It Takes a Populist to Know a Populist

Boniface notices another wrinkle of papal audacity:

The poor of the world oppressed by corrupt elites. The downtrodden encouraged to rise up and take their destiny into their own hands. The great leader, the pope, urging them on and joining his voices with those of the oppressed. A call to translate the popular emotional anxiety and social angst of the poor into community action. Is this language not dripping with populist rhetoric? And this speech is just one example; these types of statements from Pope Francis are legion.

The point is not whether Pope Francis is correct or not. In much of this, he certainly is. The poor of Latin America are oppressed. There is an elitist global cabal that would like nothing more than the economic enslavement of the downtrodden. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Pope Francis’ appeal is absolutely, definitively, without a doubt populist in nature.

Pope Francis is fundamentally a populist. It’s so intrinsic to his worldview he doesn’t even realize it. He recognizes demagoguery and populist appeals in leaders whose agenda is in conflict with his own, but fails to identify populist rhetoric in his own appeals. Steeped in the neo-Marxian populism of Latin America, his brand of Argentine populism does not seem like populism to him – to him it’s just, well, it’s just the way leaders speak.

Again, this is not a critique of the pope’s ideas or his initiatives. But it does demonstrate that his assertion that “populism” is essentially evil is untenable, for he himself is a populist, and populism cannot be “evil” when used by one’s opponents but Christlike when done by the pope – and Pope Francis is the world’s most prominent populist.

Advertisements

Preaching the Great Commission

Even Purgatory:

Today at my parish we had a missionary priest from India. I am happy to say that after years of disappointment, it was refreshing to finally here a missionary actually talking about bring people to Jesus. To talk about salvation. It was wonderful. And he wasn’t a traditional order priest or anything; he was just a Novus Ordo diocesan priest. But he preached about the Great Commission. About the necessity of bringing Christ to people. About baptism. About India’s great Christian traditions, both those begun by St. Thomas as well that brought by St. Francis Xavier and the 16th century Jesuits. He offered actual spiritual insights that were relevant.

I remember recently on one of my travels I heard a priest saying how he was preaching on Purgatory at this parish. And afterward a woman came up to him and said, “I never really thought about it, but I think that was the first sermon I heard on Purgatory in thirty years!” I think the same is true with the necessity of bringing the Gospel to pagans. Maybe intellectually Catholics know the Great Commission is out there, but it is so seldom preached about these days.

This is no surprise. Muslims worship the same God. Jews are no longer in need of conversion. Protestants are brethren. Orthodox are not to be expected to return to unity with Rome. Aberrosexuals are not to be made uncomfortable in any way. Pagans are able to find God in their own rituals and mythologies. Given all this, one wonders who is left that actually needs to hear the Gospel. Mafioso and arms dealers, according to Pope Francis; but they are a lost cause because the pope has already said they are going to Hell.

The point is, you can’t mentally affirm one thing but act in a manner contrary to it for forty years. You can’t affirm the Great Commission is still a mandate while acting as if there is no particular class of people who actually need Christ and His Church.

What hath salvation to do with conversion?

Is It Too Much to Ask?

For honesty?

Why can’t Roman Catholic apologists be as realistic as Boniface (on Synod 2015)?

(5) Speaking of “failed marriages”, let us remember that marriage is a sacrament. Sacraments do not fail. Are there “failed” baptisms, “failed” ordinations, “failed” confirmations? One is either baptized or one is not. One is either confirmed or one is not. One was either ordained or one wasn’t. Similarly, one is either married or one isn’t. You cannot have a valid, sacramental marriage which has “failed” in the sense that the problems of one marriage can render it null and permit a person or persons to be subjectively convinced that they are now free to remarry. Sacraments do not fail. A marriage is a marriage. It is not an ideal that only the perfect arrive at. It is not “an authentic conjugal project.” It is a sacrament – a sacrament which more or less grace may be available depending on the disposition of the spouses, but a sacrament nonetheless – and it is brought into being in its fullness and immediacy by the consent of the parties before the Church’s minister. We must all be on guard against the subtle transformation of marriage from a fact to a mere ideal, and an excessive focus on its natural aspects versus its sacramental character. . . .

(8) The Kasperite Thesis is based on the theory that two people can be sleeping with each other whenever they want to without any intention to stop and not be responsible for doing so. This is what is mean by invoking “limitations on culpability.” The idea of the bishops who promote it is that people are oftentimes trapped in a situation where they do not wish to sleep with each other but find they have no choice–a kind of lack of consent. That’s rather demeaning to the couple, isn’t it? “Well, honey, we’re not really married, and, as a Catholic in the State of Grace, I love God above all things, but I am slave to our circumstances, unable to make a free choice, and so I am going to sleep with you, not as a free agent engaging in a personal act, but as an animal coerced by the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in.” Very romantic, huh? No. Actually, it’s pretty much rape. It is the old liberal talking point that sin is inevitable.

(9) The Pope may be moving towards permitting the question of absolution for those living in an adulterous second union to eventually be answered by episcopal conferences. He said:

“[W]e have also seen that what seems normal for a bishop on one continent, is considered strange and almost scandalous for a bishop from another; what is considered a violation of a right in one society is an evident and inviolable rule in another; what for some is freedom of conscience is for others simply confusion” (Papal Homily, 10/24/15)

This may in part be a reference to the fact that the African Bishops (and others, such as the American Bishops, for the most part) rejected the Kasperite thesis vociferously. . . .

(11) Though Synod I was a conservative “victory” and though Synod II did not incorporate the worst of the Kasperite heresy in its final document, we should not in any sense these Synods as successes. This 2014-2015 Synod on the Family was probably the most disastrous thing that has happened to the Church since Vatican II. It will take centuries for the damage to be undone – and the damage is already done, regardless of what the final document says, because it has given the impression that fundamental moral doctrines are up for debate. And either way, we should remember that in Synod I, the majority of bishops voted for the pro-homosexual passages; they were not included because the vote did not reach the requisite 2/3, but it did reach a simple majority. This should appall us. Similarly, the fact that one conservative commentator estimated that at Synod II not more than 35% of the episcopate would vote for the Kasper thesis should horrify us. for these numbers mean that between 1/3 and 1/2 of our global episcopate lacks the most basic understanding of Catholic moral theology. Our pastors. . . .

(13) However, while appealing to the memory of John Paul II and Familiaris Consortio may have helped save the day, traditionalist Catholics should not fall into the practice of opposing John Paul II or even Benedict XVI to Francis. Some Catholic blogs still like to paint Benedict as a traditionalist and compare the Benedictine “restoration” to Francis’ lio. But who appointed these Kasperite bishops? Who put these heretics in office? Blaise Cupich was appointed by John Paul II. Kasper was made a bishop by John Paul as well, years after his heretical views were known. Maradiaga was also a John Paul II appointment. Nunzio Galatino, the Secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference – you know, the one who told the Italian newspaper La Nazione that “My wish for the Italian Church is that it is able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favour of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality” – he was an appointment of Benedict XVI. Reinhard “Kirchensteuer” Marx, the arch-heresiarch of Germany, was appointed by John Paul II and elevated to the cardinalate by Benedict XVI. This nonsense about affirming the good things in homosexual relationships was started by Benedict XVI himself. If you are appalled at the apostasy of these liberals, blame John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They appointed or elevated them. The entire global episcopate – at least at its senior levels – is the creation of John Paul II. I know John Paul II and Benedict XVI look pretty good now compared to Frankie Uno, but John Paul II and Benedict XVI were innovators, too. Taking refuge from the chaos of Francis in the example of John Paul II will get us nowhere.

(all about) I feel Boniface’s pain. He understands he lives in a church militant. Bad things happen and Christians need to beware (even ones who think that papal infallibility solves everything or keeps Roman Catholics from being as inferior as Protestants).

I can’t feel Susan’s joy, Mermaid’s naivete, or James’ hyper-assurance. It doesn’t make sense of the real world.

If only the blogosphere had more voices like Boniface’s. We wouldn’t agree on the church or salvation. But we would agree about the importance and value of being circumspect.

Postscript: I listened to a very good interview with the person behind the pen-name and his experience as mayor of a small Michigan city. Turns out it’s hard to be an exceptionalist about the United States if your realistic about the church. But I’d vote for this guy. Augustinians all.

What a Disciplined Church Looks Like

Orthodox Presbyterians left the PCUSA because practice did not match theology, especially when theology did not change but practice did. Turns out Pius X who opposed modernism was a model for Orthodox Presbyterians (sort of). Boniface explains:

Pius X was not content to simply speak the truth; he put his convictions into practice by taking positive action against Modernism. Pascendi decrees that Modernists be deposed from teaching positions. If they are clerics, their bishops are to place them in the most obscure of offices where they can cause little trouble. Their books are to be censured. The Oath Against Modernism is instituted. Anti-Modernists are promoted while it is made known that no Modernist has any future possibility of promotion (if only that had remained true!). SO vigorous was his assault that the Modernists and progressives complained about his heavy hand.

In short, Pius X never thought merely stating the truth was sufficient; he needed to use the power at his disposal to see it pushed through.

What could conservative bishops do, or have done, that they have not?

Vigorously punish heresy in their own dioceses. Keep strict watch on the activities of certain priests and suspend, dismiss or defrock those who clearly dissent from Church teaching.

Preach the truth boldly, including explicit condemnations of particular groups or ideologies, even condemning heterodox teachers or priests by name when necessary. Go beyond the typical non-offensive, wishy-washy bishop-speak.

Use the resources of a diocese to publish actual informative and instructional materials, not the sort of nonsense most dioceses put out.

Actually issue liturgical directives to promote tradition. The contemporary Church documents offer considerable leeway in how liturgy can be done; the upside of this is that the bishop is given the final call on all of these options. A bishop could easily say, “No guitars and drums at any diocesan Mass”, or mandate sacred chant, or compel every parish to offer at least a monthly Traditional Latin Mass. Novus Ordo Masses must at least incorporate Latin and be said ad orientam.

Dismiss lay persons or members of subversive religious orders from their diocesan committees.

Actually use the tool of excommunication against dissident theologians and dissenting Catholic politicians.

Use resources of the diocese for meaningful ( I stress meaningful) social activism. Example: One priest told me there used to be a scummy motel near his parish that was frequented by prostitutes. He raised some money, bought the motel, and had it torn down. What if the millions raised by our diocesan appeals were used for such uses?

Organize at the regional level and use their weight to push through appointments within the USCCB or elsewhere that were favorable to them while simultaneously using their influence to keep out liberal appointments.

Host guest-speakers friendly to tradition and forbid those who are not.

Forbid Catholic schools and hospitals from engaging in activities harmful to the Catholic faith and actually back up these directives with the appropriate force.

Fire all Catholic school teachers who are in immoral relationships.

Actually celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass and require all seminarians to know it and be comfortable with Latin.

Publicly censure books and films hostile or dangerous to the Catholic faith.

Mandate traditional arrangements in the architecture of sanctuaries and churches; stipulate that no parish has the right to undertake any renovations unless personally approved by him.

Promote priests who cooperate with this agenda and punish those who don’t.

In short, never, never miss an opportunity to promote tradition and actively punish and repress liberalism. Speak the truth boldly but also use the weight of the office to silence, retard, dismiss or dispirit the liberal opposition.

Conservative Protestants who object to contemporary Roman Catholicism are not applying an artificial or alien standard. Protestants who convert to Roman Catholicism were likely never clear about the dangers of modernism or what its chief characteristics were. Modernists didn’t change doctrine. They came along side the world and felt its pain. Real conservatives (Protestant and Roman Catholic) did more than shrug.

Meanwhile, Bryan and the Jasons have been awfully quiet in their call amidst papal visits and convening cardinals. The most recent items are from May and April 2015, and November 2014. Timeless.

Even Romans Wasn't That Long

Boniface once again shows why he is a much more important read than Bryan and the Jasons. This time he explains why a papal letter has to be 187 pages (!!!!) long:

Modern encyclicals are a curious thing. The encyclical developed from the papal bull. The bull was a primarily juridical instrument used as a means of promulgating an authoritative judgment of the Holy See, either in matters of doctrine or governance. These could often be very short; we marvel today at reading something like Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctam (1302) – which famously declared that submission to the Roman pontiff was necessary for salvation – and is only a page long! Papal bulls in the old days knew what they wanted to say and they said it.

The modern encyclical developed out of the Enlightenment period as the popes realized that broader literacy and intellectual challenges to Christian revelation necessitated using the papal bull as a means of educating the flock on Catholic teaching, and hence by the time of the French Revolution the bull had begun to transform into the encyclical, the teaching letters of the modern pontiffs.

The encyclicals of the 19th and early 20th century are lucid and clear. Their purpose is to expound Catholic doctrine and defend it against modern errors, which they do very admirably. A friend recently commented to me that in thinking back on great documents like Pascendi, Quas Primas, Casti Conubii and so forth, one can immediately recall the substance of of them and the force of their arguments. Pius XII taught that the encyclical was the normative means by which the Roman pontiff exercised his teaching office. The same cannot be said about modern encyclicals – who can easily summarize what Redemptor Hominis or Populorum Progressio are about except in the vaguest terms?

That’s not to say pre-Vatican II encyclicals were always to the point; the pre-Conciliar popes certainly had their moments of rambling – but at least their rambling was clear and fun to read!

When we get to Vatican II, a noticeable change comes about. I personally attribute this to John XXIII’s famous principle from the opening of the Second Vatican Council:

“Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.”

This principle has effected the manner in which the post-1965 ecclesia docens functions. Essentially, the post-Conciliar encyclical doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up. The popes have still utilized them as a means of teaching, but rather than teaching what Catholic doctrine consists of, they have increasingly become occasions for popes to explain why Catholic doctrine is what it is.

That’s not entirely a bad thing; fides quaerens intellectum, right? But somewhere along the way the popes seemed to have dropped the declarative aspect of the encyclical in the overly optimistic hope that if we could just explain our teaching to the world – just walk them through our thinking step by step – then maybe the world would accept the Church’s message. Maybe if we simply “proposed” our rationale for belief humbly instead of declaring that we “had” the truth, the world would reciprocate and enter into a “fruitful dialogue” with Christianity that would mutually enrich everybody?

Boniface also explains why recent popes are attractive to intellectualist Protestants even while forgetting the real (or historic) source of their power:

(a) The world does not reject the Gospel because it has not been adequately explained. They reject it “because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil” (John 3:19).

(b) Even when its has opted for explaining rather than declaring the Church’s teaching, the Church has done a poor job of it because it has chosen to explain its teachings in terms of humanist phenomenology rather than having recourse to the Church’s traditional pedagogy.

(c) By focusing so much on the explanation and presentation over the declaration, the Church has unwittingly given the false impression that the validity of its teachings are bound up with the force of her argumentation, a kind of false intellectualism. She feels shaky and inadequate simply saying, “Such is the voice of the Church; such is the teaching of our Faith”; she feels she must offer a humanistic centered explanation for everything – an explanation that will “suit” the needs of “contemporary man” – with the effect that her message has become completely man-centered. “He taught as one who had authority” (Matt. 7:29) said the people of old about Christ; but when the Church forgets the supernatural force that stands behind her teaching and opts instead for an anthropomorphized message, she no longer “speaks with authority”, in the sense that her words lose their force. Hence people shrug at the latest papal document and move on.

(d) Finally, because the popes have sought for novel means to propose their teachings, encyclicals lose their strenght as teaching documents and become instead opportunities for the popes to foist their own theological or literary tastes on the Catholic people. The phenomenology of John Paul II, the Balthasarian-Hegelian-Teilhardism of Benedict XVI, and now the sort of “literary theology” of Francis. Each pontiff has opted not use traditional pedagogy, which means every pope has to “try something new” in how they choose to teach.

The irony, of course, is that the more popes “teach,” the less Roman Catholics learn.

Surely someone is smart enough among the bishops to figure this out.

What A Call with Integrity Sounds Like

If Bryan and the Jasons had truly been conservative Presbyterians, they would have carried suspicions of liberalism into the Roman Catholic Church with them. But that they continue to insist that Protestantism and Roman Catholicism represent two distinct paradigms while not recognizing the two paradigms that exist on both sides of the Tiber — one anti-modernist and one indifferent to modernism and its effects — they miss the central dynamic of modern Christianity.

Boniface at Unam Sanctum lays out that dynamic well. It is the relationship between the church and the world. Conservative Presbyterians after the 1920s were and still are on the look out for compromises with the world. So was the Roman Catholic Church. But since Vatican 2, Roman Catholic wariness has disappeared. Boniface explains:

The goal of the Christian life if holiness. Yet what is holiness? What does it meant to be holy? We understand that we are called to be loving, forgiving, etc. But what does it mean to be “holy”? Is holiness a mere sum of all other natural and supernatural virtues? And what about God? God is love, power, forgiveness, justice and so on. But what does it mean when the angels cry that God is “holy, holy, holy?”

The fundamental definition of holiness is separation. The Latin word for holiness is sanctitas, from whence sanctity. Holiness denotes separation or consecration unto God. When the angels cry “holy, holy, holy” it is because God is so far separate and distinct from all created things that awe is the only appropriate response in his presence. “Between creator and creature there can be noted no similarity so great that a greater dissimilarity cannot be seen between them”, the Fourth Lateran Council taught (cap. 3, “On Heretics”). St. Thomas defines holiness as a firm separation of created things which are translated from profane use to use in the service of God (STh II-II Q. 81 art. 8). This is why Holy Water, Holy Cards, Holy Candles, Holy Oil, etc. have the adjective “holy” – once they are consecrated, they are “set apart” for divine worship exclusively. To use Holy Oil for cooking for Holy Water for common washing would be sacrilegious. Their consecration is what makes them “holy”, and hence set apart for divine use exclusively.

Of course, a person is holy in a different sense than an object, but the fundamental reality that holiness means separation remains. A man with Holy Orders is set apart for the service of God. A holy person is one whose life is separated from worldly concerns and activities and who already lives, even in the flesh, in contemplation of heavenly things. Holiness is separation; separation from worldly uses and a setting apart unto God, “who is above all, through all, and in all” (Eph. 4:6).

* * * * *

With the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church adopted a posture of “openness” to the world. Pope John XXIII harbored great hopes for a kind of reconciliation between the Church and the world that would lead to the mutual building up of both; what he called a “new order of human relations”, while also condemning those “prophets of gloom” who only saw the modern world in a negative light. This led to a massive paradigm shift in the post-Conciliar Church, a pivot towards the world. It matters not whether the Council documents ever called for this pivot; the essential weakness of the conservative response to the Council has been a narrow focus on the Council documents’ language and a failure to comprehend the Council as an event (see, USC, “Book Review: Second Vatican Council: An Unwritten Story”, Aug. 2013). The pivot happened and it must be acknowledged as a fact.

The result of this pivot was a blurring of distinction between the Church and world, between merely natural goods and supernatural goods. Worldly concerns seemed to be become the Church’s concerns. It started innocently enough with “world peace,” but then moved on to all sorts of other issues, occupying bigger and bigger parts of the Church’s canvas until the Church appeared as little more than an NGO concerned with worldly problems like climate change and youth unemployment. Not that the Church has no concern with temporal evils that offend God; but as the Church shifted its focus more and more towards merely natural goods, it began to address them with increasingly little reference to man’s supernatural ends.

The results were a spiritually deadening and embarrassingly banal Church that gives us such gems as “Driver’s Ten Commandments”, documents about immigration reform, and of course, encyclicals on global warming.

Boniface even detects such banality in the Pope Emeritus’ recent letter:

Perhaps this all expresses the tension in modern Catholicism – once one has opened up to the world, what is the overlap between one’s duties to the Church and to the world? What happens when they are in contradiction? Can they be in contradiction? In traditional Catholicism the answer was clear: the Church and the world were in a fundamental state of opposition. But once we have pivoted towards the world, what now?

Case in point: Consider Pope Benedict XVI’s recent letter in which the Pope Emeritus states that the Church’s pastors should be “shepherds for the whole world.” Benedict wrote:

“The service of a shepherd cannot be only limited only to the Church [even though] in the first place, we are entrusted with the care of the faithful and of those who are directly seeking faith. [The Church] is part of the world, and therefore it can properly play its service only if it takes care of the world in its entirety.”

What is a Catholic to make of these words? It is certainly true, in one sense, that since the mission of Christ was to redeem the whole human race, the Church can never concern herself solely with matters entirely internal. She must always be considering her mission ad gentes; God wills all men to be saved, and so we must labor for all men to be so.

This is nothing new. But is that the sense in which Benedict means it? He goes on to say that the Church “must be involved in the efforts that humanity and society put into action” to address “the questions of our times.”

The fundamental question is this: Is he envisioning the Church reaching out to make the world think about heavenly things, or the Church focusing more of its attention on worldly things? Does he want the Church to call the world to remember man’s supernatural ends, or is he proposing the Church help to world attain its merely natural ends? Is this a call of the world to the Church or a capitulation of the Church to the world? The problem is both philosophies can be read into Benedict’s words, depending on one’s predisposition.

Let me help Boniface out here by mentioning Pope Francis’ recent promotion of the “new evangelism.” Social gospel alert.

“We must not have fear to make the times of great challenges ours,” he continued.

Francis then said that people today are waiting on the church, “that it may know to walk with them, offering the company of the witness of faith that offers support with all, in particular with the most alone and marginalized.”

“How many poor people are waiting for the Gospel that frees!” the pope said. “How many men and women, in the existential peripheries generated by the consumer society, wait for our closeness and our solidarity!”

“The new evangelization therefore is this: to take awareness of the merciful love of the Father to truly become ourselves instruments of salvation for our brothers,” he said.

The term “new evangelization” was used frequently by Pope Benedict XVI, who created the pontifical council on the issue in 2010 and held a global meeting of bishops in Rome to discuss the matter in 2012. The exact meaning of the term and directive for the council have, however, remained a bit unclear.

Francis’ redefinition of the term seems to place the emphasis on evangelizing by example and in showing mercy and care for the poorest in society.

Touching on the process of catechesis later in his talk Friday, the pontiff said the question of how to educate the faithful “is not rhetorical but essential.”

Of course, the tension between the church and the world is not the dynamic merely of recent church history. When Tertullian asked about the relationship between Jerusalem and Athens, he was invoking the conflict between belief and unbelief. But since the late nineteenth century when Christians of various stripes wanted to do away (anti-dualism) with distinctions between nature and grace, special and general revelation, church and society, sacred and secular, the fundamental dilemma for western Christians (at least) has been whether to insist on such distinctions or whether to do away with them by making the kingdom of God a reality so much larger than the church (either bloated or itty-bitty).

If Bryan and the Jasons had picked this up while in Presbyterian circles, their call would sound different. And Bryan himself might be embarrassed by his alma mater’s decision to embrace diversity over evangelism:

Saint Louis University has removed a statue on its campus depicting a famous Jesuit missionary priest praying over American Indians after a cohort of students and faculty continued to complain the sculpture symbolized white supremacy, racism and colonialism.

Formerly placed outside the university’s Fusz Hall in the center of the private Catholic university, the statue will go to the university’s art museum, a building just north of the bustling urban campus.

The statue features famous Jesuit Missionary Pierre-Jean De Smet S.J. praying over two American Indians dressed in traditional clothing. Last Monday, just two days after graduation, it was removed from the location it has called home on campus for decades. . . .

The statue’s removal comes just months after controversy broke out at the Jesuit campus over a proposed statue to commemorate a six-night sit in that served as an extension of protests in nearby Ferguson.

After donors threatened to pull donations over the proposed statue, the university walked back the original intent of the statue, saying it would instead highlight the university’s values of diversity and inclusion.

If Bryan and the Jasons really want to reach the conservative Presbyterian and Reformed demographic, they really do need to find their anti-modernist selves.

I Feel His Pain

And I imagine that Boniface could feel mine even though the Tiber separates us.

Boniface explains why conservative or traditional Roman Catholics are worried about Pope Francis and the recent public foot washings are just one example. People prone to view conservatives as folks who don’t care for the poor or oppressed, or who think that critics of the pope are nostalgic for Pius X should think about the actual nature of the papacy. On the one hand, the pope washing the feet of prisoners is no big deal. But doing so on Holy Thursday sends a very different signal, one that shows the pope as Bishop of Rome is neglecting his duties to his own diocese:

The Holy Thursday Mass, which inaugurates the sacred Triduum and which (until 1642) was a holy day of obligation is in a totally different category than, say, a daily Mass. This is why when Benedict XVI wanted to celebrate Mass in the Casal del Marmo, he did so in a daily Mass, not the Holy Thursday Mass, which as part of the sacred Triduum, is of a much more solemn and public nature than a mere daily Mass.

Remember, the pope is also Bishop of the diocese of Rome. This means that for the past three years, the faithful of that diocese have been deprived of access to the celebration of one of the most sacred Masses of the year by their bishop. I admit this is not a huge issue or a monumental scandal – but it is something.

Boniface also explains that foot-washing on Holy Thursday was designed for bishops to serve their clergy (not as a photo op):

It must be remembered that though foot washing in general is a sign of service (cf. 1 Tim. 5:10), the Holy Thursday foot washing in particular is much more than that. Christ did not just wash His disciples’ feet as a sign of service to mankind in general, but of the service the hierarchy renders to the clergy in particular. This is why most liturgical foot washing in the Church’s history has always focused on the bishop’s service to his clergy; priests, canons, deacons and subdeacons have been the recipients of foot washing; this was true of diocesan bishops as well as the pope. It is an ecclesiological ritual relating to the clergy and their superiors, not a general sign of service to mankind.

. . . If the Holy Thursday foot washing is supposed to signify the service of the hierarchy to the Church – and to the clergy in particular – then we can easily understand why it is totally inappropriate that non-Christians should be the recipients of the ceremony. In what fantasy land can a Muslim or atheist in any way represent the Church?

And to the papal supremacists who defend Francis by citing his power to change church law (not doctrine) as he sees fit, Boniface observes that procedures exist for such changes and they don’t include merely breaking existing law:

. . . it seems lost on many that to say one has an authority to change a law is not the same thing as suggesting he can simply break the law. We all understand this. If the Holy Father does not like the current legislation, he has the power to change it. He can promulgate new rubrics or new norms if he so chooses. But for law to be law, this is accomplished by an act of law; i.e., the lawgiver changing the law by an legitimate exercise of his legislative power. The law is not changed by the lawgiver simply breaking the law.

Suppose the speed limit in your town was 30 mph. Suppose your small town Mayor decided he did not like that speed limit. Suppose, on the premise that he was the “supreme authority” in your small town, he just decided to start breaking the speed limit with impunity. How would you react? You would be indignant! You would say, “If the Mayor doesn’t like the speed limit, then change the law, but for heaven’s sake, don’t just break it!”

Since the rubrics for Holy Thursday have not changed, the fact remains that Pope Francis is simply violating the rubrics. You may say the law should change. You may applaud his inclusiveness. You may affirm that he has the power to change the law. But you cannot deny that he is breaking the law every time he washes the foot of a female on Holy Thursday. There’s no other way to explain it.

Aside from the merits of Boniface’s points or what Francis may indicate about the current magisterium, the post is instructive for a couple reasons:

First, Bryan and the Jasons seem to have no awareness of these nuances of significance in the public face of Roman Catholicism. Their conversion is a full-on embrace of Rome no matter what anyone does or says. And because the supremacy of the papacy is crucial to their conversion, they will never be in a position to raise the concerns that Boniface does. Why? Because ultimately their conversion is not about the pope or his infallibility but about their own certainty. It’s all about (not me) them.

Second, Boniface raises concerns about Francis that Old Lifers raise about the Presbyterian Pope, TKNY. Fans of Keller cannot understand critics because TKNY does so many good things that look so lovable and cuddly. But if you take Presbyterianism at all seriously, and ordination vows should suggest a degree of seriousness not to mention an entire chapter in our Confession of Faith devoted to oaths and vows, you might actually see that despite all of TKNY’s good intentions, he isn’t playing by rules that he agreed to follow. Maybe the rules are bad or need to be changed. But breaking those rules doesn’t change them. It only breeds license, an indifference to forms and structures that allows anyone to define Presbyterianism as he or Kathy sees fit.

Update: Pope’s prayers on Easter:

Continuing his blessing Sunday, the pope asked and several times implored God to stop violence in many places of the world — mentioning particularly Iraq and Syria, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, and Ukraine.

The pontiff also asked for “peace and freedom” for men and women “subject to old and new forms of enslavement” and for “peace and liberty” for those who are victims of drug dealers, who he said “are often allied with the powers who should defend peace and harmony in the human family.”

Mentioning Christians suffering persecution, Francis asked: “Jesus, the Victor, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence.”

Following with the list of nations suffering violence, the pope also prayed for a “resumed” peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

But what about Betty Falconi, member of Rome’s St. Clement’s parish, who is going in for foot surgery on Thursday?

Maybe not a Rich Man but What about a Fat One?

If being rich makes it difficult to enter the kingdom of God, how about obesity? This is the debate that some are having over the canonization of G. K. Chesterton:

Whether or not a person was temperate in food and alcoholic consumption is not only relevant, but absolutely central to the question of sanctity. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a person is not temperate in food and drink and the use of other created goods, there is no way they could be a saint.

Remember, a saint possesses not only natural virtue, but supernatural virtue. This means, of course, faith, hope and charity to a heroic degree, but it also means that even the saint’s natural virtues are elevated and oriented towards supernatural ends. For example, a virtuous man has formed the habit of prudence, which is the virtue of being able to identify and pursue the good in particular circumstances; i..e, of making good decisions. The saintly man, however, not only exercises natural prudence, but also demonstrates supernatural prudence; i.e., the virtue of prudence ordered towards supernatural ends, meaning exceptional discernment and good sense in spiritual matters.

Now, since supernatural virtue is a requisite of sainthood, and since grace builds on the natural virtues, it follows that a person who lacks even one of natural cardinal virtues cannot be “saintly” in the strict sense. Natural virtue is the foundation of supernatural virtue; if a natural virtue is obviously lacking, they cannot possess the supernaturalized version of that virtue which is built upon the natural. We may still have an exceptionally virtuous person, but nevertheless one with a major defect that makes it inappropriate to classify them as a saint. A person certainly cannot possess supernatural temperance if they lack even the natural virtue of temperance.

Is this being a bit too nitpicky? Absolutely not. Whether or not a person is a saint is a question of their character and conduct on the most personal level.

As much as the Obedience Boys can come across a more-devout-than-thou (or more likely, more-concerned-for-holiness-than-bad-Lutherans), I am glad they are still talking like Protestants. Indeed, it is a mystery to me that Christians would import pagan virtues into any scheme of divinely revealed holiness, almost as mystifying as the stakes for sanctity being so high not here and now — since you’ll have time in purgatory to burn off sin — but in the afterlife. If only Chesterton had remained a Protestant. He could have been a twentieth-century saint.