"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Extremism Meets Balance

Dialoguing Generations: Priests in Discussion

priestsFB: Hey Fr. Chris! Are you busy?
FC: No Fr. Brook, what’s up?
FB: I wanted to pick your brain about a conversation I just had with one of my parishioners. Do you know Sara Smith?
FC: Sure, I was recently talking to her.
FB: She mentioned that. She came up to me and withdrew from the RCIA team and said that you had encouraged her to do so.
FC: *sigh* I didn’t exactly say that.
FB: What happened? She basically told me that after talking to you she felt unqualified to teach at RCIA. It should be noted that she gave me permission to talk to you about this.
FC: Yeah, she called me and mentioned you’d be stopping by – I wasn’t sure about what though… She was planning on teaching that hell does not exist or that one day nobody will be in it to the RCIA candidates. I explained to her the teaching with regard to hell being inescapable, loosely connecting it to the parable of Lazarus and the Richman. She agreed with it as a conclusion. But I added that it was important to not teach arm-chair theology and that people who are teaching the faith should be educated on these matters.
FB: Please be careful to avoid administrating another parish that you are not in charge of. Sara is a valuable volunteer who has much to offer the candidates in the RCIA program.
FC: It was never my intention to provide dual-formation or to in anyway usurp your own leadership in the parish.
FB: Thanks for saying that Father. Would you mind convincing her to return to the RCIA process to be one of the catechists?
FC: I’d be uncomfortable with that Fr. Brook.
FB: Why?
FC: Well, I do take an issue with her teaching the class. For one, she herself no longer wants to, not because of what I said, but because what I said resonated with her. Second of all, for the reason I mentioned to her, which is that only experts on the faith ought to be teaching it: those who have a formal education in these matters.
FB: You young priests.
FC: What do you mean?
FB: You are all so obsessed with orthodoxy that you lose the real-focus of the faith: the heart.
FC: ouch
FB: Look, Fr. Chris, the damage you are doing to your parish and now my parish is discouraging the people from evangelizing others, and that has been the task given to us by your beloved Popes in the recent past.
FC: Fr. Brook, I feel some level of hostility. I understand that the paradigm I am operating from is different than yours. Would you mind giving me the chance to explain it?
FB: Fine. But all I see in it is the undermining of what a lot of good priests have spent a great amount of time building up as our culture in this diocese and throughout the rest of the western world.
FC: I think your desire and appreciation for the new evangelization is a wonderful thing, and I think it is something we are both passionate about. That is something to celebrate. However, I suppose what we are lacking is a fraternity of mind, rather than a fraternity of heart?
FB: I’m not sure. You younger priests seem to be so legalistic and obsessed with externals.
FC: I’m sure it might appear that way. But if I’m given the chance to explain the “why” behind what we are doing, perhaps we can develop some mutual understanding. Is that fair?
FB: Fine: why do you want to wear your cassocks, and black or purple vestments at funerals? You want to alienate everyone from the good news of the Resurrection?
FC: I hope that you don’t think that I consider the Resurrection bad news?
FB: Whether or not you do, that is what you communicate. You cling to all these traditions out of sentimentality, not deep faith.
FC: As I said, Fr. Brook, if you would give me the chance to explain my motives, I would appreciate that.
FB: You are locked up in an outdated Church. It is time to get with the times and unite yourselves to Vatican II and all its good changes.
FC: Fr. Brook, I think the conversation we are having right now will have to continue later.
FB: I thought you said you weren’t busy.
FC: I’m not. But right now, it seems that I’m only here to have my motives imputed by you. I’m not sure what good that will do both of us?
FB: I’m sorry Fr. Chris. I’m just frustrated.
FC: Me too.
FB: With what?
FC: I find that my generation and yours are always in a state of conflict. I don’t think that is an absolute statement about each priest in the two generations. But it is an over-all feeling. I wish we could be of one heart and one mind. When we are not, I feel as if we are divided against ourselves, and working against each other.
FB: That is exactly how I feel too.
FC: That is good to hear.
FB: Good to hear? You like me being frustrated?
FC: Not at all. Rather, I like knowing that I’m not in this struggle alone. Furthermore, the fact that you are frustrated tells me you actually care about me, the priesthood and the people we are to serve. If we were apathetic to our differences, you’d be a lone-ranger, neglecting your mission, as would I.
FB: Of course I care. What also frustrates me, Fr. Chris is it seems as if you young priests think you can’t learn from our own experience. I feel as if you are simply trying to wait until we all die so that you can take over.
FC: The thing I worry about is when you are gone, and we are left in the wreck of a vocation crisis. We need help Fr. Brook. I’m also worried about regaining people’s trust from the sexual-abuse Crisis that has been going on for generations prior to our generation became priests, and left unchecked. But I also realize that not everything that has come from your generation is a complete failure. I can’t even imagine how confusing going through the changes of Vatican II would have been on every possible level. Perhaps had I been in your shoes, I would have done the same thing. I’m not saying that “thing” would have been right, but perhaps I would have done it, being the weak-sinner that I am as well. I also think that every generation has its own unique set of being tested. And while ours at times judges yours quite harshly and with deeply rooted resentments, I’m sure that if we are not careful, we might make different mistakes of the same gravity?
FB: The sexual abuse has really been difficult for a lot of us priests. Some of these people were our friends, who betrayed not only the people of God, but our trust as well. It is one of the reasons I no longer wear my collar in public. I am ashamed of the priesthood at times, and I can’t bear to think of lifting it up to some sort of dignity amongst the people in the world considering the fall we just experienced.
FC: Thank you for sharing that Fr. Brook. That gives me a great deal of insight on an issue that has confounded me for some time. I wear my collar all the time, but my reasons are a bit different. Do you mind if I explain?
FB: Sure
FC: One of the Canon-Laws that we have is to wear what would identify us as a priest for the sake of making ourselves available as servants. I don’t really look at the dignity of the priesthood – which is Christ Himself – as something for public-adulation, but rather public-service. The white collar represents that, and in many ways has been a spiritual yoke for me, always reinforcing an interior motivation to be holy and an example to others, but also readily available to be present to the people.
FB: You mentioned Canon-Law. You realize that is merely ecclesiastical law, and not dogmatic, right?
FC: I realize that Canon-Law, has ecclesiastical laws that can be relaxed. But as I mentioned previously, there is a “spirit” to why the law is followed, and why it is there. I think there is also a spirit attached to being obedient to the universal law that has a mysterious benefit for the Church that sometimes goes beyond even our own comprehension of what makes a ministry fruitful. I think one of the fruits in our own spiritual life is that we give up our will and intellect to God through a concrete authority. That is a non-abstract authority, but a real one. And what liberation do we experience through such obedience!
FB: Your stress on obedience disturbs me. Obedience is often done by people who don’t want to know why the rule is there, but simply want to avoid difficult grey issues by making everything black and white. It makes religious people stupid and complicit.
FC: I think there will always be exceptions. Sometimes we shouldn’t obey an authority, especially when they are contradicting God’s divine law as maintained by the Church. However, I feel as if, Fr. Brook, that sometimes the exception-becomes the rule, meaning that people learn to purposefully excuse themselves from legitimate rules in order to live comfortably.  That is what I have experienced growing up.
FB: I’ve heard that rhetoric before. But God gave us a brain and he expects us to use it.
FC: Unfortunately, Fr. Brook, I’m not at that level of holiness where I have completely overcome the effects of concupiscence. Sin is still deeply rooted in my spirit – as scripture would call it: sins of the flesh. It affects my reasoning, and I have found that in the saints, they often prescribe humility as the solution. That humility to me has always meant that we do not cling to our own judgment, but rather defer to a more competent authority. But in that process we do need to discern the spirits.
FB: So I’m not humble?
FC: I didn’t say that. But I don’t think any of us really are. I was, nonetheless, merely speaking in principle, and in my own experience. Don’t you find, Fr. Brook that your passion can override your thinking-process sometimes?
FB: Well of course. I don’t mean to imply I’m not a sinner.
FC: Phew. I thought I might be alone in that category. Its  good to know I have some company.
FB: What I don’t understand Fr. Chris is all the focus on traditions that don’t seem to be part of our culture as a diocese. You know very well that habits for nuns and brothers, the usage of Latin with regard to the Ordinary parts of the mass, and the style of vestments you use are not common practices within your own community. Where is a spiritual obedience to the culture in that?
FC: I don’t think culture is ever meant to be stagnated or unchanging. I think culture is fluid, and I think it is important that we assess two things with regard to culture: what is unchanging and what is changing. As a priest, I had hoped that perhaps I could contribute to the culture, and not merely be put into the melting-pot. But I also want to maintain the immaterial, universal truths of the Church in the meantime. Those never change.  Furthermore, it seems evident to me that in the dioceses where they have resurrected these external practices, the vocations are increasing.  I remember once hearing a priest being invited to speak to a group of nuns on how to promote vocations.  This priest was the rector of a seminary in the United States who had a successful program, and it was filled to the brim with seminarians.  His first piece of advice to the nuns was to bring back the “habit.”  The superior of that religious order declared:  “We’d rather let the community die than bring back the habit.”  To which the priest responded:   “That is a viable option.”
FB: You cannot expect to just walk into a community and change everything without some fall-out.
FC: Change needs to be slow, sometimes. But when there is a crisis, I think it needs to be swift. I think it’s a complicated thing too, and sometimes situations are dealt with on a case-by-case scenario. Wouldn’t you agree?  And would you agree with a statistic that suggests 86 % of Catholics don’t practice their faith indicates that the culture in the diocese needs to be changed rather than kept the same?
FB: I agree. But I wonder why you think a vestment or some smoke will change the Church for the better. It is the heart that needs to change, not the externals.
FC: Could you imagine, Fr. Brook if Mary had said this to the Angel Gabriel. That we do not need a saviour in the flesh, that is visible, tangible, that is sensible, that is the image of the invisible God. Rather we merely need good-sentiments?
FB: But even Christ hated external-practices.
FC: Christ is an external. He couldn’t have hated himself. What he was doing, and correct me if I’m wrong, was teaching us how to allow there to be some consistency between our life in the Spirit and in the Body. As if, there could one day be a unity between the two of them, through grace.  In fact, He was put onto a hill for everyone to see.  He truly allowed His light to shine before others.
FB: You are saying that Christ cares about externals?
FC: Have you ever been hugged before Fr. Brook?
FB: Are you insulting me?!
FC: No! I’m not saying you need a hug…haha. I’m asking you if you appreciate hugs?
FB: One of the things I’ve learned in ministry is that touch is incredibly powerful. When going to the hospital, I like to hold the hand of an infirm person who is dying. I want to show them that they are not alone.
FC: Exactly. That is beautiful. And it is an example of exactly what I am talking about. External or sensible realities transmit love and grace. A person can have an encounter with Christ’s healing touch through their senses being activated through sensible worship. The ritual of the mass touches all five senses, and can transmit to that person what is actually taking place in heaven: Divine Love. It could go beyond even human love.
FB: But why are you and all the overly conservative seminarians spending so much time in adoration, when they could be serving Christ in the poor?
FC: How could we ever serve the poor if prayer were not a part of our life. Prayer is supposed to purify our hearts, so that our service to our neighbour can be truly authentic. But you raise an important point, something that I think we need to remember.
FB: What is that?
FC: We need to have a consistent spirituality between what takes place in the Church-building and what takes place outside of the Church-building.  Since we are the Church, regardless of where we are, we should make sure there is a consistency between both. The centre of our lives is the Eucharist, but part of the celebration of the Eucharist is bringing to Christ the sacrifice of our lives. That is: all the deeds, works of charity and mercy we have done throughout our day or week. If we neglect our brother or sister in a grave way, we, as St. Paul seems to imply: “Drink condemnation upon ourselves.”
FB: That is really good to hear you say. Although I do think that you also emphasize receiving communion in mortal sin is a bit out-dated and sometimes hyperbolic. People are not black and white, they are ambiguous.
FC: I definitely agree that people are ambiguous, but it is that ambiguity that is precisely the reason why such a person shouldn’t receive holy communion, especially when that ambiguity reaches a gravity that is significant. When a person is in mortal sin, it does not diminish the fact that other actions might be done in good will. For instance, a murderer might still care for his children. Nonetheless he is still guilty of murder. It is that ambiguity that is intolerable to God. A spiritual schizophrenia, where God is blessed and cursed by the same heart. Consider how Judas kissed Christ – a sign of love, an external sign of love, meanwhile in his heart there is betrayal.
FB: I do not believe that the majority of people commit mortal sins. I often tell them this in confession. Most people would agree that they don’t explicitly hate God in-the-act. Their mind is not on hurting God explicitly, but on something else.
FC: Mortal sin is as much of a possibility as is love.  It is a radical possibility.  One does not need to explicitly or consciously be hating God in an action in order for it to be mortal. In fact, it is part of our freedom to silence our conscience so that we don’t think about the logical consequences of an action we take. For instance, a murderer might not think of all the people he is harming when he kills another man, including the man he kills. But he allows only a convenient flow of information to inform his conscience so as to appease his own passions. This very act of willful ignorance or rationalization is a hatred for all those people, it is a type of choice-neglect, a willful disregard for the good of another.
FB: You seem to have a logical answer for everything.
FC: Thank you.
FB: It wasn’t meant has a compliment. I don’t mean to be rude Fr. Chris, but logic will only get you so far.
FC: And passion will only get us so far as well. I think neither the intellect nor the heart are entirely redeemed. But I have found reason helps me to encounter God in a way that also guides my passion through proper discipline. I think passion is like the flow of water, and reason and truth is like the banks of a river. Truth is definitive and limited, and the passion of the water is what gives it life and meaning. When you put the two together, you get something that moves in a particular direction. But if it’s just passion, I think what happens is you get nothing but a body of water that moves nowhere, a body of sentiments that changes nothing, and resists change at all costs: its comfortable and doesn’t involve risk. And when all you have is a trench, or the limits of a river but no water, you have what Christ called a white-washed tomb. Nothing but death.
FB: I can’t say I disagree with your point. I sometimes get the impression that with all the traditions you guys are bringing back, that all you are doing is digging a trench.
FC: God forbid it. Can I tell you about an experience I had in my first parish?
FB: Sure.
FC: Our youth went to Steubenville Ohio for a conference. Many of them had an experience of Christ, most especially during adoration. And for many of them, that experience changed their whole life. They encountered God as a healer and lover of their soul. When some of those youth came back, during periods of adoration, some of them experienced ecstasy and visions of God. It took about an hour to snap some of them out of it. When you talk about adoration as being archaic or unimportant, and I see how it has changed this person who has now developed into a full blown Catholic, evangelizing and actually doing some mission work. In this sense, I am judging this practice by its fruits.
FB: I see your point. I’m not against adoration. I’m just against having only-adoration.
FC: As I said before, I agree with that point.
FB: We’ve gone off topic. Let’s get back to the original reason I’m here. Sara.
FC: Okay. As I said to Sara, I have no problem with her helping with the RCIA, or even offering a testimony pertaining to her faith. But when it comes to catechesis, I don’t think it makes sense to have a uncatechised person catechize.
FB: That is a judgment that belongs to me, Fr. Chris.
FC: Are you aware of what she was planning on teaching to the RCIA class?
FB: I believe I had assigned to her the task of judgment, heaven and hell, and purgatory. She is always praying for the souls in purgatory, so she seemed like the perfect candidate.
FC: Are you aware that she was going to teach the same heresy Origen taught that was condemned by the Church? The notion that one day hell will release the souls of the damned?
FB: Hmm. I wasn’t. But in the broad scheme of things, does it really matter?
FC: You asked, so I’ll answer. Yes, it does matter. We should be aware of the inescapable consequences of sin that could devastate a soul for eternity or reward a soul for eternity. If you were selling someone a car and said: “This will not get you to your destination, but will leave you stranded in the desert where you will die” do you think the salesman is right in telling you this?  Of course.
FB: As a Church, we no longer emphasize this anymore. It causes a person to only promote a relationship with Christ that is purely fear based.
FC: I often hear that criticism, but I couldn’t disagree with it more. Fearing the loss of God is a sign of a love of God. We fear losing what we love, do we not?
FB: Should we fear that God would abandon us? That doesn’t seem healthy.
FC: That is an evil type of fear, the type of despair that makes us doubt God’s Love. Christ felt it in his bones but did not give into the passions of such abandonment.
FB: So what kind of fear is holy then? Fear of God really means a reverence for Him.
FC: Yes, and if we revere the goodness of God, if we have a deep love for who God is, we would want to avoid anything that might cause us to not be with Him for eternity. God never abandons us, but we abandon Him, and it is in that freedom that He permits that fear can reasonably exist. God does not kidnap anyone of us into heaven.
FB: That is a different way of putting it. But don’t you think we should be spending more time talking about how to fall in love with God rather than fearing walking away from Him?
FC: I think both need to be discussed: don’t you? Christ after all spoke more about hell than anyone else in the bible. I suppose that was because He loved us, and wanted to protect us from danger. Isn’t there love in that very action! We have a God who saves us.
FB: I understand that God saves us. But this preoccupation with sin is unhealthy.
FC: How can we ever fall in love with God if we don’t grasp the depravity of our sin? We would cheapen the gift of his mercy.
FB: What do you mean?
FC: God forgives our sins. But we would never appreciate that gift if we didn’t spend time realizing we don’t deserve forgiveness. Instead, we would fall into the trap of presumption.
FB: I’m dealing with a lot of people who are in despair. They grew up in a Church that made them think swallowing toothpaste before mass was a mortal sin.
FC: This is another example of making sure we focus on both sin and mercy. But there is Love in focusing on both. I’d add that it sounds like sin wasn’t really the focus, but rules without the spirit being united to it?
FB: I’m beginning to get the impression that you actually do care about the people and the spirit. But when I see the externals come back, my automatic reaction is to go back to that place where things were done for their own sake. Rules for rules, that is what I’m reacting to and trying to avoid.
FC: May I be completely direct with you Fr. Brook?
FB: I have been, so it would be unfair for me to not extend you the same favour.
FC: Thanks. I don’t mean this to sound rude: but what you just said to me outlines a complete ignorance of what my own generation of Catholics has experienced in our world. In your own words you are “reacting” to an external, but it might also be said you are reacting to a generation of Catholics that isn’t mine. Is it perhaps possible that you are projecting your negative experience of traditions without the ideology behind them upon my own generation?
FB: It was not my intention to misjudge your generation. But when I see the rise of externals, I always associate them with a legalistic attitude.
FC: And that is where I want to introduce you to another possible category: that there is a world where the spirit behind the external and the external itself can be united, and through that unity can transmit to others a grace. But when we have a visceral reaction to the external as a result of generational baggage, that grace is blocked and shut out.
FB: You are saying I have baggage?
FC: I think everyone does. I do. I know sometimes I struggle with resentments of the past generation of priests, and the trail of wreckage they have left behind them in the Church. But I’ve come to the conclusion that resentment is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and I’m doing everything I can to make sure I’m not reacting myself. I think that some in our generation have slipped into that trap. Especially those in the SSPX or those who condemn the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form of the mass. But I also don’t think that everyone involved in the Traditional Latin Mass have that same demeanor, and that community needs to be served just as much as everyone else. Sometimes they are treated like lepers by the Catholic Clergy. And when people are isolated and mal-treated it naturally creates a temptation to become resentful. It is funny how by resisting what is legitimately permitted in the Church ends up polarizing the situation even further. Extreme begets extreme.
FB: You mentioned a lot of things there. You also mentioned earlier that your experience of the Church wasn’t the same as I had mentioned. Could you tell me a little more about your experience of the Church?
FC: I’m blown away by you asking me that question. You are the first priest who has ever wanted to know where I was coming from! Usually we are just told the way it is by the Power-base.
FB: Power-base?
FC: Sorry that is a term I had learned from one of the priests who spoke to us at the CCCB organized event for newly ordained priests in the Ontario region. It means the Vatican II generation who for the most part are in “power” right now.
FB: It sounds a bit derogatory and inflammatory.
FC: Typically having power involves a knee-jerk reaction from people. I suspect that the title was given to remind people of the dynamic of power that exists. The newly ordained are not in charge, and you are. That will naturally create a power-dynamic amongst the clergy. Some may be intimidated, especially if there is an abuse of authority, or a paradigm difference.
FB: Sometimes I am in my mind still thinking of what we went through with the past generation of priests that I forget what type of power and authority we have.
FC: That seems normal. But I think that there are things that have changed in the culture. You asked me what my experience was like, I’d like to share with you a couple of things.
FB: sure.
FC: Growing up I rarely ever encountered friends in the Church who agreed with the Church’s teaching. Rather, we had everyone making up their own mind about what the truth was, without the guidance of the Church. People naturally looked at the authority of the Church as having no divine authority, especially considering all the sexual abuse scandals that seemed to dethrone us from having any moral authority. So as a result people have no sort of fraternal unity, because none of them are united by any truth, but everyone’s individual truth. That sounds abstract, but let me explain the impact it has on us, which is very real: we are lonely. And when we go to the Church, we look for refuge from the cultures radical-individualism. If the Church is truly united in the creed and all that is a consequence of it, we finally belong to something that fosters genuine unity, not just in the heart, but in the mind as well. Without a common-mission, we are always working against each other.
When we see priests in their collar what we see is a hero: a man who rises above the culture and is willing to be a sign for us of that unity and fraternity we deeply long for. When we see nuns in their habits, it is the same thing: instead of a bunch of individuals, we see a community that wants to express its solidarity like a light shining in the darkness.
That fraternity needs to be visible and tangible since the individuality in our culture is also visible and tangible. It means nothing if the spirit itself is not in it, of course, but again, its about both of them going together. Habits, cassocks, collars, vestments, and tradition all speak of something even more deep and profound: a fraternity with the past: with the history of the Church. Not only do we belong to a current trend in our contemporary culture, but we belong to something historical, something that is culturally grounded in the history of civilization as we know it today. And lastly, that not only do we belong to a cultural reality, to something deeply grounded in the identity of the past, but something created by our infallible and all-loving God: something Divine in its nature.
FB: Wow. So it isn’t just about some sort of sentimentality. Do you judge priests who don’t wear their collars?
FC: I try not to, but I struggle with it for a few reasons, as I mentioned before. One of the reactions I have inside of me is that when I see a priest not wearing their collar in public I immediately feel the disunity in the priesthood, and the lack of fraternity which runs even deeper.
FB: What runs even more deeply?
FC: Liturgical norms in each particular parish vary. The laity are greatly frustrated with that. I often hear men saying: “Every priest says, ‘this is the way to celebrate mass’ and yet every priest celebrates differently.” We both know that there are a variety of acceptable situations that are legitimate, and then there are acceptable situations that are not legitimate, and then there are unacceptable differences that are always illegitimate.
As the phrase goes: when you give an inch people will take a mile. People want to belong to something transcendent that is a basic design of any human being. But when each church does everything different, or each diocese, it merely buys into the culture of radical individualism. When we see that, we want to run far away, as it will merely offer us everything the world offers us already.  It is that tough balance that we need to somehow strike. And I think examining the radical-individualism of our culture today, whether people want it or not, we need more of a stress on what is universal.
People don’t go to Church today, in our diocese, and I think part of the reason is they don’t find anything much different from the culture there. I think people are looking for something unworldly, something transcendent of both history, and of the world.
FB: St. Paul teaches that the Church is dynamic, and that everyone is different for a reason, and through that difference we develop unity.
FC: Absolutely. That is why I think uniformity is not always a good thing. But growing up in the Church there wasn’t much of it. We are attempting to bring it back moderately.   I think using the professional standard applies here.
FB: Professional standard?
FC: In order to discern if we have our priorities straight sometimes it’s helpful to compare the expectations of what exists in the world and to the Church. For instance: the statement goes; “Come as you are.” And we assign this to God. I think it’s a fair statement…but the question I would ask is: “What do we have the potential to do when we come?” It seems unreasonable to give a future employer more respect than God in how we dress.
FB: I try not to judge people based upon the clothing they wear.
FC: Does that extend to priests who wear cassocks?
FB: Touché
FC: I think we can both agree that wearing clothing is important. It certainly is mentioned in scripture. My question here is what the motive behind the clothing we wear is, is it appropriate given the various circumstances we find ourselves in. If someone wears something simple and is not dressed up well, is it because they want to be in solidarity with the poor or is it resulting from a lack of reverence for Christ? If a person dresses in their best, is it to show off their bling or to give honour to Christ. We can both agree that the motives might be bad in both situations, and we can both agree that perhaps there are two different legitimate ways to dress for mass. But we must both agree that the motive is important, and that some clothes are never appropriate: like a bikini or a thong, or boxers or showing too much skin, or a shirt with graphic images that are inappropriate (everywhere).
FB: ha…the standards do seem to keep getting lower. I can agree with you on that. It is nice also to note that you promote a certain clothing to be in solidarity with the poor. Franciscan Habits have always reminded me of the importance of being in solidarity with the poor and not being obsessed with externals.
FC: It is interesting to note that St. Francis actually noted the incredibly evangelical dimension to externals that he would dress in something that was a sign of great poverty to convey a spirituality. But St. Francis also spoke very highly of the importance of gold chalices and beautiful vestments.
FB: Really? I thought he was all about poverty in the liturgy too?
FC: No. St. Francis of Assisi insisted that poverty be a way of life, but reserved the sacredness and riches of the Church to the Eucharist and its celebration. It is interesting to note that St. Jean Vianney was the same way. I recently went to a Social Justice meeting, and a woman was complaining about all the statues and art within the Church. She went on about how all the younger priests and some older priests don’t care about the poor at all. She then spoke about selling all the art and giving it to the poor, and bringing back clay vessels for mass. She missed the whole point. I stood up and said, “Everything in the Church belongs to the poor. What doesn’t is what exists in the rectory. We should be selling all the lavish things that we priests have in the rectory before we start taking away from the poor and the Lord in the liturgy.” If we as priests really want to be in solidarity with the poor we won’t use the liturgy to convey this, but we will live it out in our way of life.
FB: But we aren’t monks.
FC: Nor was St. Jean Vianney
FB: But he is an extreme example and part of the past.
FC: A saint, worthy of honour who sets us an example. Just because he is in the past doesn’t make him irrelevant, just as Christ’s past doesn’t make Him even more irrelevant.
FB: What I mean is that we have a tendency to go to extremes with the spiritual life.
FC: That is true. However, I think sometimes people say that as a way of escaping a legitimate spirituality. When I clean my bedroom (which is often messy) I think it looks clean. Someone else comes in and says, “Wow you are messy.” I think to myself: “I just cleaned it…” My point is this: when we live in a spiritual mess, we begin to look at mediocrity as excellence, and excellence as extreme. I think the saints often had to deal with the same criticisms we might give the saints of the past today.
FB: Why do you think we aim for spiritual mediocrity today?
FC: First, 86 % of Catholics in the diocese of London do not practice their faith. So the majority of the Catholics baptized and confirmed don’t live up to the bare minimum. Then when mass is celebrated I rarely see the ideals being lived out. The Church teaches that “Gregorian chant” is preferred. But most of the lay-faithful never hear it. According to Vatican II and since Vatican II the faithful were expected to know how to participate in the mass with Latin in the Ordinary parts of the mass. If you sing the Agnus Dei today, it’s a huge change. We don’t use incense, and if we do, we rarely use it at the most important part of the mass:  the consecration.  Altar servers often don’t get trained very well, in some places they don’t even wear Albs. And this is the standard we live by in the Church building. If the standards are set low, it sends the message that what is taking place is not of great importance.  Therefore it makes sense that about 70 % of Catholics do not believe in the true-presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Even our social-justice events rarely speak the name of Jesus and give him the glory in such activity.  We have pushed God aside as a politically incorrect name to avoid mentioning.  We are purposefully making Christ anonymous, and someone who loves Him wouldn’t do that…ever.incense-and-icon
FB: You’ve given me a lot of things to think about Fr. Chris. I don’t know what to make out of this last comment. It somewhat bothers me. But I’m going to think about it.
As for Sara, I think it’s clear that her teaching something erroneous was not a good idea. It seems to me that we have a lot more to talk about. I’d like to share with you more of my experiences of the past as well, so you might understand where we are coming from too.
FC: I think that would be a good idea. Of course, we should also get some of the Pre-Vatican II priests in here if we can as well to let them speak too. I realize that these categories can be demeaning, since not everyone fits neatly into each box we might label them with.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


FEW Catholics know of The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, a secret document written in the early 19th century that mapped out a blueprint for the subversion of the Catholic Church. The Alta Vendita was the highest lodge of the Carbonari, an Italian secret society with links to Freemasonry and which, along with Freemasonry, was condemned by the Catholic Church. Fr. E. Cahill, S.J. in his book Freemasonry and the Anti-Christian Movement states that the Alta Vendita was “commonly supposed to have been at the time the governing centre of European Freemasonry.” The Carbonari were most active in Italy and France. In his book Athanasius and the Church of Our Time, Bishop Rudolph Graber quoted a Freemason who declared that “the goal [of Freemasonry] is no longer the destruction of the Church, but to make use of it by infiltrating it.”

In other words, since Freemasonry cannot completely obliterate Christ’s Church, it plans not only to eradicate the influence of Catholicism in society, but also to use the Church’s structure as an instrument of “renewal,” “progress” and “enlightenment” to further many of its own principles and goals. An Outline The strategy advanced in The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita is astonishing in its audacity and cunning. From the start, the document tells of a process that will take decades to accomplish. Those who drew up the document knew that they would not see its fulfillment. They were inaugurating a work that would be carried on by succeeding generations of the initiated. The Permanent Instruction says, “In our ranks the soldier dies and the struggle goes on.” The Instruction called for the dissemination of liberal ideas and axioms throughout society and within the institutions of the Catholic Church so that laity, seminarians, clerics and prelates would, over the years, gradually be imbued with progressive principles. In time, this mind-set would be so pervasive that priests would be ordained, bishops would be consecrated and cardinals would be nominated whose thinking was in step with the modern thought rooted in the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and other “Principles of 1789” (equality of religions, separation of Church and State, religious pluralism, etc.).

Eventually, a Pope would be elected from these ranks who would lead the Church on the path of “enlightenment” and “renewal.” They stated that it was not their aim to place a Freemason on the Chair of Peter. Their goal was to effect an environment that would eventually produce a Pope and a hierarchy won over to the ideas of liberal Catholicism, all the while believing themselves to be faithful Catholics. These Catholic leaders, then, would no longer oppose the modern ideas of the Revolution (as had been the consistent practice of the Popes from 1789 until 1958—the death of Pope Pius XII —who condemned these liberal principles) but would amalgamate them into the Church. The end result would be a Catholic clergy and laity marching under the banner of the Enlightenment, all the while thinking they are marching under the banner of the Apostolic keys.

Is It Possible?
For those who may believe this scheme to be too far-fetched—a goal too hopeless for the enemy to attain, it should be noted that both Pope Pius IX and Pope Leo XIII asked that The Permanent Instruction be published, no doubt in order to prevent such a tragedy from taking place. However, if such a dark state of affairs would ever come to pass, there would obviously be three unmistakable means of recognizing it:
1) It would produce an upheaval of such magnitude that the entire world would realize that there had been a major revolution inside the Catholic Church in line with modern ideas. It would be clear to all that an “updating” had taken place.
2) A new theology would be introduced that would be in contradiction to previous teachings.
3) The Freemasons themselves would voice their cock-a-doodle of triumph, believing that the Catholic Church had finally “seen the light” on such points as equality of religions, the secular state, pluralism and whatever other compromises had been achieved.

The Authenticity of the Alta Vendita Documents
The secret papers of the Alta Vendita that fell into the hands of Pope Gregory XVI embrace a period that goes from 1820 to 1846. They were published at the request of Pope Pius IX by Cretineau-Joly in his work The Roman Church and Revolution. With the brief of approbation of February 25, 1861, which he addressed to the author, Pope Pius IX guaranteed the authenticity of these documents, but he did not allow anyone to divulge the true members of the Alta Vendita implicated in this correspondence. The full text of the Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita is also contained in Msgr. George E. Dillon’s book, Grand Orient Freemasonry Unmasked. When Pope Leo XIII was presented with a copy of Msgr. Dillon’s book, he was so impressed that he ordered an Italian version to be completed and published at his own expense. In the Encyclical Humanum Genus (1884), Leo XIII called upon Catholic leaders to “tear off the mask from Freemasonry and make plain to all what it really is.” The publication of these documents is a means of “tearing off the mask.”

And if the Popes asked that these letters be published, it is because they wanted all Catholics to know the secret societies’ plans to subvert the Church from within—so that Catholics would be on their guard and, hopefully, prevent such a catastrophe from taking place.

What follows is not the entire instruction, but the sections that are most pertinent to our discussion. The document reads (with emphasis added):
Our ultimate end is that of Voltaire and of the French Revolution—the final destruction of Catholicism, and even of the Christian idea. . . . The Pope, whoever he is, will never come to the secret societies; it is up to the secret societies to take the first step toward the Church, with the aim of conquering both of them. The task that we are going to undertake is not the work of a day, or of a month, or of a year; it may last several years, perhaps a century; but in our ranks the soldier dies and the struggle goes on. We do not intend to win the Popes to our cause, to make them neophytes of our
principles, propagators of our ideas. That would be a ridiculous dream; and if events turn out in some way, if Cardinals or prelates, for example, of their own free will or by surprise, should enter into a part of our secrets, this is not at all an incentive for desiring their elevation to the See of Peter. That elevation would ruin us. Ambition alone would have led them to apostasy, the requirements of power would force them to sacrifice us.

What we must ask for, what we should look for and wait for, as the Jews wait for the Messiah, is a Pope according to our needs . . . With that we shall march more securely towards the assault on the Church than with the pamphlets of our brethren in France and even the gold of England. Do you want to know the reason for this? It is that with this, in order to shatter the high rock on which God has built His Church, we no longer need Hannibalian vinegar, or need gunpowder, or even need our arms. We have the little finger of the successor of Peter engaged in the ploy, and this little finger is as good, for this
crusade, as all the Urban IIs and all the Saint Bernards in Christendom. We have no doubt that we will arrive at this supreme end of our efforts. But when? But how? The unknown is not yet revealed. Nevertheless, as nothing should turn us aside from the plan drawn up, and on the contrary everything should tend to this, as if as early as tomorrow success were going to crown the work that is barely sketched, we wish, in this instruction, which will remain secret for the mere initiates, to give the officials in the charge of the supreme Vente [Lodge] some advice that they should instill in all the brethren, in the form of instruction or of a memorandum . . . Now then, to assure ourselves a Pope of the required dimensions, it is a question first of shaping for this Pope a generation worthy of the reign we are dreaming of. Leave old people and those of a mature age aside; go to the youth, and if it is possible, even to the children. . . . You will contrive for yourselves, at little cost, a reputation as good Catholics and pure patriots.

This reputation will put access to our doctrines into the midst of the young clergy, as well as deeply into the monasteries. In a few years, by the force of things, this young clergy will have overrun all the functions; they will form the sovereign’s council, they will be called to choose a Pontiff who should reign. And this Pontiff, like most of his contemporaries, will be necessarily more or less imbued with the [revolutionary] Italian and humanitarian principles that we are going to begin to put into circulation. It is a small grain of black mustard that we are entrusting to the ground; but the sunshine of justice will develop it up to the highest power, and you will see one day what a rich harvest this small seed will produce. In the path that we are laying out for our brethren there are found great obstacles to conquer, difficulties of more than one kind to master. They will triumph over them by experience and by clearsightedness; but the goal is so splendid that it is important to put all the sails to the wind in order to reach it. You want to revolutionize Italy; look for the Pope whose portrait we have just drawn. You wish to establish the reign of the chosen ones on the throne of the prostitute of Babylon; let the clergy march under your standard, always believing that they are marching under the banner of the Apostolic keys. You intend to make the last vestige of tyrants and the oppressors disappear; lay your snares [nets] like Simon Bar-Jona; lay them in the sacristies, the seminaries and the monasteries rather than at the bottom of the sea: and if you do not hurry, we promise you a catch more miraculous than his. The fisher of fish became the fisher of men; you will bring friends around the Apostolic Chair. You will have preached a revolution in tiara and in cope, marching with the cross and the banner, a revolution that will need to be only a little bit urged on to set fire to the four corners of the world.

It now remains for us to examine how successful this design has been. The Enlightenment, My Friend, Is “Blowin’ in the Wind” Throughout the 19th century, society had become increasingly permeated with the liberal principles of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, to the great detriment of the Catholic Faith and the Catholic State. The supposedly “kinder and gentler” notions of religious pluralism, religious indifferentism, a democracy which believes all authority comes from the people, false notions of liberty, separation of Church and State, interfaith gatherings and other novelties were gripping the minds of post-Enlightenment Europe, infecting statesmen and churchmen alike. The Popes of the 19th century and early 20th century waged war against these dangerous trends in full battle dress. With clearsighted presence of mind rooted in an uncompromised certitude of Faith, these Popes were not taken in. They knew that evil principles, no matter how honorable they may appear, cannot bear good fruit, and these were evil principles at their worst, since they were rooted not only in heresy, but in apostasy. Like commanding generals who recognize the duty to hold their ground at all cost, these Popes aimed powerful cannons at the errors of the modern world and fired incessantly. The Encyclicals were their cannonballs, and they never missed their target. The most devastating blast came in the form of Pope Pius IX’s monumental 1864 Syllabus of Errors, and when the smoke cleared, all involved in the battle were in no doubt as to who was on what side. The lines of demarcation had clearly been drawn. In this great Syllabus, Pius IX condemned the principal errors of the modern world, not because they were modern, but because these new ideas were rooted in pantheistic naturalism and were therefore incompatible with Catholic doctrine, as well as being destructive to society. The teachings in the Syllabus were counter-Liberalism, and the principles of Liberalism were counter-Syllabus. This was unquestionably recognized by all parties. Father Denis Fahey referred to this showdown as Pius IX vs. the Pantheistic Deification of Man. Speaking for the other side, the French Freemason Ferdinand Buisson likewise declared, “A school cannot remain neutral between the Syllabus and the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man.’”

“Liberal Catholics”
Yet the 19th century saw a new breed of Catholic who utopianly sought a compromise between the two. These men looked for what they believed to be “good” in the principles of 1789 and tried to introduce them into the Church. Many clergymen, infected by the spirit of the age, were caught into this net that had been “cast into the sacristies and into the seminaries.” They came to be known as “Liberal Catholics.” Pope Pius IX remarked that they were the worst enemies of the Church. Despite this, their numbers increased. Pope St. Pius X and Modernism This crisis peaked around the beginning of the 20th century when the Liberalism of 1789 that had been “blowin’ in the wind” swirled into the tornado of Modernism. Fr. Vincent Miceli identified this heresy as such by describing Modernism’s “trinity of parents.” He wrote:
1) Its religious ancestor is the Protestant Reformation;
2) Its philosophical parent is the Enlightenment;
3) Its political pedigree comes from the French Revolution.

Pope St. Pius X, who ascended to the papal chair in 1903, recognized Modernism as a most deadly plague that must be arrested. He wrote that the most important obligation of the Pope is to insure the purity and integrity of Catholic doctrine, and he further stated that if he did nothing, then he would have failed in his essential duty. St. Pius X waged a war on Modernism, issued an Encyclical (Pascendi) and a Syllabus (Lamentabili) against it, instituted the Anti-Modernist Oath to be sworn by all priests and theology teachers, purged the seminaries and universities of Modernists and excommunicated the stubborn and unrepentant. St. Pius X effectively halted the spread of Modernism in his day. It is reported, however, that when he was congratulated for having eradicated this grave error, St. Pius X immediately responded that despite all his efforts, he had not succeeded in killing this beast, but had only driven it underground. He warned that if Church leaders were not vigilant, it would return in the future more virulent than ever.

Curia on the Alert
A little-known drama that unfolded during the reign of Pope Pius XI demonstrates that the underground current of Modernist thought was alive and well in the immediate post-Pius X period. Father Raymond Dulac relates that at the secret consistory of May 23, 1923, Pope Pius XI questioned the thirty Cardinals of the Curia on the timeliness of summoning an ecumenical council. In attendance were such illustrious prelates as Cardinals Merry del Val, De Lai, Gasparri, Boggiani and Billot. The Cardinals advised against it. Cardinal Billot warned, “The existence of profound differences in the midst of the episcopacy itself cannot be concealed . . . [They] run the risk of giving place to discussions that will be prolonged indefinitely.” Boggiani recalled the Modernist theories from which, he said, a part of the clergy and of the bishops were not exempt. “This mentality can incline certain Fathers to present motions, to introduce methods incompatible with Catholic traditions.”

Billot was even more precise. He expressed his fear of seeing the council maneuvered” by “the worst enemies of the Church, the Modernists, who are already getting ready, as certain indications show, to bring forth the revolution in the Church, a new 1789.” In discouraging the idea of a council for such reasons, these Cardinals showed themselves more apt at recognizing the “signs of the times” than all the post-Vatican II theologians combined. Yet their caution may have been rooted in something deeper. They may also have been haunted by the writings of the infamous illuminé, the excommunicated Canon Roca (1830-1893), who preached revolution and Church “reform” and who predicted a subversion of the Church that would be brought about by a council. Canon Roca’s Revolutionary Ravings In his book Athanasius and the Church of Our Time, Bishop Graber refers to Canon Roca’s prediction of a new, enlightened Church which would be influenced by “the socialism of Jesus and the Apostles.” In the mid-19th century, Roca had predicted: “The new church, which might not be able to retain anything of Scholastic doctrine and the original form of the former Church, will nevertheless receive consecration and canonical jurisdiction from Rome.” Bishop Graber, commenting on this prediction, remarked, “A few years ago this was still inconceivable to us, but today . . .?”

Canon Roca also predicted a liturgical “reform.” With reference to the future liturgy, he believed “that the divine cult in the form directed by the liturgy, ceremonial, ritual and regulations of the Roman Church will shortly undergo a transformation at an ecumenical council, which will restore to it the venerable simplicity of the golden age of the Apostles in accordance with the dictates of conscience and modern civilization.” He foretold that through this council will come “a perfect accord between the ideals of modern civilization and the ideal of Christ and His Gospel. This will be the consecration of the New Social Order and the solemn baptism of modern civilization.” Roca also spoke of the future of the Papacy. He wrote, “There is a sacrifice in the offing which represents a solemn act of expiation . . . The Papacy will fall; it will die under the hallowed knife which the fathers of the last council will forge. The papal caesar is a host [victim] crowned for the sacrifice.” Roca enthusiastically predicted a “new religion,” “new dogma,” “new ritual,” “new priesthood.” “He called the new priests ‘progressists’ [sic]; he speaks of the ‘suppression’ of the soutane [cassock] and the ‘marriage of priests.’” Chilling echos of Roca and the Alta Vendita are to be found in the words of the Rosicrucian Dr. Rudolph Steiner, who declared in 1910, “We need a council and a Pope to proclaim it.” The Great Council that Never Was Around 1948, Pope Pius XII, at the request of the staunchly orthodox Cardinal Ruffini, considered calling a general council and even spent a few years making the necessary preparations. There is evidence that progressive elements in Rome eventually dissuaded Pius XII from bringing it to realization since this council showed definite signs of being in sync with Humani Generis. Like this great 1950 encyclical, the new council would combat “false opinions which threaten to undermine the foundations of Catholic doctrine.” Tragically, Pope Pius XII became convinced that he was too advanced in years to shoulder this momentous task, and he resigned himself to the idea that “this will be for my successor.”

Roncalli to “Consecrate Ecumenism”
Throughout the pontificate of Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), the Holy Office under the able leadership of Cardinal Ottaviani maintained a safe Catholic landscape by keeping the wild horses of Modernism firmly corralled. Many of today’s Modernist theologians disdainfully recount how they and their friends had been “muzzled” during this period. Yet even Ottaviani could not prevent what was to happen in 1958. A new type of Pope “whom the progressives believed to favor their cause” would ascend to the pontifical chair and would force a reluctant Ottaviani to remove the latch, open the corral and brace himself for the stampede. However, such a state of affairs was not unforeseen. At the news of the death of Pius XII, the old Dom Lambert Beauduin, a friend of Cardinal Roncalli (the future John XXIII), confided to Father Louis Bouyer: “If they elect Roncalli, everything would be saved; he would be capable of calling a council and of consecrating ecumenism.” And so it happened: Cardinal Roncalli was elected and called a council which “consecrated” ecumenism. The “revolution in tiara and cope” was underway.

Pope John’s Revolution
It is well known and superbly documented that a clique of liberal theologians (periti) and bishops hijacked Vatican Council II (1962-1965) with an agenda to remake the Church into their own image through the implementation of a “new theology.” Critics and defenders of Vatican II are in agreement on this point. In his book Vatican II Revisited, Bishop Aloysius J. Wycislo (a rhapsodic advocate of the Vatican II revolution) declares with enthusiasm that “theologians and biblical scholars who had been ‘under a cloud’ for years surfaced as periti [theological experts advising the bishops at the Council], and their post-Vatican II books and commentaries became popular reading.” He notes that “Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis [1950] had . . . a devastating effect on the work of a number of pre-conciliar theologians” and explains that “During the early preparation of the Council, those theologians (mainly French, with some Germans) whose activities had been restricted by Pope Pius XII, were still under a cloud. Pope John quietly lifted the ban affecting some of the most influential ones. Yet a number remained suspect to the officials of the Holy Office.” Bishop Wycislo sings the praises of triumphant progressives such as Hans Küng, Karl Rahner, John Courtney Murray, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, Edward Schillebeeckx and Gregory Baum, who had been considered suspect before the Council, but who are now the leading lights of post-Vatican II theology. In effect, those whom Pope Pius XII considered unfit to be walking the streets of Catholicism were now in control of the town. And as if to crown their achievements, the Oath against Modernism was quietly suppressed shortly after the close of the Council.

St. Pius X had predicted correctly. Lack of vigilance in authority had allowed Modernism to return with a vengeance. “Marching under a New Banner” There were countless battles at Vatican II between the International Group of Fathers, who fought to maintain Tradition, and the progressive Rhine group. Tragically, in the end, it was the latter, the Liberal and Modernist element that prevailed. It was obvious, to anyone who had eyes to see, that the Council opened the door to many ideas that had formerly been anathema to Church teaching, but which are in step with modernist thought. This did not happen by accident, but by design. The progressives at Vatican II avoided condemnations of Modernist errors. They also deliberately planted ambiguities in the Council’s texts which they intended to exploit after the Council. These ambiguities have been utilized to promote an ecumenism that had been condemned by Pope Pius XI, a religious liberty that had been condemned by the 19th and early 20th-century Popes (especially Pope Pius IX), a new liturgy along the lines of ecumenism that Archbishop Bugnini called “a major conquest of the Catholic Church,” a collegiality that strikes at the heart of the papal primacy and a “new attitude toward the world”— especially in one of the most radical of all the Council documents, Gaudium et Spes. As the authors of The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita had hoped, the notions of Liberal culture had finally won adherence among major players in the Catholic hierarchy and were thus spread throughout the entire Church. The result has been an unprecedented crisis of Faith, which continues to worsen. At the same time, countless highly placed Churchmen, obviously inebriated by the “spirit of Vatican II,” continuously praise those post-Conciliar reforms that have brought this calamity to pass.

Taken from The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.

     Rev.Thomas Rosica, CSB         Ex-Priest Gregory Baum

"... you have been for me and continue to be a real model of hope". Rev.Rosica

Carlo Maria Martini 2010.jpg
                         Cardinal Martini, SJ. (deceased)

            Italian Masons Mourn The Loss

"Cardinal Martini was for me a mentor, teacher, model Scripture scholar and friend. He has influenced my life, teaching, pastoral ministry in a very significant way over the past 30 years." Rev. Rosica, CSB

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I'll Pray For You, Rev.Rosica, that the Holy Ghost Unclouds Your Bitter, Destructive, Modernist Mind.

Catholic World Report

The CWR Blog

The Priest vs. The Blogger: A Case in Canadian Conflict
A four-year-long battle of accusatory e-mails between blogger David Domet and Fr. Thomas Rosica appears to be settled—for now.
March 17, 2015 01:29 EST

Dorothy Cummings McLean

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Canada's Salt and Light Media Foundation, participates in a press briefing in English at the Vatican in March 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Over the past several weeks, a curious saga of Priest vs. Blogger has been playing out here in Canada, marked by strong words, assorted accusations, and alleged threats of legal action. This has been accompanied by a steady stream of side-taking and commentary, itself often heated and contentious, indicating deep divisions within the Church in Canada—divisions that have been a source of intense frustration, as revealed in this most recent conflict.

In a March 4th post Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Canada's Salt and Light Media Foundation and Television Network, denied that he had ever intended to sue a blogger. That message appeared online thirteen days after the blogger, Toronto church musician David Domet, received a letter from Rosica's lawyer at Fogler, Rubinoff, Barristers and Solicitors.

The February 17 communication stated that unless Domet removed all mention of Fr. Rosica from his blog Vox Cantoris and posted an apology by February 22, the firm would seek instructions to commence an action against him. Nevertheless it warned Domet: “We reserve the right to commence litigation against you regardless of any apology or retraction, but assure you that in absence of apology or retraction, the damages claimed will be significantly higher.”

In response, Domet published the letter on his blog, retained counsel, and contacted Michael Voris of Church Militant TV.

When Voris, known for his sometimes harsh and wide-ranging criticisms of bishops, reported the story on his show The Vortex the next day, Domet became a cause célèbre among traditionalist Catholics.Dozens of Catholic bloggers published posts sympathetic to Domet and linked to his blog, expanding his readership from fewer than 500 to tens of thousands. Even a prelate was connected with the story. When the Rorate Caeli blog interviewed Cardinal Raymond Burke, it asked his opinion of Vatican officials suing Catholic bloggers and reporters.

On February 22, Domet's lawyer sent Fogler, Rubinoff a refusal to comply with its demands, citing Domet's denial that his remarks about Fr. Rosica were false and defamatory. On February 24, Fogler, Rubinoff demanded that Domet never write about Fr. Rosica again and remove any reference to its February 17 letter from his blog. In response, Domet's lawyer wrote that if Fr. Rosica did not retract his threats to initiate proceedings by March 3, Domet would launch a crowdfunding campaign to fund his legal defense.

Domet's contested remarks about Fr. Rosica touched upon the latter's role in the Holy See Press Office. As Fr. Lombardi's English language assistant, Fr. Rosica was prominent at last October's controversial Synod on the Family. Michael Voris and various bloggers, curious that a high-profile priest would threaten an unknown layman, speculated that forces in the Vatican were planning a crackdown on bloggers who might criticize the Synod this autumn.

The background

In actual fact the animus between David Domet and Fr. Thomas Rosica is several years old, dating from 2011, when Domet complained to Salt and Light and St. Joseph Communications (the Toronto-based communications company that supports Salt and Light) about Fr. Rosica's language concerning pro-life activists and more traditionally-minded Catholics. On March 8, 2011, Domet sent this strongly worded email:

From: David Domet [xxx@xxx]
Posted At: Tuesday, March 08, 2011 7:52 AM
Posted To: Info
Conversation: Father Rosica's Continued Comments
Subject: Father Rosica's Continued Comments

To Whom it May Concern,

I am not alone in becoming concerned about Father Rosica's continued comments that I believe are unbecoming of a Catholic Priest or the Executive Producer of a Catholic television station.

He uses the phase "Taliban Catholics" as referred to recently in the Toronto Star. He equates LifeSiteNews.com as "extremist" on the other end of the [spectrum] as a priest in Quebec [the late Father Raymond Gravel] who advocates positions at odds with the Church whom he also calls "extremist"; to say nothing of earlier comments that some who honestly criticised the canonisation of the late Senator Edward Kennedy were doing satan's work. He is insulting.

To whom is Father referring by the phrase "Taliban Catholics"? Why does he not come out and tell us, who these people are. Frankly, by doing so, he is denigrating the thousands of good people of Afghanistan and those who suffered at the hands of the Taliban inspired Muslim terrorists on 911. Is he somehow saying that some Catholics are like the Taliban and that they are going to blow people up? What kind of talk is this from a priest?

Is he not afraid that this Quebec priest will sue him for calling him an "extremist" just as LifeSiteNews is considered? Father Rosica makes statements that continue to frustrate many, many Catholics. I have recently cancelled all my Bell business because they dropped EWTN. If Father continues with these slanders against good and faithful struggling Catholics who other than LifeSiteNews he does not have the courage to name, then I will cancel my subscription on Rogers to Salt + Light. Given Father's view, I am sure Jesus is considered to be talibanesque for throwing the money-changers out of the Temple!

I ask for the courtesy of a response.

David Anthony Domet

Fr. Rosica's reply, later the same day, was a mixture of terse politeness and sarcastic hostility:

Dear Brother in Christ, David,

Thank you for your message. Thank you for taking the time to write. When colleagues have pointed out your blog postings, and upon receiving this message, I promise to continue to pray for you, asking the Lord to give you the joy, hope and peace that seem to be terribly missing from your life. Something went wrong somewhere and I feel your sadness.

I leave it up to you to keep or cancel Salt + Light. You are very free to do so.

Yours in Christ, Thomas Rosica

P.S. I might make the suggestion the title of your blog be changed to "Vox Umbris" [Voice of the Shadow] rather than Cantoris!

Two weeks later, Fr. Rosica sent what Domet says was an unsolicited email, attached to a National Catholic Reporter article by John Allen, Jr. entitled “April may be cruel month for relations with traditionalists”:

From: Thomas Rosica [mailto: xxx@xxx]
Sent: March 24, 2011 2:53 PM
To: david.domet@xxx
Subject: For your VOX!

More news for you and your VOX. May the Lord grant you the peace you are seeking this Lent. No guarantees you will find it this side of the Resurrection but keep seeking. Fr. Rosica

“I have a collection [of Rosica's emails],” said Domet from his Toronto home. “I assume [this one] was to mock me and my work for the traditional liturgy.”

Domet invited Fr. Rosica out to dinner to sort out their differences, but his invitation was rebuffed. The email exchange continued until Rosica mentioned Domet's place of employment and Domet angrily told him to back off.

Nevertheless, Fr. Rosica was apparently unwilling to step back; he also was apparently keeping track of Domet's postings. He sent what Domet says was another unsolicited email, this time in August 2011, from the World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid. It refers to Domet's post about meeting Michael Voris at a lecture.

From: Thomas Rosica [rosica@xxx]
Subject: Voris' TV exposed for what it is
To: david.xxx@xxx.
Date: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 2:36 PM

Dear David,

For all your chant and rant, you obviously have very poor judgment in those you prop up as your gods... and those with whom you enjoy being photographed!

Read this story below which has broken in the news today as Mr. Voris is exposed for what he is... and isn't.

I beg the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, heart and mind to the Truth, not the myth you are pushing as the real Church, the "real" Catholic TV, the real nonsense.

God bless you... from Madrid.

Fr. Rosica

Domet posted this email on Vox Cantoris under the headline “Father Tom Rosica, I'm calling you out” (later edited to “A Nice Letter from Madrid”) and says he filed a complaint against Fr. Rosica with Congregation of Saint Basil.

“I was promised by the Basilians that he would stay away,” said Domet. “They told me not to contact him and I wrote that I had no intention of communicating with him, but I reserved the right to challenge him publicly on my blog regarding any of his public pronouncements.”

Domet continued to write the occasional post complaining about Fr. Rosica's opinions and speculating about his motives, but did not receive any correspondence from him after August 2011. He said he was “stunned” by the Shrove Tuesday letter from Fogler, Rubinoff.

Silence or more of the same?

In response to the criticism of Michael Voris, Domet, and other bloggers, Fr. Rosica asserted in his March 4, 2015 post on the Salt and Life blog that he is neither “a high ranking Vatican official” nor “a member of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.” He wrote:

Having been strongly advised to respond, as an individual and in no institutional capacity to the Vatican or to my place of work, to the continuous false, slanderous statements of a blogger over a long period of time that resulted in gross distortion, misinformation, many phone calls, letters and clear threats from callers based on the repeated false information contained in the blog, it was never my intention to sue, but rather to issue a letter to “cease and desist” the frivolous calumny. A legal firm, offering its service pro bono to us, issued a letter to cease and desist. No lawsuit was ever launched against the blogger! The matter is now closed.

But the matter is not closed at Vox Cantoris where Domet has responded to Fr. Rosica's post, indicating that he does not think the matter is closed:

Our response to that continued threat of litigation was to advise that we would no longer engage in a campaign of letters and lawfare resulting in a slow and painful bankruptcy. We advised that as of the close of business on March 3, 2015, we would begin to prepare a robust defense should it become necessary and a crowd-funding campaign to finance a rigorous defense.

It would seem that unless the two men reconcile, closure will not be forthcoming. Considering what has already happened and what lies ahead—especially the Synod in October—the saga of Priest vs. Blogger may well involve a sequel.

About the Author
Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian writer living abroad. Her first novel with Ignatius Press is Ceremony of Innocence. She has been a regular contributor to The Catholic Register (Toronto). Her first book, Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life, is a popular work of nonfiction.