Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Situation at St. John Cantius: Letter from Cardinal Cupich and Statement by Attorney for Fr. Phillips

Yesterday, the website of St. John Cantius Parish put up the letter from Cardinal Cupich that was read out at all Saturday and Sunday Masses:

Also, yesterday, Catholic News Agency quoted a statement by Steve Komie, the current attorney for Fr. Frank Phillips:
Phillips’ attorney, Steve Komie of Komie and Associates, told CNA that he has been informed that the Resurrectionist provincial has directed a review board to review the priest’s situation. 
“Father Philips has asked me to say that he’s looking forward to the convocation of the board under the decree of the provincial and he’s looking forward to appearing in front of the board, and he’s looking forward to have the board work its way through the claims being currently made,” Komie said. 
“He looks forward to the report and in the meantime he’s praying for the peace and reconciliation of all involved.” 
“That’s the extent of his statement, because at this time under the rules he is not allowed to comment further,” said the attorney.
CNA also quoted an Archdiocese spokeswoman:
Susan Thomas, communications director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, told CNA that the priest is not accused of a canonical crime, known as a “delict,” and to the archdiocese’s knowledge he is not being investigated for a civil crime... 
Thomas told CNA that removal is “a typical response for misconduct of this nature.” 
“Other cases have been handled in the same way,” she said.
What are we to make of these?

The Archdiocese still hasn't provided much detail on the nature or circumstances of the charges. And as can be seen from the above, it is signaling that it may not say anything more, referring all questions to the Congregation of the Resurrection. 

As I reported yesterday, a bit more detail - that there were three complainants, for instance - was explicitly given or hinted at in the informal "Q & A" discussions held in the St. John Cantius vestibule after each Mass. Since then, a parishioner told me a bit more about one of those sessions. According to the parishioner, the representative from the Archdiocese said that the accusations involved "unwanted touching," and he actually spent some time pantomiming what he meant with his hands.

Now, obviously, "unwanted touching," assuming the reality of the underlying physical event, could mean anything from quasi-molestation to a homosexual pass to a completely non-sexual comradely or fatherly pat. Presumably the complainants allege one of the first two interpretations. But the parishioner told me that the way it was demonstrated ended up seeming almost comic and (whatever the actual truth of the matter) even more potentially innocuous than the verbal description.

What is the significance of this other than the possible awkwardness of the Archdiocese representative? Well, among other things, unwanted touching can constitute legally actionable sexual harassment under Illinois law. Yet Susan Thomas, the Archdiocese Communications Director, claimed that Fr. Phillips is not being investigated for a civil crime. 

Of course, as a priest, Fr. Phillips is also subject to a number of Canon law prohibitions involving sexual behavior - from attempting marriage (Can. 1394) to living in concubinage to persisting in scandal in another external sin against the sixth commandment (Can. 1395). Arguably, engaging in a serious or long-term pattern of "unwanted touching" could be interpreted as a violation of Can. 1395. Yet Ms. Thomas stated that Fr. Phillips is not being accused of a canonical crime.      

According to Ms. Thomas, removing Fr. Phillips was “a typical response for misconduct of this nature . . . Other cases have been handled in the same way.” The CNA article, above, went on to mention two recent examples (perhaps the only two) where cardinal Cupich had removed Chicago clergy for sexual infractions. In two separate 2015 cases, Rev. Marco Mercado and Rev. Brendan Curran were accused of, and quickly admitted to, having consensual sexual affairs - Mercado with a man, and Curran with a married woman. 

But it should be clear that these cases are quite different from that of Fr. Phillips. In the first place, they involved clear violations of Canon law. But in the second, each of them was removed from his position only after the truth of each accusation had already been established, through an admission of guilt, if nothing else.

It is notable that Ms. Thomas did not include an "accusations of" or an "alleged" before the "misconduct of this nature," even as the Archdiocese began officially referring all questions to the Resurrectionists, who had not yet began an investigation. Also notable is the way the Cardinal's letter described what lay ahead:
I have referred the matter to Reverend Gene Szarek, C.R., the Provincial Superior [of the Congregation], who will deal with these allegations and decide on any further action. 
But this construction is odd. If one possible result of an investigation is an exoneration of the accused, presumably triggering the removal or reversal of any provisional actions or restrictions, "further action" does not seem quite appropriate.

A cynical or skeptical interpretation might be that the Archdiocese wants the best of both worlds. There has clearly already been some kind of fairly rigorous internal investigation, or so they want you to believe - that's part of why (it is implied) tough and swift action against Fr. Phillips was justified. But generally, after such an investigation, more pertinent details are released - out of fairness to all parties and to establish the credibility of the process. Yet the Archdiocese now seems to be punting all questions to the Resurrectionists, whose investigation will almost certainly last many months.

Before I conclude, I must mention the statement from Steve Komie, the attorney for Fr. Phillips. I think it also leaves one with questions, the most obvious one being why the statement did not include any kind of denial. Mr. Komie does say that "under the rules [Fr. Phillips] is not allowed to comment further." I'm not sure what "rules" he is referring to. But I'm not aware of anything in standard Church law or practice that would prohibit an innocent man from publicly stating his innocence, at least in the appropriate context. I could be wrong, and obviously there are other reasonable explanations for such an omission.

On the other hand, "looking forward" to the investigation is perhaps not something a guilty man would say, especially if (for a guilty man) the process promised months of embarrassment and humiliation. One assumes that one option for Fr. Phillips (if the charges were true and there was good evidence for them) would have been to have made a swift public admission of guilt - just as Mercado and Curren did - so as to minimize the harm caused to St. John Cantius, the Canons and himself. That he hasn't done so, arguably supports his innocence.   

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cardinal Cupich Moves Against Chicago's Leading Traditionalist Church, Removes Pastor After Allegations of "Improper Conduct"

Fr. Frank Phillips

As some of you know, I am a parishioner at St. John Cantius. I was confirmed there nine years ago. Julie and I were subsequently married there, and she, in turn, entered the Church soon after. Our four children were baptized there. I'm going to use most of this post to try to relate only the facts as I know and can remember them, partly from the various conversations and discussions I've had with parishioners and others over the last 24 hours. A few of my own personal opinions will be made clear at the end of the post.
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for our transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways.... Wis. 2:1, 12-22.
- From the last public reading by Father Frank Phillips, at Mass on Friday morning.
This weekend, in a letter read out during 5:00 Mass on Saturday and repeated during the 7:30, 9:00, 11:00 and 12:30 Masses on Sunday, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced that Fr. Frank Phillips had been removed as Pastor of St. John Cantius and as Superior of the Order that he founded, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.

The letter stated that Fr. Phillips had been credibly accused of improper relationships with an adult male or males.

Fr. Phillips is currently staying at an undisclosed location, pending an investigation of the complaints by the Congregation of the Resurrection, of which Fr. Phillips is a member.

Representatives of the Archdiocese subsequently added more to the story in unofficial talks after Mass: The allegations involve three adult males, they refer to relatively recent actions (in the last five years), and the complaints do not involve any criminal or civil charges. They first came to light in November. Someone suggested (perhaps one of the representatives) that the investigation was expected to take six months.

The Archbishop appointed Rev. Scott Thelander, a member of the Canons Regular who had recently been Pastor at St. Frances Cabrini Church in Springfield, to become "Interim Administrator" of the Parish and, I assume, the Order. Fr. Trenton Rauck of St. John Cantius will replace him in Springfield.

On Saturday, St. John Cantius posted this letter on its website, and subsequently read it out after the letter from the Archdiocese at each of the four Masses on Sunday.

The letter has since been taken down, it is unclear why or on whose direction, and replaced by this short note:

At Mass yesterday and today, there was great shock and grief. One of the younger priests was seen to be crying.

Everyone is solidly supportive of Fr. Phillips. There is a huge amount of love and affection for him here, both on a personal level and for everything he has done to build up the parish from near-death to being one of the country's leading centers for Catholic Tradition and the Traditional Latin Mass, as well as becoming a Chicago cultural landmark in its own right. As far as I know, there has never been even an atom of rumor here of inappropriate conduct or homosexuality.

(I just reread the above paragraph, and it doesn't put it quite right. If you are not a parishioner at Cantius, it would be perhaps difficult to understand the level of love and respect we all have for Fr. Phillips. For a man always so busy with so many tasks, it's remarkable how many people feel so close to him.)   

There was also much anger, directed, as might be expected, at Cardinal Cupich, who has long been perceived as hostile to this Traditionalist parish. At the Saturday evening Mass, a man loudly departed his pew and stormed into the vestibule, leaving the heavy doors swinging behind him. At the Sunday 7:30 Mass, a woman interrupted the reading of the first letter, shouting that the whole thing was a setup.

On the other hand, in their personal conduct after Mass towards the representatives from the Archdiocese, most parishioners were polite, at least in the interactions that I witnessed. And on the St. John Cantius Facebook page (administered by a layperson) and in other social media, the call has gone out for restraint. So, among other things, threads or comments that might be construed, even remotely, as being critical of or hostile to Cardinal Cupich or the Archdiocese have been taken down or deleted. And so on.

After the 11:00 and 12:30 Masses, I asked the representatives why Fr. Phillips had been "removed" as opposed to "suspended," especially considering that only complaints had been officially acknowledged and the investigation by the Resurrectionists had not yet begun. As I remember it, I received two different answers from the first spokesman and a third answer from the second spokesman:
  1. The complaints and/or charges were very grave.
  2. Cardinal Cupich made the decision (that's all the representative knew).
  3. This is standard procedure.
While a recent or active "inappropriate relationship" with a parishioner or parishioners would certainly be a serious matter and potential grounds for removal, classifying, pre-investigation, a complaint or even set of complaints not involving minors and not involving a breach of criminal or civil law as very grave, strikes one as a bit odd. And removal at this stage is not standard procedure, either as presented in the Archdiocese Handbook on Personnel or considered against the background of other recent cases in Chicago.

As far as I know, and according to the Handbook as I read it, even a priest accused of criminal molestation of a child is generally placed on administrative leave, at least pending the results of an investigation.

I have to say that, to me, the overall tone of the official statements as well as the unofficial talk, is that whatever the results of the investigation, Fr. Phillips will not be coming back.  

While the precise nature of the charges is still unclear, it's fair to say that most parishioners have a difficult time believing that Fr. Phillips could be anything but innocent. Even on the logical possibility that there might be at least partial truth to the charges (and I suspect the hardheaded among us have considered the possibility), and whatever might or might not be said in public, many are viewing this as Cupich's long-anticipated attempt to assert control over the Canons Regular and St. John Cantius itself with the eventual goal of shutting us down.

The Canons still have no official independent status and all members could be reassigned by the Archdiocese at any time, or the Canons Regular broken up or dissolved.

Whatever Cupich's actual desires or intentions, I always believed we would be protected by the fact that an obvious move against Cantius would be perceived badly by the Chicago community - again, partly keeping in mind our status as a cultural institution. Forgive me, but I never thought it would happen this way. Now it seems like it was the most (or the only) logical way for it to happen.


A round the clock Rosary Chain for Fr. Phillips is being organized at:


In addition, I believe a public prayer is being organized outside of Holy Name Cathedral. I'll post an update when I have the details.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

NOT A PARODY: Vatican Leaves out Notable Final Section of Benedict's Letter - "Thanks for thinking of me, but I won't have time to read those books."

Two days ago, the Vatican published part of a letter, purportedly written and signed by Pope Benedict, referencing a new eleven-book series on Pope Francis' "theology." Among other things, the Vatican excerpted what we now know are the second and third paragraphs:
I applaud this initiative that wants to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice in which Pope Francis is just a practical man without particular theological or philosophical formation, while I have been only a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete life of a Christian today. 
The small volumes show, rightly, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, despite all the differences of style and temperament.
This vague but still significant seeming-endorsement by Pope Emeritus Benedict for Francis and his program prompted the expected negative reactions, depressing confirmations and wild theories from the usual suspects (including me). 

However, the full text of the letter has now apparently been leaked (to the journalist Sandro Magister), and it turns out that the final part of the letter puts a slightly different spin on things. While the full letter was read out (in Italian, I assume) at the presentation on Monday, the final two paragraphs were not referenced in the press-release. Comically, while the release did include a photograph of the letter sitting on a table (in which a few words can barely be made out), the part containing the final paragraphs was covered up by a stack of books.

Here are the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the letter (from Edward Pentin at National Catholic Register via the blog of Sandro Magister):
However, I don’t feel like writing a short and dense theological passage on them because throughout my life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books I had read really well. Unfortunately, if only for physical reasons, I am unable to read the eleven volumes in the near future, especially as other commitments await me that I have already made. 
I am sure you will understand and cordially greet you.
Benedict is, as usual, too kind. I'm willing to bet anyone 1,000 old Italian lira that, outside of the proof-reader, no mortal man, whatever his physical capabilities or limitations, has read or will ever read the entire text of these volumes.

I suspect even some of the works of the amazingly prolific Joseph Vissarionovich had more actual readers.

What is it about totalitarian regimes and this stuff?

In any case, perhaps the Catholic pundits all had it wrong a few days ago. Was it largely just a question of being polite? 

Thank you for thinking of me, but I'm afraid I don't have time to review the eleven items that arrived by special courier this morning. They look very professionally produced, and I'm sure they will find an appropriate audience. Unfortunately, I am engaged in a number of other projects at the moment, and I'm still three months behind with Un Posto al Sole. I hope you understand. Good luck in your endeavors!

Monday, March 12, 2018

BREAKING: Pope Emeritus Benedict Declares "Continuity" with Pope Francis' Pontificate

The letter
Take another punch in the gut, faithful Catholics.

From VaticanNews:
Pope Benedict XVI: there is continuity with Pope Francis' Pontificate 
Pope Benedict wanted to give a contribution, very significant as always, to the interior spiritual unity of the two pontificates. Thus Msgr Dario Edoardo Viganò characterizes the letter sent to him by the Pope Emeritus. 
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp 
Regarding the magisterium of Pope Francis, Benedict writes that “there is interior unity” between his pontificate and that of Pope Francis, his successor. Pope Benedict’s letter was presented by its recipient, Msgr Dario Edoardo Viganò, during a press conference presenting “The Theology of Pope Francis,” a series of 11 books written by 11 different authors, and published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana. The news conference was held in Sala Marconi in the headquarters of Vatican Media. 
Pope Benedict applauds publication of the series

“I applaud this initiative,” writes Pope Benedict. “It contradicts the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been solely a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete lives of today’s Christian. 
Vatican releases series on the theology of Pope Francis 
Pope Francis has profound theological formation 
The Pope Emeritus writes that he is grateful to have received the set of 11 books edited by Roberto Repole, President of the Italian Theological Association. Pope Benedict XVI adds that these volumes “reasonably demonstrate that Pope Francis is a man with profound philosophical and theological formation and are helpful to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament.”Language editions in the works. 
During the event, Br Giulio Cesareo, OFM, the recently-appointed head of Libreria Editrice Vaticana, explained that contracts have already been signed for the English, Spanish, French, Portoghese, Polish and Romanian editions of the series, and that further negotiations are in process with publishers throughout the world.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Uncharitable Thursday: Chicago Archbishop Cupich Asks Forgiveness From Jews for Being Proselytized by Catholics

Cupich at North Shore Congregation Israel
This happened five weeks ago, and even though I am a Chicagoan, I missed it at the time. Perhaps you saw it.

A link from NovusOrdoWatch alerted me.

(Don't get excited, I've always occasionally checked the NovusOrdoWatch site, often finding it interesting and useful. For the record, I don't think I have a sede bone in my body, despite my most recent Bergoglio post. However, a few people are now throwing around that snark on Facebook. Apparently, I'm now a "Johnny come lately sede," which according to the commenter is even worse than being an original sede. Who knew?)

The Glencoe News/Chicago Tribune reports on a January 29 presentation Cupich made at a Glencoe Synagogue: 
He (Cupich) asked for forgiveness from those in the audience who had been proselytized by Catholics. Cupich assessed modern Catholic-Jewish relations in mostly positive terms, but said there is always room for improvement.
Read the rest here.

The irony, of course, is that if there's anyone who doesn't have to apologize to Jews for proselytizing them (assuming for the moment that such an apology would ever be necessary) it's Cupich. He thus places himself firmly in the Obama camp of apologizers - apologizing for what OTHER people have done in order to attack those people and virtue signal that HE, of course, is above such mean behavior.

Then again, in a just world, Cupich should be apologizing to Jews. And Baptists, Hindus, agnostics, Raelians, Latter-day Philatelists  and every other non-Catholic within squeaking range for not giving a fig about their salvation. He's just so insular about his Catholic faith. If you're not already one of us, we don't want you! Keep out! How medieval of him. 

Cupich should also apologize to Jews for inviting extremist Muslims who post-anti semitic rants on their Facebook pages to speak at Holy Name Cathedral.

And, of course, apologizing to Catholics for being such a poor shepherd might be nice. He could even do it privately in the confessional, perhaps while he's texting.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Okay, I'll Say It: I Don't Think He's the Pope

I don't think Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the Pope.

I used to, until recently. I don't anymore.

By the way, as should be obvious by now, I don't care what anyone thinks of me for saying that. Nor do I have any patience with those who claim that while it may be true that he isn't the Pope, no Catholic has the right to pronounce on it, or say it, or it shouldn't be said publicly because it would cause confusion among the faithful, etc.

Confusion among the faithful.

As if believing that Bergoglio is pope, isn't confusing enough.

No more griping. Let's get down to it.

People have made three sorts of arguments for believing Bergoglio is not the Pope (I'm not saying I agree with them all):

1. There were problems with Benedict's "abdication" that render it invalid.

2. There were problems with Bergoglio's election that render it invalid.

3. Bergoglio is a public and formal heretic and, thus, has forfeited the office.

There are many things about Benedict's abdication that are fishy, odd or questionable, and some things about Bergoglio's election that are, at least potentially, legally suspect. But I have never found those arguments against Bergoglio being Pope to be especially convincing.

But I think the third argument is very strong.

Michael Davies writes about the possibility of an heretical pope in his I Am With You Always (1986, rev. 1997):
The problem which would face the Church if a legitimately reigning pope became an heretic has been discussed in numerous standard works of reference. the solution is provided in the 1913 edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia: "The Pope himself, if notoriously guilty of heresy, would cease to be pope because he would cease to be a member of the Church."
Davies points out that this has been the overwhelmingly held opinion among theologians, though many, if not most of them doubted that God would ever allow such a state of affairs.

Just as interesting is an important qualification:
A pope who, while not being guilty of formal heresy in the strict sense, has allowed heresy to undermine the Church through compromise, weakness, ambiguous or even gravely imprudent teaching remains Pope, but can be judged by his successors, and condemned as was the case with Honorius I.
Clearly, there have been other such popes, including Liberius who probably made concessions to Arianism, and of course, more recently, John XXIII, Paul VI and arguably even John Paul II who all helped to advance the cause of the Modernist heresy in a variety of ways and for a mix of motives.

There has also been at least one pope who was a material heretic - someone who transiently entertains an heretical belief while possibly not knowing or fully understanding it to be so. It is significant that the 14th century pope, John XXII repented of his heretical views on his deathbed, thus guaranteeing that his heresy was not formal. Davies concludes:
There has never been a case of a pope who was undoubtedly a formal heretic, and it is unlikely in the extreme that there will ever be one.
I remember finding this passage extremely reassuring when I first read it a few years ago. At that point in time the first part of it was true, and the second part appeared to be so.

Not anymore.

Jorge Bergoglio clearly holds a number of heretical views in a variety of categories. Presenting the sum of the evidence contained in interviews, letters, homilies and other places would take (and has taken) many pages. But the most important item of evidence comes from an official document - the 2016 apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

It is now more than clear that Jorge Bergoglio denies the infallible teachings of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage and/or on the meaning and consequences of sin. Perhaps the most notorious passages of Amoris Laetitia appear to claim that living within a "second marriage", including having full sexual relations, is not sinful and/or that resisting sin may be impossible and/or that God himself may will one to commit sin as a sort of best second choice:
Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace. More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin (AL 301).
Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal (AL 303).
These sections were arguably neglected by some of the initial critics of Amoris Laetitia, who preferred to focus on the document's alleged ambiguities. But there is nothing ambiguous about the above passages, and they quite clearly contradict Catholic teaching, reaffirmed as recently as the near-present, by John Paul II, among others. Many soon realized this, including the authors of the dubia. Indeed, giving the Pope a chance to clarify how the sequence in AL 301 to AL 303 could possibly be in conformity with the teaching of the Church was at the heart of that letter:
3. After Amoris Laetitia (301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “Declaration,” June 24, 2000)?
4. After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (302) on “circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility,” does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 81, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which “circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice”?
5. After Amoris Laetitia (303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 56, based on sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?
It had seemed possible to some that Bergoglio did not himself believe or even fully understand what Amoris Laetitia had actually stated. After all, Amoris Laetitia was almost certainly penned by the "kissing priest," Victor Manuel Fernandez, the primary ghostwriter for many papal documents. It had also seemed possible (or at least some had argued that it was) that the document couldn't possibly mean what it appeared to mean, since such a meaning would not be in conformity with Church teaching.

However, Bergoglio's refusal to answer the dubia, and the simultaneous public attack on its authors by many of his closest aids, put these possibilities to rest. Couple this with Bergoglio's later private and then public endorsement of the "pro-communion for the remarried" interpretation of Amoris Laetitia by the Argentinian bishops, and one cannot reasonably conclude that Bergoglio believes anything other than what was in fact stated.

Equally important, while the dubia did not use the word "heresy", it officially put Bergoglio on formal notice that some of the claims made in Amoris Laetitia were not in conformity with "sacred Scripture and...the Tradition of the Church."

There were other official letters delivered to Bergoglio (I am aware of at least three of them), from or signed by prominent academics and religious, which restated and expanded on the points made in the dubia. They came to the same general conclusion - those crucial claims involving marriage and sin expressed in Amoris Laetitia and elsewhere are not in conformity with Church teachings.

Do not misunderstand my argument. If Bergoglio is a formal heretic, it is not because he was implicitly judged to be so by the authors of the dubia or the other letters. Rather, it is at least partly because he was given every chance to clarify or renounce his views - after being reminded of their nature - and chose not to do so, while elsewhere confirming that these were in fact views he solidly held. Such can be part of the process where mere material heresy becomes known as formal.

Bergoglio's views on marriage and sin are just one area where he manifestly dissents from Church teaching. We have chosen to focus on these here, partly because they involve and appear in an official document. We should note, however, that the concept of formal heresy does not require the heretic to state his views in an official context. Pope John XXII made known his heretical views primarily in homilies, both before and after he became pope, and he explicitly chose not to give them any sort of official backing. Yet if he had not in the end renounced them (or had not died before being given enough time to renounce them), his repeated endorsement of those views, even after he had been warned that they were manifestly in contradiction to Church teaching, would probably have constituted formal heresy. It goes without saying that in the modern context, the same considerations would apply not only to homilies but also interviews and the like.

At the beginning of this post I referred to three possible specific arguments, and rejected the first two in favor of the third: Bergoglio is a formal heretic and has thus ceased to be Pope (if he ever was one) for that reason alone.

But here is a more general argument: How can Catholicism be true and at the same time Jorge Mario Bergoglio be the head of the Church?

One of the most important tenets of our faith as Catholics is that the Church is indefectible - it cannot fail because God promised it would not. Jesus said to St. Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18).

What would it mean for it to fail, or for the gates of hell to prevail?

It's obvious that Christ did not mean that the Church would never contain bad men, nor even that the head of the church could not be "bad" in some way.

We all know that there have been bad popes in the private sense - popes who were notorious sinners in terms of violence, corruption or sexual morality. We also know that there have even been many bad popes in their official capacities - popes who harmed the church, often severely, through papal action or inaction, whether out of cowardice, selfishness, vanity or other reasons.

There have even been popes who have explicitly betrayed Christ, in "real-time," as it were. The first pope did it three times, and he was, arguably, the best one we ever had.

But we have never had a pope who almost certainly disagrees with and opposes many of the central teachings of the Church, and as a result, has focused his papacy on doing as much as possible to alter those teachings and, thus (it cannot fairly be said otherwise) destroy the Church as we know it.

Did God allow the ascension of Bergoglio as some sort of punishment for us, or (slightly better) as a test of our faith? Those options seem more than possible. But are we now also to believe that Christ's promise does not really apply here, or that Bergoglio is, forgive me for saying it, a sort of unexpected loophole - a technical exception or a crossed-fingered, gotcha from God?
I never said the Church wouldn't ever be led by a formal heretic bent on destroying her. All I said was that the gates of hell would not prevail. Sheesh, you read too much into My words.
Do not laugh. If you believe Bergoglio is Pope, you must in essence agree with that silly take. Or try this one:
Punishing you or testing you are two instances where I get to break My promises.
Again, do not misunderstand, I'm not arguing with God, here. If I am "arguing," it is with those who do not see how problematic the claim that Bergoglio is pope is - problematic, not in a, so to speak, material sense (that he's a bad pope doing bad things, which is bad) but in the sense of seemingly being at odds with the indefectibility of the Church.

I'm aware that the opposite position is also problematic. Clearly if given the present state of affairs, if we believe our Lord's promise prevents an heretical pope, it does not prevent a heretic from appearing to be pope, while (it follows) at the same time there either isn't any pope, or the true pope is not widely known or acknowledged.

My main problem with sedevacantism has always been that it is inconceivable to me that our Lord's promise is consistent with the Chair of St. Peter being empty for forty, fifty or (now) almost sixty years. Those quasi-sedes such as the handful of followers of "Pope Michael" of Kansas, must contend with an almost equally difficult claim - that the identity of the true pope would be unknown to virtually all Catholics for generations.

Of course, in the present case, there is a new factor in play. Another man in Vatican City also wears the papal white. Can it really be a coincidence that the first pope in six-hundred years to resign, and the only pope to ever do so and continue to dwell on the Vatican grounds, remains alive at the same time that the Chair of St. Peter is occupied de facto, at least, by its first public and formal heretic?

Am I certain that Bergoglio is not the pope? Of course not. And I'm definitely not going to condemn people (which would be most people) who take another view. Nor am I about to stop attending Mass because "the Pope" (named or not) is prayed for, or any such thing. All faithful Catholics are trying to work this damn thing out, and none of the answers are very pleasant. But I actually think this answer, the one I tried to argue for, above, makes more sense than many of the others. And I did not come to it lightly.

As always, I could be wrong.

But if you think I'm wrong, I want you to tell me why.

What happens next? What if Benedict dies soon (as seems, unfortunately, more and more likely) and a false pope (if that is what he is) reigns for many more years? What if another heretic - one, God save us, even more destructive than Bergoglio - is elected after that?

Would God allow this? Is it possible? I hope not. But, in fairness, I didn't think Francis was possible.

What then would we make of our Lord's promise?

I do not know.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Sixth Man Arrested in Leicester Explosion: Yes, the Named Suspects are Muslim

The mysterious explosion that destroyed a grocery store on February 25 in Leicester, UK, and killed five people brought out the predictable responses on social media.

The growing anti-Islam contingent suspected terrorism or perhaps the accidental explosion of a bomb factory. The pro-Islam crowd cried bigotry. Why not wait until all the facts are in, before tarring Muslims and our wonderful diverse city?

I assumed that it was caused by a gas leak, partly because there was little direct evidence to suggest otherwise and no terrorist claim of responsibility. Yes, sometimes fatal but accidental gas explosions still do happen, even in heavily Muslim urban areas.

Since then, the police have charged six men - three of them identified - with "manslaughter" and "arson."

They all have Muslim names - Aram Kurd, 33, Hawkar Hassan, 32, and Arkan Ali, 37 - though, curiously, one of them was the owner of the "Polish" grocery store. Interestingly, some of them are residents of other cities.

But the lack of other information given by the police has only deepened the mystery. Since the charges include manslaughter, it wouldn't appear to be terrorism. There could have been a bomb or weapons depot or factory in the store, or it might have been an insurance scam or similar.

I assume the truth will eventually come out, though given the typical M.O. of the Islam-friendly British authorities, one can count on it to emerge in dribs and drabs, perhaps mainly through non-official channels. The mainstream British media, though strongly pro-Muslim, still likes a good story.

Read the latest stories in the DailyMail, Leicester Mercury and Coventry Telegraph.