Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A. 27th November 2016

The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 2.1-5; Romans 13.11-14; Matthew 24.37-44.

 The Advent season in its liturgical observance is devoted to the coming of God at the end of history when Jesus shall reign as king.  The time is chiefly a celebration of “the coming of God” in ultimate triumph.  Our three Scripture readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A) challenge us to adopt a timetable in which the seemingly distant parousia (final coming) impinges on the present moment.

An unexpected vision of salvation

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah [2:1-5] sends chills up and down our spines today.  The prophet describes a beautiful and rather unexpected vision of universal salvation, justice and peace, not only for Jerusalem and the Holy Land, but for all of humanity:

In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.  All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths. For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” [vv 2-3].

In the messianic kingdom the prophets generally see the Lord’s house as the seat of authority and the source of clear and certain doctrine; also, its rule willingly accepted by all peoples, maintained by spiritual sanctions, and tending to universal peace. This passage is found substantially unchanged in Micah 4:1-3; it probably, although not certainly, has Isaiah as its author.

The Isaiah reading is very fitting to begin the Advent season, for we are truly on pilgrimage during the next few weeks – making our long and tedious journey up to the Lord, in order that we may pay him homage and recognize in the Child of Bethlehem just to what degree God would go to show us his love.

Awaking from our hypnotic conditions

In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans [13:11-14], the Apostle to the Gentiles says that Christians claim to be people of the new day that will dawn with the return of Christ.  In verse 11-12, Paul exhorts the Christians in Rome that this is the hour to awake from their sleep… for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness (and) put on the armor of light…

The Greek word for sleep is hypnos, (11) and while we cannot attribute the full notion of being “hypnotized” to Paul himself in this text, it is nonetheless true that we can become so accustomed to the normalcy of evil that we live under its spell, as if hypnotized by a power outside ourselves that we cannot discern or dislodge ourselves. It is good for us during Advent to ask: “What are the hypnotic conditions that we experience without our consciousness of them?” The sins of the “flesh” (v. 14) are not only sexual sins, but anything that opposes the life-giving work of the Spirit begun in Christ.  Instead of planning for nighttime behavior they should be concentrating on conduct that is consonant with avowed interest in the Lord’s return.

In the days of Noah

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew [24:37-44], Noah’s contemporaries were unprepared for the flood. They ate and drank and married. They didn’t dream of an event that would mark the end of time as they knew it. The people of Noah’s time were so caught up in everyday affairs that they failed to take precautions against the flood.  Three parables are told to remind us of the necessity of vigilance–because the Second Coming has no “estimated time of arrival.”

In the verses: “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left [40-41], the former probably means taken into the kingdom; the latter, left for destruction. People in the same situation will be dealt with in opposite ways. In this context, the discrimination between them will be based on their readiness for the coming of the Son of Man.  The theme of vigilance and readiness is continued with the bold comparison of the Son of Man to a thief who comes to break into a house [42-44].

Centrality of time

Time is central to the Christian celebration of Advent.  This season reminds us that the mystery of faith is not complete until Jesus’ Second Coming.  We are living in this in-between time of Resurrection-Ascension-Pentecost and the time of the Parousia.  How do we deal with the issue of time?  Christ has given us warning of such an event coming.  We can’t say, “We had no idea,” as the people said up to the day that Noah went into the ark and closed the door.

We need to be ready and we need to be awake.  Just like a security alarm wakes up a homeowner, Advent wakes up Christians who are in danger of sleeping through their lives.  If we are no longer asking the hard questions and if we are no longer getting our answers from God through his Scriptures, then it is time to wake up!  Advent asks us to be aware of responsibilities and see to their fulfillment!  Advent challenges us to attend to relationships, reach out to the needy, cherish the gift of human life, and make time for prayer!  The Second Coming thus becomes an event that gives purpose and energy to our every breath and pulse here and now.

The coming of Christ

Advent does not change God.  Advent deepens our longing and anticipation that God will do what prophets and the anointed have promised.  We pray that God will yield to our greedy need to see and feel the promise of salvation here and now.  As Christians, we proclaim the coming of Christ – not just a first coming but another as well that will be far more glorious than the first.  The first took place under the sign of patient suffering; the second, on the contrary, will see Christ wearing the crown of God’s kingdom.  In the meantime, however, there is the painful necessity of the cross for Jesus and all believers in him.

The pregnant season

On Saturday evening, November 27, eve of Advent this year, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate in St. Peter’s Basilica a “Vigil for All Nascent Human Life” coinciding with first vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. The Holy Father has said:

The period in which we prepare for Christmas is an appropriate time to invoke divine protection on every human being called into existence, and to thank God for the gift of life we received from our parents.

“Nascent” is a word not frequently used in our daily vocabulary.  While it clearly refers to unborn human life, its other meanings include “promising”, “growing”, and “hopeful”. As we enter into Advent, our thoughts naturally focus on the hope and expectation of the coming of Christ. Christ came to us first as an unborn child, tiny, vulnerable and in need of protection and care of his mother.

By calling for this worldwide prayer vigil, Pope Benedict invites us to focus both on the hope and promise of new life in Christ that we celebrate at Christmas but also to acknowledge the sad fact that world-wide there are an estimated 50 million abortions performed each year.  Lives are simply thrown away.  Many people in our time have truly become “hypnotized” to this reality.  We have justified our reasons and means for destroying life in the womb because it disturbs and upsets us, forcing us to change our way of living. What are the hypnotic conditions against human life that we experience without our consciousness of them?

More than any other time of year, Advent is a pregnant season.  We need a renewal of faith and hope about the meaning of life as the reflection of God. The timing of this prayer service for “nascent life” at the beginning of the Advent season is a happy coincidence that reminds us of the great gift from God that each and every human life represents.

Taking stock of human life

As we begin this holy season of longing and waiting for the Messiah, let us take stock of human life and not become like the people of Noah’s time who were so caught up in everyday affairs that they failed to take precautions against the flood.  Advent reminds us that it is no longer business as usual.  Something new is about to happen.

Let us pray during these days of Advent:  May God, the Father of Life have mercy on all who have sinned against life.  May the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus, who knit us in our mother’s womb, preserve all infants from physical harm from the moment of conception.

May Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary, who ennobled all human life when he became flesh in the womb of the Daughter of Zion, enlighten our minds to see the dignity of every human life from its earliest moments.

May Jesus of Nazareth who loved the afflicted, the sick, the broken and those who mourn, strengthen parents of unborn children with disabilities to cherish the infant entrusted to their care.

May the Lord who forgives sinners each day, draw all who have acted against innocent human life to repentance and forgiveness, and heal them through an outpouring of grace.

May the God of Israel increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth.

Looking forward to the second coming

Let us not forget the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem this season:

At his first coming, he was wrapped in linens and laid in a manger; at the second, light shall be his robe.  In the first coming he endured the Cross, heedless of its shame; in his second coming he will be in glory surrounded by an army of angels.  Let us therefore not stop at his first coming but look forward to the second.  We hailed him at his first coming with the words, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” and shall hail him in the same way at his second coming.  For we shall go out to meet the Lord and his angels, and, prostrating ourselves before him, we shall cry, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

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Ad aeterna tabernacula festinare

May this beautiful article from the monks at Silverstream Priory (Ireland) help to bring our hearts and minds back to life’s essentials as we struggle on forwards in this vale of tears.


The Cross, the Passion, and the Most Holy Eucharist
Today’s Saint Silvester Guzzolini (1177-1267), founder of the so-called Blue Benedictines (from the colour of their habit) or Silvestrines, exemplifies the monastic spirituality of the thirteenth century. Nourished by the Word of God, Silvester filled the gaze of his soul with the mysteries of the Passion of Our Lord, contemplating His wounds and desiring nothing so much as to follow Him along the way of the Cross. So strong was this desire of his that on one occasion he was mystically transported to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. As one might expect, Silvester’s devotion to the Passion of Jesus found its highest expression in the ardent love he had for the Most Holy Eucharist. This is reflected in the beautiful Secret for his feast:

With all reverence, O Lord, do we offer these gifts to Thy divine Majesty: praying that by the devout preparation of our minds and purity of heart, we may be made imitators of the blessed Silvester, and so deserve to receive in a holy manner the Body and Blood of Thy Son.

The Mother of God
Silvester nurtured a tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Mercy, to whom he entrusted himself entirely. Our Lady responded by demonstrating her maternal love for him with singular graces. On one occasion, he fell in the staircase while descending to the Night Office. The Blessed Virgin came to help him and, in the twinkling of an eye, Silvester found himself safe and sound back in his cell. One hears of similar episodes in the lives of modern saints such as Saint Padre Pio, Blessed Maria Pierina, Marthe Robin, and Mother Yvonne-Aimée of Malestroit.

Communion from the Hands of Our Lady
The most famous Marian prodigy in his life took place when, of a night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him in a dream and said, “Silvester, dost thou desire to receive the Body of my Son?” With trepidation he answered, “My heart is ready, O Lady; let it be done unto me according to thy word.” What I find most extraordinary is that Saint Silvester, being a monk already steeped in the Word of God through the familiar repetition of it in the Sacred Liturgy, answered Our Blessed Lady in two phrases already held and pondered within her Immaculate Heart. The first phrase, taken from Psalm 107:2 —Paratum cor meum Deus paratum cor meum— “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready” is the perfect act of preparation for Holy Communion. The second phrase is Our Blessed Lady’s own acquiescence to the mystery of the Incarnation as recorded in Luke 1:30 —Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum— “Be it done to me according to thy word”. Receiving her very own words from the lips of her servant Silvester, the Mother of God gave him Holy Communion. Claudio Ridolfi painted the episode in 1632.

The Collects
There are two Collects for today’s feast. The first alludes to the horrifying experience that caused Silvester to change his way of life and embrace the monastic state. In 1227, as a fifty year old canon of the cathedral of Osimo, he saw the decomposing body of a man who, in life, had been comely and strong. Silvester then said to himself: “What he was thou art, and what he is, thou shalt be.” With that, he decided to withdraw into solitude.

O most clement God, Who, when the holy abbot Silvester, by the side of an open grave, stood meditating on the emptiness of the things of this world, didst vouchsafe to call him into the wilderness and to ennoble him with the merit of a singularly holy life; most humbly we beg of Thee, that like him, we may despise earthly things, and enjoy fellowship with Thee for evermore.

The second prayer, found in the new Antiphonale Monasticum, reflects the two principle graces of his life: solitude and community. The Latin text has this magnificent conclusion: et in humili caritate ad aeterna tabernacula festinare! 

O God who bestowed upon Saint Silvester zeal for the sweetness of solitude and for the labours of the cenobitical life, grant us, we beseech Thee, to seek Thee always with a sincere mind and in humble charity hasten toward the eternal tabernacles.

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Francis praises major Humanae Vitae dissenter in rebuke of ‘white or black’ morality

ROME, November 24, 2016

By Pete Baklinski at LifeSiteNews

pope_francis_and_bernard_haring_810_500_55_s_c1Pope Francis has praised the 1960s German moral theologian Bernard Häring, one of the most prominent dissenters from Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, for his new morality which the pope said helped “moral theology to flourish.”

“I think Bernard Häring was the first to start looking for a new way to help moral theology to flourish again,” he said in comments, published today by La Civiltà Cattolica, that were given during a dialogue with the Jesuit order which was gathered for its 36th general Congregation on October 24, 2016 in Rome.

Pope Francis gave his comments while answering a question about a morality he has often spoken about based on “discernment.”

“Discernment is the key element: the capacity for discernment. I note the absence of discernment in the formation of priests. We run the risk of getting used to ‘white or black,’ to that which is legal. We are rather closed, in general, to discernment. One thing is clear: today, in a certain number of seminaries, a rigidity that is far from a discernment of situations has been introduced. And that is dangerous, because it can lead us to a conception of morality that has a casuistic sense,” he said.

Francis criticized what he called a “decadent scholasticism” that his generation was educated in, that provoked what he called a “casuistic attitude” towards morality.


Pope Francis addressing Jesuitss General Congregation in Rome on October 24, 2016. 

“The whole moral sphere was restricted to ‘you can,’ ‘you cannot,’ ‘up to here yes but not there,’” he said.

“It was a morality very foreign to ‘discernment,’” he said, adding that Bernard Häring was the “first to start looking for a new way to help moral theology to flourish again.”

Fr. Bernard Häring (1912-98) was a key figure during the Second Vatican Council, where he applied the principle of the evolution of dogma (as found in the nouvelle théologie) to morality. According to Professor Roberto de Mattei, this “new morality” championed by Häring ultimately “den[ied] the existence of an absolute and immutable natural law.”

Häring was first appointed an “expert” at Vatican II and then later became the secretary of the Commission on the modern world, where, according to de Mattei, he became one of the primary architects of the document Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope), part of which deals with marriage.

According to de Mattei, a vicious battle was waged during the crafting of this document between the progressive and traditional minorities over procreation in marriage.

“This battle went beyond the pill to include the ends of marriage. At issue was the very basis of natural law itself,” he said in a talk given at the Rome Life Forum in 2015.

The progressive element, backed by Häring, eventually prevailed upon Pope Paul VI to leave aside the question of contraception in the document, according to de Mattei.

“The most surprising aspect of Gaudium et Spes, however, is the lack of any presentation of the traditional order of the ends of marriage, the primary and the secondary….The institution of marriage, therefore, is defined without any reference to children and only as an intimate community of conjugal life. Moreover, in the succeeding paragraphs, conjugal love is discussed first (paragraph 49) and procreation second (paragraph 50),” said de Mattei.

After Paul VI released Humanae Vitae in 1968 where he taught unequivocally that “each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of human life” and called the use of contraception “intrinsically wrong,” Häring spent his energy in criticizing not only Paul VI, but also Pope John Paul II, for their stances on birth control and other sexual issues.


Pope Francis addressing Jesuits’ General Congregation in Rome on October 24, 2016. 

Häring was eventually investigated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the 1970s for his 1972 book Medical Ethics, where he presents a concept of health that would allow a couple to use contraception if they deemed it the best means to help them fulfill their total vocation, a principle condemned in Humanae Vitae.

Häring became the mentor of Charles Curran, a dissident Catholic priest who aggressively condemned the Church’s teachings on matters such as abortion, contraception, and homosexuality. Curran, who was also investigated by the CDF in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was officially prohibited by Pope John Paul II in 1986 from teaching at any Catholic school and was stripped of the title ‘Catholic theologian.’

Francis called it an “important task” of the Society of Jesus that they “form seminarians and priests in the morality of ‘discernment.’”

It was using the method of “discernment” in response to the Zika virus scare earlier this year that Pope Francis appeared to condone the use of contraception for married couples living in affected areas as the “lesser of two evils.” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed the pope’s words the following day, stating: “The contraceptive or condom, in particular cases of emergency or gravity, could be the object of ‘discernment’ in a serious case of conscience. This is what the Pope said.” Critics said the pope’s move contradicted previous Catholic teaching (see herehere, and here).

Pope Francis also spoke about the morality of “discernment” in his April exhortation Amoris Laetitia more than thirty times, using the term as a key to opening the door to Holy Communion for Catholics living in adulterous situations. Immediately following the “smoking footnote” 351, in which critics say the pope allowed the divorced and remarried to receive Holy Communion, the pope writes that “discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits.”

Four cardinals have recently asked the pope to clarify key passages in the exhortation, asking him a set of five yes-or-no questions regarding the indissolubility of marriage, the existence of absolute moral norms, and the role of conscience in making decisions. They went public with their “dubia” last week after the pope failed to reply.

During his dialogue with the Jesuits, Pope Francis noted the progress that has been made in moral theology since the days of “you can, you cannot.”

“Obviously, in our day moral theology has made much progress in its reflections and in its maturity,” he said.

CP&S comment: This is as baffling and concerning as Pope Francis championing the cause of Hêlder Camara.


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De Mattei: Contradictions at the closing of the Jubilee


From Rorate Caeli:

Roberto de Mattei 
Corrispondenza Romana

November, 22 2016

Among the keys that interpret Pope Francis’ pontificate is certainly his love of contradiction. This inclination of mind is made evident by the Apostolic Letter ‘Misercordia et misera’, signed at the end of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. In this letter Pope Bergoglio, establishes that those who attend the churches officiated by the priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, can receive validly and lawfully, sacramental absolution. The  Pope thus rectifies that which constituted the main factor of “irregularity” in the Fraternity founded by Monsignor Lefebvre: the validity of their confessions. It would be contradictory to imagine that once confessions are recognized as valid and lawful, that the Masses celebrated by the priests of the Fraternity not be considered just as lawful, which are valid in any case. At this point it is not understood why an agreement is necessary between Rome and the Fraternity founded by Monsignor Lefebvre, seeing as the position of these priests is de facto regularized and that the doctrinal problems up for discussion – for the Pope – as is well-known – are of little interest.

In the same letter, so that “no obstacle arises between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness” Pope Bergoglio concedes, from now on “I grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion”. In reality, priests already had the faculty to forgive abortion in confession. However, according to the centuries-old praxis of the Church, abortion is one of the grave sins punished automatically by excommunication. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs latae sententiae excommunication” says Canon Law (1983) no.1398.  Priests, therefore, needed permission from their bishop to remove the excommunication before being able to absolve the sin of abortion.  Now all priests can also absolve the excommunication, without needing to go through their bishop or they themselves being empowered to do so.  Excommunication de facto is dropped and abortion loses the gravity that Canon Law ascribed to it.

In an interview given to “TV 2000” on November 20th, Pope Francis affirmed that  “Abortion is still a grave sin”, a “horrendous crime”, since “it brings an end to an innocent life”. Can the Pope ignore that his decision to drop the crime of abortion from the latae sententiae  excommunication, relativizes this “horrendous crime” and allows the mass-media to present it as a sin that the Church considers less grave than in the past and which She [now] easily forgives?

The Pope states in his Letter that “there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father” , but as is evident from his own words, mercy is such that it presupposes the existence of sin, and thus justice. Why speak all the time about a good and merciful God, and never about a just God, Who rewards and punishes according to the merits and faults of man? The Saints, as has been noted, never ceased exalting the mercy of God, unlimited in its giving; and to fear also His justice, rigorous in its demands. A God capable only of loving and rewarding the good and incapable of hating and punishing evil, would be contradictory. Short of retaining that the Divine Law exists, but is abstract and impracticable and the only thing that counts is the concrete life of man, who cannot help but sin. What is important is not the observance of the law, but  blind faith in Divine mercy and forgiveness. Pecca fortiter, crede fortius.

However, this is the doctrine of Luther, not of the Catholic Church.

Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana 

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


By Bishop Athanasius Schneider

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

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

In their statement entitled “Seeking Clarity: A Plea to Untie the Knots in Amoris Laetitia,” the Cardinals say that to “many — bishops, priests, faithful — these paragraphs allude to or even explicitly teach a change in the discipline of the Church with respect to the divorced who are living in a new union.” Speaking so, the Cardinals have merely stated real facts in the life of the Church. These facts are demonstrated by pastoral orientations on behalf of several dioceses and by public statements of some bishops and cardinals, who affirm that in some cases divorced and remarried Catholics can be admitted to Holy Communion even though they continue to use the rights reserved by Divine law to validly married spouses.In publishing a plea for clarity in a matter that touches the truth and the sanctity simultaneously of the three sacraments of Marriage, Penance, and the Eucharist, the Four Cardinals only did their basic duty as bishops and cardinals, which consists in actively contributing so that the revelation transmitted through the Apostles might be guarded sacredly and might be faithfully interpreted. It was especially the Second Vatican Council that reminded all the members of the college of bishops as legitimate successors of the Apostles of their obligation, according to which “by Christ’s institution and command they have to be solicitous for the whole Church, and that this solicitude, though it is not exercised by an act of jurisdiction, contributes greatly to the advantage of the universal Church. For it is the duty of all bishops to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the discipline common to the whole Church” (Lumen gentium, 23; cf. also Christus Dominus, 5-6).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Father Z has made a podcast of Bishop Schneider’s letter

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The furore caused by Misericordia et Misera is a damning indictment of those surrounding the Pope

By Ed Condon at theimage Catholic Herald:

Pope Francis is not an expert in canon law. I do not think His Holiness would mind me putting it that bluntly. In fact I rather suspect that, given his personal style, he would happily agree. It is far from heresy to point out that a pope might not be a born canonical expert, anymore than it would be unreasonable to suggest that Donald Trump has no particular natural expertise in American constitutional law.

The Pope wears a number of different hats (three, if you take a look at the papal coat of arms) and he is sometimes speaking as a priest, sometimes a teacher, and sometimes as the head of a coherent legal society. The roles are not distinct in how they are exercised, or at least they shouldn’t be, and what he does, or wants to do, as one necessarily has a direct impact on the other two. It is the job of those around the Pope to take his instructions and turn them into a statement that is coherent pastorally, legally, and theologically; that’s the proper function of all those well-dressed monsigniori gliding around the Vatican. Unfortunately they let the side down badly this week and the results have been totally unnecessary confusion.

Yesterday Pope Francis released the apostolic letter Misericordia et Misera. In it he extended the special provision he made for the Year of Mercy which granted every priest the faculty to lift the censure for the grave crime of abortion. That at least was what it should have said. In fact Misericordia et Misera stated, as did the original letter for the Year of Mercy, that the Pope was granting all priests “the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion”.

Before trying to dispel the confusion which has, predictably and unnecessarily, grown up around it, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: the language of this statement is wrong – simply, avoidably and basically wrong. And while that is enormously frustrating, it is not the end of the world. It is, however, a damning indictment of those around the Pope who seem either unable or unwilling to ensure even a minimum of theological and canonical coherence in some of what is presented for the papal signature.

The Curia’s entire purpose is to assist the Pope in putting what he wants into practice, that means when he says “I want every priest to be able to deal with the situation of abortion for the Year of Mercy and beyond”, his minions are supposed to swing into action and prepare the necessary text to reflect what is going to actually happen. This is supposed to go somewhat beyond simply pressing *copy*, *paste*, *print* when they get the original memo from the Pope.

While the meaning of what the Pope wrote is pretty easy to guess if you’re a canon lawyer, it’s legal nonsense in and of itself. So when secular journalists read it and, absent any context for the subject, take the letter at face value, they can be forgiven for (wrongly) assuming that the Pope has changed something regarding the Church’s teaching on the sin of abortion.

Actually, even before the Year of Mercy, 99 per cent of priests already had the power to “absolve” the “sin” of abortion. Any priest who has the power to sacramentally forgive sins has the power to forgive all sins (the one exception to this is a priest cannot absolve his accomplice in a sim against the sixth commandment). The only priests who could not “forgive” the “sin” of abortion already were those who have had their faculty to hear confessions revoked and thus can’t forgive any sins, except in danger of death.

How the faculty to hear confessions and forgive sins works, in canon law, is like this: a priest gets the “power” to forgive sins through his ordination, but to validly use this power he needs the faculty to exercise it (c. 966 §1). He gets this faculty from the law itself in some circumstances, like in danger of death for the penitent (c. 976), but the normal process is for him to be given the faculty by his bishop for use in the diocese (c. 969 §1). Once he has the faculty from his bishop to hear confessions and forgive sins in his diocese, the law then extends that faculty to apply anywhere in the world (c. 967 §2). In short: if a priest has the faculty to hear confessions and absolve any sins, he can absolve all sins, and if he has the faculty to do this somewhere he can do it anywhere.

This means that the actual effect of the Pope’s concession of the “faculty” to absolve the “sin” of abortion to all priests is to grant them a faculty which 99 per cent of them already have. The one-percenters who don’t have the faculty are those who have not already been given it by their bishop, or have had it revoked; those suspended from ministry, for example. Now it is pretty obvious that this is not what the Pope meant, even if it is what he technically said. So what did he mean to say?

What was supposed to be announced, and what would have been announced had his curial assistants done their job, was the concession of the “faculty” to “remit the censure” for the “delict/crime” of abortion.

While every canonical crime is a sin, not every sin is also a canonical crime, though some of the most serious are. Abortion is, for sure, a grave sin. It is also a delict (c. 1398) which carries the penalty of excommunication. To be clear: there is no such thing as a “reserved sin”, but there are “reserved crimes”. A reserved crime is one where only a person with particular authority can lift the penalty. In the case of abortion, only the ordinary of the territory (the diocesan bishop, for all intents and purposes) can lift the censure, in this case of excommunication. It is common practice for some bishops to give their priests this faculty by delegation, along with the faculty to hear confessions. But, since the faculty to lift the penalty is not extended by the law, as it is with absolving the sin, to cover everywhere, but is limited to the territory of the ordinary, the power to lift the censure does not travel with the priest, even if he has it at home.

Putting it as simply as possible: every priest has the power to forgive any sin, by virtue of his ordination; almost every priest (excepting those denied it for good reason) gets the faculty to exercise this power from his bishop, once he has this power in his home diocese he can use it anywhere; if the bishop also gives him the faculty to lift censures for certain reserved delicts (like abortion) he can only use this when he is physically in his home diocese.

What the Pope is actually doing, and I hope this will be clarified in the not too distant future, is giving all priests (excluding, let’s hope, the suspended ones) the faculty to lift the excommunication, always and everywhere and on their own. He did this first for the the Year of Mercy and is now making it permanent.

The Pope has in no way downgraded or mitigated the severity of the sin of abortion, and effectively ending the reservation of the delict is hardly the disciplinary earthquake some people are assuming it is.

Conversely, neither does the Pope’s letter imply that women who went to Confession and received absolution for the sin of abortion before the Year of Mercy did so invalidly – a tragically avoidable fear which has touched more than a few women today.

While canon law seems very out of fashion in some quarters at the moment, this situation highlights it’s essential service of clarity and precision for the help of the faithful. Those around the Pope would serve him and the Church better by remembering this.

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Red Wednesday: the Four Cardinals

from: Dom Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB

The Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has designated today as Red Wednesday. Mancunians know this tag for another reason, but it is being coopted and elevated by ACN to signify the day on which we take time for special remembrance who are persecuted for their faith. We are encouraged to donate if we can, or to pray and ideally to attend Mass, and as a sign to the world, to wear something red today.

Mancunians know this tag for another reason, but it is being coopted and elevated by ACN to signify the day on which we take time for special remembrance who are persecuted for their faith. We are encouraged to donate if we can, or to pray and ideally to attend Mass, and as a sign to the world, to wear something red today.

Given the headlines in the Catholic press and blogosphere the last week or two, it is hard not to think of certain red-clad cardinals. The letter of i quattro cardinali—Brandmüller, Burke, Caffarra and Meisner—seeking papal clarification of five dubia, doubts, that have arisen as a result of the conflicted and confusing reception of the Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation (following last year’s Synod on the Family), Amoris Laetitia (“the Joy of Love”, not “The Joys of Love” as The Week put it, which makes it sound like an instruction on sexual technique. Of course, the choice of amor(-is) does refer to the fact that it is sexual love being discussed, not the more supernatural caritas).

The five doubts are:

  1. Whether the validly married who gave civilly divorced and remarried now be admitted to Holy Communion, despite the perennial traditional doctrine of the Church, most recently reaffirmed under Pope St John Paul II;
  2. Whether there now remain absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and which are thus binding on all without exception;
  3. Whether one can still say that someone who has adopted a lifestyle that contradicts the commandments of God is living in a habitual state of objectively grave sin;
  4. Whether St John Paul II’s magisterial teaching that intentions or circumstances can never change an intrinsically and objectively evil act into a subjectively defensible or even good one in individual cases;
  5. Whether the teaching on the role of conscience as magisterially clarified as recently as the pontificate of St John Paul II still stands, namely that conscience can never legitimise an intrinsically evil act by reference to their object (and so we can now say that the end does justify the means).

The letter is dated 19 September and has been released because the Holy Father, having acknowledged receipt of the letter, has not answered it. Thus the cardinals are invoking Pope Francis’ own exhortation to parrhesia (candid and free speaking of one’s mind) in the Church, and so adding another voice to the public debate, the voice of tradition and magisterial doctrine. They are calling on the Holy Father to act as popes are called to, to confirm the brethren in faith, and so prevent the birth of confusion, and its bastard child division, in the Church. The letter accuses the pope of nothing, only asks him to resolve a crisis that has developed in the wake of his teaching. It is respectful in tone and letter, wags no fingers and names no names. The cardinals have acted as cardinals properly should, as advisors and counsellors to the pope.

Yet the reaction has been extraordinary in some quarters. Cardinals Cupich, Tobin and Farrell (nb all Americans) have issued subtle, even-toned rejections of their brother cardinals’ letter. Most recently, however, the President of the Greek Catholic Bishops’ conference, Bishop Fragiskos Papamanolis (who notoriously declared at the Synod that it is not easy to sin!), has issued an open letter to i quattro cardinali, in which is almost hysterical ion tone and reasoning. He accuses the cardinals of heresy, apostasy, fomenting schism, scandal and consequently of celebrating sacrilegious Masses. Even in Italian, there repeated sound of “s” conveys the hissing tone in which he writes.

No doubt the Greek considers this an act of fraternal correction. If so, it is far more brutal, far ruder, for more shrill, far less reasoned than the letter seeking clarification from i quattro cardinali. And that is the point: the cardinals are not making a correction, but seeking clarification. But even if they were correcting the pope, why should their act of fraternal correction be condemned yet the Greek feel free to make his own hysterical “correction”. It can only be that he holds an extremely ultramontane understanding of the papal office.

Yet in his Letter to the Galatians, chapter 2, we read one apostle, St Paul, admitting without blushing that he had opposed the Prince of the Apostles, St Peter, to his face when the latter undermined the gospel by temporising in order to satisfy the Jewish circumcision party. By such an accommodation “even Barnabas was led astray” and so St Paul felt he had to remind St Peter of “the truth of the gospel”. And St Peter, as we know, acknowledged the point that St Paul made and resolutely put an end to Judaizing tendencies in the life of the infant Church.

I quattro cardinali have not acted anywhere near so boldly and defiantly as St Paul (justifiably) did, and far from correcting the pope they are inviting the successor of St Peter to correct his erring brethren who are misusing his own words to undermine the truth of the gospel. Rather than acting like St Paul, they are inviting Pope Francis to act like St Paul, as well as St Peter.

As soon as it was released I was convinced that this letter of i quattro cardinali marked a watershed moment in the life of the post-conciliar Church. Far from an act of schism or heresy (for pity’s sake!) it was an invitation to the pope to affirm the eternal teaching of the Church and so put an end to the false hopes,sly accommodations and destructive compromises being touted by certain prelates. Having nailed their colours to the mast, the cardinals have produced a situation in which all, including the pope, will have to nail their colours also to the mast or hide in the crevices. Some will affirm the truth, some will affirm error, and no doubt some will affirm their cowardice (or to put it more positively, their pragmatism). Some will side with truth, some will side with the world and the demands of their own secular society.

It is striking that only a few anglophone, Western, cardinals have spoken against i quattro cardinali. The overwhelming majority have not condemned them. Their silence implies consent. That is of far more concern to the liberalising party around the pope than the letter itself. The cardinals are not accepting the line peddled by the Greek prelate, that the pope is under attack, nor we can reasonably hope will they be doing so. Popes have much entrusted to them, and so from they much will be demanded. They are responsible for the Church, and they are responsible also to the Church as the Body of Christ.

Today’s gospel at Mass was apposite. Here with it are included the preceding verses that the editors of the lectionary chose to omit:

Then Jesus said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.

It is not schism we need really to fear. It is our own failure to stand up for the truth as we know it to be that we should fear. We should fear our own accommodation to the socio-political order and our failure to “bear witness”. It is the internal schism of the heart that is the real danger to us individually.

Christian faith has always made difficult demands on Christians and they way they live their lives. It has always demanded that we accept the consequences of our choices in this life, if only that we might not endure consequences far more negative, and eternal, in the next. It is all about salvation, and there is no salvation without the Cross. There is no salvation without truth, for charity cannot exist without it. Both led Christ to the Cross. It leads martyrs today—in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, inter alia—to a real sharing in the Cross. Why should we affluent Westerners be exempted? More to the point, why should any Catholic be denied the saving blessing of sharing  in the Cross?

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No Questions Allowed?

From Father Z’s blog:

From LifeSite comes a piece by John Henry Weston about how the new US Cardinals reacted to questions about the Five Dubia submitted by the Four Cardinals.  HERE

Card. Farrell roughly pushed away a reporters hand with a recorder.



Cardinal Joseph Tobin, however, was ready with answers for The Tablet on the same question. In remarks very similar to those of new Cardinal Blase Cupich, [coordination?] Tobin called the Dubia to the Pope by the four Cardinals “troublesome” and said, “The Holy Father is capturing the work of two synods, so if four cardinals say that two synods were wrong, or that somehow the Holy Father didn’t reflect what was said in those synods, I think that should be questioned.”  [Okay… let’s question that for a moment.  First, it is interesting that the argument offered so closely connects Amoris laetitia to the Synod, rather than just the Holy Father.  I think a couple critics of AL made that point when they wondered whether or not it was a Magisterial document.  Also, just because a Synod offers items to the Roman Pontiff for his consideration, the Roman Pontiff is in no way bound to accept them as they were offered.  If he wants to write an Apostolic Exhortation, he can say in it anything it pleases him to say.  He can follow the Synod’s lead or not.  It should also be remarked that the Synod itself seems not to know what the Synod was saying, given the way that the first Synod was jacked around.  Confusion reigned over the Synod.  Confusion is in Amoris laetitia.  A reasonable and fair reading of AL reveals confusing points.]

Adding that the matters dealt with in Amoris Laetitia were complex, Tobin quipped, “just to simply reduce it to a ‘dubium,’ I think it is at best naive.” [Well… when one reads the dubia there is nothing naive or simplistic about them.  They are thoughtful, pointed, deep.]

Cardinal Cupich answered the National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin on the matter, saying of Amoris Laetitia: “The document that they are having doubts about are the fruits of two synods, and the fruit of propositions that were voted on by two-thirds of the bishops who were there.”  [So?  This is a Synod, not a Council. Synods have no authority.  2/3 majority?  So?  This is an advisory body.  Also, if I recall an advisory body created by Paul VI recommended by a majority something that the Pope rejected, and rightly so.  The Five Dubiaare not about the work of the Synod.  The Five Dubia are about questionable points in Amoris laetitia.   However, please note that it is hard to convey complete thoughts in a press conference to directly to a reported when placed on the spot.]

Cupich added, “I think that if you begin to question the legitimacy or what is being said in such a document, do you throw into question then all the other documents that have been issued before by the other popes. [I don’t see why that should be so.  It is one thing to read a document with clearly taught doctrine and, as a dissenter, disagree with it.  It is another to read a document that is hard to understand and, as a faithful Catholic, desire to know the Truth.] So I think it’s not for the pope to respond to that, it’s a moment for anyone who has doubts to examine how they got to that position because it is a magisterial document of the Catholic Church.”


If it is document of the Magisterium, then people should have a right to ask questions about it.



From LifeSiteNews:

Rome is buzzing with questions on the four Cardinals’ objections to Amoris Laetitia

With many of the world’s cardinals gathered for the Consistory that added 17 to their number and the closed the Year of Mercy, Rome was abuzz with the story of the four Cardinals who presented a set of yes-or-no questions to the Pope seeking clarity on the Pope’s recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

At the reception for the three new American cardinals at the Pontifical North American College, each was asked about the so-called “dubia” and the Pope’s refusal to answer.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who recently had the media follow his war of words with Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput over Amoris Laetitia, might have felt a little gun-shy. When a reporter in the halls at the reception asked him for his reaction, he pushed a recorder away with his hand, saying rather gruffly he didn’t want to answer that.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, however, was ready with answers for The Tablet on the same question. In remarks very similar to those of new Cardinal Blase Cupich, Tobin called the Dubia to the Pope by the four Cardinals “troublesome” and said, “The Holy Father is capturing the work of two synods, so if four cardinals say that two synods were wrong, or that somehow the Holy Father didn’t reflect what was said in those synods, I think that should be questioned.”

Adding that the matters dealt with in Amoris Laetitia were complex, Tobin quipped, “just to simply reduce it to a ‘dubium,’ I think it is at best naive.”

Cardinal Cupich answered the National Catholic Register’s Edward Pentin on the matter, saying of Amoris Laetitia: “The document that they are having doubts about are the fruits of two synods, and the fruit of propositions that were voted on by two-thirds of the bishops who were there.”

IMPORTANT: To respectfully express your support for the cardinals’ letter, sign the petition to Pope Francis. Click here.

Cupich added, “I think that if you begin to question the legitimacy or what is being said in such a document, do you throw into question then all the other documents that have been issued before by the other popes. So I think it’s not for the pope to respond to that, it’s a moment for anyone who has doubts to examine how they got to that position because it is a magisterial document of the Catholic Church.”

The “dubia,” of course, regarded clearing up the opposite interpretations of Amoris Laetitia among bishops and theologians rather than the document itself. Nonetheless, Cardinal Cupich claimed that the four Cardinals needed conversion. “The Holy Father doesn’t have to defend a teaching document of the Church,” he said. “It’s up to those who have doubts or questions to have conversion in their lives.”

The animosity toward the four Cardinals coming from the Pope and his closest collaborators was expected. That is why the letter to the Pope containing the “dubia” was signed by three retired Cardinals and Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has already been removed from his Vatican post. “For good reason,” Vatican sources told LifeSiteNews, others who supported the letter could not sign on for fear of losing their positions.

Belying the animosity directed at the four Cardinals asking the Pope for clarification on Amoris Laetitiatheir letter was the kindest and most humble expression of concern. “Compelled in conscience by our pastoral responsibility and desiring to implement ever more that synodality to which Your Holiness urges us, we, with profound respect, permit ourselves to ask you, Holy Father,” is how the Cardinals began their question. Addressing the Pope as the “Supreme Teacher of the Faith,” they asked him to “resolve the uncertainties and bring clarity, benevolently giving a response to the ‘dubia’ that we attach to the present letter.”

See also: Head of Greek Bishops accuses four Cardinals of heresy, apostasy and schism

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A Remarkable Book from and for Eucharistic Adoration


Imagine a combination of St. Gertrude the Great, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Bd. Columba Marmion. Imagine a book that was born in the silence of the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, in the luminous shadow of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Imagine a book that draws one ever more deeply into the glorious mysteries of this greatest of all miracles — the Most Holy Eucharist, Bread of Angels, food of wayfarers, sweet incense of oblation, price of the world’s redemption.

Such a book — In Sinu Jesu. When Heart Speaks to Heart: The Journal of a Priest at Prayer — has just been published by Angelico Press. As an avid reader, I can say with complete honesty that, of works appearing in print during my lifetime, I have seen nothing like it. I shall offer some excerpts:


I want you to learn to remain before My Eucharistic Face, silent, adoring, listening to Me, and loving Me for those who do not adore Me, those who do not listen to Me, those who never express their love for Me in this way. If only My priests would spend time before My Eucharistic Face, I should heal them, purify them, sanctify them, and change them into apostles set all ablaze with the living flame that consumes My Heart in the Blessed Sacrament. But they stay away. They prefer so many other things, vain pursuits and things that leave them empty, bitter, and weary. They forget My words, “Come to Me . . . and I will refresh you.”  My priests will be renewed in holiness and in purity when they begin to seek Me out in the Sacrament of My love.

Why do I speak to you so often of My open Heart? It is because for you, My priest, it is the secret of union with Me. The wound in My side is the Holy Place of My Body, the Temple. The Holy of Holies is My Sacred Heart, and that Holy of Holies you have before you in the Sacrament of My love. Like the psalmist, yearn to abide in that secret innermost part of My Temple. Hide yourself in Me, that I may manifest My Face through you.

I offered myself to the Father from the altar of My Mother’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. She accepted, consenting to bear the full weight of My sacrifice, to be the very place from which My holocaust of love blazed up. She, in turn, offered herself with Me to the Father from the altar of My Sacred Heart. There she immolated herself, becoming one victim with Me for the redemption of the world. Her offering was set ablaze in My holocaust by the descent of the Holy Spirit. Thus, from our two hearts become two altars, there rose the sweet fragrance of one single offering: My oblation upon the altar of her heart, and her oblation upon the altar of Mine. This, in effect, is what is meant when, using another language, you speak of My Mother as Co-Redemptrix. Our two hearts formed but a single holocaust of love in the Holy Spirit.

Your fatigue and your distractions in adoration are no impediment to My action in the depths of your soul. I have assured you of this before. Come before Me and remain before Me even when you feel that your adoration is no more than a struggle and a failure to remain attentive in love and focused on My Eucharistic Face. Here, your feelings are of no importance. What matters in My sight is your humility and your willingness to endure distractions, fatigue, and even sleepiness while adoring Me from the heart of your heart. Know that even when you feel that your adoration has been a waste of time, in My plan it is something fruitful and it is very pleasing to Me. I do not see things as you see them nor do I measure their value as you measure it.

There is a very real sense in which the prayer of adoration is a loss of one’s life. It is a kind of falling into the ground to die. Remember this when you come to adore Me. Look at the Sacred Host and see Me who am the grain of wheat fallen into the ground and risen to life, and become the food of a vast multitude of souls, and this until the end of time. The grain of wheat that I was has become the Host that I am. When you adore Me, forgetting yourself and forsaking all things for Me, you imitate Me, for adoration is a kind of death. It is a passing out of everything that solicits the senses and a cleaving to Me alone in the bright darkness of faith. So it will be in the hour of your death. The more deeply you sink into adoration, the more deeply are you planted in the earth, there to die, and there to sprout, and finally to bring forth much fruit.

Until priests return to My tabernacles in adoration, weeping for their own sins and for the sins of the people, loving Me and offering Me their broken hearts, the entire Church will continue to languish.

When you pray, there is no need to worry about what you will say or for what things you ought to ask. It is enough to come humbly into My presence and to pray as My Holy Spirit gives you to pray. Such prayer will always be fruitful. . . . Thus does My Bride, the Church, pray in her sacred liturgy. You do well to love the liturgy of My Church. It is the work of the Holy Spirit who, making use of human instruments, created a prayer pleasing to My Father and worthy of My eternal priesthood. Enter humbly and wholeheartedly into the liturgy of My Church, and teach others to do the same.

I am ascended to My Father, but I remain present to My Church. The same desire that caused Me to return to the Father with an inexpressible joy causes Me to remain present to My Church with an inexpressible love. … My presence to the Father is not an absence from My Church. I am present in the adorable mysteries of My Body and Blood, just as I am present, Body and Blood, in the glory of the Father, in the hidden sanctuary of heaven, where I serve as High Priest and offer Myself ceaselessly as a spotless Victim of propitiation. What I do in heaven, I do ceaselessly on earth. Every tabernacle where I am present in the Sacrament of My Body and Blood is an image of the heavenly tabernacle into which I have ascended, and in which I offer Myself to the Father in a sacrifice that is unending. My life in so many earthly tabernacles is the very life that is Mine in the glorious tabernacle of heaven, in the Holy of Holies where I carry out My priestly service of the Father by offering Myself to Him as a glorious Victim, as the pure Victim, the holy Victim, the spotless Victim  by whom earth is reconciled to heaven, and heaven to earth; by whom the Father’s perfect plan is brought to completion; and by whom the kingdom of God is established forever.

Read on at Rorate Caeli


“In Sinu Jesu recounts the graces experienced in the life of one priest through the healing and strengthening power of Eucharistic adoration. At the same time, it issues an urgent call to all priests—and, indeed, to all Christians—to be renewed in holiness through adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces.”—HIS EMINENCE RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

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Ode to Saint Cecilia, patroness of musicians

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Polish Bishop: Four Cardinals Exercised “A Duty”; “It is Only Just to Answer Them”

From OnePeterFive:

wrobel_bp_2In what appears to be the first (of hopefully many) prelates to speak out publicly in favor of the Four Cardinals Letter, Auxiliary Bishop Józef Wróbel of Lublin, Poland, said in an interview with Michele M. Ippolito of La Fede Quotidiana that “The four cardinals were right to ask for clarification on Amoris Laetitia. If anything, it is only just to answer them.”

In the interview, the bishop is very candid in his support:

[Your] Excellency [Bishop] Wrobel, what do you think of the letter of clarification on Amoris Laetitia sent by four cardinals to the Pope?

They have done well and they have exercised correctly the provisions of canon law. I think it is not only a right, but even a duty. It would have been just to answer to their observations. They asked no questions about the next day’s weather, but on issues concerning the Church’s teaching and therefore the faithful.

The doubts regarding AL, do you find them pertinent?

As I said before, a clarification on the document, and especially on chapter 8 is opportune. The text effectively lends itself to various interpretations, it’s ambiguous.

Why does it lend itself to various interpretations?

Because it was not well written. Probably with too much haste, without analyzing the contents and the possible consequences with careful [extreme] attention. There is a need to bring these questions to the Vatican and to the collaborators in whom the Pope has confidence. Drawing up such important texts in haste does not render good service to the Church.

Can one give Communion to those who have remarried civilly? 

You couldn’t give [them Communion] before Amoris Laetitia, it’s not possible now. The doctrine of the Church is not subject to changes, otherwise it is no longer the Church of Christ founded on the Gospel and the Tradition. It is given to no one to modify the doctrine insofar as no-one is master of the Church.

Communion to gay couples?

It is not possible, and mercy is not a permission slip. Homosexual acts are a very grave sin, much more than those committed among heterosexuals. In fact, they go against nature.

His comments on Amoris Laetitia are strikingly firm, but equally so is his answer to a question that is high on the Vatican’s list of priorities: the welcoming of refugees:

Immigration, what to do? 

Welcoming is in the Christian spirit. Above all, in moral theology, the primacy is in charity. It looks first to those closest [to us], to the neighbours, in order to get to those further away. And so we should first of all ensure that those who live close to us — relatives, children, parents, fellow citizens — are doing well and only afterwards take care of those who come from outside. Demagoguery leads nowhere.

Like Bishop Athanasius Schneider before him, we see in Bishop Wróbel an auxiliary who cares far more about the Catholic teaching and the faithful than about advancing in his own ecclesiastical career.

And in a way, their work elevates them far beyond the dignity of a diocesan see. They truly become bishops of the world.

We can only pray that this is the beginning of a larger trend of support for the four cardinals from among the world’s apostolic successors.

Roberto Tomasso contributed to this translation.

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Charges dropped against founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

After the systematic destruction of the once flourishing Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, here is some good news about their beleaguered founder, Father Stefano Manelli:

From Father Z’s blog:

pater-stefano-maria-manelliYou all will remember the plight of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI). They have been under the heavy boot of the Congregation for Religious for a long time now.

In the horrid mix were also awful allegations that had been made against the founder of the FFIs, Fr. Stefano Manelli.

I just read a story which says that all the allegations and charges against him have been investigated by civil authorities and shelved by civil authorities. They dropped it. HERE

Now it remains to be seen whether or not the Congregation will in any way change its tune, or whether they will continue to make of the FFIs an example to take the heart out of traditionalists, Catholics driven mercilessly by libs to the peripheries.

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Pope Francis releases Apostolic Letter, renews faculties to absolve abortion, extends confession for SSPX

From Father Z’s blog:

His Holiness Pope Francis has issued an Apostolic Letter for the close of the Year of Mercy. It is 6600 words long (excluding notes) and it is called Misericordia et misera, a phrase taken from Augustine’s commentaries on the Gospel of John. It has a Latin title, but the document was not released in Latin. There appears not to be a Latin version. As usual for this pontificate. It just so happens that the Latin title results from a quote in Latin.

In any event, the big news in this Letter is that the Pope extended the opportunity to people to go to confession to priests of the SSPX beyond the Year of Mercy.

He also gave all priests the faculty to absolve the sin of abortion.

The two concessions are worded in different ways. Let’s see.  He has ben talking about the Sacrament of Penance:

12. Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortionThe provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year,[14] is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary[Note the language.  He writes in a nearly juridical style! “grant to all priests… the faculty… notwithstanding…”] I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.

For the Jubilee Year I had also granted that those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, can validly and licitly receive the sacramental absolution of their sins.[15] [Again… note the language.  He does not seem to grant the faculty to the priests.  Right?  In the paragraph above, he explicitly says he grants a faculty.  So, he knows how to do that.  Here, however, he says something else.  But wait… there’s more…] For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, [Now he uses the word faculty.  But it remains that he started out talking about the faithful rather than the priests.  Right?] until further provisions are made, lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the Church’s pardon.

[14] Cf. Letter According to Which an Indulgence is Granted to the Faithful on the Occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, 1 September 2015.

[15] Cf. ibid.

In any event, Pope Francis went ahead and did it.   There does not seem to be an expiration date on the ability of people to go for valid absolution from SSPX priests.

Mind you… this settles the issue of valid sacramental confessions.   It does not settle the issue of valid marriages.  The priests of the SSPX are still not proper witnesses of the sacrament, thus not satisfying proper canonical form.

To all those who are attached to chapels of the SSPX…


Finally, I had in my mail more than one puzzled note about this extension of confession for the SSPX.  One of my correspondents, himself a well-known internet personage, wrote:

Your thoughts on my thoughts –

Two things are weird (or big looming issues) ..

1. WHY would the Pope do this? It makes no sense given all his critical comments about “tradition” and so forth?

2. Given the official reaction from the SSPX when their confessional faculties were restored – which is to say, “thanks, but we don’t need your blessing, Pope”, I find it hard to believe that whatever might be offered would be accepted.

Is someone really restored – if they themselves reject the olive branch? What does that look like?  Does Pope Francis and the cabal surrounding him simply say “it’s wonderful  to have you home”, when those very same people reject the N.O., Vatican II etc?

This whole thing is very weird.

It seems to me that Andrea Gagliarducci gets it pretty much right in todays Monday Vatican offering:

Finally, we can spot this rationale behind the alleged decision on the SSPX, [This was clearly written before the release of the text.] as the dialogue with the Lefevbrists has been dragging on for years. Pope Benedict XVI opened the dialogue by revoking the excommunication of the bishops illicitly ordained by Lefebvre, and kept the door open with the de-restriction of the older form of the Mass. In this way, Benedict took away from the traditionalists every excuse to avoid the dialogue. [Clearly it did not take away “every excuse”.]

After this, Benedict asked the traditionalists to accept some minimum requirementin order to re-enter into communion with Rome, starting from the acceptance of the Magisterium, including the Second Vatican Council. This remains an issue. If he’d make this decision, Pope Francis would go beyond doctrinal preambles, as his pragmatic solution would bring about only the recognition of the validity of confessions heard by priests of the SSPX. The rest will come [But wait!  There’s more!]

This rationale is also behind “Amoris Laetitia”, the much discussed post-synodal apostolic exhortation that followed two years of discussions in the two synods on the family. …


Creeping incrementalism.

The Pope seems to be trying to get things done by … not doing them.  That is, if you want to cook a living frog, you heat the water very slowly.  Right?  Picture vibrating table until a coffee cup bit by bit moves to the edge of a table.  By tiny and nearly imperceptible increments, it slides, it teeters, it falls, seemingly of its own accord!

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Father Bugnini’s Influence on the Creation of the ‘New Mass’



There was some discussion on our blog the other day on the origins of the forming of the ‘New Mass’ (Novus Ordo) that was to replace the ‘Traditional Latin Mass’ after the Second Vatican Council. This, below, is a statement from Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre at his absolute horror at witnessing the ‘Mass of the Ages’ being all but sidelined (although never officially, of course), whilst a group of Protestant ‘advisors’, together with Fr (later Archbishop) Annibale Bugnini*, with the help of a group of Protestant (!!) ministers, put together a ‘modernised’, shorter type of Mass in the vernacular.


Archbishop Lefebvre, Montreal, 1982:

“I had the occasion to see for myself what influence Fr. Bugnini had. One wonders how such a thing as this could have happened at Rome.

At that time immediately after the Council, I was Superior General of the Congregation of the Fathers of the Holy Ghost and we had a meeting of the Superiors General at Rome. We had asked Fr. Bugnini explain to us what his New Mass was, for this was not at all a small event. Immediately after the Council we heard of the Normative Mass, the New Mass, the Novus Ordo. What did all this mean? 
It had not been spoken of at the Council. What had happened? And so we asked Fr. Bugnini to come and explain himself to the 84 Superiors General who were united together, amongst whom I consequently was.

Fr. Bugnini, with much confidence, explained what the Normative Mass would be; this will be changed, that will be changed and we will put in place another Offertory. We will be able to reduce the communion prayers. We will be able to have several different formats for the beginning of Mass. We will be able to say the Mass in the vernacular tongue.

We looked at one another saying to ourselves: “But it’s not possible!”
 He spoke absolutely, as if there had never been a Mass in the Church before him. He spoke of his Normative Mass as of a new invention. 
Personally I was myself so stunned that I remained mute, although I generally speak freely when it is a question of opposing those with whom I am not in agreement. I could not utter a word. How could it be possible for this man before me to be entrusted with the entire reform of the Catholic Liturgy, the entire reform of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, of the sacraments, of the Breviary, and of all our prayers? Where are we going? Where is the Church going?

Two Superiors General had the courage to speak out. One of them asked Fr. Bugnini: “Is this an active participation, that is a bodily participation, that is to say with vocal prayers, or is it a spiritual participation? In any case you have so much spoken of the participation of the faithful that it seems you can no longer justify Mass celebrated without the faithful. Your entire Mass has been fabricated around the participation of the faithful. We Benedictines celebrate our Masses without the assistance of the faithful. Does this mean that we must discontinue our private Masses, since we do not have faithful to participate in them?”

I repeat to you exactly that which Fr. Bugnini said. I have it still in my ears, so much did it strike me: “To speak truthfully we didn’t think of that,” he said!

Afterwards another arose and said: “Reverend Father, you have said that we will suppress this and we will suppress that, that we will replace this thing by that and always by shorter prayers. I have the impression that your new Mass could be said in ten or twelve minutes or at the most a quarter of an hour. This is not reasonable. This is not respectful towards such an act of the Church.”

Well, this is what he replied: “We can always add something.”

Is this for real? I heard it myself. If somebody had told me the story I would perhaps have doubted it, but I heard it myself.”

“I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.. – (Pope Benedict XVI).

*In ‘Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II‘, English Catholic writer Michael Davies asserts that Bugnini’s Masonic connections were behind his Modernist liturgical reforms, and that the discovery of his Masonic affiliation prompted his sudden transfer by Pope Paul VI from his post in the Roman Curia to that of Papal Nuncio to Iran. Davies further asserted that an unnamed Cardinal told him in the summer of 1975 that a “dossier” proving him to be a Freemason had been brought to the Pope’s desk.

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It’s official: Christ, the King of Poland!

By Fr. Paul McDonald

Special to Rorate Caeli 

The Lord Jesus Christ Recognized as the King of Poland

Solemn enthronement of Christ as King of Poland in Kraków, 19th November 2016

Solemn enthronement of Christ as King of Poland in Kraków, 19th November 2016

Radio Maryja (@RadioMaryja) reports that the Bishops of Poland have enthroned, or, to use the bishops’ more sober expression, “recognized” Christ as the King of Poland. This was done in the official presence of the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda. Many pilgrims were present in Poland for this event. Today the act will be repeated in all the Polish cathedrals and parishes. This took place yesterday, Saturday, at the Church of Divine Mercy in Krakow.


The providential and proximate origin of the act is to be found in revelations received, or said to be received, by the Servant of God Rosalia Zelkova. The Lord — she said — demanded that He be enthroned as King by the Polish Nation as such, and not just in the hearts of the Poles, in a particular manner, and this would have saved Poland in the war that was coming.

33m tall statue of Christ the King in Swiebodzin, Poland

33m tall statue of Christ the King in Swiebodzin, Poland

At first, especially after Vatican II, the idea did not find much support among the bishops. One may think that the shadow of Dignitatis Humanae was a factor, especially since the theme of the social right to religious liberty was so strong in the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II. Another factor would have been the proximate origin, spoken of above. The same factor afflicts the Fatima Message. Under the diffused influence of theological modernism there is a diffidence even about the possibility of communications from Heaven.

But the social kingship of our Divine Lord is absolutely founded in necessary and dogmatic truths about Christ. It is not merely an element of private revelation. St. Gregory the Great said that they were heretics who denied that Christ is the King of and over everything.


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