of his patrons, Emperors Vespasian and Titus.

The first reason to read it is that it sheds light on the nature of “mob rule” in 1st-century Palestine. Jesus was the victim of a mob a week after he was hailed a king by one. In Josephus mobs are everywhere and are the source of much of the instability in the region. Continue reading “Five Reasons to Add Josephus to Your Summer Reading List”

Jesus’ Prophetic Parable

Note the words highlighted in bold from the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:41-45):

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’”

In Matthew’s gospel the “least ones” or “little ones” are  references to Jesus’ followers, who, for the purpose of the parable are neither the sheep nor the goats; they represent the ones whose treatment by the world becomes the standard for which the world is judged. The disciples would have understood this. But it also might have disturbed them since the implication is that they should expect to experience misfortunes as hunger, thirst, prison, etc. Otherwise, they would be no basis for the judging of those who either mistreated them or were hospitable toward them while suffering under those conditions.

The prophetic nature of the parable is reflected in St. Paul’s list of his own misfortunes in his letter to the Church of Corinth:

“We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13).

…rjt

Conflating the Love Commandments

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).

Note the exclusivity in Jesus’ words; this love is reserved for the disciples and is contrasted with “all”, a reference to current non-followers. This exclusivity obviously bothers Pope Francis who decided to reinterpret the passage in a recent address:

“Why does He call it a ‘new commandment’? The old commandment of love became new because it was complete with this addition: “as I have loved you,” “love one another as I have loved you.” The novelty is all in Jesus Christ’s love, that with which He gave his life for us” (link).

Continue reading “Conflating the Love Commandments”

Troubling Consequenses of Notre Dame

From the air it looked like a giant burning cross.

What was striking in the fire’s aftermath is that whenever a commentator brought up the dramatic rise in attacks on churches in France they were quickly silenced by the government and the press.

Churches in France are being vandalized, ransacked, and desecrated (and burned) at the rate of about three per day and local police rarely conduct investigations.

In light of my understanding of St. Hildegard’s prophetic visions of the last days, the fire was a clear sign from God that the persecutions of the Church as described in her vision of the Grey Wolf are commencing. Continue reading “Troubling Consequenses of Notre Dame”

Jesus Before Pilate: Five Observations of Fulton Sheen

Ecce Homo by Antonio Ciseri c. 1880

Possessing exceptional knowledge and wisdom, the Archbishop uncovers meanings in biblical texts that would be otherwise easy to miss.

1. After Jesus’ arrest and trial by the Sanhedrin, Friday morning He was taken to Pontius Pilate with a demand for his execution; Pilate responded,

“What charge do you bring against this man?” (John 18:29).

Continue reading “Jesus Before Pilate: Five Observations of Fulton Sheen”