Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pope Paul VI To Be Declared Venerable

Pope Paul VI
I just recently saw the headline that Pope Paul VI is to be declared venerable on December 20.  I searched around the Internet to look for commentary on this story, and surprisingly at first found next to nothing.  The following is from Romereports.com and repeated on several different websites:
December 14, 2012. (Romereports.com) (-VIDEO ONLY-) On December 20, Benedict XVI will declare former Pope Paul VI venerable. Cardinals belonging to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved on December 10 a report on the heroic virtues of Paul VI.

The former Pope had a very important role in the Second Vatican Council. The acceptance of his heroic virtues falls exactly 50 years since the start of the Second Vatican Council.
The beatification of Pope John Paul II caused no small controversy in the Church.  More than a few of my traditional Catholic friends had some serious problems with it, feeling John Paul II had not been faithful to the teachings of the Church.  Many Traditionalists feel even more strongly that Pope Paul VI was the cause of many evils in the Church because of, among other things, his introduction of the Novus Ordo Mass in 1969.

At first I didn't see any reaction from the Catholic blogosphere on this story, but now the first rumblings are starting to emerge with a posting from A Reluctant Sinner which can be found here.  Many felt that the beatification of John Paul II was basically a political move on the part of the Vatican, and A Reluctant Sinner seems to feel this is also true in regard to Pope Paul VI:
The near infallible Andre Tornielli ('Vatican Insider',La Stampa) reported last week that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has “given the go ahead for [Pope] Paul VI’s beatification.” On 10 December, it seems that the Congregation’s cardinals and bishops voted unanimously in favour of recognising the ‘heroic virtues’ of Giovanni Battista Montini -- who was Pope from 1963-78.

This means it is highly likely that Pope Benedict XVI will now promulgate a decree of heroic virtues, granting the Conciliar and post-Conciliar Pope Paul the title ‘Venerable’. It is expected that the Holy Father will issue this decree on or soon after 20 December, when he is next scheduled to meet Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

According to Tornielli, Pope Benedict XVI is very keen to beatify his predecessor before the end of the Year of Faith, which closes on the Feast of Christ the King 2013. The Italian Vaticanologist explains that 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Montini’s election as Pope and is also the 35th anniversary of his death. He also reports that there are already two miracles attributed to Pope Paul VI’s intercession – one involving the healing of an unborn child and the other the miraculous and unexplained restoration to health of a nun who had a tumour.
It is my understanding that when the Pope beatifies or canonizes someone, this is an act of infallibility, not a calculated political move.  We may not understand or intellectually accept what the Pope does, but the fact is that the Holy Spirit will not allow the Vicar of Christ to mislead the Church.  We either believe this or we don't.  Mt. 16:19 tells us this: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.."

This being the case, I'm not quite sure how Reluctant Sinner can make the following statement:
Though no expert in the rather eccentric[?] field of canonisation [thank you for this admission], I am a bit uneasy at the way modern popes seem obsessed with raising their immediate predecessors to the Altars [and as a lay person, it matters what you think because . . .?]. It makes me think of the Roman Emperors, who would more often than not deify the Caesar who had been reigning just before them. Sometimes, and for the sake of decency, then, I feel it might be better to be a bit less hasty about these things – there is nothing wrong in waiting centuries before declaring someone a saint. Fast-track beatifications and canonisations can, sometimes at least, prove to be a source of confusion.
St. Gregory the Great
Hmmm.   Canonization is an "eccentric field"?  Plus, I have to admit, I'm very uncomfortable with comparing the Vicar of Christ beatifying his predecessor with Roman Emperors deifying Caesar.  Is it really the job of the laity to offer our opinion about what the Pope should do "for the sake of decency" and that we feel "it might be better to be a bit less hasty about these things"?  Reluctant Sinner feels "there is nothing wrong in waiting centuries before declaring someone a saint."  I wonder how Reluctant Sinner would have felt had he been alive at the time of the canonization of St. Anthony of Padua, who was canonized less than a year after his death, or St. Gregory the Great, who was declared a saint on the day of his death.  Does Reluctant Sinner feel these were "sources of confusion"?

After offering these opinions, Reluctant Sinner admits that he knows very little about "Montini" as he refers to Pope Paul VI.  (I find it interesting that those who are critical of popes will often refer to them using their surnames instead of their papal titles, a practice I find very disrespectful):
I do not know much about Montini. To be honest, I have never really felt the urge to seek his heavenly intercession, and I don't know many who have. What did he do that was so saintly, bar being pope, which is not a guarantee of personal holiness? Of course, he did publish Humanae Vitae in the face of strong opposition from liberals and modernists in the Church, and he also recognised that Marian devotion had all but disappeared under his watch, and tried correcting this tragic loss. He also appeared to have been a simple man, and a man of prayer.
Is Reluctant Sinner telling us that no one should be beatified or canonized unless he or she is popular among the Church laity?  I didn't realize that was a requirement.  I will admit that it is rather generous of Reluctant Sinner to give some credit to Pope Paul VI for doing a "few" good things, such as publishing Humanae Vitae, which as I have stated on this blog, is arguably the most important document of the 20th Century.

Liturgical abuse which become all too common in the Church
Ah, and now come the arguments I was waiting for.
But, it could be argued that the Church suffered near collapse during his pontificate, as the decrees of the Second Vatican Council were implemented in a way we now know to have been contrary to the real mind of the Church. Liturgical abuses went viral soon after the promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI, whilst Marxist ideology and lack of discipline infiltrated se  minaries, and priests and nuns abandoned their vocations in droves. And, of course, traditional Catholics were virtually persecuted within their own Church during Montini's [again using his surname] pontificate, as those attached to the 'old Mass' had to metaphorically take to the catacombs! (I am not suggesting he was behind the purge of the old rite [that's kind of you], just that it seemed most virulent and unchecked during his reign.)

As we know, Paul VI was aware of the chaos that was causing such confusion to the faithful in the 1960s and 70s, which led so many souls out of the Church. He was concerned about the dark clouds that had blackened the post-Conciliar skies. He famously announced, after going into a sort of trance[?] during his homily (see here) for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul 1972, that: ‘By some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered into the Church.’ He therefore knowingly tried to steer the Barque of Peter through some of the stormiest seas the Church has ever seen. Some say he often went off course, whilst others think he did what was needed at the time.
The Magesterium of the
Church has been faithfully
guided by the Holy Spirit
since the first Pentecost
"Some say he went off course"?  Why would we listen to anyone who makes such a statement and, even more to the point, why would you repeat it?  We were promised by our Lord Himself that the Vicar of Christ cannot "go off course."  That is not to say that he cannot personally jump the track, but he can never lead the Church astray.  See above, Matthew 16:19.

Reluctant Sinner goes on to say that "It is a Christian hope that all members of the Church, all the baptised, will one day become saints."  He admits that there are many saints in heaven who are unknown to us on earth. He also says that most souls will have to spend time in Purgatory and that not all men are saved, which is undoubtedly true. But what has all of this to do with the Vicar of Christ declaring someone venerable?

Reluctant Sinner then goes on to give us more of his opinion:
Having said all that, then, I find it odd that nearly every pope from the time of the Second Vatican Council onwards has been fast-tracked to sainthood. Surely, there are holier popes than these -- ones who have been hanging about, waiting for canonisation, or just some form of recognition, for centuries? What about Blessed Urban II, when will he finally be canonised? What about Leo XIII, a great man indeed, or the angelic Venerable Pope Pius XII? And what about all the other saintly bishops, priests, religious, and lay men and women who already have popular cults, but whose canonisation processes have ground to a bureaucratic halt?
Again, this makes it sound like canonization has become a political move rather than an infallible act of the Pope, which I find to be a very disconcerting statement.  It is not the job of the laity to decide who should or should not be canonized.  I believe offering opinions such as these shed no light whatsoever on the subject and serve only to cause more division in the Church.

And now Reluctant Sinner give us what has become the stereotypical description about the state of the Church since Vatican II.
Since Vatican II, the Church has suffered greatly. The past 50 years have brought little light and an awful amount of darkness and distress for the Catholic Church. Surely, then, it seems a little strange to be rushing to raise some men to the Altars whose pontificates were not that great compared to some others. In centuries to come, will it be said that Papa Montini's [Papa Montini?] reign was one of truly happy memory?
Pope Paul VI
wearing Papal Tiara
Who are we, the laity, to decide which pontificates are "greater" than others?  And what's with the disrespectful "Papa Montini" crack?

Even though I labeled it "stereotypical", I certainly agree that the last 50 years of the Church have been a time of great upheaval.  I have done other posts on this blog about what some say is an unprecedented crisis of faith in the Church.

This crisis has produced basically two groups seemingly in direct opposition to one another, but I feel are, in reality, two sides of the same coin.  Progressives see the questioning of authority and the breakdown of traditional beliefs and practices in the Church as a good thing.  They feel it is time to bring the church up to date and more in line with contemporary needs and mores of our modern culture.

Then, of course, there are the "Traditionalists" at the other end of the spectrum who feel that anything that happened from Vatican II on is suspect and almost no one in the Church hierarchy, from the Pope on down, is to be trusted.  Some seem to believe that Our Lord has basically lost control of His own Church.  They may not realize that this is what they are saying, but when we read such commentary as we have seen here from Reluctant Sinner, there can be no other conclusion.  To even suggest that a pope "went off course" is to call Jesus Christ a liar, who told us that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church.

The unifying factor between these two groups is rejection of authority.

Since we know that the Pope cannot go against the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we have to ask why we have seen all these troubling events.  Why has our Lord allowed these things to happen in the Church?  Why is the Church of 2012 (almost 2013) seemingly so different from the Church of 1962?

I believe that our Lord has given us the answer to this question in the Old Testament, more specifically in the ancient Israelites' journey from Egypt, where they had been held as slaves, to the Promised Land, a land "flowing with milk and honey".

Moses parting the Red Sea
Moses, who was chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, was most definitely a man of God.  Yet the Israelites, under Moses' guidance, were constantly rebelling against God and being punished for it.  The first sign of rebellion among the Israelites happened as soon as they departed from Egypt.  God, under the leadership of Moses, led the Israelites out of Egypt straight to the Red Sea, putting the Israelites between the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army, which was in hot pursuit.

From Exodus 14:
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Now granted, things did not look good for the Israelites.  It looked like their choice was to drown in the Red Sea or be killed by Pharaoh's army.  But remember, they had just seen tremendous miracles that caused Pharaoh to allow them to leave.  They had just gone through the first Passover when the first born of all creatures, both human and animal, in the entire land of Egypt were destroyed by the angel of death, save for the Israelites, who were not touched.  Despite having just seen the Hand of God in freeing them from slavery to the Egyptians, the Israelites started moaning and complaining and accusing Moses, who was chosen by God, of leading them directly to their deaths.

Are we really any different than the ancient Israelites?  Our Lord came down from heaven, took on the form of a man, died and rose from the dead, freed us from slavery to the devil and to our own fallen nature, and gave us the Gift of the Holy Spirit, who is the Third Person of God, to guide, lead and comfort us at all times.  He gave the Keys to the Kingdom to Peter and all of his successors and promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church.  In 2000 years of history great nations have risen and fallen, and the Church has persevered, always coming through the ashes stronger than before.

Yet, like the Israelites who, as soon as they were faced with difficulty immediately forgot all the Lord had done for them, so we too forget all that the Lord has done for us in the last 2000 years: the great miracles and saints, the unswerving protection and guidance.  We moan and complain and accuse the one chosen and led by the Holy Spirit of basically leading us to our spiritual deaths.

"But," some say, "what about all of the terrible things that have happened in the past 50 years?  Pope Paul VI basically dismantled 2000 years of church history.  And now we're going to canonize this 'Montini' guy?  This is not venerable but scandalous!"

So why would our Lord, who promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church, allow so much scandal to occur?

Again, the answer can be found with the ancient Israelites.

Israelites worshiping the golden calf
Shortly after God rescued the Israelites from Pharaoh's army by parting the Red Sea and then drowning Pharaoh and his army in that same Red Sea, Moses went up to Mount Sinai for 40 days to receive the Law of God.  During his absence, the Israelites became restless and not knowing what had happened to Moses, decided to take matters into their own hands.  They made a golden calf and pronounced this the god who had freed them from slavery in Egypt.  They then began partying "like it was 1999," to borrow a phrase, engaging in all kinds of debauchery.  From Exodus 32:
19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
This seems rather odd, that Moses would make the people drink the golden calf, but this says to me that he is saying to them that if they wanted their own god, he would allow them to have it in full force and see what this "god" was really made of, that it was no "god" at all.  Also at this point our Lord was telling Moses that he was ready to destroy all of the Israelites and give the Promised Land to Moses' descendants.  Moses interceded on behalf of the people and God relented.  However, the Israelites still paid a heavy price when Moses sent the Levites through the camp to kill the worst of the sinners - about 3000 people - and the Lord struck the Israelites with a plague, killing even more.

God sent quail on
ancient Israel
A similar thing happened when the Israelites started complaining that they were bored with the manna which the Lord gave them everyday from heaven.  They complained that they wanted meat.  Moses said, okay, you want meat, you'll get it until it comes out of your nostrils.  Numbers 11:
18 The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”   
Again, when the Israelites rebelled against God, the answer was to give them exactly what they asked for, to let them see the full consequences of their actions.  They rejected the manna from heaven and wanted their own food instead.  So our Lord gave them what they asked for.

Pope Leo XIII
How does this story about meat and manna and the ancient Israelites relate to the crisis of faith in the Church?  The crisis of faith we now see in the Church is not something that just spontaneously occurred after Vatican II.  This crisis of faith can be defined by the term "Modernism".  Wikipedia actually has a pretty good definition:  "Modernism refers to theological opinions expressed during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but with influence reaching into the 21st century, which are characterized by a break with the past. Catholic modernists form an amorphous group. The term "modernist" appears in Pope Pius X's 1907 encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis."  Modernism has been a creeping infection in the Church for over 100 years, and is something that Popes have been speaking out against since the time of Pope Leo XIII in the 1800's.  As noted, Pope Pius X wrote the famous encyclical, PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS in 1907 warning about the dangers of Modernism.  Pope St. Pius X also was the one who instituted the oath against modernism which all priests were required to take until the time of Pope Paul VI.  All of the popes up to the time of Vatican II warned about and fought against this terrible scourge that has afflicted so much of the church.

So why have the Popes since the time of Vatican II seemingly dismantled all that their predecessors did in fighting the terrible spiritual disease of Modernism?  Why did Pope Paul VI introduced a New Mass?  Why did Pope Paul VI drop the requirement that priests take an oath against Modernism?  Why did Pope John Paul II allow communion in the hand, altar girls, etc?  Why have we seen so many Catholics actively rebelling against Church authority and still calling themselves "Catholic?"

From Pope St. Pius X
The disease of Modernism, despite the best efforts of the Vatican, had run rampant through many seminaries.  It came into full bloom and infected the laity in 1968 with the publication  of Humanae Vitae, as I wrote in my post about Vatican II, which you can read here.  When soon-to-be Venerable Pope Paul VI released Humanae Vitae and told the Church and the world in no uncertain terms that the use of birth control was and is a mortal sin, subjecting our souls to eternal damnation, there was a major revolt among both the clergy and the laity that continues to this day.   This exactly mirrors the rebellion of the Israelites against Moses and ultimately, against God Himself.

When the vast majority of the Church rose up in rebellion against Pope Paul VI, I believe our Lord looked at us and said, okay, you want to choose your own way, you want to decide for yourselves and take of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and I'm going to let you do it. I have been warning you through the Magesterium for centuries and even more so during the last century, how deadly this decision is, but now you're going to find out firsthand.  Reluctant Sinner wants to blame Pope Paul VI for the fact that "Liturgical abuses went viral soon after the promulgation of the Missal of Paul VI, whilst Marxist ideology and lack of discipline infiltrated seminaries, and priests and nuns abandoned their vocations in droves. And, of course, traditional Catholics were virtually persecuted within their own Church during Montini's  pontificate, as those attached to the 'old Mass' had to metaphorically take to the catacombs!"

A world of difference between a Smart Car
and a Rolls Royce Bentley
The reason all of these evils infiltrated the Church is because this is what the Church wanted.  This is what they asked for when they basically turned their backs on the Vicar of Christ and said, "Later for you, buddy."  As even Reluctant Sinner admits, Pope Paul VI warned us in 1972 that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church.  If we believe the words of Christ, we know that it could not have entered in through the Magesterium.  I believe that since the Pope is guided in everything he does by the Holy Spirit, he was also inspired by the Holy Spirit to take away the beautiful Mass of the Ages and in its place, give us the New Mass, while most certainly a valid Mass, left way too much room for abuse as we saw in the following decades. It was like going from a top of the line Rolls Royce to a Smart Car.  The Smart Car gets you where you want to go, but what a loss.

We wanted to go our own way, and our Lord allowed us to do just that.  The spiritual catastrophe that followed was the result of our own willfulness   We wonder why the Popes since Vatican II have seemed so powerless to stop the rebellion in the Church.  I believe God has held back their hands in order to allow the Church to learn a lesson which she refused to learn any other way.  That is what we have seen in the past 50 years in the Church, and spiritually, it is more destructive than any war has ever been.  Millions and millions of souls have been lost, both spiritually and physically.  To have to stand back and watch this devastation must have caused unbearable suffering in our Popes from Pope Paul VI to Blessed John Paul II to our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and even to John Paul I during his short reign.  I have no doubt that just as Moses pleaded for God to spare the children of Israel, our Holy Fathers have pleaded with Him to spare the Church.

Pope Paul VI and future Pope John Paul II
This comment on Reluctant Sinner' blog echoes my feelings:
Catherine said...
The more I have read of Pope Paul VI's writings in recent years, the more I am totally impressed by him and by his complete dedication to Christ. So if the news is true, then I rejoice, and also think that it is well past time that this courageous witness to the truth of Jesus Christ was honoured like this.18 December 2012 01:53
Pope John Paul I and
future Pope John Paul II
I believe our popes in the 20th Century and now into the 21st Century have been men of remarkable spiritual courage and devotion to our Lord.   They have reigned over a Church that has been as close to complete chaos as we have ever seen in her 2000 year history.  Not only have these popes had to deal with a hateful, anti-God world, but they have had to deal with it in the Body of Christ on a scale never seen before.

Canonization is always a reason to rejoice.  Holy Mother Church is recognizing that one of her children is advancing towards sainthood.  We now have someone else who can intervene on our behalf.   And certainly soon-to-be Venerable Pope Paul VI is acutely aware of the crisis we face on this earth and knows what to ask for.  Let us pray to him that he will go before our Lord and plead that our hearts be softened and turned toward our Savior and His Vicar here on earth.


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