Mark Shea's Blog: So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I don't know if you have time to respond to individual questions like this, but I thought I might at least try. I've been trying to find someone who can explain to me why Venerable John Paul II's actions were correct regarding the whole "Assisi thing" that seems to be running rampant on blogs and sites these days. Most of the detailed articles are on the offensive, and most of the defensive articles are of more of a "don't be silly" nature than doing any explaining about WHY it was okay for him to pray with people of other faiths. While I think of him with reverence and I love his Theology of the Body etc, I have to admit that the "traditionalists" have me a little confused about the interfaith thing and how it meshes with not compromising on the first commandment. For example, somewhere it said that Pope John Paul II participated in a ritual that had to do with scattering water in honor of one's ancestors, and another place it had him kissing the Koran. Being that my dad (a fallen-away Catholic) espouses the "there are many roads up the mountain to God, not just Christianity" philosophy and it took me a long time to get rid of that error myself, I feel sort of like the Pope was encouraging my dad's error. Can you explain to me why it was okay?
R. Sungenis: It is encouraging to see this questioner appeal to the traditional understanding of the sensus fidelium. It really bothers him that the pope, whom he loves (as we all should) undertook such a disturbing and novel departure from the sensus fidelium upheld by all his papal predecessors. I’m glad to see he is troubled. It shows that the faithful retain the capacity to see Assisi for what it was.
M. Shea: Re: Assisi. Go here.
R. Sungenis: I’ll give Mr. Shea credit for at least trying to answer the question. That’s more than I can say for the rest of the “Catholic apologists” who work in Shea’s circles.
M. Shea: Bottom line: there was no prayer in common at Assisi.
R. Sungenis: Let’s just say, for the sake of argument that Shea’s distinction is valid (that is, that Assisi was legitimate because the pagans prayed to their false gods separately from Christians who prayed to the true God). So what does Shea make of the fact that John Paul II traveled many times to foreign countries, met there with pagan religious practioners, and prayed in common with them? For example, in August 1985 John Paul II went to a pagan sanctuary in West Africa. His own words state precisely what happened there: “the prayer meeting in the sanctuary at Lake Togo was particularly striking. There I prayed for the first time with animists.” This is prayer in common at its utmost, and it was not an isolated incident.
Moreover, if Shea’s reasoning were correct, then what was the point of gathering at Assisi in the first place? John Paul II and his pagan practioners could have prayed separately in their respective countries without, among many other horrendous things, subjecting Catholics to seeing pagans put a statue of Buddah on our sacred altar.
In the end, all the talk about Assisi “not allowing prayer in common” is merely an attempt to divert our attention from the real issue. The real issue with Assisi is that the Catholic Church invited pagans to come to one place to pray to their false gods, thus promoting idol worship and giving the message that the Catholic Church condones and encourages such idol worship. Whether or not the Catholic Church prayed with, by, next to, around, separately, or co-mingling is all beside the point. It is just an attempt to defend this abomination by using semantics. John Paul proved it when he went to Lake Togo.
The second problem with Assisi is that these same pagans were never given the Gospel. They were sent home believing that praying to their pagan gods was perfectly acceptable. Instead of the pagans being encouraged to seek conversion to Christianity, the message resonating in them after Assisi was that their religion was just as good as Catholicism, enough where they, by some strange vicarious exchange between their false gods and the true God, could seek for divine favors just like Catholics.
With the above in view, let’s look at Assisi in perspective. The first Assisi was in 1986, two years after John Paul II did a “consecration” in 1984. Many claim that the 1984 consecration fulfilled the Fatima request to consecrate Russia. Let’s say for the sake of argument that it did. Then peace should have reigned, since Russia would have been neutralized of its reign of terror around the world by heaven itself. But such wasn’t that case. In fact, John Paul II’s own biographer, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who wrote A Life with Karol, says that there was a political impetus for Assisi, particularly the cold war with Russia and the communist block; and that because of it and further trouble spots (e.g., the Balkans and the Persian Gulf), John Paul II was searching for a way to attain peace in the world. According to Dzisisz, an idea came to him by a sudden inspiration – calling all the world’s religions together to pray for peace.
But wait a minute. If John Paul II did a legitimate consecration in 1984 that fulfilled the Fatima vision, then where was the peace promised from such a consecration, and why was John Paul II so worried about not seeing any peace in the world? Keep in mind that his Assisi gathering was just two years after his alleged Fatima consecration, which also means that the planning of Assisi must have occurred earlier than 1986, for large events like Assisi are not put together overnight. So within a year or so after his 1984 consecration, John Paul II is already fretting about not seeing world peace. Did heaven miss its call? So he organizes Assisi to take care of the problem. But why? Why didn’t he give ample time for his 1984 consecration to work? Didn’t he trust Our Lady and her Son to give what they promised if, indeed, a valid consecration was performed in 1984? After all, hadn’t we been waiting for a valid consecration of the Fatima vision since 1929 when it was first issued, while we watched pope after pope fail to fulfill it? If the Fatima consecration were finally fulfilled in 1984 wouldn’t we be expecting heaven to just shower us with peace and prosperity after 50 years of hell on earth?
Be that as it may, why did John Paul II call all the pagan nations to pray to their false gods in 1986 when at his 1984 consecration he was told by heaven to call all the bishops of the world together to pray? [not to mention the fact that he never did call the bishops to the 1984 consecration].
I’m sorry, but this whole series of events simply doesn’t pass the sniff test. Perhaps the real reason John Paul II wasn’t seeing any peace in the world after his 1984 consecration was that he didn’t do a valid consecration. He failed just as Pius XII failed in 1942 and 1952, by both failing to mention “Russia” in the consecration and failing to call the bishops to do the consecration with him. No wonder there was no peace forthcoming. Why would we expect heaven to answer such blatant disobedience?
So in desperation, in 1986 John Paul II makes up his own method of appeasing God by bringing pagans to Italy to pray to Him; and thereby he denies heaven’s specific directives given at Fatima – consecrate Russia and pray only with the bishops, not pagans. Additionally, in his disobedience John Paul II seems so infatuated with himself and his own ideas that he not only calls pagans to Assisi to break the First Commandment, he gives himself first billing in the Fatima vision by saying that he was the “bishop in white that was killed with arrows” – an interpretation that even the secular press thought was ludicrous.
Of course, departing from God’s plan and implementing one’s own is nothing new. The Old Testament is filled with such instances. From Abraham’s taking of Hagar as his wife, to Moses striking the rock twice instead of once, to Ahaz refusing to take God’s help and instead going to the cultic nations around him. The Jews were always making things more difficult than they really were. By their meticulous adherence to legalizm they made it seem as if God wanted them to climb mountains and cross seas in order to attain heaven. But God said no. Neither mountains nor seas need to be conquered; only humble submission to his word is all that is needed (cf. Deut 30:12; Rom 10:6).
What was John Paul II’s “mountain” and “sea” he made for himself? The six Assisi and Assisi-like interreligious prayer gatherings from 1986 to 2002; until in 2005 he died never attaining the world peace he sought after. All John Paul II had to do was obey the simple request of Our Lady of Fatima to consecrate Russia with all the bishops. But instead he consecrated his humanistic views of man (that he demonstrated at Lake Togo the year after (1985) when he prayed with an animist) by calling all the pagans of the world to pray to their false gods for the peace he missed at Fatima.
I think Mr. Shea knows, in his heart of hearts, that Assisi is wrong, but being a typical modern Catholic apologist who has more or less sworn allegiance to the powers-that-be to continually produce positive messages of John Paul II, he has to seek for some escape along the lines of taking the focus off the real problem – the promotion of idol worship. God forbid that “St.” John Paul II would be accused of promoting idol worship. That would crumble the whole Neo-Catholic regime in a matter of seconds. But trying to form an apology for Assisi is like quicksand. The more one tries to escape, the more one is trapped, as we shall see in the following statements by Mr. Shea.
M. Shea: Basically, it was a good faith effort to work with others of good will on what could be done in common for peace.
R. Sungenis: Shea has had nine years since 2002 to think about his apologetic for Assisi, but this is apparently the best answer he could muster. So we must assume from Mr. Shea’s reasoning that, as long as a Buddhist, Muslim, animist or Voodoo priest has a “good will” and wants peace on earth, then everything is copacetic. We can safely encourage him to pray to his false god.
And if the pagan prays, who might answer and give him peace? Would it be his false god? But false gods are an illusion, are they not? The only God we know is the Trinity, besides what St. Paul calls “the god of this world,” namely, Satan (2Co 4:4). So if the pagan receives peace for his prayer, either Satan answered him or God answered him. If Satan answered him, then we are promoting devil worship. If God answered him, then we are promoting worship of God through the means of worship of false gods. Either way we have broken the First Commandment. The First Commandment, in case we forgot, says that we should not worship idols and that we are to separate ourselves from anyone who does so. Since prayer is a form of worship, Assisi fits the parameters.
Let’s suggest a more appropriate scenario. Let’s say that John Paul II invited all the pagan religions to Assisi because he wanted to give them a wonderful, life-changing message. His drawing card is to have the attendees work for world peace. So they all come to Assisi for the same goal. But when they arrive the pope says these words to them:
So John Paul II, standing in the middle of Assisi, said: "Men of the world, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found altars with these inscriptions: To Zoroaster; To Buddah; To Hindi; To The Great Thumb. You worship these gods but this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in Buddhist temples made by man, nor is he served by the hands of the Voodoo priest, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your prophets have said. Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like the Great Thumb, or a statute of Buddah, or anything from the imagination of man. These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead."
In case you were wondering, that passage, albeit with a little paraphrasing from me, comes from Acts 17:22-31 when St. Paul preached to the pagans at Athens. Now what would be so difficult about giving that kind of message to the pagans gathered at Assisi? We could certainly tell these pagans to seek for peace, but it would be the peace which passes all understanding, the peace we receive when we are no longer enemies of God (cf. Rm 5:1; Ph 4:7). World peace would be much easier if we could instill in them the peace of God first.
Wasn’t Acts 17, in fact, put in the Bible so that we would model our approach to the world after it? If John Paul II had done so it would have been the most astounding evangelical event in the history of the world, rivaling Pentecost itself in significance. But John Paul II didn’t even come close to modeling himself after Pentecost. He told them to continue praying to their false gods and then sent them all home without breathing a word of the Gospel to them. They are still in their homelands thinking that praying to their false gods is perfectly acceptable and none of them have shown any signs of wanting to convert to Christianity, not one. Why would they? No message of only one God was preached; no warning of judgment if they do not forsake their false gods; no presentation of Jesus Christ as the Savior from their sins. Nothing except “I’m Ok, You’re Ok” worldly-thinking dressed in religious garb.
Why? Because the modern prelature hardly preaches the Gospel any longer, that is, if they remember what the Gospel is. The Teilhardian, Rahnerian, Balthasarian gospel of either ‘every man is saved’ or ‘salvation is his to lose’ has taken over many in the prelature today. We have prelates who preach a gospel of man-centeredness instead of God-centeredness; who question or doubt that hell or the devil really exist; who exonerate past heretics from Protestantism, Judaism and Islam as if they were merely misunderstood visionaries that were mistakenly maligned by the Church; we have a prelature today who, in the final analysis, believes that conforming to the world is better than converting the world. This is where the monster of Assisi originates. It just didn’t pop on the scene overnight. It had been brewing for many years. Like the proverbial frog in the heated pan, we were being desensitized to its juggernaut for decades until the proper charismatic figure felt it was the right time to release it.
M. Shea: It has become a byword among Reactionaries (and not all Traditionalists are reactionaries, by the way) who loathe JPII, for no good reason I can see.
R. Sungenis: This issue is not about whether some likes or dislikes JPII. It is about the Gospel and the First Commandment. Were they transgressed or not? If they were transgressed (and all the evidence leads to that conclusion) then the only stance is to be a “reactionary,” and those who do not react have forsaken the Gospel and are no longer Catholic.
M. Shea: The illogic of their attack on it depends, from what I can see, on a sotto voce rejection of Dignitatis Humanae (The Decree on Religious Liberty) and wishing for a world in which the Church outlaws and persecutes all religions but itself.
R. Sungenis: Mr. Shea is wrong on both counts. One can reject Assisi without rejecting Dignitatis Humanae. More importantly, no authentic teaching of the Catholic magisterium has ever called for the “outlawing and persecution of all religions but itself.” Mr. Shea’s comment is just an outright falsehood.
M. Shea: If that's not it, I can see no other rational basis for it, for I can see no sane basis for saying that adherents from other traditions are free to pray according to their consciences in synagogues, mosques, and temples throughout a Catholic country, but are forbidden to do so in the country called the Vatican. At no point was there prayer in common at Assisi, precisely because we are Catholic and not Jews, Muslims, pantheists or polytheists. Rather, there was simply an appeal to men and women of good will to work together in common.
R. Sungenis: First of all, Assisi is not “in a country called the Vatican” and there are no mosques, synagogues or temples in the “country called the Vatican.”
Second, Shea is merely showing us that he doesn’t understand either the issues or the theology, and he is badly confusing Dignitatis Humanae (DH). Laying aside the ambiguities of DH with which many argue, one thing we know for sure is that DH cannot be promoting idol worship. On the one hand, if pagan religious adherents in a foreign country pray to false gods, there is little we can do to stop it except, if we have the opportunity, preach the Gospel to them as St. Paul did at Athens, telling them that their pagan worship is wrong and that they will be damned for it if they do not forsake it. If they refuse our Gospel, so be it. They have the “freedom,” as DH teaches, to refuse the Gospel because God gave them the same free will he gave to Adam and Eve.
On the other hand, interpreting DH by insisting that man’s “freedom” is really a mandate from God to promote pagan worship for the sake of ecumenism is a monstrous distortion that has no precedent or sanction from Tradition, Scripture or the Magisterium. Measured toleration of paganism is one thing, but direct promotion of pagan worship under the guise of “an appeal to men and women of good will to work together in common” is a devilish confusion, and it is sad to see that many Catholics are falling for it. It is the same kind of double-talk that the Devil used on Adam and Eve in the Garden – taking one small truth that God revealed and subtly twisting it until it is made to say the exact opposite.
M. Shea: …so that we might not be incinerated in our beds--which makes proclaiming the gospel much harder when the world's population has been slaughtered in a Holocaust.
R. Sungenis: These are the typical scare tactics used by those of Shea’s persuasion. They try to force us to the position that if we don’t accept the prayers of these pagans then either the pagans will rise up and slaughter us or we will blow each other up in a nuclear exchange. No thought is given to how the promotion of pagan worship will make God angry at us and cause him to slaughter us in judgment (either by using pagans to slaughter us or start a war of nuclear proportions).
I suggest Mr. Shea read the Old Testament. Israel was confronted with the same option Mr. Shea gives us. They were told by God not to make alliances with the pagan nations, since the pagan nations would eventually paganize Israel. They were also told not to fear the threats of war and destruction from the pagan nations, since God would protect Israel if she remained faithful to him. But Israel didn’t listen. They decided that “ecumenical” relations with the pagan nations was better than separation, just as many in the Church do today. After all, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Ammonites, the Moabites, even though they all worship and prayed to false gods, seemed like people of “good will” who wanted peace just like Israel did. What could be wrong with that? Well, you know the rest of the story. Not long after they made these alliances with the pagan nations, God used those very pagans to destroy Israel. The same thing is going to happen to the idolators in the Church, sooner or later. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
M. Shea: Some critics labeled all this as "utopian" and insisted that suffering makes us stronger, so it was futile to oppose war. I wonder if these same critics oppose that damn new Catholic innovation called the hospital. After all, we'll never wipe out disease or death either, so is it also "utopian" to fight these things?
R. Sungenis: This is nothing more than a misplaced analogy. No sane person is against hospitals. But as Jesus said of the poor, the same is true for death and disease – we will never end them totally. But that doesn’t mean we allow them to take over our lives or frustrate us beyond all hope. We do what we can in this sin-cursed world. That is common sense. The same thing is true with the Gospel. We do what we can. The important point to understand here is that a peaceable life style does not come from placating pagans. It comes from honoring God who in turn will bless us with peace, both physical peace and spiritual peace. Mr. Shea seems totally oblivious to that element of the discussion, but it is common among those of a more political than spiritual persuasion. The focus has been taken off of God and placed on man.
If Mr. Shea would only realize that if we obey God and honor his First Commandment (and we do so by telling the pagan that his worship of false gods is wrong and condemnable), then God will bless us with peace beyond Mr. Shea’s imagination, not to mention the fact that our hospitals would be emptying instead of filling up. But unfortunately, modern man has lost faith in God, and it is the very reason that Jesus says in Luke 18:8: “when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on earth?” The real problem is sin. Prelates and parishioners have been sinning against God in this past century at an alarming rate. And when God judges them for their sin (e.g., by filling up our hospitals and increasing war and the threat of a nuclear holocaust), the same men who are doing the sinning and causing God’s judgment upon us are the same men who pretend they haven’t sinned and then start blaming God for all the woes of the world. They then start justifying their departure from God by consorting with the world and making alliances with it to help to overcome their problems, until we reach a point in which Assisi is conceived as the bastard child of the Church having intercourse with the world.
M. Shea: Dunno about the scattering water thing, but since the Church has a long history of accomodating pagan customs (recall the recent brouhaha about Easter Eggs, aka "Spring Spheres") I'm skeptical that those hostile to JPII are going to be entirely reliable on what is and is not an embrace of pagan content as distinct from the honoring of a common custom.
R. Sungenis: Once again, Mr. Shea’s analogies are misplaced, and perhaps deliberately so. The world has its idols, to be sure. But there is little we can do to rein in those idols except, when the opportunity presents itself, tell those who are making the idols that it is wrong to do so. We are the moral and spiritual conscience of the world. As Jesus said, we are the salt of the earth. But tolerating the making of Spring Spheres in Seattle is light years apart from inviting the makers of those Spheres to Assisi to help them promote prayer to the Great Sphere god for world peace. This goes back to Mr. Shea’s misunderstanding and misapplication of Dignitatis Humanae. DH recognized a certain “freedom,” but it did not give a license to promote pagan worship. If a question arises regarding how far a pagan society is allowed to promote its paganism, DH inserted the all-important “within due limits” clause. Obviously, the Church is not going to tolerate a Spring Sphere parade right into the sanctuary of St. Peters Basilica since the “freedom” of paganism has its limits. Toleration of something you cannot control is one thing; promotion of something you can control is quite another. Assisi was the latter.
M. Shea: Likewise, with the Koran thing, it constituted no scandal for the Iraqi Christians who were part of the delegation to Rome that brought the Koran. It was simply a polite act in response to a polite diplomatic gift.
R. Sungenis: Once again, Mr. Shea seeks to minimize the malfeasance by coating it with innocuous verbiage. It wasn’t merely a “Koran thing.” It was the vicar of Christ kissing the scriptures of a false religion and telling the Muslims that he reads a passage out of the Koran every day – a religion that denies Christ, the Trinity, and the basic tenets of Christianity. To kiss and study an object means much more than tolerating its existence. It means you are giving it the highest honor; that it is a sacred book worthy of veneration and affection from its readers. If the pope had kindly received the Koran and then placed it on a table, it would have been more than appropriate. It would be much like St. Paul recognizing the religiosity of the men of Athens as a lead into his preaching of the Gospel to them. But note well, St. Paul did not kiss the pagan idols at Athens. If he did, he would have been sending the Athenians a completely different message than the one he sent about the Gospel and the looming of Judgment Day against idol worship.
M. Shea: People who are determined to see in JPII yet another enemy of their sect of Purely Pure Puritan Catholicism can and have inflated the incident into Still More Proof that JPII was a Destroyer of the Church. But I think the strongest case you can make is that it was an inadvisable gesture, though ultimately one up to his discretion.
R. Sungenis: Well, at least Mr. Shea admits the “Koran thing” was “an inadvisable gesture.” But we’ll have to correct him in thinking that it was an act left to John Paul II’s discretion. It rests with the discretion of Jesus Christ and the Catholic tradition, since the pope is Christ’s and the Church’s servant, not vice-versa. Jesus Christ would no more kiss the Koran than he would kiss the scroll that held the Corban law of the Pharisees. To do so would be to accept the contents of the scroll. For the pope to kiss the Koran means he accepted the contents of the Koran. Unfortunately, from what we know of the modernistic tendencies in the theology of Karol Wojtyla, it is not unimaginable that he did accept the contents of the Koran as another means to God.
M. Shea: For a sane take on the Church's relationship with other religious traditions, both Christian and non-Christian, I strongly urge you to read the following:
The Decree on Ecumenism
R. Sungenis: This will do no good unless Mr. Shea shows the wording from each of these documents that gives sanction to an event such as Assisi or the kissing of the Koran. My guess is that Mr. Shea did not do a thorough study of these documents. My other guess is, if he were to provide a passage from them that he thought gave sanction to Assisi, it would be filled with the same kind of rationalizations and minimizations that we see in his present essay. If Mr. Shea wants to prove my guesses wrong, I invite him to do so.
M. Shea: Basically, the habit of the Church is to affirm what can be affirmed in common with people of good will, while distinguishing what cannot be affirmed in common and maintaining the proclamation of the gospel in respectful disagreement where other religious traditions contradict the gospel.
R. Sungenis: But that is precisely what was NOT done at Assisi. As Catholics, we cannot affirm or promote prayer to pagan idols, but Assisi both affirmed and promoted it, and did so without any precedent whatsoever from Catholic tradition. As Catholics we are required to preach the Gospel at all times. As St. Paul says in 2 Tim 4:2: “preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.”
And why do we do so? Precisely because of the idolatry and debauchery we see in pagan religions and the rest of the world:
“3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.”
I dare say we are there. We are at the place where many in the Church “will not endure sound teaching” from our Catholic tradition but have itching ears to hear the modern gospel of Teilhard, Rahner, Balthasar, DeLubac mixed with Judaism, Islam, Buddhism & Existentialism, and every other modernist who has become ashamed of the Church Militant and Christ-crucified and seeks a gospel of Church Milquetoast and Christ-conforming. As long as they do so, God’s judgment will remain. The way to remove God’s judgment is to preach the true Gospel, and Assisi is not the true Gospel. It is a perversion of the highest order; and because of it God’s judgments are upon us and will only increase.
M. Shea: Since grace builds on nature, this means, among other things, that where indigenous cultures contain the "seeds of the word" they are to be affirmed and judiciously incorporated into Catholic tradition (which is, again, why you are probably coloring Easter eggs, which used to be pagan fertility symbols and now are images of the Empty Tomb or New Life in Christ). It's why we have Christmas trees, wedding rings, Latin, and lots of other bric-a-brac from pagan culture knocking around in the Church. What always happens is that something pagan gets filled with Christian content. What does not happen (with the Church's permission, I mean) is that Christian forms get filled with pagan content.
R. Sungenis: While it is true that a Christmas tree can be reinterpreted with Christian truths, that is not the case for the Koran or the pagan prayers at Assisi. Mr. Shea needs to know where to draw the line on his analogies and metaphors, otherwise he confuses the issue more than he clarifies. If paganism and its artifacts could be reinterpreted into Christian truth, then St. Paul would have told the Athenians to keep their pagan statues; Moses would have told the Israelites to keep the golden calf; and there would be little reason to have a First Commandment, for we as Christians could simply reinterpret any pagan prayer or act with Christian meaning and all would be well. But that’s not the way it works. Toleration is one thing; promotion is quite another. We are not supposed to conform to the world; they are supposed to conform to us. If Mr. Shea is trying to tell us that Assisi is acceptable because we can just reinterpret their pagan prayers with Christian content and everyone should be happy, then he just doesn’t understand the Christian Gospel.
Mr. Shea: When *that* happens, it's generally called "heresy" (as, for instance, when a Catholic theologian embraces the pagan notion that nature is The Ultimate and therefore decides that a transcendent God can't *really* raise Jesus from the dead since that would mean God is higher than Nature). I see no indication at all that JPII denied the essentials of the Faith.
R. Sungenis: It’s not often that a person overtly denies the essentials of the faith, (provided we are agreed on what those “essentials” are). John Paul II did not come out and say “I deny the existence of God” or “I deny that Christ was God and man,” or anything of that material nature. Instead, he couched his language so that the meaning could often go either way. For example, in 1980 and 1981 John Paul II said that “the Old Covenant was never revoked.” This was an unprecedented and extremely provocative statement. No one had ever said such a thing in Catholic history. Most of the scholars and clerics who read that statement believed John Paul II was giving a new teaching – that, contrary to all of Catholic tradition, the Jews retained the Old Covenant and that it was a separate covenant from the covenant Christ made with the Church. I know this because there are dozens of books, speeches, papers, and even catechisms, that give that interpretation. In fact, some cardinals, based on what the pope said, began teaching that the Jews are no longer candidates for conversion to Christianity since God has given them their own salvation program. Even Mr. Shea believes, in part, that the Old Covenant still remains in force for the Jews. But all this is heresy, since the Church of tradition, as well as Scripture, has been crystal clear that the Old Covenant has been superseded by the New Covenant in Christ, and that there is only one covenant existing today, the New Covenant.
But who led them there? It was John Paul II. He never once in the remaining years of his pontificate, clarified what he precisely meant by his provocative statements given in 1980 and 1981. He just let these new-fangled interpretations proliferate. Instead, he prayed with Jews in their synagogues and prayed at Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall. He spoke of Judaism as a viable and God-glorifying religion to the rabbis he courted. We had absolutely no indication from John Paul II that the interpretations being placed on his 1980-1981 words were wrong, or even taken out of context. There was only one short statement he made in a 1986 speech which said that the Old Covenant included the covenant God made with Abraham, but even then he never clarified which of the two covenants that God made with Abraham he was referring to, or if it included both. (NB: One covenant with Abraham was made exclusively for the Jews; the other was made with all men in reference to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ). Moreover, John Paul II never denied that the Mosaic covenant was included in his term “Old Covenant.” This is, perhaps, what led the authors of the 2006 United States Catholic Catechism for Adults to claim on page 131 that the “Old Covenant” that John Paul II had in view was precisely the Mosaic covenant. This is just one small example of the same kinds of problems in many statements from John Paul II (e.g., making ambiguous statements that could be interpreted such that all men will be saved or that humans may not be involved with hell; suggesting that the resurrection and return of Christ are merely symbolic; implying that Original Sin is not a fact; suggesting that non-Christians need not convert to Christianity).
Then again, some of the statements and actions of John Paul II are much more overt. Whether it was kissing the Koran; praying with animists; refusing to allow a statue of Our Lady at Assisi but allowing a Buddah statue; discouraging Catholic proselytism toward other religions; praising Martin Luther as a great theologian but apologizing for past popes of the Inquisition; allowing a cardinal to sign the Lutheran/Catholic Joint Declaration that said “man is justified by faith alone”; giving communion to non-Catholic politicians; harboring bishops involved in the pedophile scandal or ignoring accusations of pedophilia and homosexuality among his clerics; removing the excommunication of Masons from Canon Law; saying the Old Covenant was never revoked; condoning the idea that Scripture contains historical errors; having “holy” cow dung placed on his forehead in honor of the god Shiva; allowing Voodoo witch doctors and snake charmers to pray to their false gods; honoring the Dalai Lama; wearing the religious garb of pagan religions; downplaying traditional Marian doctrines and interpretations of Scripture applying to her; failing to consecrate Russia; seeking to redefine and lessen the primacy of the papacy for the sake of ecumenism; or having scantily clad women perform dances at his masses, etc., the moral and doctrinal aberrations of John Paul II were far graver than most of the other bad popes.
When we consider the fact that, in the sixth century, Pope Honorius was condemned as a heretic by two popes and three councils, and that his name was displayed as a heretic in the Liber Diurnus for the next one thousand years, for merely writing a private letter to bishop Sergius in which he stated that Christ had one will instead of two – an esoteric doctrine that was not easily understood then or now – how is it possible that John Paul II can do all the above in public and not only escape being censored but actually be put on the fast-track to sainthood? By his own admission, John Paul II read the Koran every day, a book denying not only that Jesus had two wills but also denying that he had two natures. And we are going to make him a saint yet condemn Honorius for a private letter? What does this tell us about the condition of the Church today?
M. Shea: On the contrary, he proclaimed the faith to more people than anybody else who ever lived--literally.
R. Sungenis: No, that is simply not true, if by “the faith” we are referring to the traditional Catholic faith passed down from our Fathers, saints, doctors, popes, councils and catechisms. John Paul II certainly talked to more people outside the Church than any other pope in history, but it wasn’t to preach the Gospel of the Last Four Things. As I said earlier, we have a perfect example of John Paul II’s modus operandi when at his various Assisi meetings he never preached the Gospel of salvation and judgment to the pagans gathered there, and instead, allowed the pagans to foster their own anti-Christian religions. As we said, this action of John Paul II’s was the very opposite of what St. Paul did when he met the pagans of Athens, and John Paul II continued this same paradigm in the whole of his 26 years in the papacy, everywhere he went. Whether it was Muslims, Jews or Voodoo priests, John Paul II made it seem like their religions were sufficient not only to pray to God but to provide them salvation. Not once in 26 years of speaking and writing did John Paul II tell these non-Christian adherents that they would be judged and sent to hell if they did not convert to Christianity. In fact, he suggested that hell may not even exist. That was “the faith” of John Paul II.
M. Shea: He was a great gift to the Church, I think, and constituted a great threat to those who prefer to think of the Church as a besieged fortress rather than as a battering ram against the gates of hell.
Posted by Mark P. Shea at 11:35 AM
R. Sungenis: Why the “I think” from Mr. Shea? Either John Paul II was a great gift or he was not. The hesitation in Mr. Shea’s remarks shows once again that even an apologist who is trying to be as positive about John Paul II as possible, harbors doubts about his own apologia. Be that as it may, John Paul II was certainly a “great threat” but it wasn’t against the forces of evil and unbelief. More immorality and doctrinal confusion was unleashed in the pontificate of John Paul II than any other pope in history. John Paul II may have thought he was “a great gift” to the world. That’s one reason, perhaps, why he made himself the “bishop in white” of the Fatima vision when in reality, the more likely candidate was John Paul I who had plans to clean up the filth at the Vatican that John Paul II decided to live in, but whose life was cut short by those who wanted the filth to continue. The reality is, John Paul II was one of the worst popes we’ve ever had. Immorality is a terrible offense against God, but when that is compounded by a perversion of the Gospel, then the sins cry out to high heaven for judgment, and that judgment is coming very soon.
October 22, 2011 will be the feast day of John Paul II. Not coincidentally, Benedict XVI plans on continuing the Assisi tradition in October as well. I don’t believe this timing is a coincidence. Although Benedict XVI is not as ostentatious as John Paul II, at the beatification in May and the Assisi in October, Benedict will be accepting the torch from the grave of John Paul II. I wonder how far he will travel with it until he realizes that it has incinerated much of the Church.
Two recent events show that I am on the right track in making these objections. (1) Benedict’s upcoming Assisi meeting in October has been severely modified. There will be no prayers from even non-Catholics, much less pagans, animists and Voodoo witch doctors. That tells us that Benedict knows instinctively that what was done at Assisi 1986 and Assisi 2000 were wrong, otherwise the prayers would be continued. This is the third time the Benedict has contradicted his predecessor. The first was the excommunication of the SSPX; the second was the relevance of the Fatima visions for the future.
(2) When Cardinal Angelo Amato was quizzed as to why John Paul II was being put on the fast-track to beatification, he stated that it is “not because of his impact on history or on the Catholic Church, but because of the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love.” This is a very telling statement, since it implies that Amato cannot or will not defend the commonly known doctrinal aberrations and moral laxities occurring in John Paul II’s pontificate. It is also very telling because, if a separation is made regarding the criteria for canonization between John Paul II’s personal life and the governance of his pontificate, it would be the first time in history. Be that as it may, Amato’s new distinction is predicated on the fact that John Paul II’s personal life can be shown to be a holy one. That, of course, is just begging the question.
April 25, 2011