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Carlos Evaristo holding the front page of the Lisbon daily O Seculo of 15 October 1917, which revealed the miracle of the sun in Fatima to the rest of the world.

A masonic, anti clerical government was in power in Portugal at this time (which less than a decade previously had toppled the monarchy) and broadsheets reflected government policy. Not surprisingly then, as the year 1917 unfolded, the journal derided the events of Fatima as the work of morons, as interest in it increased with growing crowds coming there en masse, on the thirteenth of the month, when the apparitions took place.

Yet on the cover of the newspaper, was an eyewitness report of the miracle by one of their sub-editors Avelino d’Almeida, whose previous articles mocked the phenomena.

 I ask Fatima sceptics, with the background spectre of an anti Catholic journal, what explains the radical change in their editorial policy regarding the reported apparitions, when in the months leading up to the proclaimed miracle, all they did was to make fun of this?

The miracle of the spinning sun in Fatima witnessed by between seventy to one hundred thousand persons (of all ages, classes & beliefs).  This miracle was the first approved miracle in the history of the Catholic Church. The proclaimers of the prophecy, three illiterate children! And as the O Seculo article illustrates, (while there have been some very interesting explanations given by others as to what actually happened), nobody denies that it occurred, even though there were a small minority of people who claimed they saw nothing {perhaps they were both physically and spiritually blind}.

H/T  A.R.

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October 22nd, 2017
“Use your brain” is a maxim often heard, but often resented. Such was the case when our Lord confronted professional debaters. At the age of twelve his rhetorical skill astonished the rabbis, who presumably thought that he was just a child prodigy. But later on, the legal experts were not amused when he challenged their logical fallacies; yet he came into the world to win souls and not to win debates. Those experts did not think their souls needed saving, so they cynically used syllogisms to “entrap him in speech” (Matthew 22:15). They posed a trick question about paying taxes, to which Christ responded that they should use their brains: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).

Using the brain to figure out things of Caesar and of God does not easily answer the question, but it does establish some solid principles. Take for instance the neuralgic challenges to capital punishment. Well-used brains have understood that the death penalty belongs to the just domain of the government. The Catechism affirms this (CCC #2267).

This principle belongs to natural law, which in classical philosophy, is “. . . the universal, practical obligatory judgments of reason, knowable by all men as binding them to do good and avoid evil.” Saint Paul appealed to natural law: “Ever since the creation of the world, [God’s] invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made” (Romans 1:20).

Governments exist to maintain “the tranquility of order.” When popes governed the Papal States, they measured out punishments including death. One papal executioner, Giovanni Battista Bugatti, served six popes, including Blessed Pius IX, and personally executed 516 felons.

That was the civil side of ruling; the spiritual side did everything possible to bring the guilty to confession and a state of grace before meeting God, because happiness is the realization of the purpose of life and is not mere pleasure; and unhappiness is the contradiction of that purpose, and not mere pain. Without that perspective, the death penalty seems an arrogant violation of life, and that is why today opposition to the death penalty increases as religious faith decreases. That dangerous alchemy substitutes emotion for truth and platitudes for reason. Such lax use of the brain is to theology what Barney the Dinosaur is to paleontology.

Two professors, Edward Feser and Joseph Bessette, have published an excellent book: By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed. Such right use of the brain explains that abuses of punishment are intolerable, and the application of mercy is a permissible use of prudential opinion. But to posit the death penalty as intrinsically evil contradicts laws natural and divine, and no authorities, be they of the State or the Church, have the right to deny what is right by asserting that.

In 1976, while I was Bishop of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee a man named John Spenkelink was accused of murder in Tallahassee, was arrested, tried and sentenced to death.  The United States Supreme Court had recently ended a twelve-year moratorium on capital punishment and I was moved to rethink my stand on the use of capital punishment by Florida since there was strong doubt that it was Spenkelink who had actually committed the murder; he was convicted largely on the basis of circumstantial evidence, not hard evidence.

I was, and still am, a strong believer in the right of the state to impose the penalty in cases of particularly heinous crime and so I had to resolve my conflicted feelings over the impending execution of John Spenkelink.  I spent a lot of time researching the subject of the morality in the 20th Century of the state employing capital punishment as means not only of punishing an individual but also as a means of deterring crime.

My research convinced me that while I should still uphold the right of the state to execute criminals guilty of heinous crime, I had to acknowledge my discovery that the system of justice throughout the 50 states was so flawed that the poor and colored minorities were more likely to be executed because they could not afford expensive legal council while wealthy criminals were likely to not only avoid execution but even stood a good chance of avoiding a prison sentence because they could afford to hire the best lawyers to defend themselves.

Worst of all,  I discovered that through the use of modern forensic medical procedures, e.g. DNA analysis, the number of persons who had been executed and who later were proven to have been innocent of the crime for which they had been convicted was shockingly high.

So I published the Pastoral Letter shown below for my Diocese.

In press interviews I shared with the public the findings of my research and I also pointed out that as far as justifying capital punishment as a deterrent to crime, in the week following John Spenkelink’s execution Florida had a sharp increase in its murder rate.

+Rene Henry Gracida


A Florida Bishop Speaks Against Capital Punishment

Bishop Gracida of Pensacola-Tallahassee: June, 1976

In the first Christian century, St. Clement of Rome wrote to his people that even “to witness a man’s execution, regardless of the justice of his prosecution, is forbidden by the moral law of Christ, for to assist at the killing of a man is almost the same as killing him.”

As a bishop of the 20th Christian century, I feel compelled to restate for my people the same warning of St. Clement of the first century, for we are once again “witnesses” to executions. In a nation such as ours, however, founded as it is on democratic processes, we are more than witnesses. Whenever the state acts in our name and with our consent we share a moral responsibility for the acts of the state. If even witnessing executions was a moral problem for Christians in the first century, it is reasonable to suggest that the use of capital punishment as an instrument of public policy poses a moral problem for 20th century Christians.

Each year in Holy Week the Passion according to St. John is proclaimed in our churches; do we not cringe when we hear the words: “We have our law, and according to that law he must die…” (Jn. 19:7). We can never forget that our Lord, Jesus Christ, was executed. God has revealed to us why he chose to redeem us. God has also revealed to us why he chose to redeem us by sending as redeemer his only begotten Son. What God has not explicitly revealed to us is why, among the countless ways in which the innocent Lamb of God could have been offered up for our sins, the Father chose to have his Son be found guilty of a law which demanded the death penalty. And so Jesus, who was sinless and guilty of no crime, was adjudged to be guilty I and was executed. Perhaps by planning our redemption through such a miscarriage of justice, God has revealed to us that the deliberate act by which society takes a human life in the name of “law and order” is a heinous perversion of justice.

We Christians must seek to conform our lives not only to the letter of the teachings of Jesus, but also to the spirit of his life and I teachings. The manner of his death speaks eloquently to us more eloquently even than some of the fragments of his verbal teachings which the evangelists recorded for us in the Gospels. The death of Jesus must serve to illuminate our minds as we examine the relationship between Christians and civil law, especially law which imposes the death penalty.

Our time is filled with paradoxes. We were long the most affluent society on earth, yet there is great poverty in our midst. We are a peace-loving nation on the international scene, yet at home violence is almost a way of life for many of us. Violence abounds in our cities and towns, on our streets and in our homes. Good people are filled with anxiety, and in their search for relief they increasingly look to the state for solutions, solutions of law.

In America, law has been used to achieve all kinds of worthy objectives: protection from arbitrary use of uncontrolled power, actual or potential injustice to person or property and many other examples of encouragement of restraint for individuals, groups or the whole body politic. But law has been sometimes misused also in some instances, with disastrous results. One has only to recall laws implementing the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, “Jim Crow” laws which legalized racial discrimination, laws which have infringed on our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and which have subsequently been struck down by the courts; all such examples serve to remind us that the force of law can be, and has been misused. The force of law has been most frequently misused, it would seem, when, in an effort to protect the rights of one group of our society, the rights of another group are seriously curtailed or violated. Such a situation is bad enough when it involves property rights, but is intolerable when it directly affects persons physically and especially when it affects the very life of a person.

In his book We Hold These Truths, Father John Courtney Murray has written of our American tendency to solve all problems with laws. “There ought to be a law” is a familiar American refrain. This trait breeds another, namely, the tendency to believe that what is “legal” is by that very fact also “right.” Christians have a moral responsibility to review continually in the light of our conscience laws which are enacted in the name of the people of the state and nation. The separation of church and state in no way limits a Christian’s moral responsibility to evaluate laws from the perspective of Christian moral and ethical principles.

If laws are not subjected to a thorough and critical evaluation in the light of Christ’s life, teaching and death, an evaluation which has a fundamental reference to the God who is the creator of all men and women, then there is a tendency for society to make law an end in itself. If what is right ought by that fact to be legal, it seems to follow that what is legal is also right; if it is not against the law, it is all right. Here the chaos becomes complete. Father Murray says that in that situation, “law is deprived of all true sanction from the order of morals and morality is invoked to sanction any sort of law.” As a result, both law and morality lose all true meaning. Jesus Christ said it best, when he said: “A time will come when anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!” (Jn. 16:2)

Slavery was abolished, and racial discrimination has been diminished because the consciences of religious men and women became aroused, leading many to spend themselves in the struggle to obtain abolition and repeal as well as to promote equal opportunity, regardless of race or color. The simple truth is that with the passage of time, and with a growth in understanding on the part of people that a particular law or system of laws contains a basic moral flaw, it becomes the responsibility of those people to change the law or even to repeal it. So it was with the law which promoted slavery it must be now with laws that impose the death penalty.

The attachment of the death penalty to a law would seem to stem usually from one or both of two motives: vengeance and deterrence. With regard to the former, the law of the talion (“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”) surely ought to be abhorrent to the secular humanists in our society and it is completely ruled out for the those who propose capital punishment is to make it serve as a deterrent to future acts Christian by Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 5:38). Besides vengeance, the other motive usually advanced by those whoo propose capital punishment is to make it serve as a deterrent to future acts of violent crime. But the fact is, in our society, the violent crimes to which the death penalty is most often attached are committed in moments of passion-induced blindness. The human passions of anger, lust, avarice, hatred and others, more often than not “blind” a person in terms of seeing clearly the consequences of his or her acts. All that counts, all that matters at the moment is that one’s passions be satisfied. Only in retrospect is one able to “see” that the act carried within it the possibility of one’s own destruction; by then is too late, there is a victim.

Only the well-read, the well-educated members of our society are likely to be able to understand and to weigh in advance the consequences of a premeditated act of violent crime, but statistically they are the least likely to be executed and they know it. How many “professional persons” are on death row? It is simply and sadly true that those with money and power can indeed influence our imperfect system of justice. It is the poor person, the illiterate person, the person who lives a marginal existence in our sophisticated and complex society who is least likely to “see” beyond his or her act of passion to the jeopardy it brings to his or her own life. The death penalty is no deterrent to the types of violent crimes committed by the types of persons who presently occupy death row in our prisons.

I echo the expressed belief of the founding fathers of our great nation when I assert that the state exists to “establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty” for all. But I would go further and assert that, while it may indeed be necessary for the state to take human life while in the very act of resisting aggression or stopping a violent crime, it is counterproductive for the state to deliberately take the life of anyone. When the state does so it contributes to the never-ending spiral of violence in our society.

A society which vicariously pushes the button, pulls the switch or administers the lethal injection is brutalized thereby to the point of accepting deliberate, premeditated killing as a means of accomplishing an end which is construed as good. “A time will come when anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!” (Jn. 16:2)

If we believe in the sanctity of human life and if we believe that God is the creator and source of human life, then we must ask ourselves whether the deliberate taking of human life, especially when it is the formal act of the state, acting in the name of all of the people of the state, is not the greatest sin of all.

While all persons of good will abhor crimes of violence and sympathize with the victims of violence, their families and their friends, it is legitimate to ask whether a greater evil is made real when the state undertakes the deliberate execution of a human being. The execution of a person has, by the very nature of the act, such an aspect of finality that, once accomplished, there is no further appeal should another form of punishment, or even acquittal and release, come to be seen as having been more desirable in the light of new evidence. The history of capital punishment in the United States sadly contains the names of innocent executed persons, whose lives the state could not restore once the error of judgment was discovered.

I call upon the Catholics of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, and on all of their fellow Christians in northwest Florida, and on all men and women of good will, to assume responsibility for what is done in their name, to refrain from echoing the shout heard almost 2,000 years ago: “Let (their) blood be on us and on our children” (Mt. 27:25).

I urge all of these to call upon the governor to refrain from signing any more death warrants and I urge all of these to request their legislators to remove the death penalty from our laws. I urge Catholics to become actively involved in those movements which seek to abolish capital punishment as an instrument of public policy. It will be to the everlasting credit of Protestant Americans that they led the struggle to abolish human slavery from the face of America. I urge Catholics to unite with their Protestant brothers and sisters, and all men and women of good will, in the struggle to abolish capital punishment from the face of our land.

Asking God to bless all your efforts, whether in homes, schools, churches or businesses to foster those values which promote a general atmosphere wherein human life, at all stages of development, is respected and preserved, remain sincerely yours in Christ.


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L.. Todd Wood

L. Todd Wood, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, flew special operations helicopters supporting SEAL Team 6, Delta Force and others. After leaving the military, he pursued his other passion, finance, spending 18 years on Wall Street trading emerging market debt, and later, writing. The first of his many thrillers is “Currency.” Todd is a contributor to Fox Business, Newsmax TV, Moscow Times, the New York Post, the National Review, Zero Hedge and others. For more information about L. Todd Wood, visit LToddWood.com
By L. Todd Wood – – Tuesday, September 26, 2017
I know of no white person alive today in the United States who has ever legally owned a black slave, or any slave for that matter. Almost 700,000 mostly white men died 160 years ago to end slavery. Jim Crow ended generations ago. Yet black America, for the most part, is still locked in inner-city gang violence and economic hardship. Why?

Is it because America is racist?  Is it because of some overhanging white privilege supremacy?  Is it because of the Illuminati?

No, unfortunately, it is because of black culture and LBJ’s War On Poverty in January 1964, and the adoption of the Progressive Democratic Party’s BIG government dependency. 

We have just had eight years of the first black president.  Black athletes, and entertainers, routinely earn multi-million dollar incomes.  I can easily name several black billionaires without even trying too hard. A large percentage of black America is very successful. But, it is not enough. Too many black youth are being left behind.

And it is no one but black America’s fault. 

No one can solve this problem but black America.  No one can throw enough money at it.  We’ve been doing that since 1964, to the tune of $22,000,000,000,000 (that’s trillion with a T). Black America needs to look in the mirror and stop blaming others, especially white people.

I am obviously white and conservative, and I served in the military, which, during my time, was as color blind as you could be. I can also honestly say I don’t give a damn what color your skin is, neither do any of my friends.  I do care about your actions. 

Blacks are around 15 percent of the population. Depending on what study you look at, they commit around 40 percent to 50 percent of violent crimes in America (mostly against each other). Of course, there is going to be a problem with police.  And, of course, there are some bad policemen. However, those bad apples do not kill black people statistically anymore than they kill white people.  Even Harvard University research said that recently. If you were a cop, and you had to work in a neighborhood infested with crime and murder, wouldn’t you act differently than in a neighborhood where there was little to no crime? The most effective thing black America could do to improve its relationship with police is to significantly reduce violent crime where they live.  Yes, that means change the culture of where you live and your community. 

I for one am tired of being blamed.  I am tired of dealing with people who only want something from others  I don’t oppress anyone.  I don’t hold anyone down.  I’m tired of getting on the D.C. metro and seeing white people being harassed by roaming gangs of black youth with their pants around their knees.  Yes, you want a white person uncomfortable?  That makes me uncomfortable.  It’s our nation’s capital and it’s embarrassing. 

Blacks have nothing but opportunity in America.  Try finding the same opportunity anywhere else in the world.  If you are born in America, you’ve won life’s economic lottery. Take advantage of it. 

The problem is this generation has been taught an agenda of social justice and cultural Marxism by our public education system.  They’ve been taught to be a victim, and it’s still going on.  All you have to do is watch the young black, female student at Yale screaming at the college president to understand that.  Blacks in America don’t even know how good they got it. 

Don’t kneel when my anthem is played.  Too many people died for that flag.  You are free to protest but not then.  I am free to not watch, or pay to watch you play if you do that.  The NFL should make it a rule that you stand for the national anthem.  There is no free speech to disobey a private employer on private property.  This would solve the problem immediately.

The NFL has deeply offended most of America.  They will pay an economic and reputational price, as they should.

We have a real cultural problem in this country, the result of the Progressive Democratic-Socialist- Communist-Leftist multicultural agenda.  Multi-ethnicity is perfect and should be encouraged.  Having more than one American culture is destroying the country.  But then again, that is exactly what the Progressive Democratic Party Leftists want and encourage.
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Chaos in Christianity: an interview

Bishop Bruskewitz reflects on the Reformation, need for prayer

By S.L. Hansen

(SNR) – With the 500th anniversary of the Protestant movement coming at the end of this October, it is important for Catholic Christians to understand some of the facts behind that movement.

It is also a good idea to prepare for the inevitable conversations that might result as Protestant friends and family members mark the occasion. Related item: Coffee House series to focus on Reformation

In a recent conversation with the Southern Nebraska Register, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, the emeritus Bishop of Lincoln, spoke about some of the effects of Protestantism on Christianity and offered some advice for Catholics who may have an opportunity to correct misunderstandings and perhaps help to rebuild unity in Christianity.
Q. How would you describe the Reformation itself?

A. I would first say that the very word seems to be flawed and inaccurate, since nothing was “reformed.” Basically what happened was that large numbers of people left the Catholic Church and formed and invented numerous new man-made churches, denominations, religions, sects, and cults, which continue even to this day to multiply in number, making chaos of what had been once a generally traditionally unified Christianity.

Q. What is the effect of that chaos?

A. In the Western World, religion in general has fallen out of favor in large part because of the divisions in Christianity, which are viewed as appalling and embarrassing. Christianity is often held in disdain by the wider secular world. Also, centuries of scandalous Christian disunity, with the accompanied history of quarrels and wars, frequently form a serious impediment to the ability to present to our modern world the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile non-Christian religions are currently advancing.

Q. What were the conditions that enabled the Protestant movement to take hold?

A. There are many factors that made this happen. There are library shelves filled with books about the origins of the so-called Protestant Reformation. Some secular matters were involved, such as the rise of nationalism in 16th century Europe, economic injustice and turmoil, the evolution of modern European languages. etc.  Although the Catholic Church was guaranteed to maintain divine revelation perfectly intact in her doctrines by Jesus Himself (Matthew 28:20; John 14:16-17; 26; 16:7-30; etc.), the sins, faults, and many human failings on the part of some Catholics at that era provided the tinder for the flames of the religious revolt to make some headway. However, as someone pointed out, when one has a cinder in his eye, it really does not cure the problem by pulling out the eye

Q. How was Christianity shattered?

A. There is a current estimate, which I think is a good one, which claims that there are more than 30,000 various Protestant religions, churches, denominations, sects, and cults in our world today. They are in disagreement with each other, and basically agree only on one thing, namely, that they are not Catholic. Lutheranism itself now is divided into various churches and denominations, which seriously disagree among themselves and contradict each other. In Wittenberg, the German city where Martin Luther had invented his new religion, starting in October of 1517, the overwhelming majority of the people now living there are atheists. Lutherans are only a tiny minority there.

Q. Don’t Protestant Churches also agree on “sola Scriptura”?

A. That slogan (“The Bible alone”), a sort of battle-cry of Luther and some of his first followers did not work out, since there were (and are) almost as many contradictory interpretations of the Bible as there were (and are) Protestant leaders and preachers (Zwingli, Calvin, Mary Baker Eddy, Jimmy Swaggert, Billy Graham, etc.).  Also, the words found in the Bible itself clearly and plainly contradict and refute that slogan. Then too, today many modern Protestants simply reject the Bible as nothing but a collection of myths, fictional tales, and ancient falsehoods.

Q. Why is Luther’s “sola Scriptura” a mistake?

A. When our Savior founded His Catholic Church (Matthew 16:13-20) as the “pillar and ground of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), He left no instructions to distribute Bibles. His command was to teach (Matthew 28:20), to make disciples, and to baptize. It would have made no sense to have the Apostles passing out Bibles for many reasons: First, at that time there were no Bibles. The New Testament writings had not yet been compiled and authenticated. This was done for the first time in the 4th century by the Bishops of the Catholic Church. Second, the majority of the human race was (and still is) illiterate. Third, until paper came into common usage in the 13th century and until Gutenberg, (a Catholic, by the way), invented printing with moveable type in the 15th century, books were very rare and very expensive and only accessible to a few people.

Q. Are modern Protestants really that far removed from the Reformation?

A. Many are. The religious controversies and bitter polemics over the centuries, along with human prejudices, misinformation, historical misrepresentations, and normal human bigotry have contributed to many never having the opportunity to obtain an objective and true understanding of the rupture of Christianity that occurred in Europe 500 years ago.

Q. Is there any truth in Protestantism?

A. First, let me repeat that there actually is no such thing as “Protestantism.” What is called Protestantism is only a collection of thousands of churches, denominations, religions, sects, and cults. which are contradicting each other. Second, yes certainly, there is some truth in nearly all of these groupings. However, this is like asserting that rat poison has a great deal of nourishing food in it, without saying that there are other seriously negative elements there too.

Q. Did anything good come from the Protestant Reformation?

A. The Catholic Counter-Reformation, especially the Ecumenical Council of Trent, enabled the Catholic Church to adjust her discipline for the better and to proclaim the truths of the true faith with greater clarity and precision. Many new religious orders and some great saints arose in the Church also at that time by the arrangement of God’s loving Providence.

Q. Can Christianity ever be united once more in one body of believers?

A. Humanly speaking this seems nearly impossible. However, the almighty power of God makes all things possible (Matthew 19:26).

Q. How should Catholics observe the 500th anniversary of the beginning of Protestantism?

A. Prayer is most important. We should pray as Jesus did the night before He died. “….that they all may be one, even as You, Father, are one in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). We should study our Catholic Faith regularly and read and meditate on the words of Sacred Scripture, as well as being extremely familiar with such books as “The Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

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Screenshot: Billings Gazette

Transgender Charged With Raping 10-Year-Old Girl In Bathroom


The trial for a Wyoming transsexual accused of raping a 10-year-old girl in a bathroom began on Monday, reports the Billings Gazette.

Miguel Martinez, a biological male who identifies as a woman and goes by the name Michelle, allegedly “invited” the 10-year-old into a bathroom on March 23, where he proceeded to grope her breasts and genitals and penetrate her.

After the alleged assault, the victim reportedly told police officials that “it hurt inside” before breaking down in tears.

As noted by the Gazette, “Nurses at the Wyoming Medical Center completed a sexual assault exam and found redness and abrasions on the girl’s genitalia.”

According to court documents, Martinez was found “extremely intoxicated” by police and accused the 10-year-old of “talking crap” and making up accusations as a “publicity stunt.” The Casper Star Tribune reports:

Police officers found Martinez passed out on a couch in a home in Evansville. Martinez was extremely intoxicated and hard to wake up, according to the documents. Officers drove Martinez to the Casper Police Department for an interview.

Martinez became “noticeably hostile and defensive” when a detective began asking about the girl’s allegations. Martinez said that the girl had been “talking crap” earlier that day and denied being a child molester. Martinez said the accusations were a “publicity stunt” before refusing to speak further with the detective.

The perp was reportedly a “family friend.”

Martinez was charged with one count each of first-degree and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and faces up to 70 years in the slammer. He’s entered a plea of not guilty.

H/T Peter Hasson

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Pope Celebrates Baptism Of Children At The Sistine Chapel

Pope Benedict Baptizing a Child


Good stories tell the whole story

October 20, 2017
by Edward A. Peters, J.D.
[ Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum ]

Pope Francis is a story teller who uses stories to make his points. A time-honored method of teaching, of course, but it comes with a risk: omitting parts of a story can leave listeners with a distorted sense of the reality behind the story.

Complaining yesterday for the umpteenth time about Pharisees in the Church—apparently Francis has discounted complaints from Jews that his unrelenting portrayal of Pharisees-qua-boogeymen is lending comfort to anti-Semites—the pope told a story about a pastoral travesty committed in regard to baptism. And it was a travesty.

Per Francis: Three months ago, in a country, in a city, a mother wanted to baptize her newly born son, but she was married civilly with a divorced man. The priest said, ‘Yes, yes. Baptize the baby. But your husband is divorced. So he cannot be present at the ceremony.’ This is happening today. The Pharisees, doctors of the law are not people of the past, even today, there are many of them {meaning: that anyone who cites law, even divine positive law such as Christ’s condemnation of adultery by the divorced and ‘remarried’ is a Pharisee, even Jesus Christ.}

First, let’s us be clear: No canon of the 1983 Code bans parents from sacramental celebrations involving their children and no canon authorizes priests to exclude parents from such sacred events.

In fact quite the opposite approach is taken by canon law: e.g., Canon 226 upholds parental primacy over the raising of their children, Canon 835 § 4 defends this right and duty in the midst of the sacramental-liturgical life of the Church, Canons 867-868 impose parental obligations to seek baptism for children promptly, and Canon 1136 recognizes that parents have “the most grave duty and the primary right to take care as best they can for the physical, social, cultural, moral, and religious education of their offspring.”

So, here, a priest illegally bans a parent from his child’s baptism and yet canon law gets blamed for it. See what happens when key aspects of a story are left out?

But here’s another part of the story, one that the priest who attracted the pope’s ire might have been stumbling toward but which, perhaps being the product of the shabby canonical training that so many seminarians “in a country, in a city” seemed to have received over the last fifty years, he did not understand correctly: canon law (reflecting doctrinal mandates and centuries of disciplinary wisdom) requires for the licit baptism of a child “a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion” per Canon 868 § 1 n. 1.

Ahhh. A “founded hope” of being raised Catholic. Might some vague awareness of that requirement have been behind the priest’s hesitation to treat this baptismal request the same as he would treat a baptismal request from a couple married in the Church and active in the practice of their faith? Or, are all baptismal requests owed an automatic “Sure!” from pastors now?

However illegal was the priest’s decision to ban a father from his son’s baptism (and it was illegal), might the priest’s common sense intuited that Catholic parents who live in contradiction to the teachings of Christ and his Church on marriage diminish the chances that their children will be brought up in an environment conducive to learning and living the requirements of the Catholic faith?  If so, he might have been recognizing exactly what countless of his brothers have recognized in the course of their ministry and, if advised and not ridiculed, he might have been led to spot signs of a “founded hope” for a Catholic upbringing that he overlooked before or, if that were not possible, he might have (as many priests I know have done) used the good desire of the parents to see their child baptized as an occasion to invite those parents into regularizing their own status in the Church both for their good and their child’s.

Either way, though, what the priest would not have done, one hopes, is exactly what canon law seeks to prevent: imposing the burdens of Catholic life on a child unable, through no fault of his own, to fulfill those burdens—perhaps with the pious hope that baptism will somehow just make everything turn out alright.

In any case, none of these, I suggest, highly relevant concerns comes across in the pope’s story. Instead, canon law once again gets blamed for supporting something (here, the banning of a parent from a baptism) that in fact it repudiates, and the possibility that a canonical norm meant to protect children (the “founded hope” requirement) might also have been at issue, is ignored.

+ + +

Postscript. Last fall I commented on Francis’ modification of Canon 868 in regard to the baptism of the children of non-Catholics. The questions I asked then are, to my knowledge, still unresolved.

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Thank you, one and all, for your prayers for the success of my spiritual retreat.

From my perspective it was a great success, thanks in no small part to your prayers.

I returned home in Sinton, Texas late yesterday after six wonderful days in the Texas Hill Country.  Having spent most of my life along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico at elevations varying from minus ten feet below sea level to twenty feet above sea level the mere act of ascending hills and mountains is more than symbolically  “going up” to meet the Lord as Moses did.  

I had 24 hours a day to do nothing but pray and reflect on the Trinity of Persons in God, Our Blessed Mother and my relationship to each of them.  Because the 100th Anniversary of the greatest of the miracles of Fatima occurred during my retreat I read and reflected in particular on Our Blessed Mother’s messages to the Church and the world.  The mystery of Fatima deepened for me but even so I found myself more deeply in love with Our Blessed Mother than ever before.

I also gained some further insight into the nature of the present crisis in the Church and with a lot of help from the Holy Spirit I hope to be able to share the fruit of my reflections with you in the future.

The only downside to my spiritual retreat is that upon returning home upon turning on my cell phone and computer I found that I now have almost 1,000 email and other messages waiting for me.  In my cabin in the Hill Country I had neither cell phone, internet or television service so I was really alone with God and our Blessed Mother.

Please be patient with me as I try to catch up.


+Rene Henry Gracida





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Halloween and the presence of darkness

It is fall and the leaves are falling off the trees. At the end of October, it has become customary to celebrate Halloween. The celebration of this day is a uniquely American thing. In fact, our Halloween is a combination of a number of festive days that originated in Europe which were then mixed together in the New World.

Of course, the word Halloween means “All Hallow’s Eve,” the day before the great Catholic feast of All Saints Day on Nov. 1. Whereas All Saints Day is a celebration of holiness, Halloween seems to have taken on the opposite approach recently. As every year passes, it appears that many seem to think of this day as a celebration of death, violence and evil.

Now, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with children dressing up in a decent costume and going door-to-door looking for candy. It is the stuff of family traditions and memories and it is fun! However, it is alarming how the culture of Halloween has otherwise changed in recent times. An observation:

More and more, I see houses decorated with dead bodies, tombstones, figures hanged from nooses in trees and demons and devilish figures on the front lawn. I am not talking about decorating with cornstalks, pumpkins, scarecrows, or even “friendly ghosts,” but with evil, scary and wicked things. The question that comes to my mind is: “Why would somebody want to do this?”

Certainly it is a fad, and like all fads the use of one’s intelligence is optional. But still, why do so many people feel so compelled to decorate their homes with symbols of death, evil and violence? Are they laughing at death or are they worshipping it?

Perhaps people don’t even realize what they are doing. It seems to me that a person who decorates his or her house in this manner had better do some soul searching. Perhaps they might ask themselves, “Why am I so fascinated with death? Why do I have figures of evil and violence in my front yard? How does this reflect my Christian faith which abhors violence, looks to the resurrection of the dead, and which stands in opposition to the Devil?”

Perhaps those who feel compelled to decorate their houses in such a manner or to wear devilish or violent costumes are just mindlessly following the crowd. Such a pity. I assume that those who fall into the glorification of death at Halloween would never think to visit an actual cemetery and pray for those who have died.

My guess is that individuals who spend hundreds of dollars decorating their houses each year and making them as evil looking as possible probably are not donating hundreds of dollars to care for the innocent victims of evil and violence around the world. And my hunch, and this is just a hunch, is that there is a direct correlation between the violence, death and evil that is sometimes depicted around our homes or in our costumes at Halloween — and the presence of darkness in our souls.

Fr. Girotti, who serves as vicar for canonical services and associate moderator of the Curia, is author of “A Shepherd Tends His Flock.”

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