The Dispatch: More from CWR...

What if St. Augustine was an organizer for the February meeting on sexual abuse?

A penitent in deed more than words, might Augustine recall for us how he dropped any further “accompaniment” of his concubine of thirteen years, rather than molding reality toward any more “inclusive” mythology?

Detail from image of statue of St. Augustine, carved by Gian Lorenzo Bernini [c.1650;]

Two organizers for the February 2019 Vatican meeting on sexual abuse, Cardinal Blasé Cupich of the United States and Archbishop Scicluna of Malta, have remarked: “This meeting has to be understood as part of a long-term commitment to reform, realizing that one meeting will not solve every issue” (Cardinal Cupich); and, “[I]t is a very important start of a global process which will take quite some time to perfect” (Archbishop Scicluna).

Two clues from on high? “Long-term”, a “perfect process”? Will an indeterminate process itself replace any clarity of message or action?

Which makes me wonder: What if St. Augustine were a February organizer? Living in a disrupted time very much like our own—what would he say to us?

As a converted man, might Augustine remind us that while conversion does take time, it also involves a tipping point? Deeper and different than any “process” or even “reform” is conversion. Turning around. For Augustine, at the age of thirty-three in late summer 386 A.D., this moment came finally with something so simple as the singing of a child: “take up and read” (Confessions, Bk. 8, Ch. 12).

A penitent in deed more than words, might Augustine recall for us how he dropped any further “accompaniment” of his concubine of thirteen years, rather than molding reality toward any more “inclusive” mythology? And noting the fig-leaf euphemism of “clericalism,” he surely would not dilute his soliloquy with God to say: “O Lord, make me less clerical, but not yet.”

As a man who knew the entwining “force of habit,” Augustine pleads in his Confessions, “Let me be for a little while” and then a little while “stretched out for a long time” (Book 8, Ch. 5). Almost sounds like an archbishop who beckons his brother clerics, “You can console yourselves with the falsehood and the delusion that it will be easier to tell the truth tomorrow, and then the following day, and so on” (the Third Letter of the Archbishop Vigano).

As a single-hearted man, Augustine might recommend the incisive point in Scripture that, for him, turned the corner of conversion forever: “Not in rioting and drunkenness [orgies along the Tiber], not in chambering and impurities [beach houses], not in strife and envying [careerism]; but put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh and its concupiscences” (Rom 13:13,14).

As a master of rhetoric, might Augustine warn us about the ambiguous meanings of simple words? Would he notice how Rome was “sacked” (i.e., “the plundering of a captured town”) by Alaric the Goth, and now how seminarians have been “sacked” (i.e., “to put or place in a sack”) by McCarrick and his clan and overall mindset? Sacked by pre-modern Alaric and by the post-modern McCarrick Malignancy—but history reports that Alaric, at least, did not molest the people (he “treated the inhabitants humanely”).

As a master of Classical learning, Augustine would disabuse us of the notion that it is only Natural Law that is absolutely forbidden talk. Freeing us from “creative” theologians are the Creator and His inborn law within: “the Church is in no way the author or the arbiter of this [moral] norm . . . [she] proposes it to all people of good will. . . .” Moreover, in the morality of sexuality (and all else) it’s not about the overall law of averages. Augustine would clarify that “the commandment of love of God and neighbor does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, but it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken” (Veritatis Splendor, 52). No facile blending of wine with cyanide.

A faithful son of the Church, Augustine might remind us how as a bishop of backwater Hippo in North Africa (the “periphery”), he stayed put for thirty-five years with his same flock (from 395 until his death in 430 A.D), rather than maneuvering for more plush digs, say, the patriarchal Alexandria or some inner-circle in Rome (or some big city diocese in New World America).

As both a saint and a leader, Augustine might propose that while the sacking of Rome and the Resurrection each took only three days, perhaps three days are not enough for the historic gathering of February 2019—the tipping point charged to face up to (so to speak) the disorder of active homosexuality in the Church. A seamless garment extending from abuse of the young, to consensual adults, and to tentacles of paralysis and complicity at all levels.

As a theological historian, Augustine revived the failing hearts of his flock at Hippo—and of the entire Church forever—by writing The City of God. He refuted the slander that the collapse signaled in 410 A.D. was due to Christian neglect of the multiple pagan deities (today’s indifferent multiculturalism). Instead of our mythology of Progress, Augustine discovered the secret of history in the conflict between two perennial and competing loves—the love of God versus the love of self and the world.

A man from the world, Augustine must have known that Alaric was a well-educated man with a motive. Driving him was resentment over not having been chosen as commander of the Western Roman Army, and a reprisal force of Goths—whose (tens of thousands of) women and children had been murdered by Roman citizens (incited by the Emperor Honorius who listened to one too many backroom slanders involving Alaric).

As a man for all seasons, Augustine might reach forward two millennia to a layman, G.K. Chesterton who reminds us, in The Everlasting Man, that:

[T]he Catholic Church is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age [….] Those runners [successors of the Apostles] gather impetus as they run. Ages afterwards they still speak as if something had just happened [….] We might sometimes fancy that the Church grows younger as the world grows old.”

So, “yes” to the courage of a single-hearted priesthood (and laity!), and to the universality of youth—as if it still matters to grow younger as a world fallen grows old.

In 1870, Pope Pius IX rejected absorption into the external artifact of nation-states. A clear line of demarcation was drawn: non possumus (“we cannot”). In 2019, will Church leaders harmonize-away such a line in yet another tome, triangulating with an internal and ecclesial Deep-State—a church within a church? In the moment following his own clean tipping point and turning around, St. Augustine (instead) simply drew the line: “… I resolved not to make a boisterous break, but gently to withdraw the service of my tongue from the language marts” (Bk. 9, Ch. 2).

Non possumus. “Inadmissible!”

Where is to be found the house-to-house Vatican Special Forces cleanup team? No need to be naïve about real risk of Alaric-style reprisals, especially in Rome, but betting on time alone and the biological solution has not worked.

“Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Mt 5:37).

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Peter D. Beaulieu 13 Articles
Peter D. Beaulieu earned an interdisciplinary doctorate in urban and regional planning from the University of Washington (1975), is a member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and author of Beyond Secularism and Jihad? A Triangular Inquiry into the Mosque, the Manger & Modernity (University Press of America, 2012) and A Generation Abandoned: Why 'Whatever' Is Not Enough (Hamilton Books, 2017).


  1. I have come to this conclusion: that the truly “incisive point in Scripture” for all of us, not simply St. Augustine (who is among the saints, including St. Thomas Aquinas whose intercession I begin every day)…is, in the order of Faith, first “Pauline” and not immediately that of “the Gospel.”

    The current Church foregoes St. Paul and rush to a malleable (Hegelian? Nietzschean/voluntarist really) “Gospel” and forsakes (has forsaken) Aristotle as well as the Neo-Platonism (which helped convert Augustine through bishop St. Ambrose) which does indeed still rely on Aristotle…act and potency.

    In street terms, the blurred distinction of act and potency (preferred by the Jesuits historically)…is at the heart of the current mess, and yes, JPII…was he really a Thomist after all? This “blur” is the green light for the current apostasy.

    • Joseph one of the better comments for discussion. My doctorate centered on Aquinas’ first principle of human acts, that the act is the determinant of all morality [although evil is in the will]. The act to be done is first visualized as the first principle [all moral acts for Man follow deliberation then apprehension of this first principle]. The motion from first principle to act mirrors Aquinas’ treatise Essence and Existence. Essence exists potentially and for man requires the First Principle [God] for its act of existence. There is then real distinction between Potency and Act and the blurring as you correctly note underlies much of today’s mistaken approach to morality. As understood whatever is potential [as distinguished from what intellect apprehends as moral good or evil affirmed by Synderesis] to my intellect assumes a form of bogus reality. There is then a nexus but nevertheless a real distinction.
      “The great commentators often note that the definition of potency determines the Thomistic synthesis. When potency is conceived as really distinct from all act, even the least imperfect, then we have the Thomistic position. If, on the other hand, potency is conceived as an imperfect act, then we have the position of some Scholastics, in particular of Suarez, and especially of Leibnitz, for whom potency is a force, a virtual act, merely impeded in its activity” (Fr Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP, A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought Ch 5 Act and Potency). I would add to your comment that although John Paul II was versed in Existential Phenomenology which by nature does blur the distinction between what is perceived and what exists the definitive John Paul II is found in Splendor Veritatis where he identifies the object of the act, what the act does as the definitive principle of morality. This argument is meant to repudiate Proportionalism and its focus on intent rather than act.

  2. Well done, Mr. Beaulieu. Continually reflecting on the example of the saints who have gone before us will teach us how to become saints in these evil times. In Augustine you have chosen a saint I love and admire greatly.

  3. Cupich and Scicluna are both self-proclaimed Bergoglian sycophants, and both are known to promote the post-Christian LGBT cult in their dioceses.

    Cupich is not too clever.

    Scicluna is too clever by half.

    They are bureaucrats of the post-Catholic cult.

    Not imitators of the Apostles who obediently imitated the good shepherd.

  4. Thank you, Father Peter.

    Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, OP and his book, Reality, A Synthesis of Thomistic Thought…the benchmark.

    May I also recommend Dr. Heather M. Erb’s “Modernism and The Growing Catholic Identity Problem: Thomistic Reflections and Solutions” which can be found on the Internet.

    For all the talk of accompaniment and concern for the “situations” and “particulars” in people’s lives, this is really a new “Examen” writ large without the burden of “thinking with the Church” or the burden of one’s own acts as distinct, real acts. It could be then demonstrated that “situations” and “particulars” in the end have less reality than the model of discernment itself? that the process of discernment has a greater status and determinative force and moral value than any given act or acts. Does someone’s Spiritual Director have a greater status than what one has done and is doing? When and how does “conscience” start or perhaps it could be asked, where?

    For all the talk about the newly realized “dignity of the human person” where is all the “dignity” in acts minus really distinctions between act and potency and how can we even speak of justice with such an accepted “reality?” Apples and oranges? I don’t think so. Is this “process” of discernment simply another rigged election, rigged synod…with known, desired conclusions, desired evaluations…and that “God’s will” is not simply, most deeply what we wanted (a la Merton, the Jesuit-certified “at peace”) but WHATEVER we wanted?

    This is Nietzsche, folks, made more palatable,served with a side of fries and a beverage. These are the Catholic retreads of Henri Bergson, the “more merciful,” “more spiritual” and “not boring” “dynamic” Platonizers who start from the “theological” position and from being members of a “progressive,” “spiritual elite” who would deny that by the end of The Republic it is arguable that Plato himself gave up/revised his own purely Traditional Forms in favor of particulars, real particulars.

    Is there any need to talk of Grace in the Martini/Bergoglio paradigm let alone St. Augustine or St. Thomas when Nature itself is up for grabs?

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.