Conservative Catholic clerics begin to react to pope Francis’ approval of same-sex civil unions: “We have a bad pope.”

The conservative Catholic backlash to pope Francis’ call for civil unions of same-sex couples is just beginning. Watch this 7-minute video as a visibly emotional Catholic priest tells his congregation “we have a bad pope” (3:05 mark). The priest continues by saying he doesn’t know “what vanity, or dark spirits, or fallen inclinations” are guiding the pope.

A “bad pope”?

The foundation of Roman Catholicism is the pope, the alleged “Vicar of Christ.” What does it mean if the pope is a “bad pope” and is not to be followed? The foundation of Roman Catholicism crumbles.

There is another way, a better way. Jesus Christ declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

Church membership doesn’t save. Trying to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) doesn’t save. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church that teaches the uncompromised Gospel.

Catholic vs Christian | “I am a Catholic. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?”

BREAKING NEWS! Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine

I don’t normally publish two posts in one day, but this news cannot wait.

I was doing some routine work on the blog late this morning when I overheard on the television in the adjoining kitchen a special news announcement involving the “leader of the Catholic church.”

I scrambled into the kitchen to hear that Pope Francis is calling for civil unions for same-sex couples. This is ASTOUNDING, although not altogether surprising. The Vatican has been preparing for this moment for several years via the work of Jesuit priest, James Martin, its advance man for full acceptance of practicing LGBTers.

The ramifications and fallout from this “announcement” (underhandedly communicated via a docu-bio of Francis) are and will be ENORMOUS. This contradicts previous papal teaching on the illicitness/sinfulness of homosexual practices and same-sex unions/marriages that many/most serious Catholics held to be unchangeable and even infallible. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics will be enraged to a such a degree that many will now surely call for a formal split from pragmatically-progressive, world-pleasing, pope Francis.

I need to read some more reports on this development before I can comment at length. The bottom line is the Roman Catholic church does not teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Whether it’s Francis’s progressive camp, now publicly embracing same-sex unions, or the Catholic conservative camp, the genuine Gospel is not to be found in Roman Catholicism.

Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/pope-calls-civil-unions-same-sex-couples-major-departure-vatican-n1244137

Update: I made it a point to listen to conservative Catholic talk-radio host, Al Kresta, at 4:00 p.m. today to get his take on Francis’s bombshell. As would be expected, Kresta tied himself up into multiple knots trying to downplay/minimize/mitigate/white wash the news. Kresta lamely postulated that, in approving civil unions for same-sex couples, Francis wasn’t necessarily sanctioning homosexual behavior. Kresta stumbled and stammered, suggesting the pope would expect civilly-united, same-sex Catholic couples to live as brother-brother or sister-sister. Say what?!?!? Kresta is living in fantasy land. He can’t yet admit to himself and his audience that his pope is a heretic according to Catholicism’s own tenets. But I think with this particular “reform,” Francis has finally given conservative Catholics, like Kresta, something they cannot glibly explain away.

The Two Popes: A ham-fisted plug for pope Francis

The Two Popes
Directed by Fernando Meirelles, screenplay by Anthony McCarten, and featuring Anthony Hopkins as pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as pope Francis
Netflix, 2019, 125 minutes.

2 Stars

Back in February 2019, I reviewed an interesting book, “The Pope,” by Anthony McCarten, that contrasted the doctrinally conservative, pope Benedict XVI, with his successor, the progressive reformer, pope Francis. See me review here.

Netflix produced a film based on the book and released it for streaming this past December 20th. Just as in the book, the sharp contrast between the conservative Benedict and the progressive Francis is the theme of the film. Benedict is portrayed as hopelessly out of touch with the world with his rigid clericalism and doctrinalism. Francis, in contrast, is presented as a breath of fresh air who is willing, make that eager, to eschew clerical privilege and bend/circumvent doctrine in order to reach people with the progressive version of the Catholic works-righteousness “gospel.”

This film is a biased representation of the current battle within the Catholic church between conservatives and the Francis-led progressives, with Francis the clear favorite. Pro-Francis screenwriter, McCarten, “swings for the fences” at the end of the film with Benedict XVI/Hopkins admitting the error of his rigid ideology and fully embracing Francis’ reforms. The two characters seal the deal over Fanta and pizza, watching a soccer game, and dancing the tango together (VERY creepy in light of the current clerical abuse and homosexuality scandals in the RCC). What a “hammy” ending and it’s all pure fiction.

People love Francis for being so “down to earth,” but neither in conservative Catholicism’s rigid doctrinalism or in Francis’ doctrine-bending “pastoralism” can be found the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

While “The Two Popes” is garnering a lot of accolades at the various Hollywood awards shows, I would recommend this pro-Francis puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers. Everyone else should use the two hours for something more productive.

Pope Francis’ fight to steer the RCC toward progressivism

Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church
By Austin Ivereigh
Henry Holt and Company, 2019, 401 pp.

2 Stars

When cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected to the papacy in 2013, conservative Catholics did not know what they were in for. However, by 2016 it was crystal clear that Bergoglio was on a mission to steer the Roman Catholic church towards a progressive/liberal ideology. In that year, pope Francis guilefully overturned the ban on communion to remarried divorcees via a couple of footnotes in his “Amoris Laetitia” encyclical, and conservative opposition to Francis has been on the rise ever since.

Books critical of pope Francis by Catholic authors began appearing in late 2017 and have continued to be published. See here for details. There is disappointment and frustration with Francis among some conservatives that borders on outright rebellion. Discussions of schism are held in check by hopes that the next pope returns the church to pope John Paul II-style conservatism.

British journalist, Austin Ivereigh, answers Francis’ conservative critics with this very flattering apologia of the current pope. The problem, according to the author, is not Francis’ attempts to make the church more relevant, “pastoral,” and appealing in an era of rising secularism and an increasingly disaffected membership, but, rather, the problem is the intransigence of rigid conservative Catholics who are rooted in “clericalism” and doctrinalism at the expense of compassion and mercy.

In this book, Ivereigh covers all of the sturm und drang of Francis’ controversial papacy, including such topics as…

  • The fight with conservatives over control of the Order of Malta
  • The ongoing Vatican Bank financial scandals
  • Reform of the corrupt Vatican Curia
  • The ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandal including Francis embarrassing mishandling of the situation in Chile in early-2018.
  • How Francis is adapting the “Aparecida” movement (focus on the poor, social justice, etc.) of Latin American Catholicism to the entire church.
  • Francis’ elevation of environmental concerns and climate change to the forefront.
  • The “Amoris Laetitia” controversy including the dubia sent to the pope by the resistant right-wing cardinals.
  • Francis’ method to orchestrate liberal change through synods rather than by papal decree.

One of the greatest ironies of our era is watching conservative Catholics line up in opposition to their own pope!

This book will give the reader a good understanding of the pro-Francis progressive viewpoint in this ongoing feud between liberal and conservative Catholics. Except for a brief account of Francis’ bumbling accommodations to Argentina’s murderous dictatorship as head of the country’s Jesuit order in the 1970s, the pope is portrayed with embarrassing adulation. This book reminded me, no exaggeration, of the fawning Catholic saint hagiographies of yesteryear.

Please keep in mind that neither the conservative Catholic doctrinalists or Francis and his progressive allies proclaim the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I would recommend this puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers who are interested in the current internecine tug-of-war within Catholicism.

Postscript: Here’s a question for Catholics regarding the title of this book, Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church: The Roman Catholic church boasts that it is the “one, true church” and that it is Semper eadem, always the same. Why then is pope Francis trying to convert it?

Pope slaps woman’s hand in St. Peter’s Square

I don’t usually publish two posts in a single day, but I wanted to pass this information along. Thanks to Beth at I Once Was Lost for bringing this matter to my attention:

Yesterday evening, New Year’s Eve, pope Francis walked beside a barrier at St. Peter’s Square to greet and “bless” the throng of people who had gathered. After shaking hands with many of the folks pressed against the barrier, the pope began to walk away, but one pious Catholic would not be disappointed and reached out and grabbed Francis’ hand, pulling him toward her. The startled pope tried to pull his hand away and even began slapping at the woman’s hand with his free left hand to break her grip.

 

Allow me to paint between the lines of this scenario. This pious Catholic woman fulfilled the dream of a lifetime by traveling from her faraway country to the Vatican in Rome, Italy to see the pope in person during a New Year’s Eve appearance at St. Peter’s Square. She arrives at the square many hours ahead of time in hopes of getting a good spot to view the “holy father.” As the pope begins walking next to the barrier and shaking hands with the “pilgrims,” the woman pushes and jostles her way next to the barricade to position herself for a personal encounter with the “Vicar of Christ.” As Francis approaches, the woman nervously blesses herself with the sign of the cross as she prepares for the encounter. She can barely contain herself as she anxiously anticipates what will certainly be the greatest moment of her life. However, immediately after shaking the hand of the person next to her, the pope begins to veer away from the barrier. The woman responds instinctively. She won’t be denied after all of her hard effort and anticipation. She reaches out and grabs the pope’s hand and pulls him toward her. Francis reacts in surprise and anger by violently slapping at the frenzied woman’s iron grip.

As the Guardian newspaper reports, the “video of the incident went viral, prompting indignation on social media. One Twitter user wrote: ‘What the pope did demonstrates one thing – he’s a man.’”

In a speech to a crowd assembled at St. Peter’s square on New Year’s Day, Francis apologized for his violent reaction. Ironically, in his prepared address he condemned all violence against women.

Yes, the pope is just a man. Would Peter the apostle have accepted all of the slavish adulation and servitude accorded to Francis and all of the previous popes down through the ages? We’ll let Scripture speak:

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am a man.’” – Acts 10:25-26

Yes, Francis is just a man, a man who propagates a spiritually deadly false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. We know from God’s Word that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Pope Francis apologises after slapping woman’s hand
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/01/pope-francis-apologises-after-slapping-womans-hand

Rebutting a Catholic apologist, #3: “Paul Rebuked Peter”

Today, we continue our series of responses to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. The Catholic apologist continues his six-part section on church hierarchy and authority with a chapter countering Protestants’ argument that Peter (and hence the pope) was not infallible because “Paul Rebuked Peter.”

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The notion of papal infallibility began gaining popularity within Roman Catholicism in the 15th century, but it wasn’t until 1870, after Italian nationalist forces had occupied the former Papal States and prepared to liberate Rome, that a defiant pope Pius IX pressured the bishops attending the First Vatican Council to declare as dogma that popes were infallible when they taught on matters vital to faith and morals. Although he could not resist the temporal power of the Risorgimento liberators, Pius IX could assert his alleged spiritual superiority by having himself proclaimed as infallible (he also excommunicated everyone who participated in the Risorgimento). As a dogmatic teaching, all Roman Catholics were thereafter required to believe the pope was infallible under threat of damning mortal sin.

Ever since 1870, Protestants have cited Galatians 2:11-14 to refute the notion of papal infallibility:

“But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

If Peter was the first pope and infallible, as Catholics claim, then why was he leading the church into serious error by hypocritically abstaining from eating with Gentiles in the presence of Jewish legalists, for which he had to be publicly corrected by Paul?

Broussard argues that Protestant critics reveal their very faulty understanding of papal infallibility by citing this passage. According to the Catholic standard, only when a pope speaks ex cathedra, officially “from the chair” of St. Peter, in declaring a doctrine as dogma is a teaching considered divinely-guided and infallible. Broussard admits that Peter’s behavior at Antioch was reprehensible and worthy of rebuke, but the bad behavior did not meet the conditions required of dogmatic infallibility. Peter wasn’t acting in his office as supreme teacher of the church in that circumstance at Antioch, argues Broussard. He was just being a cowardly hypocrite.

I understand Broussard’s argument. Protestants do present a bit of a straw man fallacy by presenting Galatians 2:11-14 as a refutation of papal infallibility according to the strict Catholic definition. However, there definitely are many problems with the claim of papal infallibility that Broussard conveniently doesn’t touch upon:

  • While Peter may not have been declaring dogma at Antioch, his example was leading many into dangerous doctrinal error. Catholics have historically claimed that popes were incapable of leading the church into error.
  • It’s ironic beyond measure that Broussard chooses to examine Galatians 2 in his defense of papal infallibility. Following Paul’s description of his rebuke of Peter, the apostle follows with one of the clearest defenses of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone in Galatians 2:15-21. The passage directly contradicts the salvation-by-merit theology that is at the heart of Roman Catholicism.
  • The history of the papacy is filled with incidents that do not reflect well on claims of papal infallibility in matters vital to faith and morals including the heterodoxy of pope Honorius, the Cadaver Trial of pope Formosus, the authorization of the Crusades and the Inquisitions, the Great Western Schism, the authorized selling of indulgences, the condemnation of Galileo, etc., etc., etc.
  • Catholic theologians can only agree upon three papal declarations as being infallibly dogmatic: the immaculate conception of Mary (1854), papal infallibility (1870), and the assumption of Mary into Heaven (1950). What is the point of papal infallibility if it is so rarely exercised?

Important: Just as with the two previous chapters on papal authority, Broussard purposely omits any mention of the current CRISIS within Catholicism regarding the papacy. Pope Francis has overturned three doctrines previously held to be unchangeable: (1) the ban on communion for remarried divorcees, (2) the ban on communion to Protestants (Protestant spouses of Catholic members may now receive communion according to the discretion of each bishop), and (3) the licitness of capital punishment. Conservative Catholic leaders are advising their follows to ignore Francis’s changes and some are even calling the pope a heretic. Catholics are wrestling with how an infallible pope can overturn doctrines considered unchangeable by previous infallible popes. Francis has even gone out of his way to downplay assertions of papal infallibility/prerogatives by emphasizing that “a pope can be wrong” (see here). As Broussard and other conservative Catholic apologists attempt to defend the bastion of papal infallibility, their own pope is busily dismantling the bogus dogma.

Next up: “Where Two or Three Are Gathered”

Brokeback Vatican

In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy
By Frédéric Martel
Bloomsbury, 2019, 555 pages

I didn’t realize that many Catholic clerics were homosexual until I began attending a Catholic high school that was administered by the Irish Christian Brothers and became indirectly aware about such things. Several of the brothers were decidedly effeminate and one of my guidance counselors posited some inappropriate questions to me during one of our sessions. That was back in the early 70s. Over the last twenty-years, we’ve all witnessed headline after headline of Catholic priests sexually abusing children, especially boys. What are the reasons for that? I’ve stated for years that Catholicism’s rule of clerical celibacy was both a magnet for and an incubator of sexual deviancy. Sources both Catholic and non-Catholic are now coming forward examining the reasons why so many priests are sexually deviant. For some strange reason, this topic was “off-limits,” until now.

French investigative journalist, Frédéric Martel, has dropped this bombshell on the Catholic church and the effects will be iconoclastic. In interviews with numerous priests, bishops, and cardinals, Martel exposes the truth that the church has kept hidden for centuries; a large percentage of Catholic clerics are either practicing homosexuals or sympathetic homophile “fellow travelers.” The percentage of gay clerics grows larger the higher one goes up the hierarchy. Powerful prelates reward their “proteges” with important positions and the “parish” is perpetuated.

Martel confirms that Catholic seminaries with their rule of clerical celibacy attracted young men who were societal misfits and not agreeable to marriage. He closely examines the papacies of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, both for their promotions of homosexuals to powerful positions and for their strong denunciations of homosexuality according to official church teaching. In an example of “The lady doth protest too much” Shakespearean hypocrisy, Martel shows that some of the most vocal critics of homosexuality were/are practicing homosexual clerics.

This book takes no prisoners. Martel is a homosexual and clearly has an axe to grind in chastising the church and propagating the LGBTQ agenda. But the Catholic church has no answers for the truths he reveals. Although I applaud this book for revealing the Vatican’s dark secrets, it was difficult to read because of the abundance of sordid details.

I’m not an anti-homosexual crusader as my old pastor was 35 years ago. Sin is sin. But the propagation of the LBGTQ agenda has had and will have alarming negative effects on the family and society in general.

The salient irony of this tempest that I don’t want you to miss is that a religion that teaches merited salvation is led to a sizeable degree by men who are either practicing homosexuals, pedophiles, or homophile “fellow travelers.” Every Roman Catholic and evangelical Vatican-watcher needs to read this book, as difficult as it may be.

“26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” – Romans 1:26-27

Cutthroat politics in the push to make the pope infallible

Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church
By John W. O’Malley
Belknap Press, 2018, 320 pages

Some of my recent readings about the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility prompted me to download the ebook version of this very interesting book.

In the 19th-century, as monarchies were being overturned throughout Europe in favor of constitutional democracies, pope Pius IX hung on desperately to the Papal States, an area of about 16,000 sq. mi. in the central region of the Italian Peninsula. As the alleged “Vicar of Christ,” the pope claimed authority over both the temporal and spiritual worlds and the Papal States were symbolic of his theoretical jurisdiction over all nations.

As the political and military supporters of Italian national unification began making inroads into the Papal States, the pope called upon France and Austria to defend his territory. He retaliated against the “revolutionaries” the only way he could, by issuing the “Syllabus of Errors” in 1864, which condemned all forms of constitutional government, freedom of religion, and other “modern errors.”

But many Catholics of the era reacted to the post-Enlightenment upheavals by desiring a return to an ultra-pious religiosity which would be embodied by an authoritarian pope; authoritarian at least in spiritual matters. Debates over papal infallibility began raging throughout Catholic Europe with the Jesuits taking the lead in the campaign for furthering papal supremacy. Pius IX saw the opportunity to balance his increasingly precarious temporal situation with regards to the Papal States with increased “spiritual” prerogatives and called the Vatican Council (1869-1870) mainly to define the dogma of papal infallibility. Much/most of the impetus for declaring the pope infallible was in reaction to the loss of the Papal States; the Risorgimento may have seized the pope’s kingdom, but he was still their infallible, spiritual sovereign.

Contemporary Catholics who take the doctrine of infallibility for granted 150 years later should definitely read this book. Many of the prelates of the preconciliar church thought of the hierarchy in much more collegial terms and saw the pope as a symbolic figure among equals. A sizable minority of the bishops who attended the council strongly opposed papal infallibility. The pope and his allies used various means at their disposal to influence the prelates. “On 13 July 1870, a preliminary vote on the section on infallibility was held in a general congregation: 451 voted simply in favour (placet), 88 against (non placet), and 62 in favour but on condition of some amendment (placet iuxta modum)” – from Wikipedia. The opponents of the dogma absented themselves from the final vote rather than publicly oppose the pope. The credulous faithful would be surprised to learn from this book and the example of Vatican I that Vatican spirituality was/is often a matter of cutthroat politics and cloakroom deals.

Postscripts:

  • Italian unification forces besieged Rome and seized the city in September, 1870, ending papal temporal rule in Italy until dictator Benito Mussolini ceded Vatican City to the papacy as an independent state in 1929 in return for recognition of the fascist regime.
  • The doctrine of papal infallibility claims the pope teaches without error on matters of faith and morals only when he speaks “ex cathedra,” formally from the chair of St. Peter in his alleged capacity as the supreme teacher of the church. However, Catholic theologians can agree on only three occasions when a pope defined dogma infallibly: the immaculate conception of Mary (1854), papal infallibility (1870), and the assumption of Mary (1950).
  • “Ultramontane” literally means “on the other side of the mountains from the point of view of the speaker.” In France, the term became popular as a reference to “the man beyond the mountains,” i.e. the pope. Ultramontanists were Catholics who desired an increased degree of authority for the pope including the declaration of infallibility as a dogma.
  • The author of this book is a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest and professor of theology at Georgetown University, but I give him credit for his objectivity. Conservative Catholic apologists operate from a pollyannaish viewpoint with regards to their church’s history, but O’Malley doesn’t sugar coat it.
  • Catholic apologists boast that their church is the only religious institution that’s led by an infallible leader. They claim that the Holy Spirit would never allow a pope to lead the church into doctrinal error. It’s quite interesting, then, that the current pope, Francis, has undermined doctrines held to be infallible by previous popes including the ban on communion for remarried divorcees, the ban on intercommunion with Protestants, and the licitness of capital punishment, much to the chagrin of conservative Catholics.

Is the Pope the Antichrist?

Antichrist Revealed: Described in Scripture…Fulfilled in the Papacy
By Carol White
Amazon Digital Services, 2017, 45 pages

Last week, I posted about a valuable little quarterly, the Ulster Bulwark, published by the Evangelical Protestant Society of Northern Ireland (see here). One of the books reviewed at the end of the quarterly was “Antichrist Revealed: Described in Scripture…Fulfilled in the Papacy” by Carol White.

I don’t study eschatology/end times although I have benefited in the past from those who do. The early Reformers were convinced that the Antichrist referred to in several prophetic books of the Bible was the office of the pope. Several of the confessions of the nascent Protestant denominations contained articles declaring the papacy to be the Antichrist. This interpretation lost favor in our increasingly ecumenical era, to be replaced by a belief that the “man of sin” would be a secular, political leader.

In this short booklet, the author seeks a return to the classical Protestant view. First, she evaluates all Scripture passages that refer to the “son of perdition” and follows with a brief history of the papacy, demonstrating how it has already fulfilled much of the prophecy in question. The author has done an excellent job in presenting her case. Who else has claimed the lofty title of “Vicar of Christ” for the last 1500 years? Who else would the world turn to for “spiritual guidance” in the case of a global catastrophe? This work is not some outlandish, Jack Chick-type, conspiracy polemic, but a measured evaluation of Scripture and history.

Identifying the papacy as the Antichrist of Scripture is strictly taboo in this era of tolerance and ecumenism. To suggest such a thing is an invitation to be relegated to the fundamentalist fringes. Did the Reformers and evangelical Protestants up until the 20th Century get it wrong? Read this booklet and decide for yourself.

“It is the bound and duty of every Christian to pray against this Antichrist, and as to what Antichrist is, no sane man ought to raise a question. If it be not the popery in the Church of Rome there is nothing in the world that can be called by that name. Popery is contrary to Christ’s gospel and is the antichrist and we ought to pray against it. It should be the daily prayer of every believer that the antichrist might be hurled like a millstone into the flood and for Christ, because it wounds Christ, because it robs Christ of his glory, because it puts sacramental efficacy in the place of his atonement and lifts a piece of bread into the place of the Savior and a few drops of water into the place of the Holy Spirit. And puts a mere fallible man like ourselves up as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. If we pray against it, because it is against him, we shall love the persons though we hate their errors. We shall love their souls though we loathe and detest their dogmas. And so the breath of our prayers will be sweetened because we turn our faces toward Christ when we pray.” – Charles Spurgeon

Order the Kindle ebook here.

The abduction of a Jewish boy by the Catholic church that caused an international uproar

The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara
By David I. Kertzer
Alfred A. Knopf, 1997, 350 pages

The Roman Catholic church has an extremely uncomplimentary history in regards to its relationship with the Jews. There’s a lengthy and sordid record of persecution, pogroms, forced baptisms, ghetto quarantines, and expulsions. Popes, prelates, and priests were not only aware of the intolerance, they were more often than not the instigators. Adolf Hitler credited the Catholic church with fomenting anti-Semitism throughout Europe, which culminated in his Final Solution:

“The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc, because it recognized the Jews for what they were …. I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the Church.” – Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933.

By the mid-19th-century, autocratic, monarchical governments in Europe were being overturned in favor of democratic republicanism. The Papal States on the Italian Peninsula represented one of the last vestiges of one-man-rule tyranny. In the midst of this revolution was an incident that became an international symbol of the struggle between the old rule versus the new.

In this excellent book, the author describes in detail the “Mortara Case.” In 1858, in the city of Bologna, which was part of the Papal States, information reached the office of the Roman Catholic Holy Inquisition that a six-year-old Jewish boy had been baptized as a baby by the family’s Catholic servant. Church law forbade that a “Christian” child could be raised by Jews. With permission from the Vatican, the inquisitor directed the civil magistrates to forcibly remove the boy from his family. The child, Edgardo Mortara, was immediately sent to Rome to be raised and indoctrinated into the Catholic religion by clerics. The abduction of Jewish children who had been secretly baptized was not uncommon.

Edgardo’s father strongly protested the kidnapping of his son. Such acts had been accepted as prerogatives of the Catholic majority in previous generations, but as Western Europe moved increasingly toward democracy, the affront became an unacceptable symbol of old rule. Jewish communities around the world were galvanized via their own newspapers. Ambassadors of many national governments lodged complaints with the “Holy See.” In the United States, Protestant pastors and journalists pointed to the Mortara Case as an example of the depravity of the papacy and Catholic system. Champions of Italian unification used the incident as a cause célèbre in the effort to relieve pope Pius IX of his significant territorial holdings (approx. 7000 sq. mi). Despite the mounting international outrage, Pius resisted returning Edgardo to his parents and actually took a personal role in raising the the boy (Edgardo eventually entered the seminary and was ordained a priest in 1873). When Italian military forces of the “Risorgimento” captured Rome in 1870, pope Pius IX reacted by excommunicating everyone who participated in or assisted the “rebellion.”

This is an excellent history of a very sordid affair. The author successfully juxtaposes the heartbreaking predicament of Edgardo’s parents and the father’s determined but unsuccessful efforts to rescue his son alongside the growing international pressure against the pope and his arbitrary religiosity. The author did his homework. The references to various records and testimonies are voluminous. Perhaps the only drawback to the book is the thirty-one pages devoted to the unrelated investigation and trial of Edgardo’s father on murder charges in 1871. The material detracts from the main topic, but it’s not a show-stopper.

This book was a finalist in the 1997 National Book Awards. Steven Spielberg is currently developing the story of the Mortara Case into a feature film.

Most contemporary Catholics would view the Mortara Case as an embarrassment and a product of “unenlightened, sectarian religiosity.” But how do today’s conservative Catholic apologists explain their church’s institutional anti-Semitism, which was advanced by allegedly Holy Spirit-guided popes and prelates and included the abduction of Edgardo Mortara from his parents that was personally upheld by the “Vicar of Christ”? They’ve shown they can shamelessly rationalize away every unflattering sensibility and event in their church’s past.

Postscript: In 1998, John Paul II became the first pope to issue an apology to Jews for all of the Catholic priests, prelates, and infallible popes of previous generations who promoted and supported anti-Jewish persecution. Click on the link below for a very recent story regarding pope Francis’ apologies for the anti-Semitism of popes and prelates in the past:

Catholics must continue seeking pardon for anti-Judaism, pope says
https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2019/01/16/catholics-must-continue-seeking-pardon-for-anti-judaism-pope-says/