Today we are rejoined by Fr. Chad Ripperger, PhD, to talk about the abuse crisis in the Church in light of the revelations concerning former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the mass cover-ups carried out by bishops in Pennsylvania as revealed by the PA Grand Jury report, and the allegations against the Pope made by Archbishop Viganó. Instead of rehashing what has made the rounds on news, blogs and op-ed pieces, Fr. Ripperger discusses past Church legislation governing seminarians and clergy, and how the Vatican directed seminaries to deal with the problem of corrupt seminarians before Vatican II. He addresses the problem of homosexuality and the wider problem of a failure to keep chastity among seminarians, priests and bishops. Lastly, Father deals with the argument that everything is to blame on “clericalism” and shows that this is a veiled attack on the Catholic priesthood, and what the theology of the priesthood actually is. Not to be missed.
Deliverance Prayers (With an imprimatur from the Archdiocese of Denver)
Our Lady of Sorrows
Diocese admits McCarrick violated minors
PA Grand Jury report shows Bishops covered-up
Archbishop Viganó alleges Pope knew about McCarrick
Illud Horrendum Scelus of Pius V
1917 Canon Law, Canon 2359, §2: “If clergy should engage in a delictum against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of sixteen, or take part in adultery, debauchery, bestiality, sodomy, pandering, incest with relatives or affines (kin) in the first degree, they are suspended, declared infamous, and are deprived of any office, benefice, dignity, responsibility, if they have such, whatever, and in more serious cases, they are to be deposed.”
Sacramentum Pœnitentiæ (Latin followed by English)
More episode notes will be compiled soon. I have to listen to it all again to make sure we link and source everything correctly.
We are joined today by Fr. Chad Ripperger, PhD, to answer objections to his teachings on the obligations of women to work at home, binding prayers, generational spirits, canon law on his book, etc. We also address objections in favor evolution stemming from modern Thomists, that St. Thomas teaches creation was accomplished with primary causes, as well as the sedi-privationalist argument of infallible security which stems into Amoris Laetitia. We also cover clerical celibacy and the consequences of changing this discipline. Join us for another intellectually stimulating hour.
Pre-order St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Moral Theology vol. 2, save 8 dollars between price-point and our 10% off sale.
Fr. Ripperger’s website
Fr. Ripperger’s press
Feminism, Women & the Natural Order
Prümmer on the obligation of wives to remain at home:
“1. Vir et mulier pares sunt quantum ad substantiam naturae humanae, quantum ad animam, quantum ad substantiam naturae humanae, quantum ad animam, quantum ad gratiam et gloriam obtinendam; idcirco S. Paulus dicit: ‘[In Christo enim] non est masculus, neque femina.’ (Gal. 3:28) Quamobrem Ecclesia Catholica numquam desiit docere, mulierem non esse ancillam, sed sociam viri.
2. Quamvis ordinarie mulier sit debilior viro quantum ad vires corporis et intellectus, tamen haud paucae existunt mulieres vlaentes eadem opera (saltem faciliora) peragere, quae viri praestant. Per se igitur nihil obstat, quominus mulieribus capacibus haec opera et munia committantur. Hinc e.g. nihil obstat, ne mulieribus aptis committatur munus medici, advocati, magistri, etc.
3. Principalis scopus naturalis, propter quem Deus creavit mulierem, est, ut illa sit in adiutorium viri (Gen. 2:18). Ideo Deus prius creavit Adam et deinde Evam, quam fecit ex costa Adae; non autem prius fecit Evam, neque desumpsit Adam ex substantia Evae. Quae quidem videntur esse signa manifesta, mulierem debere subdi viro. Accedit quod Deus tum in Vetere tum in Novo Testamento exclusit mulieres ab officio sacerdotali; quod iterum satis clare demonstrat, Deum nolle concedere mulieri omnimodam aequalitatem cum viro in omnibus muneribus. Ergo emancipatio radicalis mulierum et omnimoda aequiparatio inter virum et mulierem videtur esse contra intentionem Creatoris.
4. Officium principale mulieris est procurare bonum familiae domesticae. Familia enim est fundamentum totius societatis humanae. Iamvero sine efficaci adiutorio mulieris bonum familiae vix est possible. Ergo talis emancipatio mulierum, qualis illas e sinu familiae nimis evellit, aut viris vitam familialem valde difficilem reddit, est moraliter mala, et etiam pro bono sociali nociva. (my emphasis)
Manuale Theologiae Moralis, vol. II; n. 593; translation in the audio.
Donum Vitæ – Children have a right to be raised by both parents
Pope Francis: Children have a right to both parents
CDF document on Exorcism (1995, not ’94)
Manuale Exorcismorum (Mechlen, 1618)
Conference on Generational Spirits part 1 2 3
The 6th Generation
Scripture verses defending binding even by laity:
Revelation 20:2; Tobit 3:17; Mark 3:27; 2 Peter
Gabriel Amorth: An Exorcist tells his story
Canon 873 §3: Books of prayers for the public or private use of the faithful are not to be published without the permission of the local ordinary.
Minor Exorcisms (which does have an imprimatur)
The Metaphysics of Evolution
Fabian Revol, Le Temps de la Création. Les Éditions du Cerf. Paris. 2015
St. Thomas teaches creation happened by primary sources: De Potentia. q, 3, a. 4. See also ST I, 45, 5; 65, 3; 90, 3; SCg II, 20 & 21; II Sent d.1, q. 1, a3; De Veritate 5, 9.
St. Thomas treated days of creation as 24 hours; I, Q 74 ad 7: The words “one day” are used when day is first instituted, to denote that one day is made up of twenty-four hours. Hence, by mentioning “one,” the measure of a natural day is fixed. Another reason may be to signify that a day is completed by the return of the sun to the point from which it commenced its course. And yet another, because at the completion of a week of seven days, the first day returns which is one with the eighth day.
Lateran IV on period of time of creation:
Deus…creator omnium visibilium et invisibilium, spiritualium et corporalium: qui sua omnipotenti virtute simul ab initio temporis utramque de nihilo condidit creaturam, spiritualem et corporalem, angelicam videlicet et mundanam: ac deinde humanam, quasi communem ex spiritu et corpore constitutam.
God…creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of the corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body (D.428).
Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique (DTC) (sous la direction de A.Vacant et E. Mangenot, Paris, Letouzey, 1903, Art. Ange, col 1269,1270): “It seems clear that the text [of Lateran IV] affirms the simultaneity of the two creations—[those of the spiritual and corporeal creatures]—and most theologians interpret it that way. Indeed, many of them, like Suarez in De Angelis and also it would seem Cardinal Mazzella in De Deo Creante regard those who contest this simultaneity of creation as ‘temerarious’. ”
Pontifical Biblical Commission’s 1909 response on the literal sense of Genesis (I misspoke during the interview and had said 1911. That is the year one of the best handguns ever made was manufactured and I confused that venerable date)
German Bishops on giving communion to the divorce and remarried
Statement of the Bishops of Kazakhstan against Amoris Lætitia
Maltese Bishops promoting communion for the divorced and remarried
De Divina Tradition in English (Franzelin)
Monsignor Clifford Fenton
Vatican II on Obsequium Religiosum: Lumen Gentium 25
The Binding Force of Tradition
Letter to the Argentine Bishops’ Conference by Pope Francis confirming communion for the Divorced and Remarried
Protestant clergy abusing children
Rabbis that have abused children
Islamic clergy abusing children
NB: Pointing this out is not to attack Protestants, Jews and Muslims, but to show the problem is not celibacy, but rather that we have a sick culture and sick people get into positions of authority, no only in the Catholic Church, not only in protestant churches, but also in other religions, not to mention government and that you are 14x more likely to be sexually abused by a government worker in a school or hospital, in foster care or in some other government facility than you are either by a Catholic priest or a minister of any religion.
Today Fr. Ioannes Petrus re-joins us for a wide-ranging interview which is perhaps the first one I did not script with pre-planned questions. We discuss voting, the trajectory of government in the West, the current Holy Father, the threat of Islam, Immigration and how Christians should respond to the crisis of our times.
USCCB guide on Voting
“36. When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.” (My Emphasis)
Just today, the Congregation of Divine Worship, at the command of Pope Francis, has decreed that women must be included in the Mandatum, that is the washing of the feet for Holy Thursday, effective this year. Thus, the god of surprises has come to visit us just in time for Septuagesima and the beginning of Lent.
There are lot’s of things to say, but the most important thing is to treat it dispassionately and in union with the Tradition. Pope Francis has said that those who resist change are closed to the working of the spirit, who cling to the way things have always been done are closed to the message of the Gospel. In spite of the twisting of the sense of Scripture in that particular discussion (my basis for which is the original Italian of Francis’ words, not some media report), let’s give him that for the moment. He posits a dichotomy of those who only want to do things the way things were, vs. those who want to apply new things. Thus we don’t receive a teaching and a praxis conditioned by the tradition of signs and symbols that lead us to Christ, to the teaching of the Gospel and the very person of Christ, but rather to the whims of this or that age. What is new and hip and inclusive in our age will be outmoded in the next age.
Moreover, the opposition is not comprised of those who say we must do everything as it has always been done, but that there is a reason why things have been done this way. Thus, the onus is on the Pope to explain why something in the traditional signs and symbols is somehow insufficient to express the reality of the Gospel. The problem is, he prescinds from this, and simply characterizes the opposition as a stick in the mud. It is one thing if he were to show how the traditional signs and symbols were insufficient for some reason, this is possible and the Church is in fact always in need of renewal. But can he show the use of men alone is somehow opposed to the expression of the Gospel?
The practice of washing the feet of men is supposed to express the relationship of Christ with his Apostles, not merely with the Christian community. Still, for all that, there is ample testimony of the Fathers that could be applied also to the community of the faithful, including examples where women’s feet were washed by the Bishop, just not during the Maundy Thursday liturgy. But then again, that might be too much the way things have always been done. The teaching of the Fathers on the question is well summarized by Cornelius á Lapide, in his commentary on the relevant passage of the Gospel (John XIII:6-10), which will suffice for our purposes here: [NB: My translation. There is a very good translation of this available from Loretto, but I do not have it at hand]
“St. Bernard understands in this place as if it were a sacrament, a symbol, a type, a figure, a mystical meaning as he explains a little after, on which we will say more soon.
Symbolicly, Origen and St. Jerome [epist. ad Damasus, de prima visione Isaiae] reckon that Christ washed the feet of the Apostles in order that he might prepare them to preach the Gospel, according to what is said: ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, and that preaches peace: of him that shows forth good!’ [Isaiah LII:7; Rom. X:15].
Secondly, S. Ambrose, [de iis qui initiantur mysteriis, cap. vi] reckons that Christ in baptism washes away actual sins by washing the head, but here by washing the feet, he washed the remnant of original sin, that is, the motion of concupiscence, for in this washing of the feet, it is effected to have fortified them so that they would resist concupiscence.
Thirdly, St. Augustine and St. Bernard [de Cœna Domini] say: “By such feet we tread over the earth, the love of the earth is signified, filth and defects, which, while on earth, that is while we live among earthly affairs, just as the dust or mud on our feet it behooves us to wash by tears and penance, especially before holy communion.
Fourthly, St. Cyprian [de Cœna Domini] and St. Gregory [lib. ix epist. 39]: “Of the feet, which are the lowest and last part of man, the washing means not only that we must scrutinize our exterior works, but that we must descend even to the lowest and most intimate hidden corners of our conscience, and purge them from every secret stain and wicked intention through contrition, tears and groans.
From this washing of the feet by Christ, the custom of Milan, and several other churches, sprung up that the Bishop would wash those who were going to be baptized, and thereafter the priests and clerics in the font, who stood straight for this purpose outside the Church; thereafter the Bishop kissed the feet of those he washed, and they placed the outer part of the foot over the head of the bishop. St. Ambrose relates and defends this custom [lib. III de Sacram. cap. 1] and says that it was begun by St. Peter and Christ, wherefore he marvels that it is not kept in the Roman Church. Moreover, the Council of Toledo [XVII, cap. iii] ratifies that the Bishops and priests should wash the feet of the faithful at the Lord’s supper after the example of Christ, and commands the use which had ceased for a while to be recalled.
St. Ambrose relates the mystical nature of this washing [lib. De initiandis, cap. VI] saying: “Peter was clean, but ought to wash the sole [of the foot] : for he had the sin of the first man by succession, when the serpent supplanted it and persuaded error; therefore his sole is washed so that hereditary sins would be abolished.” He alludes to those words of God to the serpent concerning man: “Thou shall lie in wait for his heal,” [Genes. III:15]. The same Ambrose [lib. III de Sacram., cap. 1] says: “Because Adam was supplanted by the devil, and the poison flowing into him and over his feet, therefore you wash the feet so that in that part, in which the serpent lies in wait, shall come upon a greater sanctification, in which afterward he cannot supplant you. Therefore you wash the feet, so that you wash the poison of the serpent. Moreover, it will effect humility, so that you will not blush in the mystery, that we will not disdain obedience.”
Another reason was more literal, because formerly those to be baptized approached with naked feet, that they would conduct themselves with humility. For that reason, this nakedness of the feet is called humility by St. Augustine [lib. de Symbolo ad Catech., cap. 1]; because they will wash the filth that has been contracted on the feet. This custom began to spread from the Church of Milan to others, as is clear from St. Augustine.”
Now, we could go on at length with many more testimonies to the same thing. What we can see is that the objections of some, that the priest will kiss a woman’s foot at the mandatum, was not a problem for St. Ambrose and the fathers of other churches where this custom spread to. Then again, the culture was not as over-sexualized as it is today where you have foot fetishes and other things of immoderate men. I don’t know if such a thought would occur to most priests, but it may to some laity. So if Francis wanted to overturn the custom prevailing in all Churches of only washing men’s feet, he could appeal to this example in the Fathers, that such washings were done from the Lord’s example for the community (men and women) who were to be baptized, and then he might have some ground to stand on in terms of uniting this symbol at the liturgy with the example of antiquity. But then his notion of mercy, trumpeted so much at the last synod in regard to public adulterers, could be exposed to attack by the same example. Again from á Lapide, on John XIII:10:
“Mark, here Christ alludes to those who wash themselves in a bath, who go out from it with their whole body being cleansed, but because they tread upon the earth with their naked feet, therefore they might say the feet, for that reason alone are washed afterward. Mark secondly, Christ speaks anagogically [that is, in regard to man’s final state] that by his custom they rise from corporal washing to a spiritual one, in other words, one who is washed is done so spiritually through baptism, in which I have washed you, O Apostles, or one who is washed through contrition and penance, here is wholly clean in soul, but still needs that he wash only his feet, that is the affects of the soul, again by reason of earthly things, in which they live, are stained by contagion and contract light filth that they must often purge through contrition, castigation of the body and like virtues (of which this my washing is a symbol), and especially before the Sacred Liturgy and reception of the Eucharist. Thus St. Augustine, Bede, and especially St. Bernard [serm. In Cœna Domini] say: “He who is washed, needs nothing but that he should wash the feet. He is washed, who does not have grave sins, whose head, that is intention, and hand, that is the operation and good life, is clean; but the feet, which are the affections of the soul, while we step in this dust, from the whole cannot be of the world, which at some time tread in vanity, lust or curiosity, it rather more behooves the soul that it should fall even now. For we all offend in many things. But no man scorns or slights. For it is impossible to be saved by those, it is impossible that I have washed except through Christ Jesus, and by Christ.”
Whereas, directly contradicting what Christ said, that he who divorces his wife and marries another (Matt. XIX) commits adultery, can that be said to be a light matter? Not a grave sin?
Nevertheless, picking up in the next paragraph with Lapide, we see the relationship of Christ with the Apostles:
“Therefore, Christ, in this washing of the feet of Peter and the Apostles cleanses sins, especially venial ones, because through that and only through His forgiveness does he goad their minds, and admonished them by making internal washing through contrition in their souls, through which venial sins are expiated.
For this reason, priests in the OT washed their feet and hands before the sacrifice, as I have already said. Likewise, many heathen did the same thing, as Brissonius recalls [lib. I De Formulis Roman., pag. 4]. Formerly the Jews did the same thing, as is clear from Mark VII:4, and they still do the same thing today.
Next, St. Augustine [epist. 108 ad Seleucianum] from “qui lotus est“, probably gathers that Peter and the Apostles were baptized before the Eucharist, then because no man has the capacity for the Eucharist unless he has been baptized, for after His death he baptized no man, it is certain that they were all either immediately or mediately baptized by Christ. Then, the “washing” would probably have been the washing done in baptism.”
Thus, the relationship expressed in the washing of the feet of the Apostles by Christ, is not just of a hierarchical relationship, though that is properly one aspect, but one of the intimate communion that his Apostles, as priests conformed to Christ’s very person, share with him in spite of their human nature. They are washed as preparation for becoming priests of the new and eternal covenant, of which baptism is necessary, that is being put to death to the world, and born anew in Christ Jesus. The mandatum, as preserved and passed down in the sacred liturgy of Maundy Thursday, is intended to preserve this identification of Bishops and Priests as other Christs, being cleansed from sin and made unto him, whereas the early Church (as seen in St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and the Bishops of other Churches, as Lapide mentions) also sought to incorporate the symbol of the Bishop conformed to Christ, the suffering servant who is nonetheless God, in the rite of baptism.
As a side note, Catholics should take note that the practice of blessing themselves with Holy Water when they come into Church derives from this ancient practice, which is why the modern practice in many modern churches of removing the holy water during Lent an replacing it with sand is all the more inexplicable.
Now, as I noted, Pope Francis could overturn this particular tradition in the mandatum under the desire to emulate the Baptism of the faithful, but if that were the case he should give very clear reasons as to why the old symbol were inefficient to this, or why the expression of the priesthood as perfectly conformed to Christ as servants no longer satisfies and should be expressive of who we are today. In fact, the very purpose of liturgical symbols is to remind men of changing fashions what the symbols represent and call them back to the gospel—both clergy and laity—not to correspond to changing fashions. What Pope Francis has done, is to destroy a symbol without any particular reasoning or purpose apart from what seems inclusive for today. And therein lies the very problem. A protestant friend of mine very aptly encapsulated the faulty reasoning of this initiative in the following satire:
“I hereby propose that a reasonably accurate modern equivalent of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet would be Jesus doing their dishes. Harder to fit into the Maundy Thursday service, though.”
Could it be that Pope Francis is the one doing things the way they have always been done—since 1965?
From a reader:
“I am somewhat alarmed that you haven’t had any discussion or podcast on the Synod, or on Pope Francis in general. Why is your voice conspicuously absent?”
Even socially people ask me what I think about the synod. My answer: Nothing.
There is a reason for this. Firstly, why am I not covering the synod? Apart from the fact that I am too busy with work and my children, in general I am just not interested in what is little more than a media circus. In the first place, there are many groups with correspondents in Rome, or providing coverage from such people. There is precious little that I can add. You’ve seen Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, and they have given scathing commentary on the instrumentum laboris for this Synod. What can I add to it? I’m not there, I don’t have access to sources who know what is going on, and others are doing a good job.
More importantly, I am resisting the trend in the blogosphere and traddom of becoming an “authentic commentator.” In all reality, I am just a guy with opinions, and largely so are others, no matter how correct they may be. I know of people who are losing the faith over this, or less importantly but no less destructively, sleep, increasing stress, becoming angry. There is simply no reason for this. In a just sense, I do get angry over what manifest heretics like Cardinal Kasper are trying to do to the Church. But I do not let it disturb my faith. St. Paul tells us: “Irascimini, et nolite peccare: sol non occidat super iracundiam vestram.” (Be angry and do not sin: Let not the sun set on your anger.) The first part is a quote from Psalm 4, which we sing every night in Compline in the Benedictine breviary. St. Paul is acknowledging that we can be angry, but we need to be in control of it, or we should not be disturbed. St. Thomas observes that anger is a perfection that helps you overcome difficult things, but is disordered after the fall so that it lashes out in all directions, rather than being directed at difficult things.
The fact is, there is nothing I can do to change the Synod but pray. More importantly, however, there is nothing the Synod can do to change the faith.
Firstly, a Synod does not have doctrinal authority, unless the Pope should elevate its status to that of a local Council and promulgate it as part of the ordinary magisterium. Even if Pope Francis were to do this, there is nothing he can do to eviscerate the tradition on marriage, namely what the Church has always and everywhere believed. This is documented in the Fathers, the Medievals, the Schoolmen, the Manuals, and ecumenical Councils (preeminently Trent). The Pope is not able to change these teachings, or abridge them.
Secondly, the Pope cannot affect the moral effect of Catholic teaching, whatever comes out of the Synod in the way of praxis, or the practical effects of his change to Canon law.
Thirdly, as has been revealed in other places, the outcome has already been decided. There has long been a plan to force the Kasperite thesis through. So while others are melting down over the goings on at present, I am already planning the response to the inevitable change in “praxis” that is somehow divorced from “teaching”, which itself is a novelty and frankly impossible state of things. That is to adhere to the Tradition, and treating novelty the same way the Church fathers treated it: as if it were heresy to be avoided. I will adhere to the Fathers, the Schoolmen and the Manuals, and work on translations of what is not already in English, time allowing. The fact is, the ramming through of what is being prepared will probably cause a schism, if not more widespread confusion. The task at hand, is not to let the sun set on our anger, but to prepare and advocate the course of real reform. This is the Traditional Catholic response. In the 15th century, reforming theologians and canonists advocated reforms that would not be realized until the mid-16th century. This means they died and others picked up their torch, and also died, until after the Council of Trent when reforms began to be realized. Will it take 150 more years? Salva nos Domine! Nevertheless, we need to be planting seeds with prayer, not merely reacting. We need to lay down the challenge with truth, and continue to do so while Christ works in His Church.
We can see this in St. John Fisher, who was himself a reforming bishop, and did his utmost to be a true shepherd of his flock. When refuting a Lutheran, Velenus, he made the following remarks:
Perhaps some may say, “Nowhere else is the life of Christians more contrary to Christ than in Rome, and that, too, even among the prelates of the Church, whose conversation is diametrically opposed to the life of Christ. Christ lived poverty; they fly from poverty so far that their only study is to keep up riches. Christ shunned the glory of this world; they will do and suffer everything for glory. Christ afflicted himself by frequent fasts and continual prayers; they neither fast nor pray, but give themselves up to luxury and lust.
They are the greatest scandal to all who live sincere Christian lives, since their morals are so contrary to the doctrine of Christ, that through them the name of Christ is blasphemed throughout the world.” This is perhaps what an adversary might object. But all this merely confirms what I am proving. For since the Sees of other Apostles are everywhere occupied by infidels, and this one only, which belonged to Peter, yet remains under Christian rule, though for so many crimes and such unspeakable wickedness, it has deserved like the rest to be destroyed, what must we conclude but that Christ is most faithful to his promises since he keeps them in favour of his greatest enemies, however grievous and many may be their insults to him?
Convulsio calumniarum Ulrichi Minhoniensis quibus petrum numquam Romae
Fisher was martyred by the tyrant Henry VIII, not knowing what reform would befall the Church. This is the path for the true reformer, to stay united to truth, passed on by Christ to His apostles, which they passed on to their successors, even to us. God’s providence cannot leave the Church without a remedy.
[The Quote was taken from “St. John Fisher: Humanist, Reformer, Martyr“, a reprint of EE Reynolds’ in depth historical treatment of the saint, now back in print from Mediatrix Press.
See also another helpful discussion in this vein from Boniface at Unam Sanctam.
Readers may recall my article dissecting a fake news piece that got linked to the Drudge Report and other sites as “actual news”. There is, sadly, a good deal more of that going on. There is an ever increasing proliferation of fake news, attempting to copy the Onion, some of it decent, some of it in bad taste. And of course, there is a lot of proliferation of Pope Francis fake news.
Admittedly, Francis is an easy target, and I am not uncritical of the Pope. Unguarded and careless statements, made off the cuff or otherwise, have become almost legendary. We have had, to name a few, “Who are you to judge”; “We don’t have to be like rabbits”; “The Reform of the Reform is a mistake”; “We need a one world political authority”; “We need a miracle for the Family to accept scandalous things” etc., all verified and true statements that have caused great concern and consternation among Catholics. Then we can add his actions, appointing an open manifest heretic, Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., to a pontifical council, giving a platform to pro-abortion UN divines for his encyclical, inviting lesbians to the Vatican or apologizing for sharing the faith in Latin America, have likewise caused such scandal that, one can almost believe Francis would say anything. Increasingly, I find this sentiment amongst friends who go to the Novus Ordo. It’s not a Trad thing anymore.
Still, the latest is completely absurd: “Pope Francis says unwed mother’s must be forcibly sterilized to stop climate change.” The website is obviously fake, and it cites the source as Francis’ encyclical, where the Pope actually said the opposite (no. 50). This did make the rounds and in spite of it’s absurdity, some news sites and people, particularly on facebook, did accept it as fact, even though a quick google search would have pulled up an easy snopes article showing it is false (which is less work than verifying through the Vatican website, as I suggested the last time I wrote on this topic).
Now, the fake news article in itself is not particularly of interest to me. Rather, I have several observations.
1) That people could or would accept this is evidence of how poorly team Bergoglio has managed the Pope’s message. The frequent gaffes and off the cuff statements referenced above, combined with instant clarification from Fr. Lombardi, and the use of the Pope’s words by the media, whether in context or not, are evidence of the complete failure of the Vatican Press Office and others to use media to present what the Pope wants to teach, and as a result, people are prepared to believe anything. One can only blame the media so much, as it is obvious the secular media has an axe to grind against the Church, and poorly made and ill-prepared statements only give them the perfect opportunity. It doesn’t exculpate the media, but at the same time, the Vatican clearly needs to control how it presents info. All we need to do is turn back to John Paul II’s pontificate to witness an efficient and well run press office. Those who know me, or followed the old incarnation of this website, know I was no fan of that pontificate, nevertheless, John Paul II’s messages were carefully prepared and crafted, he never made off the cuff remarks that could be easily misinterpreted and taken miles in another direction by the media, let alone things disparaging to Traditional Catholics, though he no doubt strongly disagreed with them (e.g. Francis’ many pejorative terms for those cultivating traditional spirituality).
2) There is a wider critique here than Francis, which is the credulity our culture places in news, and it’s lack of discernment in regard to sources. Too often we read headlines, and take that to be true without any further question. The Drudge Report is an obvious example. Only crazy news junkies click on every single link and discerningly read every story. In reality most people skim and click on the more interesting stories. On top of that, Drudge then has a lot of power to manipulate headlines to his particular point of view. For example, one time he linked an article and wrote the headline: “Organic food contains ecoli”, but when you went to the article it was organic food sent to a packing plant that was contaminated with ecoli originating with conventional food. Such is the power of headlines. Not to say Drudge is evil, but it would be foolish to think he didn’t have his own agenda, and he would certainly admit to it, unlike the MSM.
3) This website is but one of many proliferating fake news under the guise of satire. The success of websites like The Onion has spawned a legion of fake news sites, well produced, tolerably written that are supposed to be “satire”. There are two problems with this.
a) A lot of these news outlets hire out writers and accept nearly anything, which is just stuff re-written from other news articles, and can include many false or incorrect things. I know this because I’ve earned money doing this on various contracting websites for writing, though I never wrote anything I knew to be false. Others did and it was clear. The goal is to get content with buzzwords that brings more clicks and increase advertising revenue. This doesn’t help inform the public, or provide any beneficial service. Internet has provided us with an easy way around the Main Scream Media, to reach out and provide news, find news, and in another word, form alternative media without them. The problem comes in with the fact that anyone can do this, and create nonsense. Alternative media needs to be self policing and adhere to strict standards itself, to prevent the proliferation of fake news.
b) Just as importantly, the proliferation of fake news occurs under the guise of “satire”. It would be helpful if we reviewed what satire really is. According to the Oxford English dictionary Satire is: “the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” It uses irony, juxtaposition, oxymoron, humor and other things to mock something else.
There are several modes of satire, and it has been realized differently by different peoples. For the classical culture, i.e. Greek and Roman culture, satire could be a poem or prose that makes a mockery of social movements or peoples. It is often only understood by context (which is why St. Jerome famously burned his copy of Juvenal, saying “If you weren’t written to be understood, to the fire with you.”), and makes play of contemporary things. One of my favorite verses of Satire is from
Parturient montes, et nascetur ridiculus mus. (Ars Poetica, 139)
The Mountanins will labor, and a ridiculous mouse will be born.
The point of this is to poke fun at great labors which produce meagre results. In Fr. Vincent McNabb’s biography of St. John Fisher, he applies this verse to Cromwell’s great labor to open the safe in the Rectory of the Bishop of Rochester, thinking there was some great treasure inside. Cromwell employed several blacksmiths to get it open, and when it was done they found—a hair shirt!
Non satis est puris versum perscribere verbis.
It is not enough to lay out refined words in verse. (Satira, bk 1 Satire IV, line 54)
Here he means that some poets think they’re clever by literary devices, but there is no content being applied to them, similar to a history book name dropping all sorts of books but failing to provide a unified narrative to make the history intelligible. And so on and so forth. I could talk much more about classical literature, but this will do for now.
More recent satires can be seen in the 19th century with the British magazine Punch. While putting down a revolt in India, General Sir Charles Napier took the province of Sind, and he sent a dispatch back: “I have Sind.” Punch displayed the headline in Laitn: Peccavi. Today that would fall on deaf ears, but in an age where all the readers of Punch could be counted on to have classical educations, they would know that meant “I have sinned”, and thus the pun.
Or in another mode, Chesterton declared: “Politicians and diapers should be changed often, and for the same reason.”
Or more recently, after the Pope used a “burger king” as his sacristy in Bolivia, the Onion ran a satirical photoshop of Pope Francis flipping burgers on the balcony of St. Peter’s. This is amusing and useful satire, it draws attention to Francis condemning international capitalism, while using a creation of that for his mega liturgy in Bolivia. Now, in fairness to Francis, that might have been the only facility suitable for this purpose, who knows. The point remains.
All these are examples of satire to bring attention to cultural or political events. They make good satire, within the contexts they were written in. Part of today’s problem is that the culture is just so weird, it is almost impossible to satire. I wonder if Wodehouse or Waugh would be able to satire today’s culture? Perhaps not. The overarching point is that the proliferation of this fake news is not truly satirical, and frankly dangerous, because we are approaching a point where we can’t really know anything. When you read about a place called Russia, to which you have never been, you are taking it on natural faith that it is there, because people tell you or show you satellite photos or pictures purportedly from there. What if someone was to tell you that there is no such place, that it is a hoax produced in a studio with photo and video and the whole history is manufactured? If you have never been there, normally such while possible would not be plausible, for so many books could not be written, or a whole language created, so many people certain about a country that does not exist. Potentially, the endless proliferation of fake news makes such scenario somewhat plausible.