Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa at Westminster Abbey: Rebuilding the House, But for Whom?

Torch of The Faith News on Thursday 26 November 2015 - 23:10:33 | by admin

Some time around 1995, I remember reading two warnings in a traditionalist publication, which then seemed as outlandishly far-fetched as they were downright scary. The first suggested that homosexualists were working hard to introduce the concept of 'gay-marriage' into Western societies; whilst the second warned that, when leaders at the top of the Catholic Church began to publicly praise the heretic Martin Luther as some kind of saint-figure, then this would indicate that the Marxist infiltration and subversion of the Church was almost complete.

In terms of the former, I think it was Peter Hitchens who said that, whereas the Americans had gone through a culture war over traditional morality, the British had experienced more of a culture rout; so lacklustre was the fight from the British Christians. Indeed, there can be little disagreement about the fact that the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, though keen to make expansive efforts to protect Jews from perceived slights in the Traditional Liturgy, have demonstrated all the defensive qualities of a chocolate fire-guard, when it comes to defending Holy Matrimony from the secularist onslaught. And so, 1995's far-out nightmare is 2015's cold reality.

Turning to the second of those mid-nineties warnings, we come to Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa's shocking ''Rebuild My House'' speech to the Anglicans in Westminster Abbey a couple of days ago; a speech in which this officially appointed Preacher to the Papal Household celebrated the approach of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's revolt against Catholic Truth...

Part of a Bigger Picture

Perhaps the first thing to say is that, coming within two weeks of Pope Francis and Cardinal Walter Kasper's troublesome visit to the Lutheran temple in Rome, and a few weeks after the US Bishops' chatter about wanting to give Holy Communion to American Lutherans, then this must be yet another part of a bigger and still emerging picture. We'll reflect more on that in our next - shorter! - article.

The more serious students of history, detect a common thread arcing broadly from Martin Luther's 16th-Century Protestant revolt, to the Enlightenment, through the Industrial and Sexual Revolutions, all the way down through history to the present collapse into relativist decadence.

Indeed, those who look a little deeper, notice early signs of this degenerating trajectory, already appearing in the decadent thought that emerged from some centres of learning as early as the 14th-Century; such as that typified by William of Ockham and his school. The dark shadow of Ockham's razor does seem to cast its shadow ominously close to Martin Luther's slicing of Christendom; with all of the latter's absurd stress on sola scriptura and individual interpretation.

This intellectual individualism hardened and split into more extreme forms during the so-called Enlightenment: shrinking man to the size of a utilitarian cog in time for the Industrial Revolution; a beastly machine for the Sexual Revolution; and a mere distracted shard in the splintered world of post-modernity.

The bottom line of all this is that, here in England, the Protestant revolt has caused five centuries of generations, throughout all social classes, to live and die without the graces of the Catholic Faith and Sacraments. 
Moving from the abstract to the more concrete, in my family alone this means that loved ones in the generation ahead of me received only Baptism; and numbers of those in the generation after me have not received even this foundational grace. It is, quite simply, a miracle that my parents and I were given the grace of conversion to the Catholic Faith. Given that Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus - outside of the Church there is no salvation - then all of this is no small matter.

No-one who takes these things seriously, or who has Divine and Catholic Faith, could rejoice in the revolution, which the heretic Martin Luther helped to foment: splitting Europe; causing painful wars of religion; sparking a series of revolutions; and sending out cultural tsunamis and fractures, which continue to reverberate down through our own times and, likely, beyond them.

This week, the Anglican 'Church of England' tried to get a short advert played in cinemas, featuring their chief minister Justin Welby and numerous other Christian lay-people, saying the Lord's Prayer. Their initiative was stopped, when the rigid secularists deemed it to be offensive to non-Christians. Such is the pitiable - and increasingly troubling - state of affairs in post-modern Britain. Whilst this is a dire situation, it gives us an opportunity to remind people that this is itself, actually one of the logical outcomes of the Protestant revolt; for Anglicanism, like all other attempts to create a church other than the one which Christ founded, carried within itself the seeds of its own spiritual and cultural destruction from the very outset. Like rust on an old car, radical individualism just keeps on corroding. As Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman came to realize, there can be no via media between the full Truth and falsehood.

Treasure Hunt

A few hours before the Islamists slaughtered so many civilians in the disgraceful Paris attacks, we had settled down, unawares, to watch a TV programme about the celebrity Anneka Rice's childhood in leafy Surrey.
During the show, which conveyed a number of positive points about the culture of faith and traditional family life, Anneka revisited the Anglican parish church of St. Peter's in Limpsfield; where she had sung as a chorister, twice a week, during her childhood and young adolescence. Dating to the 12th-Century, on a site where a church has been present since before Norman times, St. Peter's Limpsfield was originally a Catholic church in the England of medieval Christendom.

Anneka's revisit to the church of her youth was a particularly moving sequence of the programme. Heading to her old choir-stall, she explained: ''It's lovely, you always feel that you have to whisper very slightly.'' She recalled that the days in that church had been a very significant part of her life; and that she found it very moving to be back there as an adult. 

Although my own family had passed through phases of a more evangelical - and even fundamentalist - Protestantism, Anneka's childhood memories resonated with my own recollections of choristers, stained-glass and the plainchant of Anglican Evensong.

At the same time, watching as a Catholic adult, there was something heartbreaking about viewing this programme. As Anneka sat in her old choir-stall pew, close to the former site of the High Altar from the Catholic times before the 16th-Century Protestant revolt, she gazed up towards shafts of golden sunlight cascading down through the beautiful architecture; and she observed, in a hushed tone, that this was indeed a very beautiful building which ''sort of rubs off on you.'' Of course, the reason it was so beautiful was that it had been built by Catholics for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

It hit me then - and again when Anneka spoke about the security of hearing her father mowing the fresh-smelling lawn of their family home as a child - that those had really been the closing years of an England that could still be called remotely Christian. In truth, those receding conceptions of church and family were themselves the last vestiges of the Catholic Christendom which had been sundered by the Protestant revolt. Although the sun of Christian England had begun to wane in the 16th Century, it was setting by the days of the late 20th. Today, it has been almost totally eclipsed.

As a child, sitting in our regular pew in our own Anglican parish church, near to parents, siblings, uncles and aunties in their Sunday-best clothes, I could not have known that the last streams of Christian England were about to be totally submerged beneath the icy tides of secularism, much less the hot fires of Islamist expansion; those two strange bed-fellows whose own death-fight is just beginning. Generations of my family had been hatched, matched and dispatched in that Anglican parish church. I realize now, that our little family had existed on the perilous crest of the last crashing wave of a tidal system surging out across Catholic Christendom from the rebellions of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I in England; and Martin Luther et al in Europe.

Within one generation of those far-off Anglican Sundays, when we attended church as a family for Morning Service and for Evensong, youngsters would grow up knowing little of their Christian - much less their Catholic - patrimony. Indeed, some would even mount an Anglican pulpit to mock it with a large pentagram. In this we see a localized depiction of the more general centuries-long slide from Catholicism, to Protestantism, to Secularism, to practical atheism, and on to outright satanism.

Although individuals in all generations have free-will, it must also be noted that these are all long-term reverberations of Luther's original revolt; and ultimately, of course, of the non serviam of our first parent Adam.

The Catholic treasure, buried by the Protestant Reformation, trampled at the Enlightenment, crushed in the Industrial Revolution, and besmirched in the Sexual Revolution, has now been dug up and thrown away altogether. This is why English cinemas will not allow the Lord's Prayer to be played on their screens, whilst all manner of anti-religious filth can be viewed without so much as a pause for thought. The gnarled roots of this evil tree were first planted by Martin Luther and his ilk.

Building a new house?

All of this seems to be wasted on Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa; a friar who grew to adulthood in an Italy which was itself being convulsed by different, though not unrelated revolutions in the religious and cultural spheres.
I once gave a talk on the theme of Grace, to a group of lay-Catholics at a house of prayer in the British Midlands, which was based on parts of Fr. Cantalamessa's book Life in Christ - A Spiritual Commentary on St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. As the parts of that book which focused on the primacy of God's grace in the Christian life, have helped me so much, it is disheartening to read the details of the heretical-sounding speech that Fr. Cantalamessa gave to the Anglicans in Westminster Abbey earlier this week; as it was to read his Good Friday homily in Rome in 2013. In view of his status as the Preacher to the Papal Household, and the countless souls endangered by his words, the content of his speech is very grave indeed.

In this concluding section, I will respond to a few of Fr. Cantalamessa's most dangerous points.

1. ''The Christian world is preparing to celebrate the 5th Centenary of the Protestant Reformation. It is vital for the whole Church that this opportunity is not wasted by people remaining prisoners of the past, trying to establish each other's rights and wrongs.''

It was the inspired writer St. John the Evangelist, who proclaimed that the Truth will make us free (John 8:32). Therefore, those who insist on the fullness of Catholic Truth are not ''prisoners of the past,'' but people living the new life in Christ today; and hoping to draw others into that new life.

As Aristotle reminded the world, if we are to find and live in the truth, then First Principles are important. We will not help anyone in the Anglican community, if we refuse to impart to them the whole Truth which the Catholic Church has received from Our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. ''The situation has dramatically changed since then.''

The whole first part of this article has argued that this change of situation, into a world of atheism, secularism and even satanism, is a symptom of the Protestant revolt against Catholic Truth. To overcome this collapse then, it only makes sense to return to the fullness of Catholic Truth and unity in the Catholic Church. Nothing else can save us.

3. ''We should never allow a moral issue like that of sexuality to divide us more than the love for Jesus Christ unites us.''

Can anyone really be said to love Jesus Christ if they refuse to abide by His commandments? Jesus taught: ''If you love me, keep my commandments'' (John 14:15).

Also, as we have demonstrated in recent articles: St. Paul makes clear, in Ephesians Chapter 5, that the purity of Holy Matrimony expresses and makes present a real sign of the very nature of the Church. The Catholic Church has always preserved this truth in Her Sacred Tradition. One cannot water it down without gravely impairing the Church and Her mission.

At this point I also want to reflect on the fact that Fr. Cantalamessa here gives an affront to those sincere Anglicans who have resisted the cultural collapse into sexual immorality.

I am reminded here of Dad's big sister, my late Auntie Doris - seen here with Dad in 1991 - who was one of the most decent and loving human beings I have ever encountered on this earth.
Auntie Doris, who died in 1994, was married to Uncle Jack for many decades. They were sincere Anglican people, who attended the Anglican parish - where Mum and Dad got married, and where all of us their three children were baptized - several times each week for the whole of their lives.

A few weeks before Auntie Doris fell into her final illness, Dad invited her to attend a parish mission in the Catholic church of English Martyrs. By then, Mum, Dad and I had all converted to the Catholic Faith; something which had been rather difficult for Auntie Doris to understand. Nevertheless, she showed a sudden openness and came along for the final night of that mission; an evening which was dedicated to Our Blessed Lady. I remember that she was very happy that night as a homily on Our Lady was given, with many blue sanctuary lamps burning before the image of the Blessed Virgin. At the end of the night, Auntie Doris acknowledged that it had all been very beautiful.

When she became unconscious and ended up in intensive care a few short weeks later, Uncle Jack, Dad and my brother were told by the medical staff that she had entered on her final hours. Dad took out his Rosary and prayed it quietly next to her bed for her soul. He was amazed when he had just said the last ''Amen'' of the 15-decades and she took her last breath.

The point I want to make here is that my Auntie Doris was a good lady who loved God and her family according to the graces and lights that she had received, in the time that she had down here. She would have been appalled by the kind of immorality that our culture has become accustomed to in the intervening years since her death. She would never have believed that such things as ''gay marriage'' would ever have been introduced into our society; much less that they would have ever been accepted by church leaders of any kind.

Fr. Cantalamessa's glib and heretical remarks have stabbed any sincere Anglicans, who have resisted the ongoing Sexual Revolution, firmly in the back. They have also caused a cloud of error to obscure the Catholic Truth for which these people truly search. This is a grave situation, both for their souls and for his. It needs to be corrected as a matter of urgency; and strictly speaking it should be corrected by the Catholic Cardinal of Westminster. As this is unlikely, we apologise here to any such sincere Anglicans and invite them to go deeper by studying what the Catholic Church really teaches about the importance of morality, through Her catechisms and traditional papal writings. Fr. Cantalamessa's opinions are his own; they do not represent Catholic Truth on this point.

4. Not imposing uniformity, but aiming at what Pope Francis calls ''reconciled difficulties''...

Dear readers, the Catholic Faith is the pearl of great price. As It is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ, we should be prepared to lose all things for it, the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven. It is this, and not because they were prisoners of the past, which caused the English Martyrs to die for the Catholic Faith at the hands of the first Protestant leaders. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, in the Four Quartets, it is the love costing not less than everything.
We owe it to Protestants, Anglican believers, and to all people, to tell them that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church on the Apostles with the mission, grace, authority and power to save and sanctify people, in all times and places until the end of this passing world. Outside of this ark there is objectively no salvation. We know this, because Christ Himself told us.

Because we are limited and sinful creatures, the contemporary ideal of ''unity in diversity'' cannot be acheived without grace. The deepest unity in diversity is that of the Most Holy Trinity at the heart of the Catholic Church and of all that exists. Therefore, the only real way to achieve lasting and genuine unity in diversity is to accept the entire Catholic Truth found in the Sacred Deposit of Faith. It is the role of the papacy to defend and hand on this sacred patrimony. The success or failure of any given papacy depends on how faithful it has been to this fundamental mission.

As such, authentic ecumemism needs to draw sincere Anglicans home to the True Faith and all the grace that she imparts. It is cruel to leave people with half-truths, falsehoods and without the sacraments.

5. The notion that the Anglican ''Church of England'' can be a via media between the Churches...

As we said earlier, Blessed Cardinal Newman discovered that this was theologically impossible; and was thus moved to join the True Church which Christ founded, at great personal cost to himself.

In any case, I should think that all notions of Queen Elizabeth I's via media were killed alongside the holy English Martyrs, that she ordered to be hunted down and executed so long ago.

What House do Pope Francis and Fr. Cantalamessa want to build?

Based on Fr. Cantalamessa's 2013 Good Friday homily, and this week's heretical-sounding speech in Westminster Abbey, we must wonder exactly what kind of house it is that Pope Francis, Cardinals Kasper et al, and Fr. Cantalamessa really want to build.

The mounting evidence gives cause to fear that they desire some kind of 'broad-church' - embracing heretics and heresies of all kinds, without repentance or conversion. If so, then this sounds dangerously close to various other of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's prophetic warnings about a ''false church welcoming heretics'' and emerging in Rome.

We will write a much shorter (promise!) article, with references to the excellent research of the Liverpolitanus blog, about how this may be playing out locally around Merseyside next time.

In the meantime, let us remember that the Catholic Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic - and do what we can to draw others home to Her. Their salvation - and ours - depends on it!