I’d like to blog more. I’d like to write more. I’d like to squat more. I’d like to pray more. As things stand, I give it all to God as the cards rest, and trust His grace to carry on into godliness.
As far as blogging goes, the point is that I don’t always have or make time to tackle all the topics and snip all the loose ends that I want to. Sometimes, though, I manage to surface long enough from the maelstrom of being an erratic would-be scholar, freelance interpreter/translator, and husband in a one-car three-baby family to pen a few words here. I long ago resigned myself to the fact my blog generates few if any comments or reader participation, so I treasure all (more or less constructive) contributions. For someone who has blogged as long as I have, my instincts for generating clicks and comments are decidedly mediocre.
Specifically, a recent post generated only three comments, when I thought it would generate a much livelier discussion. Who said the following?
“I count among the most important results of the ecumenical dialogues the insight that the issue of the eucharist cannot be narrowed to the problem of ‘validity.’ Even a theology oriented to the concept of succession, such as that which holds in the Catholic and in the Orthodox church, need not in any way deny the salvation-granting presence of the Lord in a Lutheran Lord’s Supper.”
The answer is none other than: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, circa 1993. (HT to A.J. Boyd in the comment box of this Aleteia.org piece.)
When I encountered this passage, I was floored. It really gives away the whole game.
If eucharistic validity is not a sine qua non of catholicity, then why be Catholic? Likewise, if Lutheran communion enjoys the same “salvation-granting presence of the Lord” as in Catholic Masses, then, once more, why be Catholic? Presumably, to enjoy “better odds” at Heaven, or a “fuller plate” in the sacramental economy–but come on, let’s cut the bullshit. If I am fond of eating pig’s feet while binge-watching Netflix till 4 AM night after night, and am assured that such a lifestyle has all the nutrition and wisdom that I ultimately need, then I have little time or budget for square meals and a square life (i.e., Catholic devotion). After all, worst come to worst, God will sort me out in Purgatory before I ride the Lutheran conga line to Heaven.
The sad truth is that Ratzinger, that putative Rottweiler of Orthodoxy, brought this bizarre self-defeating theology (and much else besides!) into his papacy, thus greasing the tracks for the madness now besetting us. The self-defeating theology of Cardinal Ratzinger begat the self-defeating papacy of Benedict XVI. Is it any more astonishing that a Pope Francis followed Pope Ratzinger than that night follows day, or that gout follows gluttony?
So, that’s one thing from the not-so-wayback machine that I managed to address.
Now here’s a second thing.
When I read in Francis’s interview with Spadaro that “the Church has no right to interfere spiritually in the life of a person,” I was as flummoxed as I was outraged. Of course the Church has a right to interfere in our spiritual lives–that is her very raison d’etre! If the Church has no right to “interfere” (i.e., summarily intervene) in our spiritual lives, then we have no need for such intervention, and therefore the Church has no purpose. If her intervention in our souls is unjust, then repelling her incursions is the height of piety. Once it’s unpacked, this is, of course, grade-A Protestantism, but, coming from Bergoglio, why should that surprise us?
As that Protestant canard is one Bergoglian thorn among many in my Catholic heart, I am perpetually receptive to anything that rebuffs and extracts it, which is why I posted a beautiful statement from Pope Leo IX that I stumbled upon in a book I hope to review:
“For he who does not attack a vice, but rather coddles it, is justly judged guilty of the death together with those who die by that vice.”
The upshot here is twofold.
First, Francis is as wrong as he is popular: the Church not only has every right to interfere in our spiritual lives, but has the duty to do so; for if she fails to do so, she is annealing and abetting us on our pet paths to perdition.
Second, the post managed to generate that rarest of rare things at my blog, namely, a lenghty-ish combox discussion, and the comment I want to focus on concerns Padre Pio:
Didn’t St. Pio advise Protestants, yet refused to actively convert them? St. Pio certainly thought their views heretical, [but] he didn’t try to release them from Heresy either.
How would he sit in St. Le[o]’s view?
I was immediately skeptical of the claim that Padre Pio “refused” to try to bring non-Catholic Christians into the Church, and, after a little online research, my skepticism was vindicated. As far as the not-so-wayback machine is concerned, the topic is important enough to bring out of a combox into a full post.
The claim made by my commenter seems too facile and convenient to defend without proper documentation. In contrast, we have such evidence:
“A conversion is a happy transformation in Christ with which we receive the joy of faith, fervor for the Commandments and love for the Sacraments. And with that we begin a new life that leads to our salvation, which Christ’s fervent souls desire so ardently for all men. Padre Pio pointed out this way of salvation to innumerable souls. …
“All of Padre Pio’s converts talk about this ‘happiness’. Nestor Caterinovich, who once belonged to Russian Orthodoxy and after meeting Padre Pio converted to the Catholic Faith, along with his whole family, could not talk enough about this happiness. ‘Padre Pio has triumphed over our hearts,’ he used to say to his friends with emotion….
“Above all, it was his spiritual children of the ‘first hour’ – that original little group of grateful people who were either converted or healed – who led innumerable souls to Padre Pio with their words and example, prayers and writings. This little group, which was around since day one, included an American and a German, both of whom came from Protestantism [under Padre Pio’s guidance]. …
“Mary McAlpin Pyle of New York, who had once belonged to the Protestant Presbyterian Church, was led by Padre Pio to the Catholic Faith. Above all, she was struck by Padre Pio’s Holy Mass, which made her decide to stay at San Giovanni Rotondo.”
Having looked into the matter a bit, the basic confusion seems to be that, because there appear to be cases when Padre Pio believed that some persons outside visible communion with the Church would be or could be saved, therefore he did not “actively” try to “convert” non-Catholics. But the latter does not follow from the former.
For instance, Padre Pio’s inspired intercession for King George does not preclude praying for George’s deathbed conversion; indeed, as the prayer was inspired while George was dying, it makes perfect sense that Padre Pio’s prayer for his soul was for his conversion just before facing “the tribunal of God.” Otherwise why would he need prayer as he died? Are we to believe that Padre Pio prayed for George to remain a staunch Protestant in Heaven?
Likewise with the letter saying that the devout Jew, Julius Fine, was saved: that was probably a special divine insight, but still not a basis for refusing to seek Fine’s conversion to the Catholic faith, if he and St. Pio had met before Fine’s demise. In fine, are we to believe that Padre Pio believed that Julius Fine would remain a devout Jew in Heaven (much less in Purgatory)? If Padre Pio was not mistaken about Fine’s destiny–and sanctity is no guarantee of infallibility–, then all we can say is that Fine was saved in spite of his devotion to Judaism, not because of it, otherwise, again, why would it be “necessary to pray much for [Fine]”?
Therefore, the claim that Padre Pio “refused to actively convert” Protestants, is as dubious as it is reckless, as is the claim that St. Pio did not actively try to steer heretics from their errors (cf. the testimony of Frederick Abesch, as well as the incidents concerning Freemasons, Communists, and liars in the confessional a few paragraphs later).
And now you know.