Church and World
And So “Synodality” Begins to Take Shape
On September 3 2017, Pope Francis issued a Motu Proprio entitled Magnum Principium by which he modified Canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law (the Code of 1983). Canon 838 deals specifically with the translation of liturgical texts from Latin into the various vernacular languages, and mandated that the Holy See must give its official approval to any translations of the Roman Missal and Ritual before they can be used. The modification ordered by Pope Francis removes this requirement and allows the various National Episcopal Conferences to give approval to the official texts of the Mass (Novus Ordo) prepared in the vernacular.
While this change seems relatively minor and of no real concern to Catholics assisting at the Traditional Mass, it does signal the beginning of one of Pope Francis’ stated goals: the giving of doctrinal authority to the various National Episcopal Conferences. This would open the door to the possibility that Catholic dogma could vary from country to country (although an impossibility in reality since truths of the Faith are perennially valid everywhere and unchangeable), much the same way as various Episcopal Conferences have made divorce and remarriage not an obstacle to receiving the Sacraments in some countries, while others have upheld the traditional teaching of the Church in this matter in light of Amoris Latitiae. Ever since becoming Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis has made no secret of his desire to introduce into the Catholic Church practices found in the various schismatic and heretical Orthodox churches. Synodality is one of the major cornerstones of the Orthodox and is best defined as doctrine being defined and guarded by a synod of bishops rather than in the Petrine Office. This effectively dismantles two of the four marks of the Church (Oneness and Catholicity) by destroying the unity and universal nature of doctrine.
When questioned about the Motu Proprio Magnum Principium, Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect for the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW), wrote that Rome would still have final approval of any translations prepared by the various Episcopal Conferences. Within a few days of the publication of the Cardinal’s words, Pope Francis wrote a public letter to Cardinal Sarah correcting the Cardinal and stating that he fully intended to cede control over the translation of Liturgical texts to the Episcopal Conferences. This sort of public rebuke of a cardinal by a pope was unheard of until now. Following this, there is legitimate speculation as to how long Cardinal Sarah will remain as Prefect of CDW. Additionally, Cardinal Mueller stated, in reference to the Motu Proprio that: “In case of doubt, the final authority cannot be with the bishops’ conferences. This would destroy the unity of the Church’s faith, commitment and prayer.”
The “Celebration” Continues
As has been mentioned in previous “Church in the World” columns, the Vatican of Pope Francis has been encouraging the “celebration” of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s revolt against the Church including a joint prayer service presided over by Francis and a female Lutheran “bishop” which took place in Sweden last year. In October of last year, the seeming rehabilitation of Martin Luther continued unabated, as several bishops made remarks (either in print or verbally) which effectively praised Luther as a reformer. Bishop Nunzio Galantino, the secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference went so far as to call Luther’s revolt “an event of the Holy Spirit” in a conference given at the Pontifical Lateran University on October 19, 2017. Bishop Galantino was appointed to his post by Pope Francis.
In response to Galantino, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote an article for an Italian Catholic journal rebuking those who try and see Luther’s actions as anything but a revolt against the Church herself. Mueller stated:
“…in the book written by Luther in 1520, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae, it is absolutely clear that Luther has left behind all of the principles of the Catholic Faith, Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, the magisterium of the Pope and the Councils, and of the episcopate. In this sense, he upended the concept of the homogeneous development of Christian doctrine as explained in the Middle Ages, even denying that a sacrament is an efficacious sign of the grace contained therein. He replaced this objective efficacy of the sacraments with a subjective faith. Here, Luther abolished five sacraments, and he also denied the Eucharist: the sacrificial character of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and the real conversion of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he called the sacrament of episcopal ordination, the sacrament of Orders, an invention of the Pope—whom he called the Antichrist—and not part of the Church of Jesus Christ…
It is therefore unacceptable to assert that Luther’s reform “was an event of the Holy Spirit.” On the contrary, it was against the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit helps the Church to maintain her continuity through the Church’s magisterium, above all in the service of the Petrine ministry: on Peter has Jesus founded His Church (Mt. 16:18), which is “the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (I Tim. 3:15). The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself.
While Cardinal Mueller’s response is laudatory, it must be remembered that he no longer speaks on behalf of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and therefore he is not in a position to penalize Bishop Galantino or demand a retraction of his statements.
Aside from the public statements of various bishops, the Vatican itself has been working on painting the Protestant revolt in a positive light. The Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See has itself published numerous articles consistent with Bishop Galantino’s understanding of Luther. The Vatican Philatelic Office issued a stamp commemorating the anniversary which shows the Crucifixion of Our Lord and at the base of the Cross are the figures of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon (the original “theologian” of Protestantism). The stamp is an affront to Catholic sensibilities since it replaces the traditional figures of Our Lady and St. John with arch heretics!
There is little doubt that Pope Francis is just ramping up the “ecumania” which has been the hallmark of Vatican policies since Vatican II. It appears that any and all teachings of the Faith are to be sacrificed at the altar of intercommunion with the various Protestant sects.
(The translation of Cardinal Mueller’s article is from Lifesite News and is available here: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cardinal-mueller-luthers-reform-was-against-the-holy-spirit )
Young American are Losing the Sense of Christmas
Based on a survey organized by the Pew Forum website in December 2013, Christmas in the U.S. is becoming less religious and more “cultural.” As Christmas and Easter are the main religious feasts for Christians and remain attended by virtually all of them (96% to be precise), only one American out of two will attend Christmas services this year, vs. two out of three in the previous generation. Young adults under age 30 are far less likely than older Americans to say they see Christmas as more of a religious than a cultural holiday, and this applies also to Christians: young people are more likely than older adults to view Christmas as more of a cultural than a religious holiday
On an more optimistic mood, Nine-in-ten Americans celebrate Christmas, and three-quarters say they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. The non-Christians celebrate Christmas too, but mostly as a cultural and family holiday. The way they celebrated Christmas is rooted in their past experience as children: mostly with family gatherings, caroling around the Christmas tree, and the exchanging of gifts. But fewer Americans sent Christmas or holiday cards this year, and the trend is to send family pictures and news.
Capuchin Theologian Dismissed by the USCCB
Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan priest and well known theologian, was fired by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a theological advisor within hours of publishing the letter he wrote to Pope Francis expressing his concern about Francis’ words and actions. Fr. Weinandy decided to make his letter to Pope Francis public after receiving no response from the Pope, even though he had hand delivered the letter to Francis personally.
In the letter, which was very respectful in its tone, Fr. Weinandy called the pope’s attention to the fact that:
“…a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate… Allow me to offer a few brief examples. First there is the disputed Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. I need not share my own concerns about its content. Others, not only theologians, but also cardinals and bishops, have already done that. The main source of concern is the manner of your teaching. In Amoris Laetitia, your guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous, thus inviting both a traditional interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce as well as one that might imply a change in that teaching… Second, too often your manner seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine. Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life. Your critics have been accused, in your own words, of making doctrine an ideology… the Church is one body, the Mystical Body of Christ, and you are commissioned by the Lord himself to promote and strengthen her unity. But your actions and words too often seem intent on doing the opposite. Encouraging a form of ‘synodality’ that allows and promotes various doctrinal and moral options within the Church can only lead to more theological and pastoral confusion. Such synodality is unwise and, in practice, works against collegial unity among bishops.”
Towards the conclusion of his letter, Fr. Weinandy states:
“Holy Father, this brings me to my final concern. You have often spoken about the need for transparency within the Church. You have frequently encouraged, particularly during the two past synods, all persons, especially bishops, to speak their mind and not be fearful of what the pope may think. But have you noticed that the majority of bishops throughout the world are remarkably silent? Why is this? Bishops are quick learners, and what many have learned from your pontificate is not that you are open to criticism, but that you resent it. Many bishops are silent because they desire to be loyal to you, and so they do not express—at least publicly; privately is another matter—the concerns that your pontificate raises. Many fear that if they speak their mind, they will be marginalized or worse.”
It is very clear from the USCCB’s immediate firing of Fr. Weinandy that his final observation is completely accurate. Many have expressed similar concerns that any deviation from the “party line” being promoted by the Vatican of Pope Francis will not be tolerated and those who do will be immediately crushed without mercy.
St. John Paul I?
The Italian press is reporting that the cause for the canonization of Pope John Paul I is accelerating. Cardinal Albino Luciani, the then Patriarch of Venice, was elected to the papacy in September of 1978 following the death of Pope Paul VI which occurred the preceding August 6, and took the unusual dual papal name of John Paul. Given the moniker “the Smiling Pope” by the press, John Paul reigned for a mere 33 days and died on September 28, 1978. As of now, Papa Luciani is the only post Vatican II pope who has not been either beatified or canonized. The report states that the heroic virtue of John Paul I has been established and is simply awaiting the approval of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and Pope Francis.
Many conspiracy theories have arisen over the past 40 years as to the exact cause of death of John Paul I. Officially his death was ruled as natural, the result of a heart attack, but some began to speculate that Cardinal Luciani was on the verge of exposing the activity of Freemasons in the Vatican as well as financial improprieties of the Institute for Religious Works (the “Vatican Bank”) and was therefore murdered to stop his speculated actions. Other theorists have speculated that Luciani was of a traditional mindset and was ready to reverse many of the progressive actions of Paul VI.
Irrespective of these conspiracy theories, there is little doubt that the proposed canonization of John Paul I will be used as a tool to shore up the legacy of the Second Vatican Council.
Ancient Fresco Discovered in Norcia
In the autumn of 2016, a major earthquake caused massive destruction in the Italian city of Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict, the Father of Western Monasticism. In addition to the destruction of the town, the Basilica of St. Benedict was almost completely destroyed, as was the Benedictine monastery attached to it (the monks of Norcia had begun celebrating the Traditional Mass with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI some years ago).
News has now come from the Heritage Office of Umbria that in the process of clearing away the remains of the Basilica, an ancient fresco of St. Benedict has been discovered. The fresco had been covered over some centuries ago and is considered to be of great cultural, not to mention religious, significance.
Sadly, it is also being reported that although the Basilica will be rebuilt, the diocesan plans are calling for a modern structure as opposed to attempting to replicate the original architecture. There is no information on whether the newly discovered fresco will be incorporated into the new Basilica or placed in a museum setting.
The Clandestine Church Takes Action for a Bishop’s Liberation
A prayer chain was launched in December of 2017 for the liberation of the bishop of the diocese of Wenzhou, who has been under house arrest for seven months.
On May 18, Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin disappeared from his diocese after being “invited” to meet with the local Bureau of Religious Affairs. Six months later, the faithful of the diocese have decided to pray and fast for their bishop on the 18th of every month.
A few days before the 19th congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the prelate was supposedly led from Beijing to Xining, a city in the province of Qinghai, 1,500 miles from his home. This is the fourth time the bishop has disappeared like this since he succeeded Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang at the head of the diocese in September of 2016.
Last June, the German ambassador in Beijing and Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office, both asked the Chinese authorities to restore Bishop Shao’s freedom.
According to Ucanews, the authorities have informed Bishop Shao that in order to obtain his freedom he will have to recognize the Church’s independence from the Holy See and concelebrate a Mass with a bishop not recognized by the Vatican.
Human Stem Cells Used as Spare Parts
With a revision of the law on bioethics scheduled for 2018, a team of French biologists has just tested a therapy using embryonic human stem cells to treat an eye disease.
Retinitis pigmentosa affects nearly 30,000 patients in France. Macular degeneration due to age affects over 1.5 million.
The December 20, 2017 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine reveals the results of an experiment conducted on rats. After placing on the surface of their retina a “patch” made of modified embryonic human stem cells, researchers observed that the rats with transplants performed better and for a longer period of time on the visual acuity test that animals of other groups.
In the light of these results, an authorization request for a clinical trial on human patients will be filed in March of 2018.
Based on natural law and God’s sovereignty over all creatures, the Catholic Church forbids the manipulation—and destruction—of human embryos, even for therapeutic purposes: one cannot do wrong for a good cause.