Saturday, April 29, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 29

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


R.R. Reno is the editor of First Things magazine. First Things has been an indispensable forum for discussing religion and public life. We have always found it weak, very weak, in understanding the formal covenants of men and the nature of nations. I remember how much I used to look forward to the Richard John Neuhaus survey column ('Public Square') at the end of the monthly magazine when he was editor. At the same time I never thought Neuhaus understood the American nation as a military brotherhood or the Catholic Church as both Apostolic (a public brotherhood of priests) and Marian (the interior devotions of the heart and mercy). Neuhaus was a great reader and trusty scout in the intellectual terrain. At heart, though, he was a Canadian high-church Lutheran hoping for the social recognition of a respectful profile in the New York Times. The immediate successors of Neuhaus (d 2009) didn't get their sea legs (a very charitable depiction). But R.R. Reno is something different. While Catholic intellectuals like George Weigel and Robbie George were falling all over themselves to virtue signal their contempt for Donald Trump, Mr. Reno wrote prescient articles on Disraeli and nationalism during the 2016 presidential campaign. He has also been slow to sound the recent "post-Christian" laments that soon will pass. In fact, Reno is so out of touch with the intellectual elite that surround him he dared to write a book Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society (see podcast discussing book). His most recent article at First Things reminds us (with Russell Hittinger) of "the three great covenants" that define us and give men a place to stand: marriage, nation, religion. He ended his article with a description of the covenants that inform our work at AoA. Obviously we think him a man to read. A return of the strong gods.



CHRISTIANITY AND RACIAL RECONCILIATIONRemembering Billy Graham and racial integration - he too had a dream.




SLAVIC STRONGMEN: Russia and Belarus.

CHINA AND MYANMAR: Fifty-three million people live in the former Burma. They are 90% Buddhist and religious/nationalist identity is closely tied, so Christians and Muslims are often persecuted. Over 100,000 Burmese refugees have been settled in the US since 2007 - most are Christian. A few maps about Chinese relations.

AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan stability is a regional question - many nations needed - the US least of all.

INTERVIEW WITH FRENCH EDITOR OF NATIONALIST MAGAZINE ON UPCOMING ELECTIONBy Scott McConnell of The American Conservative. Comment on his article and more discussion of the French intellectual right. Emmanuel Marcon seems to be the last gasp of dying globalists. He is the new wine for the old wineskin. Marine Le Penn advocates a France with no public religion. She isn't exactly Sister Marguerite-Marie urging King Louis XIV to adorn the shields of the French soldier with the Sacred Heart of Christ. Nor is she sounding the battle cry of Joan of Arc: "Men of France, do your duty."  Advocating for national identity, however, she may be the best step forward to the renewal of Christianity, nations, and sexual order. Is there a French nation without a Catholic soul? She seems spiritually anemic and joyless from afar. Unlike her opponent, however, she does not want to organize an Atlantic coalition of Europe and America at war with Russia. That is quite enough for an American nationalist to hope she wins. But we venture no advice to French patriots who certainly see things and know things about their own country which might propose a different strategy. They might consider a  Marcon victory as a more manageable transitory situation which will allow them time to consolidate themselves as both European Catholics and French nationalists under a more inspiring leader.


GETTING TO KNOW JOHN BRENNAN: One important link to the real foreign collusion story in Washington DC.


PROFILE OF PAT BUCHANAN: A fairly long profile of the Catholic American whose greatest error is to think the white west is the basis of our civilization, and not Christianity. He is a Catholic in Protestant America who asks the question "Can all the peoples of the world come here and make one people?" The answer is yes, if we build our nation on Christianity, not an ethnic attachment to Europe. Paradoxically the Anglo Saxon racial identity of Americans never included Mr Buchanan's Irish forefathers. Both the left and the neocon right blacklisted Mr Buchanan instead of arguing with him. It is to their great shame. President Trump also lambasted Mr Buchanan earlier in their lives for racism, but Trump eventually called and apologized long before his presidential run. The most dramatic change in Buchanan's life was when after years of free trade republicanism he came to see the great harm done by globalists to the American manufacturing working class. Excellent journalism about a man steeped in history and abounding with intellectual depth and magnanimity of soul. Here is Buchanan's latest analysis of Trump and his generals and the dangerous road he seems to be taking.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday BookReview -- The spiritual ignorance that blinds us to "Saudi Arabia: Hatred's Kingdom"

[first published April 17, 2015]

by Dr. David Pence

Jahiliyya is an Islamic term for the state of spiritual ignorance where man resides when he understands society and history only in terms of man-made laws. When man is enlightened by Islam, he comes to see the world in its fullness as God's creation. The more we submit to God ('Islam'), the more we can see the entirety of science, human history, and man's ultimate purpose and destiny. Jahiliyya was a traditional term that referred to societies before the Prophet came. Now, it is often used to describe the modern West and Arab societies that have organized themselves as secular nationalists elevating the power of states and rulers over the primacy of God. There are parallels in Augustine's contrast of the City of God and the City of Man; in Pope Benedict's description of the West as a state of "practical atheism"; and in Pope Francis' similar depiction of "libertine atheism."

There are few fields of study in which ignorance of God and deliberate blindness to the religious dimension of men and nations is so pronounced as American foreign policy. It is even more irritating that defining the interplay of nations in the narrowest of Social Darwinist terms is trumpeted as Realism.

The most damming evidence that our foreign policy is not rooted in religious reality is that fourteen years after the attacks of 9/11, the American Senate is treating the House of Saud and their Wahhabi religious establishment as our allies as the Salafist Sunnis attempt to exterminate and suppress Shia Muslims in the Mideast. Because there is no religious lens to see this battle, we adopt the Saudi/Israeli depiction of all Shias as surrogates of Iran… and Iran must be destroyed.


Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism (2003) by Dore Gold grew out of the author's doctoral thesis at Columbia in the 1980s. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, praises the book: "The Saudi establishment has accepted a Faustian bargain, buying protection for itself by financing Wahhabi hatred around the world. If you read one book to understand the roots of al-Qaeda's fury and the hostility to us within the Muslim world, it should be this -- Dore Gold's superbly told history of the Wahhabis."

We are engaged in a religious war, but none of our senators or presidential candidates propose a policy that would come to grips with the roots of this war which Mr. Gold has described in his book. Reading the non-partisan Congressional Research Service report by Christopher Blanchard on Saudi Arabia ("Background and U.S. Relations") is as depressing as listening to Bill O'Reilly on Fox News pontificate that "Shia-Sunni, Sunni-Shia -- the American people don't care about that." In the CRS report there is a prominent section on gender relations and women driving cars. The suppressed Shia of the Eastern oil provinces are mentioned as a minority who "create continuing strains on public order and overall stability." The Saudi restrictions on Shia public processions and religious practices didn't make the Blanchard report. Mr. Blanchard, the non-partisan Congressional expert, has missed  the Faustian bargain at the heart of the House of Saud. Not surprisingly, Blanchard is featured on a prominent Saudi/U.S. website as a Mideast expert. Ambassador Gold's book tells a very different story. He quotes a Bernard Lewis analogy to better grasp the Wahhabi ideology:
"Imagine if the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation obtained total control of Texas and had at its disposal all the oil revenues, and used this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom peddling their particular brand of Christianity. This is what the Saudis have done with Wahhabism. The oil money has enabled them to spread this fanatical, destructive form of Islam all over the Muslim world and among Muslims in the west. Without oil and the creation of the Saudi kingdom, Wahhabism would have remained a lunatic fringe in a marginal country."

The importance of the religious ideological side of this war is captured by the late leader of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew, as he talks of Islam extremism in Asia: "In killing the terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees. The queen bees are the preachers, who teach a deviant form of Islam in the schools and Islamic centers, who capture and twist the minds of the young..."

A previously published video interview with the author, and excerpts of a book review of Hatred's Kingdom that appeared in 'Commentary' magazine in 2003 can be found here.
 (Update April 2017: The reviewer in the Commentary article argued that after ridding the Mideast of Saddam Hussein, American strategy should be aimed at dismantling the Wahhabi worldwide network of terror. Well that certainly didn't happen! You will no longer hear any kind of anti Wahhabi strategy from either Commentary magazine  or from Ambassador Gold.  Israel has made a de facto alliance with the House of Saud and has become their most reliable purveyor of anti Shiite propaganda in the name of stopping Iranian hegemony. Israel has joined the Kingdom of Hate in hating Iran and they are a powerful double lobby in trying to draw America into their coalition. The Shiite Houthis of Yemen will suffer and an America first foreign policy will be rendered meaningless if America adopts the Saudi hatred a sour own.  Henry Adams once said that "politics is the systematic organization of hatreds." That sad fact underlies the strategic incoherence of post 911 American foreign policy.)

The CRS report, mentioned above, documents $90 billion in weapons sales from the U.S. to the Sauds from 2010-2014 as another mutual interest. This excellent article sums up the numerous other lobbying and Congressional ties that bind our government officials and the monarchy's clan.

Jahiliyya is a religious ignorance. It is spiritual blindness. Until Americans remove the atheist cataract from our eyes in public life and foreign policy, we will not understand the spiritual nature of the war that our Christian nation is now called to fight. Our spiritual confusion has led us to make war against our natural allies and play the foolish friend to our most lethal enemy.

UPDATE: In March 2017, President Trump sat down with the Saudi deputy crown prince (at age 31 he is the youngest defense minister in the world).
Mapping the Schools of Islamic Law and locating the epicenter of terror.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fatherhood, Filiation, and Fraternity: The Obedience of the Beloved Son and the Restoration of Authority and Brotherhood in Scripture

by David Pence

The primordial fatherhood stories of the ancient classics and the modern scientists are not models of filial piety. The original Greek sky god Uranus buried his children for fear of revolt and was castrated by his Titan son Cronos. To prevent a repeat of such generational conflict, Cronos ate his own children after birth. After five children, his wife grew tired of this parenting style and tricked Cronos with a stone wrapped in swaddling. The rescued son, Zeus, established his reign on Mt. Olympus by overthrowing Cronos and sending all the Titans to the underworld. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was too modern and sophisticated for the shenanigans of Greek gods. But he, too, would rebel against the father. He wrote a devastating tract on Moses and Monotheism debunking the Almighty God of Hebraic scripture. Phillip Rieff has written that before Hitler could kill the Jews, the German intellectual Sigmund Freud had to kill G-d. Freud with the pen of a poet and the reputation of a scientist debunked all of that patriarchal nonsense. He accelerated the modernist atheism of intellectual Jews in the 20th century. His founding story of primate ancestors introduced the first fathers as violent sexual predators holding all the females away from the younger males. Eventually in multiple different settings the coming of age males forged a generational revolt  to overthrow the tyrant. Feeling guilty for killing the old man, they remembered him with graveyard services. This collective guilt trip according to Freud led to religions based on a mystification of an all-powerful father god. The Greek play Oedipus was to Freud a literary drama of this historical psychic truth. Christians understand a fundamentally different structure of reality. We do not accept these accounts that Pope Benedict called "an ontology of original violence." Christians tell a different story. We were told by a reliable authority and, like trusting children, we heard and we assented.


Before there was matter, there was Fatherhood and Sonship. Before the angels were created there was a Father and Son. With the Father and the Son was another Spiritual Person who rejoiced in their love and would be the inspiration of that relationship becoming incarnate in creation. This hierarchical communion of persons is the central reality from which comes all of Life and Love.
The drama of Revelation does include a pivotal and powerful rebellious creature. He was not a son, but an angel. That powerful spiritual being rebelled against the plan in which lowly humans would be integrated into the Body of the Beloved Son. A mighty angel like Lucifer was not willing to bow to a baby boy or even more shamefully call a human female "the Queen of Heaven." Satan's envy was an assault on the role of the Beloved Son in the Father's original plan. The Holy Spirit has conspired through all of history to integrate humans in the love of the Son for the Father while the Evil One has committed his reign on earth to despoiling that Plan. Human knowledge of Good and Evil comes from a participative obedience to the Father in reparation for that first great angelic disruption. As attested by the classical Greeks, by the scientist Freud, and by the feminist Eve, this deeper spiritual understanding of Good and Evil cannot be grasped by humans on our own.


God made man in his own protective image, but for some reason Adam left his wife unprotected to encounter the Evil One on her own. Adam then heeded her twisted entreaties instead of the Father's simple commands. This inverted the order of  loves that connected him to the Living God and led to the fragmentation of humanity and the ultimate disintegration of death. Adam’s disobedience forfeited his niche in the garden. He lost his authority as a father and was banished to the wilderness. His eldest son Cain killed his brother out of envy that Abel's sacrifice was more pleasing to the Lord than Cain’s. Cain’s murder mimicked Satan’s rebellion. He was driven by envy against the second-born son being treated as the beloved. From the beginning humanity was created to perfect our natures united in mystical union with Christ at the right hand of the Father. We lowly Hobbit humans were destined for sonship, while the mighty angels had their own glorious destinies but not as incorporated beloved sons.

Cain the murderer would be allowed to live with a mark on him. Satan the rampaging rebel was allowed to roam the world seeking the ruin of souls. The perfection of man -- his full maturation -- would come from a contest which he could win only if aligned in filial piety and fraternal communion. His maturation involved both conformity to Christ and wide radius agreements among men cable of binding a whole species as a united social organism. Part of God's reparative justice aimed at Satan was to allow the lower creature man a central role in evicting Satan from the earth. All the biblical second son stories attest to their elected roles in carrying out God's ultimate plan. This is why deep in our nature men love a good fight. The fight we cherish the most is against a foe so terrible that we can only defeat him in communion with our brothers. The Bible is all about love, but it is a love given as a gift and perfected in a contest.

Noah spoke with God like Adam did… but he listened and obeyed. He built his unlikely ark which saved his three sons and their wives to again be fruitful, multiply, and dominate the earth. One of Noah’s sons, Ham, violated the honor of his father. The descendants of Ham’s son Canaan would pay for that disobedience by losing their lands to the beloved son, Israel. After Babel, men would be assigned different languages and would be limited by the boundaries of different peoples that would localize the communal nature of brotherhood. The one species would be manifested as many nations and among the nations there would be a beloved son.

Abraham would be chosen to be the father of many nations. Abraham was ordered on the eighth day after the birth of male children (when boys were named) to mark them with the sacrificial blood of circumcision. The common destiny of men was to be sacrificed for the common identity and survival of the group. "To be a man" is to emerge from the protection and authority of one’s mother in the family to take on the duties of a male social group which protects not only one's wife and mother, but the widows and orphans of the nation as well. Organizing group territorial protection is the high calling of political man -- it is a shared duty of adult men and is the fraternal cement of civic friendship and national patriotism. It is the powerful form of Biblical masculine love that today dares not speak its name. Without the civic fraternity of the nation, each man is a law unto himself and only the strong, the rich, and the well-connected prevail. It was considered an essential part of the Jewish tradition of Noahidic natural law that men understood the communal necessity of establishing  law and living under authority in the different tribes and nations. The seventy grandsons of Noah were the prototype nations to which Israel would be a light. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God. The Jews were considered the elect or chosen nation because they were directly given prescribed laws and a particular land. But all men were ordained to live in some kind of defined territorial communities marked by law, boundaries, and authority.  

Circumcision was the mark of the Abrahamic Covenant, offering the blood of every male for the Covenant with G-d which shaped the people as a Nation. The covenant would entail a Leader, a Land, and a Law promised by G-d so men could establish a priestly nation to offer praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Matured masculine groups need a leader to command unity, and borders to define and limit their shared mission. Abraham’s first son Ishmael would be sent out into the wilderness but then rescued. He too would be a father of nations. God would ask Abraham to bind and sacrifice his second son -- the beloved Isaac -- but would save him from his death by the hand of an angel. A ram would die in his place. In the Jewish tradition, Isaac understood the command of God and agreed with his father that he must be sacrificed to obey God. (In Islamic tradition, it is Ishmael who is sacrificed by Abraham.  As a devout Muslim, Ishmael was ready to submit to the Will of God as well. He, too, was spared.) Ishmael and Isaac would meet again in peace to bury their common father, Abraham. The willingness of fathers and sons to share the same protective duties toward the group and obey the same Divine Authority even unto sacrificial deaths created a powerful social organism. These cross generational masculine bonds sustained both wide radius communities in space and long-lasting bonds in time. Abraham is the father of the nations because he showed filial piety and obeyed God. His obedience as a son made him the father of nations. Through circumcision he consecrated masculinity to sonship and brotherhood under the one true G-d.  

The oldest son of Isaac was Esau, but the beloved son was Jacob who by trickery received the birthright from his father. Jacob fled the wrath of his brother but later in life when they met, Esau did not exact vengeance. They knew the peace of agreed-upon borders, if not the brotherhood of a unified clan. Before Jacob met his brother, he was prepared for the encounter by wrestling with God and received his name Israel. Maturity came from a ritualistic contest simulating the risk of danger and pain necessary to protect one’s group. Twelve sons would constitute the twelve tribes of Israel. The whole nation is often referred to by their father’s name -- Hear O Israel! The older sons betrayed their brother Joseph out of envy. As the son of Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife, the eleventh son Joseph was his father’s beloved. It’s always dangerous to be so chosen. His brothers almost killed him but then sold him to Ishmaelites who bore him into Egypt. The brother cast into the death of a pit will rise again to provide the food of life for his brothers. He will forgive his brothers fully and this act of fraternal reconciliation will bring Israel and all his sons to the land of Egypt bound together as a reconciled patriarchal fraternity ready to be consecrated as a nation.

The Jewish brotherhood lost its favored position in the land of Egypt and were enslaved. As their population grows in slavery, all the baby males will be slain save one -- Moses -- who is set aside in a little ark of a basket on a river. The Pharaoh’s daughter takes mercy on him and finds a nursing woman (Moses' mother) to nourish him in his foundling. As he reaches manhood, Moses kills an Egyptian abusing a Jewish countryman. He flees to the wilderness where he is confronted by God who orders his return. He is to order Pharaoh to allow God’s beloved son Israel a few days of freedom to properly worship God in the desert. Finally to break the will of Pharaoh, the first born males of Egypt -- animal and human alike -- were slaughtered by the Angel of Death. The beloved sons of the Beloved Son were saved by the blood of lambs. Two brothers from the priestly tribe led the people out. Moses would mediate for the people with God, and received the words in stone that would be their marching orders through the desert to the Promised Land. When he came down from his 40 days on the mountain, he found the people in revelry. He assembled a priesthood under Aaron. Some 3000 kin, neighbors and friends who had celebrated the Golden Calf were slain to reinforce that there would be no bonds of unity among the people that were not grounded in acknowledging God as Sovereign. There was one God and there would be no gods before Him. Moses saw the Promised Land but did not enter. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan in proper priestly order all the males were circumcised under Joshua so they might "fight as one man" to receive the Promised Land by the Hand of God. They had wandered forty years in the desert because ten of their original twelve spies had shrunk like frightened grasshoppers before the great fighting task that God had put before them to retake the Promised Land.

Four centuries later, the youngest son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah was consecrated as King David. His righteousness and consecration won over the son of King Saul to a brotherly bond deeper than kinship. The souls of David and Jonathan were knitted together as one. Jonathan's love is an antitype to Satan. He was higher born than David but he accepted that David was the anointed one of the Lord. He pledged a filial loyalty to the new King and God's Providence though it displaced his own high station. David sinned against his loyal commander Uriah, who even when he returned to the city from war declined the bed of his wife in solidarity with his men and the ark still in battle. This masculine understanding of the celibacy of men at war will convict the adulterous King and  culminate in the visions of the Book of Revelation. David’s son Solomon built the temple but betrayed God. The ten northern tribes, the kingdom of Israel, often called Ephraim, were lost to the Assyrians. The tribes of the fourth son Judah who received Jacob’s birthright and the twelfth son Benjamin, another beloved youngest son, would be the remnant. They would later be captured by the Babylonians but freed by Cyrus to return and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem to enclose and protect the foundation stones of the Second Temple.

Five centuries later, from the House of David came another Joseph, son of Jacob, and unto his virgin wife a King was born. At circumcision He was named Jesus: 'the one who saves.' This was the Beloved Son who God had been promised through the prophets to rule over the nations. The father directly attested to his status at the Baptism and Transfiguration of the Lord.  Herod would make a bloody sacrifice of all the baby males of His cohort in pursuit of Him. The earthly father informed by an angel in a dream protected his son. Joseph did not live in time of civic fraternal order. He had to be the prayerful father who maintains his household often in hiding from despotic rulers and chaotic national circumstances. Once again, a Joseph led only by God and his angels escaped murderers by taking refuge in Egypt.

Jesus came from Judea, but He was conceived and lived in the region of Galilee. From that territory of the northern tribes, He called together a new brotherhood of Twelve: "the men of Galilee." They were invited to call God Our Father, and so begin the reconciliation of brothers that would be a light to all the nations. The only apostle not from Galilee would betray the Elder Brother with a kiss. Judas was exorcized from the brotherhood during an authoritative priestly foot-washing ritual performed by Jesus on the night before He died.

The new Eve had not pursued forbidden knowledge, but received the deeper wisdom that comes from a Fiat to the Spirit. The new Adam would obey the Father and build a brotherhood of fathers whose communal unity would expel Satan from earth just as Michael and his angels had expelled him from Heaven. In the great story of salvation and reparation, Eve would be supplanted by the pure unique soul of Mary. Adam’s disobedience that scattered all his descendants would be rectified by the new Adam who would call all men into the brotherhood of a universal Church sent out to baptize the nations. It is the willingness of men to accept the legitimate authority of God our Father that binds us as brothers and allows us to act with authority as fathers, civic rulers, and priests.

The Beloved Son obeyed. This time Adam's story is different and death will be destroyed. The love of the Father for the Son was extended as the love of the Son for his apostles who would serve as the living foundation stones of a new temple. The night before the death of the Beloved Son, the sacred brotherhood drank a blood covenant of loyalty. Ten of them would be martyred for His Holy Name. The apostles were to love one another as Christ loved them and His Father loved Him. The nature of father-son love is fruition and incorporation in the wider group they both love together. The apostolic church became the template for incorporating the human species into the Sonship of Christ under His Father.  Even before the early church was referred to as Christians they called themselves by this sealed love among the Apostles- "Brethren". The Beloved Son reversed the disobedience of the first man made in God’s image. His obedient submission to the Father reconciled the alpha male of humanity to our Creator and Father. He had begun his public life by going out with the Spirit to the wilderness desert to confront Satan who had separated the first Adam from the Father. In the Garden, Christ reconciled human nature with the Father by submitting to His Will. He underwent the humiliation of the Cross in obedience to the Father. He was raised from the dead. He dethroned the first Liar and Murderer and repaired the rent in the universe caused long ago by the mighty angels’ terrible rebellion. Christ’s harrowing of hell reunited humanity in one new Body linking Adam and Eve to the Patriarchs, to the Holy Innocents, and the good thief. The Acts testify that Christ's resurrection is when the Psalm was fulfilled, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you." On the night he rose from the dead, He gave His apostles the authority to forgive sins and draw men back into communion. He commissioned them to cast out the demons of the Evil One who were now chained but still capable of great evil. The promise to Isaiah that a son would come from the house of David who would rule over the nations forever was fulfilled. Christ established the kingdom of his Father by establishing a protective communion of fathers to bring humanity back into the household of the Father.

The Apostles were sent to baptize men in the protective communal forms in which they lived -- the nations. Establishing the Kingdom of God provides the best "service" to humanity by establishing authority and protective orders of love which stymie Satan, the murderous Cain, and the treasonous Judas from preying on the sheep of the flock. "Servant leadership" is not an excuse to substitute social work for the authoritative tasks of ruling. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. This is the shared mission of all-male groups from the Catholic priesthood to the Knights of the Round Table to the noble Samurai to the Cristeros to the American state militias. The Christian form of public life is brotherhood because the mission of the Church and the purpose of mankind  is to establish a Kingdom on earth. To actually venture to the periphery with authority takes both courage and numbers. The perimeter is not one's personal rabbit hole. It can not be guarded alone. The masculine outer group protects the feminine interior. Outside, the Apostolic Church stands as a wall of living stones. Inside, the Marian Church beats as a mother's heart of mercy.
Forty days after His resurrection from the dead, the Son returned triumphant from His mission to the Father. The Beloved Son returned to sit at the right hand of his Father. He had instituted the collegial body which could receive the Spirit and carry on His mission.

The Spirit had been a co-conspirator with the Son from His conception to the first battle with Satan in the desert to strengthening him during the Agony to their triumphal harrowing of hell the next day. Now He was sent as a fire from Heaven to the apostolic brotherhood and the people of the upper room. The apostles departed from their hidden conclave to open preaching in the streets of Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit infused them with that necessary virtue that invigorates the masculine group-fortitude. Peter as the head of the Twelve spoke to the "Men of Judea" gathering for one of the pilgrimage feasts that drew the Jews each year into a Jerusalem centered formation. There the Spirit through the Men of Galilee won back in the sacred city the 3000 souls slain 1500 years before in the desert.

When men obey the will of the Father and accept that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven --then men are restored in that love of neighbor which finds expression in the protective brotherhoods of the church and nations. Filial piety begets fraternities of love. It will take a fraternity of men to complete the fighting task of Christ in the expulsion of Satan from his dominions. Men who fished with nets seemed to understand the communal nature of battling forces more powerful than any single man alone. This was to be the original fighting mission of Adam and his sons before Adam’s betrayal and Cain’s murder destroyed the first patriarchal fraternity. The Enemy would always be on the lookout for the personalities who could defeat him -- the feminine Virgin Mother and the masculine brotherhoods of faithful sons. The Devil knows in God’s Providence that after the fiat of a virgin mother, the patriarchy of God would be realized through the shared filial piety of men. Filial piety, sacral brotherhood and the virgin-mother were the ordained forms of love from the beginning that would cast him and his legions from the land of the Living. This is why ultimately the targets of the Protestant revolt were those foundational expressions of the Christian Form: the Mass, the Monasteries, and Mary.


Who murmurs against the rule of the Father? Who mocks the filial piety which perfects adult sons? Who would disassemble the male brotherhoods that protect our life as nations and the Apostolic priesthood which has authority over demons? It is he who was a Liar and a Murderer from the beginning. It is he who threatened the Queen Mother at the birth of her son in Bethlehem and again in the Book of Revelation. It is he who would replace motherhood with abortion and betray brotherhood with kisses. The Muslims practice an instructive tradition in Mecca where large assemblies of believers enact the stoning of Satan. They remind Christians of our own tradition. In Revelation, the great dragon is defeated by the blood of the Lamb and the 144,000 men who knew not women, but were marked with the name of the obedient Son and the Father on their foreheads. The rule of the Father, the compliance of the Beloved Son, the restoration of a sacred fighting brotherhood in the Church and among the nations. Are these not the forms needed to continue our great mission as the Body of Christ -- to evict the Old Serpent, to protect the Virgin-Mother, and to celebrate the Sovereignty of God?

Catholic Sociobiology: Communio theology of Tracey Rowland, Popes John Paul and Benedict

[first published March 1, 2016]

by Dr. David Pence

Tracey Rowland, from Australia, is a favorite lady theologian. This hour-long talk is about culture in the thought of John Paul II and Pope Benedict.

An excerpt:
Most pop culture celebrities are not only post-Christian but their lives are often what philosophers call 'narrative wrecks.' The narrative or story of their life contains so many twists and contradictions that their personal integrity has been shattered. They often employ an entourage of minders, including life coaches, to advise them on how to conduct their professional and private affairs. Whereas the life of an ordinary Christian is described in the sociology journals as a life 'celebrated recurrence' where certain feast days and liturgies are celebrated the same way year after year, and where there is only one model of a perfected humanity, that of Jesus Christ; the lifestyle that was celebrated by the elite of the generation of 1968 was one which gave priority to originality and difference. The more original the lifestyle, the greater its difference from that of an ordinary person, the more likely a person was to qualify for celebrity status. 

This reminds us that  modern evolutionary culture favors progress toward some indeterminate future as the ideal. Christians seek fulfillment through conformity to an already incarnated Person. Surely such a fundamental difference will  be expressed in how we teach both history and the natural sciences.

Here is a short article on Dr Rowland and the theological basis of Catholic education.

Here is another lecture by Dr Rowland on Dostoyevsky and Beauty. She relates this to the Trinitarian Anthropology and emphasis on beauty in the works of Pope Benedict and Hans von Balthasar. She highlights the objection to the rationalism of the West by the great Russian novelist. She then posits that the theologian Joseph Ratzinger resonated with this critique, and began his 'Deus est caritas' encyclical as Pope Benedict with the very un-Kantian Christocentric proposition that "truth is a Person." Behind all the "value-free moralisms," says Benedict, there is a theology and anthropology. Particularly, there is strong predilection toward an "ontology of original violence" found in Hobbes, Freud, and almost all atheist accounts of mankind. This is very different than the Christian Trinitarian/Eden account of human origins.
These insights instruct our own project (see Thursday posts on Christian Realism) in countering the atheistic account of international relations based on Social Darwinism and perpetual conflict. Christian realism is based on a very different anthropology of accord. Pope Benedict called for a "daring new anthropology, Trinitarian and Christocentric." That was exactly the anthropological project of Christopher Dawson proposing a more Christic account of history and the lives of nations.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 22

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


500 YEARS OF PROTESTANTS-MARTIN LUTHER PROCLAMATION WAS IN 1517: A good survey at Christianity Today.

FRANCE A CATHOLIC AWAKENING? Mass attendance is still very low but awakening. France - THE European nation? A captivating essay on her place in geopolitics.

NIGERIA'S CHRISTIANS: When will an African Strategy Emerge - until then a growing faith meets a growing danger.

PRESIDENT TRUMP MESSAGE FOR PASSOVER AND HOLY WEEK: Strong and faithful - this is who we are - Trump is an American Protestant. He understands who we are as a people.

FROM ANTHONY ESOLEN: "...A mob is to a congregation as a 'demonstration' is to a religious procession, as lust is to love, as shouting is to conversation, as wrath is to the hunger for righteousness, as the habituating force of vice is to the liberating habit of virtue. The mob chants a slogan; the people in a procession pray as their fathers did. The mob is sub-rational, and can turn a Socrates into a beast. The procession is supra-rational, and can make the most ordinary of mortals glow like an angel. The procession attracts, the mob appalls - and sometimes attracts precisely because it is appalling..."


FOUR SCHOOLS OF ISLAMIC LAW - WHY SHOULD AN OFFSHOOT OF THE HANBALI SCHOOL DOMINATE THE HOLY CITIES? Wahhabism is a further purification of the most literalist school of law in Islam. The Hanbali school (Ahmad ibn Handball 780-855) is the last of the four main branches of Law. It is centered in Saudi Arabia after its revival by Muhammed ibn Wahhabi (1707-1792). Their alliance with the Saudi clan and their takeover of the Holy Cities from the Hashemites in the 1920's was cemented with the discovery of oil and a new alliance with American oil companies in the 1930's and 40's. That fateful trinity off Wahhabi extremism, Saudi royal rule, and American oil interests now presents the religion of Islam and the nation of America with a culminating crisis. But first it is good to see this is not all Islam, but a faction of a faction.

YEMEN: FIGHTING HOUTHIS HELPS AQAP - OUR REAL ENEMYAn analysis of one of our more dangerous fronts. Saudis. UAE and US: Differences to be exploited in deciding which war to fight in Yemen.

ATTACKING EGYPT'S CHRISTIANS - ISIS STRATEGY IN IRAQ AND YEMEN WAS TO TARGET SHIA. IN EGYPT - TARGET CHRISTIANSUnderstanding the Salafist Sunni strategy and tactics - clarity at Atlantic.


CHRISTIAN EXODUS IRAQ AND SYRIAA living presence diminished - will it be destroyed? Robin Wright on the Mideast Christian exodus.

OLIVER ROY ON WHO BECOMES A JIHADIST: Always he has insights, always he over concludes.




PALM SUNDAY IN EGYPTThe attack. How many Egyptians will favor a policy aggressively protecting Christians? Pope Francis will visit soon.

JERUSALEM - IN THE END WILL IT BE ABOUT THE TEMPLE MOUNT: A good summary of the great dispute between those who would rebuild the Jewish Temple for sacrifice, the Muslims who now abide on the Dome of the Rock, and those awaiting the Messiah.

THE ISRAEL LOBBY - MORE THAN A LOBBY: Phillip Giraldi calmly tells a disturbing tale.

THE UNTOUCHABLE JOHN BRENNAN: By Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen.

ERDOGAN WINS REFERENDUM TO CENTRALIZE RULE IN TURKEYA close vote but a real sentiment that the purpose of government is to govern.

ENTANGLING ALLIANCES: Why is North Korea our problem? Pat Buchanan asks the right questions.


AT THE UN PRO-FAMILY FORCES WIN: The Trump USA, Russia, Africans, and Muslims vs the sexual left.

THE JESUIT, THE CHURCH AND THE MEN WHO KISS: In Jesuit James Martin's speech and now new book he says first the Church should give respect. "First, respect means, at the very least, recognizing that the L.G.B.T. community exists, as any community would want its existence recognized. It also means acknowledging that the L.G.B.T. community brings unique gifts to the church, as every community does." We couldn't agree more. We must start by admitting the huge homosexual subculture among our priests and bishops. That is how we "by recognizing the LGBT community exists." Finally some common ground with James Martin.

James Martin and New Ways Ministry. This Crisis piece is informative about Martin's treachery but seriously deficient in naming the problem. What if Crisis and The Catholic Thing and other American Catholic internet spent half the time on the homosexualization of the priesthood that they do on the their anti-Pope Francis screeds?

The duplicity of the Judas priests associated with homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy is the primary reason a brotherhood of fathers has become a fractured body of effeminate cliques which allowed the widespread clerical sexual abuse of mostly teenage boys. James Martin is the soft face of Judas still pretending to be part of the apostolic band up to the last moments. The gay feminist cult of the media and urban Democratic Party salutes him. Eventually Our Lord told Judas to leave and do what he must to do. Then he cleansed the apostles of the Judas priest with the sacred priestly foot washing. Then he ordered his apostles and all future bishops to do what he had done. We await for one to obey his command.

PIETY AND PATRIOTISMSome reflections on Anthony Esolen Out of the Ashes book. His emphasis is very different than Rod Dreher's Bendict Option. Dreher's book is about a man who formed the patriarchal fraternity (an abbott and his monks) that some say is the cultural basis of Europe and her Catholic nations. Though he is talking about monks and their lessons for a thick Catholic culture he never mentions Fatherhood, filiation and fraternity as the web of foundational relations of public Christianity. This reviewer understands that Esolen is unique in paying attention to some very old Christian rudiments of culture: piety, patriotism, patriarchy, and the need for male groups to socialize young males.

A HISTORY OF JUDGE WARS WITH NIXON AND LBJ: A great history lesson from Pat Buchanan.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday BookReview: "God or Nothing" by Cardinal Sarah

[first published January 8, 2016]

by Dr. David Pence


Robert Sarah was born in Guinea, West Africa (June 15, 1945). His homeland has 12 million people, 85 percent of whom are Muslim. After independence from the French in 1958, the country was ruled by a communist dictator, Sekou Toure, who nationalized all the schools including the seminary where Sarah was studying. He was ordained in 1969. Under Paul VI, he was selected in 1978 to be groomed as the next bishop of the country -- since Archbishop Tchidimbo was imprisoned, with no hope of release inside the country. Pope John Paul II consecrated Sarah as Archbishop of Conakry diocese in 1979, and Tchidimbo was released and exiled. Five years later Toure died suddenly. On his desk was a list of agitators to be eliminated, with Archbishop Sarah at the top of the list. Pope John Paul II called him to Rome to be Secretary of Evangelization of Peoples in 2001. Pope Benedict appointed him President of Cor Unum: the organizing council for the church’s international relief services. Pope Francis appointed him Prefect of Divine Worship and Sacraments in November 2014. He was asked to write an autobiography, but agreed instead to tell his story through this 300-page interview with French journalist Nicolas Diat. Sarah is fluent in his local mother tongue, as well as French -- the language of his education.

The interview is reminiscent of the 1985 book, The Ratzinger Report, when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave his own less biographical, but equally penetrating, insights into the state of the Church. Ratzinger taught with measured eloquent responses about the meaning of liturgy, the loss of the sacred, the documents of Vatican II, and the continuity of the Council in Catholic history. The bestseller was an intellectual synthesis that turbo-charged a whole generation of literate Catholic thinkers reeling from the excesses of their clergy and bishops. He gave us a way to talk that was more than effective argumentation. He showed us the spiritual high ground. This interview with Cardinal Sarah provides a similar synthesis pointing to a higher path.  But this time it is not a German professor talking. And, frankly, to untie the peculiar knots that bind the Church today, we don’t need another professor. Particularly "conservative intellectuals," who seem so puzzled by the pope from Argentina, should walk for a mile with the cardinal from Guinea. The walk is a peaceful reorientation.                              
Guinea, Africa


"He was more of an innovator than his superficial critics would have you believe. His 1957 encyclical 'Fidei donumin' on the renewal of the missions, inspired in part by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (a missionary Holy Ghost Father), was… written especially with a view to Africa. He was the first to consecrate African bishops, in particular, Bernardin Gantin. His interest in a native African episcopacy was real.

"The Cathedral at Conarky was elegant… At the time of the first discussions about liturgical reform, Archbishop Tchidimbo returned to Conarky and ordered the destruction of the baldachin (a canopy) and the main altar. We were angry, incredulous at this hasty decision. I can attest that the botched preparation for liturgical reform had devastating effects on the Catholic population, particularly on the simpler people… The liturgy is not a political object that we can make more egalitarian according to social demands… How could such a strange movement produce in the life of the Church anything but great confusion among the people?

Nevertheless, the idea of John XXIII was extraordinary… At the seminary as we studied the various constitutions, we were awestruck by the work of the Fathers. I am convinced that Pope John wished that the faithful would experience great intimacy with God. He wanted believers to enter into deeper spirituality; indeed the spiritual vision of man is the source of his program of reform. His concern about adapting to modern times never caused him to forget the transcendental necessity of evangelization work. And so his denunciation of 'prophets of doom' is correct. The fight against Soviet Communism and its expansion around the world was so difficult that it gave rise to a form of defeatism. Some circles did not believe sufficiently in the power of Christ."

"He had to deal with extraordinarily difficult upheavals. Many priests left the priesthood. Convents emptied out and many nuns set aside their habits. Little by little the Spirit of the age caused the disappearance of the sign that God's hand had been placed on those who had devoted their lives to the Lord. There was a widespread impression that even among the consecrated persons the presence of God was forbidden! For the Pope this meant terrible suffering. His sorrow did not prevent him from standing firm... Paul VI was a prophet."

"God gave those few weeks in the summer of 1978 a marvelous brilliance because John Paul I had the smile, simplicity, and the radiance of children. His gentleness was so profound that it became a dazzling purity. Given the impurity of some, even in the Church, I think he did not die in vain."
John Paul I, son of a bricklayer in northern Italy

"All those very productive years can be traced back to the three pillars of his interior life, which were the Cross, the Eucharist, and the Blessed Virgin, Crux, Hostia, et Virgo. His extraordinary faith sought the foundations for its strength only in the most ordinary tools of the  Christian life."

"The cultures of the Polish philosopher and the German theologian, the athletic ascetic and the 'Benedictine' professor were different. Yet the popes met in the depths of their spiritualities. Maybe some people inside and outside the church never accepted the fundamental insights of Benedict XVI. As early as 2005, he was lucidly aware of the situation. During the Mass of his inauguration, did he not ask, 'Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.' In thinking about him I hear these words, "I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith." The pope had reached his decision on his knees before the Cross. Benedict XVI resigned from his office with the conviction that this was keeping with God’s will. All his life he had sought God; once again God showed him the way."

"In Deus caritas est, Benedict XVI writes that 'at the origin of being a Christian there is not an ethical decision, a philosophical or moral idea, but an encounter with an event, a Person.' Pope Francis rightly refuses to give a pervasive place to moral questions without minimizing them, however. He considers that the most important encounter is with Christ and his Gospel; the Holy Father acts like Benedict who tried to distinguish morality from the essence of Christianity... John Paul II himself explained that the path marked out by the Divine Law is not a moral police ordinance, but the mind of God. Pope Francis is not afraid to say that the greatest threat is 'the gray pragmatism of daily life of the Church in which all appears to proceed normally, while in reality faith is wearing down and degenerating into small-mindedness. A tomb psychology develops which turns Christians to mummies… Called to radiate light and communicate life, in the end they generate only darkness and inner weariness and slowly consume all zeal for the apostolate. For all this I repeat, Let us not lose the joy of evangelization.' "


"A seminarian is first and foremost the work of the priests who have accompanied him… The priests who accompanied me insisted on the interior life. I understood that the greatest way to be with the Son of God made man was still the liturgy.

At the Mass, the priest is face to face with God. The Mass is the most important thing in our lives. And the Divine Office, the breviary, prepares us for it. I remember how enthralled I was when I saw the Holy Ghost fathers walking every afternoon reading their breviaries… I never tired of watching them with a sense of awe. Every day the Holy Ghost fathers lived by the rhythm of the Divine Office, Mass, work, and the rosary, and they never shirked from their duties as men of God. How many times I was gripped by the silence that reigned in the church during the fathers’ prayers... They seemed to be listening and conversing with someone in the semi-darkness of the church lit by candles… There is a true heroism, greatness, and nobility in this life of regular prayer. Man is great only when he is on his knees before God."

"Recall that, for a long time, the prophet Elijah [pictured] remained hidden in a cave before hearing the soft whisper of heaven. Yes, I will say it again, prayer consists in the first place of remaining silent for a long time. We must often nestle close to the Virgin of silence to ask her to obtain for us the grace of loving silence and interior virginity, in other words a purity of heart and a willingness to listen that banishes any presence except God’s. The Holy Spirit is in us but we are often filled with orchestras that drown out his voice. There is no spiritual fruitfulness except in a virginal silence… For a long time I have thought that prayer can take shape only in the night. In darkness we are illumined only by God. Like Jacob, and the monks, it is important to learn to pray in the middle of the night, while all creation is seeking sleep. Prayer at night plunges us back into the darkness of the death of Jesus…"

"We must be precise in our choice of words. The language of the UN and of its agencies who want to suppress poverty, which they confuse with destitution, is not the language of the Church of Christ. The Son of God did not come to speak to the poor in ideological slogans. In the fight against destitution there is one fundamental dimension which consists of restoring to man his vocation as a child of God and his joy in belonging to the family of God.  The Son of God loves the poor; others plan to eradicate them. What a lying, unrealistic, almost tyrannical utopia!"

"The God of my ancestors is the Creator of the universe and all that exists. He is the Supreme Being, ineffable, incomprehensible,invisible, and intangible. Yet, He is at the center of our lives and permeates our entire existence.

The Holy Cross missionaries were completely consumed by the fire of God’s love. They had exceptional human, intellectual, and spiritual qualities, but they all died very young.
The Church in Guinea experienced a terrible way of the Cross... Dictatorship drove the people to exhaustion, lies, brutality, mediocrity, and spiritual poverty. The entire young nation was transformed into a valley of tears. I thank the missionaries who made me understand that the Cross is the center of the world, the heart of mankind, and the place where our stability is anchored… Stat Crux, dum volvitur orbis ('Only the Cross stands, and the world revolves around it'). "

(on Pope Francis calling the liturgy of pedophile priests 'a black Mass')
"The Pope gave mature reflection to the full scope of such a comparison. How can a priest who has attacked an innocent child with such extraordinary violence then celebrate Holy Mass? After committing such a serious sexual crime, the priest can no longer carry the consecrated Host in his hands. If he continues to celebrate Mass, he has made a pact with the devil. A pedophile act ontologically affects the very being of the priest, consequently the priestly bond that attaches him to Christ is gone. The breach is so extreme that he can no longer enter into communion with Jesus. Francis decided to denounce black masses so as to flush out the devil and bring his misdeeds into the light of day.  Francis deserves our thanks and gratitude for his courage. The devil will seek his revenge."

At the Synod on the Family in October 2015, Cardinal Sarah made an intervention -- understanding he was addressing many European and American bishops who had made their own pact with the Evil One in condoning consenting homosexual acts.

"A theological discernment enables us to see in our time two unexpected threats (almost like two 'apocalyptic beasts') located on opposite poles: on the one hand, the idolatry of Western freedom; on the other, Islamic fundamentalism: atheistic secularism versus religious fanaticism. To use a slogan, we find ourselves between 'gender ideology and ISIS.'

Islamic massacres and libertarian demands regularly contend for the front page of the newspapers. (Let us remember what happened last June 26!) From these two radicalizations arise the two major threats to the family: its subjectivist disintegration in the secularized West through quick and easy divorce, abortion, homosexual unions, euthanasia etc. (cf. Gender theory, the ‘Femen’, the LGBT lobby, IPPF...) On the other hand, the pseudo-family of ideologized Islam which legitimizes polygamy, female subservience, sexual slavery, child marriage etc. (cf. Al Qaeda, Isis, Boko Haram...)

Several clues enable us to intuit the same demonic origin of these two movements. Unlike the Spirit of Truth that promotes communion in the distinction ('perichoresis'), these encourage confusion ('homo-gamy') or subordination ('poly-gamy'). Furthermore, they demand a universal and totalitarian rule, are violently intolerant, destroyers of families, society and the Church, and are openly Christianophobic.

"We are not contending against creatures of flesh and blood..." We need to be inclusive and welcoming to all that is human; but what comes from the Enemy cannot and must not be assimilated. You cannot join Christ and Belia. What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today."

"The best example of the disappearance of the head on battles of the past is still the Russian Orthodox Church.  After so much violence, so much destruction, it is now at the center of the debates, reversing the movement of insidious atheism that has carried off almost all of Western Europe. Orthodoxy has allowed the Russian nation to avoid the traps so that now it is a country that makes significant room for God and faith."

"Joseph Ratzinger understood quite accurately the fact that Pope John XXIII wanted first of all to respond to the challenge for the modern world: receiving God as He manifested Himself in Jesus Christ. Here are the words of Pope John at the opening of Vatican II: 'The serious problems confronting the world after almost two thousand years remain unchanged. Jesus Christ is ever resplendent as the center of history and of life. Men are either with Him and His Church… or else they are without Him, or against Him' …From the start of Vatican II, although concerned about aggiornamento, the renewal of the Church, and the reunion of Christians, the Pope strongly emphasized that the Council’s chief task was to reveal God to the world, to defend and promote doctrine. That is why the church, while rejoicing in the admirable inventions of human genius and in the progress of science and technology, had to remind mankind that beyond the visible aspect of things, the primordial duty remains to turn to God. For John XXIII, the Council was first of all an encounter with God in prayer, with Mary like the apostles in the upper room on the eve of Pentecost... In order to see that everything at the heart of the conciliar documents was centered on and oriented toward God, Benedict XVI invited us to reflect on how they are ordered. He says the architecture of the documents has an essentially theocentric orientation…beginning with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy… Before all else in the Church there is adoration and therefore God… Now if there is one reality too often left out of consideration, it is certainly the consubstantial relationship of the liturgy and God. The foundation of the liturgy must remain the search for God... The Council spoke to mankind about this God who is the God of all, who saves all and is accessible to all. Vatican II intended to subordinate its discourse about the Church to its discourse about God and to propose an ecclesiology along theological lines. The Council does not consider the Church a self-enclosed reality, but sees her in terms of Christ."

"The estrangement from God is not caused by reasoning but by a wish to be detached from him. The atheistic orientation of a life is almost always a decision by the will. Man does not want to reflect on his relationship with God because he intends himself to be God. His model is Prometheus, the mythological figure who stole the sacred fire so as to give it to men; the individual embarked on a mission to appropriate God instead of adore Him... This is so-called 'Enlightenment.' The individual-king who aspires more and more to independence and autonomy tends to forget God. Man must not be turned in on himself. Precisely the opposite orientation assures him of balance and life… If we are faithful, always directing our soul to the divine light, we will become luminous in turn, as the flowers take on a resemblance to the Sun. The normal orientation will produce order, balance, tranquility, and peace."

[I received this book in October 2015 from a seminarian in Washington DC. Copies were given by Apostolic Nuncio Viganò to seminarians and those training for religious life during the visit to America by Pope Francis. What a gift!]

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Christian Realism: Bonaventure and History by Pope Benedict

by David Pence

(From a papal audience given March 10, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI on how the Franciscan saint, Bonaventure (1221-1274), dealt with a movement that divided world history into ages -- leaving a last modern era in which spiritualists liberated from past Christian traditions would be truly free for a new age of innovations):

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last week I spoke of the life and personality of St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. This morning I would like to continue my presentation, reflecting on part of his literary opus and on his doctrine.
As I have already said, among St Bonaventure's various merits was the ability to interpret authentically and faithfully St Francis of Assisi, whom he venerated and studied with deep love.

In a special way, in St Bonaventure's day a trend among the Friars Minor known as the "Spirituals" held that St Francis had ushered in a totally new phase in history and that the "eternal Gospel", of which Revelation speaks, had come to replace the New Testament. This group declared that the Church had now fulfilled her role in history. They said that she had been replaced by a charismatic community of free men guided from within by the Spirit, namely the "Spiritual Franciscans." This group's ideas were based on the writings of a Cistercian Abbot, Joachim of Fiore, who died in 1202. In his works he affirmed a Trinitarian rhythm in history. He considered the Old Testament as the age of the Fathers, followed by the time of the Son, the time of the Church. The third age was to be awaited, that of the Holy Spirit. The whole of history was thus interpreted as a history of progress:  from the severity of the Old Testament to the relative freedom of the time of the Son, in the Church, to the full freedom of the Sons of God in the period of the Holy Spirit. This, finally, was also to be the period of peace among mankind, of the reconciliation of peoples and of religions. Joachim of Fiore had awakened the hope that the new age would stem from a new form of monasticism. Thus it is understandable that a group of Franciscans might have thought it recognized St Francis of Assisi as the initiator of the new epoch and his Order as the community of the new period the community of the Age of the Holy Spirit that left behind the hierarchical Church in order to begin the new Church of the Spirit, no longer linked to the old structures.

Hence they ran the risk of very seriously misunderstanding St Francis' message, of his humble fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. This error entailed an erroneous vision of Christianity as a whole.

St Bonaventure, who became Minister General of the Franciscan Order in 1257, had to confront grave tension in his Order precisely because of those who supported the above-mentioned trend of the "Franciscan Spirituals" who followed Joachim of Fiore. To respond to this group and to restore unity to the Order, St Bonaventure painstakingly studied the authentic writings of Joachim of Fiore, as well as those attributed to him and, bearing in mind the need to present the figure and message of his beloved St Francis correctly, he wanted to set down a correct view of the theology of history. St Bonaventure actually tackled the problem in his last work, a collection of conferences for the monks of the studium in Paris. He did not complete it and it has come down to us through the transcriptions of those who heard him. It is entitled Hexaëmeron, in other words an allegorical explanation of the six days of the Creation. The Fathers of the Church considered the six or seven days of the Creation narrative as a prophecy of the history of the world, of humanity. For them, the seven days represented seven periods of history, later also interpreted as seven millennia. With Christ we should have entered the last, that is, the sixth period of history that was to be followed by the great sabbath of God. St Bonaventure hypothesizes this historical interpretation of the account of the days of the Creation, but in a very free and innovative way. To his mind two phenomena of his time required a new interpretation of the course of history.

The first:  the figure of St Francis, the man totally united with Christ even to communion with the stigmata, almost an alter Christus, and, with St Francis, the new community he created, different from the monasticism known until then. This phenomenon called for a new interpretation, as an innovation of God whichappeared at that moment.

The second:  the position of Joachim of Fiore who announced a new monasticism and a totally new period of history, going beyond the revelation of the New Testament, demanded a response. As Minister General of the Franciscan Order, St Bonaventure had immediately realized that with the spiritualistic conception inspired by Joachim of Fiore, the Order would become ungovernable and logically move towards anarchy. In his opinion this had two consequences:
The first, the practical need for structures and for insertion into the reality of the hierarchical Church, of the real Church, required a theological foundation. This was partly because the others, those who followed the spiritualist concept, upheld what seemed to have a theological foundation.
The second, while taking into account the necessary realism, made it essential not to lose the newness of the figure of St Francis.

How did St Bonaventure respond to the practical and theoretical needs? Here I can only provide a very basic summary of his answer and it is in certain aspects incomplete:

1. St Bonaventure rejected the idea of the Trinitarian rhythm of history. God is one for all history and is not tri-theistic. Hence history is one, even if it is a journey and, according to St Bonaventure, a journey of progress.

2. Jesus Christ is God's last word in him God said all, giving and expressing himself. More than himself, God cannot express or give. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. Christ himself says of the Holy Spirit:  "He will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14: 26), and "he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16: 15). Thus there is no loftier Gospel,there is no other Church to await. Therefore the Order of St Francis too must fit into this Church, into her faith and into her hierarchical order.

3. This does not mean that the Church is stationary, fixed in the past, or that there can be no newness within her. "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt":  Christ's works do not go backwards, they do not fail but progress, the Saint said in his letter De Tribus Quaestionibus. Thus St Bonaventure explicitly formulates the idea of progress and this is an innovation in comparison with the Fathers of the Church and the majority of his contemporaries. For St Bonaventure Christ was no longer the end of history, as he was for the Fathers of the Church, but rather its center; history does not end with Christ but begins a new period. The following is another consequence:  until that moment the idea that the Fathers of the Church were the absolute summit of theology predominated, all successive generations could only be their disciples. St Bonaventure also recognized the Fathers as teachers for ever, but the phenomenon of St Francis assured him that the riches of Christ's word are inexhaustible and that new light could also appear to the new generations. The oneness of Christ also guarantees newness and renewal in all the periods of history.

The Franciscan Order of course as he emphasized belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the apostolic Church, and cannot be built on utopian spiritualism. Yet, at the same time, the newness of this Order in comparison with classical monasticism was valid and St Bonaventure as I said in my previous Catechesis defended this newness against the attacks of the secular clergy of Paris:  the Franciscans have no fixed monastery, they may go everywhere to proclaim the Gospel. It was precisely the break with stability, the characteristic of monasticism, for the sake of a new flexibility that restored to the Church her missionary dynamism.

At this point it might be useful to say that today too there are views that see the entire history of the Church in the second millennium as a gradual decline. Some see this decline as having already begun immediately after the New Testament. In fact, "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt":  Christ's works do not go backwards but forwards. What would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the spirituality of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and so forth? This affirmation applies today too: "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt", they move forward. St Bonaventure teaches us the need for overall, even strict discernment, sober realism and openness to the newness, which Christ gives his Church through the Holy Spirit. And while this idea of decline is repeated, another idea, this "spiritualistic utopianism" is also reiterated. Indeed, we know that after the Second Vatican Council some were convinced that everything was new, that there was a different Church, that the pre-Conciliar Church was finished and that we had another, totally "other" Church an anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God the wise helmsmen of the Barque of St Peter, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on the one hand defended the newness of the Council, and on the other, defended the oneness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.

4. In this regard, St Bonaventure, as Minister General of the Franciscans, took a line of government which showed clearly that the new Order could not, as a community, live at the same "eschatological height" as St Francis, in whom he saw the future world anticipated, but guided at the same time by healthy realism and by spiritual courage he had to come as close as possible to the maximum realization of the Sermon on the Mount, which for St Francis was the rule, but nevertheless bearing in mind the limitations of the human being who is marked by original sin.

Thus we see that for St Bonaventure governing was not merely action but above all was thinking and praying. At the root of his government we always find prayer and thought; all his decisions are the result of reflection, of thought illumined by prayer. His intimate contact with Christ always accompanied his work as Minister General and therefore he composed a series of theological and mystical writings that express the soul of his government. They also manifest his intention of guiding the Order inwardly, that is, of governing not only by means of commands and structures, but by guiding and illuminating souls, orienting them to Christ.

I would like to mention only one of these writings, which are the soul of his government and point out the way to follow, both for the individual and for the community:  the Itinerarium mentis in Deum, [The Mind's Road to God], which is a "manual" for mystical contemplation. This book was conceived in a deeply spiritual place:  Mount La Verna, where St Francis had received the stigmata. In the introduction the author describes the circumstances that gave rise to this writing:  "While I meditated on the possible ascent of the mind to God, amongst other things there occurred that miracle which happened in the same place to the blessed Francis himself, namely the vision of the winged Seraph in the form of a Crucifix. While meditating upon this vision, I immediately saw that it offered me the ecstatic contemplation of Fr Francis himself as well as the way that leads to it" (cf. The Mind's Road to God, Prologue, 2, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici / 1, Rome 1993, p. 499).
The six wings of the Seraph thus became the symbol of the six stages that lead man progressively from the knowledge of God, through the observation of the world and creatures and through the exploration of the soul itself with its faculties, to the satisfying union with the Trinity through Christ, in imitation of St Francis of Assisi. The last words of St Bonaventure's Itinerarium, which respond to the question of how it is possible to reach this mystical communion with God, should be made to sink to the depths of the heart:  "If you should wish to know how these things come about, (the mystical communion with God) question grace, not instruction; desire, not intellect; the cry of prayer, not pursuit of study; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness, not clarity; not light, but the fire that inflames all and transports to God with fullest unction and burning affection.... Let us then... pass over into darkness; let us impose silence on cares, concupiscence, and phantasms; let us pass over with the Crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that when the Father is shown to us we may say with Philip, "It is enough for me'" (cf. ibid., VII 6).

Dear friends, let us accept the invitation addressed to us by St Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, and learn at the school of the divine Teacher:  let us listen to his word of life and truth that resonates in the depths of our soul. Let us purify our thoughts and actions so that he may dwell within us and that we may understand his divine voice which draws us towards true happiness.

Church of St Bonaventure in Lyon, France