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Who’s Knocking on My Door?
To bring logic to bear upon the words of Pope Francis is a perilous undertaking: one must lay bare their intellectual frailty, as well as the muddled or dubious nature of the instructions they contain. To offer an honest analysis brings one close to ridicule, but how else can one respond to the ridiculous?
In a recent homily that was widely reported (see: “Pope reveals what hurts the heart of Christ the most in Santa Marta”), Francis spoke of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because its people had not recognized their time of visitation. Then, he said the following:
What prevents our recognizing these visitations and thus committing this novel “sin”? It seems that our fidelity to Catholic practices and the security we may feel as a result of that fidelity creates a major impediment to this delicate discernment. The Pope continues by putting presumptuous words into the mouth of his complacently pious straw man:
Although Francis mocks the moral certainty of the Mass-going Catholic, he prefaces his caricature with an almost despairing cry about the difficulty of recognizing our time of visitation:
So by his own admission, even so spiritually attuned a soul as Francis must daily endure this agony of uncertainty: he cannot know for sure when he has been visited by Christ. Yet, having included himself in the mass of those too obtuse to recognize a Divine visitation, he offers himself the absolution of agnosticism: Can any of us really know when, or if, God is visiting us?
The Pope concludes by quoting St. Augustine: “I am afraid of God, of Jesus, when He passes.” Francis then explains that St. Augustine’s fear is rooted in the inability to recognize a Divine visitation. He then exhorts us to pray for the grace to know when we are being visited. So ends the instruction.
Let’s piece this together and see where we stand: God visits us daily, asking us to do things, such as pray more, do more works of charity, etc. But those who go to Mass and observe the teaching of the Church cannot recognize these visitations because they are blinded by the security of self-righteousness. They are to be blamed, for lack of recognition is a sin. Then again, the Pope himself cannot, with certainty, say that he recognizes his own times of visitation. In fact, nobody can say they do, not even St. Augustine. There is even doubt about whether such visitations take place at all (“Does God visit me?”). All we can do is throw up a prayer of petition that somehow we will be given the grace of recognizing our visitations, even though we have little reason for confidence in the success of such a petition, for even St. Augustine and Pope Francis live in the darkness of doubt and fear in this matter.
It would be comforting to be able to dismiss this papal homily as an aberration, a misstep due to mental confusion brought on by some ailment or fatigue or old age. But the essence of the homily is sadly consistent with a theme that Francis has sounded, with increasing insistence, from the beginning of his pontificate: personal holiness arises from mystical impulses that bypass the sacraments and moral teaching of the Church. In fact, those who have confidence that fidelity to the Catholic Faith will lead them to salvation create a barrier, a hardness of heart, which prevents them from recognizing their times of visitation.
If we bear in mind the above statement, it will clear up any confusion that arises from the words and actions of Francis. He is very consistent and, one may believe, sincere. He is, however, miles removed from the Catholic Faith. And anyone listening closely to him and trying to conform his spiritual life to his teaching will end up placing little value in the sacraments and traditional morality, which will be thought inferior, if not opposed, to the directions of our frequent, if often opaque, Divine visitations.
The homily just analyzed presents a picture of one living in moral uncertainty, unable to tell whether he is responding to Christ, Who communicates in ways he cannot be sure of recognizing. It offers us a vision of the spiritual life as a kind of fearful introspection, monitoring one’s thoughts and feelings with an anxious attention, lest we miss Jesus when He passes by. And the chief enemy of this difficult discernment is the sense of security that comes from conforming one’s life to the Church’s teaching: “I go to Mass, I’m sure.”
The Pope’s vision of genuine religion is essentially that of many Protestant sects (see: “Pope to Commemorate 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation”), especially those of the Pentecostal type, where personal inspiration manifests in external signs. The Church’s drift in this direction has been going on since the Second Vatican Council, which opened the door to the charismatics. Charismatic Catholicism implicitly denies the centrality of the sacraments, as grace can come directly from the Holy Spirit, even to those excluded from the sacramental life, such as Protestants.
But the Pope’s vision, although it diminishes the centrality of the sacraments, is less aligned with the Charismatics than it is with Liberation Theology. To shift the emphasis of Catholic life away from devotion to the sacraments is the end game of both the Charismatic and Liberation Theology movements. The first wants to enjoy a sense of subjective exultation; the second, a sense of secular mission. Neither can accommodate the Catholic Faith as it has been handed down to us.
The current battle among bishops over the meaning of Amoris Laetitiae is a battle over what constitutes fidelity to Christ and His Church (see: “Fatima Center Special Report: Four Prominent Cardinals Publicly Challenge Francis”). The Pope and his champions, who call for case-by-case judgments on the local level of a public adulterer’s fitness to receive the sacraments, clearly want to discard the Church’s traditional teaching and adopt a flexible, personal interpretation of Revelation that relies on sincerity and individual discernment. If a person violates Church teaching on marriage but claims his relationship to Jesus is sound, well, who are we to judge? But, in fact, we do judge, especially if we are a bishop or a priest in charge of safeguarding the sacraments and the moral teaching of the Church.
In a larger context, Amoris Laetitiae is an endorsement of what is called immanentism, which is both a theory of how religion comes to be and how it is to be lived (see: “Immanentism: Catholicism and Religious Experience”). Immanentism is a heresy condemned by St. Pius X, for it was very popular in the early part of the 20th century. Its essential claim is that Faith arises from within, not from without. What is called Revelation, believed to be given from above, is actually a human spiritual impulse, externalized and projected onto a deity and formalized into a creed. But its origin is human, not Divine, unless one conflates the human and Divine, as some immanentists are wont to do.
Pope Francis’ counsel that we listen intently for Divine visitations has the practical effect of moving those who try to implement it toward immanentism. After all, no criteria are offered for how the authenticity of these visitations is to be determined. And it would seem that relying on orthodoxy is more of a hindrance than a help. In the end, if the Pope’s program is followed, we will either live in a state of uncertainty, wondering whether this or that impulse is divinely given, and fretting about what to do; or we may interpret our more intense emotions as heavenly mandates.
But the Pope does offer us some guidance in the form of his personal political preferences, which he presents as discernments of what Christ wants: open borders, an influx of Muslims, socialism, ecumenism, environmentalism, etc. But what if my visitations point me in another direction? (See: “SOCCI: FRANCIS A “FOREIGN BODY” IN THE CHURCH?”) The story of Protestantism is the tale of countless contending “visitations” and the devolution into a doctrinal chaos in which the only cohesion left is some form of do-goodism: deed, not creed.
The Church appears poised to break up, if such a thing were possible. On the one side is the general movement toward the dissolution of dogma and morals and an alignment with a left-wing, globalist agenda. We might call this the Pope’s soup-kitchen Catholicism, in which the Church pales into another Protestant sect whose only social value lies in offering some food to the homeless and Toys For Tots. On the other side are those few who remain loyal to the Faith and its immemorial teachings. May we be among those blessed few, for we know that the hour is coming when Our Lady will triumph and we will share in Her victory.
We must work and pray ever more fervently that the Holy Father and the bishops will heed the requests of Our Lady of Fatima. (See: Petition to Our Holy Father — The Consecration of Russia and Petition to Our Holy Father — The Release of the full Third Secret.)
We must also keep informed. Read the recent “Fatima Perspectives” (view here) and “Fatima News & Views” articles listed below.
Latest Fatima News & Views
Fatima Center Special Report: Four Prominent Cardinals Publicly Challenge Francis — Four prominent cardinals publicly challenge Francis to “clarify” that his teaching in Amoris Laetitiae not contrary to “Scripture… the Tradition of the Church… [and] absolute moral norms”. Breaking: Cardinal Burke: “Formal correction” to follow if no response from Francis. A turning point in Church history.
Should a Catholic Celebrate Martin Luther? — Why would a Catholic celebrate Martin Luther when his entire revolt was based on hatred of the Catholic Faith?
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