Sunday, March 3, 2013


The Church after Pope Benedict {MY COMMENTS AT THE END}


Since the lava flow of media commentaries about Pope Benedict XVI's resignation began nearly two weeks ago, dozens of people have asked me why the Holy Father "really" resigned, and who the next pope is likely to be.
Given the extraordinary nature of the event, both questions are inevitable. Happily, Benedict's reasoning has been simple and clear. The Church faces serious challenges worldwide. At 85, his declining health and energy impede his ability to serve the Church as effectively as she needs. Resignation is an act of unusual humility, as well as careful judgment. These qualities, along with his courage, have distinguished his entire priestly life. By this action, Benedict also reminds us that, despite the unique authority invested in the Petrine office, the Pope is first and finally the bishop of Rome — and bishops do grow old and retire to private life everywhere else in the world.

Who will be the next Pope? Nobody knows, and while speculating about the future can be a pleasant form of entertainment, it's also fruitless. Pundits don't vote. Special interest lobbying in the media has little or no effect. Catholic teaching develops over time, but it doesn't fundamentally change; and Catholic life, in the end, is ordered to truth, not consensus or polling. Baptism is more than a Catholic tribal ritual. It matters — now and into eternity. And faith is not a religious clubhouse; it's meant to be lived actively, consciously, radically. It has adult implications. As St. Paul reminds us, we have a duty to "speak the truth in love." Truth unguided by mercy and love becomes a special kind of cruelty. Love unguided by a passion for truth about the nature of the human person, human relationships and human dignity isn't really "love" at all — it's a sly form of injustice and deceit.

What that means is this: A great many critics of the Church should plan to be disappointed (again) by whomever the conclave chooses. And yet, anyone who sincerely and unselfishly seeks God will continue to find a welcome in the Catholic Church, no matter who bears the title of Pope.

Timothy George, who ranks among the leading Evangelical authors and scholars of our time, described Benedict last week as "the greatest theologian to become pope since the Reformation," a champion of the culture of life, the Word of God, religious freedom, the pursuit of Christian unity anchored in truth, and the unembarrassed proclamation of the kingship of Jesus Christ. These words of praise, coming from across Christianity's historic confessional divide, confirm the real legacy of Joseph Ratzinger. This is how faithful Catholics and so many other believing Christians will remember him.

The work he leaves behind of course is sobering, and not just for his successor but for all of us who call ourselves Catholic. A bishop friend of mine said recently that what we need now more than anything as a Church, both locally and globally, is a "re-formation" — the kind of fundamental, root and branch conversion that goes vastly deeper than the pet issues of American media and political culture to a transformation of hearts, and thereby behavior.

In that regard, sometimes the best lessons for the future can be learned from the experience of the past. Five centuries ago, just a few years before Luther's "95 Theses," the Catholic reformer Father John Colet delivered a blisteringly frank homily to a cathedral full of English bishops and senior clergy. To an unamused audience, he argued that "never was there more necessity and never did the state of the Church more need" a profound effort at purification — not away from Catholic belief, but back toward living it more zealously, more honestly, more faithfully, as if this world and the next depended on it, because they do.

Colet spoke to a convocation of clergy. Today he might need to leave room for quite a few laypeople. But the message is worth remembering by all of us in the years ahead, whatever happens in Rome.

MY COMMENTS: I've been reading from various sources how the Catholic Church is bleeding members, that we are in decline and that the next pope has to turn it around or the Church will cease.

I suspect we are declining in numbers. But I saw some startling statistics just yesterday. Since 1910, worldwide, (and 1910 is the year my father was born) the number of Catholics has tripled to 1.2 billion! So that means that in 1910 there were 2/3rds fewer Catholics in the world.

While I hate seeing decline. We do have to ask ourselves the question about the last 50 years. Prior to Vatican II and up until the 1960's there was an explosion of Catholics, those first 50 years, but the second 50 years saw a bit of a decline. Just why is that?

Of course Vatican II's wrong implementation led to confusion in the Church and an erroneous sense amongst that all religions or no religion were equal. What is the point of evangelization if everything is equal and anyone can be saved by any religion or no religion.

With the dumbing down of catechetics from a very good foundation given by the Baltimore Catechism to a coloring book Catechism that places the Catholic faith on the floor of a sinkhole, poised to collapse and swallow the faith, one can see how Catholics faced with the onslaught of media and government secularism could not withstand that sinkhole's Armageddon.

Recently and exchange between Father Chicken Little and Father Chicken Hawk made clear the root sourse of this malaise of progressives in the Catholic Church when Father Chicken Hawk stated unambiguously the following on February 22, 2013 at 10:08 AM:

"Pie in the sky when you die" may be comforting to some, but it misses the mark of Catholic belief and teaching.

As a member of the downtrodden, the anaweem, the last who will be first, poor Father Chicken Little stated a grand truth that reverberated so loudly that Father Chicken Hawk had no response that he could stick his ungodly talons into to grasp the truth and bring it to his caricature of a beak to shred to smithereens, similar to the scribes and pharisees who remained speechlessly in front of our Lord's come-backs to their nonsensical remarks:

If not for the pie in the sky in virtue of the Resurrection of our Lord, I would not be a Christian, that would be ridiculous. Maybe I would simply be a secularist [agnostic].

Of course Chicken Little is in good company with the likes of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Pontifex Maximus Emeritus when he states while still Pontifex Maximus this past Wednesday in his brilliant farewell address the following:

[In the un-Chicken Hawk-like experience of the true Church of Christ]... one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.”


Gene said...

Hey...this is exactly what I have been saying on this blog for months to people like Millie and a few others who have lost their faith and want to make of the Church a giant soup kitchen/social work organization. Besides, if I read the Bible correctly, He brings the pie with Him when He returns and not everybody is gonna' like the taste of it too much...LOL!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how the Evil One has set up the "perfect storm" against the Catholic Church. We have an ecumenical council that lulls us into a false sense of security, the misapplication of the council that brings forth apostasy, confusion, lack of sound teaching, questionable liturgies and, ultimately, a Church full of people who know little or nothing about their religion. We then have a sex abuse crisis that devastates the Church's perceived credibility, not only with the general public, but even among many of its members. Meanwhile we have the rise of abortion and homosexuality with the public "normalization" of all things homosexual along with a general decline in public morals and respect, especially for religion.

This has placed the Church in a unique position. It is despised and misunderstood more today than probably any other time in history. Many of its own members have or are ready to turn away (or against) it. The government is preparing to punish it. And the true believers within are often the most hated by the "Spirit of Vatican II" hacks who still hold many positions of authority.

Secular society just doesn't "get" the Church and it is foolish to expect them to. However, we cannot deny our witness to the Truth, even as it is mocked.

This is an exciting time to be a Catholic. The best (and the worst) is yet to come. This is the time, like no other, to remember Christ's promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It is indeed the perfect storm and amen to your words and yes it is an exciting time and who among the sheep will disperse because of it?

rcg said...

Have you ever noticed that big storms break all the dead limbs out of the trees and uproots the weak ones? If I know a tree is rotten inside and the storm blows it on my house, whose fault is but mine? I might wish my garden had more trees, but I would rather the few that are in it are strong and living through and through. In today's Gospel Christ pointed out that Satan's house can be divided against itself and can be used to defeat him. In truth, I think Satan already knows all of this. it is his followers and enablers that are in the dark.

WSquared said...

"It is indeed the perfect storm and amen to your words and yes it is an exciting time and who among the sheep will disperse because of it?"

All the more reason why, knowing full well our weaknesses, we ought to keep the words of St. Padre Pio's prayer after Communion in mind: "Stay with me Lord, if You want me to be faithful to You; so that I do not fall so often. You know how easily I abandon You."

"As St. Paul reminds us, we have a duty to "speak the truth in love." Truth unguided by mercy and love becomes a special kind of cruelty. Love unguided by a passion for truth about the nature of the human person, human relationships and human dignity isn't really "love" at all — it's a sly form of injustice and deceit."

Amen. And I do struggle with this one. I don't call anyone names, but there are times when I am exasperated, and my impatience does show. As for Love unguided by a passion for the truth about the nature of the human person, human relationships and human dignity being a sly form of injustice and deceit, I have been on the receiving end of that sort of thing, and it's condescending, and not just tiresome.

I notice this especially in ideas of "tolerance" that all cultures are equal, but Catholic orthodoxy is not to be tolerated-- that everyone else is allowed to have their traditions and beliefs, but Catholic beliefs and traditions are always and everywhere negotiable-- that Catholics and the Catholic Church are not allowed to be themselves. Thing is, when God became Man, and came to redeem us and reconcile us to Himself through His Cross and Resurrection, He never stopped being truly Himself. He may have taken human form, but He never stopped being God. Rather, He's wondrously dignified human nature (the TLM spells this out loud and clear, which is why I don't understand why those who hate that form of the Mass complain that it makes people feel like crap).

""Pie in the sky when you die" may be comforting to some, but it misses the mark of Catholic belief and teaching."

Seeing as how one's salvation is only through the Cross, whereby we are crucified with and rise with Christ, I fail to see how any of it is "pie in the sky when you die." If that remark is meant to convey that it isn't hippy-dippy, happy-clappy kumbayaa per omnia saecula saeculorum, then okay. But if it means something way more glorious than we can ever conceive of with our limited human categories, then it isn't just about comfort, but about the glory of God.

ytc said...

Good Father Chicken Little, do you ever hang out with Good Father Chicken Hawk? My priests go to Chinese restaurants all the time.

Anonymous 2 said...

For those of us who are witness to the current “Chicken War,” it may be helpful to have some context as well as some elaboration.

First, context. Pater Ignotus (Father Kavanaugh) made his statement in response to the following post from Father McDonald:

“Heard on Catholic radio this morning:


My comment: I can live with that!”

Pater Ignotus commented: "’Pie in the sky when you die’ may be comforting to some, but it misses the mark of Catholic belief and teaching.”

To which Father McDonald replied: “If not for the pie in the sky in virtue of the Resurrection of our Lord, I would not be a Christian, that would be ridiculous. Maybe I would simply be a secularist atheist.”

That’s all of it, folks. So, second, I wonder if Father McDonald and Father Kavanaugh would be willing to elaborate upon their very brief comments. The reason I ask this is that I suspect that there may be some mutual misunderstanding at the root of this. I am unsure that either one of them actually means what some may have taken them to mean. Thus, one could read Father McDonald’s comment as indicating an indifference to pretty much everything provided it does not prevent his getting to Heaven. But Father McDonald clearly is_not_indifferent about many things, indeed he is very passionate about them, from which I infer that his comment needs qualification and/or allows for a capacious understanding of what is relevant for eternal salvation. Similarly, I do not think that Father Kavanaugh denies the Resurrection or the need for eternal salvation, but is perhaps suggesting that these matters have to be seen in a broader context. (Query: Does all this have something to do with the relationship between faith and works?).

So, it may be helpful if Father McDonald could elaborate upon what he considers relevant for eternal salvation and if Father Kavanaugh could elaborate upon what he sees as “the mark of Catholic belief and teaching.” I wonder too if there might not be considerable overlap between their positions when elaborated further. I wonder this because I know both of them and have attended Mass both at St. Josephs (my “home” church) and at Holy Spirit. I believe that although they each have their own strong personalities that may sometimes produce “sparks,” they are both fine priests who are trying to do the very best for their parishioners.

Gene said...

Why would anyone encourage more BS from Ignotus? LOL!

Art Fleming said...

Could we please ease up on all the negative comments about Pater Ignotus? Agree or disagree, he IS a priest. Any man who takes the trouble of seeking as thankless a job as a priestly donation deserves some modicum of gratitude and respect, so let's at least respect his office.

David said...

Anon 2 said: "...I believe that although they each have their own strong personalities that may sometimes produce “sparks,” they are both fine priests who are trying to do the very best for their parishioners."

And that's the rub, because I have no doubt Fr Kavanaugh is a good man and does his best to tend to his parishoners. But when he comes onto another priest's blog, and targets people who may have more traditional views than he has, with his comments that seem like verbal bullying and mocking, yet refuses to follow up when someone then confronts him, he loses credibillity and respect. If he has so much free time that he can lurk around another priest's blog searching for petty arguments to engage in, perhaps he should look into spending more time at soup kitches or homeless shelters.

Art Fleming said...

"Priestly donation"?

I meant "vocation"

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I would agree, critique comments not posters!

Pater Ignotus said...

Dave - And why aren't YOU spending all this "free time" at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter...?

Art - Donations happily accepted!

Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 2 - "6. Q. Why did God make you? A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven."

The Incarnation is one of the foundational mysteries of our Faith, the filter through which we must think theologically. 6.Q.A. points us in that direction, indicating that our being has two tracks, if you will. 1) We serve God on this earth. 2) We hope to be happy with Him in heaven. We know from Matthew 25 that if we do not serve God on this earth, we will not be happy with him in heaven.

Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition bear out this understanding. Micah 6:8 teaches us: "You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and the love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God." We see the dual approach to our purpose. Both are necessary, and they are intimately related.

The Ten Commandments are broken down into two categories. The first three describe our relationship directly with God while the remaining describe our relationship with others on this earth.

Our actions do not merit salvation - only grace makes this possible for us. However, to say that the next pope's job is "getting me into the next world" is to overlook the responsibilties we have in this world which, if Matthew is to be believed, will determine in which neighborhood in the next world we will reside. The pope also bears responsibility for encouraging us in this regard. Care for the needy in this world, without losing sight of the world to come, has been the hallmark found in the lives of most all the Saints.

David said...

Pater Ignorant, I indeed do (I don't dodge questions like you do). Now enough with your cyber bullying. I'm finished with you.


Anonymous 2 said...

Pater Ignotus: Thank you for that helpful elaboration.

Art and David: I think you hit the nail on the head, Art. Personally, I thank God for all of our priests and religious. In fact, one of the nice customs at Holy Spirit seems to be to pray for a different group of priests and religious in the Diocese each week. I like that. I will leave it there and refrain from comment on the verbal styles of Father McDonald and Pater Ignotus and whatever dynamic these may represent. However, I do appreciate the challenging and thought-provoking observations and comments that each of them makes.

Pater Ignotus said...

David - And indeed I do my own work as well. And your "I'm finished with you" is, itself, and act of cyber bullying. You might as well say "Talk to the hand..."


Gene said...

You have to deal with the person if he refuses to be forthcoming. For those of you who are queasy about criticizing a priest, look again. The Church is full of Ignotus types.
Ignotus/Kavanaugh would not answer a simple, direct question about his belief in the Real Presence and the person of Christ. Why would any Priest or devout Christian/Catholic refuse to do that? It is a really simple matter...unless you have a different agenda. This is not a grad school seminar where it is considered clever to play word games and engage in coy theological evasion. Kavanaugh's refusal to answer that simple question speaks volumes about his true orientation. Every word he has written on this blog, every person he has quoted, the books he chooses for Bible study, every attack he has made upon Fr. MacDonald and others on the blog are evidence of his agnostic approach to the Church and theology. He appears to be among those who, having serious belief issues, view the Church as merely a huge resource for social change and ministry as a vehicle for re-educating parishioners into humanistic/progressivist thinking.
If you doubt this, why would any Priest sow such conflict and animosity on a blog? Why would he give even the smallest impression that he has belief issues and that he questions or doubts the doctrines of the Church? Why would any Priest not inspire confidence in his devotion and faith? Why would any Priest refuse to answer a simple question about his belief? Matt, 10: 32-33: "Whosoever,therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven."
When I came into the Church from being a Presbyterian pastor, being aware that unbelief was an issue with many of our modern issue theologians and pastors, I asked Fr. MacDonald directly, "Do you believe that Jesus literally got up and walked out of the tomb?" There was no hesitation in his response, "Yes, I do." Every moment of his pastorate, every word, every action...his very presence reflect this devotion and faith. I see this in Fr. Shelton and some of the other Priests who have posted here, as well as in other Priests I know or with whom I was in school. Why does Fr. Kavanaugh not inspire the same confidence?
I do not believe one word out of Kavanaugh's mouth unless he is in persona Christi, and then those words are not his. I trust God uses him to his inscrutable purpose through His good and perfect will...

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - I would not answer the question because the question was not, in fact, a question, but an accusation. And that accusation was based on nothing.

Also, I am not subject to each and every person who shows up here, reads one post of mine, and concludes that I am a heretic. I am neither a heretic nor a disbeliever. I have our bishop's authorization and that is sufficient for me. If it is not enough for you, that's your problem.

I have not attacked Fr. McDonald - I have disagreed with him. You confuse the two.

I do not view the Church as MERELY a resource for social change. However, in fact, that is what She has been for lo these 2000+ years. It is not an "either/or" matter, but a "both/and" matter. The Church is a vehicle for social change and a vehicle for salvation.

Fr. Kavanaugh does not inspire confidence in you because he doesn't agree with your extreme political views. I do not inspire confidence in you because I don't agree with your hate-mongering and name-calling. I don't inspire confidence in your because I call you out on your anti-Semitism and your racism.

And what REALLY gripes you about me is you can't bully me into silence.

Gene said...

You do not inspire confidence because you would not respond to a simple question about does not matter if it was an "accusation" or not. You are the one calling names here. Many Priests of questionable belief have their Bishop's authorization. That doesn't mean much in terms of orthodoxy or devotion anymore. And, still, you prevaricate...