Anatomy of a Delusion – Part II
The Jubilee of Mercy
by Christopher A. Ferrara
April 16, 2015
The “Bull of Indiction” announcing Pope Francis’ “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy,” which will commence on December 8 of this year, evidences that the delusion of a “great renewal” of the Church attributable to the Second Vatican Council has not lost its grip on the upper hierarchy. Quite the contrary, it appears to have deepened during this pontificate. In the midst of some genuinely moving passages on the mercy of Christ, we find the same old disheartening cant about a “renewal” that never happened:
The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way.
It is astonishing that after fifty years of drift, decay and falling away during the post-conciliar period, a Pope could continue to say such things in all seriousness. The “tearing down” of the Church’s non-existent “walls” — she has always been, in fact, the most open and welcoming society that has ever existed, embracing all races, accepting all sinners who repent — has led to nothing but “an invasion of the Church by worldly thinking,” as no less than Pope Paul VI admitted when much of the damage has already been done. And the idea that on account of Vatican II the Church had made the Gospel “more accessible” can only elicit laughter in the midst of what John Paul II called “silent apostasy” throughout former Christendom. Never has the Gospel been less accessible, and in consequence less heeded, than it is today.
Francis praises the Council in terms that actually condemn its “spirit” before the bar of history: “Instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honoured, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed …” And what has been the outcome of this “trust” of the “present-day world” and the honoring and blessing of its corrupt “values”? Quite simply, the Church has become worldly. In that respect, the Council has achieved a spectacular success — for the Adversary.
Implicit in the delusion that the Council liberated the Church from her narrow-minded suspicion of the “modern world,” so that she could finally make her message compelling to “contemporary man,” is sheer audacity: a cavalier disparagement of the Bride of Christ as if she were a merely human organization that had lost sight of the very reason for her existence. That audacity is nowhere more apparent than in the following passage from the Bull:
Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The temptation, on the one hand, to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step. But the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal…. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.
First of all, when Francis says “perhaps” the Church “has long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy” what does he mean by “long since”? The past fifty years? The past hundred years? The past thousand years? Since the end of the Apostolic Age? It is shocking that a Pope would toss off such a vague, open-ended indictment of the Church of which he is supposed to be the first defender and protector. And what besides hubris — a hubris we must assume in charity Francis does not realize has infected him — could explain the suggestion that only now, with the arrival of Francis on the scene, will the Church founded by God Incarnate for the salvation of souls “take up the joyful call of mercy once more.” Was there no “call of mercy” under Benedict XVI or John Paul II? Again, how far back would Francis place the beginning of his mysterious “mercy gap”?
Secondly, has Francis no sense of the outrage he has inflicted on the Church by accusing her before the entire world of failing to be merciful or to “bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters” for some indeterminate period of time before he came upon the scene?
Thirdly, is Francis really blind to the glaring reality that the greatest threat to the Church’s mission of mercy is precisely the lack of any focus on divine justice since the supposed “breath of the Holy Spirit” at Vatican II, so that the generality of Catholics today have lost “the fear of the Lord” that is “the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10).
Last, surely Francis knows that for Catholics, the infinite mercy of God is as near as the nearest Confessional. One need only be conscious of his sins and desirous of repentance to receive Divine Mercy through the priest as alter Christus. Neither Francis, nor a Jubilee of Mercy, nor “a new way” of proclaiming the Gospel is needed to bring this simple truth home to the faithful. And if we are going to talk about a “return to the basics,” how about these basic teachings of a Gospel that has supposedly been made more “accessible” but which, in fact, has been all but buried over the past fifty years:
If you love me, keep my commandments…. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…. If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words (John 14:15 et seq).
Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God. And such some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
So, then, what is really the intent of a “Jubilee of Mercy” founded on the premise that the Church has “long since” (how long being conveniently unspecified) “forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy”? What kind of “mercy” does Francis have in view if not the mercy the Church has always freely extended in the name of God to all who are sincerely repentant? Is this yet another thinly veiled attempt to advance the “Kasper agenda” — the admission of public adulterers to Holy Communion and the “opening” to “gays” — which Francis has been promoting from the very beginning of his pontificate?
These questions will be the subject of my next column, which will examine the novelty of the “Missionaries of Mercy” that Francis proposes to send throughout the entire Catholic world, who would appear to be super-confessors with the power to grant absolution over and above the judgment of local priests and ordinaries.