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And Now for Something Completely Different.

As I said in another post, I am sad, nay disheartened, by what our Holy Father has been saying.   However, there’s an article in CatholicCulture.org by Dr. Jeff Mirus (a co-founder of Christendom College, to testify to his orthodoxy) that gives some hope that while things are bad now, they’ve been bad in the bad in the past but have got better.   We have to view times like these–“interesting times” as per the old Chinese curse–as sent by God to make us better.   I’ll quote from the encouraging parts of the article–go to the link above for the whole piece.

“The Church has all the guarantees she needs in her Divine Constitution to endure a pope who may be very bad in any number of ways, without any danger that the truths of the Faith will be abrogated, that the sacraments will lose their power, that Christ will cease to be the Church’s head and bridegroom, or that Christ’s promise to be with her will become void.

Belloc’s Rule

Remember the famous proof formulated by the great Catholic apologist Hilaire Belloc:

The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine—but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.

When it comes to Catholic affairs, no conspiracy theories are needed. Such theories simply give solace to people who are unwilling to accept the tensions Our Lord permits in the Church and in in Catholic life as a whole. These tensions, when they do not come from external assault, are the result of the very real sins of the Church’s members in combination with misunderstandings, personality differences, deficiencies of various kinds, differing priorities, and conflicting prudential judgments.

The Church could not have been established with human members, let alone sinners, unless such tensions were permitted. Moreover, “loophole” and “conspiracy” theories only serve to weaken the Church further than she is already weakened by the necessary elements of her constitution. Indeed, such theories often lead to serious sins, including their own brands of heresy and schism.

What we call the lunatic fringe is made up of people who refuse to tolerate the level of confusion they are asked to endure by their Lord and Savior—a Lord and Savior who permits nothing to happen to anyone that cannot be used for the soul’s good. [emphasis added]. It is precisely this desire to escape the suffering occasioned by human confusion that has ever been the hallmark of the lunatic fringe. Such a desire is not illegitimate, surely, but like every other human desire, it must be carefully restrained and channeled for the glory of God.

Things will likely get worse before they get better. Moreover, at another time they will get worse in some other way before they get better. Why should we borrow trouble? Therefore I urge everyone: Do not respond to the lure of the absurd. We Catholics have a plethora of common, garden variety explanations for all of our trials, not least the confusion within ourselves. And we also have a treasure trove of spiritual remedies for each trial.”

–Dr Jeff Mirus, “On the lunatic fringe, Francis is not the Pope”

I’m disregarding the comments of Dr. Mirus about “the lunatic fringe”, but I do believe his statement that times of trouble are foreordained for our good.

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Bob Kurland, Ph.D.

Retired, cranky, old physicist. Convert to Catholicism in 1995. Trying to show that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith. Intermittent blogs and adult education classes to achieve this end (see http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/ and http://home.ptd.net/~rkurland). Extraordinary Minister of Communion, volunteer to federal prison and hospital; lector, EOMC. Sometime player of bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet, bass, tenor bowed psaltery for parish instrumental group and local folk group.

10 Comments

  1. AS I, gracious ladies, have heard said, there was in Paris a great merchant, a very good man, who was called Gianotto di Chevigné, a man most loyal and just, who had a great business in stuffs, and who had a singular friendship with a rich Jew named Abraham, who also was a merchant and also an honest and loyal man. Gianotto, seeing his justice and loyalty, began to feel great sorrow that the soul of so worthy and good a man should go to perdition through want of religion, and on that account he began to beg in a friendly way that he would abandon the errors of the Jewish faith and become converted to Christian truth, in which he could see, being holy and good, that he would always prosper and enrich himself; while in his own faith, on the contrary, he might see that he would diminish and come to nothing. The Jew replied that he did not believe anything either holy or good outside of Judaism; that he in that was born and intended therein to live, and that nothing would ever move him out of it. 1
    Gianotto did not cease on this account to repeat after a few days similar exhortations, showing him in a coarse manner, which merchants know how to employ, for what reasons our faith was better than the Jewish; and though the Jew was a great master in the Jewish law, nevertheless either the great friendship which he had with Gianotto moved him, or perhaps the words which the Holy Spirit put on the tongue of the foolish man accomplished it, and the Jew began finally to consider earnestly the arguments of Gianotto; but still, tenacious in his own faith, he was unwilling to change. As he remained obstinate, so Gianotto never ceased urging him, so that finally the Jew by this continual persistence was conquered, and said:—“Since, Gianotto, it would please you that I should become a Christian and I am disposed to do so, I will first go to Rome and there see him whom you call the vicar of God on earth, and consider his manners and his customs, and similarly those of his brother cardinals; and if they seem to me such that I can, between your words and them, understand that your religion is better than mine, as you have undertaken to prove to me, I will do what I have said; but if this should not be so, I will remain a Jew as I am.” When Gianotto heard this he was very sorrowful, saying to himself: I have lost all my trouble which it seemed to me I had very well employed, believing that I had converted this man; because if he goes to the court at Rome and sees the wicked and dirty life of the priests, he not only, being a Jew, will not become a Christian, but if he had become a Christian he would infallibly return to Judaism. 2
    Therefore Gianotto said to Abraham:—“Alas, my friend, why do you desire to take this great trouble and expense of going from here to Rome? By land and by sea, even to a rich man as you are, it is full of trouble. Do you not believe that here we can find one who will baptize you? and if perchance you have still some doubts as to the religion which I show you, where are there better teachers and wiser men in this faith than there are here, to immediately tell you what you want to know or may ask? On which account my opinion is that this voyage is superfluous: the prelates whom you would see there are such as you can see here, and besides they are much better, as they are near to the chief Shepherd; and therefore this fatigue you will, by my counsel, save for another time,—for some indulgence in which I may perhaps be your companion.” To this the Jew replied:—“I believe, Gianotto, that it is as you say to me; but summing up the many words in one, I am altogether, if you wish that I should do what you have been constantly begging me to do, disposed to go there; otherwise I will do nothing.” Gianotto seeing his determination said, “Go, and good luck go with you;” but he thought to himself that Abraham never would become a Christian if he had once seen the court of Rome, but as he would lose nothing he said no more. 3
    The Jew mounted his horse, and as quickly as possible went to the court of Rome, where arriving, he was by his fellow Jews honorably received; and living there without saying to anybody why he came, began cautiously to study the manners of the Pope and the cardinals and the prelates and all the other courtesans; and he learned, being the honest man that he was, and being informed by other people, that from the greatest to the lowest they sinned most dishonestly, not only in natural but in unnatural ways, without any restraint or remorse to shame them; so much so that for the poor and the dissolute of both sexes to take part in any affair was no small thing. Besides this he saw that they were universally gluttons, wine-drinkers, and drunkards, and much devoted to their stomachs after the manner of brute animals; given up to luxury more than to anything else. And looking further, he saw that they were in the same manner all avaricious and desirous of money, so that human blood, even that of Christians, and sacred interests, whatever they might be, even pertaining to the ceremonies or to the benefices, were sold and bought with money; making a greater merchandise out of these things and having more shops for them than at Paris of stuffs or any other things, and to the most open simony giving the name and support of procuration, and to gluttony that of sustentation: as if God, apart from the signification of epithets, could not know the intentions of these wretched souls, but after the manner of men must permit himself to be deceived by the names of things. Which, together with many other things of which we will say nothing, so greatly displeased the Jew, that as he was a sober and modest man it appeared to him that he had seen enough, and proposed to return to Paris. 4
    Accordingly he did so; upon which Gianotto, seeing that he had returned, and hoping nothing less than that he should have become a Christian, came and rejoiced greatly at his return, and after some days of rest asked him what he thought of the Holy Father, the cardinals, and the other courtesans; to which the Jew promptly replied:—“It seems to me evil that God should have given anything to all those people, and I say to you that if I know how to draw conclusions, there was no holiness, no devotion, no good work or good example of life in any other way, in anybody who was a priest; but luxury, avarice, and gluttony,—such things and worse, if there could be worse things in anybody; and I saw rather liberty in devilish operations than in divine: on which account I conclude that with all possible study, with all their talent and with all their art, your Shepherd, and consequently all the rest, are working to reduce to nothing and to drive out of the world the Christian religion, there where they ought to be its foundation and support. But from what I see, what they are driving at does not happen, but your religion continually increases; and therefore it becomes clearer and more evident that the Holy Spirit must be its foundation and support, as a religion more true and holy than any other. On which account, where I was obstinate and immovable to your reasoning and did not care to become a Christian, now I say to you distinctly that on no account would I fail to become a Christian. Therefore let us go to church, and there according to the custom of your holy religion let me be baptized.” 5
    Gianotto, who had expected exactly the opposite conclusion to this, when he heard these things was more satisfied than ever a man was before, and with him he went to Notre Dame of Paris and requested the priest there to give Abraham baptism: who, hearing what he asked, immediately did so; and Gianotto was his sponsor and named him Giovanni, and immediately caused him by competent men to be completely instructed in our religion, which he at once learned and became a good and worthy man and of a holy life.

    Boccaccio, From The Decameron

  2. Thanks Bob!,
    Seems to me we can look at Catholicism in the past the same way those in the future may look at us one day and say… “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

  3. And the same applies in not the least manner in Rome today – with a pope who appears to support heterodoxy, and homo and drugged and drunken priests infesting the Vatican. Remember the words of Bp. Fulton Sheen………

  4. –Dr Jeff Mirus, “On the lunatic fringe, Francis is not the Pope”
    Now, could the good doctor be talking about the very talented and very pissed off Catholic Ann Barnhardt? If so, shame on him. Ann is a potential saint for our times. She does lots of good work. Check her out: https://www.barnhardt.biz/

    I think Ann would agree with Hilaire Belloc:
    “The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine—but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”
    Surviving Pope Francis will surely be miraculous.

  5. @ Michael Dowd. I read Ann Barnhardt’s blog regularly and find much with which I agree, but she goes too far. She lets her anger get the best of her. Yeah, I know! I should talk! Nevertheless, she does have a touch of the lunacy about which Dr. Jeff Mirus wrote. I completely understand why. I too despise this Marxist Peronist eco-wacko secular Jorge Bergoglio, and sometimes I feel like a lunatic. But Donald’s story about the Jew who went to Rome to find out what the Church is really like is most instructive.

  6. Her argument against PF’s being Pope is pretty straightforward – Benedict XVI either validly resigned, or he didn’t. There is some indication that Benedict XVI intended to “split” the Petrine ministry into an “active” and a “contemplative” portion, a Pope “Franedict” of sorts. Seems to me that is not possible. So, there is a factual determination that needs to be made (did Benedict intend to split the Petrine ministry in his abdication), and then the consequences of that fact need to be reasoned out (does that make the abdication invalid, and therefore BXVI remains pope, or is the attempted split null, and whether he intended to keep a part of the ministry matters not because it goes kit and caboodle to the successor upon abdication). This is hardly a “lunatic fringe” question, and deserves serious consideration. Frankly, I have some concerns that the considered ignoring of this issue is precisely because some folks may be worried where an honest assessment may lead. Case in point: The Remnant recently had an article saying PF has not lost the papacy by reason of his alleged heresy. However, that is not the argument – they seem to have avoided the question of the abdication thus far, unless I missed something.

  7. That’s a solid piece by Mirus. The historical example I always think of is Urban VI, the first Pope elected after the Avignon Papacy. He was by all accounts really obnoxious, so the French seized on the story of his unusual election process and declared that he wasn’t really the pope. This was the beginning of the Western Schism.

    We’ve often had bad popes. Sometimes they’re jerks, or bad theologians, or promiscuous, or in the family business of papacy. They can all bring scandal to the Church. We’re not used to being scandalized by popes, and we’re definitely not used to the particular kind of scandal that our current pope creates.

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