Pope Benedict XVI Warned Us in 1989...

Although these are impossibly difficult times for faithful Catholics, one possible consolation is that Pope Francis writings will likely be quickly forgotten.

I can imagine that we will be studying and unpacking Pope Benedict XVI's writings in a hundred years time, remarking how prophetic he was.

In 1989, the then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said: 
“Each of these controversies (e.g. allowing contraception, homosexual practice, Communion for D&R) rests upon a much more far-reaching change of ‘paradigms,’ that is, of the basic ideas of being and of human obligation.”
In a talk given to European bishops the future pontiff foresaw many of the challenges afflicting the Church today, and in typical fashion, proposed strategies to understand and effectively deal with them.

In his discourse to doctrinal commissions in Laxenburg, Austria, entitled Difficulties Confronting the Faith in Europe Today, the then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pinpointed a “litany of objections” to the Church’s teaching and practice repeated by “progressive-thinking Catholics.”

The first of these objections, he said, was the rejection of the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception — a long-standing dissension which, during this 50th anniversary year of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, is now, for the first time, being promoted without censure by papal-appointed Vatican figures.

Cardinal Ratzinger explained how this rejection takes the form of placing artificial birth control on “the same moral level of every kind of means for the prevention of conception upon whose application only individual ‘conscience’ may decide.”

A second objection concerns the Church’s “discrimination” with regards to homosexuality, and the “consequent assertion” by progressive-thinking Catholics of a “moral equivalence for all forms of sexual activity as long as they are motivated by ‘love’ or at least do not hurt anyone.” Connected with this, he singled out the “admission of the divorced who remarry to the Church’s sacraments,” and, lastly, “the ordination of women to the priesthood.”

Cardinal Ratzinger noted how these “objections” question both sexual morality and the Church’s sacramental order, but are “very much linked together,” springing from “a particular notion of human freedom” and difficulties relating to the “Church’s traditional sexual morality.” Today, he said, man feels he has to “come to terms with his sexuality in a differentiated and less confining way” and he thus urges a revision of standards, ones which are deemed “no longer acceptable in the present circumstances, no matter how meaningful they may have been under past historical conditions.”

Prescient comments aren't they? Ratzinger saw what was coming a long way off. He is not alone however. It seems clear to me that a huge part of the problem is the current arrogance regarding history and prejudice towards progressive ideas, one might term it a lack of humility before history.

The confidence with which some pronounce society changing policies demonstrates their successful seduction by what Hayek termed 'the fatal conceit'; the idea that we know better than our ancestors, that we can consistently determine the consequences better than those who went before us, circumvent the prohibitions they observed, and yet somehow achieve what they did not achieve (see: Friedrich A Von Hayek & William Warren Bartley, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, (Chicago: Chicago Press, 1989).) But we all know that the truth is, there's nothing new under the sun.

This bleeds into an old theory of mine. It is said that in these modern times, people have more freedom in terms of their access to information. They want proof and question everything. As a result of this information revolution, old ideas and received opinions are crumbling. Part of this modern creed is that in the old days they just accepted what they were told. I think the opposite could, in fact, be true and the reason for this is that, although it is true that information is more readily available, the quality of that information is extremely dubious. 

We have also become intellectual butterflies, flitting from topical flower to topical flower without ever drinking deeply of the nectar. The result is that the population has superficial understanding, but rarely anything more than that, a mere sound-byte of the lessons of history. Our children are spoon fed information through the tv and the internet, and we accept whatever we are told as fact. After all, it was on the telly. How ironic! The reality is that today, we live in an age of disinformation and we need to tune out the noise sometimes and work a bit harder to discover the truth.

Progress is only truly achievable through our learning from the mistakes and trials of those who lived before us. History, therefore, is of consummate import.

Having established that fact, I want to run another theory of mine past you. I have long had a theory that those advocating positions contrary to the consistent teaching of Church are labouring under the yolk of a personal sin which they have not confessed. It causes a rift between their will and God's will. They start to justify the sin. Former bishop of Arundle & Brighton, Kieran Conry articulated this when he was caught saying he had never repeated Church moral teaching as if this somehow exonerated him from his rank hypocrisy. You see it all the time. I recognise it from my own experience. I've done it loads of times.

This is a thing today:
Cardinal Tobin was a speaker at Cardinal Blase Cupich’s New Momentum conference at Notre Dame this week, pushing for a ‘revolutionary’ paradigm shift in the Church. There’s a cabal using Amoris Laetitia to change Church on basis of ‘contemporary realities’
It further strengthens my feeling that when a prelate advocates heresy there's personal sin behind it. They are moving away from God in some sense and refusing to conform to Christ.

Our only hope of unity comes from faithful adherence to Church teaching. I'm not talking about a complete lack of discussion, there has always been vibrant discussion. But these positions constitute a 180 degree turn-around which is never going to be acceptable to those who have a supernatural faith and a real relationship with Jesus Christ. The Church can't teach one thing one day and something completely different another.

Notably, the desired "paradigm shift" cannot be achieved by noble methods and always seems to be about underhanded tactics. A priest friend tipped me off that Gerhard Cardinal Muller has published an important article on this issue recently entitled “Development, or Corruption?

In it he writes:
“In commenting on Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, some interpreters advance positions contrary to the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, by effectively denying that adultery is always a grave objective sin or by making the Church’s entire sacramental economy exclusively dependent on people’s subjective dispositions. They seek to justify their claims by insisting that through the ages there has been a development of doctrine under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a fact that the Church has always admitted. To substantiate their claims, they usually appeal to the writings of John Henry Cardinal Newman, and in particular to his famous Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845).”
Of course Gaudium et Spes n. 16 clarifies the nature and limitations of conscience and subjective dispositions in paragraph 16:
“the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.”
Despite this, there are many who take a very different view on the objective norms of morality from the teaching of Gaudium et Spes n. 16 and are not quiet about it either, busily passing on their own error to their flocks with great confidence. Why are these men, who represent a Church that has consistently taught the same thing, so confident that they know better than all those scholars and Saints who went before them? What authority do they have to teach a contrary gospel?

Perhaps a clue lies in their motto: non serviam!


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