Bishop Rene Henry Gracida

How is your Advent observance progressing?
Last Sunday I told you that the Advent Season is a time in which we are invited by Our Lord Jesus Christ through his Church to prepare ourselves spiritually so that we can derive the greatest possible benefit from our celebration of his birth on December 25th.

I challenged you to try to go to the daily celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass if at all possible, and if it were not possible at least to read and meditate at home on the scripture readings for each of the weekday Masses.

So, let’s review what the Church had to tell us during this past week about getting spiritually ready to celebrate Christmas.

Let’s start with Monday.
In Saint Matthew’s Gospel a Roman soldier, a Centurion, asks Jesus to heal his servant.  Jesus responds that he will go to heal the servant. The Centurion, protests that his home is not worthy and asks Jesus to just say the word and his servant will be healed.  Jesus marvels at this pagan’s faith  and says that he has not found such faith in Israel.

That reading from scripture was a challenge to us to do everything that we are doing to prepare for Christmas with a living/lively faith, not doing it automatically.
And not doing it for unworthy motives, but doing it out of love; love for Jesus Christ, love for your family, love for your neighbor.

On Tuesday Saint Luke quoted Jesus in his gospel as saying “I give you praise, Father…for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”

Christmas is about children; first of all it is about the Christ-child and then it is about the children in your family, and it is about all children.

There is little that can compare with the joy parents experience on Christmas morning when they see the expressions of joy on the faces of their children as they view the Christmas tree with the presents Santa has brought during the night.

But Jesus is not talking about the faith of children, he is talking about your faith, your faith as adults remaining open to God with the same openness and awe you had when you were a child.

On Wednesday we celebrated the Feast of the Apostle Andrew and the Gospel recalled the invitation to Peter and Andrew, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men!”

The Church reminds you that everything you do by way of preparation for Christmas that involves others, you should do as a lay-apostle because like Andrew you have been called to witness to Jesus Christ to other men and women.  Be loving and generous to other adults even as you reflect that Jesus has been loving and generous to you by calling you to life and love.

On Thursday, the opening prayer of the Mass began with these words:  “Stir up your power, O Lord, and come to our help with mighty strength, that what our sins impede the grace of your mercy may hasten.”

The greatest way to experience the grace of the mercy of Jesus Christ is in the confessional.  By confessing your sins you prepare yourself in the most perfect way to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Christmas and be most perfectly united with Him in Holy Communion.

On Friday St. Matthew told us in the Gospel about the two blind men who asked Jesus to heal their blindness, which he did.  You can be partially blinded by all the commercialism before Christmas, by all the advertising on radio and television, by the commercialism with which our society assaults your mind.  Try to keep your mind and heart focused on your faith and love of Our Lord and the members of your family so that you do not become blind to what they are to you.

If you listen to music during Advent try to avoid as much as possible Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, White Christmas and all the other secular music; try to listen to our Diocesan Radio Station, KLUX, which will be playing traditional Christmas music and carols.

Yesterday, in the Saturday celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass Saint Matthew told us in the Gospel that “At the sight of the crowds (Jesus’ heart) was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.”

The late Father Walter Ciszek, S.J., who was convicted of being a Vatican spy and spent 23 years in Stalin’s Soviet prisons, had this to say about those who are troubled and who feel abandoned in our society.

“Each day, every day of our lives, God presents to us the people and opportunities upon which he expects us to act.  He expects no more of us, but he will accept nothing less of us; and we fail in our promise and commitment if we do not see in the situations of every moment of every day his divine will.

That is how the Kingdom of God has been spread from the time of Christ’s coming (at Christmas) until now.  It depends on the faith and commitment of every man (and woman), but especially of the priest every day of his life.   

Every moment of the life of every man (and woman) is precious in God’s sight, and none must be wasted through doubt and discouragement.

The work of the Kingdom, the work of laboring and suffering with Christ, is no more spectacular for the most part than the routine of daily living.”

Those were the words of the heroic priest, Father Ciszek.

I close my homily with the words of the opening prayer of today’s Mass:

“Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to his company.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God,
for ever and ever.”

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Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke

The Dangerous Road of Papal Silence

The letter of the four Cardinals to Pope Francis, and the decision to go public with this document certainly constitute a stunning affair in the history of the Church. When has anything like this ever taken place? There’s the sad history of Ignaz Von Dollinger, which eventually led to his excommunication, but Dollinger was simply a priest-historian, and no Cardinals ever joined his challenge to Vatican I’s solemn teaching on papal infallibility.

This present event is a dramatic challenge to Pope Francis who, ironically, has several times called for a shaking up of the Church. The Cardinals are all well respected and strong supporters of the papal primacy and the papal office of teaching. Their letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is a sincere effort to gain some clarity on positions advanced in Amoris Laetitia. For their troubles, the head of the Roman Rota has openly threatened them with the loss of their status as Cardinals.

It’s worth noting that only one of the five questions posed for clarification by the Cardinals had to do with admitting divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to the Eucharist. In a way, the other four questions point to even more significant problems relating to the existence of intrinsically evil acts, the objective situation of grave habitual sin, and the critically important formation of an objectively true conscience.

The five dubia were very carefully and succinctly written and followed the traditional method of presentation of such questions to the Holy See. They ask the pope to explain how certain statements in Amoris Laetitia were to be understood in the light of the authoritative teachings of his predecessor Pope John Paul II as found in Familiaris Consortio 84 (reaffirmed in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 34, and Sacramentum Caritatis, 29 (dubium 1); Veritatis Splendor 79 (dubium 2); (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (dubium 3); Veritatis Splendor 81 (dubium 4); Veritatis Splendor 56 (dubium 5). These texts are foundational for the Church’s teaching on moral principles, for an upright confessional practice, and for sacramental discipline.

The letter’s authors insist that their only intention is to remove the confusion: “theologians and scholars have proposed interpretations that are not only divergent, but also conflicting. . .thereby provoking uncertainty, confusion and disorientation among many of the faithful.”

Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke
Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke

Cardinal Burke, in an interview with the National Catholic Register, stated that they chose to go public only after they learned that the pope had decided not to respond, which decision is a stunning response from the Chair of Peter. One might almost call it reckless, given the very real potential for dividing the Church. Indeed, Cardinal Burke addressed this possibility in the interview when he stated that the letter “has also been undertaken with the greatest respect for the Petrine Office, because if the Petrine Office does not uphold these fundamental principles of doctrine and discipline, then, practically speaking, division has entered into the Church, which is contrary to our very nature.”

Pope Francis already had an agenda for “reshaping” the Church in certain areas of discipline when he came into office, as seems clear from the speed with which he announced the Synod on the Family. It was a perplexing event. His predecessor, Saint John Paul II, had convoked a Synod on the same topic and had issued a brilliant exhortation, Familiaris Consortio.

It was even more telling that little in the preparatory documents, or in the exhortation following the Synod, seemed to have much reference to that earlier exhortation. In retrospect, that Francis had it in mind to alter certain determinations of that earlier Synod and John Paul II’s exhortation appears all but certain.

Now, it is not only Catholic scholars like the eminent philosopher Robert Spaemann who in 2015 recognized that “This pope is one of the most autocratic [popes] that we have had in a long time.” In a recent Reuters article, “Pope Francis the manager – surprising, secretive, shrewd,” Philip Puella argues that Pope Francis, whom he admires and strongly supports, is more like an autocrat than a typical, saintly pontiff. For instance, Puella says “Francis likes to break rules and then change them once the shock has died down.” And that “after he was elected, he appointed trusted people to lower or mid-level positions in Vatican departments, where they can be his eyes and ears.”

Looking back, the pope’s invitation to Cardinal Kasper to speak to the bishops months before the first Synod on the Family seems almost certainly now to have been a bit of management. The pope was behind the proposed change from the beginning and was determined to provide access to the sacraments by the divorced and remarried, even if the Synod Fathers did not support it – which they didn’t.

Pope Francis certainly had no mandate from the Synod Fathers to make such a drastic alteration in the Church’s sacramental discipline. Quite the opposite, which should have suggested he would be entering dangerous waters should he choose to do so. But he did, nonetheless, and has since tried to portray his critics as fundamentalist, legalistic, and rigid Catholics, who are troubled and are troubling the Church.

The upshot of all this, as Australian Cardinal George Pell remarked in a lecture in London earlier this week, is that “a number of regularly worshiping Catholics” are “unnerved by the turn of events.” More seriously, there is now widespread confusion about the role of conscience in Catholic moral thought.  {This is really the heart of the problem.  Pope Francis seems to be rejecting the most important of all the important Encyclicals of Saint Pope John Paul II, VERITATIS SPLENDOR.  In that Encyclical Saint John Paul II effectively demolished one of the most dangerous errors that had come to dominate much of moral thinking in western thought: proportionalism/consequentionism.  The philosophical/theological errors of proportionalism/consequentionism provide the rationale for the push by the Kasperites to make the giving Holy Communion to those who are divorced and living in civil marriages legitimate.  The basis of that error lies in the rejection of the existence of intrinsic evil.  A shocking example of an intrinsic evil act is the killing of an innocent child in a partial-birth abortion.  Pope Francis’ criticism pro-life Catholics is perhaps a consequence of his seeming rejection of Veritatis Splendor with its clear magisterial teaching about intrinsic evil.  The heresy of Pope Francis’ ally in the ‘reform’ of the Church, Cardinal Walter Kasper, is that, as he has written, the essential attribute of the nature of the God is “mercy” not love. The teaching of Jesus is clear in the Gospels:  mercy is preceded by judgment.  Jesus did not say “Who am I to judge!” on the contrary he proclaimed  judgment as being an essential attribute of the Kingdom of God.}

Well, now four cautious and conscientious churchmen have openly sought a solution to all this turmoil. Cardinal Burke suggested what might follow if the pope remains silent:  “There is, in the Tradition of the Church, the practice of correction of the Roman Pontiff. It is something that is clearly quite rare. But if there is no response to these questions, then I would say that it would be a question of taking a formal act of correction of a serious error.”

This really would be quite awful, forcing Church leaders, priests, and lay people into taking sides – a kind of practical schism. Let’s pray it never comes to this. But to avoid such divisions and worse, Pope Francis will now have to do something.

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon

Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary, a former contributing editor of Triumph magazine, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly at littlemoretracts.wordpress.com.

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Mom Sues To Prevent Teen Son From Amputating His Genitals

The child’s mother is challenging a Minnesota law that allows a minor who is living alone to make his own health-care decisions.
Grazie Pozo Christie


The mother of a 17-year-old boy in Minnesota is suing her child’s school district and the county health board. It seems that the teen, who suffers from gender dysphoria, has been receiving (without his parents’ consent or even knowledge) hormonal treatments to change his secondary sex characteristics to those of a woman. The suit even refers to “life-changing surgery,” which for a boy would mean amputating his genitals and cosmetic reconstruction.

The child’s mother is challenging a Minnesota law that allows a minor who is living alone to make his own health-care decisions. She calls it a violation of her rights as a parent that major and permanent hormonal and surgical interventions should be performed on her minor child without her consent or even informing her. She believes these treatments may not be in her son’s best interests, and she ought to have a say in the momentous decision.

Transgender activists commenting on the case have a completely different view of the matter. They believe the treatment for gender dysphoria, the clinical term for feeling uncomfortable with one’s biological sex, is always “gender affirming,” followed by “transition” to the desired sex. The depression, suicidal ideation, and tendency to self-harm that gender-dysphoric youths experience will improve when the youth is treated by others as the sex the youth prefers. Any brooking of the child’s desire is a kind of violence, even using the “wrong” or undesired pronoun.

Is Immediate ‘Transition’ the Right Treatment?

Laying aside important questions of parental notification and consent, the medical issue that confronts our society is whether “transition” with hormones and surgery ought to be used as the default therapy for children with gender dysphoria. Does this treatment ameliorate their psychiatric pain? Is the improvement in mental health for these young people so vast as to justify the radical nature of the treatment, its invasiveness, permanence, and side effects? Could there be other, better therapy? If nothing were done, would the child grow out of it naturally?

These are the usual questions the medical community asks whenever new therapies are proposed for any illness. The answer lies, of course, in scientific studies, such as an excellent new comprehensive study, published in the journal New Atlantis, taking a look at sexuality and gender from the social, biological, and psychological perspectives. The lead authors are peerless in their fields, the study is methodologically sound, and their findings have profound implications.

To summarize, scientific research shows that the “hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property…independent of biological sex…is not supported by scientific evidence.” In other words, the fact that a young girl feels she ought to have been born a boy does not “make” her in any scientific way a boy.

Most important when considering dramatic hormonal transformations of children, only a minority of children “who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.” This means that gender dysphoria in children is, in most cases, a passing phase.

Do the hormonal treatments work? Does the children’s distress abate when their bodies start to change? No. Studies have found “little scientific evidence of the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents.” This means the psychic pain the children experience is generally of the same intensity, or even worse, after “transition.” The study says there is no scientific basis to encourage all children who experience gender dysphoria to become transgender.

In Fact, Transitioning Can Make Things Worse

Going down the transgendered path is not only not a sure “cure” for gender dysphoria, it is actually very risky to mental health. Research has shown that those who live as the opposite sex into adulthood are especially affected by the high rate of mental health problems that affect non-heterosexuals. Transgendered people have a lifetime suicide rate more than eight times higher than the general population. For adults who have had sex-reassignment surgery, the figure jumps to a staggering 19 times.

Does this treatment ameliorate their psychiatric pain?

The lack of social acceptance of those living as the opposite sex and rejection from their families (social stress) are often cited as the reason transgender people suffer so disproportionately from mental health problems and suicide. Scientific research, however, does not show that stigma and prejudice can account for these disparities.

The mother suing in Minnesota may not have all this research at her fingertips. But she may know some of the risks her child is running by choosing the hormones and surgery to treat his gender dysphoria. Her son will have to take high-dose estrogen for life to develop breasts, a high voice, and other secondary female characteristics. This drug significantly increases the risk of blood clots, stroke, dementia, invasive breast cancer, and heart attack. Genital amputation, of course, is not reversible, and cosmetic repairs are just that: repairs. Infertility, which to a 17-year-old boy may not seem like a big deal, is irreversible.

This Is Science Versus Ideology

It is vastly important, for the good of children experiencing gender dysphoria, that science triumph over ideology. Gender ideology is heavily charged, both socially and politically. For transgender activists, the question is one of sexual expression and self-actualization. It’s about “choosing” one’s identity, or “discovering” one’s hidden but immutable self and having society conform to this choice or discovery. In this worldview, natural and biological realities that have always informed and shaped cultures are only barriers on the way to self-realization.

For parents confronted with a son or daughter suffering the pain of gender dysphoria, the most important thing is the medical and psychiatric health of their children. The preferred outcome for all loving mothers and fathers is to see their child reach a healthy adulthood, safe from the kind of psychic pain that drives the sky-high suicide rates of these troubled youngsters. If this can be achieved without amputating surgeries, intense life-long hormone treatments, and infertility, so much the better. If these therapies can’t be counted on to cure gender dysphoria, and even result in higher suicide rates, parents need to know it.

In cases like the one in Minnesota, the rights of mothers and fathers to choose the most effective and least-dangerous treatment for their children’s illnesses must be paramount. Certainly they should supersede the goals of transgender activists to remake society along the lines of their preferred ideology.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie specializes in radiology in the Miami area and serves on the advisory board for The Catholic Association.
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The “Concern”


November 30, 2016
[ Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum ]


A relative recently wrote an e-mail to me in which he made the following off-handed comment: “What do you think of the pope’s recent course change on abortion?” Now, unless I missed something, on this subject the pope has not changed anything. He has, no doubt, indicated that he wanted to downplay its relative importance compared to other issues. He avoids right-to-life marches in Italy. Many of his ecological friends want to control world population.

But the questioner was perceptive, nonetheless. Most people do think that the pope has or soon will change Catholic doctrine on abortion and many other related issues. What is even more surprising is that many think that he has the power simply to change doctrine as if he were a voluntarist potentate free to change things as he wills.

The same issue of changeability comes up with regard to marriage. While the pope has not changed anything on the objective disorder of active gay marriage, most people, especially most homosexuals, think that he has. Their way of life, it is claimed, is simply “good” and must be recognized as such. Not a few passages in scripture, previous church teachings, and common sense, suggest that this recognition may not be such a good idea.

In the case of communion for the divorced, again most people and many bishops consider a radical change has been made. It is just wrapped up in obscure language and promulgated in a strange manner. The pope is cautious in revealing his hand. Many people have given up on him. They do not understand what he is up to. They do notice the “leftist” tenor of thought of those who support his most publicized public statements.

Four cardinals recently sought, through normal legal and canonical channels, to ask the pope for a clarification of what he means in these areas in which he has written or spoken. (See Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s recent essay in Crisis.) Many are confused. Has the pope, in his own mind, changed anything substantial; and, if so, on what basis? Any change in these important questions would bring into question not only the truth of the issue at hand, but also the centuries-long record of consistent orthodoxy in the Church. This abiding consistency is one of the major proof-claims for the Church’s credibility. Is it possible, I wonder, to articulate the “concern” that many people I know or read about have about the present Church without being sensational, inaccurate, or unfair? What, in other words, is the core of the “concern”?

As it is by now well-known, the pope, at least for now, “dismissed” or ignored these requests of the cardinals for clarity. He seems to maintain that anyone concerned with such issues is “rigid,” or a Pharisee, or even a bit psychotic. Increasing numbers wonder why the pope cannot just give a brief direct answer to an honest, well-phrased inquiry. After all, this protecting the integrity of what was handed down is the burden of the papal office. To avoid giving answers, when giving answers is your job, seems odd.

In absence of clarity, people look for reasons about why the Holy Father refuses to answer straightforward questions of some import. Is there something hidden that might explain it? People become detectives looking for clues. The pope rightly maintains that not all questions need to be or can be answered. This is not unlike the notion that all the laws need not all be enforced. To see what laws are or are not enforced is a pretty good indication of what the law enforcer thinks to be important. Likewise, the unanswered questions seem to point to what is really the problem.


Pope Francis has had a good education as befits the Jesuit priestly tradition. But he makes no bones of the fact that he is not himself intellectually oriented in his overall outlook, as were perhaps John Paul II and Benedict XVI. To be sure, Francis does at times display certain operative principles, like “time is more important than space.” This principle is evidently addressed to critical intelligence in a world in which time and space are inter-related in the scientific textbooks while space is measured in terms of light years. Christ came in the “fullness of time” to a specific place, which, if it, or a place like it, did not exist, he never could have made it to this Earth in which time is also manifested. But of course, the pope did not deny the existence of space in preference for some obscure notion of time.

The point that I write about here is relatively simple. The “concern” is not so much to “prod” the good Holy Father into answering his mail. Others have tried this approach and failed. Rather it is to articulate the core “concern” that many normal people have about their Church under Pope Francis’ leadership. The Argentine pope certainly attracts crowds and generous media attention. He is seen kissing little babies, waving, smiling, and talking earnestly with almost anyone from scientists to politicians to mullahs and rabbis. We all recall his visit with the late Fidel Castro.

Pope Bergoglio has been on some twenty travels out of Italy and all over the known world. He dutifully attends to papal liturgical, diplomatic, bureaucratic, and ceremonial functions. At almost eighty, he seems full of energy and zest. He appears in public to enjoy being the pope. He even gets annoyed. He is human. The people he seems to like the least are practicing Catholics and the poor ecclesial bureaucrats who have to do all the thankless grunt jobs in the Church. He certainly has a good press. The crowds at papal audiences seem down, while observers do not yet detect any remarkable “Francis effect” in increased vocations, conversions, or Mass attendance.

But none of these issues seems to be what most concerns people. We are used to maintain that the principle of contradiction binds us to the truth of things. Catholicism is a religion that takes mind seriously. Revelation and reason do not contradict each other. These affirmations about reason and revelation indicate a certain confidence in our Catholicism. When spelled out, what the faith teaches makes sense in all areas. We can articulate what we are talking about without claiming that we grasp absolutely everything about the mystery of being. In fact, we claim that we do not understand everything in all its intelligibility. We do not confuse ourselves with the gods.

What we can figure out by ourselves makes sense also. We hold that what was revealed by Christ still holds and was intended to do so over time. Among these teachings and practices that were revealed was that of the consistency over time of the content of revelation. This consistency of its intelligibility was to be upheld in particular by the office of the papacy. Thus, what was taught by St. John, by Leo the Great, by Innocent IV, by Alexander VI, by Pius V, by Gregory VI, by Leo XIII, and by John Paul II would be essentially the same teaching, however well or ill it was explicated in a given era.


In this tradition, the Jesuit theologians, Francisco Suarez and Robert Bellarmine, at least considered the problem of a hypothetical pope who did not affirm what had been explicitly handed down. In general, they held that a pope who might enunciate any heretical position would cease ipso facto to be pope. But this was an opinion. The one or two instances in the history of the Church, when a given pope did state something dubious, were usually considered, on examination, to be merely private opinions or not taught infallibly. So the consistency record over time is pretty impressive from that angle.

In this light, the “concern” that exists today is whether the promise to Peter that what Christ did and held would be kept alive in its fullness. The Church thus must avoid contradicting itself; that is, teaching one thing in one generation or area and its opposite in another. We are not concerned here with equivocation or impreciseness. If some pope did cross this line, we can at least suspect that he would not admit it or see the point. If he had the issue pointed out to him and saw its import, he would simply acknowledge what is the truth and be done with it. Otherwise, a drawn-out struggle would follow to decide who is right.

In a recent talk to the Jesuit Congregation, the Holy Father again spoke of seminaries wherein “law” was taught, where priests became “rigid.” Instead, he advocated what appears to be a version of St. Ignatius’s “discernment of spirits” as the alternative to this “legalism.” It often seems that the real target is the encyclical Veritatis Splendor of John Paul II that spelled out the conditions for dealing with absolute evils. It is of some interest to reflect on this approach. It may explain the reason why Pope Bergoglio does not answer specific questions about the truth of doctrines.

In Aristotle and Aquinas, the virtue of justice was what upheld the law. The lawmaker is responsible for stating exactly what the law is. We cannot be held to what we do not know. However, the classic discussions of law included a second virtue known as equity or epichia. It was recognized by the law itself that laws are made for the generality of cases, whereas human action takes place in particular times, places, and circumstances. This awareness meant that observing the purpose of the law sometimes meant not following the letter of the law. As far as I know, no one has ever had a problem seeing this point.

Epichia, however, did not mean that there was no objective standard of right in any given case. It was not a “feeling,” but a judgment of insight about the real rightness or wrongness of an act that took into consideration all its aspects. The assumption was that in every act there was a “right” thing to do, which we searched out with our reason and insight and were obliged to follow. In the older Jesuit tradition of casuistry, we find a tendency to take the lenient side in a complicated moral or practical issue. It was up to the lawmaker to make things clear. Judges in particular cases did little other than look into these particular complexities. And we should not be constantly changing the law as that too created uncertainty about what we can be expected to know and do. In this sense, the “liberal” position was not merely a subjective position.

The Jesuit tradition of “discernment of spirits” was designed to do just that—discern “spirits,” good ones from bad ones. Particularly, when sorting out one’s choice of a vocation in life, what God wanted this particular person to do, or what particular person to marry, or what task to undertake, we could, with the help of a wise advisor, gain some sense in the way the Lord was guiding us. It seems to be from this background that the Holy Father derives his antagonism to “legalism.” Whether one can make an easy analogy of “discernment of spirits” and the sacramental confession and judgment of one’s sins is a reasonable question to ask ourselves.

When the Holy Father refuses to answer what appear to entail clear issues, the reason seems to be that he is looking at human action through the eyes of the “sinner.” The sinner can always, as Aquinas intimated, give some sort of reason for what he does. There is no such thing {the sinner believes} as an absolutely “evil” act. Evil always exists in some good that can be articulated, and even praised. On the other hand, we too must “discern” spirits that are leading us away from our own good and from God. How we observe the commandments are signs of the direction in which we are going. The ancient spiritual fathers always taught that eventual damnation began with little things, small faults. One thing leads to another until we had a habit of separating emotions surrounding the good from the good itself. We impose our will, in other words, on objective reality.


Where do such considerations leave us with regard to the “big” current issues of marital fidelity, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and other issues? No one seems to want us to apply the same kind of thinking, say, to thievery or murder whereby we go through such agonies to decide what is good. Generally, the expression of “bringing the Church into the modern world” has meant, on examination, that we should devise some way to accept these wide spread and civilly enforced practices as goods. If we do accept these practices as “good,” we need, at the same time, to recognize that we deny the tradition we are to uphold. We lose all claims to revelation as a consistent guide to action.

To put the best face on it, if we apply the “discernment of spirits” approach to the way we deal with these issues, we ought not to intend, at the same time, to deny the objective standards that are the objects of justice and epichia. If we do, then we have simply contradicted ourselves and should acknowledge it. In other words, the epichia tradition with its emphasis on an objective “rightness” that we are seeking to know and follow cannot be replaced by a “discernment of spirits” tradition that somehow, wrongly, would justify intrinsically immoral acts.

At their best, both traditions can look at the ones held to live according to the norms of reason and revelation to inquire how they see the issue in the concrete. Neither ought to be a subtle methodology to justify evil or make everything so subjective that no objective order any longer exists. Rather both, at their best, seek not just to know what was thought at the time the problem arose, but to instruct and guide us to live by those standards that do embody the true good of each person, standards found both in reason and revelation.

So, briefly, to conclude, what is the “concern” that so many have? It is whether a shrewd way of undermining what had been handed down has been introduced into the Church. I myself do not think opposing “legalism” in favor of “discernment” is a good idea. Law and equity, discernment of both good and bad spirits, are necessary. Not all questions need to be clarified immediately. I, at least, belong to the school of thought that thinks that the most important ones should be clarified. It is not “legalism” to do so. We are not a people who seek to live in darkness. We seek to live in the light that teaches us about what is.

(Photo credit: Reuters)

Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.


Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., taught political science at Georgetown University for many years. His latest books include The Mind That Is Catholic from Catholic University of America Press; Remembering Belloc from St. Augustine Press; and Reasonable Pleasures from Ignatius Press.

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Advent: In My End Is My Beginning



There was a time, and perhaps there still is in some settings, which the English call, as compliment and not as a pejorative, “homely, ” when families would gather around a piano to sing. Therapists and family counselors would be less in demand if that were more a part of our domestic vernacular. Enough of reverie. Starting where we are now, in the winter months, it would be good if young and old put down their iPods and other electronic devices and just told each other stories. That would be best before a hearth but not everyone has one. All my chimney pieces are blocked up by order of regulatory environmentalists. No matter. What does matter is that people get together.

For story telling, any subject will do, and I cite as an example in Advent, in a roundabout way, the curious saga of the salamander. That elusive amphibian hibernates in the hollows of logs and jumps out when the wood is burning, giving rise to the legend about them being born from flames. Over three centuries before the Incarnation, Aristotle was writing about this. A few decades after the Resurrection, Pliny the Elder, who commanded the imperial fleet in the Bay of Naples but better enjoyed the distractions of being a naturalist, pretty much dismissed this fanciful notion, although he was acute in analyzing the various habits of these creatures that so resembled lizards. Pliny was one of the few, and Aristotle another, who could tell the difference between them. He would have written more had his scientific curiosity not impelled him to observe more closely the eruption of Vesuvius, as poignantly described by his nephew, Pliny the Younger. Toxic fumes did him in.

Fascination with imputed but unproved powers of the salamander persisted, so that in the twelfth century, Pope Alexander III prized a tunic made of salamander skins. If superstition confuses correlation with causality, this good friend and canonizer of Thomas Becket was not credulous, not at least by the received standards of the day. As an early Scholastic and astute canonist at Bologna, he fostered the gestation of the early universities and later would be praised by no less a cynic than Voltaire for his opposition to slavery, his defiance of Frederick Barbarossa and Henry II, and numerous reforms. The pope’s inquisitive mind inspired an expedition to the Orient seeking the fabled Prester John, and so it is consistent with his inquiring mind that he should examine the properties of salamander skin as a form of modern fire-proof asbestos.

In the sixteenth century, Mary I of Scotland, Queen of Scots was familiar with the salamander as a regal symbol, her grandfather-in law, Francis I of France, having used it on his coat of arms, and she had seen it engraved on the entablatures of the chateaux at Blois and Azay-le-Rideau. It just so happens that the mother of her second husband, Lord Darnly, was of the Clan Douglas whose emblem still is a green salamander. As one legend has salamanders bursting into flame as they die, it was fitting that Darnley’s house was blown up before he was strangled. But the legend had the salamander rising to life again from its ashes, and this is why Queen Mary, having been taught needlepoint by her mother-in-law Catherine de Medici, embroidered an image of the salamander along with the words En ma Fin git mon Commencement while imprisoned before her execution. “In my End is my Beginning.” T.S. Eliot piously purloined this line for his “East Coker” verses about his ancestral town, the second poem of his Four Quartets, and they now are his epitaph at St. Michael’s Church there.

If the details of this story of the salamander seem a bit arcane, we can update them: in more recent popular culture, P.G. Wodehouse’s bespectacled and fish-faced character Gussie Fink-Nottle had a hobby of breeding newts, which are a form of salamander. Wodehouse, whom the imagination freezes in the 1920s, was still writing about Gussie’s newts as late as 1963. Auberon Waugh, the splendid curmudgeonly son of the great Catholic novelist Evelyn, compared the extremely left-wing mayor of London, Ken Livingstone to Gussie because of his lifelong interest in newts. Livingstone actually exceeded in fact the science of Gussie in fiction, by being the first man to breed the “Hymenochirus curtipes” (the Western Dwarf Clawed Frog). Just this past week, scientists announced the discovery of three hitherto unknown species of salamander in the forests of Mexico, each just two inches long and rapidly becoming extinct.

The legends attached to the salamander match those of the phoenix, which bird is entirely legendary although the aforementioned Pliny seems to have believed it really existed, as did the fourth pope Clement I and Saint Isidore of Seville. Since it was supposedly confined to Arabia, they could only go by word of mouth, but those words were persuasive: Job mentions it (29:18), although that conveniently is a work of rabbinic fiction. Dante (Canto XXIV) used the image poetically:

Even thus by the great sages ’tis confessed
The phoenix dies, and then is born again,
When it approaches its five-hundredth year.

If you have patiently followed our train of thought thus far, the point is: the season of Advent is a natural allegory of death surprised by resurrection, heralded by a baby born in a cave to rise from a cave, and intuited by mortal folks and symbolized by legends of things that crawl or fly. The flash of liturgical gold on the Feast of Christ the King yields to the darkening days before Christmas; and just as the Winter Solstice shades the earth, there is a hint from a time beyond time of an original Light that darkness cannot overcome and which will bring life from dead ash. We have even had experience of this in the recent presidential election. What was unexpected happened. Indeed, the winning candidate had been dismissed and disavowed by those who became angry when proved wrong. A literate friend recently reminded me of lines in The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose daughter took the veil and now is known as The Servant of God Mother Mary Alphonsa: “…the influential classes, and those who take upon themselves to be leaders of the people, are fully liable to all the passionate error that has ever characterize the maddest mob. Clergymen, judges, statesmen—the wisest, calmest, holiest persons of their day … latest to confess themselves miserably deceived.” It is not easy for predictors of the ways of men to admit surprise at their self-deception. It is harder to admit that God is always surprising.

That contradiction of expectation, and the ultimate surprise of life bursting from the deadest ashes, is obliquely insinuated in legends of creatures real or imagined, but it is vindicated in the greatest and truest of all the stories ever told. Advent relates this step by step along the days of its weeks. C.S. Lewis, having encoded this in his Narnia tales, said (in Mere Christianity): “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in His great campaign of sabotage.” That hidden king is Jesus Christ who is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) and his great campaign is against the Prince of Darkness. The sabotage worked then and is at work in each generation: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man” (1 Cor. 15:21). It is a story no longer confined to the fireside, for it is alive in the flames firing the apostles. In our end is our beginning.

Editor’s note: Depicted above in stone is a salamander emblem of King Francis I of France at the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, Vienne, France.

Fr. George W. Rutler


Fr. George W. Rutler is pastor of St. Michael’s church in New York City. He is the author of many books including Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943 (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press) and Hints of Heaven (Sophia Institute Press). His latest book is He Spoke To Us (Ignatius, 2016).

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Stay Awake !!!

No, I am not telling you not to fall asleep during my homily.  I hope that there is no need for me to tell you that, I hope that what I have to say will keep you awake.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is telling you to stay awake during this holy season of Advent.  He is telling you to stay awake to the purpose of this holy season of Advent.
To not be distracted by all the things that go to make up the season of Advent in our modern society.

Things like shopping for the bargains the stores are offering starting with Black Friday two days ago.  Things like shopping for Christmas presents.  Things like Christmas parties.  Things like Christmas cards, decorations, Christmas trees, all the things that the commercialization of Christmas has inflicted on us in our materialist society.

Advent is a Liturgical Season and the Church tells you to stay awake and realize that during the next four weeks the Church is offering you the means to prepare yourself spiritually to celebrate Christmas with the greatest spiritual benefit to yourself and the ones you love.

There is a big difference between the seasons of Advent and Lent.

Lent is a season of penance in which we fast and we deny our bodies a lot of pleasures. Why do we do it?  We do it so as to condition ourselves to experience through empathy the sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ in his Passion and Death on the Cross for our redemption from eternal death.

Advent, on the other hand, is not a season of fasting and abstinence from a lot of bodily pleasures.  Sadly, the world has made Advent a season of eating and drinking and partying.

Advent should be a season of prayer and reflection on the incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the significance for each of us of his being born as a man like us in all things but sin.

To help us in these four weeks of prayer and reflection, the Church gives us a continuous spiritual education through the texts that are in the prayers and readings that constitute an important part of the Masses each day as we progress to our celebration on Christmas Day.

Since the time of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux Christians have spoken of the three comings of Christ: in the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time.”[1] The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

So the themes of the readings and teachings during Advent will be the preparation for the Second Coming, while also focusing on  the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.   They relate to the first coming of Jesus Christ as savior as well as to his second coming as judge.

In today’s Gospel, for example, coming so soon after the end-of-the-world readings of the the 33rd Sunday of the Year two weeks ago the Church reminds us through the warning of Our Lord in the Gospel of the Second Coming, but the primary purpose   is a warning that Christmas may slip up on you with your being spiritually unprepared to receive the rich harvest of grace available to you if you are properly spiritually prepared.

The basic reality of the incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ is that he became a man, a human being like us, so that there would be perfect correlation between the sin of Adam and Eve and the redemption of us by Jesus on the wood of the cross.

As a man Jesus experienced everything that you and I experience in our lives.
He knew temptation, but he did not know sin.

Jesus’ temptations follow three patterns that are common to all of us. The first temptation we learn about in the Gospel of Saint Matthew concerns the lust of the flesh . Our Lord is hungry, and the devil tempts Him to convert stones into bread.

The second temptation concerns the pride of life, the devil uses a verse of Scripture, but the Lord replies again with Scripture to the contrary, stating that it is wrong for Him to abuse His divine powers to commit sin as a man.

The third temptation concerns the lust for power, and offers Jesus a quick route to the Messiahship, bypassing the passion and crucifixion for which He had come.The devil already had control over the kingdoms of the world but was now ready to give everything to Christ in return for His allegiance. But the mere thought almost causes the Lord’s divine nature to shudder at such a concept and He replies sharply, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only”.

The fact that Jesus is tested by the devil, reveals that He is also 100% human. The temptations are real. Jesus has the same weaknesses, struggles, doubts, fears and wishes that we have. By coming to earth as a man, Jesus humbled Himself to live and be as one of us.

When we read Jesus’ rebuke to the devil, we imagine Him to be faithful, confident and strong. But we are not privy to Jesus’ facial expressions when He rebukes the devil, nor do we hear the tone of His voice. It is reasonable to suppose that after 40 days and nights of fasting in the unrelenting desert heat along with struggle, fear and doubt, Jesus must have been weak, frail and exhausted. Was Jesus fighting with every ounce of His strength to resist the devil?  Jesus’ responses don’t reveal the internal struggle He had with these temptations, but we know that He did not sin and was obedient. 

He struggled with the same struggles that we have: whether to live our life our way OR to live serving God wherever it will lead.
All of us live to satisfy ourselves. Our earthly appetites. We seek to put food on the table, a roof over our heads and make something of ourselves. But obedience to God is often at the very bottom of our list of things to do. Jesus sought the will of the Father. That is His food. His Heavenly appetite. He will not be driven by His fleshly wants, but will seek only to follow God in faith. He denies Himself.

Each of the temptations of Christ are the same temptations we all face daily:
1. Seeking to satisfy ourselves instead of God.
2. Manipulating God to attain our goals of power and glory.
To BE as God. To have it all.

Prepare yourself to derive the most grace from your celebration of Christmas by coming to daily Mass.
If you cannot do that, at least read the texts of each day’s Mass at home slowly and prayerfully.

Let each day of the next four weeks be for you one more step on a living Las Posadas to Christmas Day!

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit !!!

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And Accusing the prefect of the new dicastery for the family attacks the archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, over how he is implementing “Amoris Laetitia” in his diocese. Here are the guidelines that have come under accusation

by Sandro Magister




[ Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum ]

ROME, November 23, 2016 – Not one word has come from the mouth of Pope Francis after four cardinals publicly asked him to resolve five major “doubts” raised by the most controversial passages of “Amoris Laetitia”:

> “Seeking Clarity.” The Appeal of Four Cardinals To the Pope

Or better, the pope has given a non-answer, when in the interview with Stefania Falasca for the November 18 edition of “Avvenire” he said at a certain point, using the familiar “tu” form of address with the interviewer, a longstanding friend of his:

“Some – think of certain replies to ‘Amoris Laetitia’ – still fail to understand, it’s either black or white, even though it is in the flux of life that one must discern.”

To make up for this, not a few churchmen of the pope’s circle have come forward to speak for him, falling over themselves to say that the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” is already perfectly clear in itself and cannot give rise to doubts, and therefore those who are raising them are in reality attacking the pope and disobeying his magisterium.

The standout of these garrulous sorties is Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, already repeatedly indicated by Pope Francis as his authorized interpreter and chief custodian of Church doctrine, with all due respect to Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, whose role as prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith has by now been reduced to a mere honorary title.

But the most unrestrained has been another cardinal and a newbie to the scarlet, Kevin J. Farrell of the United States, [ until two month ago he was the Bishop of Dallas and his reign in that big Diocese was marked by total silence on all 0f the burning issues of our Church and America, now as one of Francis’ new cardinals he has found his voice ] who said in an interview with the “National Catholic Reporter”:

“‘Amoris Laetitia’ is the Holy Spirit speaking [how on earth would he know that?  He has been deaf to everything up to now!]. I believe we should take it as it is. That will be the guiding document without a doubt for the years to come. I honestly don’t see what and why some bishops seem to think that they have to interpret this document.”

So they are in the wrong who want Francis to weigh in again. “I believe that the pope has spoken” enough, Farrell added, when on September 5 he gave his approval to the exegesis of “Amoris Laetitia’ made by the Argentine bishops of the region of Buenos Aires, according to whom it just so happens that there are civilly divorced and remarried persons who may receive communion even while continuing to live “more uxorio.”

Farrell was made a cardinal by Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the consistory of last November 19. And since last August he has been prefect of the new Vatican dicastery for laity, family and life.

He is therefore one of the new faces of Pope Francis’s new curia. A curia that – as is continually repeated – should no longer suppress but rather foster the multiform “creativity” of each bishop in his respective diocese.

In reality the opposite has happened here. In another interview – this time with “Catholic News Service,” the agency of the episcopal conference of the United States – Farrell took it into his head to attack “ad personam” an illustrious bishop and fellow countryman, whose “offense” would be precisely that of having offered his diocese guidelines for the implementation of “Amoris Laetitia” that were evidently not to Farrell’s liking.

The target of the attack is not a nobody. He is Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia, the city that in 2015 hosted the world meeting of families that Pope Francis went to visit (see photo).

Chaput is a Franciscan and the first bishop of the United States born in a tribe of Native Americans. Pastoral care of the family is one of his recognized areas of expertise. He participated in the synod on the family and at the end of its second and final session he was elected by a landslide as one of the twelve members of the council of cardinals and bishops that acts as a bridge between one synod and another.

In Farrell’s judgment, however, he has the defect of having dictated to his priests and faithful guidelines that are “closed,” instead of “open” as Pope Francis wants.

“I don’t share the view of what Archbishop Chaput did, no,” said the new Vatican prefect of pastoral care of the family. “The Church cannot react by closing the doors before we even listen to the circumstances and the people. That’s not the way to go.”

Chaput reacted to the incredible attack with a concise counter-interview with “Catholic News Service,” presented in its entirety in Italian and English in this post of “Settimo Cielo”:

> Il papa tace, ma il neocardinale suo amico parla e accusa. Non c’è pace su “Amoris laetitia”

But what is more interesting to inspect up close is the matter of contention, meaning the guidelines offered by Chaput to his archdiocese of Philadelphia.

They are reproduced in their entirety below. These are indeed clear, without the shadow of a doubt.


Pastoral Guidelines for Implementing “Amoris Laetitia”

Archdiocese of Philadelphia, July 1, 2016

The Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” completes the reflection on the family conducted by the Synods of 2014 and 2015, a reflection that engaged the entire world.

In issuing “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis once again calls the Church to renew and intensify the Christian missionary proclamation of God’s mercy, while presenting more persuasively the Church’s teaching about the nature of the family an d the Sacrament of Matrimony. “Amoris Laetitia” has sections of exceptional beauty and usefulness on the nature of family life and marital love. Over the next year (2016-17), these will be a key resource in revising and upgrading our Archdiocese of Philadelphia marriage preparation programs.

In all of this the Holy Father, in union with the whole Church, hopes to strengthen existing families, and to reach out to those whose marriages have failed, including those alienated from the life of the Church.

“Amoris Laetitia” therefore calls for a sensitive accompaniment of those with an imperfect grasp of Christian teaching on marriage and family life, who may not be living in accord with Catholic belief, and yet desire to be more fully integrated into Church life, including the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist.

The Holy Father’s statements build on the classic Catholic understanding, key to moral theology, of the relationship between objective truth about right and wrong – for example, the truth about marriage revealed by Jesus himself – and how the individual person grasps and applies that truth to particular situations in his or her judgment of conscience. Catholic teaching makes clear that the subjective conscience of the individual can never be set against objective moral truth, as if conscience and truth were two competing principles for moral decision-making.

As St. John Paul II wrote, such a view would “pose a challenge to the very identity of the moral conscience in relation to human freedom and God’s law… Conscience is not an independent and exclusive capacity to decide what is good and what is evil” (Veritatis Splendor 56, 60). Rather, “conscience is the application of the law to a particular case” (Veritatis Splendor 59). Conscience stands under the objective moral law and should be formed by it, so that “the truth about moral good, as that truth is declared in the law of reason, is practically and concretely recognized by the judgment of conscience” (Veritatis Splendor 61).

But since well-meaning people can err in matters of conscience, especially in a culture that is already deeply confused about complex matters of marriage and sexuality, a person may not be fully culpable for acting against the truth. Church ministers, moved by mercy, should adopt a sensitive pastoral approach in all such situations – an approach both patient but also faithfully confident in the saving truth of the Gospel and the transforming power of God’s grace, trusting in the words of Jesus Christ, who promises that “yo u will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). Pastors should strive to avoid both a subjectivism that ignores the truth or a rigorism that lacks mercy.

As with all magisterial documents, “Amoris Laetitia” is best understood when read within the tradition of the Church’s teaching and life. In fact, the Holy Father himself states clearly that neither Church teaching nor the canonical discipline concerning marriage has changed: “It is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases” (Amoris Laetitia 300) – a point reiterated by Cardinal Schönborn at the Vatican’s presentation of the document. The Holy Father’s Exhortation should therefore be read in continuity with the great treasury of wisdom handed on by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the witness of the lives of the Saints, the teachings of Church Councils, and previous magisterial documents.

As “Amoris Laetitia” notes, bishops must arrange for the accompaniment of estranged and hurting persons with guidelines that faithfully reflect Catholic belief (Amoris Laetitia 300). What follows are archdiocesan guidelines meant for priests and deacons, seminarians and lay persons who work in the fields of marriage, sacramental ministry and pastoral care regarding matters of human sexuality. They are effective as of July 1, 2016.

For Catholic married couples

Christian marriage, by its nature, is permanent, monogamous and open to life. The sexual expression of love within a truly Christian marriage is blessed by God: a powerful bond of beauty and joy between man and woman. Jesus himself raised marriage to new dignity. The valid marriage of two baptized persons is a sacrament that confers grace, with the potential to deepen the couple’s life in Christ, especially through the shared privilege of bringing new life into the world and raising children in the knowledge of God.

Marriage and child-rearing are sources of great joy. They have moments (like the birth of a child) when the presence of God is palpable. But an intimately shared life can also cause stress and suffering. Marital fidelity is an ongoing encounter with reality. Thus it involves real sacrifices and the discipline of subordinating one’s own needs to the needs of others. “Amoris Laetitia” reminds husbands and wives that their “common life… the entire network of relations that they build with their children and in the world around them, will be steeped in and strengthened by the grace of the sacrament” (Amoris Laetitia 74). Integrated into every pastoral plan that seeks to support married couples should be instruction in the sacramental grace available to them and in particular, how they can more fully “tap into” this wellspring of grace, so that they experience the power of the sacrament to strengthen their relationship, not just as an idea but as a reality that impacts their daily married life.

Closely related to this, pastors should stress the importance of common prayer and reading Scripture in the home, profiting from the grace offered them by frequent reception of the Sacraments of Penance and Communion, and the need for building mutual support with committed Catholic friends and family. Every family is a “domestic church,” but no Christian family can survive indefinitely without encouragement from other believing families. The Christian community must especially find ways to engage and help families who are burdened by illness, financial setbacks and marital friction.

For Catholics and Christians who are separated or divorced and not remarried

Pastors often encounter persons whose marriages face grave hardships, sometimes for reasons that seem undeserved, and sometimes through the fault of one or both married parties. The state of being separated or divorced, and thus finding oneself alone, can involve great suffering. It can mean separation from one’s children, a life without conjugal intimacy, and for some the prospect of never having children. Pastors should offer these persons friendship, understanding, introductions to reliable lay mentors and practical help, so they can sustain their fidelity even under pressure.

Likewise, parishes should be keenly concerned for the spiritual good of those who find themselves separated or divorced for a long time. Some persons, aware that a valid marriage bond is indissoluble, consciously refrain from a new union and devote themselves to carrying out their family and Christian duties. They face no obstacle to receiving Communion and other sacraments. Indeed, they should receive the sacraments regularly, and they deserve the warm support of the Christian community, since they show extraordinary fidelity to Jesus Christ. God is faithful to them even when their spouses are not, a truth that fellow Catholics should reinforce.

In some cases, one can reasonably ask whether an original marriage bond was valid, and thus whether grounds may exist for a decree of nullity (an “annulment”). In our age, such ground are not uncommon. People in those circumstances should be strongly encouraged to seek the assistance of a marriage tribunal of the Church. The inquiry in these cases should always be guided by the truth of the situation: Did a valid marriage exist? Decrees of nullity are not an automatic remedy or an entitlement. They cannot be granted informally or privately by individual pastors or priests. Because marriage isa public reality, and because a determination about the validity of a marriage affects the lives, the rights, and the duties of all parties touched by it, there must be a canonical process and a decision by the proper authority under canon law. Such matters require that those conducting the inquiry be both compassionate and alert to the truth. They should investigate these matters in timely way, respecting the rights of all parties, and ensuring that all have access to the annulment procedures.

For Catholics and Christians who are divorced and civilly-remarried

“Amoris Laetitia” manifests a special concern for divorced and civilly-remarried Catholics. In some cases, a valid first marriage bond may never have existed. A canonical investigation of the first marriage by a Church tribunal may be appropriate. In other cases, the first marriage bond of one or both of the civilly-remarried persons may bevalid. This would impede any attempt at a subsequent marriage. If they have children from the original marriage, they have an important duty to raise and care for them.

The divorced and remarried should be welcomed by the Catholic community. Pastors should ensure that such persons do not consider themselves as “outside” the Church. On the contrary, as baptized persons, they can (and should) share in her life. They are invited to attend Mass, to pray, and to take part in the activities of the parish. Their children – whether from an original marriage or from their current relationship – are integral to the life of the Catholic community, and they should be brought up in the faith. Couples should sense from their pastors, and from the whole community, the love they deserve as persons made in the image of God and as fellow Christians.

At the same time, as “Amoris Laetitia” notes, priests should “accompany [the divorced and remarried] in helping them to understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the bishop. Useful in this process is an examination of conscience through moments of reflection and penance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves: how they have acted toward their children when the conjugal union entered into crisis; if they made attempts at reconciliation; what has become of the abandoned party; what consequences does the new relationship have on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; and what example is being set for young people who are preparing for marriage” (Amoris Laetitia 300). “Amoris Laetitia” continues: “What we are speaking of is a process of accompaniment and discernment which ‘guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God… This discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity as proposed by the Church’” (Amoris Laetitia 300).

In light of this, priests must help the divorced and civilly-remarried to form their consciences according to the truth. This is a true work of mercy. It should be undertaken with patience, compassion and a genuine desire for the good of all concerned, sensitive to the wounds of each person, and gently leading each toward the Lord. Its purpose is not condemnation, but the opposite: a full reconciliation of the person with God and neighbor, and restoration to the fullness of visible communion with Jesus Christ and the Church.

In fact, pastors must always convey Catholic teaching faithfully to all persons – including the divorced and remarried – both in the confessional as well as publicly. They should do this with great confidence in the power of God’s grace, knowing that, when spoken with love, the truth heals, builds up, and sets free (cf. Jn 8:32).

Can the divorced and civilly-remarried receive the sacraments? As a general matter, baptized members of the Church are always in principle invited to the sacraments. The confessional’s doors are always open to the repentant and contrite of heart. What of Communion? EveryCatholic, not only the divorced and civilly-remarried, must sacramentally confess all serious sins of which he or she is aware, with a firm purpose to change, before receiving the Eucharist. In some cases, the subjective responsibility of the person for a past action may be diminished. But the person must still repent and renounce the sin, with a firm purpose of amendment.

With divorced and civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in theSacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist. Such individuals are encouraged to approach the Sacrament of Penance regularly, having recourse to God’s great mercy in that sacrament if they fail in chastity.

Even where, for the sake of their children, they live under one roof in chaste continence and have received absolution (so that they are free from personal sin), the unhappy fact remains that, objectively speaking, their public state and condition of life in the new relationship are contrary to Christ’s teaching against divorce. Concretely speaking, therefore, where pastors give Communion to divorced and remarried persons trying to live chastely, they should do so in a manner that will avoid giving scandal or implying that Christ’s teaching can be set aside. In other contexts, also, care must be taken to avoid the unintended appearance of an endorsement of divorce and civil remarriage; thus, divorced and civilly remarried persons should not hold positions of responsibility in a parish (e.g.on a parish council), nor should they carry out liturgical ministries or functions (e.g., lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion)

This is a hard teaching for many, but anything less misleads people about the nature of the Eucharist and the Church. The grace of Jesus Christ is more than a pious cliché; it is a real and powerful seed of change in the believing heart. The lives of many saints bear witness that grace can take great sinners and, by its power of interior renewal, remake them in holiness of life. Pastors and all who work in the service of the Church should tirelessly promote hope in this saving mystery.

For couples who cohabitate and are unmarried

Cohabitation of unmarried couples is now common, often fueled by convenience, fear of a final commitment, or a desire to “try out” relationships. Some couples delay marriage until they can afford an elaborate wedding celebration. Many children are born to these irregular unions. Cohabiting and contracepting couples often enter RCIA, or seek to return to the Catholic faith, only dimly aware of the problems created by their situation.

Working with such couples, pastors should consider two issues. First, does the couple have children together? A natural obligation in justice exists for parents to care for their children. And children have a natural right to be raised by both parents. Pastors should try, to the degree possible and when a permanent commitment of marriage is viable, to strengthen existing relationships where a couple already has children together. Second, does the couple have the maturity to turn their relationship into a permanently committed marriage? Often cohabiting couples refrain from making final commitments because one or both persons is seriously lacking in maturity or has other significant obstacles to entering a valid union. Here, prudence plays a vital role. Where one or another person is not capable of, or is not willing to commit to, a marriage, the pastor should urge them to separate.

Where the couple is disposed to marriage, they should be encouraged to practice chastity until they are sacramentally married. They will find this challenging, but again, with the help of grace, mastering the self is possible — and this fasting from physical intimacy is a strong element of spiritual preparation for an enduring life together. (Of course, persons should also be guided to an awareness of their situation before God, so that they can make a good confession before their wedding, and so begin their married life with joy in the Lord.)

Couples who have no children should ready themselves for marriage by a time of domestic separation. Where a cohabiting couple already has children, the good of the young may require the couple to remain living together, but in chastity.

For persons who experience same-sex attraction

The same call to chastity and holiness of life applies equally to all persons, whether attracted to the same or opposite sex. The pastoral care of persons with same-sex attraction should be guided by the same love and respect the Church seeks to offer all people.Ministers of the Church should emphasize to such persons that they are loved by God, that Jesus desires them to receive an inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and that, as with every Christian, this is made possible through the gift of grace.

Those who work in pastoral ministry often encounter persons with diverse forms of same-sex attraction. Many such persons have found it possible to live out a vocation to Christian marriage with children, notwithstanding experiencing some degree of same-sex attraction. Others have found it difficult to do so. Because Christian marriage with children is a great good, those who find themselves unable to embrace this good may suffer from a sense of loss or loneliness. And, as with those who are attracted to the opposite sex, some can find chastity very difficult. Pastoral care of such persons must never lose sight of their individual calling to holiness and union with Jesus Christ, and that the power of God’s grace can make this a real possibility for their lives.

Catholic belief, rooted in Scripture, reserves all expressions of sexual intimacy to a man and a woman covenanted to each other in a valid marriage.We hold this teaching to be true and unchangeable, tied as it is to our nature and purpose as children of a loving God who desires our happiness. Those with predominant same-sex attractions are therefore called to struggle to live chastely for the kingdom of God. In this endeavor they have need of support, friendship and understanding if they fail. They should be counseled, like everyone else, to have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance, where they should be treated with gentleness and compassion. In fact, more than a few such persons, with the help of grace and the sacraments, do live exemplary and even heroic Christian lives.

The pastoral situation of same-sex couples

When two persons of the same sex present themselves openly in a parish as a same-sex couple (including those who may have entered into a same-sex union under civil law), pastors must judge prudently how best to address the situation, both for the sake of the authentic spiritual good of the persons involved, and the common good of the believing community. It’s important to remember that some same-sex couples do live together in chaste friendship and without sexual intimacy, and many pastors have had the experience of counseling such couples. The Church welcomes all men and women who honestly seek to encounter the Lord, whatever their circumstances. But two persons in an active, public same-sex relationship, no matter how sincere, offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community. Such a relationship cannot be accepted into the life of the parish without undermining the faith of the community, most notably the children.

Finally, those living openly same-sex lifestyles should not hold positions of responsibility in a parish, nor should they carry out any liturgical ministry or function.


It is easy to note how similar the guidelines of the archdiocese of Philadelphia are to those dictated by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli to the priests of the archdiocese of Florence, these too presented last October on http://www.chiesa:

> In Rome Yes, In Florence No. Here’s How “Amoris Laetitia” Is Dividing the Church

Cardinal Antonelli was archbishop of Florence from 2001 to 2008, and then for four years prefect of the pontifical council for the family, where he was replaced in 2012 by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia and finally this year by new cardinal Farrell, in the expanded new dicastery.

He too is acknowledged as having unquestionable expertise on the subject. But in spite of this Pope Francis did not call him to participate in the twofold synod on the family.

Three months after the publication of “Amoris Laetitia” Antonelli said that he too was “awaiting the desirable authoritative indications” from the pope that would clarify the obscure parts of the exhortation. Even before, therefore, the four cardinals came out into the open with their five “dubia.”

But also to Antonelli’s expectation Pope Francis responded only with silence. As also to the expectations of many other cardinals and bishops, who by confidential means have addressed and continue to address analogous appeals to him, motivated by growing concern over the confusion that the whole Church is going through, in faith as in works.


English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.


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Pope Francis: ad orientem

Mea Maxima Culpa: Who Am I to Judge?


In July 1979, at the age of 18, I spent several weeks at a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) summer camp in Cimarron, Colorado. Nestled on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies, the camp trained a cross-section of young Evangelicals who wanted to become more adept at living and sharing their faith.

Among the other students with whom I spent the most time were two brothers and a sister who hailed from rural Pennsylvania. Although they were Americans, there was just something about them that seemed foreign and unfamiliar. They dressed funny and were inordinately polite, with a wickedly smart comprehension of Holy Scripture that far surpassed their peers. Yet they were also, as it seemed to my arrogant 18-year-old self, embarrassingly out of touch with contemporary culture, especially film and pop music.

As we were hiking one afternoon, I asked one of the brothers, “Who is your favorite Beatle?” To my horror, he replied, “We don’t know any of their names.” I then asked, “Have you ever listened to the Beatles?” The other two, overhearing the conversation, answered in near unison with their brother, “No.”

“Why not?,” I retorted, as if I were placed on this earth to defend the dignity of the Fab Four. What followed was an earful: they gave me a long and detailed account of their family life and the nature of their religious community. They were Mennonite Christians who lived in strict adherence to norms and practices that they were taught are essential to the process of sanctification.

Not really listening with much charity, I quickly judged them and their family as poor oppressed souls who needed to be liberated from the shackles of their narrow-minded faith. Of course, I had the good sense not to tell them directly what I thought. But they probably figured it out by my facial expressions and the incredulous tone of my interrogation.

Over the days that followed, much to my surprise, I found myself not only drawn to these Mennonites but becoming envious of their inner strength and personal holiness. What seemed to me only days earlier as an unattractive stifling of individual self-expression I began to see as an authentic freedom that my feeble reflexes, under the spell of the popular culture, did not have the vocabulary to properly categorize.

Pope Francis: ad orientem
Pope Francis: ad orientem

I saw in these three young students a degree of liberality, self-mastery, kindness, and love that, unencumbered by the vicissitudes of the present age, put me and my Evangelical peers to shame. It turned out that we were the ones with the shackles and they were the ones who were truly free.

I had not thought about that summer of 1979 for quite some time, until about two weeks ago, when I read Pope Francis’ comments about the growing numbers of young Catholics who are drawn to the Latin Mass. Clearly perplexed as to why anyone would be attracted to this ancient liturgy if they had not been brought up with it, the Holy Father opined: “Sometimes I found myself confronted with a very strict person, with an attitude of rigidity. And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.”

The Holy Father, of course, is correct that “true love is not rigid.” But as with the meaning of any infused virtue, the divine is in the details. For if we “dig, dig,” as Francis suggests we do, we discover there is no such thing as the vice of rigidity, or the virtue of charity, in the abstract. As I learned as an 18-year-old, and as the Supreme Pontiff no doubt knows as an 80-year-old, impulsive judgments, directed by uncritically inherited prejudices, formed by one’s own narrow experience, may themselves be manifestations of unjustified rigidity, even when they claim to be advancing the cause of human liberation.

This is why, for example, the Holy Father is correct in not believing that he engages in the vice of rigidity when he declares in starkly absolutist terms the impossibility of the ordination of female priests, the wrongness of capital punishment, the grave immorality of abortion, the responsibility of first world nations to distinguish migrants from refugees, the goodness of the invitation of God’s mercy, and the power of the papacy to issue authoritative apostolic exhortations and to later clarify or decline to clarify their meaning.

In other words, if Pope Francis were an equal opportunity critic of “rigidity in the abstract,” he would unwittingly be contributing to the undermining of his own ecclesial authority. If that were the case, Catholics would have no more reason to take his pronouncements seriously than they would the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Joel Osteen, or Donald Trump.

But clearly that could not be the Holy Father’s intention, especially given his penchant to speak extemporaneously to international media on matters that he believes are of global importance.

Consequently, it would be wise for the Holy Father to not cease “digging” into the hearts and minds of those moved and transformed by the sublimity of the Latin Mass. Perhaps he will discover in these Catholic young people, as I found in my Mennonite friends in the summer of 1979, an unassuming sanctity, joy, and liberality. Only when I realized that my inability to see this inner beauty and freedom was the result of my being held in bondage to the spirit of the age did I humbly confess, “Who am I to judge?”


Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Baylor University, and 2016-17 Visiting Professor of Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Among his many books is Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2015).


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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bishop Schneider Defends Dubia: “A Prophetic Voice of Four Cardinals of the Holy Roman Catholic Church”

Written by  Bishop Athanasius Schneider

bishop schneider 1

Bishop Athanasius Schneider

[Emphasis and {commentary} in red type by Abyssum]

“We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Cor. 13: 8)

Out of “deep pastoral concern,” four Cardinals of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, His Eminence Joachim Meisner, Archbishop emeritus of Cologne (Germany), His Eminence Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop emeritus of Bologna (Italy), His Eminence Raymond Leo Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and His Eminence Walter Brandmüller, President emeritus of the Pontifical Commission of Historical Sciences, have published on November 14, 2016, the text of five questions, called dubia (Latin for “doubts”), which previously on September 19, 2016, they sent to the Holy Father and to Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, along with an accompanying letter. The Cardinals ask Pope Francis to clear up “grave disorientation and great confusion” concerning the interpretation and practical application, particularly of chapter VIII, of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia and its passages relating to admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments and the Church’s moral teaching.

In their statement entitled “Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia,” the Cardinals say that to “many — bishops, priests, faithful — these paragraphs allude to or even explicitly teach a change in the discipline of the Church with respect to the divorced who are living in a new union.” Speaking so, the Cardinals have merely stated real facts in the life of the Church. These facts are demonstrated by pastoral orientations on behalf of several dioceses and by public statements of some bishops and cardinals, who affirm that in some cases divorced and remarried Catholics can be admitted to Holy Communion even though they continue to use the rights reserved by Divine law to validly married spouses.

In publishing a plea for clarity in a matter that touches the truth and the sanctity simultaneously of the three sacraments of Marriage, Penance, and the Eucharist, the Four Cardinals only did their basic duty as bishops and cardinals, which consists in actively contributing so that the revelation transmitted through the Apostles might be guarded sacredly and might be faithfully interpreted. It was especially the Second Vatican Council that reminded all the members of the college of bishops as legitimate successors of the Apostles of their obligation, according to which “by Christ’s institution and command they have to be solicitous for the whole Church, and that this solicitude, though it is not exercised by an act of jurisdiction, contributes greatly to the advantage of the universal Church. For it is the duty of all bishops to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the discipline common to the whole Church” (Lumen gentium, 23; cf. also Christus Dominus, 5-6).

In making a public appeal to the Pope, bishops and cardinals should be moved by genuine collegial affection for the Successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ on earth, following the teaching of Vatican Council II (cf. Lumen gentium, 22);, in so doing they render “service to the primatial ministry” of the Pope (cf. Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 13).

The entire Church in our days has to reflect upon the fact that the Holy Spirit has not in vain inspired Saint Paul to write in the Letter to the Galatians about the incident of his public correction of Peter. One has to trust that Pope Francis will accept this public appeal of the Four Cardinals in the spirit of the Apostle Peter, when St Paul offered him a fraternal correction for the good of the whole Church. May the words of that great Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas, illuminate and comfort us all: “When there is a danger for the faith, subjects are required to reprove their prelates, even publicly. Since Paul, who was subject to Peter, out of the danger of scandal, publicly reproved him. And Augustine comments: “Peter himself gave an example to superiors by not disdaining to be corrected by his subjects when it occurred to them that he had departed from the right path” (Summa theol., II-II, 33, 4c).

Pope Francis often calls for an outspoken and fearless dialogue between all members of the Church in matters concerning the spiritual good of souls. In the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, the Pope speaks of a need for “open discussion of a number of doctrinal, moral, spiritual, and pastoral questions. The thinking of pastors and theologians, if faithful to the Church, honest, realistic and creative, will help us to achieve greater clarity” (n. 2). Furthermore, relationships at all levels within the Church must be free from a climate of fear and intimidation, as Pope Francis has requested in his various pronouncements.

In light of these pronouncements of Pope Francis and the principle of dialogue and acceptance of legitimate plurality of opinions, which was fostered by the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the unusually violent and intolerant reactions on behalf of some bishops and cardinals against the calm and circumspect plea of the Four Cardinals cause great astonishment. Among such intolerant reactions one could read affirmations such as, for instance: the four Cardinals are witless, naive, schismatic, heretical, and even comparable to the Arian heretics.

Such apodictic merciless judgments reveal not only intolerance, refusal of dialogue, and irrational rage, but demonstrate also a surrender to the impossibility of speaking the truth, a surrender to relativism in doctrine and practice, in faith and life. The above-mentioned clerical reaction against the prophetic voice of the Four Cardinals parades ultimately powerlessness before the eyes of the truth. Such a violent reaction has only one aim: to silence the voice of the truth, which is disturbing and annoying the apparently peaceful nebulous ambiguity of these clerical critics.

The negative reactions to the public statement of the Four Cardinals resemble the general doctrinal confusion of the Arian crisis in the fourth century. It is helpful to all to quote in the situation of the doctrinal confusion in our days some affirmations of Saint Hilary of Poitiers, the “Athanasius of the West”.

“You [the bishops of Gaul] who still remain with me faithful in Christ did not give way when threatened with the onset of heresy, and now by meeting that onset you have broken all its violence. Yes, brethren, you have conquered, to the abundant joy of those who share your faith: and your unimpaired constancy gained the double glory of keeping a pure conscience and giving an authoritative example” (Hil. De Syn., 3).

“Your [the bishops of Gaul] invincible faith keeps the honourable distinction of conscious worth and, content with repudiating crafty, vague, or hesitating action, safely abides in Christ, preserving the profession of its liberty. For since we all suffered deep and grievous pain at the actions of the wicked against God, within our boundaries alone is communion in Christ to be found from the time that the Church began to be harried by disturbances such as the expatriation of bishops, the deposition of priests, the intimidation of the people, the threatening of the faith, and the determination of the meaning of Christ’s doctrine by human will and power. Your resolute faith does not pretend to be ignorant of these facts or profess that it can tolerate them, perceiving that by the act of hypocritical assent it would bring itself before the bar of conscience” (Hil. De Syn., 4).

“I have spoken what I myself believed, conscious that I owed it as my soldier’s service to the Church to send to you in accordance with the teaching of the Gospel by these letters the voice of the office which I hold in Christ. It is yours to discuss, to provide and to act, that the inviolable fidelity in which you stand you may still keep with conscientious hearts, and that you may continue to hold what you hold now” (Hil. De Syn., 92).

The following words of Saint Basil the Great, addressed to the Latin Bishops, can be in some aspects applied to the situation of those who in our days ask for doctrinal clarity, including our Four Cardinals: “The one charge which is now sure to secure severe punishment is the careful keeping of the traditions of the Fathers. We are not being attacked for the sake of riches, or glory, or any temporal advantages. We stand in the arena to fight for our common heritage, for the treasure of the sound faith, derived from our Fathers. Grieve with us, all you who love the brethren, at the shutting of the mouths of our men of true religion, and at the opening of the bold and blasphemous lips of all that utter unrighteousness against God. The pillars and foundation of the truth are scattered abroad. We, whose insignificance has allowed of our being overlooked, are deprived of our right of free speech” (Ep. 243, 2.4).

Today those bishops and cardinals, who ask for clarity and who try to fulfill their duty in guarding sacredly and faithfully interpreting the transmitted Divine Revelation concerning the Sacraments of Marriage and the Eucharist, are no longer exiled as it was with the Nicene bishops during the Arian crisis. Contrary to the time of the Arian crisis, today, as wrote Rudolf Graber, the bishop of Ratisbone, in 1973, exile of the bishops is replaced by hush-up strategies and by slander campaigns (cf. Athanasius und die Kirche unserer Zeit, Abensberg 1973, p. 23).

Another champion of the Catholic faith during the Arian crisis was Saint Gregory Nazianzen. He wrote the following striking characterization of the behavior of the majority of the shepherds of the Church in those times. This voice of the great Doctor of the Church should be a salutary warning for the bishops of all times: “Surely the pastors have done foolishly; for, excepting a very few, who either on account of their insignificance were passed over, or who by reason of their virtue resisted, and who were to be left as a seed and root for the springing up again and revival of Israel by the influences of the Spirit, all temporized, only differing from each other in this, that some succumbed earlier, and others later; some were foremost champions and leaders in the impiety, and others joined the second rank of the battle, being overcome by fear, or by interest, or by flattery, or, what was the most excusable, by their own ignorance” (Orat. 21, 24).

When Pope Liberius in 357 signed one of the so called formulas of Sirmium, in which he deliberately discarded the dogmatically defined expression “homo-ousios” and excommunicated Saint Athanasius in order to have peace and harmony with the Arian and Semi-Arian bishops of the East, faithful Catholics and some few bishops, especially Saint Hilary of Poitiers, were deeply shocked. Saint Hilary transmitted the letter that Pope Liberius wrote to the Oriental bishops, announcing the acceptance of the formula of Sirmium and the excommunication of Saint Athanasius. In his deep pain and dismay, Saint Hilary added to the letter in a kind of desperation the phrase: “Anathema tibi a me dictum, praevaricator Liberi” (I say to you anathema, prevaricator Liberius), cf. Denzinger-Schönmetzer, n. 141. Pope Liberius wanted to have peace and harmony at any price, even at the expense of the Divine truth. In his letter to the heterodox Latin bishops Ursace, Valence, and Germinius announcing to them the above-mentioned decisions, he wrote that he preferred peace and harmony to martyrdom (cf. cf. Denzinger-Schönmetzer, n. 142).

“In what a dramatic contrast stood the behavior of Pope Liberius to the following conviction of Saint Hilary of Poitiers: “We don’t make peace at the expense of the truth by making concessions in order to acquire the reputation of tolerance. We make peace by fighting legitimately according to the rules of the Holy Spirit. There is a danger to ally surreptitiously with unbelief under the beautiful name of peace {or mercy}.” il. Ad Const., 2, 6, 2).

Blessed John Henry Newman commented on these unusual sad facts with the following wise and equilibrated affirmation: “While it is historically true, it is in no sense doctrinally false, that a Pope, as a private doctor, and much more Bishops, when not teaching formally, may err, as we find they did err in the fourth century. Pope Liberius might sign a Eusebian formula at Sirmium, and the mass of Bishops at Ariminum or elsewhere, and yet they might, in spite of this error, be infallible in their ex cathedra decisions” (The Arians of the Fourth Century, London, 1876, p. 465).

The Four Cardinals with their prophetic voice demanding doctrinal and pastoral clarity have a great merit before their own conscience, before history, and before the innumerable simple faithful Catholics of our days, who are driven to the ecclesiastical periphery, because of their fidelity to Christ’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage. But above all, the Four Cardinals have a great merit in the eyes of Christ. Because of their courageous voice, their names will shine brightly at the Last Judgment. For they obeyed the voice of their conscience remembering the words of Saint Paul: “We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Cor 13: 8). Surely, at the Last Judgment the above-mentioned mostly clerical critics of the Four Cardinals will not have an easy answer for their violent attack on such a just, worthy, and meritorious act of these Four Members of the Sacred College of Cardinals.

The following words inspired by the Holy Spirit retain their prophetic value especially in view of the spreading doctrinal and practical confusion regarding the Sacrament of Marriage in our days: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4: 3-5).

May all, who in our days still take seriously their baptismal vows and their priestly and episcopal promises, receive the strength and the grace of God so that they may reiterate together with Saint Hilary the words: “May I always be in exile, if only the truth begins to be preached again!” (De Syn., 78). This strength and grace we wish wholeheartedly to our Four Cardinals and as well as to those who criticize them.

November 23, 2016
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana

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The top map shows the counties (in blue) in the United States where the majority of votes went to Hillary Clinton.  All the rest of the counties in the United States voted for Donald Trump.

The bottom map shows the counties in the United States which have the highest crime rate.  It is no coincidence that these counties are the same ones that voted for Hillary Clinton on November 8, 2016.




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