The Dead End of Human Fraternity

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If anyone asserts that this sin of Adam…is taken away either by the forces of human nature or by a remedy other than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, sanctification and redemption…let him be anathema; for there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved (Council of Trent, Session Five, Canon Three)

The fundamental truth at the heart of every single religion states: there is a problem with human existence. The word “religion” means “to bind together again.” Religion is a force of natural law inclination wherein all men seek to solve the problem of human existence (cf. Summa Theologica, II-II q85 a1). Each religion defines this problem differently, and thus provides different solutions. 

Christianity asserts that the problem is the sin of Adam, that is, Original Sin. This means that every person born of Adam is born into sin, and bondage to him who has “the empire of death, that is to say the devil” (Heb. 2:14). By the sin of Adam, man is born with a weakened will, darkened intellect and an inclination to sin. This is why the Council of Trent anathematizes those who say that man can be saved “by the forces of human nature” since the problem is in human nature itself. 

Thus does our Savior say “Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). In 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterated this, declaring that the Church “must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through Baptism” (Dominus Iesus, 22). Baptism is necessary because the human condition is slavery to the Satan. Hence the Traditional Baptismal Rite excorcizes and rebukes the Devil: “But you, O Devil, depart, for the judgement of God is come.”

Fraternity born of Adam—human fraternity itself—is the fraternity of death and slavery to Satan. But Jesus Christ brings the true liberty and fraternity “not such as the Freemasons absurdly imagine, but such as Jesus Christ obtained for the human race…the liberty, We mean, of sons of God, through which we may be free from slavery to Satan or to our passions, both of them most wicked masters; the fraternity whose origin is in God, the common Creator and Father of all” (Leo XIII, Humanum Genus, 34). Baptism makes a soul a child of God in Christ, thus creating true brotherhood by liberation from Satan. 

This fundamental truth is combined by Christians with the fundamental virtue of charity, which impels the Church to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is “Good News” because it is the only solution to the problem all religions are trying in vain to solve. The proclamation of the Gospel and “the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and…Baptism” is the proof of Christian charity toward non-Christians. The “brotherly love from a sincere heart” (I Pet. 1:22) is the proof of charity among Christians. For true charity manifests holiness, which is liberty from Satan’s rule. 

This fundamental dogma of the faith must be at the heart of the message of fraternity to the world. Lamentably, it appears to be otherwise with Pope Francis’s recent video message of fraternity, directed primarily toward the relationships between Christians, Jews, and Muslims. For this fraternity which is “Francis’s Message” is “human fraternity,” and by all appearances is nothing else than the fraternity of Adam. He says that “the source of human dignity and fraternity is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” but then fails to preach the “necessity of baptism,” but only the necessity to “come together as brothers and sisters with those who pray according to other cultures, other traditions and other beliefs.” How can we have true fraternity if the sons of Adam are in bondage to Satan?

On the other hand, his message does have a similarity to the words of our Lord in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which our Lord tells to a man who is willing to justify himself (Lk. 10:29). Herein our Lord brings to the Jewish people of his day the most hated racial and religious enemy, the Samaritan, and rebukes the unmerciful self-righteousness of the religious leaders. When we approach the message of Pope Francis with this lens, we do see a crucial truth in loving our neighbor for the sake of Christ. The conspicuous mark of the Christian is the love of enemies (Mt. 5:44), and our Lord reserves for eternal punishment those who hate their brother (Mt. 5:22). Indeed, many critics of the Holy Father would do well to heed this rebuke straight from Jesus Christ, for in their zeal for truth regarding Pope Francis they act against charity, and risk their own eternal damnation. 

Rather, the form and foundation of all good works, says St. Thomas Aquinas, is “truth and charity” together (Commentary on Ephesians 4). The difficulty that is presented by Francis’s Message is that it gives the appearance that true fraternity can be created by charity alone, and not also truth. Taken with his frequent condemnations of “proselytism,” his message presents to the average Catholic nothing else than fraternity “as the Freemasons absurdly imagine.” This presents a scandal (that is, an occasion for spiritual ruin) for the little ones—those are innocently ignorant in faith and are easily led astray. St. Thomas says that if something merely has the appearance of sin “it should always be left undone out of that love for our neighbor which binds each one to be solicitous for his neighbor’s spiritual welfare” (Summa Theologica, II-II q43 a2). Moreover, our Lord reserves for severe condemnation those who scandalize the little ones (Mt. 18:6).

More than ever today, therefore, we must recover the true spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, which can show us how to act toward Jews and Muslims better than the message of “human fraternity.” Against the “purely imaginary figure of the Saint conjured up by the defenders of modern error” (Pius XI, Rite Expiatis), St. Francis burned with zeal for the love of souls. “[A]rdent charity penetrated the heart of St. Francis,” especially for “the poorest and most repulsive” (Leo XIII, Auspicato Concessum). Therefore St. Francis said that among the Muslims one can either emphasize truth or charity as two ways to “announce the Word of God” (Rule, XVI). Pope Francis seems to pick one and degrade the other as “proselytism.” However, St. Francis, considering the sin of Adam, knew that proselytism itself is an act of charity. Therefore he boldly proclaimed before the Muslim Sultan: “I am sent by the Most High God, to show you and your people the way of salvation by announcing to you the truths of the Gospel.” 

Many Franciscans were inflamed with the same zeal, and were subsequently martyred by the Saracens. St. Anthony of Padua, seeing the early Franciscan martyrs, promptly joined St. Francis in the same truth and charity. Thus this great saint became “the gentlest of saints” (Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony) but also “the hammer of heretics.” St. Anthony shows up as statuary in a tomato garden holding the infant Christ and at the same time is invoked against demons—behold, truth and charity!

Finally, the true Franciscan spirit is also shown in the new martyr of charity, St. Maximilian Kolbe. He burned with zeal for the Jewish people, as the Jewish convert Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne did, and thus sought to convert them to Jesus Christ. He did this so vehemently that Kolbe is vilified today as anti-Semitic, a charge that Jewish convert Roy Schoeman dismisses as an “unfounded libel” (Kolbe: Saint of the Immaculata, 181). When the neo-Pagan Nazis invaded Poland, Kolbe instantly became a fierce advocate to shelter the Jews, to the point of giving away his food to them at Auschwitz while he himself was starving and chronically ill (Ibid., 184). As we know, the saint finally gave up his life to be starved to death naked merely to save another man’s life and won a glorious crown.

When compared to the true Franciscan spirit, the “human fraternity” preached by Pope Francis seems to be the banal humanitarianism of the United Nations, relying on “the forces of human nature” to save man who is in bondage to Satan. For those who ardently preach charity but fail to announce the “Good News” of the necessity of baptism, there is a grave omission of this fundamental aspect of human nature. The fraternity of Adam is death and Satanic slavery. Either the human fraternity “gospel” lacks the truth about the sin of Adam, or it lacks the charity to give to souls what is necessary for eternal salvation. 

[Photo Credit: Vatican Media/CNA]

By

Timothy S. Flanders is the author of Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics and a forthcoming book on the spiritual history of culture for TAN Books. In 2019 he founded The Meaning of Catholic, a lay apostolate. He holds a degree in classical languages from Grand Valley State University and has done graduate work with the Catholic University of Ukraine. He lives in the Midwest with his wife and four children.

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