The Orthopraxic Pope

If Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy can be summed up in one word, it would be ‘orthodoxy’. Etymologically, orthodoxy comes from the Greek root ortho and dox, meaning ‘correct belief’, and it is this message which Benedict delivered time and again in his numerous books, Sunday Angelus addresses, and speeches. Pope Francis, in his audience with the College of Cardinals on March 15th, stated, ‘The Petrine ministry, lived with total dedication, found in [Pope Benedict] a wise and humble exponent, his gaze always firmly on Christ, the risen Christ, present and alive in the Eucharist’. Benedict’s commitment to expounding the beautiful truths of the Catholic faith will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression upon our Church, and will be studied for generations to come.

Although we are only a few days into Pope Francis’s papacy, it is clear that the main emphasis has been placed on his humility and simplicity of lifestyle. Indeed, liberals within the Church are jubilant that the red shoes, fancy lace, and ermine trim are gone (I am looking at you, Cardinal Mahony); of course, this raises the question: who is the one really concerned about the ‘trappings’ of the Church? Hint: not the ones wearing the red shoes or fancy lace. Please see Gregorius’s post A Visible Head for more on this.

The Shepherd leads his flock.

The Shepherd leads his flock.

I therefore think that we can say that Pope Francis is beginning his legacy, building off of Benedict’s orthodoxy, by demonstrating Catholic orthopraxy. Orthopraxy comes from the Greek words ortho and praxis, which translate as ‘right practice’ respectively, and the Pope’s lifestyle as a cardinal and his first three homilies as Pope certainly point to an orthopraxic bent. For liberals, this should be a cause for concern (see Fr. Z’s blog on Jamie Mason’s horror). Like his papal predecessor, Pope Francis is a member of Communion and Liberation (CL), a movement begun by an Italian priest back in the 1950s to counter the rise of modernism. It is an inherently conservative movement, which is radical in its execution. Dario Zadra wrote in an essay on CL,

CL holds that the Church provides the principle of authority in society, the principle by which the moral quality of freedom is to be judged. Persons are only free as they live in connection with the central event of Christ; they are only individuals in so far as they live in a society with this even as its moral foundation.

From this postulate derives the determining role played by the principle of power in CL. Power is at once individual and social. Because the Church is the expression of the constitutive reality of the event of salvation in history [please see this article on this concept], the Church’s religious authority must define history and society. Because the individual’s life is to be oriented to that same reality, religious sensibilities have authority over reason or desire. Power is thus located in religious sensibilities and religious institutions, and religious authority holds together the vast range of action spawned by the movement. By claiming religious authority, CL also claims the power to reconstruct society on these premises.

Thus for CL, ‘authority’ is the very principle of orthodoxy. […] in CL the authoritative character of the event of salvation is directly translated into the authority of the Church [and is] expressed by the pope[…].

I could spend pages on liberal gripes about points made in each of the above paragraphs, but what is important to note is the complete investiture of power in the Church, specifically the Pope (this is completely anathema in liberal circles). Second, it is this same authority that gives rise to orthodoxy. What a lovely juxtaposition of Pope Benedict’s and Pope Francis’s papacies! Here we have Benedict laying the orthodox groundwork, and Francis is bringing it to fruition through his orthopraxy.

Whilst the liberals cheer on the sidelines for the time being, it is imperative to note that Francis’s actions are simply the consequence of a conservative crusade meant to center society entirely and radically on the Church.

– Vigilius


A Visible Head

Like much of the Catholic World, I was excited to hear of the election of our new Pope, Francis.  However, both his chosen name and his Jesuit background gave me some pause.  It is not that either of these things is bad in itself, but there is great potential for undesirable change based upon perverted Franciscan and Jesuitical ideals.

It is not hard to see how a Jesuit could spell trouble for the Church.  After all, much of the order has been a malignant, liberal tumor, spreading its heterodoxy since the 70s and making the faithful hopeful for another suppression, or at least for another Loyola, Xavier, Suarez, or Molina.  However, what could be wrong with Franciscan ideals; was not St. Francis a model of those virtues to which we are all called as Christians?  The answer is simple:  there is a grave danger of confusing personal humility with the need for maintaining a visible head of the Church.

Our new Pope seems to think that what the faithful need more than anything is a role model, one who rides buses and scoffs at the honors and privileges afforded to the Vicar of Christ!  Well, this is not what we need.  We need an uncompromising visible head to hold the Church together, one who will legislate for the common good of the Church Militant, teach correct doctrines in opposition to the impugners of the Truth, and show to all the world the honor and glory due to the Church, established by Christ who is its head.

We also need a Pope who will not part with those traditions which have developed over centuries under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  While rejecting a mozzetta may not seem all that important, remember that it is a symbol of jurisdiction, and if our Holy Father rejects his jurisdiction, then he may as well reject the whole office.  Again, while a fancy gold ring may seem the vain desire of a corrupt renaissance pope, remain cognizant of the fact that it is with that ring, pressed in bullion, that the Pope convokes councils and levees excommunications.

I am reminded of a wonderful encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei.  Here is an excerpt which, while dealing with the Sacred Liturgy, can be expanded more generally to the ceremonies and actions of the popes:

No more can any Catholic in his right senses repudiate existing legislation of the Church to revert to prescriptions based on the earliest sources of canon law. Just as obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who in matters liturgical would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation.

…For perverse designs and ventures of this sort tend to paralyze and weaken that process of sanctification by which the sacred liturgy directs the sons of adoption to their Heavenly Father of their souls’ salvation.

How clear is it then that while many within (though no true friends of the Church) and without the Church would sing the praises of an attempt to return to the practice of the early Church in toto, the Holy Ghost did not abandon the Church 1500 years ago; rather, He has been ever with us, guiding us through trial and triumph, and no authority can declare invalid all those developments in the Church which have made her the splendor of the world.  Many believe that the Church ought to return to the poverty of her early years.  These men fail to understand that the early Church’s situation in the first centuries of our Lord’s Incarnation was due to extrinsic circumstances.  Its small size and status as an object of persecution by the Roman authorities necessitated its poverty, and those authorities incurred the guilt of sin for their actions.  Do they really desire that these extrinsic factors be revived?  Or, would they rather that the Church reflect in no way the station that a generous and charitable faithful have permitted her to attain.

If the Pope truly wants to inspire us with his humility, let him wear a hair shirt under his silk cassock, let him sleep on stiff boards after descending from his golden throne, let him strike his body with his own hand in private and keep it ever raised in blessing faithful in public, let him be humble as a man, without senselessly and unjustly humbling the Church, as her persecutors have for millennia!

– Gregorius

The Gay “Marriage” Debate: Part 1 of 3

I hope this to be the first in a three-part series on homosexual “marriage”. For this first post, I will make the contention that the push for legal recognition of homosexual unions would not be effective without the Christian moral structure that we have in the West. The second post will deal with why although this argument could only be effective in a society influenced by Christian values, it is nevertheless incompatible with Christian teaching and immoral. The third post will deal with the state’s role in recognizing and regulating marriage.

                The argument for gay unions rests (among others) on two premises: the idea that everyone is equal and should be treated the same, and that marriage is something in and of itself good, or else people wouldn’t get worked up about it in the first place. Both of these ideas would be impossible without Christianity.

                The premise that everyone is created equal is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, and so of course has roots in Enlightenment thought. However, there could have been no Enlightenment unless there was first Christianity. It is from Christianity that we first see the idea that everyone can be saved, everyone is valuable in the eyes of God, and that the last shall be first and first shall be last. The Greek philosophers and every other region of the world would have regarded this radical equality as ridiculous. In Aristotle and Plato’s view, man can only be saved by philosophy and wisdom, but as is obvious, most men have no capability or inclination to really attain wisdom and knowledge. Looking across the world, we see no idea of the sort of equality embraced in the West and this is in large part because of their lack of any sort of Christian foundation.  Even Islam, although promising salvation to everyone, makes a large distinction between the rights of men and the rights of women, which is not found in Christianity. This means that the idea of an egalitarian society would be much less persuasive in a world not influenced by Christianity. Now, the trouble of course is that while Christianity teaches that everyone may attain salvation through God’s grace (perhaps with the exception of John Calvin), this does not mean that there are not fundamental differences between individuals and the sexes. It is only when this egalitarian mentality is taken to an extreme that it loses its Christian identity and can be used as a bludgeon against people who disagree.

                The second contribution of Christianity is the sanctity of marriage, which leads to gays wanting to participate in this ideal. As others have pointed out, while homosexual acts were relatively common in ancient Greece, it never occurred to anyone that gays should then “marry”. Why? Because sexual acts and/or love are not enough to make a marriage. This still holds true today, but it is not satisfactory to gay couples. This is because Christianity has held up monogamous marriage as the ideal for those who cannot hold their lust in check.

                Now obviously, the gay movement has much more to do with a rejection of Christianity, as Christianity has forbidden and condemned all sexual acts outside marriage since the beginning. But the only way gay marriage has become such a force is because it appeals to (misunderstood) Christian ideals. Why gays would want to make a lifelong contract to each other and be recognized by law makes no sense (unless they want purely the economic benefits of marriage) unless they believed there was something good and admirable about marriage itself. This only comes through Christianity. The misunderstood ideal of complete equality for everyone (as many suppose that homosexuality is something innate) also owes a debt to our Christian heritage.


Normas Nonnullas

My apologies for my absence. First, I would like to assure you that we are working on some rather scholarly posts for next week. Second, I would like to direct your attention to Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Normas Nonnullas, which should bring you up to speed on the rules concerning the election of the Roman Pontiff. If anything, it will provide you with plenty of Catholic trivia for the next few weeks. Viva il Papa!


Pope Pius XIII?

I just read a Jewish rabbi’s blog on the next pope’s potential name. The rabbi, who views John XXIII as a beacon of modernization, argues that the new pope should take the name of John XXIV. While I as a Catholic appreciate the fact that the papal conclave is so important that even rabbis feel they need to blog about their feelings on the subject, I think there is a far more suitable name for the upcoming pope: Pius XIII.

Pope Pius XII speaks to a crowd in Rome following an American air attack on the city, August 1943.

The cries of shock and protest that would quickly follow such a choice are all too predictable. “Pius?” “The last Pius was Hitler’s lackey!” “This is a clear indicator that the new pope will try to take us back to the 19th century.” Ignoring the fact that Pius XII’s fallacious legacy as a closeted Nazi is the result of Soviet directed character assassination, the last statement I hypothesized would be the most telling. Yes, a pope taking the name of Pius would be a clear indicator of his approach to the papacy, but it would symbolize the arrival of a pope that the Church sorely needs in the 21st century.

The selection of a new pope should serve as a reminder to Catholics that there is a fundamental decision that must be made: will the Church influence the world or will the world influence the Church? Take a quick glance through a list of mainstream Protestant churches and you will realize just how little relevancy those churches that have decided to let the world influence their dogma truly hold. Stripped of meaning, they serve more as meeting places for city-dwelling progressives rather than houses of God. One needs look no further than the amount of time spent covering the election of the newest  Archbishop of Canterbury compared to the amount of ink and pixels that have been used on Pope Benedict’s resignation. This should serve as a reminder that the secular media cares about the Catholic Church only as long as it stands against the current Godless culture. If it were perceived to have fallen as the last redoubt of traditionalism the world would cease to care.

In a modern era where hedonism and doubt are celebrated as virtues, the world and the Catholic Church need a voice of sanity that stands up for reason and virtue. Neglecting these has led the world to a troubled place; unmoored from history and tradition, we stand vulnerable to forces that stand for evil and are unafraid of making their voices heard. Likewise, the Church has been under internal attacks by the so-called Catholic progressives over the 50 years since the closing of the Second Vatican Council. I have faith in Christ’s words that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against the Church that he founded. But I am also aware that it takes men of strength and courage to stand up and prevent the triumph of evil. The taking of the name Pius XIII would indicate that the next pope is keenly aware of the problems facing the Church and is ready to proactively respond to them.

– Urbanus

An Exordium

I, along with the two other writers, am quite excited to welcome you to this blog. I had been considering writing a blog for some time, but realized that it would never come to fruition if I waited to have the time to do it. Thus, I recently set aside time, spoke with some close friends, and started what I hope will become an influential, conservative voice in our corner of the internet.

First, let it be clear from the outset that this blog’s focus is on religion and politics: namely, Catholicism and conservatism. We do not intend to fuse religion and politics together, as was the case in the Marxist ‘liberation theology’ movement. Rather, we hold that the traditional conservatism advocated by Burke, Eliot, Kirk, and Buckley is a natural consequence of the Catholic faith. Not every post will attempt to justify in light of the Church’s teaching a certain political position we may hold, as we recognize that many of our readers may not be Catholic or it is obvious that said position is in accordance with Magisterial teaching.

Second, we hope that this blog encourages those conservatives who read our posts, especially students who find themselves surrounded by liberal academia and peers, to hold fast to their beliefs. It is a fact that much of American higher education is dominated by liberals; William F. Buckley, Jr. launched himself into the forefront of the conservative movement by addressing this fact in his book God and Man at Yale. We all agree with Mr. Buckley’s sentiments on the notion that truth will not prevail in the classroom under the auspices of academic freedom:

What is more, truth can never win unless it is promulgated. Truth does not carry within itself an antitoxin to falsehood. The cause of truth must be championed, and it must be championed dynamically.

William F. Buckley, Jr. with President Reagan

William F. Buckley, Jr. with President Reagan

We will do our utmost to champion the causes of truth, both politically and religiously.

Finally, I realize that most are probably not familiar with the title of this blog, Contra Mundum. It comes from a quote from St. Athanasius (296-373), a Doctor of the Church. He was vehemently outspoken against the heretic Arius; in fact, he was the only person with the courage to fight the Arian heresy and firmly defend the banner of orthodoxy. He declared that should all of the world accept the Arian heresy, then let it be ‘Athanasius contra mundum’ (Athanasius against the world). This reflects our conviction in our religious and political beliefs, as well as our willingness to stand ‘contra mundum.’