September 2019 Print

News from Tradition: Church and World

John Henry Newman to be Canonized

Since 1983, following the promulgation of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Divinis Perfectionis Magister, the process for canonization has been called into question, along with a questioning of a good number of those canonized under the new procedures (most notably, all the post-Vatican II popes). This questioning had become so prolific at the time of Paul VI’s canonization in 2018, that the theological question of whether canonizations are infallible acts received much attention (there are reliable theological opinions on both sides of the question).

Unfortunately, this means that the legitimacy of all post-1983 canonizations have been called into question, even those whose reputation for sanctity is well attested to (one need only to think of Padre Pio, Damien of Molokai, and Katherine Drexel to name just a few). It is for this reason that the announcement that John Henry Newman is to be raised to the glory of the altars on October 13 is bittersweet. Bitter since the legitimacy of the canonization can be called into question because of the new process and sweet because Newman’s reputation for sanctity and his theological brilliance have long been well noted before Vatican II.

John Henry Newman was born in London, England on February 21, 1801 and died in Birmingham, England on August 11 1890. An excellent student, he eventually studied at Trinity College, Oxford. Desiring to remain at Oxford as a teacher, he was elected to a fellowship (professorship in American terminology) at Oriel College, Oxford. At the same time, he became an Anglican clergyman and was effectively the leader of the Oxford Movement which sought to bring back more Catholic practices to the Anglican church.

As Newman read more and more of the works of the Fathers of the Church and studied the history of the early Church (particularly the Arian crisis) he became more and more convinced that the Roman Catholic Church was the only true Church and that Anglicanism, though it retained some Catholic external practices, was just another Protestant false religion. Newman was received into the Catholic Church on October 9, 1845. In 1846, after traveling to Rome, he was ordained a Catholic priest (of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri) and received the academic degree of Doctor of Divinity from Pope Pius IX. Upon his return to England, he founded the Oratory in Birmingham, along with an Oratory School (one of the many notable graduates of the school was J.R.R. Tolkien).

All during this time, he continued to write and give lectures on education as well as delivering powerful sermons. Interestingly, at the time of the First Vatican Council, Newman stated that he was uneasy about the formal declaration of papal infallibility, not because he did not believe it, but rather because he thought it would give rise to what is called in our day “papolatry” (an idea that all things the pope says and does are effectively infallible).

He was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope Leo XIII on 12 May 1879 and died in Birmingham of pneumonia at the age of 89.

Newman is indeed a saint for our times for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is his rejection and strong critique of liberalism (the basic tenets of which St. Pius X will name modernism in his encyclical Pascendi) throughout his entire life. His Biglietto Speech (a short speech given by a new cardinal upon the official notification of his being raised to the College) clearly summed up the dangers of liberalism. Newman stated:

“For 30, 40, 50 years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth; and on this great occasion, when it is natural for one who is in my place to look out upon the world, and upon Holy Church as in it, and upon her future, it will not, I hope, be considered out of place, if I renew the protest against it which I have made so often.

“Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy. Devotion is not necessarily founded on faith. Men may go to Protestant Churches and to Catholic, may get good from both and belong to neither. They may fraternize together in spiritual thoughts and feelings, without having any views at all of doctrine in common, or seeing the need of them. Since, then, religion is so personal a peculiarity and so private a possession, we must of necessity ignore it in the intercourse of man with man. If a man puts on a new religion every morning, what is that to you? It is as impertinent to think about a man’s religion as about his sources of income or his management of his family. Religion is in no sense the bond of society.”

Another reason for seeing in Newman a model for our time is his perennial search for the truth. This search eventually led him to the Catholic Church, but at great personal sacrifice. Many in his family disowned him at his conversion and the majority of his friends and colleagues wanted nothing more to do with him. Additionally, he lost his teaching position at Oxford. Amongst the general public, he was thought a traitor by Anglicans and an infiltrator (sent by the Anglicans to destroy the Catholic Church in England) by Catholics. Many a traditional Catholic has had to deal with the same rejection by friends and loved ones in their search for the traditional Faith.

Newman asked that the phrase Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth) be placed on his gravestone, which he clearly saw as epitomizing his entire life.

All of Newman’s works may be found online here:

Archbishop Sheen Returns to Peoria, Illinois

After a three-year legal battle between the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Peoria, the mortal remains of Archbishop Fulton Sheen were removed from the crypt of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York and transported to the Cathedral of St. Mary in Peoria in the early morning of June 27. Clearly unhappy with the outcome of the legal battle, Cardinal Timothy Dolan insisted that the exhumation take place at 5:00 in the morning and with no media coverage. Only the funeral director and his staff were present along with the rector of St. Patrick’s, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Peoria and Sheen’s immediate surviving family members.

Archbishop Sheen’s body being placed in a container for transportation.

As has been previously reported in these pages, the Diocese of Peoria had received assurances from the then Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, that Sheen’s remains would be returned to Peoria in order to allow the process for his beatification to advance (part of the beatification process requires that the mortal remains be positively identified and relics obtained). For some as yet unknown reason, Cardinal Dolan, Egan’s successor as Archbishop, reneged on the assurance made by his predecessor to the Diocese of Peoria. In addition, Dolan stated he had no plans for the Archdiocese of New York to advance the beatification process for Sheen.

The altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help where Archbishop Sheen’s body will be entombed.

Later in the day of June 27, Bishop Jenky of Peoria welcomed the body of Archbishop Sheen to the Cathedral of St. Mary, where a crypt had been prepared in front of the altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Bishop Jenky also announced that the process for Sheen’s beatification had been reinstated. Early in July, Rome announced that Pope Francis had approved a miracle attributed to Sheen’s intercession and that he would be beatified in the near future (no official date has been announced as of this writing).

Notre Dame to be Faithfully Restored

After the devastating fire on April 15 which destroyed all of the timber roof and much of the stone ceiling vaulting of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, French president Emmanuel Macron announced that the Cathedral would be repaired. He did not, at that time, indicate how it was to be restored architecturally. President Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, then launched an international competition to come up with ideas as to how Notre Dame should be restored. In the ensuing weeks, many bold and bizarre plans were put forward—all of which attempted to make the ancient Cathedral more “relevant” to 21st-century sensibilities. The French firm of Vincent Callebaut Architectures produced drawings showing the Cathedral with a glass roof and spire allowing for gardens which would produce some 21 tons of food and make Notre Dame a “net-zero” carbon emissions structure.

Notre Dame as a green house!

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, adamantly insisted that Notre Dame should be restored to its original state at the time of the fire. The mayor, a socialist, was not so much concerned with the Catholic heritage represented by the cathedral, but rather its social and historical importance to France.

On June 15, the Archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit offered the first Mass in Notre Dame following the fire. 

Thankfully, the French Senate introduced and passed a bill requiring that Notre Dame be restored to its former visual state before the fire. The bill also stipulates that the coming restoration must re-create Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s spire, and that any use of new materials must be justified. The bill also allows for the French government to finance the restoration. It is hoped that all the repairs will be completed by the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region

On June 17, the Instrumentum Laboris for the October special synod of bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region was released. The Instrumentum Laboris (working document) is meant to be the blueprint to guide the discussions during the synod.

For weeks previous to its release, many voices had been warning that the document would open the door to allowing married men to be ordained in the Amazon territory due to the lack of priests in the area, as well as the possibility of women deacons. The warnings were completely accurate—the document does indeed raise the possibility of ordaining married men for the missionary area as well as a call to review the possibility of female deacons. There can be little doubt that this will be a typical “camel’s nose in the tent” tactic to introduce a married Catholic priesthood and the elimination of mandatory celibacy. It should be noted, that the very same tactic was used in the 1970s when the idea of a “permanent diaconate” (married men ordained to the diaconate) was approved for missionary areas where there were not a sufficient number of priests. Within a very few years, the permanent diaconate had proliferated—not in mission areas, but predominantly in North America and Europe. There is little doubt that the same thing will occur if married men were ordained—very few will be for missionary areas.

As disconcerting as the above is, the remainder of the document is even more so. According to the presenters of the Instrumentum Laboris, the work of the synod will concentrate on three general themes all of which center not on Christ as the redeemer, but upon protecting the environment, dialogue and the inculturation into the Church of the beliefs and practices of the Amazonian peoples (most of whom, it should be noted, are pagan spiritualists). The Vatican website only has the document in Italian and Spanish—there is no official English translation—which is another Vatican tactic to keep many faithful Catholics in the dark as to what is really planned at the synod.

Cardinal Brandmüller (one of the four “dubia” cardinals) wrote a stinging critique of the document. He noted, in part, that in the document:

“One finds a very positive assessment of natural religions, including indigenous healing practices etc., even mythic-religious practices and cult forms. In the context of the call for harmony with nature, for example, there is even talk about ‘dialogue with the spirits’ (n. 75)… Accordingly, the territory—the forests of the Amazon region—even becomes a locus theologicus, a special source of divine revelation. These are ‘epiphanic places’ where ‘the reserve of life and wisdom for the planet is manifest, a life and wisdom that speaks of God’ (n. 19). The anti-rational rejection of the ‘Western’ culture, which stresses the importance of reason, is characteristic of the Instrumentum Laboris.  Meanwhile, the subsequent regression from Logos to Mythos is raised to the criterion of what the Instrumentum Laboris calls the inculturation of the Church. The result is a natural religion in Christian masquerade.”

The cardinal also spoke about the issue of married priests and female deacons:

“It is impossible to conceal that the ‘synod’ intends, above all, to help implement two most cherished projects that heretofore have never been implemented: namely, the abolition of priestly celibacy and the introduction of a female priesthood—beginning with female deacons. In any event, it is about ‘identifying the type of official ministry that can be conferred on the Church’ (129 a 3). In a similar manner, ‘room is now opening up to create new ministries appropriate to this historical moment. It is the right moment to listen to the voice of the Amazon…’ (n. 43).

“But the fact is omitted here that, in the end, John Paul II also stated with highest magisterial authority that it is not in the power of the Church to administer the sacrament of Holy Orders to women. Indeed, in 2,000 years, the Church has never administered the sacrament of Holy Orders to a woman. The demand which stands in direct opposition to this fact shows that the word ‘Church’ is now being used purely as a sociological term on the part of the authors of the Instrumentum Laboris, thus implicitly denying the sacramental-hierarchical character of the Church.”

Only time will tell the full damage to be done by this latest Francis-orchestrated synod—the previous synods under his watch produced final documents not in line with what the bishops approved. For those with strong constitutions, an unofficial English translation of the Instrumentum Laboris is available here:

Church Vandalism Comes to Michigan

The Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in the West Michigan city of Grand Rapids has become the latest victim in an ongoing series of church vandalisms that have plagued the United States this year.

Founded by Polish immigrants in 1904, Sacred Heart has been a staple of the west-side Grand Rapids community for over a century. Today, it is perhaps best known as one of the few diocesan parishes in Michigan that offers the Traditional Latin Mass every Sunday.

Sadly, sometime during the late evening of Wednesday August 7, vandals sprayed satanic imagery on the church’s doors, including the number “666.” While investigators continue to look for the perpetrators, Sacred Heart’s pastor has offered forgiveness to these criminals on behalf of the parish and hopes one day to have a discussion with them about why they vandalized the building.

In 2019, the United States has seen a wave of Catholic church vandalism. On May 21, the Notre Dame de Lourdes parish in Pennsylvania was sprayed with “pro-choice” graffiti, perhaps in response to pro-life legislation passed recently in Alabama. This attack was preceded by three other known incidents during Eastern weekend where churches in Ohio, California, and Hawaii had their statuary and architecture targeted.

Although full statistics are not available, it has been reported that other Catholic churches in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast have also been attacked this year. While there is no uniform reason behind the attacks, information collected thus far indicates anger toward the Church’s opposition to abortion and “retaliation” for the ongoing sex-abuse crisis. Moreover, as the United States, like much of the West, continues to secularize, sacred spaces such as Catholic churches are no longer held in high regard.

This sorrowful trend resembles other waves of anti-church vandalism still ongoing in Europe, particularly France. While public officials often decry these attacks, the truth is that few resources are put into protecting ecclesiastical buildings when compared with those devoted to upholding the integrity and safety of other religious and non-religious spaces.