Thursday, April 17, 2014

He who cleansed the temple, now cleansed the priesthood so He might dwell among us

An explanation of feet-washing at the birth of the Christian priesthood by Dr. Pence:

On the night before He died, Christ formed the foundation of the Church by a new command of ordered love. This commandment was not the general order that each of us is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He issued a more particular command to His chosen apostles: to love one another “as I have loved you.”  Christ 'transmitted to the apostles the Kingdom received from His Father' (Pope John Paul II on the Birth of the Church, August 1989).

This newly ordered love of an elected group of men with the power to forgive sins, cast out demons, and heal the sick shapes the sacred fraternity of the priesthood and the Church. This sealed-character relationship with Christ that is fully realized in bishops, and shared by priests and deacons, is the sacred bond from which Christ’s earthly presence in the Eucharist is made real. The Kingdom of God is now present as the new Adam and His sons are incorporated as priests into the communal love of the Trinity.

Just as the Levitical priesthood was born in a bloody battle, so the new priesthood was ordained in a struggle. It was essential that the priestly bond be shaped by the deep love of Father and Son, the filial fraternity of Sons and brothers -- not polluted by incestuous counterfeit or betrayed by avarice for gold or fractured by arrogant pride.  This priestly bond was prepared to receive the 'generation of the Church by Christ's redemptive death' [JP II], as well as the two comings of the Holy Spirit: sealing their power to forgive sins on Easter night, and sweeping them into the public manifestation of their mission on Pentecost Sunday.

Before the priestly prayer was said and the newly ordered love covenant was established, Judas was expelled from the room – discreetly but definitively.  And before that, the necessity to wash the priestly bond clean of the Evil One was demonstrated by Christ in the washing of the feet.   Peter (like so many of his clerical successors today) saw the Lord on his knees as an act of humility and service. He was having none of it. But Jesus corrected him: “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

The washing itself was not an act of self-negation, but an authoritative act by Christ establishing a new priesthood which would sanctify and rule his Church.  Christ’s action was foreshadowed by the priestly consecration when “Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water” (Leviticus 8:6 and Exodus 30:17-21).

Christ’s washing was a casting out of the Evil One who was polluting the collegial body of the new priesthood (“for He knew who should betray Him.”)  Priestly acts of exorcism, healing and forgiveness of sins are spiritual acts of authority -- as was the Lord’s washing of his apostles. Thomas Aquinas saw the command to “do as I have done” in the washing of the feet as a command to laymen to forgive one another's trespasses.  For prelates, Aquinas saw this as an order to sacramentally forgive sins.  Every act of forgiving sins is an expulsion of one Spirit of authority for the sweeter yoke of another.  It takes authority to set the captives free.  Every baptism is an exorcism. The water that lifted the Ark left many others drowned; and the Red Sea which split for the Jews closed on Pharaoh’s army. If Christ had to rid himself of one of his own – numbered among the Twelve – why should his followers be spared the same troubling duty?  “If I your Master washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet.”  This was a priestly purification command, which preceded the Love command. It was a bestowal of authority and the assignment of a duty. The Eastern Liturgy prayer of that night puts it this way: “When Thy glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of their feet before the supper, then the impious Judas was darkened …”

Christians who have no apostolic priesthood can be excused for misinterpreting the foot-washing command as a general ordinance (see Foot-washing Baptists).  English monarchs can be admired as they pass out money to the poor, inspired by the King of kings on His knees (see Maundy money). Many early Christian communities integrated foot-washing as a favored part of Eucharistic liturgy – a sort of kiss of peace with an added touch of humility – (see Saint Ambrose, d. 397). All these practices are understandable.  For Christ was indeed a servant leader. He preached it often; thus, to match His persistent general teaching with that particular iconic moment seems irresistible.

But Jesus personally handed his apostles the Body and Blood, and no one dwells on His being a waiter! Likewise, when he separated his apostles from the power of the Evil One, we shouldn’t over-interpret His bended knee.

The love which will save us from the Evil One is the powerful sacramentally-ordered love of Christ and his purified apostles. Christian love is an ordered love, and the washing of the apostles’ feet manifests the authoritative love of a High Priest instituting a new ordinance.   We must insist that priestly ordination, the power to cast out sin, and the necessity of apostolic fraternal correction which constituted the substance of Christ’s act not be lost in the Zeitgeist.  We are not recounting this story to soothe priestless Protestants or feckless feminists.

The spotless purity of the Marian Church can only be safeguarded by a protective authority ready to cleanse and do battle.  Wherever Christ appears too publicly, He will be attacked.  Saint Joseph had little time to coo with the baby Jesus before He was leading His sacred charges into the dangers of a nighttime flight.  So, before Christ entrusted His presence with the new priesthood, he burnished some of them and expelled others.  The shirking of duty by Peter, the uncertain voice of Thomas, the cowardice of all the others must be confessed, repented, and reformed. The perfidy of Judas had to be washed away and expelled.

"The Lord will wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire." (Isaiah 4:4). It was Irenaeus who recalled these words when he beheld the new Moses washing the feet of Aaron and his sons. When Irenaeus reflected on the washing of feet at the Last Supper, he did not see a Christ adding service hours to His resume.  He saw “the Word Himself ‘…washing away the filth of the daughters of Zion,’ when He washed the disciples' feet with His own hands. For He who washed the feet of the disciples sanctified the entire body, and rendered it clean.”
(Irenaeus, Book IV Chapter 22, Against Heresies)

The reintegration of the washing of the feet in the Holy Thursday liturgy is a very recent event (1955). It is not surprising that we are still learning the deep significance of this ancient ritual. It may be that it would be better placed in the morning Chrism Mass centered on the bishop and his priests.  For many, the male-only character of the foot-washing seems an affront – but so is a Church built on a male priesthood, the Real Presence of Christ, and a sacramental form of confession.  The flattened de-sacralized spirit of modernity and the congregationalist mentality of Protestants can make no peace with the authoritative masculine fraternity that Christ instituted on Holy Thursday to maintain His Living Presence among us.  Rather than inviting the ladies and grade-school girls to join in the foot-washing festivities, let us more deeply reflect on what we have received and render a more profound account of this pivotal event in the life of Christ and the Church.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The week that changed the world


"Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss, the sign of friendship and love. The betrayal and crucifixion of Christ carried the ancestral sin to its extreme limits. In these two acts the rebellion against God reached its maximum capacity. The seduction of man in paradise culminated in the death of God in the flesh. To be victorious evil must quench the light and discredit the good. In the end, however, it shows itself to be a lie, an absurdity and sheer madness. The death and resurrection of Christ rendered evil powerless."                                                                                           (from an Eastern Orthodox website)

Holy Week is when everything slows down, and truth presses its claims: will I keep settling for a superficial embrace of our Lord, or am I ready to submit to the schooling of the Holy Spirit -- the only One who can teach us how to become "partakers of the divine nature"?

Easter 2014 can be either False kiss or true Communion.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Like precious oil running down on Aaron's beard, down on the collar of his robes"


Russian priests are the ones that seem closest in appearance to the patriarchs who served the temple altar of ancient Israel.

In the fullness of time, the modern world will witness the churchmen of the East -- acquiescing to the commands of the Holy Spirit -- accept the proffered hand of their Western counterparts. And the latter will acquire a depth and a seriousness of manly purpose that they lacked.


By becoming the actors of history that the King of Eternal Glory intended, the sons of Adam will truly show (in the words of Saint Peter) that they are "partakers of divine nature."


Sacred Scripture "cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet"

In Miss Stowe's 1852 classic, Tom is being driven in a wagon to be re-sold at auction. The slave trader is congratulating himself on his merciful nature in limiting the fetters to Tom's feet.

"As to Tom, he was thinking over some words of an unfashionable old book, which kept running through his head, again and again, as follows: 'We have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come; wherefore God himself is not ashamed to be called our God; for he hath prepared for us a city.'  These words of an ancient volume, got up principally by 'ignorant and unlearned men,' have, through all time, kept up, somehow, a strange sort of power over the minds of poor, simple fellows like Tom. They stir up the soul from its depths, and rouse, as with trumpet call, courage, energy, and enthusiasm, where before was only the blackness of despair."

UPDATE:  Corrie ten Boom was a survivor of Ravensbruck -- a German concentration camp north of Berlin. Her sister, Betsie, died there in 1944. (Another woman who lived to tell of her experience at Ravensbruck was Fiorello LaGuardia's sister Gemma).

Corrie ten Boom writes:
"As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God... 'Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.'
"... It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute -- poor, hated, hungry... Not 'we shall be.' We are! Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.
"Sometimes I would slip the Bible from its little sack with hands that shook, so mysterious had it become to me. It was new; it had just been written. I marveled sometimes that the ink was dry."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Strategic Dilemma for American Foreign Policy: Religious Nations or the Atheist West

by Dr. David Pence

Throughout the world there is an awakening of nations aligning themselves in terms of their religious and cultural heritages into communal bodies.

The Muslims have nations in Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, and the "-stans" of central Asia. The Muslim Arabs have a nation in Egypt but still flounder elsewhere as the impossible dream of a micro-state of Palestine obfuscates a strategy to form the larger Muslim Arabic State needed to function as a serious nation in the Levant.

Later this spring, India will quite probably elect a Hindu nationalist as its next Prime Minister.
[Narendra Modi would succeed the first Sikh ever to hold India's top office. He is going to stand for parliamentary election in a holy city to show this is no longer the secular Left of the Gandhi clan. Mr Modi is also a strong supporter of Israel].
This cultural nationalist revival has already been experienced in Japan (especially under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe) as well as China. Religion, nations, ethnic ties and men who will fight for them have not been eliminated by entering some new time zone called modernity or the twentieth-first century.
[Mr Abe, pictured in center, during his visit to India earlier this year].


America is not in her deepest soul part of any atheist crusade for modernity. We are the continent of territorial religious nations. We are white, brown, black, and yellow; and our soldiers need not defend a European death cult whose men will not fight and whose women will not bear children.  In the war of the atheist European superstate against the Christian governments of Nigeria and Uganda, should we support the white atheists in their economic threats against black Christian men who stigmatize rather than sacralize sodomy? We are tied much more deeply to our American brothers through the continent, and the Christians East and South, who fight the nagging hectoring godless Witch of the West. Americans must decide if we are trying to make the nations safe for public worship and private family life, or if we are strengthening international courts to diminish national authorities to elevate individual autonomy for abortion and sodomy. Each strategy would push a different "re-start" button in our relations with Orthodox Russia and Persian Shiite Iran.

Russia, Crimea, and Ukraine

The Russian nation has a Christian soul, baptized by water and confirmed in blood. Both the waters of baptism and the blood of martyrs have sacralized Crimea in the Russian motherland. Crimea is a different communal body than both eastern and western Ukraine. Crimea has returned to Russia. Most American news commentators and senators seem to have no sense of either the historical timelines, nor maps nor religious history, that belie the fable of Crimea and Ukraine as a national community. Liberal scholars who have studied Russian history (e.g., here and here) and conservative journalists (here and here) who respect ethnicity, religion and nationalism are the voices of reason in this debate as Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly and Democratic Lady-in-Waiting Hillary Clinton emote from the shallow end of the strategic foreign policy pool.    

Crimean citizens overwhelmingly and freely voted to rejoin Russia and assume the older citizenship their grandparents knew. A Russian Christian military won the peninsula 250 years ago from the Crimean Khanate (Turkish-speaking Islamic Tatars who were military superiors to both Moscow and Kiev for several centuries). Sevastopol is a city rich in Russian history and drenched in the blood of Russian soldiers. It is a key port for their naval fleet and legally could house 25,000 Russian troops -- which is why the Russians said they never “invaded Crimea.”

The Ukraine has much deeper fraternal ties to Russia than Poland or Hungary -- but unlike Crimea, it is known as a distinct nation. A common Slavic Orthodox Christianity, which was baptized in Kiev, ties the Ukraine and Russia together as fraternal nations.
[Pictured is Kiev's Monastery of the Caves, founded in the 11th century].

Ukraine cannot become what it is meant to be unless both America and Russia play their roles in allowing this nation to live. It will be just as crucial that serious Christian thinkers in America develop a more mature and comprehensive narrative of the Church amidst the nations in contemporary international relations.

The religious split of the Latin Catholics and Kievan Orthodox (major religions of Western Ukraine) from the Moscow patriarchate Orthodox (religion of the East) could fracture the Ukraine. This would be a tragic failure for the nation whose destiny as a state is to bridge the rupture of Christian believers. That Great Schism led to the loss of Christian Mideast lands to Islam in the first millennium, and Christian Eurasia to the militarized atheist states at the end of the second. Re-joining the two lungs of Christianity animated the world historical visions of Pope John XXIII,  John Paul II, and the Second Vatican Council. Ukraine is a pivotal natural meeting place for that union, but it could just as easily split East and West if a larger religious vision is not brought to bear on the crisis.

The Emergence of Russia

The Soviet Union and the USA split peoples all over the globe in the blood-drenched Cold War. That may have been necessary then; it is madness today. The Russian nation is not the new Soviet Union -- they are the Christian nation emerging from the atheist Gulag. Orthodox Russia is not the heir of the Soviets -- she was its bloodiest victim. She doesn't look pretty emerging from the rubble, but can't we rejoice that she still lives?

The Russians are our Christian brothers. What irony that the materialist atheism of "the West" now aligns the European Union and NATO against the Christian nations of Africa and the Eastern Orthodox nations of Eurasia. America's men must reclaim our national foreign policy from the “drone and bomb” sexual Left and the bellicose neo-con Right. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union we have lacked a strategic foreign policy driven by a deep understanding of geography, history and a Biblical sense of the role our Christian country plays amidst all the earth's nations (the grandsons of Noah in our tradition).

It was the case, once, that to study the Soviet Union, we had to know Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Now we must know the Orthodox patriarchates, the Catholic Eastern Rite, Turko-Islamic traditions, and Eurasian relations of Russia, Japan, and China. The Russian patriarch Kirill has written:  “What we are referring to is the Russian world, the great Russian civilization that came from the Kievan baptismal font and spread across the huge expanse of Eurasia.”

The Russian president and the Orthodox patriarch see the Russian nation as having a religious destiny of securing states through Eurasia that respect Christians' ability to worship freely and live securely. They know they must also ensure the liberty of Islamic worship and the life of ethnic groups like the Tatars. (In President Putin’s address on the integration of Crimea he made sure to say that the languages of Crimea would include that of the Tatars, for they too were returning to their ancestral home.) Putin is acting as the leader of an armed Christian nation, but he understands he must govern in a region of many languages and religions. He is not of the West, for his largest emptiest land mass has borders with China and Japan -- and he needs a more capacious bridging identity to relate to them. He respects communal identities including his own; that is why he seems so foreign and frightening to the individualistic libertarian Right and the obsessed sexual Left who keep even 24-hour news stations still encapsulated by soundbites, tirades, pompous males, and pretty ladies.

The Orthodox have not reduced the political commentary of the Church to “War Never Again!” or “Stop Capital Punishment” or “Put away the Sword of the State.” They see homosexuals and feminists as the deformed personalities of the comfortable atheists who speak of the "West" and the "twenty-first century," as if these abstractions can replace the bonds of history and place which link men to God and their fathers through the ages.The Orthodox have a realistic view of the necessity of the state's sword for the life of the church and nation. At times this has corrupted some of their churchmen. At other times it has lent sacral blessing to the sacrifice of patriots defending their homeland. Should not such heroic sacrifice be blessed? Christians had to be armed as a State to face Mongol horse warriors from the East, Islamic jihadists from the South, and German Nazis from the West. Mother Russia armed them. American Christians should not be too quick to dismiss the Orthodox tradition as “being chaplain for the Czars” given our own Catholic hierarchy’s current penchant for pacifism, and blindness toward the necessity of punishment to guarantee justice in exercising either civic or ecclesial authority. Maybe a subset of our theologians have been too obsessed with the sexual practices of intimacy while ignoring our deficient Christian public anthropology of the male fraternal relations needed to protect and baptize the nations.

Christian Realism as Foreign Policy                               

The abysmal ignorance of national senators and journalists (forget the man on the street) which first addressed the Crimean affair can motivate Christian thinkers to fish deeper to grasp the fractured human and religious bonds behind the rumors of war.
American men -- especially our senators, soldiers, journalists, and scholars -- must be intellectually disciplined enough to bring as much historical knowledge and research to this unfolding of events as we do to bracket analysis for the NCAA basketball tourney.
The Christian nation strategy must first integrate our immigrants as fellow citizen-protectors and producers. It would model Catholic and Evangelical national statesmen for South America where the Marxist card has frayed, but the Christian leader card has not been played. It would seek fraternal relations among the Asian nations and not play their border feuds off one another.
We need less venom about 'weak' Obama and 'bully' Putin. Maybe we could take time to read our forgotten hero Alexander Solzhenitsyn on the godless cowardly West as well as the Ukraine, Orthodoxy, and the Russian nation.

Thank God President Obama has not led us into the wrong war. Let us arm our next national candidates with a pointer and a series of maps and timelines. Let us have one of the television debates as a short lecture format, with each candidate explaining the world and our particular role in it. A realistic foreign policy will be clear-eyed in assessing the present alignment of forces, and utterly Christian in proposing that nations can live together fraternally under God. We are condemned to fratricide without Him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dithering à la Hamlet while declaiming like Lear

With this map from the 'Washington Post' anchoring us, it's time to decide which experts have best cut to the quick regarding how Americans should view the developments in Ukraine.

Dmitri Simes provides a good perspective on the U.S. government's response to the crisis: speaking loudly and carrying a small stick.

The best five-minute explanation of the ramifications is given here by Professor Stephen Cohen.

Check out these maps at CNN.

And David Brooks, pulled by a troika of Russian philosophers from a century ago, sets forth some of the ideas now animating the new Russia.

"The world is even smaller today, though… across the gulfs and barriers that now divide us, we must remember that there are no permanent enemies. Hostility today is a fact, but it is not a ruling law. The supreme reality of our time is our indivisibility as children of God..."
  (President Kennedy during his visit to Ireland)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lenten Practices: Inquisitions and Penitentiaries


An interview with Dr. David Pence:

We've come round to another Ash Wednesday. Do you remember how Father Neuhaus [the late founder of First Things magazine] referred to the American bishops' response to sexual abuse as "The Long Lent of 2002"?

The American bishops and their fraternity of priests never had a long Lent or any Lent at all! Lent is confession of sins, repentance, reparation, and reform. There has been no real confessing of sins nor repentance nor judgment and punishment of any group of bishops or priests inflicted by churchmen on churchmen. Newspapers have exposed and courts have punished, but the Church herself has not acted to purify the priesthood by her own standards.

    (Eastern State Penitentiary, one of the prisons visited by Tocqueville in 1831)                        

You contend that Church leaders have to use ecclesial institutions to punish priests who have offended. Why does it seem that nowadays if an evil priest hasn't been convicted in a criminal court, we shower him with "disability pay" and other perks?

Reform in a hierarchical Church comes from the Pope and bishops, but each in his own place. Diocesan reform will be initiated by a particular bishop who has a critical mass of priests with him ready to truly purify an existing diocesan prebytery. The reform of bishops will require another mechanism, but it will be more local and synodal than papal. Just like we need model saints who inspire all of us, bishops need a model bishop to clean not the whole world but a particular diocese. A bishop who wants to lead the bishops of his nation and the Church must put his net down right where he is -- and reform his local presbytery. The diocese will be the locus of the deepest reform. All reform will start with a true aggressive investigation and assessment of priests. This can be carried out by a well-known Catholic instrument: the Promoter of Justice. This man must look much more like Eliot Ness searching for the trails of crime than an ACLU lawyer insisting on Miranda rights. This is what once was called an INQUISITION. An aggressive questioning in pursuit of real justice for the Church which means unfaithful, sacrilegious, and immoral priests are pursued, confronted, judged, and punished. Professor Mirus does a good job of explaining this in a recent column.
Offenses against the Creed, the Sacramental/Liturgical Order, and Morality are the standards by which bishops must purify the priesthood. These are sections of our Catechism. No court of law will uphold these standards. No secular newspaper will be outraged at a breach of these duties. The Church has a legal system and a demanding code of conduct. Pope Benedict, in an interview in 2010, talked about the role of punishment in church governance:
"The Archbishop of Dublin told me something very interesting about that. He said that ecclesiastical penal law functioned until the late 1950’s. Admittedly it was not perfect -- there is much to criticize about it -- but nevertheless it was applied. After the mid sixties, however, it was simply not applied anymore. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but rather a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people. 
Today we have to learn all over again that love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner in the form that is possible and appropriate. In this respect there was in the past a change of mentality, in which the law and the need for punishment were obscured. Ultimately this also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice and courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of the truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love."

Explain your notion of how we provide for these priests according to canon law, while having them live a life of penance. And what is this about donning a distinctive cowl?

We hear that canon law requires that the local diocese must "provide" for all priests.  "It's simply justice," they say. Well, fine... let's be serious. Get a building, and provide housing and simple food while requiring prayer and labor. They should wear a distinctive garb showing they are penitents, and special markers if they are sexual predators. This is meant as punishment. It is meant as reparation -- and if a priest will not comply -- then his disobedience is grounds for laicization. Criminal priests are exploiting their clerical state and playing on the interests of their superiors in preserving an employment entitlement program. The idea that these guys are on a voucher system which we owe them, is a sham perpetuated by clerics who see the priesthood as lifetime employment. This is how the previous vicar general, Fr. McDonough, sounds in most of his pronouncements on these questions -- he was an unholy blend of urban ward-heeler, union steward, and defense attorney.
No reform in any diocese could bolster the worldwide church more than instituting a real place of penance and public acknowledgement of betrayal by predator priests. This reform must be enacted by a local bishop; it cannot be a papal reform. The pope knows what we all know.  Local bishops must govern; and to govern is to punish when crimes are committed. Abbotts too. A place like St John’s Abbey [in Collegeville, Minnesota] should immediately require a clear and distinctive garb for all monks under restriction. St Benedict in his original Rule provided a multitude of ways to distinguish monks following the Rule and those being disciplined.
The Church did not sin. Men sinned, and individual men should do penance -- not Holy Mother Church, who Herself has been besmirched.

             "Christ among the Doctors of the Law" (Paolo Caliari, 16th century)

What is your reaction to the comments of Fr. Kevin McDonough in this recent news story at MN Public Radio? How could the vicar general thoroughly delude himself that a pastor -- arrested separately for trolling for young men in a public park and in a bookstore -- posed no danger to the boys in his parish?

Father McDonough throughout his career has run interference for the huge homosexual subculture in the St Paul Seminary system and the local priesthood. This most notably included his homosexual priest brother who was teaching seminarians “the gift of gay celibacy” decades ago. It is an axiom in the Catholic gay subculture that homosexuals are no threat as pedophiles. (It was a corollary that they made better priests because of their sensitivity and non-interest in football, war, or any male group effort to organize the protective use of force). That is why McDonough remains so adamant to this day that "there was no evidence Curtis Wehmeyer was a threat to children."  For Father McDonough, stubbornly not “outing” the homosexual proclivities of a predator took precedence over protecting young males. The corrupting role of an influential secretive "gay subculture" in a priesthood -- whose most fundamental oath is tied to a purity code -- is the story that the vicar general kept hidden for decades,  and that our secular newspapers still can't quite figure out how to tell. The Church will properly practice Lent when a bishop takes his priests behind closed doors as individuals and as a group, and institutes a program of priestly purification which must include aggressive questioning (call that the Inquisition) and just punishment for the sins of omission and commission which have corrupted the fraternity (call that the Penitentiary). We could call that a good Catholic Lent.

If a Catholic is completely fed up with the decadent rot of the Petrine face of the Church -- almost tempted to flee -- how should he fight that?  

He must focus on that reality of the Church which has never sinned. The Marian Church is still pure. The Church herself has been defaced and dragged through the mud, but still she is holy. Churchmen have sinned, not the Church. Ponder the heart of Mother Church. Do what the devout women did during the 1970s: they kept alive the adoration of the Eucharist while trendy seminarians ridiculed the “wafer worshipers." The spotless Church and her corrupted priesthood has the Eucharist; and we must eat to live. The Church has the Spirit, and He will reform the Church. The Ark has a noxious stench, and a lot of the present crew are cowards or worse, but we can’t jump the Ark. It was built at too high a price. Look outside before you jump; the Flood waters are even worse.