Dressing Modestly is Practicing for Heaven

When was the last time you heard a sermon on dressing in a modest fashion? Perhaps you have never heard one if you live in a Novus Ordo parish. And yet modesty, together with the virtue of chastity (purity), are pathways to Heaven.


Advice from St Padre Pio:

“There are, moreover, three virtues which perfect the devout person with regard to control of his own senses. These are: modesty, continence and chastity. By the virtue of modesty the devout person governs all his exterior acts. With good reason, then, does St. Paul recommend this virtue to all and declare how necessary it is and as if this were not enough he considers that this virtue should be obvious to all. By continence the soul exercises restraint over all the senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing. By chastity, a virtue which ennobles our nature and makes it similar to that of the Angels, we suppress our sensuality and detach it from forbidden pleasures.

This is the magnificent picture of Christian perfection. Happy the one who possesses all these fine virtues, all of them fruits of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. Such a soul has nothing to fear and will shine in the world as the sun in the heavens.”

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Witness survived atom bomb of Hiroshima through “the sweet song of Fatima”

The testimony of Professor Hikoka Vanamuri, survivor of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

Hikoka Vanamuri, former Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tokyo, was interviewed while on pilgrimage in Fatima. This is what he had to say:

“I’ll never return to Japan. After years of study, after years of meditation I have understood that life under the tainted atmosphere of Buddha is an embittered historical testimony of blatant paganism. I converted to Catholicism. I made this decision after the explosion of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I was in Hiroshima for historical research. I was in the library when the bomb exploded. I was busy consulting a Portuguese book and my eye happened to catch an image of Our Lady of Fatima. I had the impression that this image moved, as if to say something. All of a sudden there was a blinding light, hurting my eyes intensely. I was terrified. The cataclysm had come about. The sky had darkened and a cloud of brown dust had covered the city. The library was burning. Men were burning. Children were burning. The air itself was burning. I didn’t even have the slightest scratch on me. The sign of the miracle was evident. Yet I wasn’t able to explain what had happened.

Can a miracle be explained? I wasn’t even able to think. Only the image of Our Lady of Fatima shone for me above all the flames, above all the fires, above all man’s acts of barbarism. There is no question that I was saved to bring the Virgin’s testimony to the entire world. Doctor Keia Mujnuri, a friend I went to visit fifteen days later, verified through X-Rays that my body had not been subjected to any burns. The barrier of mystery was shattered. I began to believe in the beauty of love. I learned the Catechism but in my heart I kept Her image, the sweet song of Fatima. I wanted to confess to the Lord, but I wanted this through His Most Holy Mother.”

[Source: nelcuoredimaria. Translation by Francesca Romana]

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BREAKING: Pope replaces John Paul II Institute with new school focused on Amoris Laetitia

From LifeSiteNews:

VATICAN CITY, September 19, 2017

Pope Francis is replacing the renowned John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family with an institute focused on implementing Amoris Laetitia, the Vatican announced on Tuesday.

In an apostolic letter issued on September 19, the Pope formally establishes a new academic institution, called the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, to carry forward the work of the recent Synods on the Family. With the establishment of the new institute, the statutes of the original institute founded by St. John Paul II in 1981 “cease to exist.”

The letter, also known as a motu proprio, is entitled Summa familiae cura. It was signed by Pope Francis on September 8, 2017, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, just two days after the death of Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, the founding president of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.

As one of the four cardinal signatories to the dubia given to Pope Francis exactly one year ago today, Cardinal Caffarra expressed serious concerns about Amoris Laetitia, significant parts of which he found incompatible with John Paul II’s teachings and the Church’s magisterium. Not having received a response to the dubia, earlier this year Cardinal Caffarra wrote a second letter to Pope Francis on behalf of the four cardinals requesting a private audience to discuss the matter.

In the motu proprio released by the Vatican today, Pope Francis notes the “useful work” carried out by the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family since its founding, after the 1980 Synod of Bishops on the Family and John Paul II’s promulgation of Familiaris consortio. He adds, however, that the recent 2014-2015 Synods on the Family have “brought the Church a renewed awareness of … the new pastoral challenges to which the Christian community is called to respond.”

“The anthropological-cultural change, which today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, does not allow us to limit ourselves to pastoral and missionary practices which reflect forms and models of the past,” he writes.

Instead, the Pope continues, we must interpret the faith “in a context in which individuals are less supported by social structures than in the past, in their family and emotional life.”

“In the clear purpose of remaining faithful to the teaching of Christ,” he continues, “we must look with a loving intellect and with wise realism at the realities of the family today, in all its complexity, in its lights and in its shadows (cf. Amoris Laetitia, 32).”

For these reasons, Pope Francis explains, he has decided to give the John Paul Institute “a new legal framework,” and to establish a Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, “expanding its field of interest, both in terms of the new dimensions of the pastoral task and the ecclesial mission, as well as in the developments in human sciences and anthropological culture in such a fundamental field for the culture of life.”

It remains unclear, however, why “studies” is being replaced with “sciences” in the name of the new institute, or what exactly is “new” about the new institute, given that a permanent interdisciplinary perspective was part of the statutes established by John Paul II in Magnum Matrimonii sacramentum. In n. 3 of this document, Pope John Paul II granted legal recognition to the John Paul II Institute “in order that the truth about marriage and family [would be] investigated with an increasingly scientific method, and so that lay people, religious and priests might receive, in this area, a scientific formation in both philosophy and theology, and in the human sciences, so that their pastoral and ecclesial ministry might be carried out more suitably and effectively for the good of the People of God.”

John Paul II, therefore, granted the Institute the right to confer, de iure: the doctorate in Theology with a specialization in theological sciences of Marriage and Family; the license in Theology of Marriage and Family; and the diploma in science on marriage and family.

The pastoral, scientific, interdisciplinary approach to the study of Marriage and the Family was precisely Pope John Paul II’s genius and intuition. If there is something “new,” it lies elsewhere.

A survey of their diverse course titles and programs also reveals the John Paul II Institute’s interdisciplinary way of teaching. In their Masters programs, for example, the institute collaborates closely with the Catholic University of Rome and Milan for science courses in sociology, psychology, medicine, and other fields.

In an interview with Vatican Radio’s Italian edition, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the institute’s grand chancellor, said the word “science” is being used to denote a “much broader dialogue with the great challenges of the contemporary world, and a deepening of the anthropological perspective.” He also said a “new reflection” is needed and that the new institute will study better and in a more robust fashion areas such as family history and family law.

Informed sources have suggested that changing “studies” to “sciences” could provide a pretense of a new interdisciplinary perspective (one which, in fact, the John Paul II Institute always had), in order to push through a more liberal agenda. A new direction, they say, could only have been given to the Institute by changing the name and statutes, while apparently treasuring the inheritance of John Paul II.

The Motu Proprio does, in fact, call for new statutes to be drawn up and approved by the Holy See. Until then, the statutes which have governed the John Paul II Institute until now will remain in force.

The new theological institute is being granted the faculty to grant de iure the following academic degrees: doctorate, license and diploma in Marriage and Family Sciences (4, § 3).

Given that the new entity is being named a theological institute, it is unclear why the new degrees are in “Marriage and Family Sciences,” and not “Theology of Marriage and Family” or “Theology with specialization in theological sciences on Marriage and Family,” as the John Paul Institute had granted.

Like its predecessor, the new academic institution will continue to function as part of the Pontifical Lateran University. It will also work closely with the Holy See through the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Academy for Life and the new Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

“Thus renewed,” article 4, § 1 of the Motu Proprio states, the Pontifical Theological Institute “will adapt its structures and provide the necessary tools — Chairs, teachers, programs, administrative staff — to accomplish the scientific and ecclesial mission assigned to it.”

Did the Pope just answer the dubia by abolishing the John Paul II Institute?

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Ember Days – An Opportunity for Additional Sacrifice and Spiritual Growth

Though ignored by many in the Roman Church today, this week is traditionally set aside in the year for honoring the Ember Days.

Starting Wednesday, September 20, and continuing on Friday (September 22) and Saturday (September 23), the Roman Church celebrates the Ember Days following the Feast of the Holy Cross. Though the contemporary Church no longer honors these days, traditionally they were designated as days of fasting and abstinence. Thankfully, many traditional Catholics, including those who attend chapels ministered by the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X, continue to honor these days.

History of the Ember Days

The Ember Days, which were historically kept four times during the liturgical year, have a venerable history. Here is the explanation from the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia.

The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class. At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding; hence their feriae sementivae, feriae messis, and feri vindimiales. The Church, when converting heathen nations, has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose. At first the Church in Rome had fasts in June, September, and December; the exact days were not fixed but were announced by the priests. The “Liber Pontificalis” ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering the fast, but probably it is older. Leo the Great (440-461) considers it an Apostolic institution. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (492-496) speaks of all four. This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week–these were formerly given only at Easter. Before Gelasius the ember days were known only in Rome, but after his time their observance spread. They were brought into England by St. Augustine; into Gaul and Germany by the Carlovingians. Spain adopted them with the Roman Liturgy in the eleventh century. They were introduced by St. Charles Borromeo into Milan. The Eastern Church does not know them. The present Roman Missal, in the formulary for the Ember days, retains in part the old practice of lessons from Scripture in addition to the ordinary two: for the Wednesdays three, for the Saturdays six, and seven for the Saturday in December. Some of these lessons contain promises of a bountiful harvest for those that serve God.”

Keeping with Tradition

Catholics who have access to the traditional liturgy outside of Sundays should make a special point to assist at Mass on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. In addition to keeping the fasting and abstinence prescriptions on these days, the faithful should be attentive to the special collects and readings that are assigned on these days. Here, for instance, are the Collects from Wednesday, which properly capture the spirit of these days.

May our frailty, we beseech Thee, O Lord, find support in the help of Thy mercy; so that what is marred by its own nature may be restored by Thy grace.

O Lord, we beseech Thee, grant to Thy praying household that, as they fast from bodily food, they may also abstain mentally from sin.



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Letter from Pope John Paul II on Apparition of Our Lady at La Salette, September 19, 1846

A Letter from St John Paul II to Mgr Louis Dufaux, Bishop of Grenoble, For the 150th Anniversary* of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette.

* [1996]

“To the Most Reverend Louis Dufaux, Bishop of Grenoble

This year the diocese of Grenoble, the Missionaries of La Salette, and many of the faithful throughout the world, will celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin on this peak of the Alps from which her message has been unceasingly heralded. Such a commemoration has a rich potential of grace, and I want to share in it, in union with the pilgrims who come to venerate the Mother of the Lord under the title of Our Lady Reconciler of sinners.

Mother of the Saviour, Mother of the Church, Mother of all, Mary journeys with each one on the pilgrimage of life. The preparation of the great Jubilee of the Redemption intensifies, and this year, consecrated to the anniversary of the apparition of Mary to Maximin and Melanie, represents a significant step toward it. In this pIace, Mary, a Mother filled with love, manifested her sadness in the face of the moraI evil of humanity. Her tears help us better understand the painful gravity of sin, the denial of God, as well as the passionate fidelity that her Son, the Redeemer, maintains toward her children despite a love wounded and rejected.

The message of La Salette was given to two young shepherds at a time of great suffering. Peoples were scourged by famine, subjected to many injustices. Indifference or hostility toward the gospel message worsened. As she appeared bearing on her breast the likeness of her crucified Son, Our Lady showed herself associated to the work of salvation, experiencing compassion for the trials of her children, suffering when they strayed from the Church of Christ as they forgot or rejected the presence of God in their lives, the blessedness of his Name.

The wide diffusion of the event of La Salette bears convincing attestation that the message of Mary is not contained solely within the suffering expressed by her tears. The Virgin bids us regain spiritual composure. She invites us to penance, to perseverance in prayer, and especially to fidelity in the observance of Sunday. Through the witness of the two children, she asks that her message be made known to all her people. Indeed, the children’s voice was heard. Pilgrims came. There were many conversions. Mary appeared in a light reminiscent of the splendor of a humanity transformed by the Resurrection of Christ: La Salette is a message of hope a hope sustained by the intercession of her who is the Mother of all peoples. Our alienations are not irreparable. The night of sin surrenders to the light of divine mercy. Human suffering properly accepted can contribute to purification and salvation. The arm of the Son of Mary will not weigh upon, not condemn, the people who walk humbly in the pathway of the Lord. Christ will take the outstretched hand into his own, and lead to new life the sinner reconciled by the grace of the Cross.
Mary’s strong and simple words maintain the relevancy of her message in a world still locked in the throes of famine and war, and so many other blights that are the signs, and often the consequences of sin. Today still, She whom “all generations will call blessed” (Luke 1:48) would lead all those who are suffering the trials of these times to the joy born of a peaceful completion of the mission assigned to the people of God.

The Missionaries of La Salette have never ceased plumbing the depths of the message of La Salette. They seek to demonstrate its enduring value for the approaching third millennium. They are especially enjoined to make known to all peoples the summons to renew Christian life. This is the mission which lies at the origin of their founding in the diocese of Grenoble. During this anniversary year, I am inviting them to pursue this mission urgently in the different parts of the world where they preach the gospel. In the same way, I offer all my encouragement to the Sisters of La Salette and the other Institutes whose founding and inspiration come from the La Salette event. In this special year I pray that the Mother of Christ help them achieve the spiritual renewal they desire, and dedicate themselves to the work of evangelization with the missionary dynamism that the Church expects of them.

From this land of Savoie and Dauphine where the Virgin Mary spoke her message a century and a half ago, the same call goes out today to the many pilgrims who come to this Shrine, as well as to the many other La Salette shrines throughout the world. With merely a few years prior to the great Jubilee, I encourage them to bring to the Immaculate Virgin the sorrows and the hopes of our world. May they be witnesses to the reconciliation which is the gift of God, and the fruit of Redemption for individuals, families and nations! May this pilgrimage preserve them from a tepid and indifferent Christian life.
May it remind them to grant a place of pride to the risen Christ in their lives! May they become artisans of the peace promised by the Lord (cf. John 14:27), and remain unfailingly convinced of the inalienable worth of the humblest human person!

Mary is as present to the Church today as she was on the day of the Cross, on the day of the Resurrection, and on the day of Pentecost. At La Salette she clearly spoke the constancy of her prayer for the world: she will never abandon the people created in the image and likeness of God, those to whom it has been given to become children of God (cf. John 1: 12). May she lead to her Son all the nations of the earth!

As I confide to Our Lady Reconciler the diocesan community of Grenoble, The Missionaries of La Salette, as well as the religious men and women who share the same spirituality, I cordially grant to all my Apostolic Blessing.”

(From the Vatican, 6 May 1996.)


For more information from a reliable source on Our Lady’s apparition in La Salette, read, The Authentic Message of La Salette”.

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Knock and it Shall NOT be Opened to You – SSPX Pilgrimage Group Refused Entry to Knock Shrine

From: God does not die! For a Truly Catholic Ireland.

Published September 17, 2017

The Society of Saint Pius X annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady at Knock in Co. Mayo was disrupted yesterday, Saturday 16th September, when Shrine officials refused entry to priests and laity.

Members of Knock Shrine Security approached the SSPX priests, informing them that they were not permitted to celebrate Mass or carry out any devotions as a group. They confirmed that these were the orders which they had been instructed to convey.

For the first time in over ten years, therefore, the Society was forced to celebrate Mass outside of the Shrine grounds (heretofore, for a number of years, SSPX priests had been granted permission to celebrate Mass in various chapels on the grounds of the Shrine). And, for the first time in the entire history of the SSPX’s presence in Ireland, the pilgrimage group was not even permitted to recite the Rosary or pray the Stations of the Cross within the Shrine precincts!

As a result, Mass was celebrated in the car-park of an obliging local café, and the Rosary was prayed on the Main Street which runs adjacent to the Shrine. Security was posted at the gates during the rosary procession, ensuring that the group did not enter the Shrine grounds at any time.

Just like there was no place in the inn for Christ in Bethlehem, so there was no place for those faithful to the Tradition of the Church at Knock this past Saturday. The Knock Shrine authorities should be ashamed of themselves! Rector, Fr. Richard Gibbons, had no problem allowing an “ecumenical service” last January in the Saint John’s Rest and Care Centre at the Shrine. Neither did he have any problem with the assistance of “Reverend Canon” Derek Swann of the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian “Reverend” Molly Deatherage and a Muslim representative, Manar Cherbatji, at a 2014 Peace Mass at Knock. He even had his photograph taken with them on the occasion:

Knock Rector, Father Richard Gibbons, centre of photograph, sandwiched between his Bishop and the “Reverend” Molly after the “Peace” Mass, 2014.

Also in 2014, Father Gibbons was content to conduct a joint ecumenical service in the Knock Shrine Basilica with the Church of Ireland “Bishop” of Tuam, Killala and Achonry, “Dr.” Patrick Cooke in August of that year to celebrate the 190 years of the Royal National Lifeboat Association. On this occasion, as the Irish Catholic reported, Father Gibbons went the extra mile … “Dr.” Cooke led the celebration, while Father Gibbons was his assistant!

Conclusion? Father Gibbons cordially invites Anglicans, Presbyterians and Muslims, who do not accept the Church’s infallible teachings on the Blessed Virgin Mary, to participate in, and even lead services on the site where Our Lady appeared. But, he does not allow the Society of Saint Pius X and those faithful who assist at their Masses to even say the Rosary as a group on the same site, despite their obvious love for the Mother of God. Shame on him!


CP&S comment – The old progressives with their destructive agenda and childish liturgies are still hanging on in the Church…. But as washy-washy banality fails to appeal to the upcoming ranks of young Catholics, perhaps it won’t be for much longer!

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Be Brave! Speak out!

What happened to the Church under the heretic Arians is happening again now


(Source: Deacon Nick Donnelly on Facebook)


Speaking out is not easy in our anti-Christian, politically-correct world today. We have pointed out in many articles of recent times how those courageous bishops, priests, politicians, journalists, etc., and in fact any Catholic worthy to be called one, who does not cower or remain silent when called to defend the Faith and other Christians (including the unborn), exposes themselves to a bombardment of insults and ridicule. And sometimes  even the loss of livelihood, exile, and in the worst scenarios, their vey lives! Our Lord warned us it would be so, and that, “A servant is not greater than the Master” – (John 13:16). We cannot expect our own treatment to be different, easier, to the way the Son of God was treated by the majority of mankind He loved so greatly and whom He had come to redeem.

But what is the hatred and scorn of this passing world compared to the Love of God and everlasting life that Christ promised to those who follow in His footsteps and defend His teachings? “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” – (Matthew 16:26).

Saint Ignatius of Antioch says it far better than I ever could:

You have never begrudged the martyrs their triumph but rather trained them for it. And so I am asking you to be consistent with the lessons you teach them. Just beg for me the courage and endurance not only to speak but also to will what is right, so that I may not only be called a Christian, but prove to be one. For if I prove myself to be a Christian by martyrdom, then people will call me one, and my loyalty to Christ will be apparent when the world sees me no more. Nothing you can see is truly good. For our Lord Jesus Christ, now that he has returned to his Father, has revealed himself more clearly. Our task is not one of producing persuasive propaganda; Christianity shows its greatness when it is hated by the world.” 

Be brave! Speak out in defence to those who attack and despise Our Glorious Faith!

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Reflection for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

from: The Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert (by kind permission of the Abbot)

Image result for Lord how many times must I forgive

FIRST READING  Sirach 27:30–28:9

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.  The vengeful will suffer the Lord’s vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail.  Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.  Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?  Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins?  If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?  Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin!  Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.

SECOND READING        Romans 14:7-9

Brothers and sisters:  None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.  For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.  For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

GOSPEL       Matthew 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.  That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.  He seized one of his fellow servants and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused.  Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt.  Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’  Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”  —  these words from the Book of Sirach remind us that forgiveness is a deep and necessary part of our spiritual tradition, handed down to us from our Jewish ancestors in faith.  Jesus echoes this teaching when He gives us the “Our Father,” which tells us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The second reading today, from the Letter to the Romans, tells us that “if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”  And it is our Lord who tells us to forgive.  If we want to follow Jesus, then we become people who forgive others, no matter what offense they do to us.  Jesus is clear that to follow Him, we will suffer, so we must take up our cross daily and follow Him.

The Gospel from Matthew today is very strong.  Jesus is so clear in His teaching to us:  forgive everything from your heart!  We are not allowed to hold on to anything against anybody.  Rather, as Jesus teaches, we must go even further and help those who harm us and give to those who rob us.  To follow Jesus is not easy and asks us to give ourselves completely to Him and to following Him.  Christianity will never be a life of comfort, even though we may have comforts from time to time.

We can also ask ourselves today how we relate to those around us?  Are we people who forgive others?  Are we people who really seek to love and serve others?  Do we seek to see Christ in others?  Do we look for God’s will in our lives and in the lives others?

Jesus always pulls our attention back to God and to the way God wants us to live.  Always we are invited to see God in every situation and not ignore the divine presence.  It is too easy for us to lose sight of God and to pay attention only to our human desires.

At the heart of the teachings of Jesus, at the heart of His own life, is this deep awareness of God’s presence in all creation and in all peoples.   Even in the agony of Jesus and in the Cross, Jesus keeps His heart with love for others.

Today, we are invited to forgive and to follow Jesus once more in a way that gives witness to the glory of God.  Let us walk the way of the Lord.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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“Dear Pope Francis”: A Letter to the Pope — by Fr Richard Cipolla

Dear Pope Francis,

I write this letter to you with a heavy heart full of concern for the Church and for you as the Successor of Peter. We Catholics are called to love you and support you in your difficult ministry in the Church.

And we do. But there are many of us who are concerned that you do not have your pulse on the state of the Church as it is in today’s world. You seem sometimes to act arbitrarily on important matters such as the liturgical life of the Church and moral teaching in a way that suggests that you think like someone from the 1960s. While we must respect the Second Vatican Council as an Ecumenical Council, the ways of thinking that were in place at that time are very different from those of the present time. In many ways that Council signaled the end of modernity, at least in the Church. We are called now to try to understand what it means to live in a post-modern age, come to terms with it and then get on with the task of evangelization in a post-modern world.

It hurts us deeply when you talk in a disparaging way about those whom you call “traditionalists” and dismiss them as obsessed with the past, narrow minded, and uncharitable. There may be some who fit this image, but those whom I know who love the Sacred Tradition of the Church, far from being obsessed with the past, are vitally concerned with the future of the Church and have no desire to live in a golden age of the Church that never existed.
These men and women, including bishops, priests, deacons and lay, are quite happy to live in the world of today with its special challenges and seek to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Sacred Tradition that embodies the teaching handed down from the Apostles to the post-modern world.

You seem, dear Holy Father, to be unaware that unlike the modern world that has passed away with its rationalism and anti-traditional bias, the young people in the post-modern world are genuinely interested in Tradition and are fascinated by their experience of that Tradition whether it be in art, in architecture, in music, or in the Traditional Liturgy of the Church. The problem is that the Second Vatican Council produced a liturgy that is the fruit of the modern era. It is already stale today in the post-modern world. If you should visit the seminaries in this country, what you would find is that a majority of our seminarians are quite positive about the Traditional Mass that was suppressed in the post-Conciliar years. They are not carrying the baggage you and I carry from the upheavals of the 60s. The young people today are like blank slates, which is to their advantage. They see beauty in the Tradition, they are attracted to it and wonder why that beauty is no longer experienced by most Catholics today.

At the very time when the unity of the Catholic Church is threatened within and without, you have actually deepened that threat by your recent changing of Canon Law to give power to local Bishops Conferences to make their own adaptations of the liturgy of the Mass. Not only will we be divided by language, we will soon be divided by the rite of the Mass itself. You are right in trying to free the liturgy from the bureaucracy of the Roman Congregations. For the liturgical Tradition cannot undergo organic growth if liturgy is reduced to rubrics and law. But the path you are following threatens the unity of the Church herself. The Mass should not be used as an instrument of that “inculturation” that was the obsession of the modern Church of the past.

Dear Pope Francis: I pray that you will think about what I have said in this letter and consider ways to find out where your flock really is in today’s world. You will not do this by surrounding yourself with those who are still living in the 1960s. Do not be afraid to embrace the Sacred Tradition of the Church. That embrace will make you a happy man and a wise Bishop of Rome.

With filial affection,

Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla


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Tears of Our Lady of Sorrows

From Sensus Fidelium

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What Benedict Accomplished with Summorum Pontificum

CP&SWe couldn’t agree more! The Mass of the Ages, “the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven”, can never be abrogated. For it is “sacred”, before, now and forever, as Pope Benedict XVI has stated.

By Brian Williams – Liturgy Guy 

On September 14 the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross commemorating the 4th century recovery of the True Cross by St. Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. This year the date also marks the tenth anniversary of the implementation of Pope Benedict’s landmark motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum. Thousands of words and hundreds of articles and books have been written in the last ten years celebrating the motu proprio and its significant impact upon the Church and her liturgy. More than any of its other accomplishments, however, Summorum Pontificum finally reaffirmed that the traditional Latin Mass (which Benedict labeled the Extraordinary Form) could no longer be marginalized by the Church.

What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.

With this one sentence, with a mere twenty seven words (twenty seven thunderous words) Pope Benedict told the world’s bishops that the Traditional Latin Mass was sacred; that it had always been sacred and would always be sacred; and that none of the faithful could be harmed by a liturgy which had fed & formed Catholics for centuries. Seismic words which shook a liturgical landscape.

What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.

These words were written to the world’s bishops in the Holy Father’s letter which accompanied Summorom Pontificum’s release. They were blunt words but necessary to say.

For decades episcopal ideologues had condemned the traditional Mass, ghettoized it, and demeaned its faithful adherents. While never formally abrogated, its suppression was nearly complete and universal. A de facto abrogation. With Summorum Pontificum the Mass of the Ages could no longer be marginalized.

This is not to say, however, that the persecution of tradition has ended. Of course it hasn’t. To claim such a thing would be ridiculous and naive. Far too many bishops still act as if Summorum was a non-event.

In recent years Rome has decried rigidity the greatest evil and many careerist are quick to echo those sentiments. For those who bristle at orthodoxy, who seek to innovate in matters of timeless doctrine, the timeless traditional liturgy is rightfully viewed as a threat to their agenda. Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

Ten years after Pope Benedict liberated the ancient Rite the ideologues still protest. Some wait for Rome to act. Rumors persist that Pope Francis will rescind it with his own motu proprio when the time is right, possibly when his predecessor passes.

Regardless of what the future holds in store, Benedict has already stated the irreversible liturgical truth: the traditional Mass can not be marginalized.

The legacy of Summorum Pontificum, indeed the victory of Summorum Pontificum, can be found in the very seminarians and priests formed and ordained during Benedict’s papacy. They are not ideologues of the post-conciliar revolution. They are simply men who have been introduced to tradition and who have responded to it. For them, what was sacred will always remain sacred. They will not unlearn this lesson.

Its victory can also be found in thriving traditional parishes, increased Mass attendance, and booming traditional orders and vocations. The faithful simply want to be fully Catholic once again, members of a Church that didn’t just begin in 1965.

If you are fortunate enough to have discovered the ancient Rite, be sure to thank God for such a blessing. Thank Him and hold nothing back. Immerse yourself in the supreme prayer of the Church, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as it has been offered in the Roman Rite for centuries.

And in your kindness, please say a prayer for our pope emeritus Benedict as well.

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The Precious and Life-giving Cross of Christ

September 14th – Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross 

Crucifixion, Anthony van Dyck, circa 1622

How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise but opens the way for our return.

This was the tree on which Christ, like a king on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in his hands, feet, and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death, but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory! Well might the holy Apostle [Paul] exclaim: Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world! [cf Galatians 6:14] The supreme wisdom that flowered on the cross has shown the folly of worldly wisdom’s pride. The knowledge of all good, which is the fruit of the cross, has cut away the shoots of wickedness.

The wonders accomplished through this tree were foreshadowed clearly even by the mere types and figures that existed in the past. Meditate on these, if you are eager to learn. Was it not the wood of a tree that enabled Noah, at God’s command, to escape the destruction of the flood together with his sons, his wife, his sons’ wives and every kind of animal? And surely the rod of Moses prefigured the cross when it changed water into blood, swallowed up the false serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians, divided the sea at one stroke and then restored the waters to their normal course, drowning the enemy and saving God’s own people? Aaron’s rod, which blossomed in one day in proof of his true priesthood, was another figure of the cross, and did not Abraham foreshadow the cross when he bound his son Isaac and placed him on the pile of wood?

By the cross, death was slain and Adam was restored to life. The cross is the glory of all the apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the sanctification of the saints. By the cross, we put on Christ and cast aside our former self. By the cross, we, the sheep of Christ, have been gathered into one flock, destined for the sheepfolds of heaven.

* From a sermon by Saint Theodore the Studite: Oratio in adorationem crucis: PG 99, 691-694, 695,698-99.

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Our Lady’s Apparition at Fatima, September 13, 1917 – the Rosary and Penance

An estimated 25,000 people gathered together at the Cova da Iria on September 13, 1917 for Our Lady’s promised fifth apparition to the little shepherds. The crowd was so thick it was difficult for the children to make their way through. Everyone wanted to see them, speak to them, make requests and petitions to place before Our Lady. As Lucia described in her memoirs: “All the afflictions of poor humanity were assembled there.”

We know that not everyone who went to the Cova came as a true believer. There were those who came simply out of curiosity, others came disbelieving, wanting to scoff at what they considered a grand deception in the name of religion. But many devout people came in faith-filled expectation.

Finally reaching the spot in the Cova where Our Lady had been appearing, they began to pray the Rosary with the people when suddenly they saw the flash of light that always preceded Our Lady’s coming. Then she appeared above the holmoak tree. The brief conversation between Our Lady and the visionaries began with Lucia’s usual question, “What do want of me?” Our Lady gave her usual response: “Continue to pray the Rosary in order to obtain the end of the war!”

Our Lady’s continuous insistence on the need for the Rosary to obtain world peace should make a lasting impression on all of us. Mary is telling us that if we are careful to carry out her request to pray the Rosary every day for peace in the world and for the conversion of sinners, it will likely follow that we will carry out everything else she asks of us.

The Mysteries of the Rosary 

During her September apparition, Our Lady foretold a sequence of appearances that the children would see in October along with the promised miracle that would convince the people that Our Lady had been appearing in the Cova:

In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Dolours [sorrows] and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. St. Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.

These images are rich in meaning and have an unmistakable relation to the mysteries of the Rosary. They can be seen as a call to holiness in every phase and experience of human life. Let us reflect upon their relationship with the mysteries of the Rosary in order to deepen our commitment to this devotion that Our Lady has requested of us.

The Joyful Mysteries – In October when the children see Saint Joseph with the Child Jesus blessing the world, Our Lady is with them, not in her usual appearance as Our Lady of Fatima, but dressed in white with a blue mantle. This vision of the Holy Family allow us to focus on the true meaning and dignity of marriage and family life. A central part of the message of Fatima is a call to renew Christian family life.

The Sorrowful Mysteries – The October appearance of the Blessed Virgin as Our Lady of Sorrows reminds us of our need to carry our cross daily. We have seen Our Lady’s urgent plea for prayer and a willingness to suffer for others. In the sorrowful mysteries we see that Our Lady herself willingly shared in the sufferings of her Son. These mysteries give us the courage we need to endure the struggles of the Christian life and lift them up for the salvation of souls.

The Glorious Mysteries – The story of our Christian faith does not end with a sealed tomb. That tomb was only necessary so that Christ might come forth from it in glory. He conquered sin by dying on the Cross; He rose again from the dead to conquer death itself. The glorious mysteries give us the hope we need to continue our earthly struggle so that we might win a heavenly crown. Hope gives us courage (because we know we can overcome all obstacles by the power of Christ), perseverance (because we know Christ has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in His Kingdom where we long to be), and joy(because we know that someday by God’s grace we will possess the eternal joys of Heaven for which we were made.)

We may ask how the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel can point us in the direction of the glorious mysteries of the Rosary. In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah remained faithful to God at a time when many children of Israel had adopted the worship of Baal, a pagan deity whose rites included the sacrifice of human infants. Because of Elijah’s faith, God was able to perform on Mount Carmel a miracle that discredited the prophets of Baal and proved He alone is the Lord. This miracle caused many lost children of Israel to repent of their idolatry and return to the One True God. (See 1 Kings 18.) As Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mary can be seen as the faithful daughter of Israel whose obedience to the Lord allows her to share in His victory over Satan and the many forms of idolatry that lead souls away from God. In praying the glorious mysteries for the conversion of sinners, as Our Lady of Fatima has asked, we can help rescue souls from the snares of false ‘gods’.

Our Lady Speaks to the Children About Their Penances

Like the good and kind mother she is, Our Lady gave the children words of praise and encouragement about their penances. (We must always be prudent in choosing acts penance.) The zeal and generosity of the children in making their sacrifices to God was truly heroic, to a degree characteristic of saints! Sorrow for our sins is one of the most pleasing and effective penances we can offer the Lord, as we see in the psalm King David prayed after his fall into serious sin: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:19).

Lucia Offers Petitions to Our Lady

The conversation ended with Lucia offering petitions to Our Lady. As we saw, just a short time before the apparitions began, many people pressed against the children and anxiously poured out their petitions for Our Lady’s intercession. These needs no doubt touched the hearts of the children very deeply.

With the ending of the September 13 apparition, the stage was set for October and the promised miracle that would convince the multitudes that Our Lady was truly appearing at the Cova and giving a message of great importance for the world. The waiting, however, would not be easy for Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta.


[This is an abbreviated adaption taken from the book by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., “FATIMA FOR TODAY.]

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Kidnapped Indian priest Fr Tom Uzhunnalil finally released

Catholic media channels are reporting on welcome news: the Salesian priest originally from Kerala (India), Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, has been freed on 12th September, thanks to the intervention of the Sultan of Oman and the competent authorities of the Sultanate.

Fr Tom was kidnapped when his care home in the Yemeni city of Aden was attacked in March 2016. Four gunmen posing as relatives of one of the residents killed four Indian nuns, two Yemeni staff members, eight elderly residents and a security guard.

Fr Tom has clearly been “in hell on earth” during his 18 months of captivity somewhere in Yemen at the mercy of the Islamist militants. Look at the difference in these two pictures, the first taken before he was kidnapped (left) and used to illustrate a prayer campaign begging for his release… and the second during his long ordeal (below on the right) when he was in the hands of the terrorists.

It was reported in a statement from the Vatican that Fr Tom would be staying in Rome for a few days before returning home to India.

In a Sept. 12 statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India expressed “its immense joy” on the news of the priest’s release.

“As we thank God for this unique grace bestowed on Fr. Tom and his family and the Salesian Congregation (The Society of Don Bosco) and the Catholic Church in India, we pray for his continued good health and complete recovery to resume active Salesian ministry for God and His people in his Congregation and the Church,” the statement from Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, the secretary-general of the bishops’ conference, read. “As we express our profound gratitude to God, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India wants to place on record its immense gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Srimati Sushma Swaraj the Minister of External Affairs and the Government of India for persistently and perseveringly working to obtain the release of Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil.”

“Fr. Tom’s release gives immense joy to the Catholic Church in India and the Salesian Family and all the people of India and we place on record our gratitude to all for their immense faith in God and persevering prayers that God in his goodness and mercy has heard and answered. We thank all men and women of good will who stood with us with prayer and encouragement.”


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Humanae Vitae Comes Under Fire

September 11th, 2017

Blessed Paul VI issued his encyclical in 1968. (U.N. photo via CNA)

COMMENTARY: Recent developments in Rome indicate a campaign is underway to challenge the encyclical’s prohibition against artificial contraception.

VATICAN CITY — Half way through the first synod on the family, when it was becoming clear that heterodox agendas were being pursued in heavy-handed and deceptive ways, a well-respected Church figure took me aside at a reception with a pained expression on her face.

“Of course, you realize this is all about Humanae Vitae,” she said. “That’s what I think they’re after. That is their goal.”

What she meant was that the many dissenters of Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical wanted the Church’s ban on artificial contraception — which Humanae Vitae (The Regulation of Birth) reaffirmed — softened and ultimately undermined.

At the time, her prediction seemed plausible, but too speculative. The synod participants didn’t seem too exercised by the issue, and Humanae Vitae was largely left alone, at least directly. German-speaking prelates, who took a leading role in the controversies during both synods on the family, even spoke warmly of the encyclical at a closing press conference of the second synod.

But as the Church prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae in 2018, the recent revelation of a four-member stealth commission to study the document — and other subtle and less subtle attempts to weaken the Church’s moral teaching — are making the concerns of the Church figure at the 2014 synod look ominously prescient.

In his encyclical, Paul VI re-affirmed the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception, approved natural family-planning methods, and upheld the Church’s teaching on conjugal love and responsible parenthood.

It caused a sensation when published: In the wake of the sexual revolution — when much of the world had accepted birth control — and after a five-year study by a pontifical commission that appeared to be vying for the Church to also approve it, Paul VI’s reaffirmation that contraceptive use is “intrinsically wrong” made it one of the most controversial encyclicals in Church history. Immediately, many clerics and academics outright rejected Humanae Vitae’s teachings.

And yet many, particularly those who have devoted their lives to defending life, vigorously uphold Humanae Vitae as prophetic. They argue that the widespread acceptance of artificial birth control, revolutionized by the contraceptive pill for women, has separated the unitive and procreative purposes of sexual relations. This, in turn, has fueled the sexualization of culture and promiscuity now prevalent in the West, precipitating legalized abortion, the collapse of marriage, and inflicting deep harm on the family.

By contrast, the encyclical’s dissenters have pressured the Church for its teaching on artificial contraception to be loosened, arguing it is unrealistic, out of touch with people’s lives, and needs “updating.” A 2014 poll of Catholics in five countries by left-leaning broadcaster Univision found that 78% supported artificial contraception.

Now, dissenters — who today hold positions of influence and enjoy support from some in the highest ranks of the Church — appear to be viewing the upcoming anniversary as a golden opportunity, half a century in the making. Evidence to show that efforts are underway to exploit this opportunity is not hard to discover. One of the most visible has been the creation earlier this year of the four-member commission, quietly established by the Vatican with the Pope’s approval, to study Humanae Vitae.

The commission was never formally announced: The veteran Vatican correspondent Marco Tosatti first reported rumors of it, and the Vatican only confirmed its existence after the Italian website Corrispondenza Romana was able to verify the rumors in June, after it obtained a classified memorandum, circulated by Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the sostituto or deputy, secretary of state.

The memorandum states that the commission is to “promote a comprehensive and authoritative study” of the encyclical to coincide with the anniversary and listed its four members. They include Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo, the commission coordinator who is professor of theological anthropology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, and Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, appointed dean of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute last year.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, was the first to publicly defend the commission’s work after news of it was leaked, telling Catholic New Agency that the initiative aimed at “studying and deepening” the encyclical. But he denied it was a “commission” whose purpose was to “reread or reinterpret” the document.

Msgr. Marengo further played down its influence, explaining its purpose is simply to carry out a “work of historical-critical investigation,” reconstructing the “whole process of composing the encyclical.”

But added to its unannounced beginnings, the mere existence of such a commission has left many suspicious and asking: Why make all the effort to deepen and study something that will not fundamentally change?

Also viewed as suspect is the unprecedented level of access given to the commission members. According to the memorandum, the Pope has given the scholars permission to view the relevant historical archives not only of the Secretariat of State, but also the Vatican Secret Archives and that of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Msgr. Marengo insisted such access was relevant, given the document’s importance and the debates it unleashed. Humanae Vitae, he said in a July 25 interview, “must be placed in the context of everything important and fruitful the Church has said on marriage and family during these last 50 years.” But such privileges haven’t even been awarded to researchers of Venerable Pius XII’s pontificate during World War II, despite years of lobbying for the archives to be opened.

All of which amounts to a concern that the commission is being used as a cover: to look at the scientific and historical character of the document, but with the ultimate goal of presenting the Pope with enough information for the encyclical’s dissenters to say: “Times have changed — Humanae Vitae needs to be interpreted in the light of conscience, according to the complexity of people’s lives today.”

Before his death on Sept. 6, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra had privately expressed similar grave concerns about the commission. Like others, he believed the opening of the archives was a ploy to obtain selected findings and then present them to show that Paul VI’s commission was moving in the direction of loosening the Church’s teaching on contraception, but undue pressure was placed on the Pope to reassert the doctrine.

Another expected strategy by commission members and other “revisionists” is to present any re-interpretations as part of a “change in paradigm” in moral theology, just as was achieved with Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) in allowing for some civilly remarried divorcees to receive Holy Communion. The emphasis is expected to be on changing pastoral practice to make it more applicable to today — a tactic, say critics, to alter and soften Church teaching by finding exceptions, while all the time insisting the doctrine won’t be changed.

Msgr. Marengo has firmly denied such an intention, insisting that “the issue of a conciliation between Amoris Laetitia and Humanae Vitae is not in the agenda.” But in an article in March for Vatican Insider — headlined, “Humanae Vitae and Amoris Laetitia: Parallel Histories” — he warned that the Church’s moral teaching can be too abstract and detached for people to follow and asserted that “responsible creativity” should be risked in pastoral care. He also quoted Pope Francis’ address to the John Paul II Institute in October, in which Francis warned against presenting “a theological ideal of marriage that is too abstract, almost artificially constructed, far from the concrete situation and of effective possibilities of families as they are.”

But the commission is not the only means to maximize this long-awaited opportunity to change Humanae Vitae. Further evidence can be seen in what appears to be a four-year concerted attempt to marginalize the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II, who led the resistance to a relativistic interpretation of the encyclical.

As archbishop of Krakow, Poland, Karol Wojtyla contributed to the commission that drafted the document (although he was unable to take part personally due to the communists’ travel restrictions) and strove to uphold the Church’s teaching in the document by emphasizing personalism (seeing man as a person rather than an object) with the natural law.

His teachings ever since formed a bulwark against the dissenters. Most notably they include his 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) and his theology of the body catecheses — both attempts to provide an anthropological foundation and explanation for the encyclical’s teaching. Perhaps even more significant was his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), which for the first time presented Catholic moral doctrine in a systematic and formal way, firmly rejecting any relativist interpretation of an intrinsically evil act (an action that is always morally wrong, regardless of its particular circumstances), such as use of artificial contraception.

The operation to marginalize John Paul II ahead of next year’s anniversary has been visible in two primary ways: First, by largely ignoring his teachings during the previous two synods to allow the kind of “paradigm shift” in the Church’s moral teaching that found its way into Amoris Laetitia.

Second, by overhauling the leadership of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, respectively replacing its chancellor and dean with Archbishop Paglia and Msgr. Sequeri. Both are known supporters of softening the teaching of Humanae Vitae.

Msgr. Sequeri, who is not a moral theologian, but a specialist in aesthetic theology and musicology, has written the introduction to a new book entitled, Amoris Laetitia: A Turning Point for Moral Theology, edited by Stephan Goertz and Caroline Witting, in which it is argued that Amoris Laetitia represents a paradigm shift for all moral theology, and especially in interpreting Humanae Vitae.

For his part, Archbishop Paglia was unable to give a clear answer when I asked him in early July if he agreed with the encyclical’s teaching against use of artificial contraception. The document “must be studied and more fully appreciated, particularly in the light of the challenges we face every day,” he said, highlighting the “negative consequences of gender ideology, the de-population crisis in the West, the omnipresence and invasiveness of technology, and mankind’s inability to hold on to its own humanity.”

Another reason for concern about Archbishop Paglia’s position with respect to Humanae Vitae is a document he circulated privately among family synod participants, advocating “the gift” of reception of Communion for divorced-and-civilly-remarried Catholics who request such permission from their bishops. In light of that synodal intervention, as well as a corresponding approach in a Vatican-published book he edited in 2015 with Msgr. Sequeri entitled, Church Family — An Indissoluble Bond, evidence of Archbishop Paglia’s support for a similar softening of Church teachings on artificial contraception appears solid.

In addition to marginalizing John Paul II, further evidence of moves to undermine the encyclical can be seen in new members chosen for the Pontifical Academy for Life — also since last year placed under the leadership of Archbishop Paglia. Several of them have gone on the record to voice their dissent from Humanae Vitae, in particular Father Maurizio Chiodi, who uses arguments to justify contraception that critics say are condemned in Veritatis Splendor, and Jesuit Father Alain Thomasset, who wants to see the term “intrinsically evil” removed.

Finally, there are Pope Francis’ own comments regarding the encyclical’s teaching. Asked in 2014 if the Church should revisit the issue of contraception, he replied: “It all depends on how the text of Humanae Vitae is interpreted. Paul VI himself, toward the end, recommended that confessors show great kindness and attention to specific situations.”

He added it is not a question of “changing doctrine, but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s situations, and that, which it is possible for people to do.”

The Pope also last year praised one of the most prominent dissenters of Humanae Vitae, the German moral theologian Bernard Häring. And speaking to reporters in February last year, Francis cited favorably a mythological story of Paul VI allowing nuns in the Congo to use contraception for cases of violence. The case has historically been used by dissenters as a means to circumvent the encyclical’s teaching. The Pope is also sympathetic to the vision of the Church of the late Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Martini, who was very vocal in his opposition toHumanae Vitae.

So what is likely to happen? The commission will have no authority to enact changes, and, already, there are reports of divisions among them that will weaken its purpose. But some cardinals, bishops and theologians, as well as elements of the media, will use this opportunity to try to persuade Francis to modify Humanae Vitae using the strategies outlined above as well as others. From the other side, pressure will be exerted to leave the encyclical alone on the grounds that it has proven so prophetic and that the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception is based on her infallible moral teaching.

Debates will, therefore, deepen over the coming months, as the document considered the lynchpin of the Church’s resistance to the collapse in sexual morality in the West comes under intensified attack, directed not from the secular world or a few dissenting theologians and bishops this time, but from some of the most senior figures in the Church.

Also see moral theologian Father George Woodall’s concerns about Msgr. Marengo’s commission here.


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