March 2017 Print

News from Tradition

Extreme Unction for Those Committing Euthanasia?

Bishop Vitus Huonder, of the diocese of Chur in Switzerland, has issued an instruction to the priests of the diocese informing them that Extreme Unction may not be given to those who seek to end their lives by euthanasia. Since becoming legal in Switzerland a number of years ago, the rate of euthanasia (assisted suicide) has risen dramatically with each passing year, with near 1,000 cases seen in 2015. In his instruction Bishop Huonder stated that, “It remains far from us to determine the moment of death. Like murder, suicide is also contrary to the divine order of the world,” and that death “lies within the omnipotence of God: where I die, when I die, and how I die I leave with God’s wise providence.”

The bishops of Alberta, Canada also issued an instruction similar to that of Bishop Huonder and clearly taught that Extreme Unction may not be given to those choosing assisted suicide. Soon after the Alberta bishops made their statement, the bishops of the Maritime Provences in Canada issued an instruction saying exactly the opposite of their confreres in Alberta and Chur.

Speaking for the bishops of Atlantic Canada (the Maritime provinces), Bishop Claude Champagne of Edmundston, New Brunswick, President of the Atlantic Episcopal Assembly, indicated that the statement made by the bishops of Alberta did not represent the “vision” of all Canada’s bishops. He went on to say: “Our concern is pastoral accompaniment. Pope Francis is our model…we will welcome them [those choosing euthanasia], try to understand and journey with them.”

In their document, the Atlantic bishops state that “[Pope Francis] reminds us that the one who accompanies others must realize that each person’s situation before God and his/her life of grace are mysteries which no one can fully know from without….Consequently, we must not make judgments about people’s responsibility and culpability. To one and all we wish to say that the pastoral care of souls cannot be reduced to norms for the reception of the sacraments or the celebration of funeral rites[.]”

Needless to say, the position taken by the bishops of Atlantic Canada is clearly at odds with the perennial teaching of the Church and with other bishops. We are in the very odd circumstance of seeing that mortal sin is effectively decided by which diocese you happen to live in, and the situation is made worse by continual recourse to the incorrect statements regarding morality which are found in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia of Pope Francis.

One cannot but help recall the words of Our Lady to Sister Agnes Sasagawa in Akita, Japan on 13 October 1973:

“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres...churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises, and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”

The Rosary and acts of reparation for sinful humanity are needed now more than ever

The Saving of Medieval Murals

An enormous restoration project is underway in the small Guild Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon in England. The chapel is home to medieval murals which have been found in excellent condition given their antiquity.

The murals were preserved by the careful attention of John Shakespeare, the father of William, who was bailiff of Stratford during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He was ordered by the crown to destroy any Catholic artwork in the chapel in 1653 so as to assist in the Protestinization of Catholic England after King Henry VIII’s break with Rome. John Shakespeare made use of white lime wash to cover all the murals in the chapel, thus obscuring them from view and preserving them from destruction. His decision has thus allowed for the unveiling of these significant works of medieval religious art.

Although the murals seem almost cartoonish to the modern artistic eye, they very much show that the Catholic faith had been alive and well in England up to the time of Henry VIII. Many English historians sought to justify the establishment of the Anglican church by depicting an England in which the practice of the Catholic faith was quite lax. The Irish historian Eamon Duffy has debunked this revisionist view in his landmark work The Stripping of the Altars, in which he proves that the faith of the English people was quite fervent until it was slowly destroyed by Thomas Cranmer (the Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and an ardent Lutheran heretic) and his Book of Common Prayer.

The Church in Brazil

A survey taken throughout the country of Brazil found that the number of adults who identify themselves as Catholics declined by ten percent from 2014 to 2016. As horrifying as a 10 percent drop sounds, the data becomes even more disturbing when it is translated into real numbers — approximately nine million Catholics have left the Church in two years. It should be noted that this drop of nine million souls comes during the tenure of the first pope from South America, who visited Sao Paolo in 2014 for World Youth Day. It seems that even the presence of Pope Francis was not enough to stem the tide of those abandoning the faith.

Nearly contemporaneous with the release of the data indicating this decline, Leonardo Boff, a former Franciscan priest who is himself Brazilian and a leading proponent of Liberation Theology, gave an interview in which he indicated that Pope Francis is himself an adherent to Liberation Theology and actually requested material from Boff to assist in the writing of Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si.

If Pope Francis’ adoption of Liberation Theology is true, this would once again pit him against his immediate predecessor Benedict XVI, who silenced Boff in 1985 while Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith. The silencing came directly from Boff’s teaching of Liberation Theology. After reading the interview, it becomes quite clear that the large exodus from the Church in such a short time should be no surprise.

Pope Francis Portrayed as Martin Luther

The photo, in which the face of Pope Francis has been Photoshopped onto the iconic image of Martin Luther, would, in more normal times for the Church, have been thought to be the work of anti-Catholic bigotry. Unfortunately, or more precisely, we are living in very strange times in the Church and the above image was created by and posted on the website of the German edition of Vatican Radio along with the caption: “Also a nice variant. We wish you a restful Sunday.”

Although one would imagine that the posting was meant to be a joke (though certainly a poor one since it is disrespectful of the Papal office), given the words and actions of Pope Francis over the past months in reference to Martin Luther, this posted image of the Holy Father as Luther may well carry a deeper meaning for whoever created it. One should recall that Pope Francis traveled to Sweden on October 31, 2016 in order to be part of a joint Catholic-Lutheran prayer service of thanksgiving for the “gift” of the Reformation to the Church on the 500th anniversary of Luther posting his Ninety-Five Theses. Additionally, he also received a statue of the arch-heretic Luther with honor at the Vatican and passed the comment that “Luther was right” (although, as is his usual modus operandi of vagueness, he never really said what Luther was right about). There is also talk that Pope Francis may well somehow intend to rehabilitate Luther (i.e., remove the excommunication) during this year as an ecumenical gesture towards the Lutherans.

What then are we to make of the posting of this image? Sad to say, it seems to be less of a poor comedic exercise and more likely an attempt to make light of the heresies of Luther and the fractioning of the Church which he began, and that somehow the Church misjudged this “reformer” 500 years ago. In addition, it also seems to be one more bit of evidence of the syncretism which has infected the Church since the onset of the faulty ecumenism of Vatican II.

Pope Francis—Where is Your Mercy?

On Sunday, February 5, 2017, the citizens of Rome woke to find some 200 posters plastered in various public places throughout the city. The people of Rome have a penchant for expressing their opinions on placards, particularly regarding the political scene in Rome and in Italy. What made these posters make news headlines throughout the world was that they were about Pope Francis and were decidedly uncomplimentary. Featuring a photo of the pope scowling at the viewer, the posters had a caption reading: Ah Francis, you’ve taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals…but where’s your mercy?

While the identity of those who created and hung the posters is unknown, there can be little doubt that the image Pope Francis has tried to create of himself as being the humble and merciful “servant of the servants of God” has become rather tarnished in the eyes of many, at least in Italy. In fact, as the caption clearly indicates, the actions of the pope have shown the pope to be sinisterly authoritarian and ruthless in persecuting any religious order, group, or person who disagrees with him and his remaking of the Church in his “image and likeness.”

Since those who placed the posters did not obtain the required permits from the city government, they were quickly partially covered by workman with another paper sign stating “unlawful posting.”

This did not, however, stop the more inquisitive from simply lifting the additional posting and reading what was underneath.

As a number of commentators have noted, this type of poster being critical of the pope has not been seen within the City of Rome in over a century. Those that appeared then were critical of the pope not for any issue relating to the faith, but rather about his actions as the ruler of the Papal States, which ceased to exist after the unification of Italy under Giuseppe Garibaldi in the 1860s. The fact that posters appeared being critical of ecclesiastical actions of Pope Francis clearly indicates that many have grown weary of his attacks on the faith of many Catholics whom he considers to be, in his own words, “rigid, Rosary counting, neo-Pelagians.”

Although most of the posters had been removed by the following day, the reaction from the legions of Pope Francis sycophants was immediate and condemnatory. Because the caption on the poster was written in an older Roman dialect of Italian, some Vatican insiders stated that the posters must have been the work of “conservative” Catholics unhappy with the changes being introduced by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Ouellet, the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops who hails from Canada stated that, “These methods of anonymous posters are a work of the devil, who wants to divide us. They are not the methods that should be used in the life of the Church.” His Eminence made no mention, of course, of how the recent actions of the Holy Father have severely divided the Church nor that those action may indeed be the work of the devil. Sad to say, Cardinal Ouellet is considered to be one of the more “conservative” within the College of Cardinals.

While the placing of these posters was, when viewing the larger picture of the situation in the Church today, a rather insignificant occurrence, there is no doubt that they represent a general weariness on the part of many Catholics with the less than edifying antics of the Bishop of Rome. Although Pope Francis was said to have not been upset by the posters, his previous reactions to personal criticism indicate that he will be ruthless in finding those responsible and deal with them harshly.

Evangelical Seminarians Becoming Catholics

In a new book entitled Evangelical Exodus: Evangelical Seminarians and Their Paths to Rome, the book’s author, Mr. Douglas Beaumont presents the conversion stories of many of the students, alumni, and professors of the Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES). From 2004 to 2014, dozens of those connected with the SES have chosen to become Catholics, often at great sacrifice to their careers and family relations. The book tries present an analysis of this phenomenon by speaking with the new converts themselves.

What seems quite interesting is that the SES was founded by an Evangelical Protestant who wrote apologetic texts which were critical of Catholicism. The seeming connection between the various converts is that through study of the origins of the Canon of Sacred Scripture as well as Church history, there came to be a general questioning of the two main tenets of Protestantism, Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide, which eventually led to Catholicism.

Given their lack of any sort of liturgical tradition, it may seem odd that evangelicals are coming to the true faith, since the central act of worship of the Church is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Because evangelicals have effectively become much more in tune with Catholic teaching in terms of the moral life, their reticence to embrace the liturgical tradition of the Church is fading. In fact, in terms of moral teaching, evangelicals are much closer to the true faith than most main line Protestant denominations (i.e., Lutherans, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Methodists).

There is, of course, the entire question of how much of the traditional Catholic faith these converts have accepted. It would certainly be interesting to examine where these converts are in terms of their faith journey in five or ten years’ time. It would seem that since their intellectual pursuits led them to the Church they may well “read” themselves into Tradition. We can certainly hope that this is the case.

Christmas Celebrated in the Middle East

While many of us were enjoying the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity with Holy Mass and festive family gatherings, the Christians in war-torn Syria and Iraq were not as fortunate given the blatant (but often ignored by Western Governments) persecution by Mohamadans and ISIS. This year, though, there were some signs of relief, as ISIS has begun losing ground in many areas.

Although still in exile from their homes, the Christians of Mosul are hopeful that this year they will be able to return to their city. One small sign that ISIS is being pushed back is that a Christmas tree was erected in the city and was not immediately destroyed by terrorists.

In the historic Christian town of Qaraqosh, 10 miles east of Mosul, originally taken by the terrorists back in 2014, Mass was held on Christmas morning for the first time in three years. Sadly, Midnight Mass was not possible due to the continued danger of traveling at night. Additionally, though the Christians of Qaraqosh were able to have Mass in their parish church, most of their homes had been burned to the ground by the ISIS terrorists as they fled the town. Despite the destruction, there was a joy in celebrating the birth of Our Savior while seeing that the rebirth of their town was now possible.

While some Iraqi Christians were able to return to their home towns to celebrate Christmas, others were still forced to remain in camps set up to house the refugee Christians who were driven out by ISIS. An 80-year-old woman by the name of Victoria Behman Akoum from the town of Karamlis said “I just want to go home…They [ISIS terrorists] asked me to convert to Islam, but I told them I will die a Christian and that they can kill me if they want to.” The pastor of the parish in Karamlis, Fr. Khouri Youssef stated simply, “We miss praying in our churches, sitting outside our homes in the summer evenings, tending our gardens and living in our homes… We bear the wound in our hearts, but life goes on.”

Prayers must continue to be offered for these fellow Catholics whose fidelity and bravery in the face of the murderous Muslims should insure us to live our faith more boldly.