Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’

Disappointing the Progressives

January 28th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From the National Catholic Register (by writer Glenn Stanton)

Pope Francis has once again put a substantial dent in the hopes of “progressives” that the Church will finally… MORE

Read more HERE

From Vatican Radio: Pope’s Homily 1-18-16

January 20th, 2016, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Full text of homily (translation) is here:

Comments of possible interest:

“(Vatican Radio) Christians who say “it’s always been done that way,” and stop there have hearts closed to the surprises of the Holy Spirit. They are idolaters and rebels will never arrive at the fullness of the truth.”

“Christians who obstinately maintain ‘it’s always been done this way,’ this is the path, this is the street—they sin: the sin of divination. It’s as if they went about by guessing: ‘What has been said and what doesn’t change is what’s important; what I hear—from myself and my closed heart—more than the Word of the Lord.’ Obstinacy is also the sin of idolatry: the Christian who is obstinate sins! The sin of idolatry. ‘And what is the way, Father?’ Open the heart to the Holy Spirit, discern what is the will of God.”

“This is the message the Church gives us today. This is what Jesus says so forcefully: ‘New wine in new wineskins.’ Habits must be renewed in the newness of the Spirit, in the surprises of God. May the Lord grant us the grace of an open heart, of a heart open to the voice of the Spirit, which knows how to discern what should not change, because it is fundamental, from what should change in order to be able to receive the newness of the Spirit.






Michael Gerson: The Pope Francis Moment

September 29th, 2015, Promulgated by Mike

Pope Francis is a pope of many “firsts”: the first Jesuit, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first non-European since the Byzantine Empire. Like the earlier Saint of Assisi, Francis leads by serving “the least of these.”

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson is an Evangelical Christian. This past spring he gave a brief talk describing the pope as a bridge between the theological left and right. Hear what he thinks every Christian can learn from Pope Francis’ Christ-like humility.


Laudato Si — Foreword

September 6th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Note this Foreword is not listed in the series of Chapter Part numbers, but is a Preface to those parts.


Pope Francis’s Encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, first caught my attention in February, 2015 when I realized he had embraced the current Global Warming / Climate Control allegations fully.  I immediately began to think of Pope Urban VIII’s asserting a  geocentric theory of the universe, obviously without proof, and I cringed at the thought, since global warming also is unproven, that such an Encyclical would cause the Catholic Church, which should be a bastion of Truth on every level, to be open to criticism and ridicule.  In a wider sense, Laudato Si also loomed as being, in its own time, “geocentric” as well, focused as it is on the planet.

Nine months before learning of the impending Encyclical, I had written an opinion piece for a local newspaper and that opinion has not changed, even with Pope Francis’s accepting global warming as a premise for a new encyclical.  It would be less than honest not to place, right here in the Foreword, that I have asserted and have continued to assert that global warming (and its follow-on designation of climate control to cover the embarrassment of global cooling data) is unproven, but not necessarily untrue.  The point is that we simply do not know if it is true or not, for a number of reasons.  Intellectual honesty does not entitle us to proceed as if what is unproven is therefore true, or to yield to any interpretation beyond the data.

What is the harm in “acting as if” global warming / climate change is true?  Answer: a government (which should have a fiduciary duty to its citizens) is irresponsible as a public steward when it asserts something is true, funds it with extensive monetary resources and human energy, distracts from more important needs and priorities, all based on what “might or might not” be true.  It redirects action from where real attention is needed and forces choices that should not be required to be made.  A number of those choices will directly take aid from the poor, whom Pope Francis has often recognized as one of his top concerns.

Initial Concerns

Not being aware of what I would find in the Encyclical, I nevertheless had a general wariness about any alignment with those who have promulgated the global warming consensus, as well as an orientation from my own background in science and business and, to some extent, in philosophy (especially logic), about the riskiness of building a temple upon the shaky ground of the unproven and still disputed.  Eventual denial understandably leads to half-truth, which is no truth at all.  Allegation and distraction become even more of a problem when the Church founded by Jesus Christ, Truth Himself, calls for action on something which may or may not be true.  Hence, it was for this reason, I felt compelled to read Laudato Si fully, and carefully.  It was the result of that reading which compelled me to share what I observed as numerous on-line posts, leading (I hope) to a monograph.

Start to finish, this has not been a project I have wanted to do.  Although I have had a free will choice whether or not to do so, I have not had a conscience choice.  In my soul, I have felt a strong call to respond, for the sake of Truth.  As a scientist by education and training, I have likewise felt an obligation to respond to non-scientific allegations based on the fallacy of ‘consensus’, as if global warming and climate change are ‘proven’. Consensus is no respecter of Truth.  If it were, we would not have the permissive social environment in which we all live today,  impacting souls even more than theoretical changes in the physical, earthly environment.  And no organization, more than the Catholic Church, should be making that point in Truth.

Dear Pope Francis,

However, it is not easy to dismiss the encyclical entirely on such a basis without fully considering the text.  And, because of the office Pope Francis holds, considering what he has written in serious detail is merited just because he is the Vicar of Christ.

My first thought was not to wait for the Encyclical, but rather to write to Pope Francis directly and express concern before publication.  Actually, I did write that letter, revised it several times, but did not send it.  Partly I held back because the global warming issue morphed into other concerns and the letter format became unwieldy.  Many of those concerns did make their way into the Encyclical, and into these writings; i.e. the risk of pantheism, syncretism, and confusion with the sustainability agenda, for example.  I also tried to revise that letter into an article for a respected journal, but as the weeks ticked by and publication of the Encyclical drew closer (with some of the content leaked in the popular press) it seemed to call for waiting for the actual publication of Laudato Si.  And, if my prior experience holds true, many publications want to wait to see what the consensus is among serious writers before choosing a platform from which to laud or pummel.

Reading the Encyclical

I remember that about a decade ago, a quite liberal pastor and his “committees” made recommendations for Lenten Sacrifices (which should be prayer, fasting and almsgiving) for recycling and cleaning up the environment.  I remember others in that parish, myself included, being outraged by shortchanging God in order to do what is already a duty, i.e. to keep clean what God has given us, with the consequential benefit of improving our own personal environment.  (It had seemed a bit reminiscent of choosing to diet for Lent!  Would that be for God or for myself?)  Yet as outrageous as such proposed “environmental sacrifices” seemed at that time, have I not just read a lengthy encyclical which seems, at least in theory, not all that far away from the same mindset?  That very memory seemed to increase the urgency to read Laudato Si carefully, and to respond to its invitation for dialogue.

When I finally held the 246 paragraph, 183 page, 40,593 word document in hand, and began reading, it seemed that waiting had indeed been the better choice (not mine, but the circumstances).  In the reading, new issues emerged which I had not thought to address (like world government intervention and collectivism or socialism as a not-so-hidden agenda.)  Furthermore, a few Catholics, whose insight and opinions I value, related that they had no intention of reading the document; a few others did try to read it, but later reported giving up after about 30 pages.  From feedback, the reasons they abandoned the effort were due to some combination of difficult-to-follow, convoluted reasoning, the repetitive nature of certain points, an unclear interface between the environment and the agenda for the poor (an undefined term throughout) ,  the intimidation of “consensus science,” just plain busyness or lack of interest, or some other unarticulated reason.

Concerns Emerge

As I began to read Laudato Si, an even greater concern than “scientific truth” emerged, i.e. its open advocacy for certain positions which bring us dangerously close to alignment with enemies of Catholic Teaching, an alignment which should not be done as casually as seems to be the impression from this Encyclical, and in the apparent expectation of its acceptance.  For example, the global warming scenario has been advocated from the highest levels of the now incumbent U.S. government administration, an administration which has also pressured for expanded abortion, defended its assault on religious liberties of Catholic organizations which refused to fund contraception, and insultingly bathed the White House in “rainbow” lights to celebrate the Supreme Court’s institutionalizing same-sex unions.  In the international arena, Laudato Si aligns with individuals and organizations such as the United Nations in its sustainability jargon, a code word for abortion, contraception and euthanasia as strategies to reduce the population of planet Earth.  Laudato Si sadly lacks a clear, firm declaration against these enemies of Catholic Teaching in the areas in which those advocates and lobbyists are in error. For any of those reasons, and for all of those reasons and more, there were sufficient reasons to try to digest the Encyclical.  Among the first problems encountered was the need to read the Encyclical as a translation, which places significant weight on the shoulders of the translators. In dialoguing after reading, the difficulty ultimately encountered was to re-sort excerpts into topic areas, developing a matrix needed to analyze the original text.  But the commitment to follow through to completion and to publish the review only strengthened over the ensuing weeks as the difficulties rose.

Blog Publishing

Prior to reading the Encyclical in its entirety, and in order to facilitate a fresh look, I abstained from reading all other published articles until completely finished writing.  I finished reading the Encyclical in its entirety with margin notes before publishing anything except Part I, which describes the orientation with which I planned to approach the task.  That subject areas were proposed to the blogsite readers to critique.  Ultimately, I published each installment soon after it was finished, section by section on as a 15 part series, over 2 months, with a few responses registered from the blog readers. Other articles were suggested to me but I read none of them, pending completion of this review.  Since writing, I have only made some clarifications where needed, and edits of some redundancies. All the subjects shown in the original work-plan (Part I) were covered, plus a few others which were raised, for example, by collectivist comments and certain prayers suggested in the Encyclical. The order of presentation of subject areas was changed to allow for better flow.

The same Encyclical paragraph may be referenced more than once, if it touches, for example, on multiple areas for focus. Finally, before writing the Conclusion, I reread the entire encyclical, for the sake of verifying tone, meaning, and objectives, and to be sure nothing was over-emphasized or under-emphasized inappropriately.

Infallibility and Dialogue

It would be a mistake to think this publication is offered without having seriously considered the appropriateness of doing so, or without prayer and seeking guidance from above.  Further, it is well to examine, for this situation, what permission the Church herself gives to the Faithful engaging in review or criticism, and how it applies in this situation.

Canon Law 212

One particular Canon most applicable to members of the Christian Faithful expressing their opinion is Canon 212, especially Canon 212 §3.  The Canon is worth reproducing in its entirety:

Canon 212

  • 1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
  • 2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
  • 3.  According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

While it isn’t necessary or even possible to apply Canon 212 to every situation, nevertheless there is some comfort in the underlying assumption that laity does indeed have a right (“and even at times the duty”) to express opinions on matters for the “good of the Church”.

Pope Francis’s Invitation to Dialogue

Without needing to rely on Canon 212, there is an explicit invitation in Laudato Si for dialogue (25x), for discussion (6x) and for debate (12x)  on the subjects therein.  While one might hesitate to give input, in the face of explicit dogmatic and moral proclamations, any such reticence is more than compensated by Pope Francis’s repeated and mitigating invitation to dialogue on the matters expressed in Laudato Si.  Since there are few mechanisms within the reach of the laity to engage in such dialogue, and most of us are not likely to be guests of a Synod, our letters, articles, monographs, books and websites are among the relevant current means for achieving such discussion, input and response.   I take the Holy Father at his word that he desires such dialogue.

The following are examples, with paragraph numbers, of explicit invitations to dialogue and debate:

“We need a conversation which includes everyone….” (#14)

“…the need for forthright and honest debate….” (#16)

“…a variety of proposals possible, all capable of entering into dialogue with a view to developing comprehensive solutions.” (#60)

“…honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views.” (#61)

“…science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.” (#62)

“The Catholic Church is open to dialogue with philosophical thought….” (#63)

“…this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation….” (#64)

If it were not for Pope Francis’s invitation to dialogue and debate, I am not sure I would have done this review and analysis.  If it were not for the Apostle Paul’s challenging  (Galatians Chapter 2) our beloved first Pope Peter (Cephas) to his face, I might have cowered at the thought of disagreeing even on a matter not of “faith and morals”.  And if were not for the moxie of St. Catherine of Siena, who spoke frankly to Pope Gregory XI, I might have lacked peace in doing so.  I have tried my best to write in a way respectful of the Holy Father, even though disagreeing with and being disappointed by many things he has written.  To the extent I have failed, I apologize, and will try to correct my words in any subsequent revisions.  I give all credit to the Holy Spirit for leading and sustaining me in anything of value and Truth; everything of value is a credit to the Holy Spirit’s patience with me. And I accept all blame myself for any errors; mistakes are mine alone.

Laudato Si — Disturbing Prayers — Part XIV

August 27th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Concerns about Environmental Prayer

It is not within my ability or right or privilege to comment on strengths or weaknesses in any particular prayers, and certainly not regarding prayers promulgated by the Pope.  However, with the solicitation of dialogue in Laudato Si, and the inclusion of two prayers in particular at the end of the Encyclical itself, it nevertheless seems important to at least personally respond to what is suggested as our own prayer for the environment.  And “disturbing” is an appropriate word.

That we are 2000 years into the many prayers of the Catholic Church for so many varying needs, it is a bit strange that we don’t already have prayers for virtually everything of importance, and that we actually need “new prayers” for ecology and the environment.  Therefore, it is meaningful to compare the newly proposed prayers to those to which we are accustomed, which suggest prayer “by” the environment rather than “for” the environment,  and by such comparison to determine if what is now offered is consistent with our prayer history.

I can think of no prayer as a better exemplar regarding the environment than what is prayed worldwide in the Liturgy of the Hours on the First Sundays in the Psalter for Morning Prayer, a key set of psalms and canticles used on many Feast Days as well.  One might consider it a kind of “premiere” canticle due to such prominence.


Comparison of Canticle of Daniel 3:57-88, 56 to the First Prayer in Laudato Si

Canticle of Daniel

Bless the Lord, all His works, praise and exalt Him for ever.

Bless the Lord, you heavens; all His angels, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, you waters above the heavens; all His powers, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, sun and moon; all stars of the sky, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, rain and dew; all you winds, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, fire and heat; cold and warmth, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, dew and frost; ice and cold, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, ice and snow; day and night, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, light and darkness; lightning and storm-clouds, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, all the earth, praise and exalt Him for ever.

Bless the Lord, mountains and hills; all growing things, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, seas and rivers; springs and fountains, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, whales and fish; birds of the air, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, wild beasts and tame; sons of men, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, O Israel, praise and exalt Him for ever.

Bless the Lord, His priests, all His servants, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the just; all who are holy and humble, bless the Lord.

Ananias, Azarias, Mishael, bless the Lord, praise and exalt Him for ever.

Let us bless Father, Son and Holy Spirit, praise and exalt Them for ever.

Bless the Lord in the firmament of heaven, praise and glorify Him for ever.


A prayer for our earth by Pope Francis (intended for all who believe in a Creator God)

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.


What strikes me is how the Canticle of Daniel is totally oriented to praising the Lord, but “A prayer for our earth” is just that – a prayer “for” the earth, not “by” the earth in praise of God, with a ‘to-do’ list for what God should do about those who are not living in the spirit of the prayer that is being offered.  Even in the Canticle of Daniel, the three young men in the flames are not praying for themselves but calling on the whole world to praise God. I think this dichotomy is the basis of my discomfort with the new prayer, which I find hard to pray.

Lest anyone think that the Canticle of Daniel is pantheistic, it is not.  To personalize the spirit of any part of creation, as being for the Glory of God, is not the same as claiming that God is the element of His Creation.  St. Francis used this approach when he personalized “Mother Earth.”  (This discussion is not meant to needlessly omit that Pope Francis does quote other references to prayer regarding the environment, including three verses (3-5) from Psalm 148 in the Morning Prayer for the Third Sunday in the Psalter; again, the tone of his reference (#72) is very different from the two new prayers he proposes.)

A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation

The second prayer given by Pope Francis, offered for use by all Christians, is “A Christian Prayer in Union with Creation.”  Rather than reproducing the entire second prayer, which is readily available on line, there are just a few verses within the prayer which may also disturb, or raise questions.  For example:

“Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.”

That verse relates to Romans 8:22, in which Paul says:  “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;” but the scriptural message seems to be more one of waiting for adoption as full sons of God, rather than intended to attribute the groanings of all creation to pollution or environmental problems; i.e. “the earth herself, burdened and laid waste … among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor….”.  There is at least some confusion in using Romans in this way in an environmental Encyclical.

How do the words “help us to protect all life” not raise serious questions about past and current commitments to defend life in the womb?  To resist euthanasia? To refuse to accommodate contraceptives? To oppose gender selection and gender mutilation?  In a prayer specifically related to the environment, one wonders how much of our deeper priorities are consequentially being excluded.

Another kind of disturbance experienced while reading this particular prayer of Pope Francis is a certain gentleness and uplifting language in his writing juxtaposed against language that is more harsh, alienating or even divisive.  For example, some would find it very difficult to say (or to hear said) at, e.g., a daily Mass where parishioners offer intercessions, the following words: “Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live.”  Isn’t this an obligation of all humanity?  Why are those who possess power and money so selectively targeted for what all peoples should be doing?  When dioceses close the churches in the inner cities, e.g., meant to offer the greatest riches in the world (the Gospel) to all people, how are the poor not being disproportionately excluded, especially if they lack transportation to reach the suburban alternatives?  Moreover, I would also consider the opposite words distasteful and inappropriate for intercessions at Mass; i.e. “We give Thee thanks for all those who possess power and money and have avoided the sin of indifference, loved the common good, advanced the weak, and cared for this world in which we live.”  As is stated in Luke 17:10: “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”

Lack of development of the link between the poor and the environment

While the link between the poor and the environment is stated repeatedly in Laudato Si, the explanation or development of the linkage is somewhat lacking.  An example would be the words in the second prayer which state: “The poor and the earth are crying out.”  Although it repeats the theme which underlies the Encyclical, in some cases it is either a non sequitur, or the connection is just difficult to decipher.  Two examples:

“The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty.” (#27)  “The poor you always have with you…”?  (John 12:8) was stated by Christ.  Such words are also contained in Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7.  Can we reasonably expect to “solve” the problem of poverty through interventions based on governmental power?  How can there be merit to the individual soul in paying obligatory, forced taxes so that half a nation can be on food stamps?  Individual acts of charity arise in the heart, and God uses those for the shaping of souls.  Governments die at the end of time; only people are judged, one by one, at the particular judgment.  Interfering with the ability of individual souls to serve God through the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy by stripping their resources to do so is a point worth discussing further.

“And so the day of rest, centred on the Eucharist, sheds it [sic] light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.” (#237)  This is another sentence which is difficult to understand, as the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Love, motivates us (and obligates us) to share a self-sacrificing love with all peoples, rich or poor, and also to serve with many actions, such as the Spiritual Works of Mercy, not limiting our motivations to only nature and the poor, both undefined terms in the Encyclical.   If we look to the Gospels for Christ’s own words on nature and the poor, we do not actually find much, yet a ‘preferential option for the poor’ has been used as if it were a religion in itself.

What we might particularly notice in the Gospels is that while Christ condemned stinginess as on the part of the rich man who ignored the starving Lazarus at his gate, He also seems through the ‘purse,’ to have provided something for the poor, as implied at the Last Supper in the words of  John 13:29: “Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”; or, that he should give something to the poor.”  

We notice that Christ personally and often responded to those in need, whether at the Wedding Feast of Cana, raising the dead, feeding with loaves and fish, or curing lepers and demoniacs, among other works.  But He Who had all power in His Hands, apparently didn’t make poor people rich in what didn’t matter to their souls, or which absence gave those who lacked resources a unique ability to glorify God in ways that  those with more power or money struggle to do (giving out of abundance rather than need.)  No,  the message Jesus sent to John the Baptist in prison was not “the poor are made rich” but rather “… the poor have the good news (Gospel) preached to them.” This charity, sharing the Word of God, exceeds all other charities, which is why evangelizing and witnessing to our Faith is so essential.

It is a great disappointment to me that an Encyclical of more than 40,000 words, linking the poor and the environment, gives so little attention to preaching the ‘good news.’  We must all beware of being covetous of what other people have, and rather be covetous for the sake of souls that all may better know, love and serve God.  Amen?


Laudato Si — What DID Pope Francis Call us to DO? — Part XIII

August 26th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

What are the “Action Points” for Individuals?

Most of the prior parts in this series have dealt with the general principles which Pope Francis promulgated through his teaching office and, in a number of cases, with his personal opinion.  It is difficult to consistently distinguish teaching from opinion but, since the Encyclical appears at least on its surface not to be binding, the need to distinguish minutely is abated.  Nevertheless, respect for any pope’s writing is sufficient reason to search for any statements in Laudato Si which ask for specific individual actions (as contrasted to the more obvious macro recommendations for actions at various governmental levels, from industry or from other organizations.)

Examples of Matters not Included in this Part XIII: Water and Food

To isolate the specific individual actions,  it is also necessary to leave out all the generalizations, all the calls for actions other than from individuals, and then attempt to answer the question from the pew: “But what can ‘I’ do about environmental and ecological issues?”  The following discussion will leave out implied calls for action which identify needs but not how to solve those needs, such as certain remarks regarding water and food, for example.  Pope Francis clearly decries the waste of water.  For those living in areas with abundant water, providing care to lawns, golf courses and gardens, washing cars, taking daily showers, even visiting water parks, how are individual conservationists of good heart to save water for people living in remote desert areas?  Water cannot be shipped effectively, and self-denial may have some spiritual benefit, but for others it may be a health risk.  Since there is no specific action called for on this matter in Laudato Si, it therefore is not included in this particular discussion below.

Another example, would be the sentence regarding food waste, which cannot help but apply to many communities and families considered affluent on a world wide basis.  Pope Francis writes: “… whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.”  (#50)  Such a dramatic statement has an element of both truth and drama to it, but how is an individual to respond beyond some of the methods in place locally, like food kitchens and pantries, often run by church communities?  In the U.S. there are restrictions and government regulations on recycling food, such as from restaurants, and especially related to USDA and FDA guidelines.  It is already reported that over half the U.S. is on food stamps. Pricing in most stores prevents one from buying only what is needed, say, a half head of lettuce, or 3 eggs, or a third of a loaf of bread.  And living at some distances in more rural communities we can see where it is better to buy something in the market which may not be fully used, rather than driving again, many miles round trip, if and when it may actually be needed, thus wasting fuel and time.  There are encyclical assertions which better fit the overcrowding in cities in nth world countries than life in more rural areas or in what is often called “first world.”  That is not to discourage solutions which may be developed from one location to another, but only to make the point that such “brainstorming” pertains more to the dialogue and discussion which Pope Francis requests between individuals, rather than to being listed directly as individual actions decided worldwide.

Specific Individual Actions Prescribed

Thus, statements of genuine concern, not translated to specific individual action in Laudato Si, are not included below, because it is not the function of this review and dialogue on Laudato Si to try to extend the general words of the encyclical to specific actions.  That is a role for implementation groups. This Part XIII only lists those specific, identifiable actions in the Encyclical for which individual actions are urged.

1. Dialogue and discussion regarding the environmental and ecological issues raised are mentioned prominently throughout the Encyclical.  Not only does such dialogue refer to the Encyclical itself in paragraph #3, but also dialogue between individuals affected.  Such dialogue would seem to be appropriate, both as a means of educating and involving people in taking care of their communities, and in mobilizing broader, well-aligned efforts. Pope Francis writes:  “… local individuals and groups can make a real difference.  They are able to instill a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land.  They are also concerned about what they will eventually leave to their children and grandchildren.” (#179)  A good local example might be how individuals were able to unite in various ways regarding hydrofracking concerns.  Spontaneous action from citizens can have impact when it flows from rational dialogue.  It becomes complicated by government interference.

Unfortunately, the Encyclical itself has an apparent clash between the principle of subsidiarity (see Part IX), with actions rising from the bottom up, in which needs and possibilities are generated and implemented by those closest to the problem, and an imposition of top down rules and penalties on a worldwide scale, in a collectivist setting.  The two methods inevitably clash at the point where strategies conflict, and then power reigns.

2. Prayer:  Laudato Si issues the following call for prayer: “We believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays.” (#169)   Specific comments on the prayers offered near the end of Laudato Si will be discussed in Part XIV.  But certainly we recognize that prayer is both for individuals and for communities, and in that sense we all have a call to participate, petitioning that God’s Will may be done, rather than the will of human organizations.

3. Specific Actions: are recommended in Chapter Five of Laudato Si:  “Lines of Approach and Action.”  The following excerpts show some of Pope Francis’s focus:

“… [use] less heating and [wear] warmer clothes … avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights….  Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it….”  (#211)

“Ecological education…” (#213)

“… personal qualities of self-control and willingness to learn from one another.” (#214)

“…stop and give thanks to God before and after meals.”  (#227)

There is a tension between addressing every person individually and inviting individual dialogue, yet recognizing the limited ability of individual persons to achieve change, and also their great potential.  Pope Francis writes “Isolated individuals can lose their ability and freedom to escape the utilitarian mindset and end up prey to an unethical consumerism bereft of social or ecological awareness.  Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds.” (#219)  Yet he also writes: “…while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference.” (#179)

Such limitations raise the question not only of tension between individuals and collectivist power, but also within individuals and their own obligations and spiritual direction.  Just how important is proposed change involving the environment in contrast to other activities to which we are called in a spiritual and moral sense? Should individuals be encouraged to give themselves over en masse to saving the environment when so much is yet undone in faithfulness to Christ’s full teaching?

The only truly unsustainable, unrenewable resource is our own time.  To be principally consumed with environmental and ecological matters cannot help but detract from even higher spiritual activities, i.e. worship of God and performing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We are creatures, with only 24 hours in a day and a single lifetime to know, love and serve God before He calls us home.  It is not negotiable, but reminiscent of a hymn from the Liturgy of the Hours:

“My destined time is fixed by Thee,

And Death doth know his hour.

Did warriors strong around me throng,

They could not stay his power;

No wall of stone can man defend

When Thou Thy messenger dost send.”

Jesus gave us the priorities by which to live when a Pharisaic lawyer asked Him (Matthew 22: 36-40): “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”  And similar are the words in Mark 12: 28-31.

There is a common distortion in some preaching and teaching of these words, that this is all one commandment, that there is an interchangeability between the First and Second Commandments, or that they are identical.  In my opinion, it is a dangerous teaching, prompting confusion, and taking from God what belongs to Him.  Clearly the Greek source uses the word “deutero,” and that clearly means second.  But given these words of Christ, where are we to fit into the text the words specifically directed to the environment and ecology?  In certain Corporal Works of Mercy one can find a way of serving brothers and sisters in Christ by “giving drink to the thirsty” implying clean water.  Or “feeding the hungry”, with good and nourishing food.  But none of that service is taught to be at the expense or distraction from worshiping God.  Rather, it is a manifestation of worshiping God.  And that is a key point in which it is difficult to see how the overwhelming environmental and ecological concerns of Laudato Si fit in a deeply consistent way in the Greatest and Second Commandments.

That is not to say that such concerns for our environment and for the whole planet have no importance, but only that we know their importance falls in priority below the two Great Commandments, and the challenge is to do what we can without shortchanging God, who is not a pantheistic object nor is He willing to share His Glory in a Syncretistic sense.  These are our convictions, and it would seem that Pope Francis’s words provide a balance if we do not lose sight of our convictions.  He writes: “It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognize the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions.”  (#64)  And, we might add: “and we fulfill those ecological commitments without compromising our convictions.”  But I think there is a reason why the specific recommendations to individuals seem somewhat trite or impotent in such a long encyclical.

The Problem of Individualism

And therein lies the “Problem of Individualism.”  Pope Francis states his desire for dialogue with individuals (upon which invitation this half of the dialogue is offered), responding to his words:

“… I will advance some broader proposals for dialogue and action which would involve each of us as individuals….” (#15)

However, most of the Encyclical is really directed to action at collectivist levels, out of the hands of individuals.  Rather, there seems to be a hint that individual actions are more suspect or less trustworthy or effective; comments on “individualism” are uniformly negative:

“… romantic individualism …” (#119);

“… rampant individualism …” (#162);

“If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.” (#208)

“… ‘myths’ of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market).” (#210)

At the fork in the road, where one direction leads to collectivist controls, rules and penalties at the highest level, all administered by selected powerful sinners, or the other road where we are all sinners working out our salvation with fear and trembling in the light of God’s gift to us of free will, I know I’d choose the latter.  King David himself chose a penalty of falling into the hands of a punishing God, rather than into the hands of men.

1 Chronicles 21:13:  “Then David said to Gad, ‘I am in great distress; let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercy is very great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.'”

It made sense to David; it makes sense to me.

Laudato Si — Is it Infallible? — Part XII

August 17th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Obviously, the answer to the question “Is it Infallible?” cannot be given fully in this space.  An opinion can of course be offered, but it is without authority. Nevertheless, questions can be raised for discussion regarding what individual obligations Catholics might incur on matters set forth in Laudato Si. In that spirit, some comment is offered.

1. Lack of Infallibility Claim

Upon completing the reading of Laudato Si, one notices the ‘prominent absence’ of any words claiming “infallibility”.  For contrast, Saint John Paul II declared, clearly and significantly,  in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,  the impossibility of women’s ordination:

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

Invoking an abundance of divine assistance upon you, venerable brothers, and upon all the faithful, I impart my apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, on May 22, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 1994, the sixteenth of my Pontificate.”

Even such clear words have been parsed and murmured against by those who are adamant about seeking women’s ordination, demurring at the lack of the specific word “infallible.”  Nevertheless, the intent of Pope John Paul seems clear and was subsequently upheld by Pope Benedict XVI.

The words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si contain no such claim of infallibility or even allusion to binding the Faithful, but actually contain implications which weaken any infallibility assertion. That is not to say that a papal writing doesn’t deserve, on its own merit and out of respect, some attention to the message. That is what has driven the examination of Laudato Si in this present writing.  And it is the reason we begin by examining two sentences which might be its strongest claims for infallibility, yet seem quite weak.

2. Consideration of Two Sentences which Possibly Assert Infallibility of Laudato Si:

Only two sentences were found which hint at infallibility; however, hinting is not usually considered strong enough to be effective.  Here are the two specific, somewhat personally-oriented papal sentences:

“I [i.e. Pope Francis] will offer some inspired guidelines for human development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience.” (#15)  One might wonder if the use of the word “inspired” is claiming that this Encyclical contains Divine Private Revelation, but there seems to be only a very tenuous connection to claiming infallibility, which would likely have been more specific if infallibility were being claimed. Thus, the word ‘inspired’ makes more sense as personal insight, rather than as Divine Revelation. This conclusion is reinforced by lack of  consistent repetition or clarification of an intended claim, without first developing the specific areas to which a claim of Divinely inspired revelation might be argued or applied. Moreover, given placement early in the Encyclical, such words are difficult to attribute to anything specifically covered by a subsequent arguments.

“It is my [Pope Francis’s] hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face.” (#15)  The proximity of this text to the one mentioned above would seem to put it in the same class as a general or orienting statement, not as a specific claim of infallibility.  Moreover, adding the Encyclical to the “body of the Church’s social teaching” specifically reminds us that much of the Church’s “social teaching” has not been claimed to be infallible and some is not even specifically in the area of “faith and morals” (which is the domain to which claims of infallibility are restricted). Therefore, any claim of infallibility based on the ‘body’ of social teaching seems weak. Whatever Pope Francis’s intent is with these specific claims, it seems remote from claiming infallibility.

One argument not made, but which might be argued, would be that “everything” is in the moral category (unless it is faith.)  But such a broad definition of “moral” would have removed the original need to define the limitations, resulting in no limitations. So, again, such a theoretical argument for infallibility fails.  Further, although St. Francis is mentioned a number of times, canonization is not a guarantee of being error-free, or requiring obedience to a saint’s personal teaching.

3. The Encyclical is Broadly Addressed to the Entire World without Specific Binding Language

The address to the entire world raises two concerns:  1) Is the Pope’s addressing the entire world and asking for its input a de facto invitation to non-Christians to shape the teaching of the Church?  If so, how would that support any infallibility claim for the current content of the Encyclical?  2) Doesn’t such a worldwide invitation for input at least partially imply a currently incomplete work, making it difficult to consider it as infallible?

Relevant quotes include:

“… faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on the planet.” (#3)  

“… I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.” (#3)

“We need a conversation which includes everyone …” (#14) 

4. The Encyclical’s strong call for Debate and Discussion implies a Meaningful Possibility of Changing what was written, bringing further into question how binding it could realistically be

The very implication of changing what has been already been written, based on worldwide discussion or on any other input (including possible refutation of global warming and climate change premises, or including clarification of currently ambiguous statements), could weaken any argument that the Encyclical, as now written, binds infallibly.  There are many Encyclical entries on this subject; here are a few:

“… the need for forthright and honest debate …” (#16)

“Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” (#49)

“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.” (#61)

“A broad, responsible scientific and social debate needs to take place, one capable of considering all the available information and of calling things by their name.”  (#135)

“This necessarily entails reflection and debate about the conditions required for the life and survival of society, and the honesty needed to question certain models of development, production and consumption.”  (#138)

“Even as this Encyclical was being prepared, the debate was intensifying.”  (#169)

“We need to stop thinking in terms of ‘interventions’ to save the environment in favour of policies developed and debated by all interested parties.” (#183)

“But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good.”  (#188)

5.  A Strong Call for Discussion by Every Individual is without a Practical Mechanism for Implementation

The call for discussion is broad-based.  Some discussion may be narrower on individual projects, but much seems to be directed to a world-wide dialogue which has no mechanism to effect even the dialogue, let alone the implementation.  In simpler terms, it would seem that God doesn’t ask of us what it is not possible to do. Thus, the impracticality of worldwide discussions (with or without a collectivist “one world” approach) weakens any claim to infallibility.  It may even, when tried, become the stumbling block to the very implementations which Pope Francis seeks.

“We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”  (#14)

“Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected (farmers, consumers, civil authorities, scientists, seed producers, people living near fumigated fields, and others) can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good, present and future.”  (#135)

“We believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays.” (#169)

“Honesty and truth are needed in scientific and political discussions; these should not be limited to the issue of whether or not a particular project is permitted by law.” (#183)

“If politics shows itself incapable of breaking such a perverse logic, and remains caught up in inconsequential discussions, we will continue to avoid facing the major problems of humanity.”  (#197)

6. Non-specificity of Action Items

Laudato Si does not read as having a narrow drawing of potentially infallible issues, but rather it reads more like an op-ed than a Church Teaching. Even if it were desired to make Laudato Si binding in some infallible manner in certain subject areas, the action items are weak, scattered and without clarity as to exactly what is being asked.  The entire Encyclical reads more like a rant against the world environmental and ecological situation than prescriptive for spiritual growth or required obedience, with very little expectation of individual readers’ “doing” anything much different from the daily lives they already lead.  That is understandable, since much of what is decried and much of what is desired is out of the hands and influence of individuals. However, there are a few specific actions, and those will be covered in Part XIII, for the sake of completeness.

7. An Ironic Reflection

It would be difficult to close this Part XII on Infallibility without reflecting on its ironic context to Vatican I.  In the recent book “History of the Catholic Church,” by respected historian Dr. James Hitchcock, a brief history is recounted of Vatican I, and its wrestling with a statement on Papal Infallibility.  Pope Pius IX summoned the Council in 1869 targeting “modern errors” and believing that it would be essential to include a proclamation on the dogma of papal infallibility.  It was the first Council since Trent, three centuries earlier, and was deemed as a pastoral council, reinforcing or restating what was already Church dogma.

Hitchcock writes:  “The idea of papal infallibility was already widely accepted, and Pius did not ask the Council to approve it, lest it appear that he received his authority from the Council. He merely waited until the Council voted to proclaim it” … but exerting some “strong pressure on wavering bishops.” Hitchcock notes that “Some bishops were troubled by the doctrine of infallibility because they thought it implied that they received their authority solely from the pope, rather than being direct successors of the Apostles.”  …  “A preliminary vote showed 451 in favor of the dogma, 62 in favor “conditionally”, and 88 opposed.  On the eve of its solemn ratification, the opposition leaders agreed that, rather than vote … ‘It does not please me’, they would absent themselves.”   (Apparently all but two of those in opposition left the Council.  A schism occurred in Germany, in particular, thereafter, with the “Old Catholic” breakaway.  One local rumor is that the bishop of the recently established Diocese of Rochester also went home.  However, Napoleon III’s troops were protecting Rome from the Italian armies, so there may well have been other reasons for hasty departures from Rome.  Vatican I was not officially “closed” until Vatican II.)

Hitchcock continues “Infallibility was understood as encompassing only matters of faith and morals that were solemnly proclaimed by the pope ex cathedra… a limitation necessary in order to exclude the doctrinal errors of some popes” …”The pope could not create new dogmas but merely authoritatively define what were already the Church’s beliefs.”

Herein lies the irony.  The bishops of Vatican I, to some extent, objected to a clear, bold statement on papal infallibility because, in part, it appeared to extend the Pope’s power, although infallibility was already well accepted.  But the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways.  Here we are about 145 years later, now understanding that the clarifications of Vatican I placed constraints and limitations on the infallibility claim of any pope, especially the restriction to matters of “faith and morals,” which may well be a source of comfort to bishops concerned with directions Synods may take, and priorities of encyclicals, for example.  It may well be that what once seemed to be strengthening the papal power has in reality clarified for the Faithful the limits of papal power, and the right of the Faithful to protect their faith, and not be seduced into enjoying the ‘flavor of the month’ so easily chosen by self-governed sects and faith traditions which rely on their own elders’ opinions, rather than doctrinal infallibility.


Laudato Si — “Who Am I to Judge?” — Part XI

August 8th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Pope Francis made world headlines in his press interview aloft,  flying back from World Youth Day in Brazil in 2013, when asked about the status of a reputedly ‘gay’ priest.  His reply “Who am I to judge” became a rallying cry for LGBT life style to be legitimized by the Catholic Church (which clearly is impossible to happen.)  Faithful Catholics, knowledgeable regarding Church teaching, trustingly strained to understand the words to mean “If a person repents of his sins and is forgiven by God, who am I to decide otherwise?”  Unfortunately, the popular media and the subsequent lack of papal explanation simply allowed a runaway wish list of aspirations, each more liberal than the foregoing, each encouraging that perhaps the Catholic Church was going to finally ‘permit sin.’  The Synod, held in 2014, only made matters worse due to its foggy language, leaked documents, poor translations and questionable motivations, sowing doubt where previously there had been clarity.

It is worth mentioning those track records of poor Vatican communications as prelude to sorting out some seemingly quite harsh language in Laudato Si, threatening further division within the Church. In the Encyclical, there is, like prior breaches and misunderstandings, a lack of clarification, and a sense of “you know to whom I’m referring,” without being specific. And very unlike our expectation of teaching documents, there is an ambiguity which can do a disservice to Truth, and to souls.

In this Part XI, a number of Laudato Si statements are listed, without trying to ‘explain’ what may well be unexplainable, but which language yields a fruit which may cause division, defensiveness, confusion, pain, and alienation.  Not only the content, but also the tone contributes to such impact. These comments are not intended to be a judgement of Pope Francis himself since we don’t know his motives, or even the accuracy of his translators.  So the quotes are put forward hoping to invoke that same spirit of “Who am I to judge?”

Excerpts from Laudato Si

So, we quote directly, letting the reader form conclusions about the objectives of each statement. There are many quotes which might have been used, but the limited ones selected are those which seem to ascribe a questionable motive to others, to people, groups or nations, notwithstanding the occasional use of the first person plural pronouns “we”, “our” and “us”.  Affluent individuals, multinational companies, northern hemisphere countries in particular seem to be targeted. Perhaps, surprisingly, the Church and other organized religions seem to escape all criticism.   Unfortunately, there are few proposals for remedy other than loss of subsidiarity to a theoretical collectivist  power, as described in prior Parts IX and X, especially of allocation of financial penalties on sovereign governments.  It is not the purpose of this section to debate again what was previously covered, but only to convey what some may see as an attitude of accusation.  It is only fair to point out that there may simply be a misunderstanding, since Christ Himself did not come to condemn, one must be careful in attributing condemnation to His Vicar. Nevertheless, these are direct quotes from Laudato Si, and some imply attributing questionable motivations:

“…many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.  Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.”  (#14).

“Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.” (#26)

“Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.  This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding….” (#30)

“We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.” (#34)

“Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits….”(#36)

“… there are ‘proposals to internationalize the Amazon which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations.'” (#38)

“… many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems.  They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population …. This lack … can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality ….” (#49)

“… a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized….” (#50)

“There is also … pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home, … in the countries in which they raise their capital … often the businesses which operate this way are multinationals ….” (#51)

“The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.”  (#51). Note: like many other unsupported statements in Laudato Si, again there is no footnote citation as a source.

“The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them …. developing countries … continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future … globalization of indifference…. [ownership] is structurally perverse … developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy …. ” (#52)

“There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.” (#54)

“The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests  … the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.” (#54)

“People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more.  A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning.”  (#55)

“… human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.” (#59)

“… Twenty percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.” (#95)

“…showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations…[t]heir behavior shows that for them maximizing profits is enough.” (#109)

“…the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere ‘given’, as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference.”  (#115)  — In my personal experience I have often found scientists to be even more fascinated with the physical world and its wonder than many with no technological training, who seem to take it for granted.

“…we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests.” (#122)

“The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labor on them or enslaving them to pay their debts.  The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly … human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species… buying the organs of the poor for resale…. This same ‘use and throw away’ logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary.”  (#123)  By such logic, every overweight person, consuming “more than what is really necessary,” would be implicated to some degree in heinous crimes. Obviously the problems are far more intricate, as is human nature.  Simplistic accusations illustrate the risk of thinking any particular organization can ever bridle the concupiscence of a fallen nature, especially large collectivist organizations with their  ultimate un-accountability resulting in being responsible to no one, because they can hide behind being responsible to every one. Should not the emphasis, rather, be toward conversion of souls rather than super-sized organizational structure and its impositions? Railing against multinationals hardly seems to create argument for still larger enforcers, whose individual members are as corruptible as anyone else.

“An interdependent world not only makes us more conscious of the negative effects of certain lifestyles and models of production and consumption which affect us all; more importantly, it motivates us to ensure that solutions are proposed from a global perspective, and not simply to defend the interests of a few countries.” (#164)

“The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro … was a real step forward … [but]… poorly implemented due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance.  The principles which it proclaimed still await an efficient and flexible means of practical implementation.” (#167)

“Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most.” (#169)  One point on which the Encyclical is relatively silent is that the burden, if it were to be assigned, would more properly apply not only to countries that pollute, but also to the recipients of the benefits of the polluting manufacturing or technology made available to them as customers. Probably few countries would willingly give up products and technologies they want or need in order to minimize the associated pollution. Also for that reason, one wonders about the high level of prioritization skewed to environmental matters, relative to other subjects to which papal encyclicals might be addressed.

“Political activity on the local level could also be directed to modifying consumption….” (#180) Unfortunately, much of the talk of ‘sustainability advocates’ means fewer people alive, in order to achieve consumption reduction.  The Encyclical skirts the issue, supporting the objective but being silent on the strategy.

“While some are concerned only with financial gain, and others with holding on to or increasing their power, what we are left with are conflicts or spurious agreements where the last thing either party is concerned about is caring for the environment and protecting those who are most vulnerable.”  (#198)

“Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction.” (#204)

“… we are unconcerned about caring for things for the sake of others; we fail to set limits on ourselves in order to avoid the suffering of others or the deterioration of our surroundings.” (#208)

In a general sense, we can see that much of the theme in these words directed against others (people, companies, nations) is about transfer of power, from those who have it (and at least, to some extent, have earned it) to those with more limited power, even within their own borders, where, for a variety of reasons, legitimate power has apparently not been fully or faithfully exercised.  On the matter of power, it is well to remember that coveting is clearly reprobated by two of the Commandments.  That includes coveting power, doesn’t it?

As one reviews the excerpts above, perhaps it would have been better for Pope Francis to have used his language aloft one more time, regarding those portrayed as enemies of the environment or ecology or, I wish, at least had emulated the gentleness of Pope Benedict.  When mentioned earlier that there is a certain sadness or darkness in Laudato Si, this section, in particular, seem to be a cause. And, finally, without knowing reasons or purpose, we can simply recall and pray the words of Sacred Scripture:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,

but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  

Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  

Colossians 3:21


Laudato Si –Collectivism? Liberation Theology? — Part X

July 31st, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

There is no better way to begin this Part X post than with quotes from Pope Benedict XVI, as Cardinal Ratzinger, in the Ratzinger Report, 1985, Second Printing 1986, Ignatius Press, in Chapter 12 on Liberation Theology, p. 190.  It is as if he were looking 30 years into the future at some of the concerns we’ve been discussing (emphasis mine):   

“What is theologically unacceptable here, and socially dangerous, is this mixture of Bible, christology, politics, sociology and economics. Holy Scripture and theology cannot be misused to absolutize and sacralize a theory concerning the socio-political order. Of its very nature, that order is always contingent. By sacralizing the revolution — mixing up God, Christ and ideologies — they only succeed in producing a dreamy fanaticism that can lead to even worse injustices and oppression, ruining in the praxis what the theory had proposed.”

“It is also painful to be confronted with the illusion, so essentially un-Christian, which is present among priests and theologians, that a new man and a new world can be created, not by calling each individual to conversion, but only by changing the social and economic structures. For it is precisely personal sin that is in reality at the root of unjust social structures. Those who really desire a more human society need to begin with the root, not with the trunk and branches, of the tree of injustice. The issue here is one of fundamental Christian truths, yet they are deprecatingly dismissed as ‘alienating’ and ‘spiritualistic’.”

I was struck by the word “painful” which then Cardinal Ratzinger used, as I too am feeling this entire process of reading and analyzing Laudato Si has been quite painful and deeply sad, but necessary.  Re-reading pages 169-190 of the Ratzinger Report (Chapter 12 on Liberation Theology) has enabled me to finally cut through so much that has been confusing and unexplainable in Laudato Si, and I highly recommend the reader’s consulting that chapter directly.  The content of that Chapter 12 was given to the interviewer, Vittorio Messori, prior to the release of Ratzinger’s Instruction on Certain Aspects of the “Theology of Liberation” given August 6, 1984, with the approval of Saint John Paul II. Ignatius Press has printed the entire content of the published “Preliminary Notes” to that “Instruction” as the text of a “private theologian.”  With that foundation, we continue with excerpts of Laudato Si which raise questions of collectivism.

Key Questions:

Among the key questions related to this Part X are 1) can consensus among yet unidentified participants, of unknown skills and motives, ever trump sovereign countries’ rights (except perhaps as between allies in a global war like World War II) and still be in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding subsidiarity? 2) why is there any hope that artificial structures like summits, paper agreements or special appointees would be any more successful in implementation than was the League of Nations or has been the U.N.?   3) how far has all of this already gone, unbeknownst to citizens of countries likely to be  impacted most negatively? 4) when one considers all the reasons the world has not been able to come together for an alleged common good, how would there be anything different in new structures, when weak humans are still weak humans?  5) how is ‘common good’ to be assessed and by whom in a world becoming increasingly degenerate, and failing to have made any impact on so many more apparent social evils?  6) What unspoken dangers lurk in the persistent pursuit of lofty global ambitions?

So as at the beginning, also at the end?

On a more biblical level, might one contemplate whether or not there is an effort afoot to reassemble the peoples of the world into a glued-together Tower of Babel?  In Genesis 11:1-9 we read: “Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”

God did warn that Babel was “only the beginning.”  Here are the relevant quotes  from Laudato Si, which envision a superstructure of sorts — this time a superstructure of organization, in opposition to subsidiarity and possibly also trying to regather from all the earth a scattered (in many senses) humanity, to do what belongs to the Second Coming?  The organizational superstructure language focuses on bringing together a consensus from all over the earth, about the earth, in the “dialogue” for which Pope Francis repeatedly calls, to agree on and to enforce causes of action.    

Does this sound like too much of a stretch?  Too untenable?  Then consider these words of Cardinal Ratzinger regarding liberation theology: “… fighting for justice and integral liberation, … transforming unjust structures into more human ones … is exercised by repeating in history the gesture by which God raised Jesus, i.e. by giving life to those who are crucified in history.  Man has taken over God’s gesture — this manifests the whole transformation of the biblical message in an almost tragic way, when one thinks how this attempted imitation of God has worked out in practice and continues to do so.”  (Page 184, Ratzinger Report.)

Laudato Si Quotations

One should carefully ask what is being created if the following quotations from Laudato Si were to prevail:

“Human beings too are creatures of this world, enjoying a right to life and happiness …  so we cannot fail to consider the effects on people’s lives of environmental deterioration ….”  (#43)  It is particularly striking how these words are blatantly disconnected from what Americans in particular value from the Declaration of Independence … “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Where is Liberty?   And experience shows us all that we don’t have a “right” to happiness, but rather the right to pursue happiness.  It is a strange juxtaposition, raising questions of “Why?”

“‘A true ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time” (#51)

“The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.” (#52)

“…we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis.  We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations.” (#53)  

“‘… The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable, otherwise the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.”  (#53)

“There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good….”  (#54)  With this kind of attitude toward certain interested sectors of the issue, who claim a right or need to participate, how can the repeated call for open and honest dialogue ever be honored?  Of course participants will have vested interests, the Aparecida Document notwithstanding. In particular, that Aparecida Document is mentioned in an article in America Magazine, saying “one particular aspect of Pope Francis’ biography [is] his relationship with the Fifth Latin American Episcopal Conference held in May 2007 in Aparecida, Brazil, and its possible consequences for this pontificate. At Aparecida, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected by his brother bishops to chair the important committee charged with drafting the final document. This was not an incidental fact but a token of his leadership in such events.”  [With more time and resources it would be interesting to revisit the Aparecida document and examine it as a source for Laudato Si, considering even that wider publicity for Aparecida might be one of the purposes of the Laudato Si encyclical.]

“…this Encyclical welcomes dialogue with everyone so that together we can seek paths of liberation.”  (#64)  Given concerns about the infiltration of Liberation Theology, the word choice seems odd.

“To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power.” (#129)

“We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision.” (#141)  This is reminiscent of the “central planning” of socialist countries.

“…social ecology is necessarily institutional, and gradually extends to the whole of society….” (#142)

“A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries.”  (#164).

“…the international community has still not reached adequate agreement about the responsibility for paying the costs of … energy transition.” (#165)

“World Summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations because, due to lack of political will, they were unable to reach truly meaningful and effective global agreements on the environment.”  (#166)

“… the 1972 Earth Stockholm Declaration … enshrined international cooperation to care for the ecosystem of the entire earth, the obligation of those who cause pollution to assume its costs and the duty to assess the environmental impact of given projects and works…. (#167)

“International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interest above the global common good.” (#169) Shouldn’t this statement be clarified to say “alleged global common good,” since so much is unproven, except the ever-persistent desire for more cash from the wealthier nations?  What countries’ representatives, assuming the responsibilities for which they were elected, would not see their job as primarily protecting their own nations’ interests?  How does subsidiarity fit into these concepts at all, when it involves a denial of free will of the individual, and denial of sovereign rights of nations?

“As the bishops of Bolivia [at a Bolivian Bishops Conference] have stated, ‘the countries which have benefited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused.'” (#170)

“Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.” (#173)

“What is needed … is an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called ‘global commons.'” (#174)

“The same mindset which stands in the way of making ‘radical decisions’ to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of the goal of eliminating poverty.  A more responsible overall approach is needed to deal with both problems: the reduction of pollution and the development of poorer countries and regions.” (#175). 

“It is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions, with functionaries who are appointed fairly by agreement among national governments, and empowered to impose sanctions.”  (#175).  And in this very sentence, discussed in Part IX relative to an out-of-context quote attributed to Pope Benedict, all the dangerous elements are exposed in a clear statement of how someone can argue that the “end justifies the means.”   From whence comes the hope that nations, governments and politicians, so roundly criticized for inability (or unwillingness) to act, to rule, govern and sanction will then appoint (unelected) ‘functionaries’ in a super secular and greedy world who will be effective, responsible and above reproach? Doesn’t the entire argument collapse on itself!  Or else, perhaps confessionals will no longer be needed, if people transcend all temptation and greed and intimidation!  More likely, the faults of a persistently fallen human race will not be erased by new ways to manipulate, but rather be stimulated by the opportunity.

“…the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth.” (#193)  Who will interpret the balance between what is truly ‘just’, and what is covetous?

There is also a challenge to private property rights in Laudato Si:

“In some places, … the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty….”ecological” neighborhoods … are closed to outsiders … we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities….” (#45)

“The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.’  The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property.”  (#93)

“Saint John Paul II…explained that ‘the Church does indeed defend the legitimate right to private property but she also teaches no less clearly that there is always a social mortgage on all private property, in order that goods may serve the general purpose that God gave them.'”(#93)  [Context not verified.]

“The world was created by the three Persons acting as a single divine principle, but each one of them performed this common work in accordance with his own personal property.” (#238)  [Meaning is not obvious; context not verified.]

Collectivism, Marxism, Socialism?

If some of the above statements sound suspiciously like socialism, or Marxism or Collectivism (i.e. the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it; the theory and practice of the ownership of land and the means of production by the people or the state,)  it is not surprising.  ‘Tis the perennial error in the swing of the pendulum to the left.

Certainly this is NOT to say that Pope Francis is or is not a collectivist or any version of that ilk, as not enough information is provided. Rather, it is to note the risks of associating the Catholic Church with those who are socialists, and the dangers that they will misuse and abuse all that many hold dear, being especially divisive within the Church, e.g. against Americans, whose God-given Freedoms are enshrined in our constitution, and bred in our bones.  In Part XI, we will consider what some might regard as hostile statements in Laudato Si aimed toward the North American continent in particular and relate more of the context between Pope Francis’s and Cardinal Ratzinger’s words.

The author Messori recounts Ratzinger’s words:

“… in the West, the marxist myth has lost its attraction for the young and even for the workers. There is an attempt, therefore, to export it to the Third World on the part of those intellectuals who actually live outside countries dominated by ‘real Socialism’, indeed, it is only where marxism-leninism is not in control that there are still people who take its illusory ‘scientific truths’ seriously.” (Page 187, Ratzinger Report).

“[Cardinal Ratzinger] … then went on to tell me how dismayed he was by reading many of these theologians: “A continual refrain is this: ‘Man must be liberated from the chains of politico-economic oppression; the reforms are not enough to liberate him, indeed they lead away from liberation; what is necessary is revolution, and the only way to bring about a revolution is to summon people to the class struggle.’ Yet those who repeat all this seem to have no concrete and practical idea how a society could be organized after the revolution. They limit themselves to repeating that the revolution must be brought about.” (Page 189, Ratzinger Report).

It is difficult to conclude that such ‘revolution’ isn’t part of the Laudato Si underpinning, or that class warfare isn’t stimulated by putting targets on the backs of those with ‘more’ than others.  If it were only a matter of evangelizing the individual soul to aspire to more charity, it would be an understandable approach.  But to pit souls against each other in what can become a free-for-all grab bag seems irresponsible.

Laudato Si — “Subsidiarity is Vital” — Part IX

July 26th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The Principle of Subsidiarity

The Catholic Church strongly embraces the Principle of Subsidiarity in its social teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in paragraphs 1883 through 1885 regarding subsidiarity is excerpted as follows:

CCC 1883: “…. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative.  The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which ‘a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.'”

CCC 1884:  “….The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities.  They should behave as ministers of divine providence.”

CCC 1885:  “The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention.  It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies.  It tends toward the establishment of true international order.”

Lip Service to Subsidiarity

Unfortunately, in my perception, Laudato Si gives a bit of lip service to the principle of subsidiarity but then proceeds to seriously violate the principle in repeated appeals to solving the world’s environmental and ecology ‘problems’ at a secular level of the highest order.  The word “subsidiarity” only occurs twice in the 40,000+ word Encyclical:

“Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development.  It has also to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity. Outstanding among those groups is the family as the basic cell of society. Finally the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues.  Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.” (#157)

“What happens with politics?  Let us keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power.  Today, it is the case that some economic sectors exercise more power than states themselves.  But economics without politics cannot be justified, since this would make it impossible to favour other ways of handling the various aspects of the present crisis.  The mindset which leaves no room for sincere concern for the environment is the same mindset which lacks concern for the inclusion of the most vulnerable members of society.  For “the current model, with its emphasis on success and self-reliance, does not appear to favour an investment in efforts to help the slow, the weak or the less talented to find opportunities in life.'”  (#196)  The quote with which the prior excerpt ends is by Pope Francis quoting himself in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelium Gaudium, November 24, 2013.

Losing the Sense of Subsidiarity

Quotations from Laudato Si seem to shift away from the Principle of Subsidiarity, and rarely return to justify recommended actions even as a test related to subsidiarity. Rather, the conclusions appear to advocate placing key world decisions in the hands of a type of centralized planning committee.  It should be noted that paragraph #195 ends with the assertion:

“An instrumental way of reasoning, which provides a purely static analysis of realities in the service of present needs, is at work whether resources are allocated by the market or by state central planning.”  (#195).

Once again the language confounds, but seems to be asserting that free market factors or central planning, so common to socialistic states, are equivalent on their relevant bases. (This is of course not true; there is no comparison between the exercise of God-given free will, and slavery to dictatorship, no matter how seemingly benevolent.) Thematic to this encyclical (which will be expanded in later Parts) is a sense that much of humanity is not to be trusted with its free will regarding the environment. We should remember, even when we misuse or abuse the environment, that God Himself is not intervening to reverse our actions; He gives free will to us and it has its price! Perhaps there is more need to trust each other in these matters than to institute centralized human control? See CCC 1884 above.

So, there is no evidence or proof given to justify the assertion of equivalency between resources allocated by the market (and human will) vs. central planning.   But it is in this context that we can view the numerous assertions in Laudato Si that decisions of world wide import should be handled at a level which supersedes the rights of sovereign nations and de facto ignores subsidiarity.  For most people in western cultures, valuing freedom and self determination, such assertions likely appear socialistic.  And, as mentioned above, the Catechism is clear in Paragraph 1885: “The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism.”

In Part X of this series, many of the Collectivist and Socialistic quotes from Laudato Si will be reported.  But first it is important to consider how Church teaching stands on the shoulders of prior magisterial pronouncements.

Magisterial Teaching of Subsidiarity

Previously in Part II it was mentioned that all the quotes in Laudato Si would be taken at face value as being the words of Pope Francis, without attempting to dissect the quote and its context and prior references.  So far, that has been true. But arriving at this section on subsidiarity, which is an essential underpinning of a global teaching on environmentalism, pollution, alleged climate change and imposing of penalties, it is absolutely necessary to first revisit the basis for the teaching, especially since Pope Francis uses quotes by other papal sources to justify or support his own teaching.  We must remember that Popes do not simply pop up unconnected to all prior history but, rather, they are the custodians of all prior magisterial teaching. They are protectors of doctrine. Thus, when I did read the following reference in Laudato Si (#175), it did not ring true to me regarding either the Catechism paragraph 1885, or Pope Benedict’s own words in the Ratzinger Report (see Part X).  Hence, I put aside, for this particular instance, the prior guideline to simply accept all quotes at face value as belonging to Pope Francis (no matter who is cited.)  In this case, with a teaching expected to stand on the shoulders of prior papal teaching, it is vital to confirm what Pope Benedict is reported to have said.  My own interpretation does not support that conclusion of Laudato Si.

A Problematic Excerpt (more…)

Laudato Si — “Sustainability” — Part VIII

July 22nd, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Code Words and the U. N.

There is a code word that the United Nations and its liberal affiliates and supporters use to justify abortion in particular.  One of the participants (rumored to even be a contributor) to Pope Francis’ environmental Encyclical has been reported to believe that the earth cannot “sustain” the 7 billion people who inhabit it at present.  It is that concept of “sustainability” and a determination to ‘play God’ which leads to contraception, abortion, euthanasia, curtailing medical treatment for the elderly and promotion of same-sex unions, which of course are not expected to give rise to big families, or perhaps not to any families at all.

War, diseases like Ebola (where did it go? was it just a test case for global spread?), and plague all have their part in finding solutions such as advocated by Hitler as the ‘final solution.’ Such are the kinds of factors which have brought pressure on the Vatican from the U.N., involving charges of ‘torture’ for refusing to accept same-sex unions. Such are the kinds of financial pressures governments like the U.S. brings on the sovereign nations of Africa to force them to support abortion and same-sex unions.  Such are the kinds of pressures for which Canada and the U.S. seek to seize public education, to grow children who are blind to evil so that there will be no turning back.  Sustainability of the earth becomes the argument, or at least a code word for the argument. It is a profound lack of trust in the God Who created humankind, and said: “Go forth and multiply.”  If successful, it will dwarf the Holocaust.  The stakes are enormous; it is about souls, not environmental pollution.

Make no mistake, the code word of “sustainability” is  sprinkled throughout Laudato Si, not overtly challenging our Faith today, but only death-rattling sabers in the closet.  It would be very difficult to say this word is only accidentally the same as the U. N. code word, although we have no way of knowing if the text was supplied by others and naively accepted.

The Influence of International Conferences and Organizations on a Catholic Encyclical

If you don’t know about the U.N.’s sustainability goals, a primer can be found at:  and and

Of concern in the Encyclical is footnote #18 which references Global Responsibility and Ecological Sustainability,” closing remarks from the Halki Summit I, Istanbul June 2012. We are presented with no explanation or credible argument why such theories outside the Catholic Church should form a basis to teach on “sustainability.” Without one’s having received any explanation, it would appear from the Encyclical that Pope Francis and its other authors, if any (unidentified), seem to have bought into  the U.N. agenda, wholesale.

One can also read the 26 page Rio report referenced in Laudato Si (dated 2010 but covering through conferences in 2012!) Even a quick perusal shows similar language and mindsets to Laudato Si.  It seems inappropriate to have an Encyclical of the Catholic Church depend on so much secular and pseudo-government propaganda.  Here is the link:   .

“The Earth Charter” formulated in The Hague in 2000 is another one of the documents behind the Encyclical and referenced in it.  More info is here:  The related quote is: “Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.”  (#207) 

One gets the impression with these document references that Laudato Si is not leading the way but rather is following the One World route long plotted and lobbied.

Let us further develop this “sustainability” thread through the following Encyclical quotes:

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” (#13)  

“… the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development.” (#18)

“…some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate …. developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of ‘reproductive health’…  it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment….” (#50)  So far, perhaps so good in identifying issues, but then Pope Francis misses a major opportunity in this paragraph to condemn the practices he recounted, pressure on Africa in particular and policies like China’s “one child” program.  One has to ask WHY he would introduce the subject and then miss the opportunity to teach, in an encyclical explicitly said to be targeted to the world. Instead of expounding on the morality of such issues, the author attacks waste in wealthier countries, a U.N. priority agenda item, which seeks ways to extricate funds from wealthier countries to support the U.N.’s efforts!

“There are regions now at high risk and, aside from all doomsday predictions, the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view.”  (#61)

“…when we speak of “sustainable use” consideration must always be given to each ecosystem’s regenerative ability in its different areas and aspects.”  (#140)  However, continuing to read, we note there is no prescription to change what is railed against.  This will be expanded in a further part of the analysis regarding the potential role of socialism and/or Marxism as a solution, though not specifically named.

“We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity….[which is] not optional but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we  have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” (#159)  This is the lead-in section to the shocking language reported earlier regarding how we leave the planet being the “ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.”

“The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro … proclaimed that ‘human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.”  This statement is ambiguous as it can mean both the reduction in number of human beings or reduction of their reproduction, almost always through immoral practices, or it can simply mean it will take human beings to fix global problems. Generally, it is not useful to recount the ambiguous, except in cases where the ambiguous could be a deliberate cover for that which cannot be morally articulated.

“…we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development….  Efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money …., but rather an investment capable of providing other economic benefits in the medium term….”  (#191)  In the very general words which follow, there is no suggestion as to how consumption can be decreased without getting rid of people!  Or by strongly contracepting future generations.

The foregoing paragraph seems to be somewhat disjointed with what follows:   “…talk of sustainable growth usually becomes a way of distracting attention and offering excuses.  It absorbs the language and values of ecology into the categories of finance and technocracy, and the social and environmental responsibility of businesses often gets reduced to a series of marketing and image-enhancing measures.”  (#194)  

The conflict between those two final quotes may be a proxy for “sustainability” is whatever the U.N. or self-appointed committees and organizations say it is, when they define or redefine.  From that viewpoint it is about power, in a different form. leading to socialistic overtones.

But from so much that has been written, it appears that support of the U.N. “sustainability” arguments seem to ultimately put Catholics in a spiritually untenable bind.  The language  rests uncomfortably side-by-side with inconsistent or unacceptable implications such as:

  • If we really accepted the concept of unsustainability, which is unproven like global warming and climate change, how do we protect against the creep toward a “lesser of two evils” argument?
  • Is aiding U.N. objectives regarding environment and pollution also abetting their immoral strategies?
  • Since the most crucial resource of a human being is time, a totally non-renewable resource, where and how do the activities demanded by saluting the ‘sustainablilty flag’ impinge on our greater spiritual duties?

The reader can see that language and vocabulary are being picked and chosen very carefully in both U.N. quotes and in the Encyclical to avoid too obvious a statement of incompatibility between goals.  But what is especially disappointing is that, given the ear of the world, there  is no  taking ‘head-on’ the refutation of the evil being foisted through the programs of the U.N. and other aligned organizations.

Laudato Si — Truth is not the Enemy — Part VII

July 21st, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

NOTE:  The prior post listed as Part VI –“Truth Matters in Theology and Science” was too long and has now been split into Parts VI and VII.  Part VI still deals with consensus as undermining Truth. This new Part VII is the second half of the prior post, now entitled “Truth is not the Enemy,” and it deals with how an impaired approach to Truth can lead to hostility toward and abandonment of Truth itself.   Part VI originally posted is now Parts VI and VII.  Other than minor typo corrections, the content is the same.  Thank you for your patience!

Chapter 3 of Laudato Si is a diatribe against science and technology, innocuously titled: “The human roots of the ecological crisis.

One hardly knows, as either a scientist or a logician, how to answer what appears to be a hostility and a diatribe against science and technology, and the heart of the experimental method for which Catholic Church leaders and best thinkers, over centuries, accelerated development and breakthroughs.  Are we now to abandon the methodology so supported by those leaders in order to slow down to nth world progress? It seems that might be the point:

“The basic problem…is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm …[which] exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object.  This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental methods, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation….as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation.” (#106) (Second emphasis mine.)  I simply wrote the very unscientific word “YIKES!” in the margin, when I perceived an almost total lack of respect for even the fundamentals of the scientific and technological, throwing out the value of centuries of the scientific method as if it were the cause of people going astray!  We have been warned.  Continuing to see technology blamed, we read:

“…many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency… to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society.  The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life.  We have to accept that technological products are not neutral….”  (#107)  And, so, under this papacy, science and technology seem to have become an enemy.  Whether that is because Pope Francis hates it or fears it or is completely baffled by it, is still unknown.  Absent from most all this writing is even a head nod to the scientific breakthroughs in the medical arena, for example.  Further, in his condemnation of the throwaway culture (let us hope science isn’t becoming one of the throwaways) there is not even an acknowledgement that disposables have been key to infection control.

“The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic…. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology  ‘know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race,’ that ‘in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all.’…our capacity for making decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.” (#108)  Space for my “alternative creativity?”

In spite of this apparent aversion to science and technology, Pope Francis seems more than willing to appropriate it for global warming and climate control arguments, even though those are unproven.  Moreover, the Encyclical reads like science and technology have a Darth Vader or HAL type of existence, independent themselves.  The only independence that matters for science is TRUTH, and that is in short supply. Today, one cannot wish a disease to go away on its own, or deliver water without relatively high pressure aqueducts and treatment systems, or communicate globally without satellites and high speed devices.  The evil is not in these, but in those of unformed conscience, abusers, exploiters, not in those technologies themselves.

Pope Francis writes further:

“Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal.” (#110)  I thought the Catholic Church was supposed to provide this role, even at the risk of unpopularity, and do so with persistence, not simply to mimic the words of other world powers.  If that is a function of Church, then merely condemning the tools of progress is a failure.  In retrospect, on reading and rereading this particular subject matter, I realize this section is a large part of the “downer” experience of reading this Encyclical, and not because science and technology are being condemned, but they are seen as the enemy BECAUSE, in my opinion, of what the Church has failed to do.  Nowhere in this Encyclical have I been able to detect even a nod to the Greatest Commandment.  Nowhere have I read of the effort and commitment to form and care for souls obedient to Christ’s teaching.  Nowhere have I read in these words that the Lord’s burden is light and He will lift ours if we but turn to Him, or gratitude for exercising the gifts He has given us.  It is the dullness and aching of a world not turned to Christ. The readers have a right to look for some hope.  There is, in this Encyclical, a serious lack of fault-finding with how churches have implemented and witnessed to Christ’s teaching.  (And I have read NOTHING of Pope Francis’ resolutions about changes he intends to make in the Vatican, travel, communications, Synod trappings, his own life and diet and teachings, etc.)

Have Science and Technology outpaced human kind?  No, the human race and its human teachers have fallen short of keeping up with Truth, and witnessing to the Word, which  cannot be hidden.  The answers are to be found in the soul, not in the gene, the byte or the atom.  Interestingly, Pope Francis calls for a “bold cultural revolution” (#114) which is reminiscent of the Communist use of young people to enforce Mao’s beliefs, to destroy what was good, to create a bleak landscape.  A cultural revolution it was called.  Google it.  And its damages persisted for many years.  Perhaps the words in the Encyclical are simply a slip of the tongue, but the following words are similar to what was said about art, theater, writing and culture during the reign of the Red Guard.

Stop the World, I want to get off?

Finally, perhaps, we catch a glimpse that Pope Francis would like the developed world to slow down, perhaps to let other economies “catch up.” He seems to want to turn back the clock and give the nth  world time to catch up! The dilemma is how to even have a rational conversation on the subject.  But we should note these words carefully:

“Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way.” (#114)

“How can a society plan and protect its future amid constantly developing technological innovations?” (#177)

“But we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development.” (#191)

“…given the insatiable and irresponsible growth produced over many decades, we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late.”  (#193)

“…the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resource for other places to experience healthy growth.” (#193)

How can one not wonder if there isn’t some coveting going on globally?

Global warming then, and alleged climate change, might become an effective hammer to use for another agenda, for which Truth seems unimportant.  Rallying world action (even if unharnessed or in the wrong direction) may be seen as at least moving, readying for a leader to take control.

There is another point which seems to be a disconnect with how researchers really work.  Pope Francis writes:  “…it is essential to give researchers their due role, to facilitate their interaction, and to ensure broad academic freedom.” (#140).  It is interesting how most any researcher trying to argue against global warming or climate change can hardly feel they are assured “broad academic freedom” or that they have any chance of securing adequate funding for their programs.  One also has to be careful to allow researchers to develop their appropriate roles and not be like Big Brother peering over their shoulders.  “Facilitate” sounds a lot like “control.”

“…since the effects of climate change will be felt for a long time to come, even if stringent measures are taken now, some countries … will require resources….”  (#170)

This is an interesting conclusion, without details.  Regarding so-called “climate change” — we don’t know if it is real, how its caused, or what is its likely trajectory. but there is a sureness that it will be “felt for a long time to come”.  On the other hand, an almost throwaway sentence earlier, in paragraph #168, points out something which I don’t believe has received much attention:  “Thanks to the Vienna Convention for the protection of the ozone layer and its implementation through the Montreal Protocol and amendments, the layer’s thinning seems to have entered a phase of resolution.” (No references). Who knew that what was so often reported as a damaged ozone layer, expected to persist for centuries, is being resolved?  Why don’t we know that, and does it indicate a resiliency in nature that some don’t want to admit?  Does it bode well for resolving global warming, if it exists now?  And are the claims of persisting “for a long time to come” grossly exaggerated for the sense of pushing program implementation?

Perhaps it is best to close this Part VII on the note with which we opened Part VI:  “Honesty and truth are needed in scientific and political discussions.” (#183)  Too bad we haven’t seen that with respect to the unscientific seizure of global warming and climate change rhetoric.

Laudato Si — Truth Matters in Theology & Science — Part VI

July 19th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Truth Matters!  And, in all matters, TRUTH!

Unfortunately that statement doesn’t seem to apply to global warming or climate change, in politics, government, academia, social conversation or, now apparently, in Encyclicals. I do admit, having somewhat of a science background myself, it is a particularly irritating situation.  I’ve already posted  my position  on global warming on Cleansing Fire, so I won’t belabor it, except to add that if science does not pursue truth, then it isn’t science.  Therefore, I find it especially troubling to have the Pope setting forth, as truth, an alleged “consensus” of scientists and even giving his reason for settling for less than Truth.

Lack of Truth leads to bad judgment, and leaves little room to reverse judgment.  We need look no further than Christ’s standing before Pilate to see the abuse and error which open up when one ignores the abyss of lies and innuendo, especially to please an audience. The expectations of the audience become part of the pressure not to recant.  The famous passage is in the Gospel of John, 18:37-38, when Pilate speaks to Christ:  “Pilate said to Him, ‘So you are a king?’  Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears My voice.’  Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?  After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, ‘I find no crime in Him.’”  Then, as we know, Pilate sent Jesus to the Cross.  It is one thing to know the Truth, it is another to witness to Truth (which cannot be compromised without alienating our relationship to HIM — the Person, Truth.)

Yes, Truth matters.  In the Gospel of John we have 21 verses using the word ‘truth’ – overwhelmingly referring to Jesus.  We also have 21 verses using the word ‘love’ and 16 verses using the word ‘light’ – all favorite words of the Evangelist.  (There are 5 verses using the word ‘poor.’)

Rio and a model for accepting half-truths

There is a section of Pope Francis’ Encyclical which I find especially disturbing regarding commitment to Truth. For all his avowal of a global warming reality, Pope Francis lets slip in paragraph #186 his compromise argument.  It is worth reading in its entirety:

The Rio Declaration of 1992 states that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a pretext for postponing cost-effective measures which prevent environmental degradation.  This precautionary principle makes it possible to protect those who are most vulnerable and whose ability to defend their interests and to assemble incontrovertible evidence is limited.  If objective information suggests that serious and irreversible damage may result, a project should be halted or modified, even in the absence of indisputable proof.  Here the burden of proof is effectively reversed, since in such cases objective and conclusive demonstrations will have to be brought forward to demonstrate that the proposed activity will not cause serious harm to the environment or to those who inhabit it.” (#186)  It is troubling that the words from a conference in Rio held 23 years ago should be a standard against which to justify a major macroeconomic project related to unproven global warming and climate control allegations, a project which, once undertaken, will be difficult to ever stop and will burden all sectors of society, including the poor.  But the issue isn’t about making judgments on less than full information, but rather avowing the “truth” of global warming and climate change, which lacks proof but anecdotally drives public opinion, which is not science.  To be clearer, it is one thing to evaluate an invasive project in the environment (dam building, fracking, harvesting nearly extinct species) and require it present the dangers and  safety issues with which it would be associated.  It is far different to make a world-wide pronouncement, invading rights of individuals and sovereign states, using up enormous financial resources, without proof of its necessity.

Of course it is quite reasonable that proponents of a project should have to justify the safety of a project before undertaking it.  This is not just a theoretical issue; closer to home, we have the issue of fracking, with sincere people on both sides of the issue.  Pope Francis states well the concerns of many regarding fracking, especially in the Finger Lakes Region, when he writes:  “…some questions must have higher priority…water is an indispensable and scarce resource, and a fundamental right which conditions the exercise of other human rights.  This indisputable fact overrides any other assessment of environmental impact on a region.” (#185)

I wish Pope Francis had done more to mitigate the risk that his aligning with global warmers will come back to bite the credibility of the Catholic Church.  Again, I think of the error of Pope Urban VIII’s pursuing geocentrism, obviously without sufficient evidence to have done so, and we’ve been hearing about it ever since.

Truth or consensus?

Truth does not depend on consensus, and it is a shame to see Pope Francis even using such a justification.  We remember the important words of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen: “The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it, and error is error even if everyone believes it.  But since Pope Francis hasn’t argued “private revelation” it seems fair to read the Encyclical at face value.  And part of the “face” that is shown is an introductory comment in paragraph #15:  “I will begin by briefly reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best scientific research available today, letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows.”  Pope Francis says it clearly:  “The best scientific research available today.”  Unfortunately, it may be the “best” but it is not nearly good enough!  A bad foundation is worse than no foundation; i.e. it is better to not know something, than to ‘know’ an untruth.

Here are further quotes from Laudato Si in support of the unproven hypotheses of global warming (now called climate changes, as some places were getting embarrassingly cool.)  It is still not clear if  “climate change” means it might change so prevent it, or it has already changed, so change it back.  It seems to me it often means “just do something!”  Perhaps it means whatever the speaker means it to mean?  (The reason for notation of  “no references” in this following section is because of the disputes associated with so many conclusions, one would expect at least one source of the conclusion to have been given.

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.” (#23)  No references.

“…this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon.” (#23)  No references.

“It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases… released mainly as a result of human activity.  (#23)  No references.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications…. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.”  (#25)  “Probably?”  What kind of definitive conclusion is that, to launch global actions which are challenged by other experts?

“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation.”  (#25)  No references.  (Should clarify volume of migrants vs. causes of migration; e.g.  What percentage is due to religious persecution?)

NOTE:  The prior post listed as Part VI –“Truth Matters in Theology and Science” was too long and has now been split into Parts VI and VII.  This Part VI still deals with consensus as undermining Truth. A new Part VII is the second half of the prior post, now entitled “Truth is not the Enemy,” and it deals with how an impaired approach to Truth can lead to hostility toward and abandonment of Truth itself.   The Part VI originally posted is now Parts VI and VII.  Other than minor typo corrections, the content is the same.  Thank you for your patience!


Laudato Si — Do we see any Syncretism? — Part V

July 17th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

This Laudato Si — Part V commentary, begins with a definition:

“Syncretism:  the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.”

The authentic Catholic Church proceeds very carefully to avoid syncretism, which leads to a dilution or misrepresentation of our Faith.  For example, in Haiti there has been a long standing problem of some laity trying to inculcate voodoo practices into the Mass and other liturgies, and that is not allowed.  However, in Africa, where dancing at Church services is historic practice, accommodations are made to allow for that joyful expression to continue on the part of attendees, such as in their bringing forth their offerings, but not to become Liturgy itself.  When culture, e.g. North American, tries to graft on legitimate parts of another culture, and transform bonafide, joyful processional dancing into liturgical dance in the aisles of a Cathedral, even if it didn’t violate Faith teachings, it would still look just plain silly!

Syncretism is far more serious than just looking silly.  Without having any experience in differentiating what is liturgically acceptable and what is not,  it is still possible to point out what is disturbing in Laudato Si; i.e. that which evokes an aura of juxtaposing what is holy language serving the worship of God to what is common, secular, and materialistic,  serving the environment or the social agenda.  In a sense, use of words which we have come to know belong to our Catholic Faith are destabilized when used almost as “selling points” to push a separate agenda.

Although it is impossible to read Pope Francis’ intentions regarding his word choices, which convey or at least stir thoughts of syncretism, nevertheless it is possible and necessary to identify the text, and to caution that the such statements not be blithely accepted as elevating the created to an inappropriate dignity.  Here are examples; the problematic language is bolded.  Please note that this is not the same as saying something is true or untrue.  Rather, it only questions framing these issues using terms of religion in a way different from the catechism, scripture or canon law.  Confusion in faith causes risk to souls.

Some phrases are carefully attributed to other writers, even Saint John Paul II, and in original contexts, which I cannot assess; but Pope Francis’ use and repeated use make those also his own words.  Here are some quotes which raise questions of syncretism:

“…global ecological conversion.” (#5)

“…the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet…” (#8)

“…acknowledge our sins against creation…” (#8)

“…to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves …” (#8)

“As Christians, we are also called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion….” (#9)

“…We learn to see ourselves in relation to all other creatures: “I express myself in expressing the world; in my effort to decipher the sacredness of the world, I explore my own.'”  (#85)

“A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern ….” (#91)

“We human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage….” (#92)

Covenant between Humanity and the Environment” (#209)

“Ecologic(al) Conversion” (#216 to 221)

“The ecological conversion needed to bring about lasting change is also a community conversion.” (#219)

“… splendid universal communion …” (#220)

“… an ecological conversion can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm in resolving the world’s problems and in offering ourselves to God ‘as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable.’” (#220) (Reference is to Romans 12:1 – It seems fair here to note that Romans continues with “ …which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  The excerpt by Pope Francis does not seem to support the spiritual worship intent  and context of these verses of the Letter to the Romans.

“We … understand our superiority … as a different capacity which, in its turn, entails a serious responsibility stemming from our faith.” (#220) – A very tenuous leap at best, since our difference from other creatures is intrinsic; i. e. we are made in the image and likeness of God.

“… sublime fraternity with all creation.” (#221)

“Care for nature is part of a lifestyle which includes the capacity for living together and communion.” (#228)

“When we feel that God is calling us to intervene with others in these social dynamics, we should realize that this too is part of our spirituality, which is an exercise of charity and, as such, matures and sanctifies us.”  (#231)

“… community actions, when they express self-giving love, can also become intense spiritual experiences.” (#232)

Sacramental Signs and the Celebration of Rest” (#233)


Pope Francis’ choice to quote a Muslim Sufi Mystic

At this point, Pope Francis introduces text from the spiritual writer Ali al-Khawas, with a number of direct quotes.  A quick visit to Wikipedia (always subject to revision) states the following:  “In 2015 he [al-Khawas] was cited by the Roman Catholic Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato si’ on the topic of ecology.  Francis writes that humanity can ‘discover God in all things.’ ”  Pope Francis actually writes: “The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things.

He credits al-Khawas for the concept of nature’s “‘mystical meaning,’  to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.” In footnote 159, Pope Francis writes: “The spiritual writer Ali al-Khawas stresses from his own experience the need not to put too much distance between the creatures of the world and the interior experience of God. As he puts it: ‘Prejudice should not have us criticize those who seek ecstasy in music or poetry. There is a subtle mystery in each of the movements and sounds of this world. The initiate will capture what is being said when the wind blows, the trees sway, water flows, flies buzz, doors creak, birds sing, or in the sound of strings or flutes, the sighs of the sick, the groans of the afflicted…’” (#233)

Why does the Pope choose a 9th century Muslim Sufi poet and mystic for the key message in this section?   [St. Bonaventure and St. John of the Cross are next quoted].  Is bringing Sufism into proximity to the two saints, secondarily mentioned, any risk of Syncretism?  While contemplative prayer is open to those who have received such a gift from God, we should remember that those great saints were well grounded in Catholicism before, during and after their experiences.  There would seem to be little basis to analogizing or combining their experiences with cultures which do not accept Christ, for the sake of an environmental encyclical.

The TIME story is here:


The remaining quotes in the Encyclical which at least tread somewhat near to syncretism, are:

“The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God to become a means of mediating supernatural life.  Through our worship of God, we are invited to embrace the world on a different plane [sic].” (#235)

Speaking of the Eucharist, Pope Francis writes of Christ: “He comes not from above but from within….The Eucharist …embraces and penetrates all creation….” [I thought He came from above.  John 3:31.] (#236)

“The Eucharist is also a source of light and motivation for our concerns for the environment, directing us to be stewards of all creation.” (#236)  The Church has finely honed and passed on to us the specific and accurate language surrounding the Eucharist.  While we should continue to speak of that miracle in praise and thanksgiving, great care should be taken not to introduce “alternative” ways of speaking which can easily cause confusion, and thus denigration.  Clarity belongs to the Holy Spirit.

“And so the day of rest, centred [sic] on the Eucharist, sheds it [sic] light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor.” (#237)

“…the challenge of trying to read reality in a Trinitarian key.” (#239)

“The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures.  In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created.  Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.” (#240)  

“…crucified poor” (#241)



There is very little additional commentary to be made regarding syncretism.  The quotes stand for themselves, so most of them have been included.  One cannot speculate on Pope Francis’ motives in using so many words which have a particular meaning in Catholicism. We can only note the effect, which I personally find disturbing. It seems to leave too much room open for incoherent or dissident interpretations, troubling the unity mark of the Church, and opening yet another door to facilitate One World Religion.

However, I cannot say that this institutes or anoints Syncretism – only that if Syncretism were to be introduced under the guise of religious leadership in a transition from environmentalism to pantheistic worship, it might look somewhat similar.  And, let us remember St. Paul’s words (Galatians 4: 8-9): “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods: but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

Laudato Si – Pantheistic Worship Path to One World Religion – Part IV

July 15th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It is absolutely necessary to open this section with a statement that I neither believe Pope Francis is a Pantheist, nor that he has a hidden agenda to cooperate with global forces which are undermining true religion and pushing toward One World Religion.  However, I am of the opinion that such global forces are willingly taking advantage of the Teaching Office of the Church, and using Pope Francis’s sincerity, influence and prestige on their own chessboard.  And in that realm of earthly powers, sadly it appears that our Pope is more of a pawn than a king.  (In a future section, the question of ‘infallibility or not’ will be considered.)

The direct quotes from Laudato Si in this Part IV excerpt the threat and the momentum which are building for pantheistic ‘religion,’ already using the Encyclical as testimony. These quick glimpses of at least the language, if not also the practice, seem to be of a faith tinged with a pantheistic view.  It is a stretching of meaning which could be viewed as poetry but only in a limited sense, and not, it seems, in a document so lacking otherwise in the poetic.  Waiting for the next glimpse of Pope Francis’s own view, peering at us through the paragraphs, is a bit like catching the next quick appearance of the director in Alfred Hitchcock movies.  The following language (framed often as quotes, including Pope Francis’s own) is not offered as comprehensive, but just as examples that need far more explanation than is given in the Encyclical:

“It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.” (#9)

“Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us.  We have no such right.”  (#33)  Isn’t it debatable whether or not, in the rights which God gave to us, we did receive the right to make bad or stupid decisions?

“… humanity has disappointed God’s expectations.” (#61)

“The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us.  Soil, water, mountains: everything is … a caress of God.” (#85)

“To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope…. This contemplation of creation allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us, since for the believer to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a paradoxical and silent voice.” (#85)

“Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity.’”  (#92 — A missed opportunity to witness against abortion.)

“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and also which unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.”  (#92 – also shows lack of prioritization; i.e. “everything is important.”)

“…each creature reflects something of God and has a message to convey to us, and the security that Christ has taken unto himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding it with his affection and penetrating it with his light.”  (#221)

“Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology ….” (#225)

“In order to make society more human, more worthy of the human person, love in social life – political, economic and cultural –must be given renewed value, becoming the constant and highest norm for all activity.”  (#231)

“When we feel that God is calling us to intervene with others in these social dynamics, we should realize that this too is part of our spirituality, which is an exercise of charity and, as such, matures and sanctifies us.” (#231 – one can also see syncretistic language peeking through, which is covered later in Part V.)

Are we to take these foreboding clouds on the horizon seriously? (more…)

Laudato Si — Pantheistic Overtones? or Not? — Part III

July 12th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

It is the big and underlying question: “Is Environmentalism the Road to creating ‘One World Religion?’”  And is Syncretism the Portal through which it will pass?  The achievement of “World Peace” has often been equated, at least implicitly, as humans’ embracing a single religion, hence valuing the same things and despising the same things, so that no differences exist which divide people or lead to wars.

The impossibility of achieving such a goal of world peace was made clear by Christ:  “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”  (Matt 24:6). But even such divine statement does not dissuade some proponents from pursuing a fantasy of behavior modification to unite the world in a Utopian Theology, appearing over the ages under different forms, and in more recent times as Communism, Socialism, Aryanism, Racism, Liberationism, Capitalism, and dozens of other ‘isms’ and now, seemingly at least in some aspects, Environmentalism.  Of all the human-created ideologies, over thousands of years, there is perhaps none so dangerous to individual souls as environmentalism morphed into pantheism leading to selected worship of parts of the environment (The Old Testament is rife with examples).  And there is no Xtreme Environmentalism so dangerous as that which is foisted by religious leaders as de facto “religion.”  Pantheism (that God is ‘in’ everything, or God ‘is’ everything), easily is transformed to worship of any and all that is claimed to be the presence of God, i.e. idolatry, all under the name of ‘tolerance’.  But make no mistake, ‘One World Religion’ means no religion at all.

Discussion Plan

  1. Today’s post will deal just with the first part, the claim that God is (or is ‘in’) every aspect of the natural world, and whether or not a Neo-Pantheism is emerging.
  2. The next post will deal with the idolatrous aspect, by which the Chosen People so offended their God, repeatedly, in the high groves and even in the temple recesses.
  3. A further post will deal with Syncretism, i.e. appending aspects of “environmental religion” to true religion.
  4. A future post will look at the supposition of global warming (climate change) as the cover excuse under which we are urged forward onto a potentially dangerous, allegedly urgent path, i.e. driving the human community to act, and to act now, at the expense of much else that is truly needed for the good of souls.
  5. Other posts will address the sustainability content of the Encyclical, and conclusions about tone, infallibility and related matters.

It will be necessary to refer more to Sacred Scripture than Laudato Si did, not to presume to teach but to show points of discomfort with a number of the propositions offered in Laudato Si, or to provide a framework for further consideration.  I was shocked at how quickly and thoroughly the Encyclical supported such spurious and grossly unproven theories as climate change, and was reminded of Pope Urban VIII’s enthusiastic embrace of geocentrism, much to the eventual shame and embarrassment of the Catholic Church (more in a later post.)  One might even ask if Laudato Si isn’t, in its own evangelism, a new kind of geocentrism.

The physical world was created to serve humans, not humans to serve the environment

The history of mankind, as recorded in Sacred Scripture and in the fragments of the earth’s own archeological record, provides relevant exegesis.  In Genesis 1:26, God proclaims:  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  Note that nothing else, in whole or in part, is referred to as being in God’s image, thus setting the priority of humans over the rest of creation.  In Genesis 2:19-20, before the fall of the first parents, Adam is invited to exercise his precedence over the animals by naming them, an act of ownership.  Then, in Genesis Chapter 9: 2-3, Noah is given full stewardship of creation with a few specific conditions, (in sequence, just before he is given the right to exercise capital punishment.)  “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered.  Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”  And, so, all of nature is owned, named, and used, yet with alienation, which flows in consequence from the injured relationship between its Creator and His People, between His People and each other, and between the human race and the rest of creation.

Several statements from Pope Francis in Laudato Si raise some discomfort (more…)

Laudato Si — Overview — Part II

July 9th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris


In preparing to read Pope Francis’s Encyclical, Laudato Si, I had made a list of 10 questions under which the content would be considered (Part I of this series).  I have read the entire Encyclical, in its British English translation; obviously, any discussion will be affected by the limitations of the translator, who is not identified, and therefore we are without a “track record” against which to evaluate the likely accuracy of the translation, not only in content but also in tone.  But we have seen the disastrous track record for the Synod translations, so who would be surprised to find the same?  There are certain statements which would benefit from comparison to the Italian and Spanish content and there would be benefits from reading the footnote references too; however, for the sake of disclaimer, regarding this particular commentary, neither has been done.

Furthermore, although many articles keep appearing in print and on line, regarding various commenters’ reactions to the Encyclical, reading those articles was deferred (and remains deferred) until after completing this writing series, so as to keep to an independent review.  Of necessity, therefore, the insights of others are not being considered, but should be consulted for a reader’s broader view.  Not citing others’ comments on the encyclical neither supports nor opposes those comments through deliberate silence.  An encyclical deserves not only a thorough reading and digestion before commenting, but also some prayer for guidance.  I hope I have done enough of both.

To the reader: if you are intending to read the Encyclical, may I please suggest you do so before reading this series of posts, so that you too can form your opinion independently?

Footnotes and Framework

There are 246 paragraphs in the Encyclical; all references here and in the next installments will be to those paragraph “#” numbers, not to page numbers.  Many of the footnotes are to Pope Francis’s own encyclicals or to those of his predecessor popes, or to papal ‘catechesis’, or to Bishops’ meetings in various parts of the world.  Those original texts might lead to better understanding the context of the present Encyclical, but it is unnecessary to explicate those materials here, since Pope Francis made each reference his own by using it in his Encyclical, attributing his own interpretation. Since he indicated no disputes with the content he referenced, it may be unnecessary to evaluate whether the references actually do or do not support Laudato Si.

In contrast to the footnotes to other papal teachings or footnotes to a variety of hierarchical meetings, there is a virtual dearth of references and footnotes regarding scientific claims, studies or broad allegations; e.g. global warming and climate change are claimed as if they had already been proven.  While consensus or its appearance is claimed, consensus has virtually no value in determining truth.

After several weeks of asking a number of faithful Catholics whether or not they have read the Encyclical, hoping to promote some of the “dialogue” which Pope Francis requested 22x in the text, but with no responses that those asked have actually read the whole Encyclical (most have said “just a few pages” and that they stopped, or seemed unwilling or unable to enter into further discussion), rather than delay it seems appropriate to at least give my personal reactions and opinions, trying to rely always on Canon 212 and the superlative of TRUTH.

My overall reaction to the Encyclical is deep disappointment.

I am disappointed as a Catholic, as an American, and as a person trained in science.  The document reads more like a rambling and haphazard declaration of opinions, almost to the point of aggressive rant, admixed with a few facts, dipped in startling Marxist or socialist ideology (e.g. challenges to private property rights #93), yet with very little that is actionable, from a practical point of view.  That is not a judgment on Pope Francis,  which I am not empowered to do, but only of the fruit of his efforts, which we are always invited to judge. Matthew 7: 16-20 states: “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.”

An Encyclical should, above all, have the care of souls in mind. (more…)

Language Matters

March 13th, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Language makes a big difference, especially when there is an overt agenda to shape public opinion, and when the objective of the agenda runs counter to truth and morals.  Let’s revisit a few examples of hijacked language, to shed some light on the current question “What in the world is the Vatican thinking?”


least of theseThe pro-abortion lobby of 40 years ago didn’t use the term “pro-baby-murder,” and they made those who did into social outcasts. Insisting on a term like “baby murder,” would have better framed the battle, and revealed the real intent of the pro-death contingent. But, almost without consciously thinking, pro-lifers took up the words “pro-choice” to write and talk about the other side, and inevitably played into the hands of the culture of death.  After all,  isn’t having a choice a good thing?  Who can argue with having the right to pick and choose?   Aaah!  But choose what? That is where the agenda and the language run silent. Thus, the pro-death lobby was able to put the emphasis on the woman rather than on the child, and shaped the politics for 40 years and into the future, entrenching themselves on ceded ground by controlling the language and shaping the public conversation.

The rightly-named “pro-lifers” aided and abetted the pro-death lobby by using their language, by using the term “pro-choice” themselves, strengthening the culture of death, laying the groundwork for the current efforts  to characterize pro-lifers as terrorists.  Language does matter.  Now the same “right to choose” permeates the nascent wave of euthanasia. Many Catholics report that during the 42 years of shame they can count on one hand the number of sermons they heard against abortion.  Some say they never heard any such sermon.  It can pretty well be said that while language was being hijacked, “the pulpits were silent.”


A similar misuse of language permeates the same-sex unions agenda. Allowing that lobby to seize the word “marriage” distorts the entire issue,  and the irrational becomes difficult to rationally debate.  Using the word “marriage” to describe what the Judeo-Christian ethic (and others) saw as immoral and sinful for thousands of years isn’t even debated on the grounds of injury to the moral structure and/or good order of a country.  Use of the word “marriage” prepared the way for arguments not about the intrinsic identity of marriage, not about the care of children, but about perceived elements of marriage: as a good, a social institution, a legal structure, a celebratory event, a sexual relationship.   The elements, or the denial thereof, framed the argument for “same-sex marriage” even though it can never meet the test of true marriage.   Hence, it was necessary for that lobby to strike down the legitimately passed Defense Of Marriage Act, either in social practice, in the courts, or both.  The procreation of  children,  as a vital aspect of marriage, is naturally unachievable in a same-sex union, yet it has not prevented vain attempts to create trophy progeny.  And the pro-abortion lobby, by devaluing life and children, cultivated the ground for treating children as an afterthought to the argument.  

As in the case for abortion, the government’s role in driving the social engineering experiment is highly visible, from the early closing of adoption centers which refused to place children with same sex couples, to opening the military to all sorts of questionable permissiveness, to the economic pressures on African countries to force them to permit same-sex unions.  On a simple citizen impact level, when a baker is fined $100,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for such a union, there can be no doubt that cruel and unusual punishment is part of the strategy.  

By ceding the use of the word “marriage,” significant ground was overrun, which likely cannot be reclaimed on human effort alone, especially since people of good heart, though uncertain understanding, easily bought the civil rights argument.  And, again, “the pulpits were silent.”  Or mostly silent.  This past weekend, at the English Synod, Cardinal Burke (of recent heroic action) was quoted in LifeSiteNews as saying to “brace for martyrdom over marriage.”


It appears to me that those who most embrace the political concept of Global Warming are those with the least knowledge of science, or those who are scientists getting paid for their work in “proving” that global warming exists (or will exist).  In a prior post on Cleansing Fire I gave my reasons against buying into this tenet of the Religion of the Environment (the one global religion to unite the masses.)   Usually when the agenda-shapers launch their efforts they grab language that will become the battle cry for an extended period.  It is my perception that “global warming” is more easily debunked than “climate change” — not because either is true, but it covers both directions.  It is hardly credible to stand on top of our winter whitestuff crying “global warming,” but the agenda shapers have switched to “climate change” and mumble about something happening somewhere else causing cold spots (or hot spots.)  (I remember when it was called “weather” and some humorist quipped “Weather!  Everybody talks about it.  Nobody does anything about it.”  Now we have people in elected office who misunderstood the humor and have decided to “do something about it.”)  Aaaahh!  The Lord must laugh at their choice of a battlefield. And we should remember, in this context, that we are awaiting an encyclical from Pope Francis on global warming / climate change which has the risk of making him the modern Pope Urban VIII.  For another view, see what you think of Newsmax yesterday “There is no Global Warming.”  

So “Climate Change” is all inclusive, because whatever happens weather-wise the agenda-shapers can say “SEE! We told you.”  The variation in natural swings are over long periods of time, and now will be ignored, and every hurricane, snow-storm or flood will be attributed to “Climate Change” — something we need to be taxed to prevent.  While we can’t predict any outcomes on plain foolishness (as we can on more glaringly moral issues), we can be sure increased taxes will be one result. How can we be so sure?  Because manipulating the language is easier to understand if we follow the money.  Same-sex unions create votes which translate to power and thence to money.  And the recipients of the abortion largesse (like Planned Parenthood) are grateful too.


Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Vatican's UN Representative

Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, Vatican’s UN Representative

All of the above would simply be a tirade on the use of language for abuse and manipulation were it not needed as a reminder on the latest mixed signals coming from “The Vatican,” reported in an excellent LifeSiteNews article (3/12/15) by Steve Jalsevac entitled: “Vatican use of Population Control Word ‘sustainable’ at UN worrisome.”   I encourage you to read the entire, short article.  Here are some highlights:

“Current Vatican representatives at the UN do not appear to understand the dangers of uncritically using key, population control invented phrases in official Vatican statements to the United Nations … that … are causing the Church to give huge international reinforcement to the deceits and manipulations of de-populationist agendas. The use of the phrases “sustainable environment,” “sustainability reports” and “sustainability-related impact and performance” in a March 9 statement by Archbishop Tomasi, the Vatican’s chief representative to the UN, is the latest example of this worrisome trend.”

Cardinal Burke — A Light upon the Lampstand

March 1st, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris


This is an absurdly long post.  I know it.  But I’ve chosen to go ahead with it for three reasons:  1) Cardinal Burke deserves the best tribute to his righteousness that I can muster, and to do less would be unjust 2) This is more of a documentary post than a blog post and, lest the information and links be lost, it seemed convenient to put it all together in one place.  There are many subtleties which, if left out, destroy the tenuous fabric of the picture, and 3) while of a length better to submit for publication elsewhere, the delays, re-writing or red tape to pursue that outlet would needlessly delay what needs to be timely said.  However, if it does become possible to publish elsewhere, I will take down this post, if necessary.

OK, so what is the reader’s defense?

Scroll through to the conclusions at the end and decide if you want to read any of the analysis.  That makes sense to me, and I hope makes sense to those who just want to know the conclusions.  This subject isn’t going away. It is going to gain even more import as the agenda for Synod 2015 shapes up for next October.


This post attempts to go deeper on two prior Cleansing Fire posts:   Cardinal Burke quoted: “I will resist….” and its follow-up post: “Resisting”, Canon 212, and Galatians .  Clearly, Cardinal Burke’s reply, that he would “resist” a “change” to Church doctrine that would allow the validly married / divorced / ‘remarried’ to receive Holy Communion, has stirred much reflection and opinion.  Since it was a theoretical question, why would he answer it, something rarely done in high pressured interviews?  There may be three possibilities, any or all of which might be true, or not.  First, perhaps Cardinal Burke knows that it is not really a ‘theoretical’ question, but rather a likely happening, which is unfolding before his eyes.  Second, if the Pope is implicated in the orchestrating of the Synod toward the reported change, as some fear (and which Cardinal Kasper claims), Cardinal Burke will have pre-empted any subsequent order of obedience to the contrary.  Third, perhaps the Cardinal is preparing us for what we must do if even an angel were to try to preach another gospel to us.   In that case, he himself is modeling what we have a right to do if even a Pope attempts to change Doctrine.

Another reason for this post is that Annonymouse commented, asking “whether Cardinal Burke should be so outspoken, or whether he would be more effective to advance his arguments privately to the Holy Father”?  It is a good question, and deserves an answer, beyond yes or no.  The question prompted my looking carefully into some of the developments over the last year and a half, involving a number of different pieces of input, and peering into Vatican politics, making this a long, detailed post, but hopefully not without value.  Further, the more I looked into this matter, the more Cardinal Burke seems deserving of our gratitude, for his serving well the people of God.

The following observations and opinions are offered to advance our dialogue; good people can certainly disagree on the conclusions.  But the facts of what was reported in the media are unchanged and, to the best of my knowledge, accurate.  But I don’t have any special  insight into the situation, although  I do have one private communication from Cardinal Burke, sent during the Synod (!), in reply to my mailing last September to Cardinals and Bishops.  From small clues in public statements, from relatively unchallenged media rumor, from news reports, and from a certain momentum which has built up among the laity– all  shed further light, as from a Lampstand, on the role Cardinal Burke has manifested, and the sacrifice he has made to do so.   

Also considered in this analysis are the character and words of those who stand with Cardinal Burke, and the questionable reputations of some who sided against him; e.g. an article was recently published in which Cardinal Wuerl (who gives communion to flagrantly pro-abortion politicians!) criticized Cardinal Burke as a ‘dissenter’, reported by LifeSiteNews in an article “…pot calls the kettle black.”  

Background on Cardinal Burke in the Vatican

 Cardinal Burke 2  Let us begin, for perspective, by considering the role of Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke in the Vatican .    On June 27, 2008, Cardinal Burke was named by Pope Benedict XVI to be Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the first non-European to hold a position which is one of the most powerful in the Catholic Church, and includes oversight of the Roman Rota, which receives appeals regarding decrees of nullity from litigants in various Marriage Tribunals.  Abp. Burke was elevated to Cardinal in November, 2010, and was one of the Cardinal-electors who participated in the 2013 Conclave which elected Pope Francis.  Cardinal Burke clearly was deeply trusted by Pope Emeritus Benedict, who is one of the people who has stood by Cardinal Burke, most recently publicly praising his service after Pope Francis terminated him as a member of the Curia. 

Staffing changes in such powerful positions are not unexpected when a new Pope arrives, but “how” changes are made, even the slightest nuances, can project admiration or contempt for the person replaced.   The manner in which Pope Francis (and his “PR office” aka Vatican Press Office of Frs. Lombardi and Rosica) left rumors “hanging” for weeks,  and that he moved the 66 year old (relatively young) Cardinal from being head of the Vatican’s highest court into a largely ceremonial, relatively powerless position, has deeply concerned many faithful Catholics.  They see in the “way” it was handled, a “slap in the face” or  “punishment” for Cardinal Burke’s outspokenly traditional views expressed at the 2014 session of the Extraordinary Synod.  That may well be true, and it may even be that he himself was on trial (under pressure or threat) during the Synod before a final decision to remove him was announced three weeks later.   But it was a longer and deeper journey, in my opinion, than just the Synod, and one which needs to be told in order to answer Annonymouse’s question on behalf of many who might wonder why the matter couldn’t have been handled in an alternative, more interpersonal way.  By the end of this detailed post, one might even be wondering if Cardinal Burke himself welcomed reassignment and even provoked it.

Consistory Warning Bells

Pope Francis announced on October 8, 2013, 209 days after his election as Pope, the calling of  an Extraordinary Synod to be scheduled one year later.  In retrospect, one might be surprised at the rush to convene a Synod, although the immediacy was largely unremarked in the media.  In preparation for that Synod, there was  a consistory held in February 21-24, 2014.  By then, the somewhat ambiguous agenda for the Synod had morphed into the German Walter Cardinal Kasper’s own agenda (which that Cardinal would later claim had been overtly the Pope’s agenda, an allegation which Pope Francis has apparently neither acknowledged nor denied.) However, at least part of Pope Francis’s Synod agenda was prescribed in his own words in Zenit  on September 17, 2013 (before the Synod was announced) regarding the divorced, and remarried, and their receiving the Eucharist.  In a meeting with the priests of Rome, he said:  “It is a serious problem regarding the Church’s responsibility towards families living in this situation. The Church must now do something to solve the problem of marriage annulment”.  

These last 7 words very clearly separate Pope Francis’s view from that of Cardinal Burke.  The Cardinal sees that a couple is either married or not.  The annulment follows reality.  It is not a “problem” but an opportunity to establish the Truth, and there is a “right” to have the Truth established.  The Pope’s words, on the other hand, seem more oriented to the annulment being a facilitator of dissolution, rather than a finding of Truth.  What IS the “problem” of marriage annulment to which the Pope refers?   Is there really a “problem”?  Is an inconvenience to the obstinate sinner a problem?  Or is being out of step with secular government  a “problem”?  Or is holding the line on Christ’s teaching when other churches don’t do so a “problem?” Rather,  these might be seen as “glories” of the Church and of those who serve the Church.  (From St. Irenaeus in Against the Heresies:  “This is man’s glory–to remain steadfast in the service of God.”)

Pope Francis gave Cardinal Kasper extraordinary latitude  to dust off his writings from 20-30 years earlier (which apparently were never supported by Cardinal Ratzinger when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), or by Pope Saint John Paul II.)  Cardinal Mueller, now Prefect of the CDF, has vehemently opposed Cardinal Kasper’s so-called “pastoral” proposals, including his pressing to allow validly married, then divorced and ‘remarried’ persons to be able to receive the Eucharist (clearly against Church Teaching). Christ taught that such persons are adulterers. Therefore, those persons are in serious sin and cannot worthily approach the Eucharist.

With such free rein, Cardinal Kasper’s consistory speeches (prevented from dissemination, but parts are leaking out) primed the pump as early as February 2014, to prelates preparing an agenda for the Synod, effectively spotlighting who would likely be the supporters of Cardinal Kasper’s position, and who would not.  A majority of those invitation-only attendees of the first Synod session, in October 2014, voted ‘yes’ on three separate matters of controversy, although a necessary 2/3 majority vote was not achieved.  To complicate matters further, the three items rejected should have been left out of the final “Relatio” that was issued, but it was (questionably) attributed to Pope Francis that it should be left in, but with a mention that it had not passed the 2/3 vote.  Apparently that footnote is lost in some translations, and by the time the delayed English translation was available, marriage was no longer being described as just between a man and a woman, text on which the delegates had voted, adding further to the impression of a high level of manipulation in the document that is supposed to become a working document for the 2015 Synod session.  It is no wonder that faithful Cardinals, bishops and priests, as well as the laity, have a high level of concern and skepticism.

Duel of the Authors — not a level playing field

The February 2014 consistory meeting, in which Cardinal Kasper trumpeted his so-called “pastoral practice,” inevitably led to the realization that it would only undermine doctrine as well as true pastoral care,  if implemented. But, by then, the content was already in the Synod plans.  Such error was the real wake-up call for many traditional and faithful prelates, especially Cardinal Burke.  Many of the laity didn’t “get it” until the two Relatios were released during the eventual Synod.  Then the Catholic media and blogosphere were outraged, and the full import of the Kasper solution and its divisiveness in the Church was understood.

But Cardinal Burke did “get it”, at least as early as the consistory, if not earlier. ScreenShot238Over the next 6 months, in cooperation with Cardinal Mueller of the CDF and other noted theologians and experts, a book was produced, Remaining in the Truth of Christ. It was an extraordinary effort that must have been especially blessed by the Holy Spirit to have been completed and readied in such a short time, a noble effort to educate the prelates who would be attending and voting in the Synod.  Cardinal Burke addressed head-on why there is no “annulment problem” in his chapter: “The Canonical Nullity of the Marriage Process.”

The Appeal of Pope Francis

February 25th, 2015, Promulgated by Dominick Anthony Zarcone

The Democrat & Chronicle recently reported that during Lent  a series of presentations would be hosted at the Cathedral each Sunday (February 22nd to March 22nd) which explore the vision of Pope Francis.  For a number of reasons I do not find this series personally appealing.

My concern with the series of presentations, of course, has nothing to do with Pope Francis himself.  Personally, Pope Francis is appealing; not because he says what I want to hear said or because he does what I want to see done or because he writes what I want to read.  Because Francis is the Holy Father, the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, the Servant of the Servants of God, the Pope is personally appealing.  Because of his teaching office, the charism of infallibility, apostolic succession and his authority, Pope Francis is personally appealing.

Although the events are free and open to the public, my first problem with the series is the time of day: Sunday morning Holy Mass at 9:15 AM followed by a breakfast discussion from 10:30 to 11:30 AM.  That is close to the time on Sunday when devout Catholics gather with beloved faith communities at Holy Mass for worship, fellowship and service ministries. We are called to “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another….” (Compare Hebrews 10: 24, 25).  To attend the events at the Cathedral on Sunday mornings during Lent would take me away from the celebration of Jesus Christ within my family parish and would take me away from the holy responsibilities I have been given for service.  And yet, there are other concerns which make these events less appealing.

“Jesuit Spirituality: Source of Hope and Joy” sounds very interesting, but would I be unnecessarily distracted by remembering that the Jesuit presenter allowed two male teenagers to attend a dance together as partners?

“A Church That Finds New Roads” is a title that startles me.  Biblical exhortations that have influenced my heart for spiritual good include what Jeremiah wrote: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it and find rest for your souls.’”  The Lord Jesus Himself is quoted saying, “Enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

The title which is most appealing for me is “The Church of Mercy”.  Alas, I will not attend because of the call to experience the Mercy of God in Jesus Christ at my family’s home parish where we will celebrate and experience the Grace of God in both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Will those who present and will those who attend the series of events hosted at the Cathedral this Lenten season find an agenda for which they have advocated for years?   That some cardinal would surface leading them to the progressive papacy and dissident Catholicism to which the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, Pope Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI refused to go?  I certainly hope not!

May each discover in Pope Francis the Catholic Sacred Tradition which he preserves and by which he pastors universally.  If this is their discovery, they will discover in the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Catholic faith, the Catholic morality and Catholic mission all through which shines the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world.

We have a Pope.  Long live the Pope.