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July 21st , 2017

When a Pope Taught Heresy

It becomes daily more pertinent to ask whether  a reigning Pope can teach heresy. I understand that the consensus among theologians of repute is that it is indeed possible, and has in fact happened. The names of Popes Honorius and Liberius come to mind, and then there is  the case of Pope John XXII in the 14th century.

Pope John had some very dodgy ideas about the Beatific Vision, and insisted on airing them repeatedly. He argued that only Our Lord and Our Lady, whose souls are already united with their bodies, can truly see God, and that everyone else has to await the general resurrection.

This novel idea caused quite a furore. An English (or possibly Welsh) Dominican from Oxford University,  Thomas Waleys, denounced the Pope’s teaching from the pulpit of the Dominican church in Avignon, where the Popes were residing at that time.  He was imprisoned by the Inquisition at Pope John’s request.

While the Franciscans gave qualified support to Pope John’s proposition, the Dominican theologians of the university of  Paris, heirs of St Thomas Aquinas, strongly protested against it, and before his death a year later John XXII retracted his error and stated the following:

We confess and believe that souls separated from their bodies and fully purged from guilt are above, in the kingdom of heaven, in paradise and with Jesus Christ, in the company of the angels, and that according to the universal law, they see God and the divine essence face to face and clearly, so far as the state and condition of a separated soul permits.

His successor Pope Benedict XII, in the doctrinal constitution Benedictus Deus settled the matter for good: the souls of the blessed dead do indeed “see the divine essence by intuitive vision and even face to face”.

Most of the above I gleaned from Warren Carroll’s The Glory of Christendom, the third volume of his history of Christendom. But Dr Carroll doesn’t say what happened to Fr Waleys, so I had to do some digging to find out.

It’s not an edifying tale. Even though Pope John XXII had withdrawn his own thesis,  Fr Thomas was held prisoner for over a year without trial, and was then under a sort of house arrest for 10 more years. On his release, he returned to England where in 1349 he described himself as “broken down by old age”.  I hope this brave and unfairly-treated Dominican is now enjoying the divine essence “face to face and clearly”.






July 20th, 2017

Image may contain: plant, sky and outdoor

This is the view from just outside our room at the Locanda agli Angeli

in Gardone Sopra, Lake Garda ,where we attended the  25th summer

symposium of the Roman Forum.  More about that symposium in

future blogposts.


July 1st , 2017

Setting the World to Rights

This is written in haste. It will be my last blogpost for the next couple of weeks, as we are off to Lake Garda for the annual summer symposium of the Roman Forum—the organisation set up by the late Dietrich von Hildebrand. This year’s theme will be “Setting Right a World Turned Upside Down: Transformation in Christ Versus a Sickness Unto Death”.

A tall order, you might think, and you would probably be right. But let Professor von Hildeband’s successor as director of the forum, American historian John Rao, explain further what it’s all about…

Two commemorations will provide an extremely joyful framework for the Roman Forum’s next Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera. 2017 will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of this annual spiritual, academic, fraternal, and strategy-planning program of indispensable importance to the traditionalist world internationally. It will also be the tenth anniversary of Summorum pontificum, with all that that motu proprio has contributed to the advance of the cause of the “Mass of the Ages”.

But these joyful commemorations are also calls to a two-fold meditation. One of these involves an honest assessment of present realities in comparison with the hopes placed in the project and document in question. The second concerns a serious appraisal of what we have done and have yet to do in order to fulfill the goals specified by them.

Unfortunately and in all too many respects, 2017 threatens to be a much more troubled moment in Catholic time than twenty-five or ten years ago. The erratic character of the current pontificate—and fears for what may follow it—are proving to be extraordinarily disturbing not just to the cause of the Faith but to that of human Reason as well. One has the sense of a “free fall”, with the “salt” having lost its savor and churchmen happily encouraging an international political and social world suffering from a “sickness unto death” to continue smiling as it dies. Gardone, 2017 will address this problem thoroughly.

It would be foolhardy for the Roman Forum to insist that it has done everything that it possibly could have done on behalf of the truth. Nevertheless, it is absolutely convinced that the path that it has taken since its foundation in 1968 and that of the Symposium twenty-five years ago provides the best means for serving both Faith and Reason.

That path was laid out for us by Professor Dietrich von Hildebrand through his concern for rooting all of our work in an ever-deeper study of the theology of the Mystical Body and the exalted understanding of “transformation in Christ” that this probing of the full significance of the Incarnation yields. It is that Christological approach, closely connected with devotion to the Sacred Heart, that has made the Roman Forum so eager to work to cure our world’s “sickness unto death” by insisting upon the need to infuse all aspects of natural life—philosophical, political, economic, familial, fraternal, artistic, sportive, culinary; the serious and the festive together—with that Catholic teaching and grace that correct their flaws and raise them up in a hymn of praise to God. It is this approach that caused von Hildebrand already in 1970 to insist that the Roman Forum fight for the restoration of a liturgy that does not turn its back against the God who alone can save us all. And Gardone, 2017 will insist upon the validity of this Christological path, in all realms of human activity, as the sole, infallible guide to choosing the fullness of life instead of naturalist, secularist death.

There will be sung Mass every day in the Vetus Ordo. The food is wonderful, and the company stimulating. I hope to come back mightily refreshed.


June 24th, 2017

Allenby—Angel of the Lord?

I’m reading through Warren Carroll’s six-volume history of Christendom, and I’ve just got to where the Moslems captured Jerusalem  in 1187 after defeating the crusaders at the battle of Hattin. Carroll notes that the Holy City was not  recovered for 730 years, until 1917, in a world in which few Western Christians attached that much significance to its fate.

But General Edmund Allenby, the British commander who captured Jerusalem from the Turks did realise the importance of his victory. In recognition of the fact that Our Lord had entered Jerusalem on a donkey, Allenby dismounted from his horse and walked into the city. Allenby was one of the very few really successful British commanders during World War I.

My late cousin Edward, usually well-informed on rather abstruse topics, once assured me that the Turks, who up till then had resisted the invasion of Palestine quite vigorously, made no serious attempt to defend Jerusalem because Allenby’s name—which they pronounced Allah En Bia, or something similar—means “the Angel of God” in Arabic, and there is a biblical prophecy, I think in Revelation or possibly Daniel, that “the angel of the Lord shall enter the Holy City”.

It must be more than half a century since Edward told me about this, and I’ve always meant to do some research with a view to confirming the truth or otherwise of this story. I’m now getting around to it.

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                                                                            General Allenby

From an evangelical Protestant site called Sunset Jerusalem I gather that  Allenby, whom it descrlbes as a devoted Christian, was concerned about the damage he might cause to the holy places in the process of capturing Jerusalem.  While reading his Bible he was struck by Isaiah 31:5: “As birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem, defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.”   It struck Allenby that the Turks had very few planes, and many of them had never even seen one. He therefore got together as many aircraft as he could, and ordered the pilots to fly over the city, dropping leaflets which read, in Arabic:“Surrender the city today, Allenby.”  Now, according to this website, Allenby’s Arab interpreter wrote the name Allenby as “Alla Bay”, meaning Son of God. So it would seem that Edward may have been on to something.

There is a slightly different account on a similar site, from which  I also gather that the name Allenby had a mystical significance in Arabic. This says that when read from left to right in Western style, the name is “Allah Nabi” which means “prophet of God”. When read from right to left in Arabic style it means, “Son of God.” In Turkish the name means, “Scourge of God”.

Well, make of all that what you will.  It’s not entirely consistent, but at the very least it seems to me to confirm a supernatural element in the capture of Jerusalem just a century ago. If any readers of this blog can add  further information, I’d be really grateful if they would get in touch. Maybe some evangelical Protestants are inclined to read a bit  too much into biblical prophecy, but my cousin Edward was a good Catholic.






On December 10, 1917 Allenby asked God how can we take this city and not destroy it. The Lord spoke to him out of Isaiah 31:5 As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it. This was the battle strategy that was given to him by God. The British general began to ask God, “What does this mean?” God gave him inspiration. In 1917 there were not very many airplanes in the world. Allenby got and idea and said I know how to fulfill the proprhecy of Isaiah 31:5. I’ll get every airplane I can get my hands on in all of the middle-east. I’ll bring them in and fly them in close formation over Jerusalem. At that time the Turks and the Arabs had not seen many airplanes, many had never seen an airplane at all. Allenby had them fill up the planes with leaflets. He wrote on the leaflets in Arabic “Surrender the city today, Allenby.” The Arab interpreter did not write the name right on the leaflet and wrote Alla Bay, which means Son of God to Moslems.

On December 10, 1917 Allenby asked God how can we take this city and not destroy it. The Lord spoke to him out of Isaiah 31:5 As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it. This was the battle strategy that was given to him by God. The British general began to ask God, “What does this mean?” God gave him inspiration. In 1917 there were not very many airplanes in the world. Allenby got and idea and said I know how to fulfill the proprhecy of Isaiah 31:5. I’ll get every airplane I can get my hands on in all of the middle-east. I’ll bring them in and fly them in close formation over Jerusalem. At that time the Turks and the Arabs had not seen many airplanes, many had never seen an airplane at all. Allenby had them fill up the planes with leaflets. He wrote on the leaflets in Arabic “Surrender the city today, Allenby.” The Arab interpreter did not write the name right on the leaflet and wrote Alla Bay, which means Son of God to Moslems.

June 20th, 2017

Courage, Clarity and Collegiality

I see that the Four Cardinals, having had no reply to their dubia about Amoris Laetitia have asked for an audience with Pope Francis. I hope he agrees, but I’m not holding my breath.

Fr Hunwicke has a very helpful blogpost, in which he points out that “collegiality” did not wait to be invented by Vatican II.  In the 1950s Pope Pius XII wrote to every Catholic bishop to ask whether he believed in the Assumption of Our Lady, and whether he considered it opportune for the dogma to be defined. The positive response to both questions was overwhelming.

More than a year has passed since the emergence of the divisive and poorly drafted document called Amoris laetitia. In this time, many Bishops and  episcopal conferences have issued guidelines making clear that nothing has changed since S John Paul II in Familiaris consortio, and Pope Benedict XVI in Sacramentum Caritatis, reemphasised the Church’s immemorial discipline: ‘remarried’ divorcees who will not repent of their adultery and undertake either to separate or at least to try, with the help of God’s grace, to cohabit chastely, exclude themselves from the Sacraments during the time of their impenitence.

A few conferences and Bishops have issued statements understood as meaning that the thusly impenitent may, by virtue of Amoris laetitia, receive the Sacraments. Yet other conferences, such as that in England and Wales, have been manifestly unable to agree among themselves. It is clear that the Universal Episcopate is not united behind a ‘German’ interpretation of Amoris laetitia. Very far from it.

In the context of the Unity of the Una Catholica and of the collegial nature of the Universal Episcopate, cum et sub Petro, the time has surely come for this ‘dialogue’ to be moved to a new stage. Manifestly, if we are to persist with the embarrassing notion that we belong to one Church with one Teaching about the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, steps must be taken to move in the direction of coherence, harmony, and united witness. The idea that someone who is excluded from the Sacraments by his own impenitent rejection of the Gospel needs only to walk across the border between Poland and Germany, or from one American diocese to another, to be welcomed enthusiastically as a communicant in good standing, is obviously a profoundly unCatholic absurdity which needs speedily to be resolved.

The time has surely come for the Four Cardinals who intervened last year with their Dubia to revisit the question. And the time for Bishops, Successors of the Apostles according to the teaching of Leo XIII and of Vatican II and not mere vicars of the Roman Pontiff, to speak with courage, clarity and unanimity. And for clergy, laity, and academics to do the same. Remember that, at the height of the Arian Crisis, it was not among the Bishops or even in Rome that the Faith was most conspicuously preserved and defended.

Fr H. adds that parrhesia, boldness in witnessing to the Truth—a virtue which was once  incessantly on the lips of the current occupant of the Roman See—is still an obligation for all faithful Catholics. And as he says,  the more people speak boldly, the more difficult it will be for individuals to be put under unsympathetic pressure.

June 17th, 2017

Papal Purge of Pro-Lifers

In a week when Italian history professor Roberto de Mattei has predicted that  Pope Francis is to “revisit” Pope Paul’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, the Holy Father  has purged the  Pontifical Academy of Life of dozens of  members renowned for their fidelity to Catholic teaching. These include Australian professor John Finnis who had criticised the Pope’s encyclical Amoris Laetitia,  German philosopher Robert Spaemann—a longtime friend of Pope Benedict XVI—Englishman Dr Luke Gormally  who had asked the Pope to remove a problematical section on contraception from the preparatory document for the Synod on the Family,  and three eastern Europeans who were influenced greatly by John Paul II.

[Back in the 1990s Drs Finnis and Gormally spoke at a meeting in Maynooth and criticised in vitro fertilisation. My wife  Stramentaria covered this rather dodgy conference for the old Ballintrillick Review, and editor Doris Manly headlined her article  “Take-Away Babies with Maynooth Sauce”.]

The Pope’s 17 new appointments to the Academy include Nigel Biggar, an Anglican professor of moral and pastoral theology who has expressed support for legalised abortion up to 18 weeks, and qualified support for euthanasia; and  Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, an Italian moral theologian and professor who has openly criticized Catholic teaching on life issues, including Humanae Vitae

Last November the Holy Father  released new statutes for the Pontifical Academy for Life, in which members are no longer required to sign a declaration that they uphold the Church’s pro-life teachings. He also expanded the Academy’s mandate to include a focus on the environment.

According to Professor de Mattei a commission has been nominated by Pope Francis to “reinterpret” Humanae Vitae in the light of his own encyclical Amoris Laetitia . Next year will see the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church’s condemnation of artificial contraception. The Commission has been ordered to procure from the Vatican archives the documentation on the preparatory work on the encyclical, lasting  three years.  In 1966 the “experts” delivered their conclusions to Pope Paul VI, and suggested  opening the doors to birth control. After two years of wavering, the Pope followed the perennial teaching of the Church and rejected the idea in Humanae Vitae. As the philosopher Romano Amerio said, it was the most important act of his pontificate.

The Commission is to be co-ordinated by Mgr Gilfredo Marengo, who has made it clear in his writings that he supports the view of Pope Francis that  one should “abandon models of of life derived from too abstract and artificially constructed theological ideals”.  Professor de Mattei believes this indicates that praxis rather than doctrine will be followed in this “reinterpretation” of Humanae Vitae. And he wonders whether any Catholic theologian will have the courage to declare “heresy” when faced with this reinterpretation.




June 13th, 2017

Clerical Crumpet

On this rather dank evening I’d like to be able to cheer you up with some Good News, but alas I can’t.

A few days ago I learned of a parish priest of the Dublin archdiocese  who at Sunday Mass recently announced a double celebration:

1) The silver jubilee of his ordination;

2) The fact that he was leaving the priesthood to live with his bit of crackling—a married woman.

The congregation received this news with a round of applause, and a collection was taken up for him. There is no reason to believe that this parish is significantly different from any other in the capital.

To make matters worse, I understand that the archdiocese are considering offering this priest a job—no doubt at a far higher salary than he could have expected if he had remained true to his vocation.

Of course he’s not the first priest who can’t  keep his trousers on. But in my more uncharitable moments I would prefer the old days, when the parishioners might have burned down the presbytery with  this incontinent cleric inside. At least that would be an indication that they took their religion seriously.

Way back in the 1950s I  knew of a young Irish PP in England, in a rural and extensive parish who used to preach excellent and edifying sermons on death and the Last Judgment. Then he fell desperately in love with a young single woman who had come to him for instruction in the Catholic Faith. The pair decided they just couldn’t bear to live apart. When they eloped,  it was not only his parishioners  who were deeply saddened and scandalised, but many of the local Protestants as well. Everyone realised that this was a betrayal including, I understand, the young PP himself.

Now such conduct is seen as somehow courageous and liberating, even where the liaison is compounded by adultery.



June 6th, 2017

Bergoglian Banditry

I haven’t posted  for a very long time—a couple of weeks, in fact. That’s because we’ve been in Vienna visiting our son Joe and his family, who are now based permanently in the Austrian capital. It must be the most beautiful city I have ever seen, and probably the most interesting. But I must leave praise of Vienna for a later post, as today I want to tell you about the latest episode in the unjust  treatment to which the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have been subjected. Their only offence, as far as I can see, is to combine Catholic orthodoxy with an ability to attract large numbers of vocations.  You can read a lengthy account of the affair  in the blog Eponymous Flower, but it has been well summarised by Fr Hunwicke of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:

A common Protestant myth in mid-Victorian England concerned gullible young ladies who were also the heiresses to considerable fortunes. They were induced by cunningly persuasive Catholic priests, so it was widely believed, to join religious orders and to hand over the caboodle … after which, mysteriously, they very quickly died. Blessed John Henry Newman, a superb exponent of the Swiftian traditions of English Satire, once delivered a hilarious send-up of this jolly topos. Some things are best dealt with through satire; I rather like the hypothesis floated by Mgr Ronnie Knox to the effect that Satire is the purpose for which God created Humour. Satire is at the heart of the cultural identity of the Ordinariate.

What Victorian Protestant bigots absurdly believed about the Catholic Church is being metamorphosed into truth in this Age of Bergoglian Mercy. Circe and her wand are alive and well! According to rumours supported by various sources, Fr Manelli, Founder of the once vibrant young order called the Franciscans of the Immaculate, is being held under house arrest on Vatican orders, and denied normal contact with people outside the House of his incarceration.

[I suspect that most readers will know about the merciless persecution to which that order has been subjected. I refer those who are unaware to the facts available on the Internet.]

According to recent reports on the Internet, Fr Manelli, who is well into his eighties, was recently presented with a demand that he swear an oath of obedience to the current occupant of the Roman See. Perhaps unwisely, he did this. Soon afterwards, he was presented with a demand that he hand over the assets of his foundation.

I understand that in fact, the ‘properties of the Friars of the Immaculate’ are held by lay trustees, since the Friars do not hold property. Is the intention now that Fr Manelli should use his influence to persuade these Trustees to hand the assets over??

Readers may well recall reports that the resignation of Fra Matthew Festing from the Grand Mastership of the Sovereign Order of Malta was secured by the same ruse of appealing to a sense of obedience to the current occupant of the Roman See.

Choppy weather.

Let’s hope the FFI trustees have the sense to tell Papa Francis’s emissaries to get stuffed, and keep hold of the caboodle until  the Age of Bergoglian Mercy comes to  a merciful end.

By the way, I think Father should perhaps have mentioned that although Jonathan Swift was responsible in large measure for the traditions of English satire, he was in fact an Irishman.

May 22nd, 2017

Trump and Bergoglio: Birds of a Feather

More about how much Pope Francis and Donald Trump have in common.

A reader who prefers to remain anonymous (and has sound reasons for this) has drawn my attention to further clear similarities between the two world leaders…

Neither Trump nor Bergoglio are readers of serious books on theology or politics/economics. In fact, both hold academics in low esteem and aren’t bothered by their ignorance or verbal errors that follow.

Both tend to take disagreement personally and to slag off opponents, often with crude and unjust insults, never publicly used by previous office holders.

Both men tend to act as dictators, riding roughshod over laws and established custom when they think they are in a winning position.

Both are outsiders who have made little effort to adapt themselves to the demands of the office, thereby giving their staff the unending task of putting some kind of consistency to their sometimes contradictory remarks.

May 20th, 2017

A Trump-Bergoglio Love-In?

That very insightful blog “Ignatius His Conclave” notes that there has been much speculation about the forthcoming meeting between Pope Francis and President Donald Trump.

Liberals have been portraying Trump and Francis as opposites in some Manichaean struggle. Francis is seen as the Anti-Trump whose wisdom, mercy and compassion contrast with the bluster and belligerence of the President. Francis is the bridge-builder; Trump the unchristian builder of walls.

Most of this is nonsense.

Far from being a cataclysmic confrontation, the meeting is likely to be a huge success. The two men will discover how much they have in common.

Both are shameless populists; both are foolishly garrulous; and both prefer to govern by diktat rather than consensus. Both are pursuing a reformist agenda with little time to spare. Both have a declared aim to “drain the swamp”; and both are faced with an apparently immoveable bureaucracy.

With so much in common, the things upon which they disagree – like capitalism and Islam – can easily be set aside in the ensuing love-fest.