Many of our readers must be currently in a certain state of mind, namely: attentively watching a little child – who could be yours or mine – struggle for life in front of the eyes of much of the whole world, and now upon the unjust decision of a secular judge in England, and against the parents’ wishes thus constituting a violation of the that family’s rights. This form of injustice is just too much. During the last nights, many of us had Alfie in our minds, his beautiful face, and kept praying for him. The ugly face of a secular and “legally positivist” state that does not abide by God’s objective Laws nor a just morality is stunningly evil. For a while, the doctors did not even give the little boy nutrition and oxygen, even though he has thus far survived the termination of the breathing treatment! What is the reason that a state would not let a family take their child to Italy, to a welcoming hospital which is willing to do its utmost to help Alfie in whatever can be done for him now?
I would like to quote here a poem written by Dr. Robert Moynihan about Alfie which reflects our theme here:
Go on, dear Alfie, son of Albion,
And may your name be praised in time to come
By a race that once stood proud and free
But now has bowed before false law’s decree.
At the same time as we followed Alfie’s fate with love and compassion, some of us keep checking in on the situation in Syria and the larger spreading conflict, after the alleged 7 April gas attack in Douma, Eastern Ghouta which led to the “coalition” strikes against Syria on 14 April. (Some of you might remember that we had launched a petition against it, asking for a thorough and objective investigation of the alleged gas attack. We recommend to your consideration our own report on the petition in the above link because, in the meantime, many prominent Catholics – among them Bishop Athanasius Schneider, John-Henry Westen, Marco Tosatti, Professor Claudio Pierantoni, and Donna F. Bethell – have signed that petition, and it has gained more than 6,700 signatories.) So far, conclusive evidence is lacking that this 7 April gas attack ever actually happened; the chemical weapons’ watchdog organization OPWC just recently finally gathered some samples in Douma and are still investigating other sites. However, civilian journalists – like the award-winning Middle East expert Robert Fisk or the German journalist Uli Gack – are reporting from Douma (or the region) that they could not find any confirmation of the alleged gas attack down on the ground. The German parliament’s non-partisan legal expert commission has now called the coalition missile strikes on Syria to have been “against international law,” and this in spite of the fact that Germany had politically supported these very strikes.
The head is spinning, and in spite of it, there is a theme that connects these two unrelated topics, namely: the rule of law. Of just law, not an unjust or arbitrary law made up by men. There grows a sense of powerlessness in the face of these desultory decisions that are so obviously unjust and against deliberative reason. In both cases – Alfie and the “coalition” attack on Syria – some observers have spoken of tyranny. Tyrannical methods ignore the rule of law and just impose their own will upon others, without fair hearings and investigations.
We are increasingly living in a time where law is not respected and then abided by, and the little ones are the ones who suffer most. And this impression applies to matters in the world as well as to those now in the Church. Let me here mention some other examples of the same lawless phenomenon, yet these are now only pertaining to the Church herself:
For months, there is increasingly strong evidence that Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga Rodrigez has been covering up for immoral conduct of a prelate (Bishop Juan José Pineda Fasquelle) in his diocese and that he himself has been caught in financial dealings that have the stench of corruption. Edward Pentin, the very reliable Rome Correspondent of the National Catholic Register, has amply reported on these matters. Yet, there is no counter-action taken, and Maradiaga still remains in his office; he is still even advising the pope as a member of the Council of Nine Cardinals, and the prelate who has been accused of immoral conduct is still effectively untouched. As of December 2017, Pope Francis still defended Cardinal Maradiaga against “all the evil they have done against you.”
Cardinal Joseph Zen is calling for help while the Vatican prepares an agreement with Communist China that would favor those Catholics in the country who have made their compromise with the Communists, thus leaving the loyal Catholics out in the cold. At the same time that Zen is calling out, China is increasing its suppression of Christian symbols and the practice of the Christian faith. Professor Thomas Schirrmacher, a Protestant theologian and Associate Secretary General for Theological Concerns of the World Evangelical Alliance, has just said in a laudatory speech for Cardinal Zen that the recent unjust arrest of the loyal Chinese Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin (who had been unjustly asked by the Vatican to stand aside for a government-backed prelate) might well have even halted such a compromise between the Vatican and China: “Thanks to the unexpected arrest of Bishop Guo, which proved every word of Cardinal Zen to be a realistic and accurate description of the situation, nothing has been signed so far […].” Yet, will the Vatican still, quietly, continue to work on such a compromising deal?
Cardinal Reinhard Marx has caused a major confusion in Germany after himself promoting and issuing pastoral guidelines that would allow Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion. This scandal has led the pope to halt the issuing of the final version of the pastoral guidelines and to invite Marx and some of his fellow bishops to Rome for some conversations after seven German bishops had raised their voices of resistance. Yet, Cardinal Marx is still a member of the Council of Nine Cardinals, in spite of all the deserving uproar he has caused, together with Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, his Vice-President, who has been recently airing the idea of blessing homosexual couples.
The same German Cardinal Marx has now also closed Altomünster, a one-thousand-year-old Abbey in Bavaria, a religious and historical landmark, in spite of the fact that there were still several nuns living there, and several other younger women who were aspiring to become nuns, and together to maintain the Abbey and to make it grow again. The Archdiocese of Munich – according to Peter Seewald, the internationally known journalist and interviewer of Pope Benedict XVI – has worked by means of some lies, deceit, intimidation, and sordid methods in order to help shut down this Abbey and to transfer it (and its considerable wealth) to the Diocese of Munich, with the help of a verdict from Rome. The “absurd situation,” in Seewald’s own words, goes so far that Cardinal Marx has ordered guards to protect the Abbey from the religious women, disallowing them to stay or re-enter! And this at a time where the Catholic Faith in Germany is dying. Why is Cardinal Marx still the President of the German Bishops’ Conference and a counselor of Pope Francis?
As we see in these few examples, law and considerations of justice have no detectable, much less effective, place. Arbitrary action and injustice rule. Yet, God loves the moral law. (And the Laws of God are acts of love.) He actually invented the law and put it into nature, the universe, and, yes, also into our human nature. And only if we follow his abiding acts of love – that is to say, the rules that help us to live a virtuous human life here on earth and may help attain to eternal happiness with Him – will there be more order and sustaining justice on earth.
Yet, now we even have a pope who undermines some of the very laws given to us by God; namely, the laws about marriage, to include the Commandment against adultery. Amoris Laetitia.
Should we not expect that the world will spiral down and plunge into the sea of lawlessness and injustice when even the very vicar of Christ on earth – who is called to preserve and teach and defend God’s Laws – is himself undermining those laws of God and the sense of justice?
In this context comes to mind also Pope Francis’ own decision – very similar to Cardinal Marx’ own – to close down a flourishing order in Belgium. The Priestly Fraternity of the Holy Apostles of Brussels – founded in 2013 by the orthodox prelate then-Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard – had grown, with more than 20 seminarians and six priests. Yet, his successor, Archbishop Jozef De Kesel, an ally of Pope Francis, made sure it would not grow further. Instead of allowing a normal legal procedure in the hands of the Roman Signatura, Pope Francis took the case into his own hands – and shut down the order. “An ugly story,” in the words of the Italian Vatican specialist, Marco Tosatti.
Just recently Pope Francis has shown another sign of his tendency toward disrespect of God’s Laws and the justice that flows from them. Professor Claudio Pierantoni, an Italian philosopher who teaches in Chile – has shown in a recent interview with Edward Pentin, that Pope Francis has essentially equated, in his recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), the fight against abortion – which constitutes the violation of the Fifth Commandment – with practical matters of immigration (which often relates to national security issues) – which is a question of prudence, but not as such an object of one of the Ten Commandments. As Pierantoni says:
There is seemingly no theological error in affirming that the life of the unborn is equally sacred as the lives of the poor, the destitute, etc. But the problem I see here is that, when we speak of the unborn, we are referring to a specific action, that is the killing of an innocent human being, i.e., assassination. That is an intrinsically evil action, monstrously justified by the law of so many “civilized” countries. On the contrary, social injustice is something we must certainly strive to overcome, but the positive political actions that really favor the overcoming of poverty are a matter of discussion among different schools of thought.
In general, positive duties are different from negative ones (i.e. prohibitions), because they are the object of prudential judgment, and there is no positive specific action that absolutely has to be carried out in this regard. For example, it is true that we must be generous towards immigrants, but it is a matter of prudential judgment how many immigrants a country can reasonably receive in a given period of time and under which rules. Now, it is utterly disquieting that, on the one hand, the Pope has been “flexible” on matters that, according to Catholic doctrine, are the object of a specific and absolute prohibition, saying for example that “we must not insist too much on such issues [of abortion]”, or speaking favorably and even inviting hardline pro-abortion personalities such as Emma Bonino while, on the other hand, supporting in an absolute and rigid manner political decisions about immigration, that are clearly the object of a prudential judgement. In this sense, he gives the strong impression that he uses his papal influence to promote his own political ideas rather than affirming Catholic doctrine, as would be his duty.
With these lucid words, Professor Pierantoni highlights the tendency of Pope Francis to confuse – and even undermine – the clear Laws of God with His counsels, i.e. invitations to generous action. While His Commandments are binding under the pain of sin, the counsels do not. And in some cases – as with the massive Muslim immigration – it might actually be a question of the survival of Christianity not to welcome it on a large scale.
We will not further delve into the confusion caused by Pope Francis, except to remind our readers that, under his watch, there are now clergymen coming out asking for female popes, female bishops, female priests and deacons; for married priests in the Latin rite; for the blessing of homosexual couples, as well as for the empowering of women within the Church’s hierarchy. The current debate about the new German pastoral guidelines opening to intercommunion of course also has been encouraged by Pope Francis himself.
Does all of this not increase the sense of lawlessness in the Church, that is to say a sense that not one important tradition or rule in the Church remains untouched and unquestioned?
Let us thus pray and implore God to have mercy on us and to give us a pope who loves His Laws and who would help bring us back to a generous humanity, that more love may be lived out in our poor world which has lost its way, has forgotten God, and now reaps the fruits of that defection. May His Mother also help us, with her tender, loving heart – she who also surely now watches over little Alfie. And over the vulnerable children in Syria, too.