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The usual stuff…

Francis’ Message for Lent 2020: A Critical Review

It’s almost Lent and so the Vatican has published Francis’ Lenten message for this year. Once again it displays the usual Bergoglian approach: He excessively emphasizes the temporal over the eternal and places the supernatural at the service of the natural. Sound familiar?

Let’s have a critical look at some of what he says.

Jorge Bergoglio begins thus:

This year the Lord grants us, once again, a favourable time to prepare to celebrate with renewed hearts the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the cornerstone of our personal and communal Christian life. We must continually return to this mystery in mind and heart, for it will continue to grow within us in the measure that we are open to its spiritual power and respond with freedom and generosity.

There is nothing objectionable here. He starts out well, emphasizing the importance which Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection must have in our lives, especially during Lent. But now let’s look at what he does with it:

Christian joy flows from listening to, and accepting, the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This kerygma sums up the mystery of a love “so real, so true, so concrete, that it invites us to a relationship of openness and fruitful dialogue” (Christus Vivit, 117).

So here comes the mention of a favorite buzzword of the New Theology, “kerygma.” It basically means the proclamation of the saving truth of the Gospel, but kerygma sounds just so much deeper, doesn’t it?

In any case, it takes a Novus Ordo Modernist to make this kerygma about an invitation “to a relationship of openness and fruitful dialogue”. No Gentile or Jew would have taken offense at that, and our Blessed Lord would not have been betrayed and condemned to death for inviting people to open dialogue.

Whoever believes this message rejects the lie that our life is ours to do with as we will. Rather, life is born of the love of God our Father, from his desire to grant us life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). If we listen instead to the tempting voice of the “father of lies” (Jn 8:44), we risk sinking into the abyss of absurdity, and experiencing hell here on earth, as all too many tragic events in the personal and collective human experience sadly bear witness.

Bergoglio is right to remind people that life is not ours to do with as we please. We must conform our lives to God’s Will, especially His Commandments, so that we may arrive at Eternal Life (see Mk 10:17-19). This is possible only with the help of His grace and with His merciful forgiveness of our sins.

Of course Francis doesn’t even bring up the supernatural aspect or ultimate purpose of man’s existence. He speaks of “life in abundance” but neglects to mention that this is in reference to Eternal Bliss in Heaven, prefigured by the abundant supernatural life of grace on earth. Instead, Francis warns his hearers of “sinking into the abyss of absurdity” — which could mean anything and certainly doesn’t point people to the supernatural. He then for once mentions the word “hell” but only in conjunction with the temporal, natural world by adding “here on earth”, lest anyone’s thoughts should be directed towards the hard truth that man’s destiny will be found in eternity and not “here on earth.”

Thus we see Francis taking God’s message of eternal salvation and redirecting it to becoming a message of avoiding troubles in this life. He cleverly creates the impression in people’s minds that God wishes to give us abundant natural life on earth, when the truth is that He is calling us to a much nobler destiny.

In this Lent of 2020, I would like to share with every Christian what I wrote to young people in the Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit: “Keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified, let yourself be saved over and over again. And when you go to confess your sins, believe firmly in his mercy which frees you of your guilt. Contemplate his blood poured out with such great love, and let yourself be cleansed by it. In this way, you can be reborn ever anew” (No. 123). Jesus’ Pasch is not a past event; rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit it is ever present, enabling us to see and touch with faith the flesh of Christ in those who suffer.

This paragraph starts out encouraging contemplation of the Crucified — which is good in itself — but only in order to talk about how God offers the forgiveness of sins. There is no mention of penance, of mortification, of making reparation for sin, of relieving the souls in purgatory, or of the necessity of supernatural contrition for a valid absolution (as opposed to being sorry for one’s sins merely in order to avoid “hell here on earth”, for example). Of course not every one of these aspects must be mentioned every time one talks about the Crucified Lord, but it would have come in handy for a Catholic Lenten message, for these are all distinctively Catholic ideas. The forgiveness of sins, on the other hand, is quite ecumenism-friendly, which any Lutheran, any Baptist, any Methodist affirms as well.

Having spoken about the Sacrifice of the Cross, it would have been appropriate for Francis to mention the Holy Mass next, for it is the timeless re-enactment of this same Sacrifice. Instead, however, he only speaks of the Holy Eucharist (“Jesus’ Pasch”) and immediately redirects the attention from the supernatural to the natural: “…enabling us to see and touch with faith the flesh of Christ in those who suffer.”

Here we can see that, for the papal pretender, the Body and Blood of Christ are not Ends in Themselves, to be adored and thanked and glorified in all the tabernacles of the world for the simple reason that They are God, in whom we find the very purpose of our existence, and who is infinitely worthy of our adoration and thanksgiving and praise. Rather, for Francis the Body and Blood of Christ exist only as a catalyst for relieving temporal suffering. For him, Christ left us His Body and Blood not primarily for a supernatural end — such as the prefigurement of the Beatific Vision, the forgiveness of venial sins, advancing in perfection, and fortifying ourselves against temptation and assisting us in the practice of all virtues — but simply so that we would go and help the needy.

Naturally, the corporal works of mercy are included in the practice of virtue, but Bergoglio places excessive emphasis on them, while neglecting so many other aspects that are of equal or even greater importance. We are reminded of our Blessed Lord’s words to the Pharisees: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and have left the weightier things of the law; judgment, and mercy, and faith. These things you ought to have done, and not to leave those undone” (Mt 23:23).

We encounter Francis’ mode of operation again in the remainder of his Lenten message. Although he devotes a few paragraphs to talking about conversion to God and His holy Will, especially through prayer and the reading of Scripture, this is followed by a renewed focus on the temporal — as though that were essentially all that mattered, as though God’s Will for us were all about making the world a better place:

Putting the paschal mystery at the centre of our lives means feeling compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence. They are likewise present in environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry.

There we go again. The Crucifixion is hijacked and claimed to be more or less “present in” all sorts of worldly turmoil and suffering. Interestingly enough, every single one of the evils Francis mentions are mundane and temporal, having man — not God — as the prime target. He mentions war, murder, violence, environmental pollution, economic injustice, human trafficking, and greed. The latter he refers to as “idolatry” but of course only in a metaphorical sense.

Granted, all of these problems are genuine evils, and Francis is not wrong to point out that we should help others find relief from them, as far as is possible (see Jas 2:14-17). The problem lies in Francis’ excessive and one-sided emphasis. Notice that any evils of a predominantly supernatural kind, or those that have God as their direct target, he does not mention at all.

For example, here are some problems he could have mentioned as needing Catholics’ attention, but he didn’t: the near-universal apostasy from the true Faith; the outrageous blasphemies committed ever more frequently against Jesus Christ and His holy Mother in secular societies; the rapid spread of heretical sects and countless philosophical and theological errors, especially in once-Catholic regions; the abominable separation of Church and state found in virtually every Western nation on earth; the overthrow of the Kingship of Christ from society; the commonplace profanation of Sundays and Holydays through unnecessary servile work, needless shopping, and sinful amusements; men’s indifference to and neglect of their duties towards God; many people’s catastrophic ignorance in matters of religion; the lack of genuine evangelization and prayer for the conversion of sinners; the prevalence of human respect, leading people to offend God rather than man; and so forth. This conspicuous (and constant!) omission on Bergoglio’s part results in him presenting a horrifically distorted picture in favor of Naturalism.

The next sentence is perhaps the most revealing of Francis’ true aims, and it is the last one we will consider in this post:

Today too, there is a need to appeal to men and women of good will to share, by almsgiving, their goods with those most in need, as a means of personally participating in the building of a better world.

That indeed is his goal: making the world a better place.

It is not wrong to try to make the world a better place, but it is wrong to make that the soleprimary, or ultimate aim of men. In fact, the primary purpose even of almsgiving — if it is to be true Christian almsgiving — must be supernatural. As is the case with any other good deed, we must give alms for the love of God above all else: “For whosoever shall give you to drink a cup of water in my name, because you belong to Christ: amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mk 9:40). Through God’s grace this can help us merit eternal life, relieve the souls in purgatory, and make reparation for sin. But such are all supernatural considerations, totally neglected by Francis.

Our Blessed Lord told us that “the poor you have always with you” (Mt 26:11). While we must not use that as an excuse not to assist the needy (cf. Mt 25:31-46), it would be blasphemous to claim that poverty could ever be eradicated, as Socialists pretend.

Pope Leo XIII has an eloquent rebuff for Bergoglio and those who think like him:

…[The] pains and hardships of life will have no end or cessation on earth; for the consequences of sin are bitter and hard to bear, and they must accompany man so long as life lasts. To suffer and to endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity; let them strive as they may, no strength and no artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it. If any there are who pretend differently — who hold out to a hard-pressed people the boon of freedom from pain and trouble, an undisturbed repose, and constant enjoyment — they delude the people and impose upon them, and their lying promises will only one day bring forth evils worse than the present. Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere, as We have said, for the solace to its troubles.

As for those who possess not the gifts of fortune, they are taught by the Church that in God’s sight poverty is no disgrace, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of in earning their bread by labor. This is enforced by what we see in Christ Himself, who, “whereas He was rich, for our sakes became poor”; and who, being the Son of God, and God Himself, chose to seem and to be considered the son of a carpenter — nay, did not disdain to spend a great part of His life as a carpenter Himself. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?”

(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Rerum Novarum, n. 18, 23)

Here we see a true Pope raising people from the natural to the supernatural — the very opposite of what Francis usually does.

As Ash Wednesday comes around, expect Francis to introduce yet another Naturalist Lent.

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