Pope Francis, dom Guéranger and the Christian meaning of history

Who am I to judge»? These words of Pope Francis, pronounced on July 28, 2013 on the return flight from Brazil, in response to a journalist’s question about homosexuals, have entered history. They do not manifest the subjective attitude of mercy that every Catholic must have in the concrete case towards a sinner, but the refusal to express clearly their own judgment on an objective sin condemned by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is indeed true that “the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth“(Psalms 24, 10), but mercy is applied to the concrete case only after the unequivocal affirmation of the truth. It is therefore no wonder that this phrase was interpreted around the world as a change, or an attenuation, of the Church’s doctrine on homosexuality. Presumably, that was not the intention of the Pope, driven to those declarations by the political desire to please his interlocutors, but the result was disastrous.

Pope Francis’ words about China on September 15, 2022, on the return flight from Kazakhstan, in response to a journalist from Crux, express the same political line of compromise. To justify the Holy See’s dialogue with Xi Jinping’s communist regime, the Pope refused to define China as an undemocratic country, downplaying the gravity of the ongoing trial in Hong Kong against Cardinal Josef Zen. “I don’t feel like qualifying China as undemocratic, because it is such a complex country, with its own rhythms … Yes, it is true that there are things that seem to us not to be democratic, this is true. Cardinal Zen, an elderly man, will go to trial in these days, I believe. He says what he feels, and it shows that there are limitations there. More than qualifying, because it is difficult, and I don’t feel like qualifying, they are impressions; more than qualify, I try to support the path of dialogue“.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller recently defined “unfair” And “very serious»The Cardinal Zen trial, complaining that there was no word of solidarity towards him, neither from the Dean of Cardinals, Cardinal Re, nor from Secretary of State Parolin, nor from the Pope. The 2022 reports of the main institutions internationals, World Watch, UN and Amnesty International, report the crimes against human rights for which China is responsible. For forty years it has imposed, through abortion, the only child, and still today there are about 9.5 million abortions per year, almost as much as the 10.6 million births registered in 2021. Technology is at the service repression and repression is functional to criminal activities, such as trafficking in human organs. A study published in 2020 and funded by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, denounces with numerous testimonies the murder of political prisoners in China, with the aim of supplying with their organs some of the hospitals that transplant hearts, livers, lungs and kidneys to Chinese and foreign patients.

Pope Francis does not want to “qualify” the Chinese Communist dictatorship as undemocratic, but his task is precisely that of qualifying, judging, defining, distinguishing the true from the false, the right from the unjust. This must take place according to a precise rule: the interests of the Church, founded by Jesus Christ, of whom the Supreme Pontiff is Vicar on earth. The criteria of judgment, for the Pope as for every Catholic, are not political, sociological or philosophical, but supernatural. This is what Dom Guéranger reminds us in a golden and very up-to-date libretto just translated into English (The Christian Sense of History, Calx Mariae Publishing, London 2022, with the presentation of Father Albert M. Schmitt, monk of Solesmes). In Italy the book was published by Edizioni Piane, in 2005.

Dom Prosper Guéranger, was born on April 4, 1805 near the former Benedictine abbey of Solesmes, which was secularized in 1790 during the French Revolution, and died on January 30, 1875, after having restored the abbey and, with it, the Benedictine order. In 2005, his cause for beatification began in the diocese of Le Mans. Pius IX published, a few months after his death, a Brief in honor of him, stating that he, “endowed with a powerful genius and possessing a marvelous erudition and a thorough science of canonical rules, he applied himself throughout his life to courageously defend in his writings of the highest value the doctrine of the Catholic Church and the prerogatives of the Roman Pontiff” (Short Ecclesiasticis viris of March 19, 1875).

Dom Guéranger was an exponent of the ultramontane current which in France included the names of Louis Veuillot and Cardinal Pie, in England of Father Fredrick W. Faber and Cardinal Manning, in Spain of Saint Anthony Maria Claret. The ultramontans were those who enthusiastically supported the great acts of the pontificate of Blessed Pius IX: the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception (1854), the condemnation of liberalism, with the Syllabus (1864), and the definition of the dogmas of primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff (1870).

In the Christian sense of history, Dom Guéranger vigorously affirms that the Catholic must not limit himself to a human and naturalistic reading of historical events, because we are called by God to a supernatural destiny. Reason, without faith, is unable to understand this destiny. “The supernatural revelation was not in itself necessary: ​​man had no right to it; but God gave it and promulgated it; since then nature alone is no longer sufficient to explain man“(P. 10). For this, according to dom Guéranger, “any historical system that disregards the supernatural order in the exposition and interpretation of the facts, is a false system that explains nothing and that leaves the history of humanity in permanent chaos and contradiction“(P. 12). The weaknesses and abuses of men of the Church do not surprise the Catholic historian, who knows how to recognize the direction, the spirit, the divine instinct of the Church. He does not consider the political side of the events, but “he calls good what the Church judges good, bad what the Church judges bad“(P. 18); “the Christian judges facts, men, institutions from the point of view of the Church; he is not free to judge otherwise, this is his strength“(P. 57).

The Church is always standing, despite the internal and external attacks to which it is subjected. “Heresies, scandals, defections, conquests, revolutions have not shaken it; rejected by one country it has penetrated into others; always visible, always Catholic, always conquering and always put to the test“(P. 26).

On the Pope’s return from Astana, where he participated in the seventh congress of the leaders of world religions, how can one fail to hear the truth of Dom Guéranger’s critical words towards those “neutral grounds on which certain believers and non-believers meet to hold a kind of congress from which everyone returns as they went»? (p. 85). Society does not need multireligious encounters, but coherent doctrines and uncompromising Catholics. “If there is a chance of salvation for society this is placed in the firmness of the Christiansi “(p. 64). There is in fact a linked grace “to the full and complete profession of the Faith“(P. 64):”the Christian has not only the duty to believe, but also to proclaim what he believes in“(P. 55). What the Pope, the bishops, the priests should proclaim before the world is that Jesus Christ is the King of history and the only Savior. “We therefore see humanity in its relations with Jesus Christ as its guide; let us never ignore it, neither when we judge nor when we tell the story; and when our eyes are fixed on the map of the world, let us remember first of all that we have before our eyes the empire of the Man-God and his Church“(P. 28).

In the age of naturalism and secularization in which we live, the pages of dom Guéranger remind us that the destiny of mankind is not earthly, but celestial. Only the Church has the keys that open the doors of the supernatural destiny of men. All other paths are false and untrue, however good the intentions of those who follow them may be.

Pope Francis, dom Guéranger and the Christian meaning of history – by Roberto de Mattei | Roman correspondence