Tag Archives: St. John Fisher

Interview 033 — Catholic Reform before Luther on The Mike Church Show

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Today I was a guest on the Mike Church Show to talk about the myths surrounding Luther and the beginning of the “Reformation” and the Catholic reformers that began before Luther even appeared on the scene; so that Luther’s revolt was not due to abuses in the Church, but errors in theology that he embraced.
While we provide our particular interview free, there are hundreds of hours of great content to hear on the Mike Church Show and the Crusade Channel on the Veritas Radio Network! Please support them by subscribing to their podcasts.

Episode Notes

The Spiritual Life and Prayer by Cecile Bruyére
Dom Gueranger
NPR Standard useless history on Luther and the Reformation
For biblical Learning in the middle ages, see the chapter on Wycliffe in St. John Fisher: Reformer, Humanist, Martyr for a scholarly summary.
Luther and the Bible
Erfurt University
Indulgences
Purgatory
***Shameless Plug Alert*** St. Robert Bellarmine’s treatise on Purgatory with copious references to the Greek Father
Tetzel
Myths about the 95 Thesis

For a summary of Luther’s lecture notes on Romans, see Philip Hughes, A Popular History of the Reformation
Exsurge Domine of Leo X
Cardinal Ximenez
Complutensian Polyglot Bible of Ximenez  (I made an error when saying this was done 17 years before Luther, although Ximenez was compiling, directing and paying for it as early as that, it was not actually published until 1520; the point still stands as this was not done in reaction to Luther but a project that began before Luther and was carried out before Luther).
Humility of Heart by Gaetano de Bergamo (New complete translation provided by Mike Church)
University of Louvain
Erasmus
BBC In Our Time podcast on Erasmus
James Latomus (I accidentally said “John” in the podcast)
Ruard Tapper
John Collet
St. Thomas More: A Great Man in Hard Times (with summaries of his positions and his contribution to Catholic Reform)
St. John Fisher 
Sermons of St. John Fisher
Thomas Vio de Gaetano (Cajetan)
Diet of Worms
Marcello Cervini
Frederick the III (The wise)
St. Gaetano de Thiene
Theatines
Comuneros Revolt
Movie on St. Ignatius of Loyola
Simpsons Henry VIII (warning, crass humour)
Lord Nelson buried in St. Paul’s
Capuchins
A Capuchin Chronicle
Man sentenced to Capuchin monastery begs to go to jail because religious life is too hard
St. Charles Borromeo
St. Philip Neri

Interview 022 – Calvin was Wrong on the Mike Church Show


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Today I was interviewed for the Mike Church Show in his series “The Modern Wrong World made Right”, where we discuss the Reformation and my translation of St. Robert Bellarmine. We begin with a discussion of the Reformation and the stage before Bellarmine gets on the scene, and the arguments in Books 1-3 of On the Roman Pontiff.

Mike Church Website

Mediatrix Press

De Romano Pontifice in English

 

Why no synod coverage?

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
1522

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.

More of the Francis Effect: Bad Satire

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

Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Horace:
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!

Or Again:

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.

St. John Fisher: Resistance to Tyranny

St.JohnFisher2Today is the feast of the twin martyrs, St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More. There are books yet to be written on both, for all that have been written, but since so many more have been written on the latter I wish to write more on the former.

Now, in the first place, Fisher was a far greater theologian than St. Thomas More, who was a rhetorician and a lawyer, though no less devout a layman than Fisher was a bishop. Fisher established the seminary system in all but name, and made sure good preaching was the norm. This is rather an interesting thing.  In the late Renaissance, patronage, which was designed to move ahead those who were worthy had become instead a way of rewarding friends and picking favorites. Men became pastors and bishops solely due to royal favor, and the Popes tended not to care because they received the first year’s income of that diocese, a sort of Church tax called the Annates. Suffice it to say the whole thing had gone very wrong in the fifteenth century, and now preaching was a rarity. Some Bishops did not preach a sermon in their lives. Many bishops lived elsewhere, and would attempt to have other dioceses consecrated under them, or when those had been exhausted abbeys, so they could live it up in Paris or Rome or some other large city, and appoint a vicar for low pay to administer his diocese. These often did not do so well, particularly since they were not paid for the job. At the time St. Charles Borromeo entered Milan as its Archbishop, there had not been a Bishop who actually resided in Milan for 125 years! Yet that holy reforming bishop had a portrait of two saints in his room, one of St. Ambrose, and the other of St. John Fisher.

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