(LifeSiteNews) — The current pontificate of Pope Francis has been, to say the least, confusing. It used to be that we in the pro-life world, despite the disapproval showed by local bishops, would at least have the support of St. John Paul II or of Benedict XVI. Now we feel as though we’ve lost papal support.
My guest on today’s episode of The John-Henry Westen Show is my old friend Deacon Keith Fournier of the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. We discuss his relationship with Bishop Joseph Strickland and what can be done about the current crisis in the Church.
Fournier is a revert to the Catholic faith. While a constitutional lawyer by trade for the sake of defending the unborn, he was approached by his bishop to consider the diaconate because of a lack of deacons, as well as his pro-life work and evangelism. This was before he moved to the Diocese of Tyler.
Discussing his acquaintance with Bishop Strickland and how he moved to Tyler, Fournier explains that one day a friend of his sent him a copy of an apostolic constitution penned by Strickland. “I read it as a theologian, as somebody concerned about the Church,” Fournier remembers.
“And I said, ‘Wow, this is wonderful! If this were implemented throughout the country, maybe even beyond, we’d begin to see the desperately needed restoration of the Church!’” he continues. As a result of the constitution, Fournier began a correspondence with Strickland that culminated in his being invited to see him in Tyler.
Spending time with Strickland, Fournier recalls seeing in Strickland the “real deal.”
“A successor of the apostles, a genuine bishop who knew how to ‘bishop’ and how to pray,” Fournier tells me. “I began to see that in a special way, the two pillars in his life, and it’s really out of the vision of Don Bosco: his consecration to Our Lady and his love for the Holy Eucharist.” Strickland eventually invited Fournier to move to Tyler to be a deacon for his own diocese.
Describing the situation in the Diocese of Tyler, Fournier says that he came finding it “led by a bishop who guards the deposit of faith without compromise, who speaks and teaches the truth.”
“I see a witness of a profoundly Catholic diocese, where there is legitimate diversity,” says Fournier, adding that the diocese has “the full expression of the beautiful richness of the Catholic Church.”
“He is coming under a lot of attack, but that’s because he’s faithful,” Fournier tells me about Strickland. “We’re living in a very difficult time in the Church. And I thank God for the privilege I have of assisting this man.”
Later in the episode, Fournier and I discuss what the faithful, and pro-lifers especially, should make of the current crisis in the Church concerning the disregard for orthodox teaching in light of the upcoming Synod of Synodality.
Fournier offers four points to remember.
First, he stresses that the Church has faced crises like the one we currently face before, recalling that in the height of the Arian crisis an estimated 80% of bishops rejected the Divinity of Christ. “We’ve been through hard times before,” Fournier points out. “The Church will persevere. The Lord will give us the leaders that are needed. So we can trust Him.”
Second, Fournier tells me about the necessity of taking heed to the previous magisterium of the Church, especially the encyclicals of St. John Paul II and Benedict, recalling especially that they have not been abrogated.
“We’ve got the magisterium,” he states. “We’ve got the Sacred Tradition.”
“I think it calls on all of us, particularly as Catholics, to dig more deeply into that treasure chest, and quote it, and be affirmed by it, and not allow ourselves to get discouraged because it looks like [doctrine has] been changed,” Fournier continues, adding that doctrine cannot change but develops over time.
Addressing the issue of the development of doctrine, something he maintains is “not properly understood,” Fournier invokes Sts. Vincent of Lerins and Cardinal John Henry Newman about the proper understanding of the development of doctrine, saying that doctrine can “develop in its application, but not be changed in its core. It’s called the deposit of faith.”
He also touched upon the respect due the Pope, saying that we “honor the Chair of Peter, and pray for the Holy Father, and respect that Office” while yet realizing that “we stand on 2,000 years of Sacred Tradition and that magisterium that came to us from John Paul … and from Benedict.”
Fournier’s third recommendation is a return to teaching the natural law, something integral to the Catholic tradition, especially in the wake of the Dobbs decision. Using the right to life as an example, Fournier argued people need to “recover” the truth of the right to life as fundamental arising from the natural law “written on every human heart.”
He also acknowledges the problem that such a thing is not addressed in the public discourse. “We’re allowing terms like ‘freedom’ to be used, and the ‘rights’ language,” he laments, declaring that it is “never right to take an innocent human life.”
Finally, Fournier notes that we must recall that the ongoing crisis is diabolical, and he stresses the need to do spiritual warfare “like we’ve never done it before.” To this end, he calls on people to go to adoration, to have recourse to Our Lady and St. Joseph, to recite the St. Michael Prayer after Mass, and the need for priests who don’t deny the existence of the devil and teach the laity do battle against him, while doing so themselves. He also calls on people not to get discouraged, as the devil wants people to be discouraged, adding that “he wants to take away hope.”
He closes the interview by pointing out that the renewal of the Church will be a lay movement of people with respect for the hierarchy, possessing the virtue of prudence but “unafraid, with courage, [to] speak the truth, and gather together, and work together,” invoking the first Franciscans.
He also states that people must value a “legitimate diversity in orthodoxy … and orthopraxy,” using the diversity of liturgies as an example, as what we need to do is “stand together.” He further maintains that we need Catholics who are “faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church, faithful to the magisterium, the Bible, the Sacred Tradition, and courageous,” as the crisis in the Church is going to become “more difficult.”
For more from Deacon Keith Fournier, tune in to this episode of The John-Henry Westen Show.
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