Letter #44, 2018: Battle joined

Thursday, August 30, 2018

“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” —Jesus, speaking to his disciples in the Gospel of John 16:33

“The Church is called to serve the salvation of the world, for even the Son of man Himself ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Mk. 10:45).'” —text from the Russian Orthodox Church document entitled “Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church”

Brief Note: Tornielli’s clarification

I received an email today in response to my Letter #41, yesterday. That Letter included an enumeration of the number of times in a single article Andrea Tornielli notes that the age of the seminarians sexually molested by former Cardinal McCarrick was “above the age of 18,” that is, that there was never a question of pedophilia in his case.

I argued that this was a terrible way to defend Pope Francis, since sexual molestation of young seminarians is a very grave fault which should have been reason enough for someone superior to McCarrick to discipline him in some way.

During the night, I received the following email from Tornielli:

“In the introduction to your letter you wrote:

“Tornielli is very close to Pope Francis, is able to speak with him regularly, and is very supportive of him. But his text below is actually damning… because he repeatedly (and astonishngly) suggests that the victims of Cardinal McCarricks’smolestations were ‘always of legal age,’ suggesting that the matter therefore was not all that serious…”

“This suggests that in my article, which you included in your letter, I am reflecting the thinking of Pope Francis.

“That is not true.

“I have never spoken to him on this particular question.

“Moreover, I want to state clearly that I have not spoken to him since the publication of the letter of Archbishop Vigano last Sunday.

“I do not know what he thinks about that letter apart from what he said on the plane.

“The article that I wrote is entirely the fruit of my own thinking.

“It is wrong to interpret it as in some way reflecting what Pope Francis thinks.

“I would be happy, however, if you include the above note in the next letter you write in order to set the record right.”

Day 6, August 29, 2018

It is now the 6th day since the publication on Saturday, August 25, of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s “Testimony” denouncing lack of Vatican action in regard to allegations of sexual abuse against former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and ending with a call for Pope Francis to resign the papacy, just as Benedict did.

And, one must be frank: the situation is at this moment extremely volatile and extremely dangerous.

I repeat: the situation is extremely dangerous, for the Church, and so also for the world (since, as I quote above, the purpose of the Church is to serve the salvation of the world; without the Church, that task cannot be performed, and so world would be lost, or many souls in it).

Just today, an article in The Federalist by Paul A. Rahe sums up the present moment this way: “As all of this suggests, we are now at a turning point. The Lavender Mafia controls the papacy and the Vatican overall, and Pope Francis is packing the College of Cardinals, who will elect the next Pope, with sympathizers. Pope Francis and his minions have now been exposed, named, and shamed; and there will be a civil war within the Roman Catholic Church.”

Rahe’s article is a bit “over the top,” and I do not agree with all of it, but it — unfortunately — contains many truths; if you would prefer to remain undisturbed, do not read it; if you would prefer to consider the possible parameters of the tragic disaster we face, go ahead and read it (link).

In fact — in line with some of the concerns I mentioned in my Letter of yesterday about the possible legal ramifications of these latest events — one news outlet (link) is now reporting that the US government may even be seeking to keep Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, inside the United States in order to question him regarding his role in the alleged “cover-up” of the abuse of children by Church clergy.

This outlet is reporting that the government many perhaps even ask Wuerl to surrender his passport and that Wuerl (like Vigano) has in recent hours gone “underground” and that the Vatican is seeking to have him travel quietly out of the US before he is actually prevented from doing so.

I cannot confirm this information, I can only report that it is being reported — perhaps it is wrong to spread the report at this moment, but perhaps it would also be wrong not to share with you that the report is out there on the internet (link).

And the Napa Institute, led by Timothy Busch — who was in touch with Vigano two weeks before the publication of his text — has announced that they will assemble a group of Catholic laymen in America to meet in Washington D.C. at Catholic University on October 1 and 2 to discuss all of these events, and to propose ways that laymen can perhaps “take over” some of the oversight functions of the US bishops in running the Church in the US (link).

I do not know whether we should call this a potentially revolutionary conference, or not… or whether we might call it a conference to “de-clericalize” or “re-clericalize” the Church. I will try to attend the meeting.

But who knows — at this pace, it may be that October 1 and 2 will already be too late for such a conference, maybe the situation will precipitate before then…

So, we are at Day #6 since the Vigano text.

Why chronicle the days in this way?

Because the battle that has been triggered by Vigano’s text is a specific crystallization of a century-old battle between two concepts of reality, one “material” and one “spiritual” — a crystallization which is bringing the long battle to a climax. (Yes, the 100-year-old battle between “modernist” and “orthodox” Catholics believers.)

So the battle, seemingly, has finally in these days been joined, and the result, for better or worse, may determine the Church’s direction for decades to come.

The “material” concept organizes all of reality around this life — the life of air, soil, wind and fire, of the senses, of what is measurable, of what is useful.

It is a clean, simple, “one-story” world view.

It denies that anything immaterial, spiritual, transcendant, has “real” existence.

It is “content” and “confident” that, in entrusting itself (in entrusting human hopes and goals) to “this world” in its concreteness, it is being quite reasonable, and is making the right decision.

It is worldview that is perturbed by the “unreasonable” passion or “longing for the holy” of the orthodox.

The “spiritual” concept — which is the essence of the traditional Christian worldview — is that what is spiritual, what is transcendant, what is holy, what is divine, what is “above,” is the only truly “real.”

The “spiritual” concept relativizes this present physical world (this “saeculum,” this “age”) because this present physical world passes away at each moment, and is inescapably subject to the frustration of decay, sin, and death.

And the spiritual concept — seeking life, for it is not “life-denying” but “life-longing” and “life-loving” in the truest sense — contains a longing to actually obtain the spiritual, to “spiritualize” even what is material, to be in the presence of, and penetrated by, the spiritual. (The Eucharist. Christ Himself. The Holy One).

It is a complex “two-story” world view. (Made more complex by the doctrine of Incarnation.)

It affirms that only what is immaterial, spiritual, transcendant, has “real” existence.

It is restless and discontented with “this world” in so far as “this world” excludes the next, and it entrusts itself to the “next world” precisely because such an “entrustment” transcends ordinary reason, reaching toward “that which is above.”

The start of the final battle in this period of history between these two worldviews was signaled on August 25 by the publication of Vigano’s “Testimony.”

On Another, But Not Totally Unrelated Matter: Moscow and Kiev

Tomorrow, August 31, there will be a critically important meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. The meeting will have profound implications for the global Orthodox community, and for the future of eastern Europe and thus, for Europe as a whole. All Christians should pray that the participants are assisted by the Holy Spirit.

The meeting will bring together Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and a visitor: Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. They will meet in the Phanar, a tiny sliver of territory in Istanbul which make up the world headquarters of Greek Orthodoxy.

The discussion will focus on Ukraine.

The issue: Bartholomew’s stance on requests from the Ukrainian government and a portion of the Ukrainian Orthodox community (supported also by the American government) to create an “autocephalous” (“self-headed”) Ukrainian Orthodox Church, separate from Moscow.

At present, the Ukrainian Orthodox are united with Moscow, that is, under the Russian Orthodox Church; about one-third of all Russian Orthodox bishops and dioceses are inside Ukraine; separation would diminish the size of Russian Orthodoxy by about one-third; the Russians oppose this.

So Patriarch Kirill — and the Russian government headed by Vladimir Putin — has for months been at pains to express to the Christian (and secular) world his total opposition to such a division between Moscow and Kiev.

He will express that opposition tomorrow to Patriarch Bartholomew.

Bartholomew will weigh his arguments. As Ecumenical Patriarch, he can make a judgment on such a matter. But will he?

What is the Church?

All of these events remind us that we must return to basic, to the fundamentals: what is the Church, what is the role of the Church in the world, and what would harm the Church…

Since it is my hope that the Church will still manage — against all evidence — to come togther again, East and West, Greek and Latin, Orthodox and Catholic, after a thousand years of division, I draw attention to the description of the Church and the Church’s role in the first two paragraphs of the Russian Orthodox Church’s “Bases of the Social Concept,” that is, their attempt to articulate a social teaching like the social teaching of the Catholic Church, beginning with Leo XIII more than a century ago — but delayed in the East due to later industrialization and the coming of the Communists.

The last paragraph below is particularly a statement of solidarity, Christian brotherhood, witnessing to our imperfections but calling on us to continue on the pilgrimage journey of this life, returning in His love, created in us in His image.

Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church

Adopted at the Sacred Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, this document sets forth the basic provisions of her teaching on Church-state relations and a number of problems socially significant today. It also reflects the official position of Moscow Patriarchate on relations with state and secular society…

I. Basic theological provisions

I. 1. The Church is the assembly of believers in Christ, which He Himself calls every one to join. In her “all things heavenly and earthly” should be united in Christ, for He is the Head of “the Church, which is His Body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23). In the Church the creation is deified and God’s original design for the world and man is fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Church is a result of both the redemptive feat performed by the Son Who was sent by the Father and the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit Who descended on the great day of Pentecost.

According to St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Christ put Himself at the head of humanity, becoming the Head of renewed humanity as His body in which access is found to the source of the Holy Spirit.

The Church is the unity of “the new humanity in Christ,” “the unity of God’s grace dwelling in the multitude of rational creatures who submit to grace” (A.S. Khomyakov).

“Men, women, children, deeply divided as to race, nation, language, way of life, work, education, status, wealth… — all are restored by the Church in the Spirit… All receive from her one nature which is beyond corruption — the nature that is not affected by the numerous and profound differences by which people differ from one another… In her, no one is at all separated from the common, as everyone is as if dissolved in one another by the simple and indivisible power of faith” (St. Maxim the Confessor).

I. 2. The Church is a divine-human organism.

Being the body of Christ, she unites in herself the two natures, divine and human, with their inherent actions and wills.

The Church relates to the world through her human, created, nature.

However, she interacts with it not as a purely earthly organism but in all her mysterious fullness.

It is the divine-human nature of the Church that makes possible the grace-giving transformation and purification of the world accomplished in history in the creative co-work, «synergy», of the members and the Head of the church body.

The Church is not of this world, just as her Lord, Jesus, is not of this world.

However, He came to the world He was to save and restore, “humbling” Himself to match its conditions.

The Church should go through the process of historical kenosis, fulfilling her redemptive mission.

Her goal is not only the salvation of people in this world, but also the salvation and restoration of the world itself.

The Church is called to act in the world in the image of Christ, to bear witness to Him and His Kingdom.

The members of the Church are called to share in Christ’s mission, in His service of the world, which is possible for the Church only as a conciliar service so that “the world may believe” (Jn. 17:21).

The Church is called to serve the salvation of the world, for even the Son of man Himself “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).

The Saviour said about Himself: “I am among you as he that serveth” (Lk. 22:27).

Service for the salvation of the world and human beings cannot be limited to national and religious limits, as the Lord Himself states clearly in the parable of the merciful Samaritan.

Moreover, the members of the Church encounter Christ as the One Who assumed all sins and suffering of the world when they welcome the hungry, homeless, sick or prisoners.

Help to those who suffer is in the full sense help to Christ Himself, and the fulfilment of this commandment determines the eternal fate of every man (Mt. 25:31-41).

Christ calls upon His disciples not to shun the world, but to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”

The Church, being the body of God-Man Christ, is divine-human.

However, even if Christ is the perfect God-Man, the Church is not yet perfect in her divine humanity, for on earth she has to struggle with sin, and her humanity, though inherently united with the Godhead, is far from expressing Him and matching Him in everything.

Let us pray for each other, for Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill, for Pope Francis, for Cardinal Wuerl, for each other, sinners all. May the Lord show us the way to repentance and holiness of life, and give us the strength to set out again on the journey home to Him.

Note to Readers

P.S. If you have any interest in joining one of our upcoming pilgrimages, we have information packets on pilgrimages later this year, and in 2019 and 2020. The pilgrimages visit:

(1) Rome and Vatican City — including inside Vatican City

(2) The Italy of St. Benedict, St. Francis, St. Clare, St. Rita of Cascia, St. Catherine of Siena, and other saints

(3) England in the Footsteps of St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher and Blessed John Henry Newman

(4) Germany in the Footsteps of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI

(5) Russia: In Search of the Spiritual Renewal of Post-Soviet Russia

(6) Ireland: In Search of the Emerald Isle’s Past, and Future

(Write to us by return email, or via this email. Please note any particular interest; please include your phone number if you would like us to call you to discuss various pilgrimage packages.)

Facebook Comments

By |2018-10-13T18:06:25+00:00Aug 31st, 2018|Categories: The Moynihan Letters|