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Pope Benedict: Hammer Of Heretics

April 18, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

Pope Benedict XVI (emeritus) has issued what some have termed a post-papal encyclical identifying the rot at core inside the Catholic Church — and it is worth reading in full.
One of the key highlights thus far? The source of the disease. Pope Francis, who not only signed off on the document but whom Benedict explicitly praised, has argued that the disease lies within a certain pernicious form of clericalism. What is clericalism, one might ask? No one is quite sure . . . but we are all very certain that it is very bad and we should all throw rocks at it this very moment.
Alternatively, Benedict offers a rather simple answer that — once his vision of a smaller, more faithful Catholicism proves true — should stand the test of time. Namely, that the world simply forgot God.
There are other bold lines in this letter that are worth noting, specifically the lens through which the Second Vatican Council was interpreted by certain theologians attempting to build a morality based purely on Sacred Scripture. In the end, Catholic natural law was quite nearly replaced by a form of relative judgments. Benedict explains this as an effort to replace morality with intention. Without the natural law to ground anyone, all acts are perceived through conditions. The very idea of an intrinsically evil act (or an intrinsically good one?) was very nearly wiped out.
Two things happened. First, the leader of this effort — the German theologian Franz Bockle — had sworn to fight any encyclical that determined that some acts truly were intrinsically evil. He died, and Pope John Paul II published Veritatis Splendor some months later, and the world was given insight into a new category of goods.
For those of you not acquainted with Catholic moral theology, most goods are broken down into two sorts: basic goods which require no further grounding, and instrumental goods which lead us to some other basic good (money or medicine in the pursuit of health, for instance).
Benedict mentions specifically that there are certain goods which can never be subject to a trade-off. “Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence,” Benedict writes. “The fact that martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the theory advocated by Bockle and many others shows that the very essence of Christianity is at stake here.”
Benedict introduces a third category: Great Goods. What are these great goods, one might ask? The Catholic Faith — and not merely in the sense of some idealistic thing hovering in the clouds, but the Catholic faith both as a society and as an individual.
Yet this “great good” cannot be protected so long as basic goods can be pursued for illegitimate ends. Benedict mentions a reform of canon law that is oriented to the protection of “great goods” such as human persons and the Deposit of Faith. Yet once again Benedict imposes this consistent theme that humanity has forgotten God and expected freedom in return, and yet instead is coming to discover that by forgetting God we have put an end to human freedom.
Thus the great crisis of theology in the West, specifically in Western Europe and North America. Benedict mentions by name two national sources of this moral decay that Pope John Paul II fought in both Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae — specifically Germany and the United States of America. Benedict notes that in certain seminaries, his books would have to be read in secret — seminarians reading books by Cardinal Ratzinger were considered unsuitable for the priesthood! One almost sees Benedict’s eyes peering over his glasses toward the American cardinals under McCarrick with a long pause….
At this rate, it is worth mentioning the reason why Pope Benedict felt compelled to write this document — unique in its own way because unlike us asking what Pope John Paul II might have thought, we get to see precisely what Pope Benedict XVI would have thought by virtue of the fact that he is still with us on Earth!
Of course, the thorn piercing the heart of Jesus Christ at this moment must be the sexual abuse crisis, perpetrated by priests and bishops and protected (and outrageously enough, promoted) by bishops and cardinals. Pope Francis points to clericalism as the clerics who were involved either in the crime or the cover-up and continue to promote themselves into positions of power. Pope Benedict reminds us all that we forgot God — and in doing so, all things became permissible. Which one is clericalism and which one is holiness, I will let the reader decide.
Pope Benedict ends with a warning of sorts. It is a temptation of the Devil, he writes, to see the Catholic Church as all bad, and in this is an implicit criticism towards those of us who point to the moral rot and leave things there. Benedict cites the Book of Job specifically as the Devil insists that humanity — and indeed, the Church itself — are nothing but corruption and death.
Benedict practically begs us to remember that, though there is evil and there are weeds, there is also the Holy Mother Church which is indestructible. Good men and women continue to serve God, become seminarians and religious, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and so forth.
In this, we are a “Church of Martyrs” in the words of Benedict, with Christ serving as the first martyr for the great good of the Catholic Faith. Amidst the corruption, there is a Living Church that serves a Living God. That is a powerful reminder that we have sorely missed over the last few years. One hopes and prays that Pope Francis takes encouragement and chooses to find his own voice amidst the corruption of Western clericalism…which seems like shorthand for replacing human cunning for God’s wisdom.

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My son and daughter — Matthew and Caroline — made their Confirmation this week. Bishop Barry Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond brought 58 other young men and women into the Catholic Faith, with my oldest son Jonathan and youngest son James attending to His Excellency.
If you ever wonder about where the Church is heading, go find a younger person on fire for Christ and the Catholic Faith.

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Pope Benedict’s document reminds me of the days when one would read that Pope John Paul II would publish a new encyclical, and the rest of us would wait weeks before getting a copy of either Veritatis Splendor or Evangelium Vitae from Paulist Press — digesting every word.
Such was the mood of younger Catholics in the 1990s. They were good times as well, long before Twitter and social media, when my friends were hungry for truth and found it in a Pope who was unafraid to say as such. Those were good days.

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For those of you who continue to pray for my friend who is struggling with alcoholism, I cannot thank you enough. He has yet to call a priest; he has yet to call the Veterans Administration. But he is once again gainfully employed and has been dry these last few weeks. All of this I attribute to your prayers, so please continue to remember him in your daily rosary — it means a lot to me, and it will mean even more to him when we all go home and he finds out how many friends he really had!
St. Louis de Montfort, pray for us!

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First Teachers encourages readers to submit their thoughts, views, opinions, and insights to the author directly, either via e-mail or by mail. Please send any correspondence to Shaun Kenney c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 or by e-mail to svk2cr@virginia.edu.

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