AMORIS LAETITIA IS NOT HELPFUL IN RESOLVING THE CHURCH’S CLERGY SEX ABUSE CRISIS

“An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)

Amoris Laetitia, by calling into question the Church’s fundamental moral teachings in the area of sexual morality, is hardly helpful in resolving the monumental clergy sex abuse crisis that is causing great harm to the Church’s mission.

As one priest has demonstrated in an article linked below, a fundamental aim of Amoris Laetitia was to provide a conscience argument for homosexual relationships. See

Priest explains how Amoris Laetitia was really written to ‘normalize …

Imagine that you are a Catholic seminarian with homosexual tendencies, but nevertheless you are trying to live a chaste life. But then in your class on morality you are introduced to the teachings in Amoris Laetitia, in particular nos. 301-303, which seem to strongly suggest that in certain circumstances God even approves of conduct not in harmony with Catholic teaching. This is a liberating moment for you: you now can claim in good conscience that homosexual acts are not intrinsically evil in your situation (and that God understands that). Before you know it your vow of chastity has vanquished and you are part of the homosexual sub-culture in the Church, and more drastic steps down the slippery slope seem imminent.

In fact, in the controversial Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis states that the type of “mercy” being advocated is not just for the divorced and remarried but for everyone “in whatever situation.” He states:

297. It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves. 

Here is the very troubling passage from Amoris Laetitia (no. 301) which clearly suggests that a person can be in a “concrete situation” where he has no choice but to live in mortal sin (and is thus justified in remaining in his objectively sinful condition even though he knows the rule):

301.  For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.  The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.  More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule.  A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values”, or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.  

Amoris Laetitia, no. 303, contains another very controversial statement made by Pope Francis, stating that a person can come to the realization that God wills him to stay in his sinful condition. It reads, in pertinent part:

“Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.”

In his great encyclical on Catholic morality, Veritatis Splendor, Saint Pope John Paul II specifically foresaw and rejected the type of argument put forth in Amoris Laetia (303) quoted above. He stated very clearly that

“It would be a very serious error … to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man.” (VS 103) 

Still further, Saint John Paul II stated:

“circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act “subjectively” good or defensible as a choice.” (VS 81)

Pope John Paul II explained in Veritatis Splendor the clear Catholic teaching that an intrinsically evil act cannot be creatively transformed into something willed by God under concrete circumstances (the suggestion put forth in AL 303 and 301).

“The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever.” (Veritatis Splendor 67)

“The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception.” (VS 52)

By trying to claim that an intrinsically evil act like adultery, fornication or other “irregular situation” may be the most generous response a person can give to God at a certain moment in his life, Pope Francis has embraced situation ethics and has strayed far from the firm and authentic foundations of Catholic morality. Pope John Paul II had already warned that such an argument is clearly erroneous.

CONCLUSIONAmoris Laetitia potentially opens the door to the justification of practically any type of mortal sin, not only because it is arguably for “everyone” in “all situations,” but also because “no area of Christian morality can remain unscathed” if the general statements about moral acts in the document are considered valid, to quote the great Dominican scholar, Father Aidan Nichols. For example, why would a married gay couple not be able to claim under the rationale of Amoris that their union is the best response they can make given their concrete situation. What about a priest with homosexual inclinations? Thus, when Dr. Joseph Seifert referred to Amoris Laetitia as a “theological atomic bomb” which in essence would blow up Catholic morality, making all Catholic morality essentially optional, his opinion was not mere hyperbole.

Amoris Laetitia has created quite a mess for those who teach moral theology, and for the seminarians who study it. One could forcefully argue it is the greatest threat to Catholic morality the Church has ever encountered.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A., J.D.

P.S. See

Madison bishop says homosexuality is at the root of ongoing sexual …

Sex-abuse crisis in US Catholic Church is about homosexuality, not …

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IN ALL THINGS GOD WORKS FOR THE GOOD OF THOSE WHO LOVE HIM

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The key point in this note is the importance of developing a strong love for God, the result of which is a closer union with Him. One could say that this loving friendship with God is the goal of the entire spiritual life.

What I want to stress in this note, then, is the importance of loving God (and what could be more important than that?). There are many tangents in Romans 8:28 – grace, justification, election, predestination, to put a name on them – but we can, in effect, overcome these theological considerations simply by loving God. Not all the Saints were great theologians, but they all loved God quite intensely. We might say, then, that your love of God is a great sign of your calling and election.

The verse – Romans 8:28 –  is quite clear and very powerful: God works for the good of those who love Him. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” What does love do for us? Love unites us to the object we desire. Thus, the love of God unites us to God who is the source of all goodness and every blessing. God calls us to this love, gives us the grace to love Him, and indeed shares His life of love with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). It is essential, then, that we nurture intimacy and friendship with the Holy Spirit Who is Love!

The key point, then, is that you must love God, and grow more and more in love with Him. You must love Him more than all things, more than yourself, and you must love yourself and your neighbor in Him. When you do this all is tilted towards your good, and the magnetic power and attraction of God’s omnipotent love draws you inevitably – no matter what happens – towards eternal glory. This powerful bond of love between you and God cannot fail. How cannot it not but work good for you because God is drawing you to Himself?

Dear friend, make the love of God a special object of your prayers. You might simply pray: “Oh Holy Spirit, I pray for the grace to fall deeply in love with God. I beg of you the grace to see how great God is, and how infinitely lovable He is. Oh Holy Spirit, help me to grow in the love of God.”

“We should, therefore, deem as nothing all that we give to obtain the priceless treasure of the love of God, of ardent love. He alone gives to the human heart the interior charity that it lacks. During the journey toward eternity, we must never say that we have sufficient love of God. We should make continual progress in love. The traveler (viator) who advances toward God progresses with steps of love, as St. Gregory the Great says, that is, by ever higher acts of love. God desires that we should thus love Him more each day. The song of the journey toward eternity is a hymn of love….” (Father Garrigou-LaGrange).

“IN ALL THINGS” God works for the good of those who love Him in all things. Are we deeply affected by this Gospel mystery? Does it fill our hearts with confidence, and even holy boldness, that if we “keep in His love” all things, everything, happy things and sad things, trial and afflictions, joys and sufferings, they all work for our good. We see this principle operating in the life of Jesus: because he loved God everything in his life worked for the good, so much so that his crucifixion on Calvary obtained an infinite good for humanity. Our love of God, therefore, gives us the certitude that God is secretly – or even explicitly – accomplishing the good he desires in all that we do and suffer. “The apostle [Paul in Romans 8] speaks as one amazed, and swallowed up in admiration, wondering at the height and depth, and length and breadth, of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. The more we know of other things, the less we wonder; but the further we are led into gospel mysteries, the more we are affected by them. While God is for us, and we keep in his love, we may with holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness” (Matthew Henry Bible Commentary).

By “all things” I conclude that St. Paul means all things, which would include any present difficulties you are undergoing. If you are loving God, these difficulties are all going to work for your good. A great spiritual writer, Father Grou, states: “Everything that happens here to the servants of God…is arranged by Infinite Love and Wisdom for their eternal happiness…. For, as long as they love God with a real, effective, and practical love, it is impossible for anything in the world to keep them back; on the contrary, everything will help to their advancement….” Every trial, then, is for our advantage! And if we are presently suffering through some trial or persecution, we should ask: “What good is God trying to work in my soul with this trial?”

Is Romans 8:28 the most most encouraging verse in the Bible? If it helps you to understand the crucial and critical importance of loving God during all the joys and adversities of life – well then, it certainly is!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References: My discussion on love is based on and flows from Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s masterpiece, The Three Ages of the Interior Life (see especially Vol. I, Chapter 19). The quote from Father Grou is in Manual For Interior Souls, a book highly recommended.

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SAINT PAUL’S BIBLICAL DOCTRINE ON THE POWER OF REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING

 

(AN ICON PAINTING OF SAINT PAUL)

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17)

“Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says: “Follow me!”. Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross. Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him” (Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, 26, by Pope John Paul II)

There is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a remarkable paragraph that speaks to the amazing power God has given us, by our prayers and good actions, to merit most amazing graces for others. If the paragraph in question is sound theology, as we know it must be, then it would be good for us to take advantage of this spiritual solidarity and use God’s grace to merit good for others!  Here is that paragraph from the Catechism:

2010 “Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.” (See also CCC 307, 618, 953, 956, and 1508)

Now in Saint Paul we see a clear Biblical basis for this Catholic doctrine of meriting good for others with specific reference to the concept or doctrine of redemptive suffering. I am especially going to take a look at two striking passages –  one from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, and the other from his Letter to the Colossians (using the Living Letters translation, which is a simplified/paraphrased  translation recommended by Billy Graham, which can easily be compared to traditional translations).

PHILIPPIANS  
At 2 Philippians 2: 17-18 Saint Paul discusses the possibility of offering his life as an oblation for the community. Here is what he says:

“And if my lifeblood is, so to speak, to be poured out over your faith which I am offering up to God as a sacrifice — that is, if I am to die for you – even then I will be glad, and will share my joy with each of you. For you should be happy about this too and rejoice with me for having this privilege of dying for you.”

COLOSSIANS  And at Colossians 1:24 Saint Paul says to the community there:

“But part of my work is to suffer for you; and I am glad, for I am helping to finish up the remainder of Christ’s sufferings for his body, the church.”

We can see, therefore, from the passages cited above, that at Calvary Christ merited for members of his mystical body the privilege of joining in His super-abundant, all-encompassing suffering for the benefit of others.

Paul’s understanding of redemptive suffering flows from his insight that believers in Christ form one organism, or one body, united to Christ who is the head (“all of us, in union with Christ, form one body” – Romans 12: 5). Paul says elsewhere at 2 Corinthians 1: 5-6 (RSV):

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation….”

Still further at 2 Corinthians 4:8-12 Paul states:

“In all things we suffer tribulation: but are not distressed. We are straitened: but are not destitute. We suffer persecution: but are not forsaken. We are cast down: but we perish not. Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake: that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us: but life in you.”

So in the Catholic church, following the teaching of Paul on the value of redemptive suffering, we are urged to unite our own suffering to the Cross of Christ for the welfare of others. Pope John Paul II made this point about the value of redemptive suffering in a trip he made to Poland, stating:

“Therefore, uniting myself with all of you who are suffering throughout the land of Poland, in your homes, in the hospitals, the clinics, the dispensaries, the sanatoria—wherever you may be—I beg you to make use of the cross that has become part of each one of you for salvation. I pray for you to have light and spiritual strength in your suffering, that you may not lose courage but may discover for yourselves the meaning of suffering and may be able to relieve others by prayer and sacrifice. And do not forget me and the whole of the Church, and the cause of the Gospel and peace that I am serving by Christ’s will. You who are weak and humanly incapable, be a source of strength for your brother and father who is at your side in prayer and heart.” (quote from Father Hardon)

And in her mystical life Saint Faustina, the “secretary of Divine Mercy,” experienced this revelation from Jesus:

“I saw the Lord Jesus nailed upon the cross amidst great torments. A soft moan issued from His heart. After some time He said “I thirst. I thirst for the salvation of souls. Help Me, My daughter, to save souls. Join your sufferings to My Passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners.” (Diary 1032)

The old Catholic practice of making a “morning offering” of the trials and tribulations one suffers during the day, for one’s own benefit or for the benefit of others is, no doubt, based on strong Biblical foundations. Perhaps tomorrow you are going to find yourself, as someone once said, “nailed to your desk,” doing hours of paperwork that you would love to chuck out the window. In union with Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, and in union with all the masses being said throughout the world, you can offer up your hardships and daily duties for the benefit of some soul who desperately needs grace. Don’t waste your sufferings.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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PATIENCE HAS A PERFECT WORK TO DO IN YOUR SOUL!

“And patience hath a perfect work; that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.” (James 1:4)

Patience is a huge – indeed critical – virtue in the spiritual life and for life in general. Consider St. Paul’s description of the many characteristics of love – the first thing he says about love is that it is patient, and the next thing he says is that it is kind (1. Cor. 13:4). Dear God, give me the grace to be patient and kind and I certainly will grow in charity!

Here, then, by the practice of patience, is a simple yet profound way to grow in holiness. To be sure, growth in holiness means, as already mentioned, growth in the love of God and neighbor. All the virtues, including patience, are directed to the fulfillment of Christ’s law of charity. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Galatians 5:14).

So this simple method to grow in holiness is nothing more (or less) than the exercise of patience under adversity for the love of God. Virtue is tested by the people and circumstances of our day to day life. When, for the love of God, we meet these challenges and adversities with patience and meekness, we grow in holiness and sanctifying grace increases within us (see CCC 1266,which explains that the supernatural virtues – including patience –  are given to us in the sanctifying grace of baptism, and nos. 2010-2011 pertaining to the increase of sanctifying grace by way of meritorious acts).

The motive for our patience (which is truly a mortification of our self-will) is the love of God, and, secondarily, the love of neighbor. It is this “purity of intention,” as the theologians say, which makes the act of being patient supernaturally meritorious, thus causing sanctifying grace to grow within us, which, as Father Garrigou-LaGrange frequently mentions, can continually increase inasmuch as the precept of the love of God has no limits!

Patience is a power – a supernatural virtue sustained by sanctifying grace. Patience is an exercise of the cardinal virtue of fortitude. “Patience, says St. Thomas, is a virtue attached to the virtue of fortitude, which hinders a man from departing from right reason illumined by faith by yielding to difficulties and to sadness. It makes him bear the evils of life with equanimity of soul, says St. Augustine, without allowing himself to be troubled by vexations. The impatient man, no matter how violent he may be, is a weak man; when he raises his voice and murmurs, he really succumbs from the moral point of view. The patient man, on the contrary, puts up with an inevitable evil in order to remain on the right road, to continue his ascent toward God. Those who bear adversity that they may attain what their pride desires, have not the virtue of patience but only its counterfeit, hardness of heart” (from The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume II, Chapter 10).

Now, my friend, get this! The great theologian and Dominican, Father Garrigou-LaGrange, from whom I am drawing the material for this note, specifically states that among one of the three important signs of predestination (there are more than three) patience in adversity for the love of God is one of them. He states:“Therefore, as a rule, among the signs of predestination are…patience in adversity for the love of God (he names love of the poor and love of enemies as two other such signs)”. See The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume II, p.395, which, in context, is dealing with the passive purification of the spirit.

Your sure path to holiness and Heaven is patience and meekness under adversity, done for the motive of loving God and neighbor. Father Garrigou-LaGrange mentions that the devil often tempts us to anger, so we should not be surprised if this happens as we try to practice the great virtue of patience. “Love is patient and kind…love bears all things….” (1 Cor. 13:4,23). The corresponding virtue of meekness, says Father Garrigou LaGrange, curbs anger and bitterness. When you feel anger, allow meekness to descend into your anger.

To accomplish this goal of patience under adversity, we will need constant recourse to prayer and fervent reception of the sacraments. The practice of examining our conscience at the end of the day (to mark our progress) is also  valuable.  In the Eucharist, Jesus shares his life and virtues with us. When we receive Holy Communion, we should specifically ask Jesus to help us grow in patience and meekness.

Remember, “In your patience you shall possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Pray for the grace to grow in the all- important virtue of patience.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Madonna Under the Fir Tree, 1510, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Public Domain, U.S.A. For a reflection on the patience of Mary, click on :

The Patience of Mary

References: I am basing this note entirely on The Three Ages of the Interior Life by Father Garrigou-Lagrange. All of my thoughts proceed from this amazing work! Father Faber has an excellent chapter on patience in his Growth in Holiness book, wherein he shows that patience is the “rule” for those of us living in the world. Note that the word “patient” in James 1:4 is also translated as endurance or steadfastness, or one might say, “patient endurance.” According to Father Garrigou-Lagrange, patience is united to fortitude, whereas meekness is united to temperance. The natural virtue of patience, which may be carried out purely for pragmatic reasons, must be contrasted with the supernatural virtue of patience, done for the love of God and neighbor by reason of sanctifying grace (see CCC 1804-1811).

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THE ONE GREAT FACT OF THE WHOLE OF THEOLOGY

(JESUS DRAWS CLOSE TO THE WOMAN AT THE WELL WITH THE GIFT OF SANCTIFYING GRACE)

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

“If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

Here is an eye-opening fact with deep implications for the spiritual life: our first parents were created or constituted by God in sanctifying grace! The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice.” This grace of original holiness was “to share in. . .divine life” (CCC 375).

Dr. Ludwigg Ott, in his well regarded and classic work, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma,  states that it is a De Fide proposition [of our Catholic faith] that “Our first parents, before the Fall, were endowed with sanctifying grace,” (p.103) “not merely for himself [Adam], but for all of us” (p. 105, Sent. certa.). 

The tremendous significance of this revelation – that Adam and Eve were constituted in the grace of original holiness – is what it tells us about God’s design for the human person: –  God created us to be united to Him in intimate fellowship! God created us for Himself! God created us to share in the Infinite Happiness of His Infinitely Blessed Life! Now I understand why I was created; now I understand the meaning of life: it is this: to grow closer and closer to God! Father Faber magnifies this point:

“It was to have been expected beforehand, that God would have created [the first man] in a state of perfect nature. It is a surprise that it is not so. On the very threshold of theology, we are arrested by this mysterious fact, that rational creatures came from their Creator’s hands in a supernatural state….This one fact seems to us the great fact of the whole of theology….” (The Creator and the Creature, p.43).

So what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden? What caused them to trust more in the serpent than in God? Simply this: they forgot that God was near; they forgot to turn to God – their only help – for help. And when they realized what they had done, and how they had sinned, they tried to hide from God. This forgetfulness of God is what caused the need for our redemption.

One of the Church’s greatest mystics, Saint Teresa of Avila, says that “ALL HARM COMES TO US WHEN WE FAIL TO REALIZE THAT GOD IS NEAR.” This is one of those great spiritual principles that can be so helpful to us. We are like Adam and Eve: we have forgotten that God is near, so “unspeakably near,” as Father Faber says. When we panic, when we cower in fear, when we seek refuge in the world, when we consent to sin, what has happened?: – yes, it is regrettably true, we have forgotten that God is “closer to us than we are to ourselves,” especially because we have been constituted by our baptism in a life of sanctifying grace – in a shared life of intimate fellowship with God. How was it that Saint Maximilian Kolbe could volunteer to enter into a starvation bunker in a German Concentration camp? Only because he knew God would be with him. We must become, as Faber says, more and more conscious of the presence of God.

Saint Augustine is a very useful example. He says, speaking to God, “Late have I loved Thee.” Why did it take Augustine so long to find God? The Saint explains that he had been looking for God on the outside, failing to see that God was inside! In very famous verses from his Confessions (chapter 27) Augustine sighs:

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!

Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
 

Do you pass the test put forth by Saint Paul in 2 Corinthians? Do you realize that Jesus Christ lives within you (see 2 Cor. 13:5)? In our Catholic tradition there is a very helpful book by Brother Lawrence called The Practice of the Presence of God. We can practice being more open to the presence of God in our lives (see, for example, Susan Muto’s and Father van Kaam’s book,  Practicing The Prayer of Presence). 

A useful spiritual exercise suggested by Father Garrigou-LaGrange involves a certain paradigm shift: whereas we have a tendency to dialogue with our own self throughout the day, Father Garrigou-LaGrange recommends that we switch this inner dialogue to a conversation with God. Father Garrigou-LaGrange says:

“The interior life is precisely an elevation and a transformation of the intimate conversation that everyone has with himself as soon as it tends to become a conversation with God. *** The interior life thus becomes more and more a conversation with God, in which man gradually frees himself from egoism, self-love, sensuality, and pride, and in which, by frequent prayer, he asks the Lord for the ever new graces that he needs.” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Vol. 1, pages 43-45).

It is a “day to be remembered,” the day when we came to more fully comprehend in faith (“working in love”) that God truly dwells within us in our  baptized and sanctified souls –  in the very center of our be-ing (see CCC 260)! We were made for God.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Note: The inspiration for this note comes from Father Faber’s brilliant book, The Creator and the Creature, especially pages 37-44. CCC 374 establishes that “the glory of the new creation in Christ” surpassed the grace of original holiness Adam and Eve were constituted in, which may be why the precise term, sanctifying grace, is not used in CCC 375. According to Dr. Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogmaat page 103, “Saint Thomas [Aquinas] and his school are of the opinion that the first men were created in the state of sanctifying grace,” but other theologians in the Franciscan school felt it was a gift given sometime before the fall, which is why The Council of Trent, and the CCC following Trent, use the word “constituted” rather than “created”; see  CCC 375. Father Faber obviously follows the lead of Saint Thomas. Dr Ott adds at page 103 that “Saint Thomas’ teaching is that of the Fathers.” In any event, it is De Fide that the grace of a supernatural holiness was given to Adam and Eve either at the moment they were created (Saint Thomas) or prior to the encounter with the serpent in the garden. Father Faber refers to the “Infinitely Blessed Life” of God  in The Creator and the Creature.

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IS IRELAND REJECTING THE CROSS AND RETURNING TO ITS PAGAN PAST?

IRELAND’S ABORTION VOTE AND THE PROPHECIES OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

By: Peter Herbeck, Vice-President of Renewal Ministries

“If you would like to visit a place where the symptoms of the sickness of our time are found near their furthest limits, come to Ireland. Here you will see a civilization in freefall, seeking with every breath to deny the existence of a higher authority, a people that has now sentenced itself not to look upon the cross of Christ, lest it be haunted by his rage and sorrow.”  (John Waters)

These words, from Irish commentator John Waters, are in response to the people of Ireland’s [overwhelming] choice to deny the unborn the right to life. Ireland is the first nation in history to enshrine the law through a majority vote of its people [that took place this past May]; it wasn’t imposed upon them by cultural elites or the courts.

The vote, as Waters indicates, is a manifestation of a deeper reality. This is Ireland’s desire “to deny the existence of a higher authority.” It is the “sickness of our time.” In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “God is disappearing from the human horizon.”

For now, Ireland has made its decision to say no to Christ.

Like many, I was shocked and sickened as I watched the crowds dance with glee, asserting their new-found freedom. What they were celebrating, whether they grasped it fully or not, was the euphoria of fallen human nature and its constant desire to “suppress the truth” about God. St. Paul tells us that it is through the “ungodliness and wickedness of men” that human beings refuse to honor God as God and to give Him thanks (Rom 1:18, 20).

A friend recently reminded me of how, during St. John Paul II’s historic visit to Ireland in 1979, he framed in stark prophetic terms the spiritual battle that country was facing. St. John Paul II made it clear that Ireland was at a point of decision about whether or not to follow Christ. He knew he was sent by Christ to warn Ireland and to help them see and understand that they were facing a great temptation and that, if they fell to this temptation, it would have grave consequences for the whole Church. Pope John Paul II stated:

“Lay people today are called to a strong Christian commitment: to permeate society with the leaven of the Gospel, for Ireland is at a point of decision in her history . . . Ireland must choose. You the present generation of Irish people must decide; your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and thus preserve Ireland’s soul, resound today in your ears through the voice of the pope when he repeats the words of Christ:

‘What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life?’ (Mt 16:26)

What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul?

Your country seems in a sense to be living again the temptations of Christ: Ireland is being asked to prefer the ‘kingdoms of this world and their splendor’ to the Kingdom of God (Mt 4:8). Satan, the Tempter, the Adversary of Christ, will use all his might and all his deceptions to win Ireland for the way of the world. What a victory he would gain, what a blow he would inflict on the Body of Christ in the world, if he could seduce Irish men and women away from Christ. Now is the time of testing for Ireland. This generation is once more a generation of decision.

Dear sons and daughters of Ireland, pray, pray not to be led into temptation . . . pray that Ireland may not fail in the test. Pray as Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Lead us not into temptation’ . . . May Ireland never weaken in her witness, before Europe and before the whole world, to the dignity and sacredness of all human life, from conception until death.”

Ireland has failed the test. We pray that she may repent and turn back, but for now she has fallen to the temptation of the Adversary of Christ. The majority have decided to turn a deaf ear to the warning Christ brought to them through the prophet St. John Paul II. [Still, with the World Meeting of Families beginning this week in Dublin, let us not lose hope that Ireland will, once again, turn to the Cross as its true hope}.

Of course, we know that Ireland is not alone in its acquiescence to the spirit of the age. The whole world is being drawn into this same temptation, to prefer the “kingdoms of this world and their splendor” to Christ.

The important thing for us in the Church is to heed the warnings of the prophets the Lord has sent to us. If we don’t, we too will join the throngs of the baptized who have been seduced into embracing a false freedom that calls darkness light.

What are we to do in the face of the unrelenting forces of evil that seem to have gained the upper hand in so many of the countries that once marched under the banner of Christ? Again, St. John Paul II:

“What is going to happen to the Church? . . . We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ . . . With your and my prayer it is possible to mitigate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because only thus can the Church be effectively renewed. How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from blood! This time too, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong and prepared, and trust in Christ and His Mother, and be very, very assiduous in praying the Rosary.”

There is much work for us to do, but first and foremost we must pray. What is unfolding in the world is above our paygrade. As St. John Paul II said on numerous occasions, this trial lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a profound spiritual battle. Our plans, strategies, and organizational techniques are necessary but insufficient. We don’t just need better organization, we need courage to “give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ.”

Prayer is what will prepare us to face the trials that have already begun and that will not only continue but will intensify. Jesus will give us all we need to be faithful and fruitful in this time of trial. He will turn the devil’s strategies against us to our good and to His glory, if we stay united to Him.

While Ireland was casting its vote, my wife Debbie and I were in Krakow, Poland. We took a half a day to visit the St. John Paul II Center and the Divine Mercy Shrine. At one point during the tour, we came upon the white cassock that St. John Paul II wore the day he was shot in Vatican Square. The cassock, encased in glass, is stained in his blood. As I knelt down to pray, I was overwhelmed by the power of his life, his beautiful and profound witness to Christ. As I wept and prayed, my heart was filled with the words he spoke to all of us from the first day of his pontificate: “BE NOT AFRAID!”

Peter Herbeck

Biographical note: Peter Herbeck is the vice president and director of missions for Renewal Ministries. For more than thirty years, he has been actively involved in evangelization and Catholic renewal throughout the US, Canada, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Peter is a co-host for the weekly television programs The Choices We Face and Crossing the Goal. He also hosts the daily radio show Fire on the Earth. He is a frequent conference speaker, has authored When the Spirit Comes in Power and When the Spirit Speaks, and has produced CDs and booklets about discipleship and life in the Spirit. Peter is involved with i.d.9:16, an outreach to Catholic young adults sponsored by Renewal Ministries. Peter and his wife Debbie have four children and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Source: This article, used with permission, is in the August 2018 Newsletter of Renewal Ministries available with full citations at renewalministries.net

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MARY NOW REIGNS FOREVER AS QUEEN AND MOTHER IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

Diego_Velázquez_-_Coronation_of_the_Virgin_-_Prado

“Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” (1 Kings 2:20)

These are the words of him who is holy and true [Jesus], who holds the key of David. What he opens no one  can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” (Rev. 3:7)

The Virgin Mary is the true Davidic Queen assumed into Heaven. This is so because Jesus Christ is the true Heavenly King who holds the key of David.

There can be no doubt that Matthew’s Gospel envisions the restoration of the Old Testament Davidic Kingdom through the person of Jesus Christ, whom Matthew right away identifies as the “son of David” (see Matt 1:1).  This is the very first verse of the New Testament, and the Jewish reader back then would have known automatically that the messiah was to be a descendant of the royal line of David. God had promised David an everlasting Kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12-17), and Jesus was clearly seen as the person who would “rebuild David’s fallen tent” (Acts 15:16). The overarching theme of Matthew’s Gospel is the Kingdom, or more precisely the Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus inaugurates this Kingdom by establishing his church which brings the ancient Davidic monarchy to its true “perfection” (see references below).

Just as David established the Kingdom of Israel with its twelve tribes, Jesus established His Heavenly Kingdom on the foundation of the twelve apostles. And just as the Davidic King would have a  Prime Minister, who was given the “keys to the Kingdom” as a sign of his office (see Isaiah 22: 20-22), Jesus selected  Peter as his first Prime Minister and entrusted to him the keys of the Kingdom (see Matthew 16:19).   Jesus even promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church, which is his “Kingdom on earth.”

According to Dr. Hahn, “The structure of David’s monarchy was neither incidental or accidental; in God’s providential plan, it foreshadowed the Kingdom of God” (Hail, Holy Queen, p.76). “The Davidic monarchy finds its perfect fulfillment in the reign of Jesus Christ – and there was never a Davidic King without a Davidic Queen: the King’s own mother, the queen mother” (Id at 83, emphasis added). The queen mother was known as the gebirah or “great lady” (Id at 79). The “Gebirah was more than a title; it was an office with real authority” (id at 80). Thus, at 1 Kings 2:20 we read the reigning King say, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.” Neither could Jesus refuse his mother’s request at Cana, even though the Lord’s time had not yet come to perform his first miracle (John 2:5). Mary, although ever-Virgin, is the mother of Jesus and the mother of the church. “Hear then, O house of David!…The Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is 7:13-14).

Rightly so, Mary is the Queen and mother of all Christians. From the cross, Jesus told John to “behold his mother” (John 19:27), and in his vision of Heaven described in the Book of Revelation John sees the Blessed Virgin “clothed with the sun…and on her head a [queenly] crown of twelve stars….” (Rev. 12: 1). The Queenship of Mary, Mother of God, is no mere sentiment of overly maternalistic Catholics: it was foreshadowed by the Davidic  monarchy in the Old Testament and brought to fruition by the best of all Kings, Jesus Christ. Mary now reigns forever as Queen and Mother in the Kingdom of Heaven:

“…the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death….This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” (From the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, quoted at CCC 966, 969).

“Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope.”

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Ref. I am carving this short note out of Dr. Hahn materials including The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible on MatthewHail, Holy Queen (Double Day); audio series on Gospel of Matthew Rome Sweet Home (Ignatius); and see also Disc six of Why the Hell? on “The 
New Eve.” In Redemptoris Mater, 47, Saint John Paul II states:

“Thanks to this special bond linking the Mother of Christ with the Church, there is further clarified the mystery of that “woman” who, from the first chapters of the Book of Genesis until the Book of Revelation, accompanies the revelation of God’s salvific plan for humanity. For Mary, present in the Church as the Mother of the Redeemer, takes part, as a mother, in that monumental struggle; against the powers of darkness” which continues throughout human history. And by her ecclesial identification as the “woman clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1), it can be said that “in the Most Holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle.” Hence, as Christians raise their eyes with faith to Mary in the course of their earthly pilgrimage, they “strive to increase in holiness.” Mary, the exalted Daughter of Sion, helps all her children, wherever they may be and whatever their condition, to find in Christ the path to the Father’s house.Thus, throughout her life, the Church maintains with the Mother of God a link which embraces, in the saving mystery, the past, the present and the future, and venerates her as the spiritual mother of humanity and the advocate of grace.”

Image: The Coronation of the Virgin by Diego Velazquez, circa 1645 (according to Wikipedia The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.).

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The Bible And Mary’s Assumption

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1).

Every Catholic firmly believes that Mary is in Heaven right now interceding for the faithful here on planet earth. Vatican II speaks of Mary’s intercession in these profound words:

“This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home” (Lumen Gentium, 62, Documents of Vatican II).

The dogma of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, was declared infallible from the Chair of Peter in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, who wrote in Munificentissimus Deus:

“Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages” (40).

It is fascinating to note, in a Church overflowing with relics dating back even to Jesus’ crucifixion, that T. L. Frazier points out in his essay, Assumptions About Mary“Yet among all the relics there is not be found a single one said said to be a relic of Mary’s actual body.”

Biblically speaking, Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of Saint John (see John 19: 25-27). In the Book of Revelation – the final book in the Bible – John recalls a vision he experienced on the island of Patmos where he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary clothed in glory. He states:

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1).

Saint Pope John Paul II explains that this woman “clothed with the sun” is preeminently Mary, “the woman of glory”:

“The mutual relationship between the mystery of the Church and Mary appears clearly in the “great portent” described in the Book of Revelation: ‘A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars’ (12:1). In this sign the Church recognizes an image of her own mystery: present in history, she knows that she transcends history, inasmuch as she constitutes on earth the ‘seed and beginning’ of the Kingdom of God. The Church sees this mystery fulfilled in complete and exemplary fashion in Mary. She is the woman of glory in whom God’s plan could be carried out with supreme perfection” (Redemptoris Mater, 103; see also no. 47 – “And by her ecclesial identification as the “woman clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1), it can be said that ‘in the Most Holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle.’”).

And in the encyclical letter, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, Pope Saint Pius X wrote:

“A great sign,” thus the Apostle St. John describes a vision divinely sent him, appears in the heavens: “A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head.” Everyone knows that this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our head…John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What birth was it? Surely it was the birth of us who, still in exile, are yet to be generated to the perfect charity of God, and to eternal happiness. And the birth pains show the love and desire with which the Virgin from heaven above watches over us, and strives with unwearying prayer to bring about the fulfillment of the number of the elect.

Revelation 12:1 shows Mary with a body, not as an disembodied spirit. She is seen, head to toe, with a Queenly crown on her head and the moon under her feet. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (ICSB) points out that the “woman of Revelation 12” is “Mary, the Mother of the Messiah and the spiritual mother of his disciples….And because the woman is a queen who wears a crown and a mother who bears a royal male child, she is also the Queen Mother of the Davidic kingdom reestablished by Jesus [Mary, the mother of Jesus].” The ICSB further states: “She also represents the faithful of Israel, crying out for the Messiah, as well as the Church, attacked by the devil for witnessing to Jesus.”

It is often argued that belief in Mary’s Assumption came late in the history of the Church, not even being formally defined until 1950. But as T.L. Frazier demonstrates, there was a genre of popular stories “enjoyed by the early Christians” and “devoted to just this single theme of of the Assumption of Mary.” This literature is known as the Transitus Mariae (Passage of Mary). Frazier explains:

What does the Transitus literature teach us? It teaches that the Assumption didn’t just pop up out of nowhere in 1950, which is often the vague assumption of non-Catholics. Indeed, the belief was so widespread in the fifth century that it is hard not to conclude that it must have originated at a much earlier date. Many scholars place the Syriac fragments of the Transitus stories as far back as the third century, and noted Mariologist Michael O’Carroll adds, “The whole story will eventually be placed earlier, probably in the second century–possibly, if research can be linked with archaeological findings on Mary’s tomb in Gethsemani, in the first [century]”(Michael O’Carrol C.S.Sp., Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington: Glazier, 1982) s.v. “Assumption Apocrypha,” 59.). This conclusion would seem to be supported by the fact that the doctrine flourished without anyone, especially the bishops, protesting against a growing “superstition.”

CONCLUSION: The dogma of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven stands on a strong foundation, Biblically, theologically and historically. For faithful Catholics it has been proved over and over again in approved apparitions such as Lourdes and Fatima, and, of course, Guadalupe, imaged above.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The Truth About Mary, Volume II, by Robert Payesko; “Assumptions About Mary” by T.L. Frazier, This Rock, Volume 3, Number 5 & 6May-June 1992; Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; and an EWTN note on Rev. 12:1 by Fr. John Echert containing the quote from Pope Pius X.

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Some Initial Thoughts About Pope Francis’ New Teaching On The Death Penalty

Without reaching any definite conclusions about Pope Francis’ new pronouncement on the death penalty, I would like to make the following points:

1. “The death penalty is not intrinsically evil. Both Scripture and long Christian tradition acknowledge the legitimacy of capital punishment under certain circumstances. The Church cannot repudiate that without repudiating her own identity” (Archbishop Charles Chaput).

2. “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor” (from no. 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II).

3. The  letter issued last week by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (by Cardinal Ladaria on behalf of Pope Francis) asserts that the changes promulgated by Pope Francis with respect to the death penalty constitute “an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium.” In point of fact, prior teaching by the Magestrium on the death penalty maintained that Capital Punishment is not intrinsically evil, so that “inadmissible,” as used by Pope Francis in his reformulation of CCC 2267, does not mean intrinsically evil. Only intrinsically evil acts admit to no exceptions.

4. The Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” (from the newly revised Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2267, as revised by Pope Francis last week).

5. By choosing not to characterize the death penalty as intrinsically evil, Pope Francis has essentially not closed the door all the way. Listen to the then Cardinal Ratzinger when he was the Prefect for the Congregation of the Faith under Pope John Paul II:

“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

See link:

Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion – EWTN.com

CONCLUSION: In continuity with Sacred Tradition, Pope Francis chose not to characterize the death penalty as intrinsically evil, choosing instead to characterize the death penalty as “inadmissible” in his revision of CCC 2267. Consequently, the then Cardinal Ratzinger’s comments remain valid,  that “there may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty.” Only intrinsically evil acts admit to no exceptions (“The negative moral precepts, those prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception. They do not leave room, in any morally acceptable way, for the “creativity” of any contrary determination whatsoever.” – Veritatis Splendor 67).

BUT WHAT IF Pope Francis made it abundantly clear that he was teaching that Capital Punishment is intrinsically evil? Then we would be dealing with a monumental change in Catholic doctrine, and the profound concern registered by Dr. Edward Feser (whose articles have been helpful to me) would become palpable. Feser says, with respect to the traditional teaching of the Church which allowed recourse to the death penalty: –

“The reason the Church cannot repudiate it without repudiating her own identity is that to repudiate this teaching would be to affirm that the ordinary magisterium has been leading the faithful into grave moral and doctrinal error for two millennia. That would entail that the ordinary magisterium does not, after all, enjoy divine assistance, so that the Church is not what she has always claimed to be.”

These points are preliminary, as others weigh in on this important change in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, made by Pope Francis, pertaining to the death penalty.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, J.D., M.A.

P.S. As one theology professor has opined: “The term “inadmissible” is new and presents considerable confusion. The word means something “not permitted,” “not allowed.” It is most often used in the context of something rejected based on a technicality. An application is “inadmissible” because it was not properly signed. Or the testimony of a witness is “inadmissible” because it was given under duress. The word is not part of Catholic doctrinal-theological tradition. Catholic moral theology treats actions as right or wrong, licit or illicit, moral or immoral, good or evil, holy or sinful, etc. No one would expect the Church to declare for instance that “adultery is inadmissible” (Monica M. Miller). Christopher Zehnder adds: “The quapropter of the revised section 2267 seems to qualify the term “inadmissible” in the revised Catechism. The conditions that render the death penalty inadmissible, both in view of justice and the Gospel, have been laid out in the second paragraph. These conditions are largely the same laid down in the previous language of section 2267, though expressed in less emphatic terms. The previous language speaks in terms of conditions that may prevail (“if bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against a progressor…” then…); the new language asserts that the conditions do prevail, and so the Church declares the inadmissibility of the death penalty.” Jimmy Akin adds:  “One might think so, since it says the death penalty is “inadmissible” because “it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” However, a careful reading of the revision, and Cardinal Ladaria’s letter, suggests this is not the way the phrase should be understood.”

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Dear Troubled Catholics – a Letter From Ralph Martin About the Current Crisis

 

Dear Troubled Catholics,

I have never seen so many “ordinary Catholics”—who usually never follow or hear about Church news—as deeply troubled as I have seen them in response to the recent revelations about the retired archbishop of Washington, DC.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was asked by the pope to resign from his membership in the College of Cardinals and ordered to live in seclusion until a canonical trial can be held to verify the validity of charges of sexual abuse and harassment made against him. After the first brave person came forward (whose accusations were found credible by the Archdiocese of New York Review Board), more and more followed. The climate of fear among many of our clergy—the fear of being punished or marginalized if they report sexual immorality among their fellow clergy or leaders—is starting to break. Cardinal McCarrick is now known as Archbishop McCarrick.

What has been so disturbing to so many people is the fact that there had been numerous warnings to various church officials that he was a homosexual predator, harassing many seminarians, priests, and young boys, for many years, but nothing had ever been done about it, and he was continually promoted. Even after a delegation of priests and lay people went to Rome to warn the Vatican about the situation, he was promoted. Even after a leading Dominican priest wrote a letter to Cardinal O’Malley, nothing was done. Even after lawsuits accusing him of homosexual sexual harassment in two of his previous dioceses had been settled with financial awards, he was still promoted. And not only that, he became a key advisor to Pope Francis and offered advice on whom to appoint as bishops in the United States!

One young Catholic mother with two boys who was open to the priesthood for them said to me that she now has grave concerns about ever having one of her sons enter the seminary, given the corruption that has been revealed.

Another said she could no longer see anyone joining the Catholic Church, due to such bad leadership. She lamented about the difficulty this presents for evangelization.

Another said that seven people from her very small, rural parish had left the parish, because sexual sin is never spoken of and there is almost an exclusive emphasis on political issues. She now fears that even more will leave.

Another said that the only way this is ever going to change is if we simply stop giving to the bishops’ national collections and to our own dioceses and parishes’ collections, unless they are led by bishops who are willing to call a spade a spade and govern accordingly. To this day, there are quite a number of “gay friendly” parishes in even “good dioceses,” where those afflicted with homosexual temptation are not encouraged to live chaste lives or offered effective correction, but instead are confirmed in their sexual activity. It seems many bishops are afraid to tackle the local “homosexual lobbies” and choose to turn a blind eye.

This past weekend at Mass, the priest giving the sermon was more upset than I’ve ever seen him about the unfolding scandal. The Gospel was about how the weeds and the wheat grow up together and will only finally be separated at the judgment. It was unclear what the priest was actually saying, but we are certainly not called to “enable the weeds.” And shepherds in particular have the obligation to admonish the sinner and remove from ministry those who refuse to preach the truth and who encourage others in wrong doing. Yes, we will always have sin, but as Jesus said,

“whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Mt 18:6).

There have been a veritable deluge of articles that have appeared from highly respected lay Catholics and priests saying that “enough is enough,” and we need to stop the cover-ups and get to the bottom of who is implicated in promoting men like this and covering up for them. We do.

In 2002, when the American bishops approved their “charter” that attempted to respond to the many cases of priest pedophilia that had come to light by that time, they conspicuously exempted themselves from their “zero tolerance” policy. Many priests have told me that they felt “thrown under the bus” by the bishops, who conveniently didn’t adopt policies to deal with their own tolerance of immoral behavior, cover-ups that allowed the pedophilia to go on for many years, or in some cases, their own immoral behavior. Another disturbing thing about the 2002 Charter is that—despite pleas to not ignore the fact that this is primarily a homosexual scandal, since most of the victims were adolescent boys rather than true children—the bishops decided not to tackle “the elephant in the room.” Could it be because they knew some of their brother bishops/cardinals were implicated, and they didn’t want to face the mess of cleaning it up? Now this refusal to acknowledge the “homosexual lobby,” as Pope Benedict termed it, is coming home to roost.

But there’s not just a huge homosexual problem in the Church; unfortunately, heterosexual sin and financial malfeasance are common in many places as well. In some countries, a significant percentage of priests are living with concubines or fathering children by vulnerable women and giving scandal to the faithful, who often know about it. This is the case in Uganda, from which I have recently returned, and in many other countries as well. In these situations, the “protection” of the priests and the frequent disregard for their victims—the women and their children—cries out for justice.

And so, once again because of the pressure of lawsuits and the press, the bishops are talking about “developing new policies” that would apply to bishops. As a colleague at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, has said: “Isn’t it clear enough from the Gospel that covering up immoral behavior is itself wicked? Why do we need new policies when the teaching of Jesus and the apostles is so clear?” Can the words of the Old Testament prophets and Jesus Himself against false shepherds be any clearer or more devastating? (See Jeremiah 23:1-6; Matthew 23, etc.)

The Archbishop McCarrick case may prove to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” It may  make the bureaucratic, carefully worded, evasive statements that have come from our leaders finally address sin and repentance, instead of the mere policies and processes they typically focus on. Could it be—finally—that the revelation of the long-term sexual harassment of seminarians and priests that never stopped Archbishop McCarrick’s rise in the hierarchy will be so totally repugnant that real repentance may actually start to happen? I have never prayed more for the pope and our leaders than I have in the last several years, and we all must continue to do so. More about that later.

Unfortunately, the Archbishop McCarrick case is certainly only the “tip of the iceberg.” The cumulative effect of revelation after revelation of immorality in high places is devastating. First, a number of years ago, a cardinal from Austria was forced to resign over homosexual activity; then, more recently, a cardinal from Scotland resigned over sexual harassment of seminarians and priests; and then the archbishop of Guam underwent a canonical trial in Rome over the sexual abuse of minors; and now cardinals in Chile (one of whom is on the pope’s Council of Cardinals that oversees reform) are under heavy suspicion for covering up homosexual abuse in their country. In fact, the whole bishops’ conference of Chile, acknowledging complicity in not taking seriously reports of a bishop’s cover up of sexual abuse, recently gave their resignations to the pope, and he has so far accepted several of them. The pope himself at first stubbornly backed the appointment of this bishop and dismissed the victims’ pleas as “calumny” and “gossip.” And before we could absorb this news, there was news of an archbishop in Australia getting a prison sentence for covering up abuse on the part of a priest. And just today, as I am writing this, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered the release of a grand jury report implicating more than 300 “predator priests” in six of the eight Pennsylvania dioceses involved in the sexual abuse of minors over many years.

Unfortunately, the rot is wide and deep and years of covering up abuse (and the concomitant reluctance to really preach the Gospel and call people to faith and repentance) and its ultimate exposure have injured the faith of millions. How shocking and tragic was it to see tens of thousands of Irish people in the streets of Dublin wildly celebrating that they could now legally kill babies!!!! Just when the Irish bishops needed to speak most strongly on fundamental moral issues, their credibility was destroyed when it was finally exposed that they had covered up abuse for decades. Satan is indeed like that wild boar Scripture talks about that rampages though the vineyard of the Lord because the hedges of protection have been destroyed (Ps 80:12-13). The corruption, ineptitude, and cowardice runs wide and deep, and its effects on the eternal salvation of millions, and the destiny of nations, is devastating.

Most recently, Cardinal Maradiaga of Honduras has seen his auxiliary bishop resign over homosexual and financial impropriety, and forty seminarians in his diocese publish a letter asking him to please root out the homosexual network in his seminary. This cardinal is Pope Francis’ chief advisor, the head of his “Council of Nine” that works closely with the pope in bringing about reform in Rome, and is mentioned as a possible successor to Pope Francis.

But continual reports of ongoing financial and sexual scandals suggest reform doesn’t seem to be happening. Recently, a male prostitute in Italy published the names and photos of sixty priests who frequent his services—with scarcely any comment from the shepherds. And the homosexual orgy in the apartment of a Vatican cardinal, used by his secretary, was met with a “no comment” by the Vatican press office. And then we hear also of a monsignor in the papal nuncio’s office in Washington, D.C., who suddenly leaves the country and is put on trial in the Vatican for trafficking in child pornography and is given a five year prison sentence.

I didn’t plan to discuss this whole situation, but it came up this summer when the thirty priests in my class at the seminary wanted to discuss Pope Francis’ leadership and the McCarrick scandal. We all agreed that Pope Francis has said and done some wonderful things (I teach his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel in one of my classes), but he also has said and done some things that are confusing and seem to have led to a growth of confusion and disunity in the Church. How can German and Polish bishops approach the question of whether divorced and remarried couples can receive Communion without getting an annulment in opposite ways, and the Church still retain an ability to speak to the contemporary culture with one voice? It can’t. And how long can Church officials speak about the “positive values” of “irregular relationships” until the average Catholic comes to believe that we no longer believe the words of Jesus that fornicators, adulterers, and those who actively practice homosexuality will not enter the kingdom of God unless they repent? How many still believe that there is really a hell and that, unless we repent from such serious sins before we die, we will go there? Have we ever heard from leading churchmen, even in Rome, in recent years, that adultery, fornication and homosexual relations are not only “irregular,” but gravely sinful? Has the creeping “universalism” (the belief that virtually everyone will be saved) so undermined the holy fear of God and belief in His clear word, which has been transmitted faithfully all these centuries and is found intact in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that people have become “understanding” about persisting in grave sin with no fear of God or of hell?

Has false compassion and presumption on God’s mercy replaced true love, which is based on truth, and the only appropriate response to God’s mercy—faith and repentance?

And what are we to make of the fact that so many of those advising the pope have questionable fidelity to the truth? How can we have confidence in Cardinal Maradiaga as the head of his Council of Cardinals when he is accused of financial impropriety (which he denies); he chose an active homosexual as his auxiliary bishop; and he allowed a homosexual network to grow up in his seminary, dismissing attempts to appeal to him to clean up the mess as unsubstantiated gossip? How can we have confidence in the pope’s main theological advisor, a theologian from Argentina who is most known for his book The Art of the Kiss, or the pope’s main Italian theological advisor, who is known for his subtle dissent from the Church’s teaching in the area of sexuality and who tried to insert texts in the synods on the family that pushed the document in a permissive direction? And how can we have confidence in the recently appointed head of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family—an archbishop who commissioned a mural in his former cathedral in an Italian diocese from a homosexual artist who included homo-erotic themes in the mural, including a portrait of the archbishop in an ambiguous pose?

One godly woman just asked me last night if it was OK for her to be upset with what was happening. I sadly said yes, of course it is.

How can we passively endure such corruption that runs so wide and deep? It is right to make our views known. It is right and necessary. But even more so, it is necessary to pray and offer sacrifices for the Church and her leaders at this time. It is necessary to pray that genuine reform, rooted in real repentance and an embrace of all the truths of the faith, would come out of this awful situation and that the Church, more deeply purified and humbled, may shine forth with the radiance of the face of Christ.

But it is going to be a long way from here to there. Grave damage has been done to the credibility of the Church, and more will leave. Grave damage has been done to many of the flock, and reparation must be made; public repentance is called for. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote when he was a young priest, the Church will have to become smaller and more purified before it can again be a light to the world. The Church is going through a radical purification under the chastising hand of God, but already we can see a remnant of fervent renewal appearing all over the world, which is a sign indeed of hope and the renewal to come.

And so, what can we do as we continue to pray for the pope and our leaders that God may give them the wisdom and courage to deal with the root of the rot and bring about a real renewal of holiness and evangelization in the Church?

»We need to go about our daily lives, trying to live each day in a way pleasing to God, loving Him and loving our neighbor, including the neighbor in our own families. We need to look to ourselves, lest we fall.

»We need to remember that even though we have this treasure in earthen vessels (or as some translations put it, “cracked pots”), the treasure is no less the treasure. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! Baby Jesus is the treasure, and He is still as present as ever and still as ready to receive all who come to Him. And the Mass! Every day, He is willing to come to us in such a special way. Let’s attend daily Mass even more frequently, to offer the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection to God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of souls and the purification of the Church.

»We need to remember that the Catholic Church is indeed founded by Christ and, despite all problems, has within it the fullness of the means of salvation. Where else can we go? Nowhere; this is indeed our Mother and Home, and she needs our love, our prayers, and our persevering in the way of holiness more than ever.

»We need to remember that there are many truly holy and dedicated bishops and priests, and we must pray for them and support them. They need and deserve our support.

»We need to remember that this isn’t the first time such grave problems have beset the Church. In the fourteenth century, St. Catherine of Siena bemoaned the “stench of sin” coming from the papal court and prophesied that even the demons were disgusted by the homosexual activity he had tempted priests into and the cover up by their superiors! (See chapters 124-125 of Catherine of Siena’s The Dialogue.)

That isn’t to say that we don’t need to take seriously and do all we can in response to the grave scandal we are facing in our time. And yet we need to remember that all this is happening under the providence of God, and He has a plan to bring good out of it. It was even prophesied strongly in Mary’s apparitions in Akita, Japan. Jesus is still Lord and will use the current grave problems to bring about good.

And finally, I’m beginning to see why the Lord has impressed on me so strongly in the past year the urgent need to heed the appeals of Our Lady of Fatima. Indeed, as Mary said,

“Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”

Let’s continue to pray and offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and as reparation for sin, and let’s pray the rosary daily as Mary requested, for peace in the world and true renewal in the Church.

Your brother in Christ,

Ralph

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