Father Bosco and the Monsters


October 5, 2017

Last week—amidst the filial correction of Pope Francis for the spreading of heresies—I paused to read about St. John Bosco and the monsters.

Father Bosco’s dreams were haunted by them—monsters swooping at boys too “numb” to defend themselves; monsters turning their backs to the Blessed Sacrament before trampling souls; monsters clawing at flowers symbolizing purity while boys stood by “totally unconcerned.”

The frightful dreams were warnings to save souls. In one dream, a mysterious old man with a blue flaming torch prophesied one boy’s sudden death. In another, an angel confronted boys guilty of sacrilege: “Don’t you realize that there is death in your soul?” In another, Father Bosco felt a touch of Hell, where falling souls became “incandescent and perfectly motionless.”

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So good Father Bosco resolved: “I don’t mind slaving if I can rescue these beloved sons of mine.” He taught them to love the Holy Mass and purity and the Mother of God and prepared them for happy deaths. He once firmly warned: “You can be sure I will do my utmost to save you. Many of you whom I urged to go to confession did not accept my invitation. For heaven’s sake, save your souls.”

In one dream, Father Bosco confronted monsters holding nooses. “What are you doing here? I do not fear your rage… Go away,” he shouted. After the dream, he taught the boys to elude the nooses with good confessions: “Let us confess all our sins and be truly sorry for them.”

Where are the monsters in Amoris Laetitia? Where is Father Bosco’s strong voice, naming the beasts stalking our souls, inspiring us to form good confessions, to be always ready for death? Cardinal Schönborn—handpicked by the pope to explain Amoris Laetitiadefines it as a feel-good “linguistic event.” The Church’s “tone” has become “richer in esteem, as if the different situations in life had simply been accepted, without being immediately judged or condemned.”

Cardinal Schönborn laments the creation of “automatons” that are “remote-controlled.” Parents who are “obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements … seek only to dominate space” (AL 261). In Cardinal Schönborn’s diocese, where space is not dominated and remote controls are banned, those in adultery could already discern a return to the Eucharist via a five-point guide on the following:

What is the situation regarding your children?
What is the situation regarding your separated wife or husband?
Have you overcome guilt and feelings of guilt?
How can you deepen your relationship and make it even happier?
What does my conscience tell me? What is God asking of me?

Amoris Laetitia 300’s “examination of conscience” adapts that deep five-step guide. In Bishop McElroy’s guidelines—where priests do not “hid[e] behind the Church’s teachings” (AL 305) in confessionals that are “torture chamber[s]” (AL 351)—they hold “conversations” about the adulterer’s complicated “existential life.” What are the “obligations” of the “new marriage”? Would receiving the Eucharist too soon “hurt others”? Priests must not “make decisions for the believer.” They are counselors who validate us.

Where are the monsters in Amoris Laetitia? The filial correction lists numerous sections where “heretical positions are insinuated or encouraged”—and “words, deeds, and omissions” of Pope Francis that have “in effect upheld and propagated” the heresies, “to the great and imminent danger of souls.” The signatories do not declare him guilty of the personal sin or canonical crime of heresy but “respectfully insist” that he condemn seven heretical propositions.

There’s the heresy that “a Christian believer can have full knowledge of a divine law and voluntarily choose to break it in a serious matter, but not be in a state of mortal sin.”

There’s the heresy that “a person is able, while he obeys a divine prohibition, to sin against God by that very act of obedience.” That allegation that purity can sometimes constitute “further sin” (AL 301)—as Fr. Brian Harrison says elsewhere—both ruins all morality and “verge[s] on blasphemy by seeming to impugn the veracity of God himself.”

Then there’s Amoris Laetitia 303’s explosive claim that adultery can sometimes be “what God himself is asking.” As Claudio Pierantoni explains, it’s not about putative “diminished subjective responsibility” but about “calling objectively good (because God could certainly not ask something that is not objectively good) something that is objectively bad.” It’s about accusing God of contradicting the moral law—“attacking the very notion of God himself.”

By “pure logic,” warns Josef Seifert, a God who can “ask” adultery of us can “ask” for abortion and euthanasia and other intrinsic evils. Amoris Laetitia conceals a “theological atomic bomb” set to explode our “whole moral edifice.”

Seifert was swiftly fired by an archbishop for daring to speak of that bomb.

And behind that explosive lurks the monster of Modernism, condemned by Pope St. Pius X as the “synthesis of all heresies” for attacking faith itself. In Pascendi, the saintly pope said it would be a “crime” to remain silent about Modernism’s “unrelenting war” against the magisterium, its plot to assault all of Catholic truth, ending in atheism. He said his papal office of “feeding the Lord’s flock” required him to protect the faith from “profane novelties.”

Pierantoni, a signatory of the filial correction, calls today’s crisis “apocalyptic” precisely because “you don’t get the impression that the pope is making only one mistake.” Amoris Laetitia’s underlying premises expose a larger “Modernist view … that doctrine is basically changeable”:

[Modernism’s] basic presupposition is that there is not a really immutable God (an error condemned by the First Vatican Council), and therefore an immutable substance of truth, but somehow God identifies himself with creation (another error condemned by Vatican I and so evolves with history…

According to this view, today’s magisterium doesn’t need to be logically coherent with previous magisterium: it is enough to state that the same universal “Substance”—God, Reality, or Life—is speaking today… That is the philosophical foundation of maxims such as ‘Reality is superior to ideas’ (cf. Evangelii Gaudium 233).

And when “‘life realities’ are the true source of revelation”—as Cardinal Müller once said—man himself becomes “subject and object of the revelation at the same time.” Revelation in Christ becomes a mere “preparatory stage” for the final “self-divinization of man.”

The increasing self-divinization of man—is that why Cardinal Schönborn cites Evangelii Gaudium’s striking claim that, like Moses before God, “we must take off our shoes before the sacred ground of others” during “accompaniment” (169)?

The increasing self-divinization of man—so that, bombing God’s law, sinning against our Divine Lord with impunity, we can numbly surrender to the monsters.

We children are—so many of us—praying for our spiritual fathers to save us. We are grateful for every Father Bosco who raises his voice despite “the beginning of the official persecution of orthodoxy within the Church.” “Courage,” the saint once said to his fellow shepherds. “Let us do all we can for God’s glory and the welfare of souls.”


  • Julia Meloni

    Julia Meloni writes from the Pacific Northwest. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Yale and a master’s degree in English from Harvard.

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