Lessons from Leo XIII on Laws and Marriage

Peru was enacting laws on “civil marriage”, and even reaching its hands into Sacramental Marriages. Pope Leo, in Quam religiosa,  rightly decried this. He also urged the legislators, in framing any laws, to keep the true essence of natural marriage in mind, to refrain from any laws on Sacramental Marriage, which are the competence of the Catholic Church alone.

He also urges them to repeal UNJUST LAWS:

The courage of the blessed citizens Turibius and Rose, great examples of virtue, comes to mind here. Publicly restore both mind and will, so that they never depart from the Church’s precepts in making laws, which, if correctly observed, will bring about the natural happiness of the people. They should promise that they will not allow the recent decree to stand unchanged. They should also promise that civil marriage laws will contain nothing contrary to the teaching of the Church.

Jesus a Sinner?

A very interesting thing to note. The Council of Constantinople III condemned Pope Honorius for dishonoring the Church because he failed to condemn a heresy and may even have taught heresy himself.

In an important letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 634, he wrote, “We confess one will of our Lord Jesus Christ also because surely our nature, not our guilt, was assumed by the Godhead, that certainly which was created before sin, not that which was vitiated after the transgression. For Christ … was conceived of the Holy Spirit without sin and was also born of the holy and immaculate Virgin Mother of God without sin, experiencing no contagion of our vitiated nature.”

Several Comments:

  1. Perhaps the claim “one will of our Lord” is heresy. Perhaps not. Pope John IV contended that it was not heresy, and gave it a pious interpretation, namely, that Pope Honorius only taught that Christ’s human will was entirely at one with his Father’s, so that there were not two moral wills, as there are when one sins (See DS 496f). On the other hand, Constantinople III condemned him as a heretic. Agatho reproved him. And, as it seems, popes after that great council condemned Honorius as a heretic. I’ll leave this to the historians. At the very least, Honorius was a bad theologian.
  2. At any rate, he still issued teaching. And some of that teaching is part of the ordinary Magisterium. I want to draw attention to one very important thing: THAT CHRIST DID NOT ASSUME OUR GUILT, OUR SIN (CULPA).
  3. Nor is Honorius alone here. John IV teaches “He contracted no defect from the transgression of the first man” (DS 497). There are others
    1. “Or if anyone says that He offered the oblation for Himself and not rather for us alone, for He who knew not sin would not have needed oblations, let him be anathema” (D 122 – Cyril’s Canon 10 [DS 261]).
    2. Lateran Synod of 649: “without sin” DS 505
    3. Toledo 675: DS 539 “Who became for us sin, that is, a sacrifice for our sin”.
    4. Clement VI, Unigenitus Dei Filius year 1343, “Who, innocent, immolated on the alter of the cross, did not shed just a drop of blood, which on account of the union with the Word would have sufficed for the redemption of all mankind, but copiously … velut quoddam profluvium noscitur effudisse ita….” Goes on to call his merits infinite.
    5. Jesus Christ, “Who was conceived without sin, was born, and died.” (Decree for the Jacobites, at Florence, D 711)
    6. Pius XII, Mediator Dei “A Victim unspotted unto God,” art. 1.
    7. Gaudium et Spes, 22: “As an innocent Lamb, freely shedding his blood, he merited life for us.”
  4. Thus, we must hold it to be utterly false to say that Jesus became a sinner.
  5. But what about 2 Cor 5:21, that Christ became sin? What about Galatians 3? As you can see from the above, in this case the word “sin” means “punishment for sin,” not the guilt of sin. It was the heretic Luther, the heretic Calvin, who taught that Jesus became sin itself, a great sinner, or even the greatest sinner. But what on earth could that mean? That my own sinful action becomes his action? That my own guilt becomes his? Does God call the innocent guilty? Really? No. As the above show, the consequences due to us, there is a correct reading of 2 Cor 5:21, and it is not that Christ became sin.

More Lessons from Leo XIII on Socialist Errors

From Graves de communi:

5. What Social Democracy is and what Christian Democracy ought to be, assuredly no one can doubt. The first, with due consideration to the greater or less intemperance of its utterance, is carried to such an excess by many as to maintain that there is really nothing existing above the natural order of things, and that the acquirement and enjoyment of corporal and external goods constitute man’s happiness. It aims at putting all government in the hands of the masses, reducing all ranks to the same level, abolishing all distinction of class, and finally introducing community of goods. Hence, the right to own private property is to be abrogated, and whatever property a man possesses, or whatever means of livelihood he has, is to be common to all.

6. As against this, Christian Democracy, by the fact that it is Christian, is built, and necessarily so, on the basic principles of divine faith, and it must provide better conditions for the masses, with the ulterior object of promoting the perfection of souls made for things eternal. Hence, for Christian Democracy, justice is sacred; it must maintain that the right of acquiring and possessing property cannot be impugned, and it must safeguard the various distinctions and degrees which are indispensable in every well-ordered commonwealth. Finally, it must endeavor to preserve in every human society the form and the character which God ever impresses on it. It is clear, therefore, that there in nothing in common between Social and Christian Democracy. They differ from each other as much as the sect of socialism differs from the profession of Christianity.

Lessons from LEO XIII on Private Property and the Poor

Great Pope Leo XIII teaches us the errors of Socialism and Greed. He teaches us the correct way to ensure that the poor are taken care of. He teaches the crucial importance of the right to private property.

Not through Socialistic re-distribution. Not through the neglect of the poor and the gluttonous consumption of goods in the “name” of economic involvement (but really to the consumer’s own hedonistic ends). Rather, through the simple teaching of the Divine Lord from Galilee. A teaching that is heavenly. A teaching whose eyes are on eternity: Heaven or Hell. A teaching with authority, and not like the moralists.

Would that we would learn from this Great Pope again! The below from his Encyclical Quod apostolici muneris of 1878:

First, he notes the Grave Error of watering down the Divine Truth of the Gospel, making it a religion about man, about earth. He declares as pope:

The supernatural truths of faith having been assailed and cast out as though hostile to reason, the very Author and Redeemer of the human race has been slowly and little by little banished from the universities, the lyceums and gymnasia-in a word, from every public institution. In fine, the rewards and punishments of a future and eternal life having been handed over to oblivion, the ardent desire of happiness has been limited to the bounds of the present.

Next, he notes how this naturalizing, this focus on the earth and man – a focus that destroys both man and earth, since it is based in ideology that cannot see things in proper perspective – leads to insubordination, anarchy, chaos:

… Surely these are they who, as the sacred Scriptures testify, “Defile the flesh, despise dominion and blaspheme majesty.”(2) They leave nothing untouched or whole which by both human and divine laws has been wisely decreed for the health and beauty of life. They refuse obedience to the higher powers, to whom, according to the admonition of the Apostle, every soul ought to be subject, and who derive the right of governing from God; and they proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties. They debase the natural union of man and woman, which is held sacred even among barbarous peoples; and its bond, by which the family is chiefly held together, they weaken, or even deliver up to lust. Lured, in fine, by the greed of present goods, which is “the root of all evils, which some coveting have erred from the faith,”(3) they assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life. These are the startling theories they utter in their meetings, set forth in their pamphlets, and scatter abroad in a cloud of journals and tracts. Wherefore, the revered majesty and power of kings has won such fierce hatred from their seditious people that disloyal traitors, impatient of all restraint, have more than once within a short period raised their arms in impious attempt against the lives of their own sovereigns.

He continues:

…. Although the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes, nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist: “for what participation bath justice with injustice or what fellowship bath light with darkness?”(7) Their habit, as we have intimated, is always to maintain that nature has made all men equal, and that, therefore, neither honor nor respect is due to majesty, nor obedience to laws, unless, perhaps, to those sanctioned by their own good pleasure. But, on the contrary, in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel, the equality of men consists in this: that all, having inherited the same nature, are called to the same most high dignity of the sons of God, and that, as one and the same end is set before all, each one is to be judged by the same law and will receive punishment or reward according to his deserts. The inequality of rights and of power proceeds from the very Author of nature, “from whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.”(8) But the minds of princes and their subjects are, according to Catholic doctrine and precepts, bound up one with the other in such a manner, by mutual duties and rights, that the thirst for power is restrained and the rational ground of obedience made easy, firm, and noble.

Next, he declares:

…. But Catholic wisdom, sustained by the precepts of natural and divine law, provides with especial care for public and private tranquility in its doctrines and teachings regarding the duty of government and the distribution of the goods which are necessary for life and use. For, while the socialists would destroy the “right” of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate. For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven. But not the less on this account does our holy Mother not neglect the care of the poor or omit to provide for their necessities; but, rather, drawing them to her with a mother’s embrace, and knowing that they bear the person of Christ Himself, who regards the smallest gift to the poor as a benefit conferred on Himself, holds them in great honor. She does all she can to help them; she provides homes and hospitals where they may be received, nourished, and cared for all the world over and watches over these. She is constantly pressing on the rich that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments. In fine, she does all she can to relieve and comfort the poor, either by holding up to them the example of Christ, “who being rich became poor for our sake,(18) or by reminding them of his own words, wherein he pronounced the poor blessed and bade them hope for the reward of eternal bliss. But who does not see that this is the best method of arranging the old struggle between the rich and poor? For, as the very evidence of facts and events shows, if this method is rejected or disregarded, one of two things must occur: either the greater portion of the human race will fall back into the vile condition of slavery which so long prevailed among the pagan nations, or human society must continue to be disturbed by constant eruptions, to be disgraced by rapine and strife, as we have had sad witness even in recent times

FINALLY, he appeals to the government to recognize the Divine Liberty of the Holy Church of Christ:

And since they know that the Church of Christ has such power to ward off the plague of socialism as cannot be found in human laws, in the mandates of magistrates, or in the force of armies, let them restore that Church to the condition and liberty in which she may exert her healing force for the benefit of all society.

Lessons from the Holy Office

A most lucid and clear, and far-sighted, Instruction was issued by the Holy Office on Dec. 20, 1949.

It regarded ecumenism. It consists in a set of instructions and principles for authentic Catholic involvement in the ecumenical movement.

How greatly we need to re-receive this Instruction. Each and every Catholic should listen to the wisdom taught herein.

I paste a lengthy excerpt from EWTN’s translation, but also refer you to their site for more:

As regards <the manner and method of proceeding in this work>, the Bishops themselves will make regulations as to what is to be done and what is to be avoided, and shall see that these are observed by all. They shall also be on guard lest, on the false pretext that more attention should be paid to the points on which we agree than to those on which we differ, a dangerous indifferentism be encouraged, especially among persons whose training in theology is not deep and whose practice of their faith is not very strong. For care must be taken lest, in the so-called “irenic” spirit of today, through comparative study and the vain desire for a progressively closer mutual approach among the various professions of faith, Catholic doctrine-either in its; dogmas or in the truths which are connected with them-be so conformed or in a way adapted to the doctrines of dissident sects, that the purity of Catholic doctrine be impaired, or its genuine and certain meaning be obscured.

Also they must restrain that dangerous manner of speaking which generates false opinions and fallacious hopes incapable of realization; for example, to the effect that the teachings of the Encyclicals of the Roman Pontiffs on the return of dissidents to the Church, on the constitution of the Church, on the Mystical Body of Christ, should not be given too much importance seeing that they are not all matters of faith, or, what is worse, that in matters of dogma even the Catholic Church has not yet attained the fullness of Christ, but can still be perfected from outside. They shall take particular care and shall firmly insist that, in going over the history of the Reformation and the Reformers the defects of Catholics be not so exaggerated and the faults of the Reformers be so dissimulated, or that things which are rather accidental be not so emphasized, that what is most essential, namely the defection from the Catholic faith, be scarcely any longer seen or felt. Finally, they shall take precautions lest, through an excessive and false external activity, or through imprudence and an excited manner of proceeding, the end in view be rather harmed than served.

Therefore the <whole> and <entire> Catholic doctrine is to be presented and explained: by no means is it permitted to pass over in silence or to veil in ambiguous terms the Catholic truth regarding the nature and way of justification, the constitution of the Church, the primacy of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, and the only true union by the return of the dissidents to the one true Church of Christ. It should be made clear to them that, in returning to the Church, they will lose nothing of that good which by the grace of God has hitherto been implanted in them, but that it will rather be supplemented and completed by their return. However, one should not speak of this in such a way that they will imagine that in returning to the Church they are bringing to it something substantial which it has hitherto lacked. It will be necessary to say these things clearly and openly, first because it is the truth that they themselves are seeking, and moreover because outside the truth no true union can ever be attained.

Good Old German Bishops: Pope Not Absolute Monarch

After Vatican I, Bismarck took opportunity to complain about the Church, only he falsified her teachings. He complained that she arrogated to the Pope the power of an absolute and unfettered sovereign.

The German Bishops – good old German Bishops – responded with a correct reading of Vatican I. The Council never taught an absolute power for the pope. Supreme, but not absolute, power. I cite the choicest section of the document:

“The decisions of the Vatican Council [Vatican I] offer no basis for the assertion that the pope, because of them, has become an absolute master and, indeed, because of his infallibility, ‘enjoys absolute authority, more than any absolute monarch in the world.’ First of all, the area covered by the ecclesiastical authority of the pope is essentially different from that over which the earthly power of a sovereign monarch extends, and Catholics do not challenge in any way the sovereignty of kings and princes over civil matters. But prescinding from that, the application of the term ‘absolute monarch’ tot he pope in reference to ecclesiastical affairs is not correct because he is subject to divine laws and is bound by the directives given by Christ for his Church. The pope cannot change the constitution given to the Church by her divine Founder, as an earthly ruler can change the constitution of a State. In all essential points the constitution of the Church is based on divine directives and is therefore not subject to human arbitrariness.” (DSF 3115).

Pope Pius IX publicly lauded the document and stated that it is the correct interpretation of Vatican I. The pope is bound by Revelation and by the essential foundation of the Church, and by every last infallible decree ever uttered – in its entirety, and with the same meaning and judgment as that with which it was originally taught.

The Church Against Heterosexual Sodomy

The Sacred Penitentiary responded to a question on heterosexual sodomy. The question was whether a woman threatened by her husband with violence or even death, is morally permitted (to avoid that violence or death) to indulge her husband’s perverted lust.

The answer: No. Instead, she is called to the same kind of resistance – insofar as it is possible to her physically – that a virgin is called to against a would-be rapist.

I cite the congregation’s response (1916):

“If, however, the husband wishes to commit the crime of the Sodomites with her, since sodomitic intercourse is against nature on the part of both spouses who are united in this way and, in the judgment of all the learned teachers, is gravely evil, there is clearly no motive, not even to avoid death, that would permit the wife legitimately to carry out such a shameless act with her husband.” DS 3634 (Ignatius translation).

In a nutshell, sodomy is an evil act, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual.

Leo XIII: Lessons on Nature and Grace

Nature is the foundation on which grace builds, the potential that grace actualizes. Thus, nature is more “inalienable” than grace. It is primordial and foundational.

On the other hand, grace is more excellent. Rather, the man with grace is what God wants; it is the man fully alive. (It is not “grace” that God wants, but the man graced.)

There are natural virtues and supernatural virtues. Some so extol the natural virtues that the supernatural virtues seem to be left aside, not to have a home, to be ancillary, secondary – afterthoughts. This is all wrong.

Pope Leo XIII condemns them in his Testem benevolentiae“It is hard to understand that those who are imbued with Christian wisdom could prefer natural virtues to supernatural ones and ascribe to them a greater efficacy and fruitfulness” (DS 3343).

Related to this perverse esteem for natural over supernatural virtues is the esteem for “active” over contemplative virtues. The pope continues: “From this kind of contempt for the evangelical virtues, wrongly called passive, it was likely to follow that a disregard for the religious life would also gradually pervade minds. And that this is commonly the case with the champions of the new opinions, we gather from some of their sayings about the vows that are pronounced in religious orders. For they say that these vows are very remote from the spirit of our time inasmuch as they restrict the field of liberty; that they are suited to weak souls rather than to strong ones; and that they have absolutely no value to foster Christian perfection and the good of human society, but are rather an obstacle and a hindrance to both.” DS 3345.

The pope condemns this “Americanist” ideology.

It is great that people want to cultivate natural virtues. “But there is one thing that is necessary, Martha, and Mary has chosen the better part.” Our Lord decidedly favors the supernatural virtues and the contemplative over the active. The Holy Church decidedly esteems the religious life over other forms of life. The Holy Church decidedly esteems the monastic life over the active religious life.

Do we need a variety of callings in the Church? Without question. Yet, there is a greater rank in terms of finality and excellence in the contemplative religious traditions. If we lose sight of this, we will set our compasses wrong and follow out a trajectory of “workaholism”. Too much work. Not enough prayer.

Society today thinks it has no use for monks. So did the so-called Reformation. But in fact we need the monks and the nuns. We need those who live seemingly useless lives, dedicated solely to God. We need to see that this life is but a passing act of preparation for the final act of consummation. Here we have no lasting home. What are we doing, carving out heaven on earth? So perverse. So short-sighted. We want heaven on earth and heaven after earth. Thus, our minds are divided. We are not simple of heart. We go on consuming, eating, journeying, … and banking on God forever. What about contempt for the world and love of God? What about “zeal for your house will consume me”? What about “the single of heart”?

Lessons from Leo XIII on Making Accommodations for the World

From Leo XIII’s Testem benevolentiae

“The basis of the opinions [which Leo is about to reject] that we have mentioned is established as essentially this: In order that those who dissent may more easily be brought over to Catholic wisdom, the Church should come closer to the humanity of a more mature age and, relaxing her old severity, manifest indulgence toward the beliefs and opinions of the people that have recently been introduced. Moreover, many think that this should be done not only with regard to the standard of living, but even with regard to the doctrines in which the deposit of faith is contained. For, they contend, that it is opportune, to win over those who are in disagreement, if certain topics of doctrine are passed over as of lesser importance or are so softened that they do not retain the same sense as the Church has always held. Now: There is no need of a long discussion… to show with what reprehensible purpose this has been thought out, if only the character and origin of the teaching that the Church hands down are considered.”

Pope Leo XIII rejects the recommendation and notes that the truth the Church hands on is always relevant and that in matters changeable there has always been room for change. Neither doctrine nor morals change!

Withholding Communion – for Love of the Sinner

(I published this a while ago, but it seemed timely to reissue.)

Some advocate that Communion should be withheld from public sinners. Others argue against this. I favor the former. But let’s briefly state the positions.

Some contend that we should not withhold communion. First, we cannot judge anyone, because our Lord forbids it. Second, if we withhold it for pro-abort politicians, why not for all those who endorse military action? Or the death penalty? Or gun rights? Third, it is a political act, and the Church should only be involved in sacred acts and loving justice. Fourth, where will you draw the line? What about those who publicly acknowledge that they are having premarital sex? Or those who publicly acknowledge they are using their sexual faculties in unnatural ways, such as masturbation or homosexual acts? Should all these be deprived of that Blessed Gift unless or until they repent? And that brings up, Fifth, that the Eucharist alone is the source of life. Thus, if we have any hope of their conversion, we must give them the Eucharist.

Without responding point for point with regard to these considerations, I wish to present considerations for the other case. I hope that the overall argument surmounts the considerations above in terms of the general thesis of the objector. (The objector claims that it would in no case be good to withhold Communion. I hold the contradictory of this.)

First, Abortion is in every case evil. Military action is sometimes justified.

Second, Abortion takes millions of lives. Now, I grant that one can argue, quite reasonably, that the US military action of late has been unjust. That would involve another post. But the argument can indeed be made. And John Paul II made the argument. Ratzinger supported his claims. Good men are increasingly of opinion that the US foreign policy has numerous wicked elements. Now, these wars of late have taken hundreds of thousands, and perhaps a million or more lives. This is grossly evil. Not to mention the consequent poverty, familial breakdown, homelessness, political vacuum, refugee crisis, destitution, etc. etc. These evils cry out to heaven for vengeance. (As does that of abortion.) Both are horrible evils – abortion and the unjust wars. However, once again, in every case the aborted baby is innocent. It is not necessarily the case that the targeted victims of war are innocent. Some are. Some are not. Further, abortion has taken more millions. It is unequivocally the single greatest evil against life that is taking place today. (Other evils, such as blasphemy and sacrilege are another matter and of a different degree of malice.)

Third, it is not also so easy to judge a given military action or campaign.

Fourth, the death penalty is NOT per se evil. It can be justified. This is the teaching of Evangelium Vitae. See also the Catechism (CCC). The Waldensians were heretics who denied that capital punishment could be done without mortal sin. The Church rejected their thesis and gave them the following Profession of Faith: “With regard to the secular power, we affirm that it can exercise a judgment of blood without mortal sin provided that in carrying out the punishment it proceeds, not out of hatred, but judiciously, not in a precipitous manner, but with caution” (Denzinger-S, Ignatius Press, #795). The possibility that capital punishment can morally be done is the constant teaching of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

Now, John Paul II made two contributions to this teaching. First, he made very clear that the conditions for the just use of the death penalty are strict. In doing so, he reaffirmed that the Death Penalty is not per se evil. He added one key condition for its just use: it must be the only way to defend the common good of society. The interpretations of this “defense of the common good” are very wide ranging. I will leave that to the experts.

However, I would note that if it truly is a penalty, it must be inflicted on account of a previous wrongdoing. One cannot be “punished” who is not guilty. You can kill someone about to murder you. This is not to punish him but to defend yourself. Self-defense is not punishment.

Further, the guilty should be punished in accordance with their guilt. Thus, is it not the case that the death penalty is a state execution inflicted on account of some previous criminal action? If so, it does not seem that “self-defense” should be understood by analogy with an individual acting to defend himself from a present aggressor. If I stop a present aggressor with lethal force, I am not punishing him but defending myself. If society is punishing a criminal, this punishment is for some past wrongdoing. Well – this is a caveat. I know that solid theologians might reject what I have just said. But none can reject this: That the death penalty is not per se evil. We can argue about whether its concrete practice is just or not, racist or not, favoring the rich or not, prudentially called for or not: But we cannot argue this key principle.

John Paul II’s second contribution was a suggestion in the order of prudence. That is, he proposed a prudential judgment that today the circumstances are practically non-existent. This prudential judgment is not a doctrinal pronouncement.

Next: how many does the death penalty take these days? Hundreds per year? Thousands since its civil legalization?How does that compare to abortion?

And are those executed innocent? No; they are guilty of heinous crimes.

There is simply no comparison with abortion. Thus, to attempt to put these actions (abortion and death penalty) into one continuous cloth is to abort the pro-life movement at the very foundation, killing it, cutting off its legs, strangling it, leaving it to die along with the millions of always innocent infants. A sound went up, Rachel weeping.

Fifth, We must indeed judge “character” though we do not have competence to judge the interior soul. Character is a public manifestation of virtue or vice. If the same LORD said, “Throw your pearls not before swine,” he gave us license to judge character. Thus, the priest is in position to judge character and to determine whether or not someone is a notorious public sinner. Else, why does canon law stipulate anything?

Sixth, Another way of putting this is similar, though it may go a bit deeper. What does it mean, we cannot judge the interior? It does NOT NECESSARILY mean we have no competence in making reasonable conjecture about the general state of a soul. Of course, we are fallible judges in these matters who have only the exterior as evidence. And of course, there are those without the use of reason – teenage people with severe retardation, e.g. –who might, e.g.,  masturbate and we cannot judge them. Their actions are probably not free. But the normal teenage boy who has been instructed knows masturbation is evil. Thus, if he tells us this is what he is doing and that he is buying porn, we can make a reasonable conjecture about state of his soul. However, we can Not judge the ‘degree’ to which he is culpable. We cannot know whether or not he may have already repented. There may be some past history. Perhaps he built up a habit and continually attempts to be freed. Perhaps he was abused earlier in life. Etc. This is why our conjectural sense as to the state of the person’s soul is very tenuous. We can, and indeed we must judge character, the manifestation of virtue or vice through action, and yet we must leave judgment of the interior to God, all the while not being so foolish as to think that everybody is probably just fine, regardless of what they are doing. It is an insult to another to consider that his every act is not free. So, we might have some kind of conjectural concern that a friend shacking up with a lover is not only engaging in objectively grave sin – that we can judge with certainty – but indeed committing a mortal sin because he knows the truth and is doing this with free will. However, the degree of his guilt, whether he may have repented, etc., are totally beyond our competence. Conjectural inference that falls short of assigning to oneself authority and certainty is what the Priest is called to have in confession.

Now, Seventh, Withholding communion has to do with judgment of character, not conjectural guesses regarding the interior forum. Withholding communion is a public act, yes, regarding a public act. Those who manifest evil character unrepentantly can and should be judged in the public forum by the priest who, as do a good number of others, knows of this situation. We are talking public sinners. This act of withholding communion does not indicate a judgment of vision regarding the internal forum.

But WHY? Why withhold communion? For the following reason. It is terribly harmful for someone who is not in union with Christ to receive the sacrament of union. It is like kissing your wife if you have quarreled and not made up. It is like greeting a friend with the normal familiarity after you have betrayed him and before being reconciled. When we sin, we know in our gut something is wrong. Nor are we disposed to celebrate.

The Eucharist is a time of joy and delight, of consummation. It is not a time of mortal sorrow. One indeed is sorrowful for having committed venial sins, and for one’s past mortal sins. However, one comes forward with the joy that Christ has washed the head in baptism and the feet in confession. One thus comes to embrace the Lord.

However, whoever sins is in sorrow – necessarily. If he does not “feel” the sorrow, he is so much the more dead in heart. If he does feel sorrow he is much more likely to draw life from God in the future.

Why in sorrow? Because he is violating God’s law, and human reason. Human reason, which has a share in God’s law, rebukes him for his crime. His conscience eats away at his secrete thoughts and heart, rebuking him in his own home. He cannot flee from himself; he cannot flee from this lashing, this internal laceration, this domestic dispute. His own home is a house divided.

Further, if society has a stake in the matter – murder, greed, false “unions”, etc. – a just society (or whatever is just in society) casts shame on him by its very being. Conversely, the sinner whose sin notably concerns society scorns a just society. This is why Herodias the adulteress murdered John the Baptist. For John embodied the just society, explicitly and by name rebuking the adulteress and the adulterer Herod. This in fact was for their good. This was almighty God reaching out to them with his sufficient grace, that they might convert and so be saved. But alas – they plunged more deeply into sin and murdered him. Human respect. Hatred of justice. Pusillanimity. Sexual lust. Incest. Ruthless. Heartless. And so God gave them up to unnatural lusts.

The rebuke of conscience, too, is meant for one’s salvation. But if one fails to repent, he carries this rebuke with him, as an internal torture amidst the eternal fires. Damned sinners – their worm dies not. They are a constant rebuke to themselves. Wave upon wave of time beats upon them, ceaselessly, relentlessly. Tomorrow is only another horror. To awaken to horror, their only prospect. Their home – their own heart – always divided. Scorning and scorned – the same man. And yet, they awaken not. For they sleep not. The criminal on earth has a few hours peace each day – at night. But the criminal in life after death, who sleeps not nor slumbers, is tortured day and night without respite.

Finally, we come to the rebuke of Almighty God, who is infinitely Holy. God threatens the sinner with the fires of everlasting torment, with an eternal divorce from the human soul. For Wisdom departs an unholy spirit (Wis 1). This is a definitive end of the pilgrim’s being courted. “Never again shall I preach in your town. Depart from me, you Accursed Thief of your own soul’s life. You suicide!” Thus they descend into the raging fires of blood and hatred, with all their like, and with the unfathomable malice and power of the demons, whose slaves they have become. The divine rebuke during life is meant for the repentance of the sinner. But the sinner who repents not incurs nothing but divine wrath. The punishment in hell is only retributive, not medicinal. And their smoke goes up forever and ever.

As the English Medieval Christmas Carol pronounces, “Therefore, Repent.

If this is the prospect of those who fail to repent, what would we be doing by administering the Eucharist knowingly to public sinners? We would be making their lives on earth an objective torture. We would be muffling their cries, exiling them from the place of real weeping, whereby alone their true joy can dawn. We would be making their wedding feast a place of woe. This is to hate them, to despise them.

Instead, we must insist that they repent so that their Eucharist might be spousal, beautiful. Do we love the sinner if we speak not of his blight? He is heading over the cliff? Will we love only his respect? He is committing unnatural sexual sins. Will we only comment on the nice decor, how he is at dinner? Blind leading the blind! And both will perish.

Yes, both shall perish and more with them. And this brings up the final reason for withholding. It teaches the flock, who are hungry and weary and have needing a true and bold shepherding act of love, that sin kills the soul and incapacitates one for the wedding feast. And the common good of this flock is of greater weight than the honor of the individual who has already brought shame upon himself, in the light of a just society, by public sin.