Showing posts with label Francis I. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Francis I. Show all posts

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Pope Francis' false appeal to "communion" in blocking Latin Mass

Pope Francis' backwardly named motu proprio, Traditionis Custodes, appealed to a fictional disunity as justification for restricting the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). 

In the document, Francis acknowledged both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI's move to promote the TLM for "the concord and unity of the Church." Two paragraphs later, Francis called for the exact opposite of his predecessors, and instead restricted the TLM for the sake of "ecclesial communion." 

Pope Francis photo by Juan David Tena, accessed at Wikimedia Commons

On November 30, 2023, EWTN's Raymond Arroyo interviewed Abp. Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict's personal secretary.

Gänswein recalled asking Pope Emeritus Benedict in 2021 about Pope Francis' document oppressing the TLM. 

"Holy Father can I ask you a question? ... I do not understand understand that motu proprio because the liberty you gave with your motu propio years ago has bought peace in the liturgy and in the Church. And I feel this motu proprio will cause many, many problems." 

Gänswein then recalled Benedict's answer: "I hope God will help us."

Gänswein's instinct in 2021 has proven correct, as today we see "many, many problems" largely issuing from Pope Francis' antagonism for the TLM and the faithful attending. Following Francis' motu proprio, a multitude of vexed faithful have cried out. Francis' action, rather than following a trajectory of unity, has given rise to multiple faithful individuals and even formal organizations pleading for the restoration of the TLM. 

We knew nothing of such resistance and disunion during the time period Francis claimed disunity needed fixing. John Paul II wrote his indult in 1984; Pope Benedict his motu proprio in 2007. Pope Francis' motu proprio was in 2021. No such disunity between 1984 and 2021 existed. As Gänswein said, Benedict's motu proprio "brought peace." 

Speaking of the language, Pope Pius XI in 1922 said that Latin was a "great bond of unity." Pope Pius XII in 1947 said Latin was a "beautiful sign of unity."

Obstruction of Latin is also a disunion with the saints of old. For at the divine liturgy, the saints and angels are present. We especially acknowledge this during the confiteor when calling to angels and saints. Liturgical unity is not an enterprise trapped in a single generation. The presence of angels and saints for all of Christianity should not be ignored in the scope of "unity" in the Liturgy. Beyond the language, the new mass arguably preserved a mere 13% of the content of the traditional liturgy. Appealing to the new mass as somehow more unifying than a centuries-old liturgy is nonsensical.

Among the reasons the late Cardinal George Pell said of Francis "this pontificate is a disaster in many or most respects; a catastrophe" were because " liturgical tensions are inflamed and not dampened" under Francis.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

6 political behaviors of the Francis pontificate

Pope Francis and many of the bishops and Vatican spokespersons during his pontificate frequently behave in a manner matching modern propagandistic politicians. There are many examples. Here are 6.


Francis Pontificate: Not only did the Pope command suffocation of the Traditional Latin Mass, but Vatican officials subsequently issued instruction censoring the TLM from being included among the bulletin mass times.

Hundreds of priests find themselves “cancelled” for reasons kept hidden by the aggressing bishops. In the typical case, there is no impropriety even alleged by the bishops. These priests are forbidden from public ministry. The latest inexcusable scandal was Pope Francis declaring the orthodox Bishop Joseph Strickland’s office in Texas vacant without due cause.

Politics: Recently, we’ve seen western governments even controlling social media sites to limit what is said and by whom. For example, Facebook has censored video of a living unborn baby. Both Facebook and Twitter censored a news story just prior to the 2020 election about Joe Biden’s son that was indisputably true. Social media knowingly censored true Covid information. Once the latest Ukraine conflict started, Youtube censored Oliver Stone’s 2016 film Ukraine on Fire, which incriminated the West in the 2014 Maidan coup. Youtube also recently removed interviews for the film The Sound of Freedom, which exposed a vast child-trafficking international network. It's a warlike tactic to take out an opponent's communication channels. These are a fraction of the censorship and account banning that has occurred in recent years at the behest of politicians.

Pope Francis 2016 (from Wikimedia Commons)


Francis Pontificate: At the close of the recent “Synod on Synodality,” German heretical bishop Georg Bätzing claimed the “overwhelming majority of a world church has chosen” the sexual perversions he and many bishops (especially in Germany) have propagated. Of course, this is asserted gratuitously, because the practicing faithful believe the Church’s true moral teachings. The bishop points the finger at the faithful as a proxy for advancing his own ambitions.

Pointing the finger at the second Vatican council is also a common theme during the Francis pontificate. A Vatican official recently said, “Francis is the one who is pushing forward the application of Vatican II.” Yet Vatican II did not call for many of the Pope’s chief causes, such as the oppression of the Traditional Latin Mass. Cardinal Roche even claimed “The Council Fathers perceived the urgent need for a reform” in his letter defending suppression of Traditional Latin Mass. When cited this way, Vatican II has become a Rorschach blot, a proxy for advancing causes the Council did not call to advance.

Politics: The censorship tactic also ties into this, as government officials launder their power through big tech, belying the argument that these are “private companies.” They are instead used as proxies to do the bidding of the government entity.

In the Ukraine conflict, both NATO and U.S. politicians have insisted involvement in the war is limited to Russia and Ukraine and not NATO nor the U.S. However: In September, NATO candidly confessed the NATO expansion east was a cause for Russia’s response; the April Discord leaks show that the Pentagon was the source of war plans to which Ukraine did not have access; Hillary Clinton has said favor for Ukraine come with “strings;” British intelligence flat out said they support Ukraine so they can hurt Russia for non-acceptance of Western “lgbt+” ideology; President Biden’s son spearheaded funding for bioweapon research in Ukraine; and U.S. Undersecretary Victoria Nuland confirmed involvement with Ukraine biolabs. Sen. Tim Scott proudly said the U.S. was using “Ukranian blood” in the U.S. effort to weaken Russia. These are just a few of the direct involvements and interests the West has in Ukraine well beyond “freedom” help.

So, while Western politicians say their support is just altruism to help Ukraine, the operation appears ordered for Western interests. Ukraine is the proxy.


A quick word on “hypocrisy.” The concept of hypocrisy is not merely condemning someone for that which one does himself. Someone addicted to smoking would be quite right and not hypocritical to discourage others from doing the same. Hypocrisy as used here is to condemn another for a behavior one condones for himself.

Francis Pontificate: Synod on Synodality pitchmen speak of the “openness” of the event. Yet participants are sworn to secrecy.

Pope Francis often makes statements like “say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism” while his pontificate is plump with clericalism. One example would be his attitude of placing himself above Church Fathers and preceding Popes when he rejected their teaching on the death penalty. Another is his absolutization of the Novus Ordo mass, in which the priest’s ad populum posture is a textbook form of clericalism. Other examples abound.

Politics: One of the politicized tactics of the abortion industry is to accuse the pro-life movement of being against “choice.” Of course, “choice” is a euphemism the abortion industry uses to disguise the intentional termination of an innocent human life. Meanwhile, when doctors offer women an actual “choice,” such as the abortion pill reversal (APR) protocol, the abortion industry has responded by attempting to silence that treatment, most recently in Colorado and California.

As mentioned above, the West has denied leveraging proxies throughout the business world – especially tech - and the international scene. Ironically, Nuland said last year, “It is classic Russian technique to blame on the other guy what they're planning to do themselves.”


Francis Pontificate: One of the battle cries of the Synod on Synodality is reaching out to people labeled “marginalized,” such as women or so-called “LGBT+” etc. As Professor Regis Martin said recently, “I have yet to meet any of these people. Who exactly are they whom we’ve so cruelly consigned to the margins of ecclesial life? … I really have not seen anyone who fits the description.”

Of course, the victimhood expressed here is fictional, since all of humanity is invited to participate in the full life of the Church, and the above persons are no exception. The only ostracized group today are the TLM attendees, ostracized by that very pontificate, and referred to in official Vatican documents as “members of the said group” distinct from all the other faithful. The heterodox cries of marginalization of women or the sexual identities commit a form of the fallacy of equivocation, confusing the non-possibility of a female priest or the non-possibility of blessing a sinful relationship as “marginalizing” those people. It’s similar to the modern world’s poorly thought-out attempt to redefine “love” as “endorsing” whatever someone does.

Politics: Fictional victimhood in the Synod mirrors fictional victimhood tactics in the world. Leftist ideologues have been conditioned to seek refuge in victimhood even when they act as bigoted aggressor. For example, in December, the Family Foundation had reserved a dining room at a restaurant later discovered to be owned by a leftist. Once the owner discovered the group was pro-life and pro-marriage, the owner rescinded the reservation and released a delusional statement claiming the Family Foundation sought to “deprive women and LGBTQ+ persons of their basic human rights” and that the restaurant staff felt “unsafe.” Of course, the natural law and millennia-old notion of marriage and desire to protect innocent life is no cause for alarm.

Another example of fictional victimhood prowls the world of modern feminism, which asserts that women are denied “equal pay” for equal work. However, the statistics they use for this assertion conflate the average pay of males and females in totality, ignoring job-types or amount of work. When those factors are accounted for, the so-called discrimination virtually vanishes. A hallucination of victimhood occurred when the U.S. women’s national soccer team cried foul on equal pay because they themselves rejected the collective bargaining agreement under which they would have made more had they signed it when offered.


Francis Pontificate: Pope Francis often uses the term “backwardness” as a pejorative against orthodox Catholics. He said, “There is incredible support for restorationism, what I call indietrismo (backwardness).” The term is non-theological. As a concept, looking backward per se is neither good nor bad. It depends to what one is looking back. Certainly, the Church in every age has looked back toward the Apostolic deposit and the preceding Magisterium to guide matters of the day. As mentioned in the proxy section above, Francis himself is ever looking “backward” to Vatican II and the 1960s to defend many of his teachings. In rejecting what he claims is “backwardness” of orthodox Catholics, he ironically (and unconvincingly) appeals to the 5th century’s St. Vincent of Lerins. Also ironic is that his document detaching from Tradition is called Traditionis Custodes, which in word means “guardians of tradition” and in practice means obliterator of tradition. While Pope Francis belittles such “restorationism,” predecessors such as Pope Pius X said where “Christian doctrine…is neglected, to restore it.”

Another common term used by Francis and heterodox bishops is “accompaniment.” This is, again, a concept that is neither good nor bad, per se. It depends on who one is accompanying. Proverbs 13:20 says “[T]he companion of fools will suffer harm.” In 2018, Cardinal Cupich exposed the term as a vehicle leading to the 2023 Synod, which, among other offenses, blurred the authority of the hierarchy and laity: “Thus, in a genuinely synodal Church there is no hierarchical distinction between those with knowledge and those without. As such, the most important consequence of this call to accompaniment ought to be greater attention to the voices of the laity, especially on matters of marriage and family life.” Opening doctrine in this way to any laity has resulted in various justifications of sinful behaviors. Fr. Jerry Pokorsky explained: “instead of accompanying our Lord on the way of the cross, many Church leaders choose to accommodate sinners on sinners’ terms.”

Related to “accompaniment” is “inclusion.” The Synod touted concepts like “radical inclusion” in the context of women and so-called “LGBT+,” etc. But, as discussed in the fictional victims section above, the notion that any group is excluded is really only applicable today to TLM attendees against whom the Francis pontificate has been plainly hostile. Polish Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki said the modernist term “‘inclusiveness’ implies an acceptance of how a person defines him or herself, as if defining oneself were in obvious conformity with reality, inherently unquestionable, and therefore demanding affirmation.”

Politics: The abortion industry is dependent on lies, including many euphemisms like “reproductive health” or “her body.”

The gay “marriage” movement hides behind many euphemistic slogans like “love is love,” “same love” or “marriage equality,” none of which address the root of the matter of what is a marriage or what is a man and woman.

The term “underrepresented” is used to signal supposed injustice if there are not enough of certain people of a particular demographic involved in a business, industry, film, or similar. It’s also applied inconsistently. Modern use of “representation” is a euphemism to condition people to perceive injustice where there is none. Politicians then leverage this. Merely sharing, say, skin color, with another person does not amount to any sense of relevant “representation.” If a white female devout Catholic is asked who better represents her, Nancy Pelosi or Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, she’s going to pick Cardinal Arinze. Today’s political use of “representation” appeals to trivial demographic characteristics when those characteristics are irrelevant to the context at hand.


Francis Pontificate: The Pope’s quest to eradicate the Traditional Latin Mass is outside the scope of his authority. Cardinal Roche also abused authority proper to local bishops when he attempted to police them to impose Pope Francis’ Latin Mass restriction.

The removal of priests or even bishops without due cause is also external to the Pope’s or a bishop’s authority.

The Vatican Press office declared the Church was now ruled by Pope Francis as an individual, as opposed to the authority of Scripture and Tradition.

Politics: In an explicit overlap between the Francis pontificate and politics, the FBI was caught spying on traditional Catholics.

A court recognized the “abuse of authority” the U.S. government attempted to impose when demanding “vaccine mandates.”

Another court blocked Minnesota’s Democrat Secretary of State from forbidding the opposition party’s overwhelming leading candidate from appearing on the ballot.


What these overlapping tactics and language patterns between the Church and the world suggest is that the world is over-influencing the Church if not outright directing it. Language tricks and political tactics are not native to the pursuit of sound doctrine nor pastoral and familial leadership. It is indicative of a modern and worldly infection warned against by many in Church history:

Everyone must understand that such ravings and others like them, concealed in many deceitful guises, cause greater ruin to public calm the longer their impious originators are unrestrained. They cause a serious loss of souls redeemed by Christ’s blood wherever their teaching spreads, like a cancer; it forces its way into public academies, into the houses of the great, into the palaces of kings, and even enters the sanctuary, shocking as it is to say so. (Pope Pius VI, Inscrutabile, 7, 1775)

The common enemy of the human race is wholly engaged in undermining faith, destroying truth and disrupting unity by worldly wisdom, heretical discussion, subtle, clever deceit, and even, where possible, by the use of force. (St. Pius IX, Quartus Supra, 2, 1873)

According to these rules, Venerable Brethren, you should judge those to whom you will entrust the ministry of the divine word. Whenever you find any of them departing from these rules, being more concerned with their own interests than those of Jesus Christ and more anxious for worldly applause than the welfare of souls, warn and correct them. If that proves insufficient, be firm in removing them from an office for which they have proven themselves unworthy. (St. Pius X, Pieni L’animo, 9, 1906)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

How does Pope Francis reconcile calling gay "marriage" as of the devil yet support civil unions?

Much ado is in the news again about Pope Francis and homosexuality. This time, the headlines from today read such as: Pope Francis calls for civil union law for same-sex couples, in shift from Vatican stance

This story is at least 7 years old, however. It is apparently back in the news because a new documentary quotes him, apparently more recently, supporting civil unions. But, let's look at the backdrop. 

In March 2013, then-Cardinal Bergoglio was in the news because there was a push for gay "marriage" in Argentina. According to the New York Times, Bergoglio saw civil unions as some sort of concession to be supported to prevent the passage of a gay "marriage" bill:
Faced with the near certain passage of the gay marriage bill, Cardinal Bergoglio offered the civil union compromise as the “lesser of two evils,” said Sergio Rubin, his authorized biographer. “He wagered on a position of greater dialogue with society.” 
–Cardinal Bergoglio, quoted in New York Times, March 13, 2013.
If this actually was and is Pope Francis's opinion, he reportedly thinks civil unions are "evil," but not as bad as gay "marriage." It is difficult to ascertain his opinion, however, because quotes from him are sparse, he is not known to issue clarifications, and the media doesn't push for clarification anyway. The Catholic News Agency reported in 2013 that the Pope supporting civil unions was false. 

2019 detail of photo of Pope Francis. Photo by В. Николов. Acquired from Wikimedia Commons.

Writing in 2010, Cardinal Bergoglio stated:
The Argentine people will face, in the coming weeks, a situation whose outcome may gravely injure the family. This refers to the project of the law regarding marriage of persons of the same sex. What is at stake here is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of so many children who will be discriminated against in advance, depriving them of the human maturation that God wanted to be given with a father and a mother. At stake is the outright rejection of the law of God, engraved also in our hearts. ... It is not a mere legislative project (this is only the instrument) but a ''movement'' of the father of lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God. Jesus tells us that to defend ourselves against this lying accuser, he will send us the Spirit of Truth. (Letter (PDF) from Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J. to the Carmelite Nuns
of Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, June 22, 2010)
In the context of that same chapter in Argentina, we have Bergoglio saying the movement for gay "marriage" is from the devil himself. That being the case, it's hard to reconcile why he would believe conceding to "civil unions" would be a better alternative than standing firm in the truth. The recklessness of that opinion would explain why he was overrulled by his fellow bishops at the time—the only time he was overruled as head of the Argentinian Bishops Conference, according to the NYT article.

All that being said, the quote from the documentary does not appear to offer any mention of civil unions as a necessary "evil." Pope Francis is quoted to now say:
Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it,. ... What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered ... I stood up for that.
If the Pope currently believes confirming people in a sinful arrangement is a virtuous solution, then he is obviously mistaken. That's like conceding to give porn to an addict so he still feels "part of the family" and isn't "miserable." There is a perverted notion about placing "welcomingness" or "accompaniment" above truth among some clergy in the Church today. This brand of welcoming is like the spider saying "Come into my parlor!" to the fly.

If, when the Pope refers to when he "stood up for that" is in context of the Argentinian gay "marriage" movement of the early 10s, he either forgot that he said civil unions were a "necessary evil," or the "necessary evil" quote was misrepresented by his biographer Rubin. Otherwise, the Pope recently saying "I stood up for that" could be referring to the early 10s incident. It is unclear. There is also no mention I've seen in today's stories that the Pope reiterated that gay "marriage" was a lie of the devil.

Supporting civil unions puts Pope Francis in opposition to magisterial texts on the matter. For example, speaking doctrinally and formally on this matter, the Church has stated:
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection. ... [It is] necessary to oppose legal recognition of homosexual unions...
(Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 2003)
The document includes a variety of reasons why homosexual unions are to be opposed, including the natural law on which all morals are founded, and arguments addressing rational thought, the biological order, social order, and legal order.

Another matter comes from secularists as well as Pope Francis' more recent quote, such as "homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family...they're children of God..." etc. None of these assertions are disputed by supporters of marriage as between a man and woman. Supporters of true marriage actually agree with the notion that persons of homosexual disposition are children of God and belong in their families. But, to acknowledge that is a very different matter than whether same sex persons can "marry" or whether it's prudent to endorse some secular imitation of marriage in a "civil union." 

It's quite devious to imply that to love a person of homosexual disposition, one must confirm them in sin. But, to confirm someone in sin and lies is the exact opposite of love. Today's report on the Pope's words have resulted, again, in terrible scandal for the faithful. 

Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin summarized this sentiment today as well:
The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships. Individuals with same-sex attraction are beloved children of God and must have their personal human rights and civil rights recognized and protected by law. However, the legalization of their civil unions, which seek to simulate holy matrimony, is not admissible. (Bishop Thomas Tobin, statement on Pope Francis's recent comment on civil unions, Oct. 21, 2020)
Finally, the matter of papal infallibility inevitably comes up in these contexts. Secularists and heterodox Catholics grow zealous at the thought that Catholic dogma on homosexuality has "changed" because of the Pope's comments when it has not. Confusion has resulted from a Pope Francis story again. I received email notice of a statement from the Diocese of Rockford today, reading in part: 
The comments being reported by Pope Francis have not changed the teaching of the church in regard to the Sacrament of Marriage or the complementarity of men and women.
This matter does not remotely come close to being a statement under the charism of infallibility native to Pope Francis's office. The criteria for infallibility to occur (Vatican I, 4.4.9) includes that it is a matter of faith and morals, is stated as from the function of the chair of Peter, is for all of the faithful to hold as dogmatically true, and is defined.

The latest Pope quote from the documentary meets zero of those qualifications. Pope Francis's thoughts on this matter are his personal opinion.

EDIT 10/22/2020 to add: Additional clarification and thoughts have been provided in detail on this issue by Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Analysis of Pope Francis on death penalty in modern society

In a rescript of the Catechism on the death penalty, Pope Francis approved new language that concludes with the statement:
Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide. (new CCC#2267)
Many on social media and elsewhere are confused and wondering if Francis has contradicted prior Church teaching. Others are far more concerned about the apparent exposure of widespread homosexuality within the global clergy or bishops wanting to give Communion to non-Catholics. And, Pope Francis himself is not known for his effective communication as we have seen multiple times in which the faithful find themselves confused after his comments. (Multiple articles have been written about confusion and he still has yet to respond to a Dubia from 5 Cardinals who asked for clarification on Amortis Laetitia). Mass media is not always accurate or forthcoming, as we have also seen. Thus, let's have a quick look at more background on this Catechism change.

The prior version of the Catechism 2267 read in part:
 the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty ... the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (prior CCC#2267)
As you can see, even the prior language of the Catechism treats the death penalty as an extremely rare method of recourse.

So is Francis absolutizing the idea that the death penalty has always been "wrong," or never could be acceptable in the future? This story broke only today, but my initial analysis is no. I think a very fair interpretation of the new text renders this teaching as within the realm of pastoral law as opposed to moral law.

Judith and Holofernes (fresco detail, Sistine Chapel),
Michelangelo, 1509. Acquired from Wikimedia Commons.

Consistent references to modern means
Leading up to Francis' new language in the Catechism is the earlier part of the new paragraph:
[M]ore effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens... (new CCC#2267)
The prior version of the Catechism similarly referred to modern methods of detainment:
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime... (prior CCC#2267)
A letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was also sent to the bishops explaining the new Catechism language. It claims the language is a development of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. In quoting each of these two papal predecessors, we again see an appeal to modernity:
"Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform." (quoting John Paul II) 
"[T]he substantive progress made in conforming penal law ... to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order." (quoting Pope Benedict XVI)
In all four main citations in the matter—Francis' new Catechism language, prior Catechism language, and quotes from both John Paul II and Benedict XVI—there is an appeal to modern society's ability to effectively police and protect the public without using the death penalty. (Others have already made similar observations, including Francis author Ross Douthat or Fr. Alek Schrenk, STL in Patristics)

Significance of the term "inadmissible"
Thus, I think it is significant that Pope Francis did not use a morally theological term such as "intrinsic evil" or "objective evil" when describing the death penalty as meted by the State. It is true that the final paragraph in Pope Francis' new Catechism language appeals to the dignity of the human person. However, so did the previous Catechism. And, certainly, the prior two Popes offered much in the way of teaching on human dignity. All prior aversion to the death penalty in the Church was indeed based on the reality of human dignity.

But, refer to other unchanged paragraphs in the Catechism, such as an earlier excerpt on self-defense:
Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow. (CCC#2264)
Similarly, the Catechism addresses the concept of "just war" which could involve killing of others (CCC#2308ff).  If one killed another in self-defense or as a soldier in a just war, that would not mean the deceased did not have human dignity. So, the Catechism is not contradicting the idea of human dignity by not attributing the crime of murder, per se, if it involves a grave situation like self-defense or just war.

Therefore, the prior Catechism, in granting the possibility of the use of the death penalty, even if extremely rare, demonstrates that the death penalty, per se, is not automatically evil. And, the new Catechism paragraph repeats the appeal to how modern and "[m]ore effective systems of detention have been developed." In doing so, the new Catechism language attaches the idea of an "inadmissible" death penalty to a society's ability to avoid it, for the sake of human dignity.

We cannot argue, ex post facto, that prior societies, particularly in ancient times, were necessarily "wrong" to employ a death penalty. Neither does the language of the new Catechism paragraph eliminate the possibility of a future society needing recourse to a "death penalty" because it lacks the  "means" to protect the people without it. One could posit such a situation in war zones where containment options are absent. One could similarly imagine a science fiction scenario in a post-apocalyptic world, where resources are minimal and technology is destroyed. Or, one could hypothesize that there even today might exist a yet undiscovered society in remote lands, who haven't effective resources to contain a dangerous murderer. Such a society might be steeped in "immodernity" that would not fall under the context of the new Catechism language.

I do not believe one can fairly interpret the new Catechism paragraph on the death penalty as an "absolute" moral truth in all places in all times. To do so would be to render meaningless its own preceding sentences appealing to modern "development" of "systems of detention." To do so would also render moot the same appeal in all three of the other key citations behind this linguistic development.

This new appeal on the "inadmissibility" of the death penalty is, in its own words, built not only on the notion of human dignity, but on the current situation, on modern society's resources and technologies of criminal containment. The notion of the death penalty's "inadmissibility" in this new context is thus not a dogmatic comment about objective morality but more closely resembling pastoral law in light of modern resources.

Other recommended reading:
Pope Francis and the death penalty: another dose of confusion by Phil Lawler at Catholic Culture
Tweet thread on Pope Francis and death penalty language change by Ross Douthat

Friday, September 25, 2015

Does a Catholic have to agree with everything the Pope says?

Does a Catholic have to agree with everything a Pope says? A number of comments by Pope Francis since his installation have given rise to this question.

It can be a dangerous question, because some Catholics may ask the question in order to seek the "minimum" to believe, and the rest can be rejected outright, as if 180 degrees wrong. So I would caution against that motive and we can see why in a moment.

I would also say, from one angle, a Catholic doesn't have to believe any teachings the Pope declares. A Catholic doesn't even have to stay in the Church. He or she can walk away and reject the faith any time. I wouldn't recommend it. But simply being Catholic does not eliminate one's free will. But this essay will focus on believing the Pope while remaining a Catholic in communion with the Church.

Also, some do not understand why a Catholic would be perfectly reasonable in embracing the Church's teaching on abortion, but not a Pope's view on a socio-political situation. Hopefully, this essay will clarify that matter as well.

In Catholic teaching, it is believed the Pope exercises a charism of infallibility when, as a function of his office as St. Peter's successor, he defines a teaching of faith or morals for the whole Church to believe. (see CCC#888-892; Vatican I, 4.4.9; and prior discussion on Fallacies on Infallibility). This is not a reference to anything special about the Pope, who is, was, and always will be, a fallible mortal. This charism is a trust in God, who Catholics believe in Christ to have promised this divine assistance to the Apostles and their successors, especially Peter, i.e. the first Pope.

So when a Pope meets this criteria on a matter of faith or morals, yes, a Catholic is obligated to believe that teaching. There is no gray area. For example (in all subsequent quotes, bold emphasis is mine):
Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." (Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus)
That Mary was preserved from original sin is not an "optional" teaching for the Catholic faithful. It is a defined matter. It is a matter of faith. And remember, the guarantee of this truth is the Holy Spirit. We believe the Pope's teaching on this matter because Christ promised to speak through his Church in such a way.

Faith and morals are a good factor in identifying teachings that are representative of the Church versus an individual clergyman's opinion, even the Pope's, on a social or political or scientific matter. In fact, the Catechism teaches the following:
Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent" which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. (CCC#892)
So you see how even matters taught by the Pope in non-definitive ways require a "religious assent," if that teaching is a matter of faith or morals. This is why it is imprudent to act as if a Pope's non-infallible statement is 180 degrees wrong. But the text does not say to offer religious assent if the Pope speaks on a matter of science, for example. Such matters are external to the Church's teaching authority. But keep in mind the rule of thumb to always look at a teaching and ask whether it falls under the category of faith or morals.

Now, let's look at less-defined propositions. In the Summer of 2015, Pope Francis stated:
Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. (Pope Francis, Address at Expo Fair Santa Cruz de la Sierras, July 9, 2015)
Quotes like these have been used by media to say the Pope condemns capitalism as a whole since capitalist societies produce many wealthy citizens. But if one examines the Pope's comment, the part that is a "moral obligation" is to strive for "just distribution" of goods. That is a very broad concept. In principle, the moral issue of justice (cf. CCC#1807) is obligatory for a Catholic to believe. Discussions of what government, social, political, or other solutions should prevail give rise to matters beyond the underlying moral issue.

In other words, a Catholic is not obligated to embrace nor reject "socialism," for example, as the solution to a problem of injustice. A Catholic is not required to embrace nor reject "capitalism" as a broad concept. Yes, a Catholic must oppose injustice, but methods of remedy are external to that moral crux. Even in that same speech, Pope Francis emphasized how the human person should be the focus when forming economies: "The first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples."

We can even see in the Pope's own words, for example, that capitalism, which he has often decried to the degree it does not serve people, still merits further understanding on his own part. On a plane ride from Paraguay to Rome, a reporter asked of his economic views: "This is perceived by Americans as a direct criticism of their system and their way of life." Pope Francis replied:
I heard that there were some criticisms from the United States. I heard about it, but I haven’t read about it, I haven’t had the time to study this well, because every criticism must be received, studied, and then dialogue must be ensue. ... Yes, I must begin studying these criticisms, no? And then dialogue a bit with this.
Later in the interview, someone asked him about the economic situation in Greece. He conceded to not having had a good grasp on economics:
On Greece and the international system, I have a great allergy to economic things, because my father was an accountant and when he did not manage to finish his work at the factory, he brought the work home on Saturday and Sunday, with those books in those day where the titles were written in gothic. When I saw my father I had a great allergy and I didn’t understand it very well.
So, you see in such an example, a Catholic can take the Pope's words and make a prudential examination to discover the parts that are religious (i.e. the concept of justice) versus parts that are economic or political (i.e. the U.S. economic system or the Greek economic system). Comments on religious concepts are in the scope of the Pope's teaching authority. Comments on economic concepts are not.

Let me approach this from one more angle. If you happen to read in the media that the Pope is against "income inequality," and thus pro-Socialism, one should not assume the Pope is endorsing any particular economic philosophy. Or, at least one should not assume what economic philosophy the Pope appears to endorse is a required belief for Catholics. We can deduce this with emphasis if we compare two quotes. On the plane ride just a couple days ago from Cuba to the U.S., Pope Francis said of his economic views:
I am sure that I have not said anything that is not present in the social Doctrine of the Church. ... My doctrine, on all of this, on Laudato Si, on economic imperialism and all of this, it is that of the social doctrine of the Church.
And if we take a look at some of the Church's teaching on Socialism and income inequality in the past, we see such examples as:
It must be first of all recognized that the condition of things inherent in human affairs must be borne with, for it is impossible to reduce civil society to one dead level. Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain. There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such unequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity for business and the playing of many parts; and each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition. (Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891, #17)
So here we see Pope Leo speaking how income inequality, per se, is not automatically an injustice. In fact, he says, a society needs the variation in order for business to have the capacity to function. And we have Pope Francis saying his teaching aligns with the Church's teaching. So where income inequality, for a Catholic, would become a concern, is where that inequality is the result of injustice.

The same can be said of the issue of "climate change," which appears frequently in the media, including with quotes from Pope Francis. (Note: An argument can be made that there is not scientific consensus on this matter either.) On this issue, the underlying moral principle is to have proper respect for creation (cf. CCC#2415), which is related to the commandment of "thou shall not kill." In Pope Francis' encyclical Laudatio Si, he acknowledges that he does not claim to teach a scientific solution to any ecological problems. He finishes with a caveat. He says on the ecology:
Finally, we need to acknowledge that different approaches and lines of thought have emerged regarding this situation and its possible solutions. ...there is no one path to a solution. ... On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.
So on climate change, much as with economics, a Catholic only need give assent to the underlying moral issues relating to the 7th commandment on climate change and the matter of justice. The views a Catholic holds from there, with regard to ecological or economic systems, should be held with those moral principles in view.

Remember, when listening to a Pope's comments, one should examine the content to identify whether or not the comment is religious (i.e. a matter of faith or morals) or something else, such as economic, political, or scientific. If the Pope is teaching a principle of faith or morals, the Catholic's assent is required. If the Pope comment is about an economic or scientific matter, the Catholic's assent is not required insofar as any economic or scientific claims or solutions to problems. The Catholic needn't scruple over such things.

Dr. Anne Hendershott (an excellent speaker and writer on Catholic thought in this blogger's opinion) made the following statement recently:
I am a huge fan of Pope Francis because I actually read what he writes and it's wonderful. And he's so affirming and so loving. I'm not crazy when he talks about capitalism. I'm not crazy when he talks about climate change. But I don't really pay much attention to that stuff because that's not the non-negotiables. (Dr. Anne Hendershott, Professor of Sociology at Franciscan University, Sept. 2, 2015, on the Drew Mariani Radio Show (MP3))
If a Catholic wishes to formulate an view on economic or scientific matters, that view should strive to satisfy moral principles of justice or the commandments where applicable. If one does this, he or she is already on the same page as the Pope and needn't worry about an explicit endorsement or condemnation of that view from the Pope.

The principle of faith and morals also should illuminate those who question Catholics who accept Church teaching on abortion (i.e. a moral matter) but not necessarily every Papal suggestion concerning climate change, income inequality, or other social, political, or scientific issues (i.e. not religious matters).

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Notre Dame professor's flawed argument for abortion

Sketches by Leonardo da Vinci of child in the womb, ca 1510-1512 (acquired from Wikimedia Commons)

This past January 23, 2014, the New York Times ran an opinion from Notre Dame professor Gary Gutting. Claiming to base his argument on Pope Francis' recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Gutting cites "reason" and argues that the Pope should announce a "revision of the absolute ban on abortion."

The opening sentence of Gutting's opinion reveals an inaccurate understanding of what the Church means by moral dogma. Gutting writes:
Pope Francis has raised expectations of a turn away from the dogmatic intransigence that has long cast a pall over the religious life of many Roman Catholics. 
A "dogma," is the Church's term for the highest degree of certitude of a revealed "truth" in the order of faith or morals. Dr. Ludwig Ott describes dogma in his classic Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (which is used in seminaries, as I understand):
By dogma in the strict sense is understood a truth immediately (formally) revealed by God which has been proposed by the Teaching Authority of the Church to be believed as such. (Ott, p. 4)
A dogma is a divinely revealed "truth." Compare this to Gutting's opening line which speaks of the supposed "pall" cast by a Church with "dogmatic intransigence." To put this in context of what a dogma is, Gutting expresses displeasure that the Church refuses to budge on truth.

To put this in another perspective, imagine a college professor criticizing someone else for refusing to budge on the number 4 as the answer to 2+2. It is nonsensical. Neither Pope Francis nor the Church can change truth. Truth can't change.

Whether or not someone wants to recognize the Church's capacity to have passed on a revealed truth is not the point here. The Church believes it. It is thus silly for Gutting to ask the Church to declare what she believes to be an immutable truth untrue.

In founding his argument, Gutting quotes the bold portions of the below excerpt from Pope Francis:
Yet this defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems. Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defence of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offence against the creator of the individual”. ...  Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 213-214)
Even though Pope Francis said "the Church cannot be expected to change her position," Gutting proceeds to say:
I want to explore the possibility, however, that the pope might be open to significant revision of the absolute ban on abortion  by asking what happens if we take seriously his claim that “reason alone is sufficient” to adjudicate this issue. 
He proceeds to offer what he claims is an argument for abortion based on "reason." But as we will see, his assertions are not reasonable.

After assuring his readers he is opposed to late-term abortions, Gutting then states, "an embryo or fetus is at least potentially human..." He also says killing someone includes taking away a human future and that the "same is true when you kill a potential human being." The problem with his argument from the onset is that there is no such thing as a "potential human being." This is Dr. Gutting's "dogma" and his reason for making the claim is irrational.

This is the logical fallacy of "confirming the consequent," the idea of running ahead with a claim when it's basis is flawed or absent. We'll see Gutting later posit arbitrary and unfounded criteria that supposedly demarcates the threshold between "potential" and "actual" human.

He commits the same fallacy of "confirming the consequent" again a few sentences later: "[T]he 'inviolable value of each human life' does not imply that no abortion can be moral." Actually, it does. If every human life is inviolable, then to deliberately kill any human life is a violation, i.e. immoral. To deny this is to deny some part of the premise that "every" life is inviolably "valuable."

So how does Gutting justify this claim that abortion could still sometimes be moral? He says:
It is hard to claim that a rape victim has a moral duty to bring to term a pregnancy forced on her by rape, even if we assume that there is a fully human person present from the moment of conception
There are at least a couple fallacies of argument at work in this sentence. One is the appeal to emotion. Since a rape victim is truly a victim who deserves love, whose situation abrades any sensible person's heart, we are led to believe that termination of her baby is made moral by her situation. Yet, this ignores the premise he granted, that "every human life is inviolable." He actually ignores that premise even though he granted it a moment earlier. The Church's reason for teaching the immorality of abortion is that it kills an innocent human being. Gutting could have made the same appeal to emotion to the innocent baby who neither is responsible for the rape, but he simply choses to forgo such thought in this essay.

The second fallacy of argument in his appeal to the situation of rape is something similar to the "fallacy of equivocation." In this fallacy, two different concepts are confused for one another. The emwombed person is a person regardless of the mode of conception, regardless if love or a cruel act of injustice were involved. The intrinsic value of a human being is not dependent on how he or she came into being. Following Gutting's logic, the equation goes as follows: Conception good = valuable person (with caveats described herein); Conception bad = valueless person. What is especially vexing here is that Gutting proceeds to say that a raped woman who gives birth still exhibits "heroic generosity." Why? If the emwombed entity is valueless enough to make abortion "moral" in this situation, as Gutting argues, what would be heroic about bringing forth something valueless? He can only make the statement if there is value in the enwombed person, otherwise bringing the child forth wouldn't be "generous."

Once again commmitting the fallacy of "confirming the consequent," Gutting writes:
Other exceptions to the condemnation of abortion arise once we realize that an early-stage embryo may be biologically human but still lack the main features — consciousness, self-awareness, an interest in the future — that underlie most moral considerations. An organism may be human by purely biological criteria, but still merely potentially human in the full moral sense. ... there’s no reason to think that we are obliged to preserve the life of a potential human at the price of enormous suffering by actual humans.
This paragraph is especially vexing. He is willing to admit that a biological analysis will demonstrate that a human life is present in the womb. I won't delve too long into the irony that the Church, which is often misconstrued as an enemy of science, is validated on this issue by science. A human being is in constant development from conception to death. To cite a point in the timeline as a change in "humanity" is to fail to recognize the fluid continuity of development from the nascent stage to the end. It's not just a toe growing and then suddenly the ingredients for the rest are added at some point. Humanity is inscribed from start to finish, as even science will show by genetic analysis. Throughout the decades, the effort among abortion supporters to identify a threshold of when true life begins has only proven to be a carousel of inconsistency from person to person, from state to state, and includes thresholds from the first trimester, up to, and including, post-birth. I don't want to say their incoherence is the deciding factor in the error, but is evidence of unreasoned subjectivity at work. And certainly none admit to the continuity of valued humanity, developing from conception.

But let's look at what Dr. Gutting has offered as criteria of human value.

Gutting says, "consciousness, self-awareness, [and] an interest in the future" are the factors in determining whether or not it's "moral" to abort that which is in the mother's womb. According to whom are these the benchmark factors of being a "fully moral human" (since he would concede that "biological" humanity is present)? He shows no cause for so-called "actual" humanity to be contingent on these attributes. Regardless, if we were to go forth with this reasoning, it would be okay to kill anyone unconscious. This is also a call to justify the murder of anyone with severe mental handicap. This logic actually undermines his entire claim to be against "late-term" abortion because such an infant might not have "an interest in the future."

If we were to go forth with his above concluding statement, more problems arise. He argues in favor of terminating so-called "potential humans" (a concept he fails to demonstrate even exists) on the grounds that another person will be spared "suffering." Imagine if terminating another person would be "moral" if you could be spared suffering. You can kill someone who calls you bad names. You could justify killing someone ahead of you in line for a promotion. You could kill someone who snores a lot. Etc... etc... After all, if one person's suffering trumps another person's right to life, an argument might be plausibly made to morally kill anyone.

A final argument Gutting advances goes as follows:
[N]ot even pro-life advocates consistently act on their belief that any embryo has full moral standing. As the philosopher Peter Smith has noted, they do not, for example, support major research efforts to prevent the miscarriages or spontaneous abortions (many so early that they aren’t ordinarily detected) that occur in about 30 percent of pregnancies. If 30 percent of infants died for unknown reasons, we would all see this as a medical crisis and spend billions on research to prevent these deaths. The fact that pro-life advocates do not support an all-out effort to prevent spontaneous abortions indicates that they themselves recognize a morally relevant difference between embryos and human beings with full moral standing.
There are at least three problems with this line of thinking in order to justify abortion, which is Gutting's intent in this essay. First, the conclusion of this paragraph is nonsensical. No one is committing an act of murder when a miscarriage occurs. In the eyes of Catholic pro-lifers, the stakes of sin, heaven, and hell trump temporal difficulties. In Church theology, having a miscarriage isn't potentially going to be the reason someone goes to hell, whereas the sinful taking of another human life certainly could be. Christ died for sin because this world does not ultimately have the final word. So it would not be hypocritical for someone to focus on something that was fatal and sinful versus something fatal.

But second, many pro-lifers are advocates of all kinds of health and medical issues, organizers of women's health research, fundraisers, Catholic hospitals, and a plethora of similar causes and efforts. What standard or evidence is Gutting using to deny that there is not "major research effort" spent on such research? He offers none here.

And third, let's assume––hypothecially now––that Gutting were correct and pro-lifers were hypocrites. All that would prove is that pro-lifers were hypocrites. Whether or not there are hypocrite pro-lifers has no bearing whatsoever on whether fertilized eggs are human lives nor whether 2+2 is still 4. If his goal is to get to the truth of whether an enwombed entity is a human being, the hypocritical behavior of this or that person is completely immaterial.

As if on cue, delegates from Notre Dame visited Pope Francis on January 30, just one week after Gutting's opinion published. Addressing them, Pope Francis stated:
This commitment to “missionary discipleship” ought to be reflected in a special way in Catholic universities (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 132-134), which by their very nature are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life. Essential in this regard is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors. (Pope Francis, Address to Notre Dame delegation, January 30, 2014)
Dr. Gutting will not receive a papal declaration that abortion is "moral." Because it isn't, and the Church is powerless to change truth. And Gutting did not, as he claims in his opinion, use "reason" to demonstrate otherwise.

Gutting did ask for prayers at the end of his essay, and I encourage anyone to oblige that request with sincerity.

¹No doubt, the situation of pregnancy and rape is difficult, as even Pope Francis articulated later in paragraph 214 of his exhortation. The Church would agree that such a woman is heroic largely for the very reason that she dignifies the intrinsic value and life of her child. Testimonials of women surviving rape with regard to life and abortions, as well as testimonials of those children born of this violation can be read at Silent No More, Live Action News, and other places. See those sites also for victim resources. Guttng also appeals later in this paragraph briefly to a 1971 philosophical argument attempting to analogize a woman impregnated by rape to kidnapping someone and attaching their kidneys to a dependent innocent. A review of the flaws in that analogy can be seen in a variety of places including at Human Life Review or Madison Catholic Herald.