Dr. Edward A. Peters


Seven quick thoughts on the most recent papal presser

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

Frankly, I don’t know how he does it. When I fly to Europe I have to sleep all the way over.  Not Pope Francis. Anyway, may I offer some comments on some topics mentioned in the latest mid-air papal presser?

1. Pope Paul VI, as I understand it, did approve of religious women threatened by rape using contraceptives. It is obvious, though, that such measures were taken in self-defense against criminal acts and, more importantly, would have occurred outside the context of conjugal relations. Avoiding pregnancy under outlaw circumstances is not only ‘not an absolute evil’, it’s not an evil act at all. I hope that mentioning this unusual episode in a press chat will not contribute unduly to the world’s misunderstanding of the limitations of Paul VI’s position in this case and of the episode’s non-applicability to firm Church teaching on contraception within marriage.

2. An individual becomes “Christian” by, and only by, (valid) baptism. Donald Trump was apparently baptized Presbyterian, which faith community has valid baptism { historically there has been some question about the validity of Presbyterian ‘baptisms’ since in some cases Presbyterian ministers sprinkle a few drops of water on the head of the one being baptized and there are those in the Catholic Church who have questioned whether or not the absence of water FLOWING ON THE HEAD OF THE PERSON BEING BAPTIZED constitutes valid baptism}. Donald Trump is, therefore, as a matter of canon law (c. 204), Christian. Trump might be a good Christian or a bad one—I cannot say, and neither can anyone else. Trump might do and say things consistent with Christian values or in contradiction to them, but his status as baptized, and therefore as Christian, is beyond dispute.

3. There is no legitimate “principle” by which a “lesser of two evils” may ever be licitly engaged in. It is fundamental moral theology that even a small evil action may never be licitly engaged in—no matter how much good might seem to result therefrom and no matter how much evil might seem to be avoided thereby. There are, to be sure, principles by which a good or neutral action that has two effects, one good and one evil, might be licitly engaged in under certain circumstances despite the evil effects; and there are principles by which “lesser evils” may be tolerated (not chosen). But parsing these matters accurately and responsibly requires more time than can be devoted to them in a press conference.

4. Abortion (assuming we are talking about doing an action intended to kill a human being prior to birth, and not just suffering ‘abortion’, i.e., miscarriage) is, Francis observed, always evil. Abortion is not, however, “evil” because it is a “crime”. Not all criminal acts are by nature evil and not all evil acts are crimes. Other factors must be considered lest moral principles and legal principles become confused.

5. The Vatican City State, a sovereign nation, has the right to build, and has chosen to surround itself with, a giant wall. Evidently, building or using a national wall is not a non-Christian act nor a stance contrary to Gospel values. The pope’s criticism of building walls on part of a national border is probably better understood as prudential in nature, not principled.  {Someone who lives behind walls, as is the case with the Vatican City walls, should not be calling for the destruction of walls.}

6. It is important (though some might say it is too late) to distinguish between a Catholic’s stance toward “same-sex unions” and that toward “same-sex marriage”. These are not equivalent terms. Legal recognition of “same-sex unions” might be a good idea, a tolerable idea, or a bad idea, but, per se, “same-sex unions” are things over which reasonable minds (including Catholic minds) may differ; in contrast, Catholics may never approve or support “same-sex marriage”, this, upon pain of contradicting infallible Church teaching, if not of committing heresy.

7. The pope said nothing suggesting confusion about “celibacy” and “continence” (c. 277), although the Crux reporter seems to regard the former as another word for the latter. Anyway, I do not know whether there is such a thing as a (priest) who does not have the “friendship of a woman”, but I would not think the “friendship of a woman” is necessary to make a man ‘complete’.  {Friendship with other humans is not only natural, it is necessary for a person to be ‘complete’ and since half of the human race is composed of people of the opposite sex it is natural for a person, even a priest (who is after all still a person) to have friendship with women.}


  • Edward Peters, JD, JCD, Ref. Sig. Ap.

    Dr. Peters has held the Edmund Cdl. Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit since 2005. He earned a J. D. from the Univ. of Missouri at Columbia (1982) and a J. C. D. from the Catholic Univ. of America (1991). In 2010, he was appointed a Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura by Pope Benedict XVI. For more infomation on Dr. Peters, see CanonLaw.Info.


About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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  1. Mona Lisa Biberstein says:

    Bishop Gracida, felt compelled to respond to this….. I’m having trouble understanding why people aren’t reading the rest of the text of Pope Francis and criticizing based on Media interpretations of which we “usually” don’t follow unless it’s against the Pope (or in many other cases against Catholicism in nature)…..– he didn’t say people who build walls aren’t Christian, he said: “Thank God he said I was a politician because Aristotle defined the human person as ‘animal politicus.’ At least I am a human person. As to whether I am a pawn, well, maybe, I don’t know. I’ll leave that up to your judgment and that of the people. And then, a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.” We must also remember he is speaking through an interpreter — having been an interpreter, i can say that we don’t always get the “meaning” or “spirit” of the words in the translation. What Pope Francis said is true, IF we really look at our Catholic faith. Just needed to get this off my chest, I’ve been posting it on Facebook, but wanted to send this reply to this article. And yes, the Vatican has high walls, and, also, as someone else mentioned, BIG doors…. how many millions have been through those walls? Also, if you want to see the actual question asked of Pope Francis, here’s the link…. it makes you realize that the Holy Father did not “just come out and say – Trump is not a Christian”…. so we as Catholics should help put a stop to so much of this support of the way things have been stated (with this and many other media-promoted issues especially with regards to Catholicism).

    Date: Sun, 21 Feb 2016 03:34:05 +0000 To:

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