The Assisi Interfaith Gatherings and Catholic Principles

Written by I. Shawn McElhinney

One of the thorniest subjects to discuss with those of the self-styled "traditionalist" persuasion is that of interfaith gatherings. The reason it is so difficult to go over this subject with them is because they tend towards what is properly called a hermeneutic of suspicion. For many who call themselves "traditionalists", their weltanschauung is one of rebellion against the teachings and directives of the Church's Magisterium beyond an arbitrary point in time of their choosing. Those who make a conscious or explicit rejection of the Church's Magisterium usually (but not always) choose the end of the pontificate of Pope Pius XII (r. 1939-1958). These are the sedevacantist heretics -a minority wing of the movement whose partisans style themselves as "traditionalists." Many who appropriate this label for themselves recognize at least in the abstract the pontificates of Pius XII's successors but they differ amongst themselves as to their allegience to the post-Pius XII popes -from marginally loyal to outright schismatic. The defacto result either way of course is the same: a lack of obedience to the Church's Magisterium in the persons of Pope John Paul II and the bishops who are in communion with him.

Fortunately, there are redeeming qualities to this movement and it possesses many who -though they consider themselves "traditionalists"- are at the same time loyal to the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. They are a part of a diversity of approved apostolates that make up Ecclesia Dei - an charism within the Church recognized and approved of by Pope John Paul II. Adherents to Ecclesia Dei usually tend towards approaching issues such as Assisi and interfaith cautiously if at all. There are unfortunately others among them who are less cautious and make statements that strongly reflect those of the heretical and schismatic strands of so-called "traditionalism." An example of the latter is the periodical called The Remnant  and the vast majority of its contributors. However, this writer is hesitant to say "all of its contributors" because there are two newer contributors to the periodical in the past year or so with whom the jury is still out on if you will. One of them is a priest by the name of Fr. Brian W. Harrison, a Protestant convert who did some very good theological work in years gone by. (Fr. Harrison's work on several subjects such as  religious liberty, logic and the foundations of Protestantism, Anglican orders, and the infallibility of Humanae Vitae are highly recommended by this writer.) The other is David J. Palm, a Protestant convert who was once among the top tier of modern Catholic apologists. The subject of Assisi is one which seems to be eluding Fr. Harrison's usually well-nuanced mind. Likewise, David Palm (DP) has expressed anxiety over this issue on more than one occasion in essay form.

This present writer has responded to David's essay on tradition and novelty from a September 2003 edition of The Remnant. (In an essay released in January of 2004.) Part of David's Remnant  article had touched on the subject of Assisi and interfaith gatherings. The response to David's essay was very lengthy and included a fairly detailed discussion of the Assisi interfaith gathering and the underlying principles involved. DP has been bringing up Assisi in various and sundry forums in recent months while apparently paying no attention to what this writer discussed in that essay on the Assisi interfaith gathering. Such an evasive attitude is strange to see since the only reason this writer wrote a response to begin with was because David Palm on three separate occasions requested from the author of this essay some interaction with his essay.

For these reasons, it seems appropriate to excerpt the relevant parts of the longer essay which deal with that subject and post them here as a stand alone essay. That is what the rest of this thread will contain with David's words being in nine point bolded Times New Roman font. However, it must be noted at the outset  (via some material from that essay) an uneasy parallel that the author sees between David's new allies and certain unsavoury political elements in the contemporary arena. The parallel can be seen in the way media liberals so often react to being confuted by media conservatives. As one of innumerable examples which could be noted in this area, Ann Coulter explained her own experiences with Al Franken in this manner:

It's interesting that the most devastating examples of my alleged "lies" keep changing. As soon as one is disproved, I'm asked to respond to another. This is behavior normally associated with conspiracy theorists in tinfoil hats. One crackpot argument after another is shot down - but the conspiracy theorists just move on to the next crackpot argument without pause or reconsideration. Certainly without apology. [1]
David is not unaware that this writer has expressed the same kind of sentiments with regards to the so-called "traditionalists" who continue to bring up objection after objection only to respond to their arguments being shot down by bringing up yet more objections still. There is virtually never an admission of error or oversight on their part. Granted everyone makes mistakes but the scholarship of the so-called "traditionalists" is almost always of such quackish third rate quality that errors in history, theology, and philosophy by the truckload can be culled from their work.

They also have a tendency to misunderstand the sources they cite and to misquote the sources they intend to utilize in their arguments. (David has done this repeatedly in the essay of his that the essay you are reading is part of a longer response to.) Granted he has done a better job with his sources than Atila Guimaraes or "Mr. Esquire"; however that is unfortunately not saying a lot.

So we hear constantly such novel notions as the excuse that the new principle of “collegiality” excuses the Roman Pontiff from the responsibility of disciplining men of bad character whom he appointed to the episcopate, that schism is worse than heresy and so this justifies leaving brazen heretics within the bosom of the Church, or that calling pagans together to pray to their false gods for worldly favors is really perfectly in line with the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. 

The reader is asked to notice the way DP has to throw out a whole scattershot of points at once. This is a tactic common to Protestant controversialists who know that if enough objections are thrown out at once that the time and energy required to respond to them all will drain on even the most energetic or tenacious of people. As the essay this work was extracted from was long enough (and there was still more to get to), this writer will only touch on the three points noted above in brief.

First of all, there is the widespread notions that self-styled "traditionalists" have that either (i) collegiality is new or (ii) that the pope is supposed to be some kind of micro manager of Church affairs are both patently false. The popes have never taken the approach of excommunicating prelates by the boatful -reserving to themselves only a select and strategic few to make an example of to send a message to the many. Stephen Hand noted this historical trend in the following manner:

[When] Pope Pius X thought it imprudent to simply begin excommunicating modernists who were, according to his Encyclical, Pascendi, hiding in the bosom of the Church everywhere, many hot heads thought he was not exercising his authority properly. They were convinced a mere Oath against Modernism was simply naive. They salivated for abundant and outright excommunications! Yet this Saint-Pope had his reasons for not wanting to tempt God by provoking even more rebellion and schism in the Church. The same can be seen with Pope Pius XII, to name but one other. He chose not to excommunicate neo-modernists, doubtless in the interests of preventing even greater evils. The fact is that very few Popes in history have conducted wholesale excommunication campaigns against those who were deviant in dogmatic matters. The Church is not rash in these matters and often disciplines only a few in a representative manner as she deems best as a warning to others. She leaves the rest of the dissidents, whether on the left or right, to God's judgement and mercy. [2]

In brief, the disciplining of prelates is generally the task of the diocesan bishop. David's seeming desire to see the pope cast down fire on the heretics reminds this writer of James and John asking the Lord if He would approve of fire coming down from heaven upon the Samaritans who did not receive Our Lord (cf. Luke ix,54). The Lord's response was to rebuke them for this imprudence: something that David should take note of. This is adequate to deal with the first two objections.

As far as "calling pagans together to pray to their false gods", this is part of the garden variety self-styled "traditionalist" scattershot approach whereby if enough offhand assertions of dubious appearance are thrown together, then at least one of them may slip through the radar. This happens often with Assisi and interfaith subject matter because it is not a subject easily discussed. Because the concepts of these subjects are intricate ones and take time to adequately deal with, the short attention span of the average rebellious so-called "traditionalist" tries to deal with the matter in quick and superficial ways. This explains why those who can discuss the subject in detail seldom do -or at least not very often anyway. With others there is perhaps not the understanding of the subject which would lend itself to them discussing it so they wisely avoid the matter. But of course where is the so-called "traditionalist" who wisely refrains from discussing anything that they do not understand with a swagger that would make Rambo proud??? There are very few of them and this writer likes to believe that David is one of them. Nonetheless, it seems that the time to address this matter has arrived. That therefore is what we will presently do.

David is committing a common error of the so-called "traditionalists" and this writer calls him out on it. To start with, David is challenged to point to one single statement where the pope called any pagans "to pray to their false gods." And though he sloughs off the idea that Assisi has any connection to the thought of St. Thomas, this will be touched on briefly. However, the idea that Assisi is really perfectly in line with the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas is not something that this writer needs to demonstrate nor can it be demonstrated. To those who recognize the Vincentian-Newman principle of development of doctrine (with the accompanying increase of knowledge and understanding), this admission is not problematical. For those who believe the oft-parrotted prevarication of the "unchanging Church", this admission can cause no small amount of consternation. But for the latter, that is their problem since they are the ones who need to adjust their understanding to what the Church teaches -not those who for the most part accept Assisi. (Even if at times with a degree of confusion.)

First of all, there is the question of whether believers should communicate with non-believers. St. Thomas, writing in a time when the Catholic Church was the predominant faith in Europe, is clear that those who are weak in the faith should not do so "without necessity." Obviously in a more pluralistic age, this restriction is not as expedient as it once was -though obviously a person of weak faith should exercise prudence in their contacts with those who could weaken their faith. But of those who are firm in the faith, did the Angelic Doctor envision circumstances for communicating with unbelievers??? Yes he did:

[I]t seems that one ought to distinguish according to the various conditions of persons, circumstances and time. For some are firm in the faith; and so it is to be hoped that their communicating with unbelievers will lead to the conversion of the latter rather than to the aversion of the faithful from the faith. These are not to be forbidden to communicate with unbelievers who have not received the faith, such as pagans or Jews, especially if there be some urgent necessity for so doing. [3]
Now then, if the right people are involved (such as those firm in their faith) and the circumstances lend themselves to it (particularly a pressing need) then St. Thomas sees communication with unbelievers as acceptable. So someone who assessed them as being firm in the faith could in some cases -even in a non pluralist society according to St. Thomas- communicate with unbelievers. The reader is asked to consider the Allocution delivered by Pope John Paul II at the summation of the first Assisi gathering in ascertaining his mindset on the matter:
IN CONCLUDING this World Day of Prayer for Peace, to which you have come from many parts of the world, kindly accepting my invitation, I would like now to express my feelings, as a brother and friend, but also as a believer in Jesus Christ, and, in the Catholic Church, the first witness of faith in him...

It is, in fact, my faith conviction which has made me turn to you, representatives of the Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities and World Religions, in deep love and respect. [4]

The Pope asserted that his motivation for calling this gathering of the world religious was based on his faith conviction. So in that regard at the very least, his communicating with the unbelievers present is acceptable. St. Thomas also spoke of communicating with unbelievers in the hope of bringing them into the true faith. But of course conversion is not a speedy process. The Catholic Encyclopedia in its article on "conversion" notes this fact in the following words:
The first the normal process of conversion is the investigation and examination of the credentials of the Church, which often is a painful labor lasting for years. The external grace which draws a man's attention to the Church and causes him to begin his inquiry is as various and manifold as there are individual inquirers. [5]

Obviously if this is the case with people already possessing some tenants of Christian faith, with those who have none the process can be even longer still. However, that does not mean that small steps along the way cannot be made in diverse ways. Evangelization after all is not simply enunciating verbal formulary to people. Instead, as Pope Paul VI noted in his seminal Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, it is a much more complex process then that:

To reveal Jesus Christ and His Gospel to those who do not know them has been, ever since the morning of Pentecost, the fundamental program which the Church has taken on as received from her Founder. The whole of the New Testament, and in a special way the Acts of the Apostles, bears witness to a privileged and in a sense exemplary moment of this missionary effort which will subsequently leave its mark on the whole history of the Church.

She carries out this first proclamation of Jesus Christ by a complex and diversified activity which is sometimes termed "pre-evangelization" but which is already evangelization in a true sense, although at its initial and still incomplete stage. An almost indefinite range of means can be used for this purpose: explicit preaching, of course, but also art, the scientific approach, philosophical research and legitimate recourse to the sentiments of the human heart. [6]

Pay special attention to the last part of that citation. The Holy Father was saying that the first proclamation of Jesus Christ is brought about by various forms of evangelization in an incomplete state. And one of the ways of preparing the ground for planting seeds of the Word is to till it with "legitimate recourse to the sentiments of the human heart." The gathering at Assisi was a meeting to pray for peace. Peace is very much a sentiment of the human heart. The Pope therefore was evangelizing at Assisi by appealing to the heartfelt desire of peace among those who were at the gathering. He also took the opportunity with the subject matter at hand (peace) to utilize the Pauline approach of recapitulation in Jesus Christ:

In relation to the last prayer, the Christian one, in the series we have all heard, I profess here anew my conviction, shared by all Christians, that in Jesus Christ, as Saviour of all, true peace is to be found, "peace to those who are far off and peace to those who are near". His birth was greeted by the angels’ song: "Glory to God in the highest and peace among men with whom he is pleased". He preached love among all, even among foes, proclaimed blessed those who work for peace and through his Death and Resurrection he brought about reconciliation between heaven and earth. To use an expression of Paul the Apostle: "He is our peace". [7]

Later on in the allocution, he reaffirmed this position by stating "I humbly repeat here my own conviction: peace bears the name of Jesus Christ" (Allocut. at Assisi). So the pope did evangelize at Assisi. He did this firstly with an appeal to one of the sentiments of the human heart which bears witness to man's natural yearning for God. He did this secondly with recourse to the Pauline theology of recapitulation to situate the entire gathering in Jesus Christ. All that remains now is to confute the noxious prevarication that he "call[ed] pagans together to pray to their false gods" and this objection -like the numerous ones mentioned throughout his essay which were covered in urls 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this writer's longer essay response to David- can be cast aside as unviable as well.

To address this next point, it is necessary to look at what Pope John Paul II actually said and not what those who rail against him wish he had said. To do that, again the allocution will be referenced. The following citation will comprise virtually every reference made by the pope to the prayer of the non Christian participants. The key parts will be bolded for later comment:

With the World Religions we share a common respect of and obedience to conscience, which teaches all of us to seek the truth, to love and serve all individuals and people, and therefore to make peace among nations.

Yes, we all hold conscience and obedience to the voice of conscience to be an essential element in the road towards a better and peaceful world...

For the first time in history, we have come together from every where, Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and World Religions, in this sacred place dedicated to Saint Francis, to witness before the world, each according to his own conviction, about the transcendent quality of peace...

The challenge of peace, as it is presently posed to every human conscience, is the problem of a reasonable quality of life for all, the problem of survival for humanity, the problem of life and death.

In the face of such a problem, two things seem to have supreme importance and both of them are common to us all.

The first is the inner imperative of the moral conscience, which enjoins us to respect, protect and promote human life, from the womb to the deathbed, for individuals and peoples, but especially for the weak, the destitute, the derelict: the imperative to overcome selfishness, greed and the spirit of vengeance.

The second common thing is the conviction that peace goes much beyond human efforts, particularly in the present plight of the world, and therefore that its source and realization is to be sought in that Reality beyond all of us.

This is why each of us prays for peace. Even if we think, as we do, that the relation between that Reality and the gift of peace is a different one, according to our respective religious convictions, we all affirm that such a relation exists.

This is what we express by praying for it. [8]

The reader will note that Pope John Paul never once exhorted anyone to pray to a false god. What he did do is exhort everyone present to pray in accordance with the dictates of their conscience. Since there are five references to "conscience" and four to "conviction" -which is rooted in conscience, let us consider what the Church teaches about conscience. The Catholic Encyclopedia in its article on "conscience" notes that  "[e]ven where due diligence is employed conscience will err sometimes, but its inculpable mistakes will be admitted by God to be not blameworthy." The classic exposition on this matter can be found in the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas. To summarize parts of it briefly:

Conscience is nothing else than the application of knowledge to some action. Now knowledge is in the reason. Therefore when the will is at variance with erring reason, it is against conscience. But every such will is evil; for it is written (Rm. 14:23): "All that is not of faith"--i.e. all that is against conscience--"is sin." Therefore the will is evil when it is at variance with erring reason...

Although the judgment of an erring reason is not derived from God, yet the erring reason puts forward its judgment as being true, and consequently as being derived from God, from Whom is all truth...

[I]f a man were to believe the command of the proconsul to be the command of the emperor, in scorning the command of the proconsul he would scorn the command of the emperor. In like manner if a man were to know that human reason was dictating something contrary to God's commandment, he would not be bound to abide by reason: but then reason would not be entirely erroneous. But when erring reason proposes something as being commanded by God, then to scorn the dictate of reason is to scorn the commandment of God. [9]

To summarize these points briefly, if (i) conscience is the application of knowledge to some action and (ii) the will is evil when at variance with erring reason then logically, (iii) an erring judgment is to be followed if the person believes it is true. Therefore, (iv) "when erring reason proposes something as being commanded by God, then to scorn the dictate of reason is to scorn the commandment of God."  Those present at Assisi who prayed in accordance with their consciences were following what they believed was the dictates of God. Therefore, barring the possibility of their unbelief being one of opposition  -which in charity one should never as a rule presume- their unbelief is by negation and thus they are not guilty of the sin of unbelief.

Having noted all of this, kindly allow this writer to recapitulate with bullets what we have gone over thus far in this piece -interspersing the points with commentary where it seems warranted:

  • [I]f the right people are involved (such as those firm in their faith) and the circumstances lend themselves to it (particularly a pressing need) then St. Thomas sees communication with unbelievers as acceptable.

This principle supports the meeting with unbelievers -particularly when people knowledgeable about and firm in their faith are involved and there is a pressing need perceived. His prerogatives as the Vicar of Christ aside for a moment, Karol Wojtyla has a doctorate in theology and another one in philosophy and he was at the head of his class his entire life. In short: this man is not unintelligent by any stretch. He has also reaffirmed time and again his firm faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ and reiterated this affirmation a couple of times at the meeting. So the "firmness in the faith" qualification is met as is the "knowledge about the faith" since the pope has quite likely forgotten more about Catholicism than all of his critics combined have ever learned.

  • St. Thomas also spoke of communicating with unbelievers in the hope of bringing them into the true faith.

So this is another reason for communicating with unbelievers: the hope of evangelization. However...

  • The Catholic Encyclopedia readily admits that the process of conversion "often is a painful labor lasting for years" and that  "[t]he external grace which draws a man's attention to the Church and causes him to begin his inquiry is as various and manifold as there are individual inquirers."

Therefore, those who would go for the "quick sale" conversion at Assisi would do about as well as the salesman who tries to sell someone a car when they are at best only looking at it. The most successful salesmen know that a rapport  must be established first and that people will only buy what they believe they need. The salesperson who tries to sell what someone does not perceive a need for will always fail to make a sale. This principle applies to every subject imaginable including religion. Those who fail to recognize this are naive at best and fools at worst. And if they are in a position to be spokesmen for the faith in any capacity, they can seriously damage the chances to make a good impression on their potential audience. Therefore, the best approach is to find the need and seek to fill it. That leads logically into the next point.

  • According to Pope Paul VI, the Church "carries out this first proclamation of Jesus Christ by a complex and diversified activity which is sometimes termed 'pre-evangelization' but which is already evangelization in a true sense, although at its initial and still incomplete stage. An almost indefinite range of means can be used for this purpose: explicit preaching, of course, but also art, the scientific approach, philosophical research and legitimate recourse to the sentiments of the human heart" (Evangelii Nuntiandi §51).

So while conversion is a process taking a long time, that does not mean that there is lacking things which can be done along the way. And there are many ways of preparing the way including explicit preaching but there are numerous other ways as well. Some of the other ways Pope Paul noted are "art, the scientific approach, philosophical research and legitimate recourse to the sentiments of the human heart" (ibid.) The theme of Assisi being one of peace is one which resonates in the human heart and therefore qualifies as an initial act of evangelization. And of course the predominantly non-verbal approach taken at Assisi is quite appropriate considering the patron St. Francis of Assisi himself is famous for saying "preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words."

  • Though predominantly a non-verbal form of evangelization, the Pope nonetheless took the opportunity of the theme of the meeting to utilize the Pauline approach to recapitulate all things in Jesus Christ. In this case, the meeting theme itself as "peace bears the name of Jesus Christ."
  • The Pope appealed to everyone present to follow the dictates of their conscience in praying for peace.

Though the non Christians in probably most cases did not possess the right understanding of God, nonetheless, their consciences being moved to praying for the benefit of their fellow man is an example of those who do not have the law doing what the law requires (cf. Romans ii). And of course praying for the welfare of others is an act of charity which God would recognize because people are bound by their conscience even when the latter is erroneous. St. Thomas recognized this principle in his Summa Theologiae when he stated that "when erring reason proposes something as being commanded by God, then to scorn the dictate of reason is to scorn the commandment of God."  So a person practicing the Ignatian principle of charity would not place an unfavourable interpretation on these people's words or actions. They are obviously unbelievers by Catholic understanding of the term but not all kinds of unbelief is a sin. (This is something St. Thomas also goes over in his Summa Theologiae when he wrote about unbelief by opposition and unbelief by negation.) Having recapitulated the thread up to this point, all that is left is to consider the words and actions of the pope in calling for this gathering to take place.

Before considering this, the reader should bear in mind that the pope is a man who lived through religious persecutions unlike anything that probably 99.8% of the readers of this text have ever seen. He has seen the world gradually drifting towards oblivion and his predecessors gradually recognize that when the rubber meets the road, ivory tower abstractions of "ideal" situations must make way for compromises of the "ideal" that work to preserve human society. The Church has always recognized this principle even in her days when she was the predominant faith in Europe. Three examples of note are (i) that the Church always tolerated the existence of false religions (ii) the Church has always taught that people should not be coerced into accepting the faith and (iii) the Church as a result of the second point has never taught that children of unbelievers should be baptized without the consent of their parents. It is true that these principles were not always honoured in all places but they have always been taught at least tacitly so -even in an age when society was not pluralistic the way it is today.

Obviously, when you have principles which depend on certain assumptions as part of how they are applied, if variables in the equation change, then the application of those principles in order to remain the same must change as well. One example in the past where adjustments of this sort took place are with regard to the Church's teaching is the subject of usury. This writer has made the following points on that subject (among others) in the public domain in recent years:

What was condemned was usury which is defined by the Church as "when, from its use, a thing which produces nothing is applied to the acquiring of gain and profit without any work, any expense or any risk" (Lateran V Session X). Obviously in the economies of scale throughout most of history, money was not seen as an entity that produces anything in and of itself. In the modern economies of scale of the past two centuries, money has come to be seen differently. However, note the definition of usury from Lateran V: "when, from its use, a thing which produces nothing is applied to the acquiring of gain and profit without any work, any expense or any risk." Obviously charging interest on a bank loan in today's economic climate cannot be said to have "no expense" or "no risk".

Further still, money today properly invested can indeed produce a return on its investments over and above the sum invested. However, with all such investments, there is varying degrees of risk. So in short, the interest charged on loans by banks today does not qualify as examples of usury in and of itself. (As the money can with some work and possible expense actually produce a return if properly invested - though almost never without a certain degree of risk.) This is why the example of usury is not only a non sequitur but because there are differing variables in both cases, it is an example of sophism to argue that the Church in changing her policy here committed any "errors". The two examples are clearly apples and oranges to anyone but the most biased of observers. [10]

Those readers who question this writer's analysis of the subject of usury can perhaps consider that it coheres in many ways with what David himself has noted on the matter in an essay he wrote for This Rock about seven years ago:

Due to advances in transportation, communications and generally expanding economies, the nature of money itself has changed in the course of time. A loan that was usurious at one point in history, due to the unfruitfulness of money, is not usurious later, when the development of competitive markets has changed the nature of money itself. But this is not a change of the Church's teaching on usury. Today nearly all commercial transactions, including monetary loans at interest, do not qualify as usury. This constitutes a change only in the nature of the financial transaction itself, not in the teaching of the Church on usury. [11]

Now whether or not David recognizes himself still in those words may explain whether or not he can come to grips with the Assisi interfaith meetings initiated by the Holy See. For the principles behind the two are the same: changing variables results in an adjustment in the application of a teaching. David in other words has the intellectual tools to understand alterations in teachings or policies that are the result of changing variables in the equation. Of course this understanding does not jive with his current theory that "Tradition rejects novelty" but this writer understand the blinders that someone who claims to be a "traditionalist" has to put on in order to espouse such a position. (For this reason, the author cannot be too harsh in judgment of David's current plight.) Indeed, there is some hope here as the David Palm of 1997 provides the keys to understanding the solution to the Assisi situation for the David Palm of 2004!!! We will at this time look into what the magisterium has declared on this principle that from there understanding how Assisi can cohere within the Tradition despite the assertions to the contrary by the current David and his chosen allies.

The author admittedly thought about referencing magisterial statements from the pontificates of Pope Pius XII and Pope Pius XI which clearly set a precedent for Assisi being the next logical step in sequence; however that would be to tacitly give into the canard of pitting the so-called "unchanging Church" against the so-called "regime of novelty." And this writer is tired of seeing self-styled "traditionalists" accept something that Pius XII or his predecessors said as defacto okay whereas they arbitrarily fail to extend this same courtesy towards John XXIII and his successors. And besides, it has already been demonstrated that the theory that "Tradition rejects novelty" is easily falsifiable. (Indeed none of the theses that DP attempted to sustain in support of it were viable ones.) However, another element to take into account is the aspect of applying teachings in certain circumstances -the crux of which David himself recognized when he wrote so well on the usury subject seven years ago. This current writer will simply take the same principles out to their logical conclusion.

The last four popes have differed from their more immediate predecessors in one key respect: they were popes who were more practical than theoretical in their prescriptions. With regards to Pope John Paul II in particular, the reader should remember a point that this writer noted very recently in this very writing: that the pope is a man who lived through religious persecutions unlike anything that which probably 99.8% of the readers of this text have ever seen. Again, the current pope has seen the world gradually drifting towards oblivion. He also saw in his predecessors a gradual coming to grips with the reality that ivory tower abstractions of "ideal" situations must make way for compromises of the "ideal" that preserves human society. (When the the rubber of abstraction meets the road of reality.) Another way of referring to interfaith outreach is with the analogy to "meatball surgery" as this writer has made on previous occasions -an example of which reads as follows:

In trying to explain the dynamics of interfaith outreach - which differs from ecumenism in some respects - I am reminded of a MASH episode where Charles Winchester III debuted on the TV series (sometime in 1977 or so - six years into the run) and he made his first foray into the operating room. Unlike the surgeon he replaced, Charles was not barely competent. In fact, he was the only surgeon who was quite possibly a technically more proficient than the camps leading surgeons Hawkeye and Honeycut. But he was mortified by the damage done to the patients that came into the operating room - as he was used to sanitary operating conditions in Tokyo General.

You see, he was used to taking his time to get the operation done right and having all of his ducks in a row if you will. But there he was in 4077 operating on a patient barely able to believe what he was seeing and further still: he was told to "hurry it up we have more incoming wounded" as the sounds of choppers in the distance could be heard lightly echoing.

A near breakdown occurred by Charles when he heard the helicopters coming and he was nowhere near done working on the patient he was working on. You see, despite Charles' proficiency as a world-class surgeon, he had no experience in battlefield procedures - operating with substandard conditions, operating as quickly and efficiently as possible, trying to bandage up the wounded before more arrived. After his first day, he felt like an incompetent and Hawkeye told him straight up (I paraphrase) "it is not that I am necessarily a better surgeon Charles, I am simply used to the conditions. Over here we have meatball surgery unlike what you were accustomed to at Tokyo General and you have to learn shortcuts to keep up". In a nutshell that is interfaith outreach such as Assisi I and II: meatball surgery.

Most people who are critical of these kinds of meetings have never read the transcripts of the speeches. Yes interfaith is not "nice and neat" as it is when we deal with Christians. This is unfortunate and also discomforting to many people. But it is reality and reality is seldom nice, neat, and tidy. It was long overdue for the Church to come to this realization and address the matter appropriately. To those of us who see the *true* scandal of possibly millions of souls lost over the centuries because of bone headed legalist western attempts to (in essence) "speak Latin to those who speak Chinese and refusing to learn Chinese in order to speak to them", that my friend is the reality. This is not to denigrate our predecessors in the faith but to learn from their mistakes the way future generations hopefully will learn from ours.

It would be an even bigger scandal to continue the insanity of what did *not* work for hundreds of years when it did not work before -particularly since the Church has chosen to go another path in her evangelization. (And before you point to St. Francis Xavier, a lot of his actions fit nicely into the concept of modern interfaith outreach properly conducted. His successors attempts to carry on the legacy were squashed by Rome because there were too many "Cardinal Humbert's" involved if you will.)

Interfaith outreach is "meatball surgery" compared to the nice clean (by comparison) religious debates the west has conducted with the Orthodox and Protestants over the centuries. It is not "clean and neat", it is not in any sense "ideal". But it is necessary and long overdue because what is important is reaching souls with the saving power of Christ - even if implicit initially - and cultivating the religious impulse. This means reaching them in a manner that *they* can comprehend not simply what makes US feel "more comfortable" or "less scandalized". [12]

If what is noted above sounds like a crass way of explaining the dynamics of interfaith outreach, then perhaps the person who takes this view needs to ask themselves what is more important. Is it more important to facilitate the religious impulse in those who do not explicitly profess Christ -with the view of bringing them gradually to a fuller comprehension of the truth??? Or is it more important to preach to them in ways that make *us* feel good but which experience has shown will not penetrate their understanding -followed by chalking up such failure to "obstinateness" rather than recognizing that maybe the problem lies in the idea that there is a "one size fits all" approach to evangelizing people??? Pope Paul VI in his seminal Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi took onto account the various forms of evangelization as previously noted in this essay. With regards to the work of evangelization in the aforementioned Exhortation he noted the following on the matter:
The work of evangelization presupposes in the evangelizer an ever increasing love for those whom he is evangelizing. That model evangelizer, the Apostle Paul, wrote these words to the Thessalonians, and they are a program for us all: "With such yearning love we chose to impart to you not only the gospel of God but our very selves, so dear had you become to us."{1 Thess 2:8; cf. Phil 1:8.} What is this love? It is much more than that of a teacher; it is the love of a father; and again, it is the love of a mother.{Cf. 1 Thess 2:7-11; 1 Cor 4:15; Gal 4:19.} It is this love that the Lord expects from every preacher of the Gospel, from every builder of the Church. A sign of love will be the concern to give the truth and to bring people into unity. Another sign of love will be a devotion to the proclamation of Jesus Christ, without reservation or turning back. Let us add some other signs of this love.

The first is respect for the religious and spiritual situation of those being evangelized. Respect for their tempo and pace; no one has the right to force them excessively. Respect for their conscience and convictions, which are not to be treated in a harsh manner.

Another sign of this love is concern not to wound the other person, especially if he or she is weak in faith,{Cf. 1 Cor 8:9-13; Rom 14:15.} with statements that may be clear for those who are already initiated but which for the faithful can be a source of bewilderment and scandal, like a wound in the soul.

Yet another sign of love will be the effort to transmit to Christians not doubts and uncertainties born of an erudition poorly assimilated but certainties that are solid because they are anchored in the Word of God. The faithful need these certainties for their Christian life; they have a right to them, as children of God who abandon themselves entirely into His arms and to the exigencies of love. [13]

The respect for those being evangelized was to include respect for their tempo and pace -all of which means taking careful note of their outlooks to know where they are on the spectrum. As it was noted earlier, conversion is a process and can often take many years. With those whose approach to religion in general is diametrically different than the more cerebrally focused approach common to those of a western outlook, there is a requirement to not try and impose western notions onto the eastern mind. To do this is hardly to show a proper "respect for the religious and spiritual situation of those being evangelized" (ibid.) but is instead to do violence to it. Also of paramount importance for the Assisi discussion is the emphasis on respect for the consciences and convictions of those being evangelized.

What Pope Paul VI said about the importance of respecting the conscience and conviction of others is precisely what Pope John Paul II manifested the intention of doing in his Allocution at Assisi in 1986. Neither the consciences nor the convictions of the non-Christians at Assisi were treated in a harsh matter. This outlook of Pope Paul VI ties in well with those expressed by his three immediate predecessors. However, for the sake of brevity, that proveable assertion will not be discussed at this time. There is a serious need to try and break the bad habits of those who would trust implicitly something coming from Pope Pius XII or his predecessors -however novel it happened to actually be- while scorning or otherwise dismissing such things when Pope John XXIII or his successors set them forth. (Much as David's allies of the "We Resist You" crowd do not hesitate to do.) This writer in a less irenic moment noted this problem to a friend of his who also suffers from this common self-styled "traditionalist" malady -in the reference below it applied to the aspect of canonization of saints:

In light of what we have covered, one could see the glass as half full and see JP II correcting the imbalance from 1220-1334 where there were twenty-six canonizations: as many as Pius XI's entire pontificate. By that score he and Pope Pius XII (thirty-three in nineteen years) would be viewed as "excessive" as their totals were unprecedented. Not to mention Pius XII's twenty-three beatifications being more than John XXIII, Pius XI, Benedict XV, and Pius X combined. (And surpassed prior to JP II by only Pope Paul VI.) The reality is, the numbers of canonized and beatified have increased every century for quite some time. But let us reveal to the other readers why this is not a problem to you and to others who launch these kinds of criticisms on this issue and countless others.

You and I both know that Pius XII and Pius XI - their canonization and beatification boons contra precedent notwithstanding - get a free pass at all times. Only their successors are bludgeoned with inconsequential drivel by historically hubristic "traditionalists". This is the real reason and it is maintained by the same pathetic paradigmatic peccadillos that enable trads to "strain the gnat and swallow the camel" constantly. Meanwhile, these nattering nabobs of negativism emulate the antics and tactics of heretics and schismatics of the past and justify themselves by appealing to a mythical cloak of "tradition"; a cloak as thin as the one worn by Hans Christian Anderson's fabled Emperor. Only because of vincible (at best) or crass (at worst) ignorance of both Church history and the very Tradition they claim to be preserving could such a charade be maintained. Meanwhile those of us who know better are not fooled by it for an instant. [14]

It should be added that the above approach was hardly failing to take into account the elements noted in Evangelii Nuntiandi above. The reader will notice that the same approach was not taken with David throughout most of this essay. And this is not because the individual being addressed above was thought of any less than David is -instead it was the fruit of years of dialogue and an acute recognition of what was needed at that time. Or as this writer noted in the prologue section of that open letter written to the other potential readers and preceding the actual letter itself:

I sense that in much of my correspondence with my friend that I have been addressing symptoms and not the root of the problem. Much like the Hydra in Greek Mythology, which grew additional heads where one was cut off; this problem seems to have spawned more email than I could ever respond to. (Even if I had all the free time in the world - which unfortunately I do not.) Therefore, rather than cut heads off my friend's "Hydra-headed 'traditionalism'", I will aim for the root cause of the problem. I will seek to address explicitly with him what I had sought to avoid previously...

I ask that the readers of this please pardon any sharpness of tone here for usually I am more irenic. But I consider Albert to be like a brother to me and that means I have a responsibility here that I cannot evade any longer... [15]

The introduction of that letter reveals why the approach taken is less irenic than this writer would prefer to take. All of this ties neatly into the approach to be taken in the dialogue - a subject already covered briefly earlier in the essay from which this work was extracted. However, it is essential to grasp this concept if the reader is to properly be disposed to understanding the events of Assisi in proper context. This writer in his commentary on the intricacies of dialogue had numerous reference to Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam. The words of the Holy Father will be in smaller type and the words of this present writer in regular font:
[W]e do not wish to turn a blind eye to the spiritual and moral values of the various non Christian religions, for we desire to join with them in promoting and defending common ideals in the spheres of religious liberty, human brotherhood, education, culture, social welfare, and civic order. Dialogue is possible in all these great projects, which are our concern as much as theirs, and we will not fail to offer opportunities for discussion in the event of such an offer being favorably received in genuine, mutual respect. [Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam §107-108 (c. 1964)]

...[T]hough the Christian religion is the one true religion, there are common values in the non Christian religions which we can profess along with them along the line of promoting and defending common ideals in the spheres of religious liberty, human brotherhood, education, culture, social welfare, and civic order. One particular "common ideal" that bears noting here is prayer in common for peace with others -each in accordance with the dictates of their conscience. But of course for certain individuals, this is a concept that is only acceptable in the abstract (if at all) and not in reality. And it was this kind of detrimental dichotomistic outlook which was one of the primary purposes for the convoking of the Second Vatican Council. [16]

Part of the common values is concern for the welfare of the human race or the "human brotherhood" if you will. And Pope John Paul II himself -the organizer of the Assisi event- saw himself and his pontificate as fully in line with the outlook expressed by Pope Paul in Ecclesiam Suam. But rather than take this writer's words for it, consider what Pope John Paul II noted in his first encyclical letter:
[T]he Church's consciousness must go with universal openness, in order that all may be able to find in her "the unsearchable riches of Christ" spoken of by the Apostle of the Gentiles. Such openness, organically joined with the awareness of her own nature and certainty of her own truth, of which Christ said: "The word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me", is what gives the Church her apostolic, or in other words her missionary, dynamism, professing and proclaiming in its integrity the whole of the truth transmitted by Christ. At the same time she must carry on the dialogue that Paul VI, in his Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam called "the dialogue of salvation", distinguishing with precision the various circles within which it was to be carried on. In referring today to this document that gave the programme of Paul VI's pontificate, I keep thanking God that this great Predecessor of mine, who was also truly my father, knew how to display ad extra, externally, the true countenance of the Church, in spite of the various internal weaknesses that affected her in the postconciliar period. In this way much of the human family has become, it seems, more aware, in all humanity's various spheres of existence, of how really necessary the Church of Christ, her mission and her service are to humanity. At times this awareness has proved stronger than the various critical attitudes attacking ab intra, internally, the Church, her institutions and structures, and ecclesiastics and their activities. This growing criticism was certainly due to various causes and we are furthermore sure that it was not always without sincere love for the Church. Undoubtedly one of the tendencies it displayed was to overcome what has been called triumphalism, about which there was frequent discussion during the Council. While it is right that, in accordance with the example of her Master, who is "humble in heart", the Church also should have humility as her foundation, that she should have a critical sense with regard to all that goes to make up her human character and activity, and that she should always be very demanding on herself, nevertheless criticism too should have its just limits. Otherwise it ceases to be constructive and does not reveal truth, love and thankfulness for the grace in which we become sharers principally and fully in and through the Church. Furthermore such criticism does not express an attitude of service but rather a wish to direct the opinion of others in accordance with one's own, which is at times spread abroad in too thoughtless a manner. [17]

And again:

In this unity in mission, which is decided principally by Christ himself, all Christians must find what already unites them, even before their full communion is achieved. This is apostolic and missionary unity, missionary and apostolic unity. Thanks to this unity we can together come close to the magnificent heritage of the human spirit that has been manifested in all religions, as the Second Vatican Council's Declaration Nostra Aetate says. It also enables us to approach all cultures, all ideological concepts, all people of good will. We approach them with the esteem, respect and discernment that since the time of the Apostles has marked the missionary attitude, the attitude of the missionary. Suffice it to mention Saint Paul and, for instance, his address in the Areopagus at Athens. The missionary attitude always begins with a feeling of deep esteem for "what is in man", for what man has himself worked out in the depths of his spirit concerning the most profound and important problems. It is a question of respecting everything that has been brought about in him by the Spirit, which "blows where it wills". The mission is never destruction, but instead is a taking up and fresh building, even if in practice there has not always been full correspondence with this high ideal. And we know well that the conversion that is begun by the mission is a work of grace, in which man must fully find himself again.

For this reason the Church in our time attaches great importance to all that is stated by the Second Vatican Council in its Declaration on Religious Freedom, both the first and the second part of the document. We perceive intimately that the truth revealed to us by God imposes on us an obligation. We have, in particular, a great sense of responsibility for this truth. By Christ's institution the Church is its guardian and teacher, having been endowed with a unique assistance of the Holy Spirit in order to guard and teach it in its most exact integrity. In fulfilling this mission, we look towards Christ himself, the first evangelizer, and also towards his Apostles, martyrs and confessors. The Declaration on Religious Freedom shows us convincingly that, when Christ and, after him, his Apostles proclaimed the truth that comes not from men but from God ("My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me", that is the Father's), they preserved, while acting with their full force of spirit, a deep esteem for man, for his intellect, his will, his conscience and his freedom. Thus the human person's dignity itself becomes part of the content of that proclamation, being included not necessarily in words but by an attitude towards it. [18]

In short, this respect for conscience is not merely stated in words but also manifested in actions. And the Assisi interfaith gatherings were a convergence of these two sides of the evangelization coin. Many of the problems of evangelization stem from presuming that certain principles work as well in reality as they do in the abstract. With regards to missionary work, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen expounded upon this theme of abstract theories in his musings about missionary work when he noted that "it might be short-sightedness on our part to impose Aristotelian philosophy on the Eastern mind; that it would have been better to have gathered up the good religious aspirations of the Eastern people in the natural religions to bring them to Revelation. God is not proven to them; He is rather 'given'"  (Treasure in Clay pg. 146). This is a textbook example of the problems that crop up whenever westerners who try to approach easterns with a predominantly abstract notion of evangelization. Evangelization involves both words as well as actions. The Declaration Nostra Aetate taught the following with regards to the relationship between the Church and non Christian religions:
The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.  She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ, "the way the truth, and the life" (John 14, 6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself (4).

The Church therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men. [19]

The Assisi interfaith gathering was precisely what the bolded passage involved. The aboriginal Vicar of Christ is conscience and the Holy Father recognized and respected this in all of the participants. They were called to pray for peace for mankind in accordance with the dictates of their consciences and convictions. They were called to stand in solidarity against a world that continues to move further and further from the most foundational tenants of religious faith. And with such a world possessing destructive capabilities to an extent unknown in previous centuries, this is a classic example of moving from the abstractions of the ivory tower and coming into the real world and facing actual situations.

An example of this inability is manifested in a certain self-styled "traditionalist" (not DP lest the readers speculate on this) who is a recent convert yet who deigns to lecture to others who are their elders in the faith about these matters. For the sake of not making this an indictment of persons rather than ideas, this person approaches the Assisi subject -one without its share of important nuances- in a block headed abstract way. They take issue with the distinction often made with regards to calling on all people to pray for peace as a "direction" for non Christians to "pray to their false gods." David has even fallen into this trap himself. Such people argue that the distinction between "directing people to pray to their false gods" and "requesting them to pray in accordance with their consciences for peace" is "an obvious equivocation" which only serves to make a "distinction without a difference." Of course these people (including David) are seemingly unaware of what practices they believe in and promote which non Catholics who are hostile to the Church also see as a "distinction without a difference." Consider the following cases in point:

When a Catholic is bowing before a statue of Mary, singing to her, praying to her, crowning her with flowers, lighting candles at her feet, and saying the rosary, their heart is totally given over to the worshipping and praising of Mary. No distinction is made between ‘latria’ and ‘hyperdulia’. Should a heathen walk into a Roman Catholic Church during one of their rituals honoring Mary, they would assume that Mary was a goddess, for the people bow and pray before her as if she were God! ...

Why are people so easily led astray into idolatry? Because men love outward signs. Visible signs. Shows, pageants, ceremonies, rituals, images, etc. They have an attraction to the natural heart. Unfortunately, the natural heart cannot perceive the spiritual dangers and realities of what they are experiencing. You see, to me, it is idolatry to have images of God or His saints and angels in your churches! To me, it is idolatry to bow before things made with man’s hands and to light candles before them, or sing before them, or pray to them. To me, it is idolatry to invoke Mary and the saints in a language exclusively reserved for God alone. [20]

Another example of the same subject can be pointed to from John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion Book I, Chapter 12 where he treats on the notions of latria and dulia -which every self-styled "traditionalist" holds and promotes as being "perspicuous"- in the following manner:

The distinction of what is called dulia and latria was invented for the very purpose of permitting divine honours to be paid to angels and dead men with apparent impunity. For it is plain that the worship which Papists pay to saints differs in no respect from the worship of God: for this worship is paid without distinction; only when they are pressed they have recourse to the evasion, that what belongs to God is kept unimpaired, because they leave him latria. But since the question relates not to the word, but the thing, how can they be allowed to sport at will with a matter of the highest moment? [21]

It is obvious that the distinction between "latria", "hyperdulia", and "dulia" that self-styled "traditionalists" would insist on was not seen as an "obvious" distinction by John Calvin. Nor is it an "obvious distinction" for many non-Catholics. This is why there is absolutely no consistency in those who would dismiss the distinction between calling on all people of good will to pray for peace in accordance with the dictates of their consciences and telling them to pray to false gods as "equivocation" who then turn around and defend notions such as "latria", "hyperdulia", and "dulia" from the same charges of "evasion" by polemically minded non Catholics. Hopefully this suffices to outline in some detail the key distinctions that are necessary to understanding this subject matter. (And furthermore, why the simplistic caricatures thrown about by polemically minded self-styled "traditionalists" are no more taken seriously by individuals such as this author than the opinions of anti-Catholic polemicists such as Diane M. Schoeppner and the late John Calvin.) The subject matter is different but the complex nuances involved in each case are not. All of this serves to highlight why David Palm (DP) and his allies are not reliable guides on these kinds of intricate matters and should practice if not religious submission then at least reverent silence on these matters in the public forum. Otherwise, they contravene the teaching of Pope Benedict XV noted in an earlier section and which -due to space constraints- will not be reiterated at this time.

What an increasing number of us have found is that the neo-Catholic position demands a suspension of reason and common sense on the part of those who cling to it.

It has been demonstrated throughout the essay from which this work is excerpted from -as well as in other writings by this author- that assertions such as the one above are ridiculous. Instead, what the "traditionalist" position (falsely so-called) demands is (i) an ahistorical outlook that (ii) confuses the substance of the faith with its accidents. It also requires (iii) a general ineptness in the more intricate matters doctrinal and theological (iv) a Protestant "prooftexting" mentality which results in a constant difficulty in citing sources correctly. Coupled with all of these it involves (v) an inability or unwillingness to make the kinds of distinctions that Catholicism has always made and (vi) a lack of faith in the Church and those who govern her with the authority of Christ.

Along with all of these, to be a false "traditionalist" it generally involves (vii) the tendency of interpreting the words and actions of others in a bad light -contrary to the instructions of the spiritual masters of the Catholic tradition who unanimously denounce such actions. The latter tendency is usually the result of (viii) a serious lacuna in authentic charity. As so many false "traditionalists" are either formally or materially schismatic, this lacuna in charity is understandable as charity cannot abide in a person who is willfully schismatic. Of course just because it is understandable does not mean that it is acceptable. However, because of these defects, it is not surprising that people adhering to this point of view -even those like David who are noticeably more charitable than most so-called "traditionalists"- would see the position of the faithful Catholic as "opposed to reason and common sense."

William Blake once noted that "the eye that alters, alters all things."  This statement is very simple yet very profound. Essentially someone whose vision is skewed sees all things out of focus. This principle applies to binocular vision as in the case of the present author who wears glasses for enabling him to see distance vision with the normal separation that accompanies someone whose vision is normal. But this principle also applies to the philosophical and theological realms as well. And in the case of religious outlook, the dictum "the eye that alters alters all things" applies in spades to the viewpoint of the so-called "traditionalist" and those who are seduced by their great facade.

For someone who is lacking in charity and badly misinformed will tend to see evil where it does not exist and impute it to the actions or statements of others. (Where it is warranted or not.) Thomas à Kempis in his spiritual instruction The Imitation of Christ  noted on the subject of rash judgment that "[w]e frequently judge that things are as we wish them to be, for through personal feeling true perspective is easily lost"  (Book I, Ch. 14). St. Francis de Sales noted in his Introduction to the Devout Life similar musings on this subject:

[H]asty judgments are most displeasing to God, and men's judgments are hasty, because we are not judges one of another, and by judging we usurp our Lord's own office.

Man's judgment is hasty, because the chief malice of sin lies in the intention and counsel of the heart, which is shrouded in darkness to us. Moreover, man's judgments are hasty, because each one has enough to do in judging himself, without undertaking to judge his neighbour. If we would not be judged, it behoves us alike not to judge others, and to judge ourselves. Our Lord forbids the one, His Apostle enjoins the other, saying, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."{1 Cor. xi. 31} But alas! for the most part we precisely reverse these precepts, judging our neighbour, which is forbidden on all sides, while rarely judging ourselves, as we are told to do.

We must proceed to rectify rash judgments, according to their cause. Some hearts there are so bitter and harsh by nature, that everything turns bitter under their touch; men who, in the Prophet's words, "turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth." {Amos v. 7} Such as these greatly need to be dealt with by some wise spiritual physician, for this bitterness being natural to them, it is hard to conquer; and although it be rather an imperfection than a sin, still it is very dangerous, because it gives rise to and fosters rash judgments and slander within the heart.

Others there are who are guilty of rash judgments less out of a bitter spirit than from pride, supposing to exalt their own credit by disparaging that of others. These are self-sufficient, presumptuous people, who stand so high in their own conceit that they despise all else as mean and worthless. It was the foolish Pharisee who said, "I am not as other men are." {S. Luke xviii. 11}

Others, again, have not quite such overt pride, but rather a lurking little satisfaction in beholding what is wrong in others, in order to appreciate more fully what they believe to be their own superiority. This satisfaction is so well concealed, so nearly imperceptible, that it requires a clear sight to discover it, and those who experience it need that it be pointed out to them.

Some there are who seek to excuse and justify themselves to their own conscience, by assuming readily that others are guilty of the same faults, or as great ones, vainly imagining that the sin becomes less culpable when shared by many. Others, again, give way to rash judgments merely because they take pleasure in a philosophic analysis and dissection of their neighbours' characters; and if by ill luck they chance now and then to be right, their presumption and love of criticism strengthens almost incurably.

Then there are people whose judgment is solely formed by inclination; who always think well of those they like, and ill of those they dislike. To this, however, there is one rare exception, which nevertheless we do sometimes meet, when an excessive love provokes a false judgment concerning its object; the hideous result of a diseased, faulty, restless affection, which is in fact jealousy; an evil passion capable, as everybody knows, of condemning others of perfidy and adultery upon the most trivial and fanciful ground. In like manner, fear, ambition, and other moral infirmities often tend largely to produce suspicion and rash judgments.

What remedy can we apply? They who drink the juice of the Ethiopian herb Ophiusa imagine that they see serpents and horrors everywhere; and those who drink deep of pride, envy, ambition, hatred, will see harm and shame in every one they look upon. The first can only be cured by drinking palm wine, and so I say of these latter,--Drink freely of the sacred wine of love, and it will cure you of the evil tempers which lead you to these perverse judgments.

So far from seeking out that which is evil, Love dreads meeting with it, and when such meeting is unavoidable, she shuts her eyes at the first symptom, and then in her holy simplicity she questions whether it were not merely a fantastic shadow which crossed her path rather than sin itself. Or if Love is forced to recognise the fact, she turns aside hastily, and strives to forget what she has seen. Of a truth, Love is the great healer of all ills, and of this above the rest.

Everything looks yellow to a man that has the jaundice; and it is said that the only cure is through the soles of the feet. Most assuredly the sin of rash judgments is a spiritual jaundice, which makes everything look amiss to those who have it; and he who would be cured of this malady must not be content with applying remedies to his eyes or his intellect, he must attack it through the affections, which are as the soul's feet.

If your affections are warm and tender, your judgment will not be harsh; if they are loving, your judgment will be the same. [22]

The reader is asked to consider the above excerpt and go back through this essay upon completing it. The reader is also asked to review all of the objections raised by David Palm and consider whether he applies sound judgment in them or instead rash judgment. This writer noted in earlier sections of his essay response that David (i) selectively quoted the patristic sources (ii) misrepresented the position of St. Thomas Aquinas, (iii) misrepresented the authority of the source St. Thomas cites as an authority, and (iv) selectively referenced the writings of Pope Pius X and Pope Benedict XV. To add to that list, he (v) relied in some areas on secular press accounts which by their very nature are biased against the Church. Let us consider that point for a moment before moving on in this examination.

David (as it would seem is quite clear) did not stop to ask himself when bringing up the Boston Globe as an accurate witness to the actions of Cardinal Bernard Law  if the Boston Globe is really an unbiased source in reporting on actions of Cardinal Bernard Law. It is no secret that the Boston Globe is a very anti-Catholic newspaper and it relishes in placing the worst possible interpretation on persons, statements, or events that it can. Further still, it manifested an obvious dislike (to put it charitably) for Cardinal Law personally. This is not noted as a defense of Cardinal Law, only to highlight the kind of modus opperandi  that goes into writing a so-called "traditionalist" essay. It is akin principally to looking for an unbiased and fair account of the German Jews in the 1920's by reading Mein Kampf. But this is the kind of schizophrenia that accompanies those who essentially espouse the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" outlook. And with subjects such as ecumenism and interfaith outreach, this is precisely the outlook that many of those who call themselves "traditionalists" continually manifest.

For the so-called "traditionalists" have a blind and irrational reaction to anything pertaining to Assisi or interfaith outreach. They therefore pounce on any secular press account that put the Catholic or her representative in a bad light and wave it around as a "proof text" if you will of their position. They do in other words with the secular press what anti-Catholic polemicists do with Scripture when opposing themselves to Catholic doctrines. And of course they act in these cases often times as the aforementioned anti Catholics do when they see images which they do not readily understand but which -interpreted uncharitably- are "proofs" of their own particular agenda. (See the quotes of Schoeppner and Calvin above for details.)

No one truly interested in authentic dialogue would do such a thing. This gives a very good pretext for questioning if the so-called "traditionalists" are really interested in the truth at all or simply in shoring up the weak foundation of their religious weltanschauung. For if they are only interested in the latter, then they are not only unworthy of the dialogue but they are no different fundamentally than the anti-Catholic Protestants such as those noted above.

[With the exception of the first three and a half paragraphs, this essay was excerpted for use from the longer work The 'Tradition is Opposed to Novelty' Canard (c. 2004) and slightly adapted to remove references to previous parts of that longer work.]


[1] Ann Coulter: "I Guess You're Right: There Is No Liberal Media Bias" from "Townhall" (October 9, 2003)

[2] Stephen Hand: "Catholic Tradition: A Mediated Gift" (c. 2002)

[3] St. Thomas Aquinas:  "Summa Theologiae" II, II, Q10 A9 (circa 1270-73)

[4] Pope John Paul II: "Allocution at the World Day of Prayer for Peace" (October 27, 1986)

[5] Catholic Encyclopedia: From the article "Conversion" (c. 1913)

[6] Pope Paul VI: Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi" §51 (December 8, 1975)

[7] Pope John Paul II: "Allocution at the World Day of Prayer for Peace" (October 27, 1986)

[8] Pope John Paul II: "Allocution at the World Day of Prayer for Peace" (October 27, 1986)

[9] St. Thomas Aquinas:  "Summa Theologiae" I, II, Q19 A5 (circa 1270-73)

[10] I. Shawn McElhinney: Weblog Commentary on "Usury" as taken from "Rerum Novarum" (c. 2003)

[11] David J. Palm: "The Red Herring of Usury" (c. 1997)

[12] I. Shawn McElhinney: Weblog Commentary on "Interfaith Outreach" as taken from "Rerum Novarum" (c. 2002)

[13] Pope Paul VI: Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi" §79 (December 8, 1975)

[14] I. Shawn McElhinney: "An Open Letter to My Friend Albert" (c. 2002)

[15] I. Shawn McElhinney: "An Open Letter to My Friend Albert" from the "Prologue for the Other Readers" (c. 2002)

[16] I. Shawn McElhinney: "On the Intricacies of Dialogue - A Commentary" (c. 2003)

[17] Pope John Paul II: Encyclical Letter "Redemptor Hominis" Section 4 on "Reference to Paul VI's first Encyclical" (March 4, 1979)

[18] Pope John Paul II: Encyclical Letter "Redemptor Hominis" Section 12 on "The Church's mission and human freedom" (March 4, 1979)

[19] Second Vatican Council: Declaration "Nostra Aetate" §2 (October 28, 1965)

[20] Diane M. Schoeppner: Tract on "Catholic Saints and Idols" (circa 1997)

[21] John Calvin: "Institutes of the Christian Religion" Book I, Chapter 12 (c. 1559)

[22] St. Francis de Sales: "Introduction to the Devout Life" Ch. XXVIII (ante. 1622)

Other Notes:

The citation from Ann Coulter's editorial "I Guess You're Right: There Is No Liberal Media Bias" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from Stephen Hand's essay "Catholic Tradition: A Mediated Gift" was obtained at the following link:

The first citation from St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologiae" was obtained at the following link:

The citations from Pope John Paul II's "Allocution at the World Day of Prayer for Peace" were obtained at the following link:

The citation from the Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) article "Conversion" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi" was obtained at the following link:

The second citation from St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa Theologiae" was obtained at the following link:
The first citation from I. Shawn McElhinney's weblog "Rerum Novarum" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from David J. Palm's essay "The Red Herring of Usury" was obtained at the following link:

The second citation from I. Shawn McElhinney's weblog "Rerum Novarum" was obtained at the following link:

The citations from I. Shawn McElhinney's "Open Letter to My Friend Albert" were obtained at the following link:

The citation from I. Shawn McElhinney's commentary "On the Intricacies of Dialogue" was obtained at the following link:

The citations from Pope John Paul II's Encyclical Letter "Redemptor Hominis" were obtained at the following link:

The citation from the Second Vatican Council's Declaration "Nostra Aetate" was obtained at the following link:

The citation from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was taken from his autobiography "Treasure in Clay", copyright courtesy of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, 1980.

The citation from Diane M. Schoeppner's tract on "Catholic Saints and Idols" was obtained at the following link: The reader is warned to read the latter link with caution however since it engages in prooftexting Scripture absent proper context to try to advance certain arguments. To those not well acquainted with these passages in context -or who may be weak in their faith- it would not be advisable to refer to the above material which is noted here for the sake of demonstration only.

The citation from John Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" was obtained at the following link: The reader is warned to read the latter link with caution however since it engages in prooftexting Scripture absent proper context to try to advance certain arguments. To those not well acquainted with these passages in context -or who may be weak in their faith- it would not be advisable to refer to the above material which is noted here for the sake of demonstration only.

The citation from St. Francis de Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life" was obtained at the following link:

©2004, "The Assisi Interfaith Gatherings and Catholic Principles", written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be
downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published,
electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.

To all visitors Grace of Christ to you!

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