The Next Conclave: A Referendum on Reform?

Cardinal Parolin

Vatican journalist Sandro Magister recently reported that three names are being mentioned around the Vatican and beyond with respect to the next conclave: Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and Cardinals Robert Sarah (Guinea) and Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle (Manila). However, he confidently rules out the latter two. Tagle is too young (60), and Sarah (77) is too conservative and could never get the necessary two-thirds support. He adds that as an African, Sarah’s candidacy would be only “symbolic”, leaving Parolin in “pole position”.

Marco Tossati  thinks Sarah stands a much better chance and senses a growing fear among progressives that Sarah’s “papabile” is increasing. The Pope’s public reproach of the Cardinal concerning his interpretation of Magnum Principium, according to the Vaticanist, reflected this fear. “…[T]he letter was celebrated as a just humiliation of the cardinal and accompanied by calls for his resignation.” While he admits that Parolin is in a strong position, he adds that Cardinal Sarah,

Cardinal Sarah

“….is known for his holiness of life and lack of interest in any form of power or coercion, even in the Church. Moreover, Africa is the continent where the Church is growing most dramatically, and where faith is often practiced to the point of martyrdom. Nothing could be more fitting than for the next pope to come from that continent. And so we come to the great irony of the campaign to discredit this quiet and long-suffering churchman. Cardinal Sarah is attacked precisely because he is seen as having the makings of a pope.”

Interestingly, Crux’s John Allen, commenting on the international character of recent Cardinal appointments, explains that the western categories of “liberal” or “conservative” don’t apply to many of them and may not be a factor in their vote. It may also not have been the major factor in the 2013 conclave as one analysis concludes that it was “…a clash between two ‘parties’—curialists on one side, reformists on the other.”

“Certainly the 115 voting Cardinals were conscious of the fact that electing an Italian—regardless of how distant from the Curia—wouldn’t be a great sign of reform. For Massimo Franco of Corriere della Sera, the election of a Pope originating from South America was necessary to convey a new start, as well as send a signal to the strong Latin American catholic community, that up to now has always felt marginalized by a European-centric church.”

The next conclave, in my view, is likely to have the same concerns as the last one — reform of the Curia, toward which the present Pope has not made much progress. Candidates seen as representing the status quo, like Cardinal Parolin, may not fare as well as expected. For example:

  • Careerism has been an issue for the Church as it distracts a priest from his duties to his flock. While Pope Francis has long been and outspoken critic of careerism among the clergy, the only concrete action he’s taken was to eliminate the title, “Monsignor”, an honor usually reserved for very devoted priests.
  • The Pope has been criticized for a weak response to the sex abuse scandals. The commission he established to protect minors had a member quit, because “…she could not accept the obstruction she encountered from some of the Roman Catholic Church’s most senior clerics” (BBC). Also, the discovery that drug-fueled orgies were being organized by a member of the curia in a Vatican apartment was never acknowledged by the Pope or Vatican authorities.
  • Francis appointed Cardinal Pell to oversee the reform of the Vatican Bank, a good start. But in the course of an external audit, 200 million Euros were discovered that had been held off the books. Suddenly, without the Cardinal’s knowledge, the audit was terminated by the Secretary of State (Parolin) for no apparent reason. Moreover, the Pope had established a commission to advise him on the progress of financial reform (COSEA); it was disbanded after two of its members were arrested for leaking documents to journalists.

The selection of the next pope might be similar to the last, an outsider who appears capable of reforming the Curia. In this regard I would speculate that it might be one of the African Cardinals like Sarah, Turkson (Ghana), or Napier (South Africa).

…rjt

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Amoris Laetitia and the ‘Humpty Dumpty Effect’

In E.D. Hirsch’s Validity in Interpretation, a classic on the subject of literary hermeneutics, professor Hirsch argues that the goal of interpretation is to understand what an author intended, a concept that had been abandoned by many authors and critics. One common error which he labeled the “Humpty Dumpty effect” struck me as evident in the general response to the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation. This particular fallacy was illustrated in the following lines from Alice in Wonderland:

“The question is,”, said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Humpty wants to make words mean what he’d like them to mean. T.S. Eliot, for example, had no problem with interpreters determining meaning in his poems that had no connection with what the poet may have been thinking when he wrote them.

While we can’t know everything an author is thinking when he or she composes a text, Hirsch argues that the “norms of language” allow the interpreter to access the intention of an author because they impose limitations on both:

“Although verbal meaning requires the determining will of an author or interpreter, it is nevertheless true that the norms of language exert a powerful influence and impose an unavoidable limitation on the wills of both author and interpreter. Alice is right to say that Humpty Dumpty cannot successfully make words mean just anything he wants them to.” (p. 27)

“Verbal meaning is whatever someone has willed to convey by a particular sequence of linguistic signs and which can be conveyed (shared) by means of those linguistic signs”. (p. 31)

Authorial irrelevance with respect to interpretation is not confined to literary criticism, but has affected all forms of textual inquiry including biblical studies.

Amoris Laetitia

There have been questions directed to Pope Francis respectfully asking him to clarify his intended meaning in certain passages of his Apostolic Exhortation. His refusal to respond has led priests and bishops to interpret the document differently and hence implement it differently.

Cardinal Müller, former head of the CDF, interprets the phrase “irregular unions” as couples living as brother and sister with respect to the sacraments. The phrase in AL, however, always refers to couples that do not refrain from sex, and includes unmarried cohabitating pairs (see esp. pars. 78, 298, 301). Ignoring the author’s intention based on the “norms of language”, the Cardinal conveniently elects to redefine the phrase as he pleases, concluding that the text upholds perennial Church teaching.

The truth is that the last few paragraphs of AL along with note 351 that offer a pathway to the sacraments for folks in “irregular situations” do not require clarification; there is no ambiguity (in my estimation). This is why Professor Josef Siefert, suspended from his teaching post by the archbishop for his opposition to AL, declined to join the 62 theologians and clergy and sign on to the filial correction. He referred to the problem as a “moral-theological destructive atomic bomb”, to be dealt with by a much higher authority:

“…because only the Pope himself, and possibly the College of Cardinals, or a Council, could correct this statement, and avoid drawing in praxis its logical consequences.”

“If our conscience can know (not only falsely opine) that God wants us to commit in a certain situation intrinsically bad, adulterous or homosexual acts, then pure logic must draw the consequences that the same applies to contraception (HV), to abortion, and to all other acts which the Church and the divine commandments excluded ‘absolutely’.”

I fully expect that this will lead to a “Third Vatican Council” in my lifetime.

…rjt

 

September 23, 2017: An Astrological Coronation of The Blessed Virgin Mary

It will not be visible, as it will occur during daylight hours. For most of the day, from about 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM PST the following will occur, beginning in the eastern sky:

“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: And being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered” (Revelation 12:1-2).

As the sun envelopes the constellation Virgo (a virgin maiden in Greek mythology) the moon will cross beneath her feet. At the same time twelve stars will congregate just above her head, nine from the constellation Leo plus three visiting planets: Mercury, Venus, and Mars.* The planet Jupiter (mythological king), which had entered Virgo’s torso back on Dec. 1, 2016, will have just exited between her legs on Sept. 12th, 9 1/2 months later. (Recall that Jupiter’s entry into the constellation Leo represented the birth of a prince in Babylonian astrology and inspired the journey of the Magi).

Read the rest here.

…rjt

Review of ‘Liberating Marriage…’

Elena Maria Vidal recently reviewed Liberating Marriage in an Age of Heresy: St. Hildegard of Bingen and Reform in the 12th-Century on her beautiful and popular website Tea at Trianon. She writes:

“The book is short but bursting with fascinating information about medieval views of love and sin. It became clear to me that the doctrines of the Church, as they continued to be clarified by reforming popes, were meant to protect women and children from the abuses of lust as well as those of material and political gain. As we know, the teachings were often ignored in the face of worldly expediency. Nevertheless, St. Hildegard’s voice is one that is as relevant now as it was nine hundred years ago.”

Envisioning an American Theocracy

Several years ago a provocative article appeared on Dr. Taylor Marshall’s website which attracted both criticism and praise. Hypothetically applying St. Thomas’ principle that grace “…perfects, heals, and elevates nature” to the state, he explores answers to the following question:

“…[I]f we Catholics lived holy lives and lovingly evangelized as we should, What would the United States look like?”

Dr. Marshall’s pieces are usually short but he gives this one a lot of thought, listing 28 changes that would reflect the transformation of the country into a Catholic state. It is no surprise that the article immediately drew criticism from protestants and non-Christians, but it also drew disapproval from liberal Catholics. Commonweal Magazine called the article flawed and “a political dream” adding, “It’s not Martin Luther King’s dream, either.”

Why would any Catholic find it objectionable for someone to conceive of America as a Catholic country in service to Christ? And I fail to understand the reference to MLK other than your typical PC ad hominem slander, branding someone they disagree with as a racist.

These are a some of Dr. Taylor’s reflections:

  • The newly elected president would recite his oath of office, not only with his hand on the Holy Bible, but kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance held by the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, DC. within the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. In other words, the President would make his oath directly to Christ.
  • Mary under her title “Immaculate Conception” is currently the patroness of the United States. She would become featured on our national seal and on our currency.
  • January 21, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, would be a perennial day of national penance.
  • Abortion, contraception, sodomy, euthanasia, and divorce would be illegal as these sins are contrary to the natural law. Of course, abused wives would be protected and assisted under law.
  • Public blasphemy and the abuse of the most holy name of Jesus would be forbidden in film, television, and music.
  • All Holy Days of Obligation would become federal holidays and Days of Obligation would not be transferred to Sundays since they would become holidays for all citizens. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday would also become nationally recognized holidays.
  • The sin of usury in form of credit cards, school loans, and other disadvantaging lending policies would be criminalized as contrary to natural law.

    No more “bishops of bling”
  • The clergy (but especially our archbishops and bishops) would not live like royalty in mansions as in previous years but would live penitent and poor lives like great bishops of old such as St Martin of Tours, St Francis de Sales, St Augustine, and St Bonaventure.
  • The meetings of the Senate and Congress would begin with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and with prayers and benedictions from the clergy.
  • Those of different religions would be tolerated and by no means forced to convert to Catholicism. Conversion, as the Popes have taught, is an act of the will and people should not be forced through political coercion.

Towards the end of the era of the Grey Wolf, St. Hildegard envisioned that after a period of persecution the Church will have achieved her mission and “…be replete with the full number of her children” (Scivias, Book III, Vision 10, Chapter 13).* It will also have achieved a new height in spirituality:

“For until the time of the son of perdition, who will pretend to be the man of strength, His [Christ’s] faithful members will be perfected in fortitude and He will be splendid in the justice of his righteous worshippers” (Chapt. 9).

The world Dr. Marshall describes, whether here or in Europe, is not unimaginable. When asked why he thought Europe would return to the Catholic faith, the late would-be emperor Otto von Hapsburg answered simply, “Because we have the truth!”.

…rjt

*Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias, translated by Columba Hart and Jane Bishop. The Abby of Regina Laudis: Benedictine Congregation Regina Laudis of the Strict Observance, Inc. Paulist Press, 1990.

The Grim Consequences of Growing Wealth Inequality in the U.S.

French economist Thomas Piketty’s 2014 best seller, Capital in the 21st-Century, is a historical study of wealth inequality since the industrial revolution. He demonstrates that an increase in income inequality was inherent to capitalism. The formula was simple, if the rate of growth on income derived from invested assets (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.) is higher than the gross domestic product (GDP — the rate of growth of the economy), then national wealth will be gradually concentrated in the hands of existing holders of investment assets.

The author’s painstaking statistical analysis was the first of its kind and his work is admired by a broad range of economists. He notes that there are troubling social consequences when inequality reaches a certain level, as it did just before WWI and WWII. He also discovered that the inequality is never corrected by economic growth. Continue reading “The Grim Consequences of Growing Wealth Inequality in the U.S.”

Johnny Rotten’s Anti-Abortion Video

The punk rocker admitted in an interview that the song was intentionally anti-abortion. It’s based on a true story about a groupie named Pauline who lived in a facility for people suffering mental illness. On the grounds was a tree house which she made her home. She once showed up at Rotten’s home wearing clear cellophane and holding an aborted baby.

The reason I am posting this in spite of the vulgarity is that I think the video can be used as a powerful statement on abortion for high school or college students because of its inherent credibility. They were not around in the Punk era, which began with performance artists violently heaping scorn on a conformist society. The movement had an authentic character and that is communicated in this video. The reaction of the students will be one of fear.

Because so many Catholic educational institutions get a low score on pro-life issues, a video like this exposes their conformism. Incidentally, a week after this performance (Jan. 1978) the group disbanded.

The Church as a ‘Maternal Womb’

Illumination from Scivias, Rupertsberg Ms., 12th-century

In her book, Scivias (book II, vision 3), St. Hildegard explains the symbolism of her vision of a woman with many children in her womb. The woman is the Church and the children represent the life of all baptized Christians. She describes differences among these children and notes:

“…some direct their attention to spiritual purity and shine with serene virtue, treading earthly things underfoot.” These, she states, “…are marching forward vigorously in the womb of the image” (p.195).

“…[Some] tear away from her and attack her and break her established rules. They abandon the maternal womb and the sweet nourishment of the Church” (p.196).

The life-giving sacraments which are administered by the Church to her sons and daughters are like the “sweet nourishment” of a mother’s womb. When Christians cut themselves off from this sustenance, they are spiritually aborting themselves. Continue reading “The Church as a ‘Maternal Womb’”

St. Hildegard on Our ‘Fleeting Times’

The five beasts from a 13th-century manuscript of Scivias

Hildegard’s Scivias (abbreviated form of the Latin for “Know the Ways of God”) is her record of a series of 26 visions that encompass the whole of salvation history. When she gets to the last days, specifically the time leading up to the Antichrist she makes an interesting comment on the nature of the passage of time during these days:

“All things that are on Earth hasten to their end, and the world droops toward its end” (Book III, Vision 11, chap. 1).

She is stating that one character of these times is that history will progress rapidly. She refers to the five beasts which symbolize the succession of individual historical periods leading up to the Antichrist, as “fleeting times”. She also compares them to the end of the day when the sun is setting, explaining that in her vision it is why the beasts face the west. She also likens them to end of the life of a person: Continue reading “St. Hildegard on Our ‘Fleeting Times’”

Montfort on Mary’s Role in the Last Days

Statue of Montfort, St. Peter’s Basilica. Satan is holding a copy of the Treatise.

In his Treatise on True Devotion to Mary, Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort included a chapter on Mary’s role in the last days which stressed the necessity of appealing to Her intercession in order to combat the forces of Satan. He wrote the work in 1712, four years before his death at 43. Curiously, it remained hidden away until 1842 when it was discovered by accident in a home for priests of the “Company of Mary” in France.

Montfort explains that in the days leading to the Antichrist, a powerful group will emerge from among the clergy which, through their devotion to Mary, will be granted special powers to fight Satan:

“But what will they be like, these servants, these slaves, these children of Mary? They will be ministers of the Lord who, like a flaming fire, will enkindle everywhere the fires of divine love. They will become, in Mary’s powerful hands, like sharp arrows, with which she will transfix her enemies” (56).

“They will be true apostles of the latter times to whom the Lord of Hosts will give eloquence and strength to work wonders and carry off glorious spoils from his enemies” (58).

“…[T]hey will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love. They will point out the narrow way to God in pure truth according to the holy Gospel, and not according to the maxims of the world” (59).

It is through these men that there will be major conversions to the faith: Continue reading “Montfort on Mary’s Role in the Last Days”