Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"His rage was so violent and so unbounded that he burst an artery." ~ Valentinian I dies of apoplexy in AD 375

A gold solidus of Valentinian I.
On November 17 (according to Jones in The Later Roman Empire) or November 18 (according to the Loeb translation of Ammianus Marcellinus's Roman History), the Roman emperor Valentinian I died in a most dramatic and unexpected way.

Valentinian rose to the throne in AD 364 following the death of Jovian. The story of his accession may be found in a previous post here. His twelve year reign was marked by numerous barbarian incursions which Valentinian, for the most part, was able to contain and defeat. To a certain extent, he was the last emperor to be fully in control of the situation in the West. He fought numerous campaigns to defend the frontiers and defeat invasions. He also spent considerable time conducting punitive raids across the Rhine and Danube, while sending his capable officer, Theodosius (the father of Theodosius the Great), to Britain to defeat an incursion of Picts that had thrown the province into chaos.

When an large invasion of Quadi and Sarmatians poured across the frontier in AD 374 to devastate Pannonia and Moesia, Valentinian mobilized his forces to oppose them. What happened next is recorded by Hermias Sozomen in his Ecclesiastical History

Click for more info.
The Sarmatians having invaded the Western provinces of the empire, Valentinian levied an army to oppose them. As soon, however, as they heard of the number and strength of the troops raised against them, they sent an embassy to solicit peace. When the ambassadors were ushered into the presence of Valentinian, he asked them whether all the Sarmatians were similar to them. On their replying that the principal men of the nation had been selected to form the embassy, the emperor exclaimed in great fury, that he regarded it as an especial misfortune that the territories under his sway should be exposed to the incursions of a barbarous nation like the Sarmatians, who had even presumed to take up arms against the Romans! He spoke in this strain for some time in a very high pitch of voice, and his rage was so violent and so unbounded, that at length he burst simultaneously a blood-vessel and an artery. He lost, in consequence, a great quantity of blood, and expired soon after in a fortress of Gaul.

He was about fifty-four years of age and had during thirteen years guided the reins of government with great wisdom and skill. [Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen, Book VI, Chapter XXXVI]

Ammianus Marcellinus adds some vivid detail to the scene of Valentinian's death:

Click for more info.
Then he gradually calmed himself and seemed more inclined to mildness, when, as if struck by a bolt from the sky, he was seen to be speechless and suffocating, and his face was tinged with a fiery flush. On a sudden his blood was checked and the sweat of death broke out upon him. Then, that he might not fall before the eyes of a throng of the common sort, his body-servants rushed to him and led him into an inner chamber. There he was laid upon a bed; but although he was drawing more feeble remnants of breath, the vigor of his mind was not yet lessened, and he recognized all those who stood about him, whom the chamberlains had summoned with all speed, in order to avert any suspicion that he had been murdered. And since all parts of his body were burning hot, it was necessary to open a vein, but no physician could be found, since he had sent them to various places, to give attention to the soldiers who were attacked by the plague. At last however one was found, but although he repeatedly pierced a vein, he could not draw even a single drop of blood, since the emperor's inner parts were consumed by excessive heat, or (as some thought) because his body was dried up, since some passages for the blood (which we now call haemorrhoidae) were closed and incrusted by the cold chills. He felt the disease crushing him with a mighty force, and knew that the fated end of his life was at hand; and he tried to speak or give some orders, as was indicated by the gasps that often heaved his sides, by the grinding of his teeth, and by movements of his arms as if of men fighting with the cestus; but finally his strength failed him, his body was covered with livid spots, and after a long struggle for life he breathed his last... [Roman History of Marcellinus, Book XXX, Chapter 6].

Sozomen summarizes what happened next:

Six days after his death, his youngest son who bore the same name as himself, was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers, and soon afterwards Valens and Gratian formally assented to this election, although they were at first irritated at the soldiers having adopted such a measure without their sanction.

For more details on the succession, as well as a long appraisal of Valentinian's character, good points and bad, see the chapters in Ammianus following the account of his death.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons

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Given the remarks of Pope Francis regarding acceptance of homosexual civil unions, which contradict Church moral doctrine stretching back to Christ Himself, it is well for us Catholics to reflect upon this instruction, offered by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (who lives still under the ambiguous title of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). This instruction was given during the reign of Pope Saint John Paul II on June 3, 2003. 

At present, this document remains on the Vatican website. I am copying it here in case the curators of said website decide to take it down at some point.


CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING PROPOSALS TO GIVE LEGAL RECOGNITION TO UNIONS BETWEEN HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS

 INTRODUCTION

1. In recent years, various questions relating to homosexuality have been addressed with some frequency by Pope John Paul II and by the relevant Dicasteries of the Holy See.(1) Homosexuality is a troubling moral and social phenomenon, even in those countries where it does not present significant legal issues. It gives rise to greater concern in those countries that have granted or intend to grant – legal recognition to homosexual unions, which may include the possibility of adopting children. The present Considerations do not contain new doctrinal elements; they seek rather to reiterate the essential points on this question and provide arguments drawn from reason which could be used by Bishops in preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society, of which this institution is a constitutive element. The present Considerations are also intended to give direction to Catholic politicians by indicating the approaches to proposed legislation in this area which would be consistent with Christian conscience.(2) Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society.

 

I. THE NATURE OF MARRIAGE
AND ITS INALIENABLE CHARACTERISTICS

2. The Church's teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world. Marriage is not just any relationship between human beings. It was established by the Creator with its own nature, essential properties and purpose.(3) No ideology can erase from the human spirit the certainty that marriage exists solely between a man and a woman, who by mutual personal gift, proper and exclusive to themselves, tend toward the communion of their persons. In this way, they mutually perfect each other, in order to cooperate with God in the procreation and upbringing of new human lives.

3. The natural truth about marriage was confirmed by the Revelation contained in the biblical accounts of creation, an expression also of the original human wisdom, in which the voice of nature itself is heard. There are three fundamental elements of the Creator's plan for marriage, as narrated in the Book of Genesis.

In the first place, man, the image of God, was created “male and female” (Gen 1:27). Men and women are equal as persons and complementary as male and female. Sexuality is something that pertains to the physical-biological realm and has also been raised to a new level – the personal level – where nature and spirit are united.

Marriage is instituted by the Creator as a form of life in which a communion of persons is realized involving the use of the sexual faculty. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

Third, God has willed to give the union of man and woman a special participation in his work of creation. Thus, he blessed the man and the woman with the words “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Therefore, in the Creator's plan, sexual complementarity and fruitfulness belong to the very nature of marriage.

Furthermore, the marital union of man and woman has been elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. The Church teaches that Christian marriage is an efficacious sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32). This Christian meaning of marriage, far from diminishing the profoundly human value of the marital union between man and woman, confirms and strengthens it (cf. Mt 19:3-12; Mk 10:6-9).

4. There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law. Homosexual acts “close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved”.(4)

Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity... (cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10). This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered”.(5) This same moral judgment is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries(6) and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition.

Nonetheless, according to the teaching of the Church, men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.(7) They are called, like other Christians, to live the virtue of chastity.(8) The homosexual inclination is however “objectively disordered”(9) and homosexual practices are “sins gravely contrary to chastity”.(10)

 

II. POSITIONS ON THE PROBLEM
OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS

5. Faced with the fact of homosexual unions, civil authorities adopt different positions. At times they simply tolerate the phenomenon; at other times they advocate legal recognition of such unions, under the pretext of avoiding, with regard to certain rights, discrimination against persons who live with someone of the same sex. In other cases, they favour giving homosexual unions legal equivalence to marriage properly so-called, along with the legal possibility of adopting children.

Where the government's policy is de facto tolerance and there is no explicit legal recognition of homosexual unions, it is necessary to distinguish carefully the various aspects of the problem. Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. Therefore, discreet and prudent actions can be effective; these might involve: unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology; stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions; reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and, above all, to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defences and contribute to the spread of the phenomenon. Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty.

When Catholic leaders taught with clarity....a decade or so ago.

One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.

 

III. ARGUMENTS FROM REASON AGAINST LEGAL
RECOGNITION OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS

6. To understand why it is necessary to oppose legal recognition of homosexual unions, ethical considerations of different orders need to be taken into consideration.

From the order of right reason

The scope of the civil law is certainly more limited than that of the moral law,(11) but civil law cannot contradict right reason without losing its binding force on conscience.(12) Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person.(13) Laws in favour of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex. Given the values at stake in this question, the State could not grant legal standing to such unions without failing in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good.

It might be asked how a law can be contrary to the common good if it does not impose any particular kind of behaviour, but simply gives legal recognition to a de facto reality which does not seem to cause injustice to anyone. In this area, one needs first to reflect on the difference between homosexual behaviour as a private phenomenon and the same behaviour as a relationship in society, foreseen and approved by the law, to the point where it becomes one of the institutions in the legal structure. This second phenomenon is not only more serious, but also assumes a more wide-reaching and profound influence, and would result in changes to the entire organization of society, contrary to the common good. Civil laws are structuring principles of man's life in society, for good or for ill. They “play a very important and sometimes decisive role in influencing patterns of thought and behaviour”.(14) Lifestyles and the underlying presuppositions these express not only externally shape the life of society, but also tend to modify the younger generation's perception and evaluation of forms of behaviour. Legal recognition of homosexual unions would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.

From the biological and anthropological order

7. Homosexual unions are totally lacking in the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and family which would be the basis, on the level of reason, for granting them legal recognition. Such unions are not able to contribute in a proper way to the procreation and survival of the human race. The possibility of using recently discovered methods of artificial reproduction, beyond involv- ing a grave lack of respect for human dignity,(15) does nothing to alter this inadequacy.

Homosexual unions are also totally lacking in the conjugal dimension, which represents the human and ordered form of sexuality. Sexual relations are human when and insofar as they express and promote the mutual assistance of the sexes in marriage and are open to the transmission of new life.

As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.

From the social order

8. Society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage. The inevitable consequence of legal recognition of homosexual unions would be the redefinition of marriage, which would become, in its legal status, an institution devoid of essential reference to factors linked to heterosexuality; for example, procreation and raising children. If, from the legal standpoint, marriage between a man and a woman were to be considered just one possible form of marriage, the concept of marriage would undergo a radical transformation, with grave detriment to the common good. By putting homosexual unions on a legal plane analogous to that of marriage and the family, the State acts arbitrarily and in contradiction with its duties.

The principles of respect and non-discrimination cannot be invoked to support legal recognition of homosexual unions. Differentiating between persons or refusing social recognition or benefits is unacceptable only when it is contrary to justice.(16) The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.

Nor can the principle of the proper autonomy of the individual be reasonably invoked. It is one thing to maintain that individual citizens may freely engage in those activities that interest them and that this falls within the common civil right to freedom; it is something quite different to hold that activities which do not represent a significant or positive contribution to the development of the human person in society can receive specific and categorical legal recognition by the State. Not even in a remote analogous sense do homosexual unions fulfil the purpose for which marriage and family deserve specific categorical recognition. On the contrary, there are good reasons for holding that such unions are harmful to the proper development of human society, especially if their impact on society were to increase.

From the legal order

9. Because married couples ensure the succession of generations and are therefore eminently within the public interest, civil law grants them institutional recognition. Homosexual unions, on the other hand, do not need specific attention from the legal standpoint since they do not exercise this function for the common good.

Nor is the argument valid according to which legal recognition of homosexual unions is necessary to avoid situations in which cohabiting homosexual persons, simply because they live together, might be deprived of real recognition of their rights as persons and citizens. In reality, they can always make use of the provisions of law – like all citizens from the standpoint of their private autonomy – to protect their rights in matters of common interest. It would be gravely unjust to sacrifice the common good and just laws on the family in order to protect personal goods that can and must be guaranteed in ways that do not harm the body of society.(17)

 

IV. POSITIONS OF CATHOLIC POLITICIANS
WITH REGARD TO LEGISLATION IN FAVOUR
OF HOMOSEXUAL UNIONS

10. If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favour of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications.

When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.

When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is already in force, the Catholic politician must oppose it in the ways that are possible for him and make his opposition known; it is his duty to witness to the truth. If it is not possible to repeal such a law completely, the Catholic politician, recalling the indications contained in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, “could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality”, on condition that his “absolute personal opposition” to such laws was clear and well known and that the danger of scandal was avoided.(18) This does not mean that a more restrictive law in this area could be considered just or even acceptable; rather, it is a question of the legitimate and dutiful attempt to obtain at least the partial repeal of an unjust law when its total abrogation is not possible at the moment.

 

CONCLUSION

11. The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behaviour, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.

The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience of March 28, 2003, approved the present Considerations, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered their publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 3, 2003, Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions, Martyrs.

Joseph Card. Ratzinger
Prefect

Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Titular Archbishop of Sila
Secretary

 


NOTES

(1) Cf. John Paul II, Angelus Messages of February 20, 1994, and of June 19, 1994; Address to the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Family (March 24, 1999); Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 2357-2359, 2396; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana (December 29, 1975), 8; Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986); Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons (July 24, 1992); Pontifical Council for the Family, Letter to the Presidents of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe on the resolution of the European Parliament regarding homosexual couples (March 25, 1994); Family, marriage and “de facto” unions (July 26, 2000), 23.

(2) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in political life (November 24, 2002), 4.

(3) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 48.

(4) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357.

(5) Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Persona humana (December 29, 1975), 8.

(6) Cf., for example, St. Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians, V, 3; St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 27, 1-4; Athenagoras, Supplication for the Christians, 34.

(7) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986), 10.

(8) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2359; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on the pastoral care of homosexual persons (October 1, 1986), 12.

(9Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2358.

(10Ibid., No. 2396.

(11) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995), 71.

(12) Cf. ibid., 72.

(13) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 95, a. 2.

(14) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995), 90.

(15) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae (February 22, 1987), II. A. 1-3.

(16) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 63, a.1, c.

(17) It should not be forgotten that there is always “a danger that legislation which would make homosexuality a basis for entitlements could actually encourage a person with a homosexual orientation to declare his homosexuality or even to seek a partner in order to exploit the provisions of the law” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some considerations concerning the response to legislative proposals on the non-discrimination of homosexual persons [July 24, 1992], 14).

(18) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae (March 25, 1995), 73.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The choices in the 2020 election: D. J. Trump versus D. C. Swamp

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If you liked business-as-usual in the corrupt Washington, DC swamp, they've got the perfect candidate for you this time around.

Let's face it. Joe Biden is the candidate of the out-of-control, hyper-politicized Washington DC bureaucracy. He's a man who has spent 47 years making himself and his family extremely wealthy as a member of the ruling elite. Worse, it seems like he has sold himself and his family out to foreign interests, including communist China

There was a time when those in DC were considered "public servants." Is it not clear that the only people our public servants in DC are helping these days is themselves? A man who goes to Washington as an elected official, stays there for 47 years, and emerges mega-wealthy is a crook, plain and simple. 

It's time to truly drain the swamp. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

"No one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist." ~ Pius XI and Quadragesimo Anno.

"Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory
terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic
and a true socialist."
—Pope Pius XI, May 15, 1931

One of the saddest hallmarks of our times is profound historical ignorance. What makes this ignorance particularly grievous is that it is not self-aware. Rather, it arrogantly considers itself wise and possessed of deep, often hidden truths. Whether this ignorance manifests itself in the study of the saintsChristopher Columbus, the Church Fathers, the Great Persecution, Late AntiquityCatholic morality, or a million other topics, it is found everywhere. It is truly pandemic. We are surrounded by sophomores in the literal sense of that word—and the sophomores in question are not only wise fools but nasty bullies as well. 

It is an old saw that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. We have now raised several generations who not only don't know history, but who have been presented with a false history based on "alternative facts." What they think of as historical facts are quite often politically-charged fictions. But as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently quipped, "You are entitled to your own opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts." 

Most Catholics have been nurtured on alternative facts for decades now. Thus, is it any surprise that the anti-Church political movement is being led by apostate politicians who have the audacity to declare themselves devout in order to garner Catholic votes? Is it at all unexpected that these politicians ally themselves with those who consider the Knights of Columbus to be an extremist group

This scam has run for decades now with hardly a half-hearted whimper from our bishops. It is now reaching its apogee as an abortion-loving puppet of the socialist left with Rosary beads wrapped around his wrist is one election away from the presidency. The followers of Gramsci and Alinsky may have finally attained that tipping-point where a majority of the uncatechized-by-design have been drawn into the moist embrace of socialism without ever knowing that the Church has a longstanding history of condemning socialism. 

There are a few priests and bishops who will dare to preach on this subject these days, though they tend to be voices crying out in the wilderness. But the cool thing is that you don't need to have access to solid preaching to discover the truth in the Information Age. A sixty second web search will bring you to the papal encyclical known as Quadragesimo Anno (Forty Years) as written in 1931. In this encyclical, we see Pope Pius XI's forceful, clear and unequivocal condemnation of socialism, including the quote featured above. Here is the context of that particular quote, along with a few other pertinent excerpts from this timeless encyclical letter:
"Because of the fact that goods are produced more efficiently by a suitable division of labor than by the scattered efforts of individuals, socialists infer that economic activity, only the material ends of which enter into their thinking, ought of necessity to be carried on socially. Because of this necessity, they hold that men are obliged, with respect to the producing of goods, to surrender and subject themselves entirely to society. Indeed, possession of the greatest possible supply of things that serve the advantages of this life is considered of such great importance that the higher goods of man, liberty not excepted, must take a secondary place and even be sacrificed to the demands of the most efficient production of goods. This damage to human dignity, undergone in the "socialized" process of production, will be easily offset, they say, by the abundance of socially produced goods which will pour out in profusion to individuals to be used freely at their pleasure for comforts and cultural development. Society, therefore, as Socialism conceives it, can on the one hand neither exist nor be thought of without an obviously excessive use of force; on the other hand, it fosters a liberty no less false, since there is no place in it for true social authority, which rests not on temporal and material advantages but descends from God alone, the Creator and last end of all things.

If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which, moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist."
Pius XI goes on to diagnose why so many Catholics succumb to the allure of socialism:
The root and font of this defection in economic and social life from the Christian law, and of the consequent apostasy of great numbers of workers from the Catholic faith, are the disordered passions of the soul, the sad result of original sin which has so destroyed the wonderful harmony of man's faculties that, easily led astray by his evil desires, he is strongly incited to prefer the passing goods of this world to the lasting goods of Heaven. Hence arises that unquenchable thirst for riches and temporal goods, which has at all times impelled men to break God's laws and trample upon the rights of their neighbors, but which, on account of the present system of economic life, is laying far more numerous snares for human frailty.
If this was true in 1931 near the height of the Great Depression, how much more true it is in our own day when the "disordered passions of the soul" have become the norm rather than the exception? 

This next passage is also quite applicable to where we find ourselves now. For any who hope that by softening some of Christ's hard teachings or by adopting some of socialism's tenets, we may convert those drawn to socialism, Pius XI throws cold water on that notion:
There are some allured by the foolish hope that socialists in this way will be drawn to us. A vain hope! Those who want to be apostles among socialists ought to profess Christian truth whole and entire, openly and sincerely, and not connive at error in any way. If they truly wish to be heralds of the Gospel, let them above all strive to show to socialists that socialist claims, so far as they are just, are far more strongly supported by the principles of Christian faith and much more effectively promoted through the power of Christian charity.
Sadly, those Catholics who have attempted to bring socialism within the Church have indeed "connived at error" to the point where error has replaced sound teaching in many places where it should not be tolerated at all—that is, our schools and institutions of higher learning. Pius XI predicted that just such a thing would happen:
All these admonitions which have been renewed and confirmed by Our solemn authority must likewise be applied to a certain new kind of socialist activity, hitherto little known but now carried on among many socialist groups. It devotes itself above all to the training of the mind and character. Under the guise of affection it tries in particular to attract children of tender age and win them to itself, although it also embraces the whole population in its scope in order finally to produce true socialists who would shape human society to the tenets of Socialism.
With the insinuation of socialism into our Catholic schools over the past several decades, what has been the result? What fruit has the toleration, acceptance and celebration of socialist-materialist ideals borne among our Catholic youth? Are the poor better off? Are our cities where socialists rule bastions of peace, justice and kindness? Are our churches thronged with zealous Christians yearning to imitate Christ in service to the poor? 

Or are we witnessing instead the disintegration of society and the auto-demolition of the Catholic Church in America?

Pope Pius XI, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

"Hate has no home here" -- Unless you're one of the +60 million Trump voters

 So I figured out how to use Photoshop to make an animated GIF today. This is my first attempt.

I have always been suspect of these "Hate has no home here" signs which began popping up after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. Why? Because I knew for a fact that some of the folks putting them up were indeed consumed with hatred. They hated Donald Trump. They hated everyone who voted for him. They hated Republicans generally and conservative republicans specifically. They hated religious people, particularly devout Christians. They especially hated anyone who is pro-life. 

If you doubt any of the above, try coming out and making any of the following statements in a social media group:

  • I voted for Donald Trump.
  • I am a registered Republican.
  • I am a follower of Jesus Christ.
  • I love the Catholic Church.
  • I am pro-life.
  • I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

If you're a leftist, go ahead. Perform a sociology experiment and post one of those statements to your feed. See what kind of response you get from your leftist friends if they have any suspicion that you might be serious. Here's the kind of response you might get:

The above is an actual tweet from a woman in Texas from March of 2020. How much more raw can hatred get than this? 

If the election weren't enough to bring out the pure hatred by itself, Mr. Trump's recent bout with corona virus really let loose the ghouls as displayed in this tweet from the former national spokesperson for Hillary Clinton:

If you truly believe that "hate has no home here", you need to acting like it. Virtue signalling is one thing. Naked hypocrisy is something completely different. 

Monday, October 05, 2020

"How terribly souls suffer there!" ~ Saint Faustina's vision of Hell

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October 5 is the feast of Saint Faustina Kowalska.

Too many Catholics have bought into the lie that there is no Hell. This position is only a half-step from saying that there is no Heaven. A few particularly high-profile modern Catholics have taken the rather toothless position that there is a Hell, but we can have a reasonable hope that it's empty. This is sunshine and lollipops theology straight out of the 1960s generation. Such reasoning cheapens the Christian message of salvation and repentance to the point of insignificance and makes a mockery out of the ancient teachings of the Church all the way back to Jesus Himself who speaks about Gehenna as a real place, "where the worm dieth not and the fire is not extinguished" [Mark 9:43 -- quoting Isaiah 66:24]

But the most famous saints of the 20th century have taught otherwise. Among these saints one may not find many brilliantly educated academics or prelates with popular YouTube channels. Instead, one finds humble souls, poorly educated in the affairs of this world, but illuminated by the Holy Spirit. The shepherd children of Fatima—St. Lucia, St. Francisco and St. Jacinta—received a vision of Hell that had a tremendous impact on them. Little Jacinta would reportedly cry out: "If Our Lady allows you, tell everybody what Hell is really like so that they will never commit sin again. So many people falling into Hell, so many people."

The blessedly blunt Saint Pio, no great scholar he, when faced with an atheist who said he didn't believe in Hell, retorted: "You'll believe in Hell when you get there!"

St. Faustina Kowalska, the early 20th century Polish visionary nun who would later become known as the apostle of Divine Mercy, also experienced a vision of Hell. The words included with the image at the top of this post were written by Saint Faustina in her Diary in late October 1936, two years prior to her death. Here is the above quote in context: 
"Today, I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures I saw: 
  • The first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; 
  • the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; 
  • the third is that one’s condition will never change; 
  • the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it, a terrible suffering, since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God’s anger; 
  • the fifth torture is conditional darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and their own; 
  • the sixth torture is the constant company of satan; 
  • the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. 
"These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of the sufferings. There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. 
"I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like. I, sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell. 
"When I came to, I could hardly recover from the fright. How terribly souls suffer there! Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners. I incessantly plead God’s mercy upon them. O my Jesus, I would rather be in agony until the end of the world, amidst the greatest sufferings, then offend You by the least sin.” 
This passage may be found in St. Faustina's diary, here on page 193: The Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska

Thursday, September 03, 2020

The Synthesis of a Loveable Ascetic and a Grave-faced Administrator ~ Pope Saint Gregory the Great and his venerable parents

Pope St. Gregory the Great flanked by his parents, Gordianus and St. Silvia.

Today, September 3, is the feast of Pope Saint Gregory the Great on the modern calendar. This great pope who is simultaneously considered the last Father of the ancient Church and the first of the medieval Church, has featured frequently on this blog (see his rebuke of the bishops of Dalmatia and his ponderings on Purgatory, in particular). I had not previously looked into Gregory’s early life, however, and falling as it does in the mid-6th century which is right in my wheel-house, I figured I would do a little research. 

It seems that the earliest Vita of Gregory was written by John the Deacon in the 9th century, at least 200 years after his death. An English translation of this multi-volume work is apparently not available, so I resorted to an early 20th century work that draws heavily from John’s Vita, namely, Gregory the Great: His Place in History and Thought by F. Holmes Dudden which may be found in full at Archive.org. 

Flipping through this work, I immediately discovered the image above of Gregory on the frontispiece flanked by his parents, Gordianus and Silvia. This 17th century engraving was originally published as part of the Ecclesiastical Annals of Baronius. It is drawn from two ancient paintings of Gregory's parents that he caused to be set up in Monastery of Saint Andrew in Rome which was founded on the site of his hereditary estate on the Caelian hill. The site of this monastery is today occupied by the Church of San Gregorio Magno al Celio

Dudden provides the sparse information that we have about Gregory’s parents:
Gregory’s father bore the Imperial name of Gordianus. He is styled “Regionarius,” but what his office was is far from clear…Of Gordianus and his work we know practically nothing. We gather from the “Lives” that he was wealthy, the owner of large estates in Sicily, and of a stately mansion on the Caelian Hill in Rome…Of Gregory’s mother, Silvia, we have again but scanty information. Like her husband, she appears to have been of good family, and in later life she became famous for ascetic piety. After the death of Gordianus she embraced a life of seclusion and went into retreat at a place called Cella Nova, close by the great door of the Basilica of St. Paul. Here, in after ages, stood an oratory dedicated to the blessed Silvia; and the patrician lady herself is still commemorated as a saint on the third of November.

Dudden then remarks on the aforementioned portraits as they were described by John the Deacon: 

Through a fortunate circumstance we are able to form a tolerable notion of the outward appearance of the Regionary and his wife, for Gregory had the pair painted in the atrium of St Andrew's Monastery, and three hundred years later the portraits were inspected by John the Deacon, whose interesting description of them is still extant. In the first painting the Apostle Peter was represented sitting, with his right hand clasping the hand of Gordianus, who was standing near. The Regionary was clad in a chestnut-colored planeta or chasuble, over a dalmatic, and wore shoes. He was a tall man, with a long face, light eyes, a short beard, bushy hair, and a grave expression of countenance. 
The second picture showed Silvia seated, robed in white — a lady of full height, with a round, fair face, wrinkled with age, yet still bearing traces of great beauty. Her eyes were large and blue, with delicate eyebrows, her lips were well-formed, her expression cheerful. With two fingers of her right hand she was in the act of making the sign of the cross. In her left was a Psalter, on the open page of which was inscribed with the verse, “Let my soul live, and it shall praise Thee; and let Thy judgments help me.”  
Full image of St. Gregory and his
parents from Dudden's frontispiece.
Click to enlarge.
 
John's description leaves us with a pleasant impression of Gregory's parents, and the word-sketch of the aged mother has a special charm. But the whole account is valuable inasmuch as it helps us to understand some of the characteristics of Gregory's mind and character. For it cannot be doubted that Gregory inherited certain traits from each of the parents whose portraits he had painted in St Andrew's. Some physical resemblances to each are noticed by John. And it is not to be questioned that many also of Gregory's moral and intellectual peculiarities may be accounted for by means of the principle of heredity. From his mother he doubtless derived his almost feminine tenderness and power of sympathy, his innate bent toward asceticism, his religious mysticism, his self-sacrificing, self-effacing disposition. From his father, no less certainly, he inherited his administrative capacity, his legal acumen, his unswerving love of justice, and that inexorable severity towards hardened offenders which caused him to be feared, in some degree, even by those who loved him best. Thus the nature of the parents is reproduced in the offspring, and in the transactions of Gregory’s life we are again and again reminded, now of the grave-faced man of business and administrator of the Region, now of the loveable, ascetic woman who crosses herself as she ponders over the psalter.
Of Gregory’s sole sibling, Dudden says the following:
Gordianus and Silvia had two sons; one they called Gregory—the watchful…while of the other we have no record. That he existed is proved by two passages in Pope Gregory’s correspondence. But we know nothing about him, not even his name.
It seems that the mansion of Gordianus still exists beneath the foundations of San Gregorio Magno al Celio, and Dudden offers the following tantalizing glimpse into this portal to the ancient Church:
In the present day, the palace of Gordianus is no longer visible. Centuries have raised the level of the soil, and the church and monastery of San Gregoria, which occupy the site, are entirely modern. In 1890, however, a search of the cellars of the monastery revealed the fact that deep beneath the modern buildings the old house still exists in a marvelous state of preservation, and might easily be excavated without impairing the stability of the church above. Unfortunately, the projected excavation has not been carried out.
Based on a brief web search, no later excavations were undertaken and the marvelously preserved boyhood home of Saint Gregory the Great remains to be discovered by future generations.