Thursday, October 31, 2019

After the Synod: Dominus quasi vir pugnator?

Does the New Testament taint our view of God? No, not exactly. There is, however, a temptation, fully realized by the Manicheans, Gnostics, and Cathars, to bifurcate God in the Old Testament from the New in light of the New.

Jesus Christ, as God made Man—and remaining divine, healed the sick, illuminated the blind, fed thousands with a gesture, and proclaimed the Kingdom of God to be at hand, that is, immediately accessible and no longer distant as it was to the Hebrews.

Among the stark contrasts between the New and Old Testaments are the role of miracles. While on earth Our Lord performed miracles as rewards for faith, whether it was the faith of the cot-bearers who passed their friend through a roof or the "righteous"* Centurion whose faith was greater than Israel's. Miracles are common and are embedded in every page of the Gospels other than the longer discourses (Bread of Life, Sermon on the Mount) and the Passion narratives.

By contrast, the Old Testament has plenty of miracles, but they seem to be of a qualitatively different nature and far less common than in the Gospels. Miracles under the various covenants of the Old Testaments may seem as numerous as those in the Gospels, but the Old Testament comprises 90% of Sacred Scripture and several millennia of salvation history, whereas the New Testament only recounts a few decades and half the text is devoted to epistolary teaching.

Miracles could be salvific—as they were in the case of the Israelites following a pillar of flame out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, or peering up at a bronze serpent—but they could just as easily be damning, as they were in the case of the apostate Israelites who fell into the earth, the perverts of Sodom and Gomorrah who tasted fire from heaven on earth, and the false prophets who witnessed the presence of the One True God before Elijah slew them. Unlike in the Gospel, where the presence of God is straightforward, visible, and something demanding a response of faith that results in a miracle, the miracles of the old covenant only occasionally relate to the faith of those who receive them and often are not petitioned. Indeed, they are often unilateral acts of God, through the agency of a prophet, upon a people who know neither what they need nor what they deserve.

In Christian times miracles have become associated with the acts of the saints and reflect their relationship with God. Saint Francis and Padre Pio bore the signs of Christ's Passion; Gregory Thaumaturgus became so renown for God's work through him he became "the Wonderworker"; Peter healed the lame, as Christ did, and Mary was taken bodily into heaven. What we have forgotten is that God may not be as pleased with the Church as a whole as He is with His saints.

In reading the Lauds for today's vigil, I came across the Canticle of Moses. Dominus quasi vir pugnator, the bearer of the Law sings. God fought for the Israelites who were often too foolish and too weak to maintain fidelity to Him. In forty years through the desert they saw a pillar of fire lead them out of Egypt, they followed it across the parted Red Sea, saw their heretics fall into the depths of Hell, saw God give them refuge in an oasis, and found God's cure in the lifted bronze serpent, yet they still strayed. All told the miracles they encountered were meant to protect them and to inspire their faith rather than reward them as Christ's miracles were meant to do. There is more Sinai about Fatima than there is Assisi.

When the Church strays God uses miracles sparingly and to teach a point, and occasionally teaches a point by withholding a miracle. As those headed to Babylon prayed for deliverance, so did the people of Rome in the 5th century and Constantinople in the 15th century, but their prayers went unanswered. In all cases, a structure for society and religion that had outlived its use and become displeasing to God was then liquidated so that something purified by fire might take its place. One thinks of the great Catholic writers and mystics of the 19th and early 20th century (Chesterton, Belloc, Newman, John Bosco, Garrigou Lagrange, the Marian apparitions). One thinks of prior times as more religious, but were the de facto Deistic years of foppish, decadent pre-Revolutionary France really more pious than the same place a century later?

Today's structures have seriously outlived their use to the Catholic Church and to God. The corporate structure of the Church hierarchy and Ultramontane papacy had their roots in protecting the faithful from the very things they are now propagating. Orthodox Catholics will be bothered but not disheartened by the Amazon Synod. More "conservative" Catholics may find it difficult to continue the intellectual calisthenics of recent years, the mantra to which is "Everything's different/Nothing's changed". We may well pray Pope Francis writes something in line with Christian orthodoxy now that the Pachamama festival has ended, but it is quite possible God will not intervene in such a way as He did with Paul VI. The papacy may be of Divine origin, but our interest in it belongs to the 20th century, and God may see fit to kill it. While He will not deny the means of salvation to any faithful servant, the Church itself may not need to be saved from the Pope as much as it needs to be purged of people like him. I recently turned 30 and will spend the rest of my life watching the influence of these sycophants wane as they accelerate the decline of their institutional foundation, much like how 18th century France and 15th century Byzantium slipped into free falls. God may well save us, but He will do with the Church what He wants rather than what we want.

The Masses of the recent Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage were celebrated by Mgr. Dominique Rey of Toulon in France. His modest diocese boasts two dozen religious orders, a hundred seminarians, a Charismatic movement, traditional-rite ordinations, and liberality toward the old Mass. The reason why is not that Mgr. Rey is following a formula, it is because he is following the Holy Spirit where others will not. Do any modernistist dioceses have such a future to anticipate?

The Church today survives off the fumes of pre-Conciliar Catholicism's power and prestige. In Mitre and Crook, Bryan Houghton observed, through his fictional Bishop Forester, that the pews were not full of people after the new religion, but people who kept coming fueled by the old. The centralized, organized, fully rational Church given to us by the Tridentine Fathers has fallen into disuse and has been vitiated by the Churchmen of the last two generations. A younger, better generation is poised to succeed them and inherit a very different Church. What the current generation aspires to do is to destroy the Christianity of their youth, and God may let them succeed in taking down the edifice so that he may rebuild upon the foundations.

* - "righteous" in Biblical times usually denoted a Gentile who had not converted to Judaism, but who kept the Law and precepts to the best of his ability and who venerated God alone


  1. Or...we are left with one other option. We know that neither the Church or the Papacy can fail/defect. Maybe the Sedevacantists are correct.

    1. If they are correct I am unsure how that would change anything written above.

    2. Are 4 separate Assisi
      "Ecumenical gatherings" any different from the recent Amazon Synod?
      If not,why is everyone
      flipping out given this type of idolatry first appeared in 1986?
      (Assisi I)

  2. Do any modernist dioceses have such a future to anticipate?

    Given that last year, 58 French dioceses ordained no priests at all, the answer seems obvious. Nor is this confined to just one side of the sanctuary: surveys indicate that Millennial Mass attendance is down to not much over 1%. In short, the failure of the post-conciliar experiment as carried out in France could not be more abject or complete. France is moving beyond more consolidation of parishes to the contemplation of consolidation of dioceses.

    By the 2030's, there will be nothing left but the ruins, and some small pockets of traditionalists. Whatever gets rebuilt in France in the 21st century, it will certainly look different from both post-conciliar and even pre-conciliar French Catholicism, because it cannot be any other way.