Archbishop Vigano in a 2013 photo (CNS photo/Roberto Gonzalez)

Monday, September 9, 2019 — Feast of St. Peter Claver, S.J. (1580-1654)

St. Peter Claver was born at Verdu, Catalonia, Spain, in 1580, of impoverished parents descended from ancient families. He studied at the Jesuit college of Barcelona, entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tarragona in 1602, and took his final vows on August 8th, 1604. While studying, the young religious was influenced by St. Alphonsus Rodriguez to go to the Indies and save “millions of perishing souls.”

In 1610, he landed at Cartagena (modern Colombia), the principle slave market of the New World, where a thousand slaves were landed every month. After his ordination in 1616, he dedicated himself by special vow to the service of the slaves — a work that was to last for 33 years. He labored unceasingly for the salvation of the African slaves and the abolition of the slave trade, and the love he lavished on them was something that transcended the natural order.

Boarding the slave ships as they entered the harbor, he would hurry to the revolting inferno of the hold, and offer whatever poor refreshments he could afford; he would care for the sick and dying, and instruct the slaves  before administering the Sacraments. Through his efforts, 300,000 souls entered the Church. Furthermore, he did not lose sight of his converts when they left the ships, but followed them to the plantations to which they were sent, encouraged them to live as Christians, and prevailed on their masters to treat them humanely. He died in 1654.

The death of God in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the purpose that provides orientation… Western society is… a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost.” —Emeritus Pope Benedict at the beginning of 2019, writing just before his 92nd birthday, in an essay entitled “The Church and the Scandal of Sexual Abuse.” He says he wrote the text hoping to help orient the discussions of the February 21-24, 2019 “clerical abuse summit” in Rome, a gathering summoned by Pope Francis of all of the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences. Benedict said he wrote “to discuss the current crisis of the faith and of the Church, a crisis experienced throughout the world after shocking revelations of clerical abuse perpetrated against minors” (link to the full text). Benedict’s text was not presented to the February meeting, and the bishops attending were therefore not able to know Benedict’s thoughts on these matters. Benedict’s text was made public by Benedict himself via publication in a small German Catholic journal in April

“The crisis… urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope…. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil.” —Ibid.

The office divinely committed to Us of feeding the Lord’s flock has especially this duty assigned to it by Christ, namely, to guard with the greatest vigilance the deposit of the faith delivered to the saints, rejecting the profane novelties of words and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called. There has never been a time when this watchfulness of the supreme pastor was not necessary to the Catholic body; for, owing to the efforts of the enemy of the human race, there have never been lacking ‘men speaking perverse things’ (Acts xx. 30), ‘vain talkers and seducers’ (Tit. i. 10), ‘erring and driving into error’ (2 Tim. iii. 13). Still, it must be confessed that the number of the enemies of the cross of Christ has in these last days increased exceedingly, who are striving, by arts entirely new and full of subtlety, to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, if they can, to overthrow utterly Christ’s kingdom itself. Wherefore, We may no longer be silent, lest We should seem to fail in Our most sacred duty, and lest the kindness that, in the hope of wiser counsels, We have hitherto shown them, should be attributed to forgetfulness of Our office. —Pope St. Pius X, in his great encyclical condemning the errors of Modernism, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (“Of Feeding the Lord’s Flock”), published on September 8, 1907 (112 years ago yesterday). These are the first lines of the document. A few days ago, on the feast day of Pope Pius X, Pope Francis unexpectedly came into St. Peter’s Basilica and sat in the back row as a Mass was being celebrated at the tomb of St. Pius X

For the Modernists, both as authors and propagandists, there is to be nothing stable, nothing immutable in the Church.” —St. Pius X, Ibid. Paragraph 28

With his new political and theological approach, Pope Francis is doing something truly revolutionary — he is reshaping the fundamental identity of Catholicism in the 21st century. From the beginning of its institutional history in the 4th century A.D., the Catholic Church has defined itself as the ‘one true Church,’ to the exclusion of all other paths to salvation… But the pope’s open-minded acceptance of the legitimacy of other roads to God represents more than grudging acceptance of an increasingly diverse and secular reality. It heralds a fundamental shift in the church’s aspirations. As he uses his bully pulpit to promote mutual understanding and acceptance, Francis is trading the aspirations to universality that have guided the church since its institutional beginnings for a looser agenda based on the ‘care of creation.’” —Adam Littlestone-Luria, a PhD Candidate in ancient history at the University of California, Berkeley, September 24, 2017, in the Washington Post

After all, the document Amoris laetitia arose from a new paradigm that Pope Francis is pursuing with wisdom, prudence and even patience. Probably, the difficulties that have arisen and still exist in the Church, beyond some aspects of the [document’s] content, are due precisely to this change in attitude that the Pope asks of us. A paradigm shift, inherent in the very text itself, which is asked of us: this new spirit, this new approach!” —Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, January 11, 2018, in an interview with Vatican News (link)

The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations.” Opening words of the Declaration Dominus Iesus (“The Lord Jesus”), published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on August 6, 2000, the Feast of the Transfiguration signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) and then-Archbishop (later Cardinal) Tarcisio Bertone (link to the full text of Dominus Iesus)

With the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31). This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism ‘characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another.’” Ibid., Paragraph 22

“Do you, sons of St. Ignatius, soldiers of the Society of Jesus, want even today and tomorrow and always to be what you were from your beginnings right up to today, for the service of the Catholic Church and of this Apostolic See? There would be no reason for asking this question had not certain reports and rumors come to our attention about your Society, just as about other religious families as well, which — and We cannot remain silent on this — have caused us amazement and in some cases, sorrow.

“What strange and evil suggestions have caused a doubt to arise in certain parts of your widespread Society whether it should continue to be the Society conceived and founded by that holy man, and built on very wise and very firm norms? The tradition of several centuries ripened by most careful experience and confirmed by authoritative approvals has shaped the Society for the glory of God, the defense of the Church and the admiration of men. In the minds of some of your members, has the opinion really prevailed to the effect that all human things, which are generated in time and inexorably used up in time, are subject to an absolute law of history as though in Catholicism there were no charism of permanent truth and of invincible stability? This rock of the Apostolic See is the symbol and foundation of this charism.”—Pope Paul VI (1963-1978), Address to the Members of the Jesuit General Congregation, November 16, 1966. Paul VI was concerned that some of the changes in the life and discipline of the Jesuit order proposed after the Second Vatican Council might be harmful to the order’s mission to defend and promote the Church and the faith “ad majoram Dei gloriam” (“to the greater glory of God”)

Introduction: The “Second Question”

About a year ago (on August 25, 2018), Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 78, apostolic nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, published his Testimony concerning then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s decades of homosexual predation.

Viganò’s statement was issued after publication on June 20, 2018, of an Archdiocese of New York finding (link) that there had been a “credible allegation” made against then-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick that he had sexually abused a minor, and after publication on August 10, 2018, of the finding of a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report (link) that 300 priests has been “credibly accused” of sexually abusing a thousand young victims over 60 years.

These reports of abuse were extremely disturbing to many Catholics, particularly in the United States. How could there have been so many cases of clerical abuse of young people?

In a context of general bewilderment, especially in America, Viganò, who had been the Holy See’s nuncio in America from 2011 to 2016, issued his statement.

It was a scathing indictment of the Church’s hierarchy.

A key part of the explanation, Viganò said, was that high-ranking prelates for many decades — and even including Pope Francis himself in the case of McCarrick — had not done enough to control, prevent and punish such behavior even when they had been informed that there was a suspicion that it had taken place.

Archbishop Viganò’s reference to a number of these allegedly negligent prelates by name in his 11-page testimony caused outrage in some clerical circles, including in the Vatican.

However, quite a few ordinary Catholics said they were grateful Viganò had come forward with what he knew, because they had become persuaded that a painful process of “truth-telling” and subsequent repentance for mistakes made in a long process dating back to 2002 was needed finally to protect the innocent from abuse, and to purify the Church from the “filth” (“sporcizia“) spoken of so memorably by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in early 2005, just before he was elected Pope.

Now, with the passage of a year, Archbishop Viganò has a still deeper concern: that the clerical sexual abuse crisis is only one aspect of a deeper and wider crisis of the Christian faith in our age.

(I recently spent considerable time with Archbishop Viganò discussing his vision of the Church and her situation, at a year’s distance from his 2018 Testimony. I am preparing a more complete report than this Letter, and the ones which will follow in coming days, which I hope to publish on October 4. If you would like to pre-order a copy of that report, you may write to me by return email, including your mailing address, and I will write back to you with further details.)

This deeper and wider crisis, Viganò believes, involves, theologically, an illegitimate rejection (that is, not a legitimate development) of traditional Catholic doctrine. The aim: to construct a more modern “new church,” marked by a faith and practice in many areas of Catholic moral and sacramental life different from the Church of the past.

Viganò sees this rejection of traditional teaching as a matter of grave concern.

In keeping with his role as a Catholic bishop, he told me, he feels it his duty to do all he can to defend orthodox doctrine.

“I cannot be silent if the faith is at stake,” Viganò told me. “If others will join me, all the better. But even if I am alone, I must speak out.”

He feels the proposal to build a “new church” is a danger to souls who will not come to know the authentic Christ of the Gospels (the “Good News”).

As he has reflected on this situation, he has seen more clearly, he says, that the history of the Church from the very beginning (the Arian heresy, the various Gnostic heresies, the Nestorian heresy, etc.) has been a long battle for that orthodoxy that G. K. Chesterton famously referred to as “the wild truth, reeling but erect.” (link)

But Viganò also believes that this long battle, especially during the past two centuries since the French Revolution, and above all during the past 50 or 60 years, has seen many losses for orthodoxy, and many victories for of those seeking to alter perennial Catholic teaching.

And he has come to lament that recent Popes — and he himself as well, as a bishop charged with defending the faith — have not been more successful in preventing this slow departure from the orthodox faith.

Now, because Canon Law states that the “supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls,” Viganò says he wishes to do everything in his power, preferably with the help of other bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, but even if he is alone, to protect the faithful from this deepening apostasy, which he believes risks the loss of salvation and eternal life to countless souls.

Viganò notes that his first Testimony was oriented essentially toward the question of clerical sexual abuse.

This was because the matter of sexual abuse emerged from a question that Pope Francis (in Viganò’s recollection of the meeting) asked Viganò during their June 23, 2013 meeting.

“He asked me to tell him about Cardinal McCarrick,” Viganò said to me. “I did not bring up the matter.”

But Viganò now stresses that, at that same meeting (again, in his recollection) Pope Francis, after asking him about McCarrick, also asked him a second question, which was: What is the situation of the Jesuits in the United States?

In answer to this second question, Viganò told Pope Francis (he says) that the Jesuit order in the United States had played a key role in secularizing the country’s influential Catholic universities, and had often been in the forefront of an effort to change Catholic teaching in a direction not in keeping with the wishes of all the recent Popes — Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI — and that, if Pope Francis could manage to reign in the order, reform it, and restore it to its former orthodox path, it would be a great gift to the Church in the United States and throughout the world.

This Letter, then, will take up the matter of the “Second Question” that Viganò says Pope Francis asked him at their June 23, 2013 meeting.

To Re-Make the Church

As the terrible reality of the sexual abuse crisis has exploded publicly over the past two decades, the principle task of the Church has been to protect the victims — to provide support for them, and to introduce guidelines and procedures so that such abuse cannot occur in the future.

This has been right and necessary.

But as the Church has continued to explore the profound causes of the abuse crisis, it has become clear that the causes may ultimately be traced to a more general crisis of Catholic faith and discipline.

This is what Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI suggested in an essay (cited above) which he wrote before the February 21-24 Rome “abuse summit,” attended by the heads of all the bishops’ conferences in the world.

At the core of Benedict XVI’s vision is the problem of “continuity” and “rupture” in the teaching and practice of the Christian faith.

Benedict in this essay is troubled by a central concern: that there has been a break, a rupture, between the perennial faith and practice of the Church and the faith and practice of the Church of the past two generations — starting about 60 years ago, and becoming more marked in recent years.

The Emeritus Pope’s essential point is that the temptation to create a “new” Church is a temptation “from the devil” which must be rejected.

He believes the Church must hold fast to the faith (doctrine) once handed down, and benefit from the wisdom of the Church in disciplinary matters, and in discerning good and evil, right and wrong, Christian and un-Christian behavior.

So, as Benedict had previously stated on many occasions, he states here, in this recent reflection on the situation of the Church, that the Church of Christ must remain faithful to the deposit of the faith handed down, and reject the temptation to “re-make” the Church into something “new” and “different” from what has existed from the beginning up until our own time.

But this temptation has been very strong, and has tempted many to believe that Church teaching may actually be altered, creating a “break” between the present (and future) Church and the Church of all previous ages.

The unfolding of this temptation, and a warning against it, has now become one of the central concerns of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

What follows are excepts from a recent conversation with Archbishop Vigano.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò: In one of your recent letters concerning me (link), you mentioned that the present pontificate, with a member of the Jesuit order as Pope, represents the achievement of a plan dating back 60 years.

Some of your readers wrote to comment that there were many more than 60 years leading up to this, going back to the early decades of the 20th century, to Jesuit thinkers like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Karl Rahner, and also even earlier, to the time of the French Revolution in 1789.

So not just 60 years, but more than 200 years.

How would you respond to this objection?

Viganò: I agree fully. Certainly it is a project, if you will, that goes back centuries, in particular, to the creation in the middle of the 1700s of freemasonry.

But of course this project was very deceptive, and oriented, or even included in some way, the forces of some members of the Church.

So this process was able to infiltrate in some way into the Church.

This is described in the book Infiltration by Dr. Taylor Marshall, so you may find some indication of this process there.

But this process became strikingly evident in modern times.

At the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, in 1962, a maneuver was able to nullify the decision taken by the general assembly of the bishops in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The bishops had rejected a proposal to put aside the schemas which had been prepared by the various offices of the Roman Curia, in order to draft new schema.

The maneuver to nullify this decision came especially through the offices of one very prominent member of the Society of Jesus, Cardinal Augustin Bea. He and others were able to convince Pope John XXIII to set aside the prepared schemas and replace them with other schemas prepared by theologians especially from northern Europe, Hans Küng, Karl Rahner, and others.

This was the beginning of an opening, the first break in the wall of the procedure that had been established, in the process of creating a new Church. This is my answer.

So it is simply a convenient approximation to say that the plan to change the Church, to create a “new” Church, dates back 60 years…

Viganò: It is approximate. But it is also the case that the project of a new church was taken up immediately after the closing of the Council in 1965, 54 years ago now.

It was taken up in a particular way by the 31st General Congregation of the Jesuit Order. The General Congregation, which meets approximately every 10 years, met for about three months in 1965 and about three more months in 1966, and elected a new General, Father Pedro Arrupe.

It was during this Congregation that the Jesuits discussed some resolutions Pope Paul VI was very concerned about. Pope Paul made several very precise amendments, but these resolutions were still a key step on the way to the project for a “new church.”

This is the first point.

Then, I think it would be very much opportune to remind readers on this subject of the new Church what was published in April by Emeritus Pope Benedict on the project of founding a new church.

He said this would be a catastrophe. He was very severe on this point.

So what happened after Vatican II ended in 1965 was absolutely the opposite of a policy of continuity, which would have been the correct interpretation of the Vatican II documents.

Instead, there was another interpretation, of discontinuity, promoted by all the huge machine of media propaganda.

And, in a similar way, during this present pontificate, a similar media machinery, including photos of Pope Francis with Emeritus Pope Benedict, and so forth, has been used to argue that the “new paradigm” of Pope Francis is in continuity with the teaching of his predecessors.

But it is not so, it is a “new church”…

This phrase “new paradigm” is a strategy to cover up the true goal, because they do not want to say what exactly is covered by this word. For many, this word “paradigm” is something exotic, something sophisticated. Everyone is using it. But it is used to mislead, to deceive, suggesting a continuity without revealing that they are seeking a discontinuity…

(to be continued)


(Note: These Letters are archived on the ITV website…)

Click here to read all of the Moynihan Letters.)

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