Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Edition of Vexilla Regis Journal


In this Issue
  • Mythmakers of Modernity, by Phillip Collins 
  • Cybernetic Messiah: A Critique of Transhumanism, by Fr. Jack Ashcraft, 
  • The Infiltration of the Vatican, by An Anonymous Priest, 
  • The Protestant Revolution:A Critical Examination, by Fr. Jack Ashcraft, 
  • Three Paranormal Myths Defined, by Tracy Garnett, 
  • Love and Other Cop-Outs, by John C. Calloway, 
  • Aspects of an Appalachian Christian Theology, by David Thrower

Friday, January 9, 2015

Global Governance Initiative

There is yet another program designed to bring about a Global government. This one is called Global Infrastructure Initiative, and as with all Globalist programs, this one demands an annual "investment" of at least 3 Trillion American dollars. The only way this program can get that money is through your taxes, so look for that to be where some of your money is going to. And as is typical of such Globalist initiatives, the leadership of the organization is comprised of politicians and big business moguls. In other words, the usual suspects in oligarchy.

Javier Solana, a long time promoter of Globalism, said this initiative "will create a global infrastructure hub to serve as a knowledge sharing platform for governments, the private sector, development banks, and international organizations.." Translation: This will create a better method whereby the forces behind the New World Order can oppress the common person, while consolidating power and controlling all flow of information, technology and economic viability. Interestingly, McKinsey and Company, one of the consultants for the Global Infrastructure Initiative is also a consultant for the Vatican. Considering Bergoglio's (aka Francis I) decidedly Progressive and Globalist ideology, this seems to be a perfect fit. Wikipedia says of the company that they are akin to a "religion", elitist and highly secretive. 

"A 1993 profile story in Fortune Magazine said McKinsey & Company was “the most well-known, most secretive, most high-priced, most prestigious, most consistently successful, most envied, most trusted, most disliked management consulting firm on earth.” According to BusinessWeek the firm is "ridiculed, reviled, or revered depending on one's perspective." McKinsey's culture has often been compared to religion, because of the influence, loyalty and zeal of its members.Fortune Magazine said partners talk to each other with "a sense of personal affection and admiration." An article in The News Observer said McKinsey's internal culture was "collegiate and ruthlessly competitive" and is sometimes described as arrogant.The Wall Street Journal said McKinsey is seen as “elite, loyal and secretive.” According to Reuters it has a "button-down culture" focused on “playing by the rules”.According to BusinessWeek, “some observers” say that McKinsey has started to lose touch with its founding principles and become less personal as its size has increased.The Guardian said at McKinsey “hours are long, expectations high and failure not acceptable. Fortune and USA Today both noted that the majority of McKinsey's consultants are white men."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Art of Prayer

It is surprising how little men pray and how poorly they pray. Although they are children of God, they spend the best part of their life ignoring God. At most they give Him an occasional thought now and then or make some selfish appeal to him. This is one of the most evident proofs of our fallen state. What are the causes of this lack of prayer? They are numerous —as manifold as our defects. We are not addressing ourselves to those immature Christians whose sole concern is limited to "fulfilling their duties" and who say they will be satisfied if they barely escape the fire of hell. Prayer for them is an onerous burden except when fear of some unpleasantness reminds them that there is after all a God who could come to their aid. We likewise disregard those supine souls who lack the courage prayer requires. There is but one thing to say to this class of people: "For pity's sake bestir yourself. Ask God to give you the energy you so badly need." This is the first prayer they should say. Outside of these cases, the source of the evil lies in an erroneous concept of the nature of the usefulness of prayer. Some souls are strongly attached to external activity and underestimate the value of contemplative activities; others sincerely long for these activities but, because they do not understand them well or go about them in the wrong way, are never successful in achieving them. This book is written especially for the second group, with the hope that it will help their good will. But we must first have a word with the others.

The trend today is toward action, struggle, movement, business, efficiency, better methods of production, and maximum yield. Activism, utilitarianism, and humanism are the formulas of the day. What people want is the concrete, the tangible, the immediate, the practical, whatever satisfies and brings out their personality. Even the apostolate has blithely taken on the tint of the times, and arrays its zealous regiments under the banner of "action." No one will contest the value, even the great value, of this. But it seems that there is too much emphasis on the material element to the detriment of the spiritual, on the "active" virtues at the expense of prayer. This lack of equilibrium is dangerous both for Christian activity itself, because it threatens to rob it of its spirit, and for Christians, too, because little by little it can cause them to deviate from the correct idea of Christianity. There is an all too noticeable undervaluation of the "interior" virtues, of unselfish activities, and especially of prayer, among youth. It is a bad sign, for love of prayer is the barometer of religious vitality. It is high time to put things back in their proper place.

The Primacy of Prayer
The truth is that we are made primarily for prayer — provided we give the word its complete meaning which is one that far surpasses the simple prayer of petition. Prayer is the raising of the mind to God and the union of the soul with God. Of all our human actions it is the most important and should take precedence over all others. Prayer alone gives our entire soul to God, even its innermost recesses. It is its vital act, the act proper to love in the most profound acceptance of the word. In our other good works we go to God through some intermediary, whereas in prayer we reach God directly. "In the active life," St. Bernard says, "we busy ourselves with something other than God for God; in contemplative life we think of God himself." Now, that is the noblest, the most glorious, the most useful, and the most properly human occupation. God created man free and intelligent, as the object of His love. Having loved him even before creating him, God had no other purpose in creating man than to see him return to God whence He came so that the highest of unions might be realized: the spontaneous union of love. And God waits for that return. The soul that returns to God out of love gratifies God's wishes to the full and brings God's work to fruition. And when the soul is united to the Love that created it, it accomplishes its destiny; it lives in the state of perfection. There is nothing beyond that. Everything else, asceticism, good works, and the apostolate, hark back to prayer and are related to "the best part" (Lk. 10, 42) and the one thing necessary. Magdalene, lost in Christ, can withdraw to a grotto and Paul into the desert and there pray. Their life is full to overflowing. God has placed us, it is true, in such a condition that we must also attend to other work, and it is His will that we perform it faithfully. It would, however, be more correct to call it a service inspired by love, whereas prayer itself is love and for that reason, more pleasing to God than all the rest. He loves us. Now, what does love require if not to be paid in love? Only the gift of our heart can satisfy God. Our work pleases Him only when it is a proof of this gift. What God wishes above all else from His children is their affection, and this finds expression primarily in prayer.

Contemplation is the activity essential to God himself. It is the unspeakable relationship eternally going on between the three divine Persons. Having formed us out of an outpouring of that love, which is His being, having made us in His own image and likeness, He wishes us to participate in His sovereign activity. For that reason were we created. Man, as well as the angels, is above all an adorer, a being constituted for prayer. The meaning of human life is adoration. Everything else will pass away. That alone will remain, for it will be our life in an eternity of blessedness. Here below, amidst all our necessary external work, we must serve the apprenticeship of our heavenly vocation. Thus holy contemplation rises like a peak above all other virtuous actions. Many of them are good and pleasing to God. It alone, by its very nature, is necessary. It is the goal, the term, and the crowning of our entire spiritual life. Penance, renunciation, all the virtues, are ordered to prayer. They correct the will and free the heart to this end. "The virtues are related to the contemplative life as dispositions necessary to that life." (Saint Thomas II-II, Q180, A2)

The result and the very purpose of all asceticism is interior love, the gift of the heart to God, and union with God beyond all external contingencies. The fathers and doctors of the Church, basing themselves on the Master, unanimously proclaim the primacy of contemplation. The Church approves of orders that are purely contemplative and gives them first place in her esteem. Contemplative souls are the spiritual aristocracy of Christianity. "The Lord," says Cassian, "puts the principal good in divine contemplation. The other virtues, while good and useful, seem vile by comparison and must take second place. They are but means to attain it" (First Conference).

"Our whole purpose," He writes on another occasion, "our entire perfection, is to pray unceasingly. That is the reason which helps us brave labor and seek contrition of heart.. .. The whole edifice of the virtues has but one purpose, namely, to attain perfection in prayer. Without this perfection, which unifies all the parts and makes for a solid ensemble, there will be neither solidity nor durability. This constancy in prayer is neither acquired nor achieved without virtues, but, on the other hand, without prayer the virtues, which serve as its foundation, would never attain perfection" (Ninth Conference).

St. Gregory says the same thing: "The merits of the active life are great, but those of the contemplative are more excellent … The fervor derived from contemplation is a greater help in observing the rules of the active life" (In Ez.).

The Utility of Prayer
We have seen that between the two expressions of love there is an interdependence and a reciprocal action. If there is no perfect prayer without the virtues, there are no perfect virtues without the interior life. The contemplative life is necessary for the perfection of the active life. For that reason St. Augustine could write: "That man has learned to live well who has learned to pray well." At the same time such a man has learned to be an authentic militant, the apostolate being, as St. Thomas says, but the overflow of contemplation that runs over into our other duties. Every other conception of Christian zeal is false. "Without contemplation," affirms Father Lallemant, "we will never make much progress in virtue, and we will never be able to help others advance" (La Doctrine Spirituelle, VII, Chap. 4, p. 4)
Godliness is profitable in all respects," says St. Paul (I Tim. 4,8). Prayer — and again I am not speaking of the prayer of petition only — obtains the graces necessary for ourselves and for others. It supernaturalizes the apostolate and makes for an abundant harvest. It brings us to the very source of grace by uniting us to God. It keeps the supernatural sense alive in us. It heightens our whole life and stirs up all the virtues, being the immediate act of the queen virtue, the mother of all the others, the love of God. But over and above all these happy effects, it is primarily in itself that prayer is the most excellent of all things. We should appreciate and practice it in itself and for itself. There is reason to guard against an idea which is tending to seep into certain militant groups. Some souls are indeed in favor of exercises of piety, but on condition that they can see the immediate yield: "Zest for action, a feeling of exaltation, recollection of fullness," to use the words of a Catholic Action chaplain. Such souls relegate prayer to the rank of an auxiliary to action or see in it but a way to arouse emotion and promote self-development. There is a principle that we must hold fast if we would guard ourselves completely against activism and a warped humanism. It is this: prayer is not only beneficial for everything, but for itself and independent of every extrinsic utility, it is the prime activity, the first perfection, and the primary duty of man. And if a man is truly a Christian, it will be His first need. Finally, from the fact that prayer is the art most con-natural to man, it follows that it is also the most conducive to happiness. Every prayer has about it a joy, a comfort, and a soothing effect. It frees man from earthly hindrances and gives Him access to the serenity of the supernatural world. It gives Him the consoling consciousness of having a Father and a divine Friend — a thought that assuages His sorrows and strengthens His confidence. It re-establishes Him in truth, which is the sister of hope. How much more true all of this is of contemplation. Contemplation is the perfect prayer that introduces man into the intimacy of the Lord and transfigures his life. He who has discovered the high roads of prayer has set himself up in the very center of the kingdom of God. Wherever he is, he is with God. He finds Him and sees Him in everything. There is an over-abundance in His heart. He is rich. Having acquired the one and only good that gratifies the human heart, he is happy. Having fulfilled his purpose, he lives to the full. What words can express the happiness of the man who has established his abode near the all-lovable One? Who can describe his peace, his constantly renewed cheerfulness, the joy of his awakenings, the sweetness of the presence of God, the splendors that illumine his soul? He loves and knows that he is loved. He whom he loves and treasures is supreme Beauty, the final object of every desire. He possesses perfect love and love is the source of happiness. His life even here below is in heaven, in a heart-to-heart conversation with the eternal Beloved. As he treads the earth with royal indifference for its inferior goods, he is immunized against sadness. Nothing can harm him, for his home is above material things.

Aberration
Such is the feast which God has prepared for those who are faithful to him, such the banquet to which He invites them. And what is man's answer? "I have bought a farm, and I must go out and see it; I pray thee hold me excused.... I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them; I pray thee hold me excused.... I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come" (Lk. 14, 18-20). And so, completely indifferent, He prefers the creature to the Creator. If angels could be dismayed, the attitude of the invited guests just alluded to would surely dismay them. Men "do not have time to pray!" When we stop to think of it, that is a very disconcerting statement. In view of the fact that time has been given to them for prayer, for prayer more than all else, they find time for everything except for the one thing that matters. They settle down in time and act as if eternity were a joke. They manifest a complete disinterestedness in the beyond that is so certain. Their main concern, apparently, is to forget God and all thought of the supernatural. And so eternal things become strange to them. Prayer for them loses its savor because it has lost its love-value. What ought to be their most spontaneous propensity, their constant desire, and their great joy in the disappointments of life is but a burden, wasted time, and a tedious duty which they discharge as hurriedly as the payment of a tax. (I am speaking of coarse-grained Christians.) Man's glory is to think. And his highest function is to withdraw himself from the material world and think about God, to contemplate and adore him. Surprisingly enough, the most difficult thing to do is to get men to lead an interior life. Speak to them about the "exterior" virtues, of courage, devotedness, and work, and they will not only understand you but they will follow you. But suggest that they enter into themselves, that they pray and meditate, and they are baffled. Their fear of meeting God is as great as their attempt to avoid a troublesome person. They have nothing interesting to say to Him and expect that His conversation with them will be equally tedious. Even for Catholics who are convinced of the necessity of prayer, prayer is often reduced to the recitation of formulas and to assisting at Mass. There is no soul, no profound life in their prayers, and consequently they are bored and are content with the very minimum imposed upon them. Even religious who are well disposed but absorbed by action trim off as much as they can from their prayer-exercises and give the time they should spend in prayer to what seems to them more useful employment. They have so forgotten the spiritual ways that they have forgotten how to meditate. The two or three half-hours set aside by their Rule for this exercise are for them the heaviest of burdens. They no longer know how to spend the time, so they fall back on some reading, provided they do not fall asleep or think of personal matters. They are much to be pitied. What joy can they find in religious life, and how can they consecrate their life to a God they no longer know how to speak to? They no longer live in constant habitual intimacy with Christ. If they did— and that is what they ought to do — it would indeed be a great treat to talk with him. There are, alas! priests who practically never meditate. It is soon evident that "their true home is not in heaven" and they become quite earthly, to the great detriment of their priestly work. They fail seriously in a duty essential to their vocation, for the priest is by function one who prays, an intercessor. The disrepute of prayer is a misfortune and one of the most detrimental perversions of the spirit. For at the base of this attitude there is an incorrect idea not only of prayer but even of life. To belittle prayer is to distort the meaning of the human person and of destiny. This erroneous attitude toward prayer is one of the capital errors of our times. For many — and among them are chosen souls — it denatures the notion of the apostolate, even that of religion, and makes excellent intentions and lofty generosities inoperative. Other omissions attack the spiritual organism from without; this one affects it at its very center and undermines it from within. It inverts the spiritual order of values, nibbles away at the spirit of faith, and opens the way to a sort of semi-naturalism, all the more dangerous for its not being known.

*Excerpted from The Art of Prayer, by Fr. Martial Lekeux, OFM

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Latest Interview Available

In an effort to expand the efforts of my sacerdotal ministry, I am now making use of other internet resources, particularly media. The start is, of course, YouTube. My latest radio interview is now available at my YouTube channel. (see link in menu at right) I was interviewed by Jimmy Church, host of Fade To Black, and guest host of Coast to Coast AM. Mr. Church is an excellent host and appearing on his program was a wonderful experience. We discussed the popular myths about demonology, as well as the reality behind the investigation of claims, and what constitutes a valid exorcism. So if you have a little time to spare, visit the Bare Fisted Cleric YouTube channel and have a listen. I also have on there parts of my interview with Josh Tolley, a wonderful talk show host with the Genesis Communications Network. If you'd like to be updated on future additions to the channel (and there will be many in the coming year, including classes taught locally, etc.), then I'd encourage you to subscribe to the channel as well.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Crusading Spirit

As the unity and strength of Christendom reached their height in the middle of the thirteenth century, forces of destruction were becoming visible. Two monarchs epitomized these conflicting forces. Saint Louis IX of France reached the height of Christian chivalry both in the exercise of justice in the fulfillment of his duties as king and the sacrifice of his life in the last crusading attempt to free the Holy Land. Frederick II, on the other hand, brought secularist, absolutist, and anti-papal policies to new levels of intensity that prefigured the depredations of Philip IV and Henry VIII in the succeeding generations. Previously the Papacy had dueled with several German emperors who imagined they were the chief Christian ruler, but at least they believed in the unity of Christendom. Frederick had only contempt for that notion. The predecessors of Saint Louis expand the monarchy When young Louis inherited the French crown at the age of twelve upon Louis VIII’s premature death, he also inherited a royal domain that was greatly expanded by his grandfather, Philip Augustus. Prior to Philip, the Capetian crown lands consisted only of Paris and the surrounding countryside (Ilede-France). The western half of modern France was controlled by the Plantagenet kings of England. The great fiefs of Flanders, Brittany, Toulouse, and Burgundy, along with some smaller counties, were semi-independent, although they recognized the French king as their overlord. King William I had conquered England as the Duke of Normandy and combined the two into a powerful feudal state that sat astride the English Channel. The infamous Henry II arrived in England with the inheritance of his father, the Count of Anjou, which included the counties of Touraine and Maine. Henry also acquired Aquitaine through his equally infamous wife, Eleanor.

When Philip Augustus came to the throne in 1180, he realized that the French monarchy would never be strong while the English kings held Normandy, Aquitaine, and the Angevin lands. His one-time crusading partner, Richard the Lionhearted, had followed his father to the English throne one year earlier which effectively checkmated his ambitions, for Richard was the ablest soldier of his day until he was killed in an insignificant squabble in 1189. He was followed by his treacherous, incompetent brother, John I. In a series of complicated military and political maneuvers, Philip completely outwitted his English rival and expropriated his French lands, leaving John with only a large portion of Aquitaine. Louis VIII and Saint Louis himself completed a process whereby the county of Toulouse and the territory of the Albigeois (Trencavel family lands once infected by the Albigensesian heresy) known collectively as Languedoc were acquired by the Capetian dynasty. The increased possessions along with its revenues made the monarchy, which had been no more than first among equals, far more powerful than any of its great vassals.

The Early Life of Saint Louis
The virtue of any young man is strengthened by grace achieved through prayer and obedience to his duties, but Saint Louis had the additional advantage of a strong-willed, pious mother who created the proper ambiance for spiritual and intellectual improvement. This influence was such that his sister Isabella also devoted her life to God and has been beatified. Blanche of Castile in an often-repeated remark told her son that she would rather see him die than commit one mortal sin. Although Louis from an early age practiced many devotions including the recitation of the Divine Office and assisting at least two Masses a day, he never neglected the affairs of state to which he applied himself vigorously, for he regarded his kingly duties as part of his Christian vocation. Blanche took over the reins of government as regent during his teen years and valiantly opposed several rebellious barons who attempted to regain lost power. Although the inspiring youth rode at the head of the army, he profited much from the determination and wisdom of the Queen mother. The sight of the young king leading the vanguard nevertheless deterred most of the rebels from any large-scale insurrection, for there was still a sufficient amount of chivalric spirit alive in France. As Louis was advancing through his teen years, the festering wound of the Albigensian heresy showed signs of spreading along the trade routes to northern Italy and Flanders by cloth merchants and weavers who were adopting the methods of a secret society. Since violence accompanied their clandestine resurgence, a concerned Pope Gregory IX created a special tribunal to “‘inquire’ into the heretical depravity.”

Inquisition
It is fashionable today to recoil in horror at the name of the Inquisition without examining its historical necessity. The key to understanding this tribunal of investigation is what they would not tolerate then and what we tolerate now. In the thirteenth century, Christian society as a whole most certainly would NOT accept a sect that worshiped Satan and preached against the family and marriage on which the foundation of medieval society rested. Today when a large minority tolerates unnatural perversion, atheism, divorce, narcotics use, abortion, and nudism, not many will sympathize or understand that position. Over the years, rulers with such diverse opinions as Emperor Henry III, Kings Henry II of England and Louis VII of France, along with numerous mobs, employed drastic methods to eliminate the danger. But such activity proved too sporadic and ineffective and, as a rule, random violence does little but cause more violence. Regularity of procedure became all the more important when it was brought to the Pope’s attention that Frederick II had begun to burn political enemies on the pretext that he was defending the Church.

In 1231 Gregory IX, as the leader of a perfect society established by Christ whose first duty was to protect the original deposit of the Faith, established a permanent tribunal, frequently called the Inquisition, to investigate offenses against that Faith. Gregory’s principal desire was to bring the misguided heretic back into the grace of God. Failing in that the Inquisitors would then introduce intermediate penalties, arriving eventually at excommunication. Those who stubbornly adhered to destructive doctrines or entered into conspiracies against the Church were handed over to the secular arm for execution. However, contrary to popular conception, only about 4% of those sentenced to some penalty were burned at the stake. The administration of the Inquisition fell to the mendicant orders, especially the Dominicans because of their superior training in theology and canon law. The friars quickly moved to confront the entrenched Albigenses in southern France where they encountered stiff resistance. Their wealthy sympathizers and the leaders of the rapidly growing commercial centers of the old towns resented any encroachment on their “freedom.” In the middle of the thirteenth century, the original protagonists of the Albigensian Crusade were all dead but their sons, especially Raymond Trencavel and Raymond VII of Toulouse, saw an opportunity in the resulting turmoil to strike a blow at the King of France and reclaim some of their lost land.

Baronial Rebellion
Trencavel, son of the dispossessed Viscount of Carcassonne and Beziers, appeared in southern France in 1240 with a troop of Aragonese mercenaries and captured several fortresses. The invaders then moved against Carcassonne and through the connivance of supporters occupied the commercial district outside the walls from where they besieged the old town on the heights. Thirty-three priests who were unable to reach safety were treacherously massacred. The King sent a royal army that relieved the threatened town and destroyed the rebel troop and the property of the collaborators. Trencavel and his more powerful leaders fled back to Aragon or to their mountain strongholds. Two years later all the discontented crusade barons in Poitou, Gascony, and Languedoc rose up in rebellion under the leadership of the English King Henry III and Raymond VII. The disgruntled lords deeply resented the investment of Alphonse of Poitiers, one of the King’s brothers, as Count of Poitou and his marriage to the daughter of Raymond who was poised to inherit the county of Toulouse. Louis, now twenty-eight, carefully planned his operation, assembled a large number of siege engines, and invaded Poitou, a land full of castles held by rebels. One by one the castles fell. As the inexorable machine rolled on, many nobles abandoned the rebel cause and made peace with the King. Louis caught up with the English soldiers outside the town of Saintes and easily defeated them. Raymond, seeing himself out on a limb, with many of his allies defecting, also capitulated. Louis who had personally led his army in the field had given a good account of himself as a warrior and tactician and, from that time on, without any hindrance from rebellious nobles, had the opportunity to administer his land in justice and peace. One more incident which exposed their fanatical hatred closed out the history of the Albigenses. Many of the more-violently disposed heretics, fugitives from prosecution and outlaws who had ridden with Trencavel established a headquarters at Montsegur, high in mountain cliffs of the Pyrenees. Encouraged by the rebellious spirit in the South, an armed raiding party left Montsegur for a town fifty miles away where two Inquisitors, a Dominican and a Franciscan with their assistants and notaries, eleven in all, were quartered. The vicious rebels broke into their sleeping area and, as the friars began chanting the Te Deum, hacked them to pieces with swords and axes. Some months later, an officer of the King besieged and captured the fortress. Two hundred Albigenses who refused to recant their errors were executed. The survivors who returned to the Faith supplied a wealth of information to the Inquisition that eventually broke the back of the heresy. While Louis was restoring order in his kingdom another gifted ruler was sowing disorder and gravely affecting the unity of Christendom.

Frederick II and the Papacy
Although Frederick was Emperor of Germany through his father Henry VI, in spirit and moral outlook he had more in common with the Moslems and Sicilians with whom he spent his formative years. Possessing high intelligence and enormous energy, he was also beset by instability and a passionate nature that he rarely brought under self-control. With both parents dead by the time he was four, the willful youngster, who had inherited the Kingdom of Sicily from his mother, essentially raised and educated himself in Palermo, the most culturally advanced city in the West outside of Spain. Taught by Moslems, Jews, and Christians alike, he excelled in science and mathematics and learned several languages, but was left a suspicious, arrogant and unscrupulous skeptic. Innocent III, his somewhat distant guardian, and Honorius IV, his onetime tutor, allowed Frederick to seek and obtain the imperial crown on the promise that the empire and the Italian kingdom (which included Sicily and southern Italy) would be ruled separately. From a political viewpoint, any unprincipled, ambitious ruler who controlled the aforementioned territories would place a stranglehold on the Papal States, which is indeed what happened. As part of the bargain, Frederick gave his word that he would lead a crusade to the Holy Land, another promise he violated. His failure to fulfill his word caused irreparable damage to the crusading cause. During the Fifth Crusade in 1219, the Christians captured Damietta, the key to Egypt. When the Moslem Sultan offered the Kingdom of Jerusalem in return for Damietta, the Christians refused because they expected Frederick to bring reinforcements. When the selfish intriguer never arrived, the Crusaders eventually lost everything. Year after year, conditions in the Christian East went from bad to worse while Frederick built up his power and amused himself in his Sicilian harem. For the fourth time, he renewed his vow and this time actively assisted in raising a large crusading army. In the summer of 1227 as the stern and unbending Gregory IX replaced the easygoing Honorius on the papal chair, tens of thousands of crusaders assembled in Brindisi under the immediate leadership of Louis of Thuringia, husband of Saint Elizabeth, waiting for the perfidious egoist. Again Frederick delayed, which exposed thousands to disease in the unhealthy climate and unsanitary camp conditions in southern Italy. At long last Frederick and the Crusaders embarked, only to sail a few miles and return. Those who survived the pestilence returned home in disgust. Gregory, even more disgusted, excommunicated Frederick despite his claim of illness. As Cardinal and papal legate before his elevation, he had been watching the Emperor’s treacherous antics for almost ten years. The excommunicated Emperor finally went to the Holy Land in 1228 with only a few hundred knights, not as a warrior but as a negotiator, for Frederick with his Moslem connections was on friendly terms with the sultan in Cairo. Although no battles were fought, historians insist on calling this the Sixth Crusade. The wily negotiator succeeded in gaining access to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, but he was not allowed to fortify them. Moreover, the religious military orders and other Christian defenders were bound to a ten-year truce by a treaty to which they had not consented. Many of the Moslems, who were ill-disposed to compromise with Frederick, continued to plunder and beat the pilgrims. In one incident, ten thousand were butchered. After the so-called crusade, both sides sought peace, Gregory for the sake of Church unity and Frederick to resume his quest for imperial glory. The excommunication was lifted. The unscrupulous autocrat returned to his power base in Sicily and southern Italy where he enacted laws and issued decrees that suppressed all feudal tradition that impeded his effort to obtain total power.

Frederick invades northern Italy
Frederick arbitrarily claimed Lombardy as the patrimony of the German Emperor and when several cities refused him this honor, he invaded northern Italy in 1237 with an army of 15,000, half of them Saracen archers. The treacherous invader gained the upper hand at Cortenuova where the Ghibellines (supporters of imperial rule) routed the Guelphs (supporters of the Papacy and local autonomy). Florence and some other cities announced their submission. Milan asked for terms, but the unreasonable and arrogant Emperor insisted on unconditional surrender, unusual in medieval time among Christian nations. Gregory now realized that Frederick intended to impose complete submission and humiliation on the Lombard cities and destroy the independence of the Papal States. So once again he excommunicated the ruthless tyrant and started a war that did not end until 1268 with the execution of the last Hohenstaufen, Frederick’s grandson. Gregory was forced to enlist the service of thousands of soldiers who would otherwise have gone to the Holy Land, a circumstance that disturbed Saint Louis. He, as well as his cousin San Fernando, offered to mediate between the inveterate enemies, but Frederick would not listen to any compromise while he was at the height of his glory. With Frederick advancing on all fronts, the desperate Pope decided to call for a general council to be convened on Easter in 1241. The bloody Emperor intended to prevent such a meeting at all costs. He had many prelates who were passing through his lands cruelly imprisoned and intercepted a Genoese flotilla carrying over a hundred dignitaries of high rank, including two cardinals and the Abbots of Cluny, Citeaux and Clairvaux. Most were thrown into the filthy dungeons of Apulia where many died because of the brutal treatment. Louis IX obtained the release of the French contingent and eventually the two cardinals. With overwhelming force, Frederick marched against Rome. On the way he seized a castle full of the Pope’s relatives and hanged them all. With so many trials and setbacks afflicting him, Gregory’s courageous heart finally gave out and he died during the terrible summer heat of August 1241. The next Pope died after 17 days and, because of Frederick’s harassment, the Holy See remained vacant for almost two years. Out of this chaos, Innocent IV emerged as Pope and a year later fled to Lyons, a free city on the imperial French border. The fierce battle continued while the sons of Genghis Khan and their Mongolian hordes were ravishing Eastern Europe and the Moslems in the Holy Land threatened once again to push the Christians into the sea. The severe ordeal subsided when Frederick died in 1250. Louis IX’s youngest brother, Charles of Anjou, ended the Hohenstaufen dynasty when he defeated and killed the tyrant’s illegitimate son in 1266 and his grandson two years later and became King of Sicily and Naples. Frederick II left as his legacy a revival of the spirit of Roman law with its pagan outlook and brought in a period of selfish, nationalistic rulers that destroyed the unity of Christendom and the concept that Christian principles must permeate all aspects of life.

The Crusades of Saint Louis

Unlike the German Emperor, Louis frequently ignored a practical course of action that would derive a benefit for himself and chose instead one that entailed suffering for the benefit of the Church and Christendom. Of all the problems that beset Christian life, the continual harassment by the Saracens of the Holy Places, the pilgrims and the few hundred knights that protected them troubled Louis the most. In 1248 he embarked on an extremely well planned crusade against the Sultan of Egypt since Palestine at that time was under his control. Once again the crusaders stormed and captured Damietta on the eastern branch of the Nile. Proceeding up the river on the right bank towards Cairo, they arrived at the fortress of Mansourah. Robert of Artois, the King’s oldest brother, crossed the protecting channel, routed a detachment of guards and rode on to an enemy encampment outside the wall where they killed everyone they found. Instead of returning to guard the bridgehead and allow the main body of Louis’ army to cross and reinforce him, Robert impetuously invaded the fortress. That blundering imprudence cost him and 280 knights, most of them Templars, their lives. The advance had been stopped. The Christians lost control of the river and when they attempted to retreat were picked off in small groups. Louis, who became quite ill, was captured along with his two surviving brothers. With the threat of torture and death hanging over his head, the embattled saint carried himself with such dignity that the impressed Moslems agreed to release him and many other prisoners upon the surrender of Damietta and the payment of a large ransom. After his release, Louis went to the Holy Land where he directed the fortifications of several coastal fortress cities and returned to France in 1254 at the death of his mother who had been regent for the second time. There he inaugurated a period of justice and peace not only in his own realm but also among his once-hostile neighbors for which he is justly renowned. Throwing caution and safety to the wind, Louis went again on a crusade in 1270, but the effort killed him after only a few weeks. The crusading spirit, which appeared to be declining, would shine forth once again against a new wave of Turkish Moslems at such places as Belgrade, Malta, Lepanto, and Vienna. The sacrifices made for the love of Christ and Church are never made in vain.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

SS1025: The Infiltration of the Church, Part One

Within a few years of the end of the Second Vatican Council, a council which undeniably has caused much trouble, compromised traditional Catholic doctrine and practice, and caused many to lose faith in Christianity altogether, a disturbing story emerged regarding infiltrators in the high offices and positions of power in the Vatican itself. The information on this infiltration came from a wide variety of sources but really gained ground with the anonymous death bed confession of a priest from Poland in 1972. This priest had been born in 1917 to Russian parents who left Russia during the Communist Revolution that destroyed the Czar and his family, and the complete social engineering of Russian society and religion. As the story goes he was eventually adopted by a Polish Doctor and his wife, who both were sincere and observant Catholics. The year of his birth must have been determined by the Doctor because the child, who was crying, spoke only a little Polish and a little Russian and did not even know his own name. The Polish couple had no child of their own; they adopted him and loved him as their own son. In his confession, Mikolaj related that his foster parents were very good to him, very generous, full of affection, and that this recollection, even fifty years later, filled him with "seething Anger". For he had been trained, as an agent of the devil, to hate what normal people respect and love; memories of his childhood were like intruders trying to move his heart and bring about his conversion. He could not bear them, he had to hate them, and hate also those who were responsible for these sweet memories. The child grew into a boy of quiet disposition and studious habits. His intelligence and capacity for learning appear to have been extraordinary, and so was his ambition. The latter seems to have played an important part in his downfall at the age of 14 or 15 when, one evening, shortly before a planned visit to Rome and Paris, he overheard his parents express their concern about his passport and his legal status as an adopted child. He was shattered! He had been brought up to believe that these two were really Mother and Father to him, and to discover this was not the truth was a great shock to him. He could not get over it; they died in his heart as effectively as if they had died physically; they ceased to be "Mum and Dad"; they became "Those People".

Distracted almost out of his mind, he fled from the house immediately. He decided to leave Poland, and made for the Russian border. A schoolmate of his had an uncle in Russia, in Leningrad to be precise, where he was as a high-ranking public servant. A few days later, with a letter of introduction in his hand, he called at the uncle's home in Russia. The uncle noticed his alertness, intelligence and ambition, and was favorably impressed. "If you wish to succeed, my lad", he told him, "first of all you must study some foreign languages and absorb the doctrine of the Party." For the next six years, Mikolaj studied furiously and absorbed the Marxist doctrine in its entirety. The uncle, as he soon found out, was a high-ranking official in the Secret Police. There is little doubt that his interest for the young man had been aroused by considerations which had little to do with affection or sympathy. The boy was highly intelligent, had no parents or relative to divide his allegiance or interfere with his Marxist studies, and he was ambitious. In fact, the perfect raw material with which to form a good agent. Other factors, too, contributed to this: Mikolaj had an enormous capacity for work, a remarkable memory, and he despised all women and the "fools" who love them too much. This would exclude emotional involvements with the fair sex. The six years of study completed, Mikolaj, now 20, was called to the office of the Uncle who told him point-blank: "I am going to send you abroad to become a militant atheist on the world scene. Your main duty will be to fight all religions, but the Catholic religion in particular because of its efficient structures. In order to achieve this you will enter a seminary and become a Catholic priest. But you must return to Poland and seek reconciliation with your foster parents who will be delighted to hear of your "vocation" and who will help you to become a priest.”
Mikolaj had mixed feelings: the idea of being a secret agent filled him with elation, but the command to see his "parents" again and act the part of a loving son for the six long years which he would spend in the seminary, was abhorrent to him. Self-control is one of the qualities of a secret agent. In this case, however, Mikolaj could not quite conceal his feelings even after 6 years of training in Marxist' schools. The Uncle remarked on this, which had Mikolaj blush, and drew a further remark from the Uncle: "A secret agent does not blush, has no blood in his veins, has no heart, loves no one not even himself. He is the Thing of the Party, and the Party can devour him alive and without warning. Wherever you are, get it into your head that you will be watched. At the first sign of weakness we shall get rid of you. And, of course, if you are in danger, do not rely on us; you will be disavowed." Answered Mikolaj: "I know all this very well, but I beg to ask why I should show love and affection to my false parents when I feel nothing but hatred for them" - "Hatred has no room in our service, except the hatred of God following Lenin's example; we kill without hatred simply to serve the Party. You must see your parents again, but you will not enter a Polish seminary; you will be sent overseas, perhaps to Canada, where discipline is not as strict as in Europe, and there is less likelihood of discovery. Besides, with that madman now in Germany we have every reason to fear a war in Europe." The Uncle gave him further instructions and reminders: "Persecution is useless; we don't want any martyrs as long as we are not in complete control of the West. Religion must be destroyed by dialectics. [Dialectic: The art or practice of examining statements logically as by question and answer.] You are to send me a report every week. After a while you will be put in touch with the rest of the network and you will be responsible for ten other agents; but you will not know who they are, and they will not know you. To reach them and to reach you everything will go through this office. We already have many priests in those countries which are afflicted with Catholicism, one is a bishop. We have observers everywhere. Some, especially trained for the purpose, scan the newspapers of the whole world every day and send us reports on the development of ideas in the West. Our foreign policy is based on these. Thus we will be able to see how effective your own work is. You will have to spread new ideas; ideas that may appeal to some stupid pen-pusher who will take them up and publicize them. No one is more vain than a writer; give him an idea, and he will say that it is his own, write about it, enlarge upon it, and thus further our aims. We rely a great deal on writers and journalists; there is no need for us to train them, they work for us without realizing it. You will receive letters from us. You will recognize every letter as genuine by the code numbers SS 1025, which is your own. SS means Seminary Student. Yes, there are 1024 others ...” The next few days Mikolaj spent most of his time studying a few confidential files the Uncle had given him. Before he left Russia a number of further interviews with the Uncle took place. During one of these he told the Uncle of his own ideas on how best to combat religion in the West. An open and bitter opposition had already been ruled out; persuasion through dialectics, lectures, debates, dialogues and colloquies was the latest method favored by Moscow, and it was to develop considerably after World War II. In almost all such talks the Communist speakers, who were highly-trained dialecticians, outsmarted their opponents and often silenced them completely, thus winning many "converts" in the audience. Press reports of such talks further helped to spread Marxist ideas and lent respectability to the Communists who, it was thought, had become "reasonable". 
The method has indeed proved extremely successful; the penetration of Marxist thinking in the West is now so thorough that echoes of it are quite a common occurrence even in the Catholic press. To complement this method, however, Mikolaj had devised a more sinister scheme primarily designed to change Catholic doctrine. Briefly, instead of combating the religious feeling of the people, it consisted in exalting it in a wrong direction and towards some unrealistic objective. The Uncle who, at first had seemed somewhat amused, now listened with great interest (decidedly, he thought, this young man is above average). Mikolaj went on: "We must put it into their heads, and especially priests, that the time has come to seek and work for the merging of all religions. We must, in particular, promote among Christians a feeling of guilt concerning the "ONE TRUTH" which they claim they alone possess. We must convince them that this attitude is a monstrous sin of pride, and that they must now seek reconciliation with other religions. This thought must be made to grow and be uppermost in their minds."

Answered the Uncle: "Very well! But don't you think that this scheme is somewhat unrealistic?"

"Not at all!", said "Mikolaj, "I myself was a Christian up to the age of 15, and a very devout one at that; I think it should be comparatively easy to convince Christians that there are holy persons among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Pagans. And since they are holy, they also are the members of the "Communion of Saints" in which Christians believe. Starting from this, we will say that to keep these people out of the Church is an insult to God. Of course, we shall drop the term "Communion of Saints"; we shall substitute for it some other expression such as "Community of Believers" or "People of God". This will shift the accent from the supernatural to the natural, from the heavenly to the earthly, which is what we want. And once we have conquered the Vatican we can easily proceed to control Protestants. The whole Christian terminology can and must be changed. To those who object we shall reply that the meaning has not changed and that we must adapt our expressions to the modern way of thinking, which is what progress is about. And since Christian intellectuals, like most intellectuals, seek and value the praise of others, they will be mortally afraid of being "behind the times"; they will accept the new terms and promote them among the ignorant people. There is a whole area to be investigated here; I can do no more than outline the plan...

"And how do you envision that Universal Church to which you would have everyone rushing?"

"That new Church must be simple. The concept of God must be vague, general and impersonal, not entailing any definite obligations, not demanding sacrifices, and, of course, not providing any inspiration to the people. The universal brotherhood of men must be emphasized above all things. It should not be difficult to persuade Christians that the Commandment "Love thy neighbor as thyself" requires no less than that. In order to make them forget God we must get them to worship the human race. This, however, is a long-term effort: it may take 20, 30 or even 50 years; we must be prepared to wait, but I am confident that we shall succeed..."

"Very well, we shall examine your idea. Come back next week and we shall give you our reply. Meanwhile, get ready for your departure for Poland".

The following week Mikolaj called at the Uncle's office as arranged. The Uncle told him that his Chief was here and wanted to meet him. Mikolaj was overjoyed, for it was obvious that such a powerful official would not come merely to signify his refusal; he must have been favorably impressed. Completely self-possessed, Mikolaj met the great Chief. However, he instantly disliked his appearance which was one of gross brutality and vulgarity. He reflected that this must be the sort of man who enjoys watching the most cruel tortures in prisons; a true sadist. Mikolaj was above all an intellectual; he disliked the idea of torture which he saw as a mark of weakness and stupidity on the part of the torturer. The Chief looked at him in a manner that bore right through him. Mikolaj felt uneasy. Point-blank, the Chief asked: "What do you have most at heart?"

"The victory of the Party", said Mikolaj. 

“Good! From today onward you will be on the roll of our active agents. You will have responsibilities, you will issue orders. But make no mistake about it: we expect to see the fruits of your work in newspapers, books and theological reviews. It is up to you. We have a specialist team of readers whose function it is to analyze the religious writings of the whole world. We will watch your progress. However, I am confident that you will be able to handle this...”

Mikolaj reflected that this brute, after all, was no fool; he had correctly assessed his exceptional ability and his outstanding intelligence of which he never doubted himself. He felt completely sure that he would succeed, for he knew well the weak spot of Christians, which is Charity. With "Charity" it is always possible to instill remorse in the hearts of people, and a remorseful person is inevitably in a state of lesser resistance and, therefore, of higher receptivity to alien ideas and suggestions. This is psychologically certain, just as certain as pure mathematics. With "Charity" it will be possible to persuade Christians it is a sin to criticize Muslims, Hindus, Pagans, and even Satanists; and that to criticize their beliefs is, in fact, the same as criticizing them. Thus, Christians will gradually accept the beliefs of the other religions and their own faith will wane. The honesty and scruples of Christians, Mikolaj thought, is the opening through which we shall enter their fortress; it is the fault in the rock that can be plugged with explosives, the weakness which makes a dialogue with them extremely rewarding. A few days later, Mikolaj was back in Poland. He somewhat dreaded his first meeting with his foster father, so he arranged to come "home" when the Doctor was likely to be out. He rang the door-bell, and it was his foster mother who came and opened the door. Here is the account of his return:

TO BE CONTINUED

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Guilt and Sin Offerings: Are There Types of Sin?

In order to understand the implications of both the Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering I must address two important questions:
  1. What makes a sin a sin?
  2. Are their different types of sin?
As I explore this subject matter my goal is to answer both, to explore Unintentional Sin, Sins of Ignorance, and High Handed Sin, and to provide a more comprehensive view of these two specific offerings found in Leviticus 4 and 5.
  1. What Makes A Sin A Sin?
    a. A careful reading of Leviticus 4 – 6:7 demonstrates that what makes a sin a sin is God's decretive will in stating a thing is a sin. In referencing God's commands as these verses do repeatedly (Lev. 4:2, 4:13, 4:22, 4:27, 4:15, 4:17) this is the only logical conclusion. It also becomes clear that sin need not be an intentional violation of the commands of God, but also encompasses unintentional violations of the commands of Yahweh. What are unintentional sins? These are sins of ignorance; things one does that violate the commands of Yahweh without knowledge of their sinful nature. (Leviticus 5:17). This demonstrates that there are indeed different types of sin.
    b. Not all unintentional sins are sins of ignorance. Leviticus 5:4 mentions “if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath”, which appears to imply an impulsive act that violates the commands of Yahweh. If we extend that principle to other areas of sin it is very possible that someone could commit an act of sin impulsively, without premeditation to do so, but still understanding their guilt and the fact that the action (or lack thereof) was sinful.
    c. Some might argue that one is not guilty of an unintentional sin; that due to ignorance a material violation may have occurred, but not a spiritual one. However, this view ignores the repeated statements of Leviticus 4- 5:13. We find scripture states that we are indeed guilty. For example, when the Israelites sin unintentionally they are “bringing guilt on the people” (Lev. 4:3), when the Israelites sin as a people unintentionally and “realize their guilt” (Lev. 4:13), when a leader sins and “realizes his guilt” (Lev. 4:22), if any member of the community sins “when they realize their guilt” (Lev.4:27). There are numerous references to guilt associated with unintentional sin in these verses, so the logical conclusion is we are guilty of unintentional sins and sins of ignorance.
  1. Offerings for Guilt and Sin
    The Guilt and Sin Offerings are distinct from the other offerings of Leviticus in two primary ways:
    a. Unlike other offerings (specifically the Peace Offering and Meal Offering), the Guilt and Sin Offerings were not a sweet savor to God because disobedience was symbolically represented in them. Interestingly, post 2nd Temple Judaism sees in the grace of the Sin offering a type of paraclete.
    b. Sin and Guilt Offerings were burned outside the camp. This is symbolic of the fact that God detests sin and all sin separates us from Yahweh.
    c. These offerings imply that atonement is necessary even for sins of ignorance, since these sins required flesh and blood sacrifices. Leviticus 4:3,4 explains the person bringing the sacrificial animal to the priest must “lay his hand upon its head”. This is a sort of passing on of that sin and its guilt to the animal in a wholly symbolic sense. Add to this the clear statements of Leviticus 5:10 and Leviticus 5:13 and the obvious conclusion is that atonement is necessary even for sins of ignorance.
  1. High Handed Sin
    a. A “high handed” sin is an intentional sin committed in knowing defiance of the commands of Yahweh. (Numbers 15:30)
    b. Unlike unintentional sins, both of a personal and national nature, which have sacrifices for atonement, high handed sins had no such sacrifice, nor any hope of atonement. They simply carried a judgment that they be “cut off” since “their guilt remains on them.” (Numbers 15:31)
  2. Conclusion
The Sin Offering of Leviticus 4 is essentially a covering of one's fallen nature, while the Guilt Offering of Leviticus 5 was intended to atone for sinful acts arising from that fallen nature.


*It should be noted that these divisions of sin are reflected in the categories of venial and mortal in Catholicism.