Whatsoever Is True

Posted on 2024-05-24
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In mythology, when sunlight bursts into a dark lair of vampires, a great shrieking and furious snarling fills the air as the vampires perish. I can’t help but notice that there is a lot of shrieking and snarling coming from the left lately. The American Spectator’s Scott McKay thinks leftist scolds are in their death throes after having revealed how toxic, dumb, and self-absorbed their policy demands are.

I think he is right. Leftists have typically always given soothing labels to their ugly policy plans. If they mounted legislation to kill all the Jews, they would label it, “A Bill to Save Fuzzy Bunnies and All Things Bright and Beautiful.” Their problem is that almost everyone has seen behind the curtains now, so when they talk about all things bright and beautiful, folks are thinking, “Sheesh, they’re trying to kill Jews again.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is daily trying to blame Republicans for killing “the most secure” border bill in generations. But almost everyone knows that bill has no security at all, but just locks in massive illegal immigration. Repeating a lie that almost everyone now knows is a lie does not sell well. But it is all they have left. All the bogus cases against Donald Trump are now fully visible dumpster fires of Democrats’ depravity. And establishment media jesters desperately – and unintentionally comically – still try to pretend they are on the square. Whoever runs Joe Biden’s Twitter (X) account laughably tried the other day to express concerns for Donald Trump’s obviously advancing senility. Say what?! All it accomplished was to bring mockery and a brighter spotlight on Biden’s actual obvious advanced senility. The left is floundering in raw panic as, every day, more folksies see clearly the game that is afoot. They seem not to realize that asserting already exposed lies ad nauseum does not make the lies more plausible, but immolates the last tatters of the liars’ remaining credibility. Of course, with hefty prison sentences a real possibility for their actual crimes, Democrats can only come clean or double down. They have chosen to publicly set themselves on fire for all to see.

With all the shrieking, snarling, and self-immolation, many ordinary folks reasonably fear this may be the end of all things. It is not. It is just the violent death throes of a movement that more thoroughly discredits itself each day. It does, however, leave a great vacuum in the body politic. How we fill that vacuum will determine whether we are going to get more, but different, depravity or whether we will chart a return to the safe harbor of ordered liberty that was once America’s hallmark.

***

While it does offer some interesting and potentially good refinements to official discernment on apparitions, I do not like the Vatican’s new rules on discerning apparitions at all. The good refinements in it, I suspect, are more like bait in a trap than food for the soul.

While preserving the form of respecting the original jurisdiction over such matters to the local Bishop, it guts the substance of it, reserving all decisions on such matters to the Vatican. You might wonder why that matters, since the Vatican can intervene on a local decision when certain criteria arise. It matters a lot. Bishops are not branch managers for the Vatican. They are independently authoritative in their respective Dioceses. The Church was NOT set up as an autocracy with the autocrat having assistants to carry out his sovereign will. Rather, it is set up as a sort of confederation of Dioceses throughout the world with the Pope being the first among equals with his fellow Bishops. A Pope is not to interfere with a local Bishop except for specific canonical reasons or to settle jurisdictional disputes. When Pope Francis dismissed Bishop Joseph Strickland from the Tyler Diocese, he did so without citing any canonical cause. According to Canon Law, the Pope cannot do that: he MUST give canonical justification. At first, I thought this was just a fit of pique by the Pope. I have come to think it was considered and intentional as a message to all the Bishops throughout the world. It was that, regardless of what the law and foundational constitution of the Church is, Francis is a law unto himself who will do whatever he wants. He thinks he IS the faith every bit as much as Anthony Fauci thought he WAS the science.

I am hardcore about the duty we owe to Bishops and Priests and about the duty they owe to us. I am contemptuous of made-up duties that are not owed. I am equally contemptuous of the Pope trampling on Canon Law and the Magisterium just because it is inconvenient to his ideological sensibilities. This is foundational for me. By the time I came into the Church I had already been deeply involved in politics for nearly 20 years (only local and regional at that time, though.) When I first started RCIA (six months of classes and study for people considering entering the Catholic Church) I studied relentlessly, poring over encyclicals, writings of the Church Fathers, getting to know the Magisterium.  I was deeply moved that, in nearly 2,000 years, this institution had never contradicted itself in its formal doctrinal teachings. The more I got to know about how it is formally set up, the more I came to believe it was divinely set up.

The Church does not depend on the worthiness of its members or officials to accomplish its aim – which is to lead souls to Christ and, thus, salvation. In fact, it often uses disorder to bring about greater order. It depends on candor, faith, and trust to bring greater order from lesser. The Christological disputes from the first millennium undoubtedly seemed to be a great trial at the time, but from them we achieved a deep and deeply refined understanding of Christ and His nature. The tribulations of our own time seem terrible. They are terrible. But I have no doubt this is the raw material from which a greater, holier, deeper understanding of the faith will be confected. God help me, I will always obey the legitimate authority of my Bishop, regardless of how I feel about him personally (and I feel quite good about my current Bishop) – because to do so is to obey Christ. God help me, I will always candidly acknowledge  – and usually call out – abuses because that is my right and my duty in helping to refine our understanding of the faith. How I wish I could adequately convey my interior understanding of how the system Christ set up works to draw us ever nearer to Him – through advance, through retreat, through revealing our wounds. As when He walked the earth, Christ still often applies mud and spittle to make us see. Often, we are so busy complaining of the mud and spittle we still refuse to see long after the power to do so has been given us anew. What I see is largely what I imagined Job to see in my piece, Into the Whirlwind:

I love contemplating what it was Job saw that caused him to put his hand over his mouth and dispute with God no more. Imagine that God showed Job our world, sparkling blue and green like some impossibly rare and precious gem, glittering with life and light. Then God shows Job the entire universe. Think of Job’s wonder at the billions of stars, comets, quarks and planets all pulsing and whirring, a symphony of light and rhythm. Then the stunning realization that our world amounts to less than a grain of sand in the ocean of this staggering abundance. Most stunning of all, God shows Job that this vast universe is merely the support system for our little speck. Every passing comet, every collapsing black hole, every bursting supernova, every moon, every planet in the most distant galaxy is designed to maintain the dynamic tension which keeps our world ticking. Utterly amazing that in the grand physical scheme of things we are less than a speck – and yet are the very reason for that grand scheme. We are God’s beloved.

Zooming back to Earth, Job is shown how all the animals and plants, the land and sea, winds and waters, fire and ice in striving with each other maintain the vitality of life. He sees more than this, though.

Standing with God outside of time, that remorseless captor from whom no man has robbed even a minute, every moment of Job’s life is present to him; his birth, his death, his sufferings and his restoration. Watch with Job as he considers this divine terrarium contained in time and space.

Though He constrains Himself against compelling our will, God manages the divine economy so that every event, every chance encounter calls us to Him. Here is a child of great purity born to parents given to licentiousness. There a child of great courage is given to parents who are rootless. An arrogant rake named Augustine is born to Monica, a woman of astonishing purity, persistence and fortitude. Bathed in the grace of decades of her prayers, Augustine ends by becoming one of God’s most fruitful servants. How often are parents sanctified through their children and children through their parents! There are saints with great sins on their consciences. In them, it merely opens up new channels of grace as their remorse gives them a larger spirit and a tender empathy for other sinners. There are great sinners who only have a small virtue, but grab hold of that lifeline and follow it back to God. Many people are inspired to find their path to salvation through an encounter with one who suffers with dignity. Ah, but many others are seduced by the transient glitter of vanity and power, fooled by the false luster of what is only paper and paste compared to what God intends for us.

Job sees great natural catastrophes – and a flood of divine grace pouring forth just before the catastrophe hits. For a time even enemies recollect their common humanity and pull together in solidarity with each other. Many are saved through this. But there are those who loot and exploit their fellows, unaware that they tear a piece of their humanity away from their soul in the process. God weeps over it. There are untimely deaths which seem tragic. But most are souls in their final state of grace. It is God’s mercy which plucks them before they can fall into perdition. In God’s economy every event is a potential new channel of grace opening up.

Job does not see God punishing anyone; He is far too busy trying to save them. A little temporal or physical suffering is often applied to help heal a soul. But souls can only be damaged by their owners’ free choice. Certainly, the satan busies himself trying to undo God’s grace, encouraging souls to maim themselves by chasing after sex, money and power at the expense of those around them. With every step away from God it becomes harder for a soul to hear and respond to His call. God not only calls each of us to salvation; He calls us a thousand times a day in little whispers. The Lord of Hosts suffers intensely over each of His children who so maim their souls that they begin to lose the capacity to respond to Him. Everything leads to eternity. In eternity, outside of God, there is only agony and isolation.

Job sees that, in temporal time and space, the greatest conquests and the greatest accomplishments are less than a puff of smoke on a windy day. The only thing that matters – the only thing – is the witness we live with those we encounter and, especially, with those given into our care. Everything in this bubble is always passing away. Those who anchor themselves in temporal things will perish with those temporal things. All that counts is to help others to choose life, the life that is when all this passes away.

Job sees great souls whose purity and love unite them with God. Even greater souls manifest their love of God through their love of and tender care for their neighbors. But the greatest souls are those who embrace what little sorrows and sufferings come their way in penance for themselves and as an offering for those who do no penance. Everyone wants the consolation of God, but these are the souls who console God. Their willing participation in His sorrows opens up profound channels of grace through which many otherwise unreachable souls are recalled to God, to life.”

When I contemplate this great symphony I wonder how any could be so convinced of their own rectitude that they could intentionally violate the rules of lawful obedience. I wonder how any could try to gild the lily of obedience, adding things there that God never did. Don’t you know that God set things up this way so He could reach us despite our infirmity, failings, and rebellion? To intentionally mar His system is NOT to make it holier or more true, but to make it all fall into anarchy and chaos. I obey, within the system He set up for us. When I object, it is within the bounds of the system He set up for us. I am absolute in my obedience to lawful authority, lawfully given. I am candid, blunt, and even often caustic in my objections to abuses – by either the hierarchy or the laity. But I endeavor to do it all within the boundaries of what Christ set up for us. I am terrified of falling outside of those boundaries, for there is only darkness, cold, and death outside of Him. When I see people narrowly demanding that everyone see just as they do to be found acceptable, I am astonished. Do you not know that Christ set us up as one body with many parts, united in our fidelity to His word? Some are teachers, some prophets, some doctors, some architects. Some manifest their faith through devotionals, some through learning and study, some by being courtiers in their Diocese – their social life grounded in and entirely revolving around it. Why do so many people judge others by how closely those others resemble them? The eye should be grateful that some are called to be a foot…for the eye is completely dependent on the feet to travel to see anew. And yet I hear eyes grumbling that the foot can’t see and feet grumbling that the eyes can’t travel. What anti-Christian madness is this? And while we devote ourselves to being scolds because the ear is not like the hand, et al, we wonder why we do such a poor job of evangelizing those who have not found the good news of the Gospels! As Christ commanded in Matthew 7, we must take the beam out of our own eye before attending to the splinter in our neighbor’s. Beyond this, we must be grateful for what our neighbor does for us all that we can’t instead of begrudging him his difference from us.

I have written often lately of our duty of obedience to legitimate authority, lawfully exercised, whatever the motives of he who exercises it. But I am equally insistent that clerics live their roles properly and within the confines Christ set for them. Many decades ago I laughed at a Saturday Night Live skit about, “The Pope who wanted to be King…and the King who wanted to be Pope.” Much of the ills that assail us in modern times come from clerics who seek to exercise temporal power they do not have and laymen asserting spiritual authority they do not have. A cleric is entitled to opinions on temporal things. If they are well thought out – as with St. John Paul and the late Pope Benedict XVI for modern examples – they can be useful and helpful. But when I hear clerics opine authoritatively on the climate, crime control, immigration requirements and other things that are not under their authority I am disgusted. Similarly, a layman is entitled to opinions on spiritual things. When well thought out they can be useful and helpful. My life is enriched by the spiritual commentary of many modern and older lay Christian commentators. But when I hear Joe Biden, Stephen King, or Nancy Pelosi (among a host of other laymen) tell us what we must do spiritually to be “good Christians” I am disgusted. People who want to exercise their freedom to have a loud opinion without exercising their duty to have some clue of what they are talking about disgust me. Yet, at the same time, I know that God uses even these discordant notes in His Divine Symphony to accomplish His will – sometimes as guides, other times as object lessons.

Many faithful people are deeply concerned lately about clerics offering illicit orders. Why wouldn’t they be when Pope Francis had his “bitter clingers” and “basket of deplorables” moment during a CBS interview in which he claimed orthodox Bishops have a “suicidal attitude” because, ostensibly, of their refusal to deny the words of Christ and the Apostles. My last article for the CORAC newsletter was focused on when legitimate authority is exercised – and what to do when it ventures into illegitimacy.

My great concern now is that, in this time of crisis, many are abandoning the great system Christ set up for us. Some are retreating into signs and wonders – some of which give hope and some of which give false hope as prelude to despair, some are retreating into theological rabbit holes that don’t hold up to scrutiny, some think their personal insights (which may be true) are so important that it relieves them of the duty of obedience Christ imposed on us, others are violently abusing spiritual or temporal authority – or both. Far too many are becoming a law unto themselves, bound neither by Scripture nor law, nor even prudence and common sense. This IS the devil’s great attack on the faithful. This IS how the devil seeks to deceive even the elect.

I get many people mad at me these days – because I don’t take the side of their idiosyncratic views of what MUST be done. That is fine. It is what I expected from these times. But I will stand where I always said I would: Acknowledge God, Take the Next Right Step, and Be a Sign of Hope to Those Around You. Truth WILL stand the test of examination. For each of us, that test must begin with our own thoughts and actions. If you find yourself excusing an offense because Christ’s immutable rules do not apply to your particular situation, think harder. We all sin, through weakness, fear, passion or other infirmities. But when we intentionally defy Christ, we adopt the sin that got a third of the angels kicked out of heaven. And if we pretend to do so in fidelity to Christ, the devil laughs with malevolent glee at our gullible cupidity.

Do and say what you licitly can and are called to, trusting Christ to fill the gaps that you don’t know how can be resolved. Act like you mean it when you say you trust God. Be steady, be sober, be deliberate, remembering that he who will be saved is he who endures to the end.

 

If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.

Find me on Twitter at @JohnstonPilgrim

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