Most years, right around Christmas, or maybe a little after, I get a little intuition about what the coming year will hold. It’s always been a fairly accurate feeling, if only because it’s rarely very specific. “This will be a prosperous year,” I might think, or “This year is really going to be a tough one.”
The key to this process of discernment is the studied pursuit of doing absolutely nothing for as long as possible. Key ingredients are things like sleeping in, watching too many movies, playing mindless games, eating last night’s leftovers for breakfast, spending the day in my pajamas covered in chip crumbs, and so on. Last month, as I took my Christmas break, I noticed the feeling beginning to coalesce. Usually, it’s a pretty clear positive or negative.
This time, it was different.
“2018,” I started telling people, “is going to be weird. It’s going to be a year of defying expectations. Of things not going at all the way we think they will.” Sensing the concern some people had upon hearing this, I attempted to reassure them: “I’m not saying it’s going to be bad,” I said. “Just that it’s going to be surprising.”
The fact is, I do NOT claim to be a prophet, though I am a fairly good intuiter of things. What I can say is that I take in a lot of information pretty much all the time, and I’ve gotten good at reading the lay of the land, so to speak. You might compare me golfer reading the break on a putting green: what looks like magic is actually science.
What do I think 2018 has in store, then? Please note that the following is not comprehensive. And taking into account my sense that it’s going to be a wild, unpredictable year, in fact, it’s not even probable that it will be very accurate. Caveat lector, but some of the handwriting on the wall appears to be in permanent marker.
The world has been changing rather drastically in the past few years. New, unexpected, and even unthinkable political possibilities (ie., Trump, Brexit) have become realities in various parts of the world where the status quo seemed, for all intents and purposes, to be on rails. I pay far less attention to politics these days than I ever have, but there’s no way to avoid spillover into areas that affect every one of us, however non-political we may be determined to be. For example, the continued hijra in Europe, and the way the ignorati in political power there are just determined to be dhimmis will undoubtedly continue to dominate much of the news cycle. Tensions in the Asia-Pacific region will also likely continue to play a dominating role in global geopolitics. I expect the non-stop jawing about Russia/America collusion to die down somewhat even as new fronts are explored in the as-yet-bloodless revolution against the new American President. So too will continue the purge against powerful men in entertainment and politics through the sudden and overwhelming force of the #MeToo campaign. (I do not doubt, for the record, that many of the targets are moral monsters who deserve to be driven out like demons, but I sense a deeper opportunism beneath the aggregated whole, and I wonder what new horrors will fill the vacuum.)
The larger zeitgeist battle being waged is the escalating War Against Sanity. This is the term I am using to describe the usurpation of reason and the rebellion against the laws of rational thought in pursuit of various ideological agendas. From a continued push to argue things like the notion that biological sex/age/identity is irrelevant (and that people can be trans-anything) and the increased acceptance of gender-bending sexualization of children (who apparently don’t get to claim #MeToo) to the seemingly endless arguments that what the Catholic Church has always believed and taught can be turned on its ear because the magic man in Rome says so, it will become increasingly difficult to have a rational debate with anyone about anything because logic as we know it has been beaten mercilessly, discarded, and left for dead. Language is meaningless, nobody is willing to concede anything, and the fact that we could ever have real discourse at all seems a relic of a bygone era we might as well erase from our memories, just for good measure.
All of this deconstruction of our ability to think clearly and know actual truths is very relevant, for obvious reasons, to what we may expect from the Vatican in the coming year.
This is the year, I think, that the Amoris Laetitia debate, per se, will likely begin to recede from its position of total dominance in Church discourse. People on all sides are growing tired of discussing it, since it seems all angles have been explored and exhausted, and with no answer to the dubia and no formal correction seemingly on the way, we have been reduced to trench warfare, neither side gaining ground, neither side losing it, yet both knowing that to retreat would be catastrophic. So shots will continue to be fired, the occasional body will languish in the fetid ground of no man’s land between, and nothing will move very much one way or the other.
But what will move forward are the monsters that AL has unleashed. What has come into stark relief is the truth that AL was always intended to be a theological Pandora’s Box. As Josef Seifert so sagely predicted, if AL “claims a totally objective divine will for us to commit, in certain situations, acts that are intrinsically wrong, and have always been considered such by the Church,” then the alarming developments we have seen thus far “refer only to the peak of an iceberg, to the weak beginning of an avalanche, or to the first few buildings destroyed by a moral theological atomic bomb that threatens to tear down the whole moral edifice of the 10 commandments and of Catholic Moral Teaching.”
So, as we have just seen in the case of Fr. Chiodi of the Pontifical Academy for Life, this is precisely what is now happening. Last June, I had warned that we were seeing signs of a move on the part of the Vatican to re-interpret Humanae Vitae according to the moral framework created by Amoris Laeitita. “They’re coming for Humanae Vitae,” I said, “and its proscriptions against contraception, and they’re not going to stop until they get what they want.” People scoffed. Denials were issued that there was any such plan afoot.
Fr. Chiodi dedicated the second part of his lecture to the relationship between Humanae Vitae and Amoris Laetitia. While he acknowledged that Humanae Vitaeoccupies “a very important place” in the “historical development” of the Church’s magisterium on marriage, he said the encyclical has become more of a “symbolic issue, criticized or rejected by those who were disappointed with its conclusions, or considered as a true pillar of Catholic moral doctrine on sexuality by others.”
The Italian priest attributed the encyclical’s increasing importance to its insertion in John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, n. 29-34, but especially, he said, “to the fact that Veritatis Splendor n. 80 includes contraception among the ‘intrinsically evil’ acts.”
But from a pastoral point of view, he said the “urgency of the issue” of contraception “seems gradually to be diminishing.”
Fr. Chiodi then did those in attendance the favor of crystalizing his insinuations with unmistakable clarity:
There are circumstances — I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8 — that precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception. In these cases, a technological intervention does not negate the responsibility of the generating relationship. The insistence of the Church’s Magisterium on natural methods cannot be interpreted, in my opinion, as a norm which is an end in itself, nor as a mere conformity with biological laws, because the norm points to an anthropology, to the good of marital responsibility. [emphasis added]
And there it is.
This is a priest who, again, was appointed to the new Pontifical Academy for Life after Pope Francis gutted it of its former members. His lecture was organized by the Argentine Jesuit Father Humberto Miguel Yanez — Director of the Department of Moral Theology at the Gregorian University and a good friend of Pope Francis. As Diane Montagna reported in her piece about Chiodi’s talk, the signs were already there:
Father Chiodi’s December 14 lecture is not his first attempt to justify contraception, nor to use arguments that critics say are condemned in Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor.
Earlier this year, both he and Father Yanez also took part in the presentation at the Gregorian of a new book entitled Amoris Laetitia: A Turning Point for Moral Theology, edited by Stephan Goertz and Caroline Witting, in which it is argued that Amoris Laetitia represents a paradigm shift for all moral theology and especially in interpreting Humanae Vitae. [emphasis added]
Similarly, the Vatican is beginning a shift in its position on euthanasia, as certain events seem to indicate. And despite recent statements seemingly to the contrary, as reported by Dorothy Cummings McClean at LifeSiteNews just before Christmas, some Italian pro-life leaders are pointing the finger at the pope himself for helping along the passage of a new Italian euthanasia law:
Critics say the resistance of Catholic politicians to the bill was weakened after Pope Francis’ November speech to the Pontifical Academy for Life, in which he indicated that people may refuse life-prolonging medical treatment but failed to note that administration of nutrition and hydration are basic humanitarian care rather than medical treatment. According to Italy’s La Repubblica, and The New York Times, many of the bill’s supporters, and many Catholics, saw Francis’s speech as a “green light” to the new law.
“The words of Pope Francis on the end of life, on November 16 at the Pontifical Academy for Life, were interpreted by all as an ‘open door’ to the form of euthanasia that is the living will,” wrote Roberto di Mattei, Catholic historian and head of Italy’s Lepanto Foundation.
The Pope’s words on the topic were necessary, wrote Corrado Augias in La Repubblica, “to overthrow the last resistance of some Catholics and–probably–to convince at least a group of them to give their consent to [the pro-euthanasia law].”
Right-to-die advocate Marco Cappato, a member of Italy’s far-left “Radical Party” praised Francis immediately after his Academy for Life address for placing the wishes of the sick person at the center of the controversy about medical care for the terminally ill. Francis, he thought, was on the side of the bill.
And so things will continue. This pope who ever says one thing while manipulating events toward a different end. A cabal of advisors and surrogates empowered to spread the messages of the revolution through the Church, changing practice by altering perception while leaving doctrine untouched — the latter tactic making it possible for the useful idiots to keep saying that the pope has done nothing unorthodox.
Other agenda pieces likely to dominate the headlines this year include a married priesthood — with a trial run in Latin America — and more pushes in the direction of female deacons. At some point down the road, whether this year or beyond, we can also expect to see the arguments of Amoris Laetitia applied more directly to homosexual relationships. There’s simply no reason for them not to be, with the moral barriers smashed open, and too many power-players in Rome or with influence over the pope who want to see movement on this issue. (No sooner did I hit “publish” than I received this story in my inbox.)
But as I said, I also think this will be a year of surprises. Of unexpected twists and turns. Critical reaction to this papacy continues to snowball, as even Catholics who see opposition to the pope as distasteful find themselves forced to decide between traditional morality and Church teaching and the machinations of this papacy. When Phil Lawler’s book hits shelves next month, it will have come as the result of just such a decision — long debated and hard won — and will be the third of its kind in the past year, as Francis’ indiscretions are no longer able to be sufficiently contained in the space provided by articles and blog posts, instead necessitating dedicated volumes of their own. Even now the Vatican search continues for the true identity of the author of the most explosive of the three — The Dictator Pope — amidst a somewhat lighthearted but nevertheless spirited campaign of misdirection now in its infancy on social media, under the hashtag “#IAmMarcantonioColonna“.
Meanwhile, as convenient but dispensable papal defenders like Stephen Walford, Emmett O’Reagan, Austen Ivereigh, and Massimo Faggioli continue to be taken less and less seriously in their attempts the defend the indefensible in whatever ersatz Catholic media will have them, will the Vatican be forced to find new champions of their agenda? It’s a program so transparently un-Catholic that the only professional theologian among the current crop flatly admitted, “There is no possible coexistence between an ‘ordinary form of Catholic theology’ and an ‘extraordinary form of Catholic theology’,” because “some of most active promoters of the Old Mass” hold “theological views that are not Catholic anymore.” (In other words — the Catholicism of the past 2,000 years is dead and buried, along with its immutable and divinely revealed truths. Viva la revolución!)
This kind of crazy can only end in heartbreak for the people who believe it.
So yes, I think 2018 is the beginning of the end for Francis and Friends. They’ll ram through as much as they possibly can — remember, we’ve been warned by his closest friends that if the pope thinks he’s running out of road, he’ll speed things up — but there’s only so much time left on the clock. What I am less confident about is how it will end or what we’ll get after. I do not see that we have an episcopacy with the courage to confront the man while he is alive, so we may have to settle for a posthumous settling of accounts. (As surely as Catholicism is true, this papacy will eventually be condemned. Honorius was an amateur in comparison.) But we have to be realistic: we have a curia with an increasingly Franciscan flavor — and I don’t mean the Seraphic Father — and we’ve already heard loud whispering that the Bergoglian electors plagued with buyer’s remorse think it’d be a good idea to replace the Argentinian Apocalypse with a more subdued version in the shape of someone like Cardinal Parolin. If the Holy Spirit ever needed to be at work in a conclave, it’s the next one. As one wise bishop said to me much earlier in this papacy, “We must pray for a holy pope. We must pray for a traditional pope.”
As for you and me, this is the year to watch our fuel reserves and slow the burn. I ended 2017 in a borderline catatonic state. Two weeks of doing nothing felt like just the appetizer for getting my brain — and my soul — back together. I am trying to make some personal commitments for my own mental, physical, and spiritual health and well-being this year. I have to work less. I need to pray more. I’ve got to find hobbies and distractions that let my mind recover from the onslaught. I’ve got to exercise a whole bunch and make fewer visits to the Bourbon Fairy. (I don’t know if the Bourbon Fairy is real, but I want to believe!) The stress of the past few years, both work and family related, have pushed me to a level of unhealthiness I’m not comfortable with, and that’s got to change. I turned 40 last November, and the road to wellness isn’t going to get easier from here on out if I don’t start now.
And based on what I’ve been seeing from many of you in the comments and in emails, you’re feeling it too. I’d say angst among the faithful is at an all-time high, and a lot of you have reached the “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” stage. That has its purpose, but it’s not a sustainable place to be, so I hope you’ll join me in seeking out healthier habits this year. We need a long game. We need to outlast the disaster. We need to live to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In closing, I’d like to ask you all for a renewed effort of prayer. Please pray for me and for the other writers and everyone involved in this work. The amount of spiritual opposition we face is staggering at times, and I can only imagine how much worse off we’d be if we didn’t have a literal army of you out there backing us up, storming heaven on our behalf. And though there are fewer of us, we’ll pray for you, too. I say it every year at this time, but the benefits of our 1P5 community are an untapped treasure, and we need to ensure we don’t take it for granted.
Thanks for sticking with us this far. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. The “God of Surprises” no doubt has much in store for us in 2018.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.