The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Extra, extra! News and views for Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Here are some articles, essays, and editorials that caught our attention this past week or so.*

Pope Francis at the general audience in St. Peter's Square on April 20, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Stone in the Shoe – “Francis is a complex man. All humans are. But the strengths and weaknesses of a pope are magnified a hundredfold by the importance of his ministry and its global, very public stage.” Critics, Enemies and the Difference (First Things)

Oblivious British Bureaucrats – “The crimes of Lucy Letby force us to ask what kind of society we have become.” The natural affinity between evil and bureaucracy (spiked)

“My heart aches” – “Wrestling with and struggling to understand church teaching makes sense to me, but abandoning Jesus and his Eucharistic presence is nearly impossible to wrap my mind around.” A bishop’s challenge to ‘We used to be Catholics…’ (Catholic Review)

Trans Foundations – Progressive divinity schools and churches have transitioned from an embrace of inclusivity to instead uproot the fundamental principles of theology. Mainline Seminaries All-In on ‘Queering the Divine’ (Juicy Ecumenism)

Enduring Truths – “The timeless art and architecture found in Europe and Russia embody eons of civilization and the narrative of the human condition.” Hitler, War, and Why Art Matters (Word on Fire)

New Life in Christ – “That new life is enabled only by the Cross, as Pope Francis had insisted to the cardinals. Yet no mention of the Cross is to be found in the document!” A Crucial Absence: A response to Peter Steinfels (Commonweal)

Blanket Ban – “New policy will force students to wear correct uniform, use the right pronouns, enter the appropriate bathrooms and play sports based on their biological sex.” Worcester Bishop Robert McManus issues blanket ban on bending school rules for trans students and will force them to wear uniform, use bathrooms and play sports based on biological sex (

Fruitful Prayer Practices – “First, consider the value of reflecting upon our lived experiences with God. St. Ignatius of Loyola has us review our past week of prayer, such as on a Sunday, and also our past month.” Journaling: The Written Memory Of Grace, Part 2 (

How to Live – “What parts of our lives seem to be the culminating parts, the days or hours or minutes where we are living life most fully? When do you stop counting the time and become entirely present to what you are doing?What Is Time For? Everyone is too busy. How would we spend our time if we weren’t? (Plough)

Define Socialism – “It depends on why the government would take over businesses. If it does so to eliminate the incomes of ‘the rich’ and reduce economic differences among people, then the business takeover is socialist.” Why Does It Matter How We Define Socialism? (European Conservative)

“Lived Experience” v Catholic Education – “This inability to think coherently about the task of Catholic formation is the consequence of an imbalanced account of experience. In this account, “experience” is at odds with the language of Tradition.” The Ideological Death of Catholic Education (Church Life Journal)

(*The posting of any particular news item or essay is not an endorsement of the content and perspective of said news item or essay.)

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  1. @New Life in Christ
    Robert Imbelli faults Peter Steinfels for his obtuse commentary of Imbelli’s critique of the Instrumentum Laboris (IL) for the Synod on Synodality. We read from Imbelli: “As Steinfels states, he and I have long differed—sometimes in the pages of Commonweal—over the problem of Christological amnesia in contemporary Catholicism.”

    The additional takeaway from the IL is not only that it sidesteps the Cross (Imbelli’s incisive point), but that the game is to construct a fully schizophrenic and bipolar Church—one which might well continue to affirm doctrinal content, but at the same time erect a zone of “concrete” fluidity (so to speak) exempt from, and even in opposition to such archeological curiosities.

    Pope John Paul II fully anticipated this double-speak (infiltrated into synodality?) when he penned the encyclical Veritatis Splendor (VS), for “the first time” explicitly incorporating natural law and moral absolutes as part of the Church’s magisterium, for example:

    “A separation, or even an opposition [!], is thus established in some cases between the teaching of the precept, which is valid and general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final decision [no longer a ‘moral judgment’!] about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called ‘pastoral’ solutions [!] contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a ‘creative’ hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept [thou shalt not!]” (VS, n. 56).

  2. I read that the infants who were murdered in the British neonatal ward were premature. It’s something to consider that had those babies been disabled and still in utero they could have been killed legally and from what I’ve heard, their parents would be encouraged in that by healthcare professionals.
    UK limits on later feticides have a loophole in the case of Down Syndrome, etc. So the deciding factor between life and death seems to be about disability and “wantedness. ” Not the sanctity of life.

  3. @ Oblivious British Bureaucrats
    Nurse Letby’s infanticide had that empathy from suspicious physicians that amounted to complicity. Their understanding of her distress speaks to killing as an act of practicality in ending suffering. Virtually identical with Peter Singer’s ethical perspective. Singer is an Australian moral philosopher, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University specializing in applied ethics from a secular, utilitarian perspective. He transferred his perspective of killing suffering animals [his initial ethical project] to killing suffering humans [he has reacted with intense anger when accused of Nazi like rationale for ending life]. What we commonly know as mercy killing. What draws this opinion is that the infants were in prenatal care. Many who suffer physical defects that would permanently affect them. Physicians, medical care personnel are susceptible to this syndrome when constantly affected by experiences that inures them to more commonly held moral concerns. Normally decent men and women assume the posture that only God can assume. As Catholics it’s our mission to the world to intensify the intrinsic precious value of human life.

  4. @ Stone in the Shoe
    “Francis worries about corrupt restorationists, ‘right-wing ideologies,’ and priests who go into neighborhoods to dogmatize” (Francis X Maier). Francis Maier has, as many have, perhaps more than ordinary, concern over Francis’ occasional words. Reason informs us that something is awry in the seeming duplicitous messaging.
    Anger, what’s perceived as a scolding to the audience of parishioners indicates one preeminent dynamic. Not that they are simply not listening, since the reactions are published far and wide, rather a sense of deep disfavor of the parishioners themselves, for their corrupt ‘restorationist’ ideologies. How then must we respond?
    For one, priests are the sentinels posted high on the city walls. If we don’t sound the alarm we shirk our commission. Ordination comes with that. From this man’s perspective it’s best not to target the integrity of the person, rather the effects of his pontificate. Better to assess it in the best light of intent and leave judgment to God. That frees us to completely, and necessarily criticize the effects. A benefit of that is focus on effects enables us to assess the consequences. What I’ve noticed is some losing sight of those consequences, likely due to personal criticism.

  5. @ Enduring Truths
    Fine art is an equalizer. Aside from the greatness of the human soul that art conveys, the production of great visual art, music speaks to the refinement of a culture. We might say that Russian visual art and music reveal a complex, highly intelligent culture. Ironically, if we used that as a standard Germany would seem to surpass Russia, at least in the field of music.
    War doesn’t bring that out, Russia simply had too many citizens and too vast a territory. Germany’s loss doesn’t prove Germany a lesser nation as Hitler summarized. Neither does Italy’s or France’s enormous artistic output prove they are greater. Or India, or China for that matter. Art reflects the creativity of the human soul created by God in his own image.
    Insofar as other less recognized nations it only required one year teaching young African seminarians who were raised in thatched roofed mud huts that the inherent creative intellect was there.

  6. There may be an editorial rule at First Things that you have to go soft on Francis even when you acknowledge his faults. But how obsequious does a man have to be to believe a sympathetic Marxist, as Francis has admitted to being, “cares” about the poor in terms other than a form of sloganeering sentimentality to rationalize his hatred for economic freedom? How willing does one have to remain oblivious to evil in order to interpret the blatant moral relativism embedded in the “accompaniment” promoted by Francis as being in any way beneficial to the lives and souls of sinners, not to mention the victims of sin?
    “Francis worries about corrupt restorationists, “right-wing ideologies,” and priests who go into neighborhoods to ‘dogmatize.’” Francis Maier seems to accept these caricatured premises of Francis as given. Are we now to accept pronouncements of hatred as truthful authoritative teaching?

    • Then again suppose he goes and has a complete change of heart. You would have to have something similar depending on how set you are by the things of today. That is, if you found out about it. Suppose it did happen that he had a total makeover but you never heard, where would that leave you?

      • It’s not an automatic thing, it has to be prayed for. And in these prayers, if they were to be answered, it could be the Lord will have listened to you not to me, or to another third individual and not us. It’s in the hands of the Lord.

        I pray these prayers. I tell our Lord I don’t have it as a demand-expectation, only to remind Him that He chose Peter to be Rock and it is His concern much more than it could be mine. And that I leave it with Him as I make my sacrifices.

  7. Francis objects to noble restorationists, Catholicism, and priests who evangelise.

    Freemasonry objects to noble restorationists, Catholicism, and priests who evangelise.

  8. If he had a conversion to Catholicism, everyone would hear about it, and it would be impossible not to notice, given the contrast to his prior life. It would not only be an answer to my prayers, it would be the happiest day in my life, no change of heart would be necessary.

  9. @ My heart aches
    Bishop Battersby aux Detroit shocked at dinner with a friendly family who announce seemingly out of the blue they’re no longer Catholic. All the reasons, the mother adding her sons have friends who are gay, indicate the transition from a life of the Gospels to cultural integration with the world.
    Of late I’ve been reading the early Church fathers before drifting off. All displayed a mission to integrate our daily life with the Gospels, to focus on the real presence, the interior gifts of the Holy Spirit. St Ephrem, St Basil Trinitarian in practice. Ambrose introducing song, prayers poetically set to acapello inspired by Eastern liturgy.
    A process of assimilation with the secular world has since reached the ebb of Gospel life. As the waters of life quickly run back to their source. Christ’s real presence no longer believed. A symbolic wafer. Bishops no longer preach to their priests, to the entire diocese [except for Strickland]. Priests paraphrase what was just said in the Gospel because they have nothing to add. No fire. No life and death convictions. Only to assure at the end that God loves us. Although that love has lost meaning.
    If we believe that loosening things up to draw in the faithful will succeed, as the great Synod intends, with talk of no rules, no barriers, we’ve deceived ourselves. That is precisely what got us to this dismal place. As old Bishop Hastrich told me, Peter, you need a challenge. Actually, that holds true for all.

    • We read: “nor rules, no barriers”…

      Of the diluted Church today, perhaps the first death of a thousand cuts was the portrayal of Extraordinary Ministers of “Holy Communion” as “Eucharistic” Ministers, a designation which shows up nowhere in the authorizing documents. With such familiar corruption of language has come the “laicization of the clergy and the clericalization of the laity” (warned against in the Council’s Lumen Gentium and in subsequent papal documents).

      Being lost and dissolved into “a process of assimilation with the secular world”, is the underlying and alarming fact and meaning of the Incarnation itself (Himself!)…
      About which, St. John Henry Cardinal Newman who remarked that we worship the Triune Oneness, NOT a sort of “quaternary” as with a sorta hybrid Christ, as if only half divine nature and the other half human nature.

      What does Newman mean? This, from Walter Farrell OP, STM and Martin Healy, STD, in My Way of Life, Confraternity of the Precious Blood, 1952):

      “The union between the two natures in Christ is a personal union. It takes place in the Person of the Son of God….They are NOT mixed or fused with one another to form a third thing distinct from both [forming a quaternary with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit]. Rather they are united to one another indirectly in the Second Person of the Trinity…But in the Incarnation, the person pre-exists the union of the two natures[!] because it is the Person of the Eternal Son of God.

      “In the Incarnation the Son of God, Who is eternal, assumes to Himself [!] a complete human nature, a body and soul. By this union the human nature becomes the human nature of the Son of God. He is the Person existing in this human nature, the Person responsible for all its actions, the responsible Agent acting in and through the human nature in the world of men […] If we were to look at the human nature of Christ and ask […] ‘Who is he?’ then we could not give in reply the name of any human or created person, because there is no created personality present in Christ. We should have to say, ‘He is Christ, the Son of God’” [Matt 16:16 !].

      What does in mean when even Almighty God, in Person, is routinized to where people scramble to be, what, “Eucharistic Ministers” at the front of the line? Indistinguishable from ordained priests, I mean “presiders,” or synodal “facilitators,” or whatever?

      So, why not “gay” too, and transgender–a transformer-toy world! Kumbaya!

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