Category Archives: Morality

When A Pope Sadly Strayed: A Morean Tale of Hope

Your question is indeed a difficult one, kind and anxious reader. So many and sundry evils emerge from confusion—diverse and contrary evils. Who can hold to the unchanging Truth in fervent Love? I thought it best, however, to recall wisdom from the past. Let true fathers teach us. Did you ever hear tale of what I shall shortly relate about what happened, once upon a time, in a matter not entirely dissimilar to that of which you speak?

A terrible theological disagreement ripped through Holy Mother Church. Those with a theological stake in the argument were punished. I mean those who held to the True Tradition of the Church. One can imagine the possibility, in our long history, of an errant bishop punishing a right-thinking priest. But imagine the Pope himself doing so! How devastating: A Pope preaching heresy and punishing those who humbly correct the error. The situation was tragic and heart-wrenching. Yet, the good critics knew that the Pope had no authority to reverse what God handed on through the constant and universal Tradition of Holy Mother Church. Thus, they knew his preaching was in vain and his punishments, unjust afflictions which God in his wisdom permitted and the grievances concerning which God, in his justice, would some day redress.

To know that God, although merciful and slow to anger, is nevertheless just, to know that God acts decisively when at last aroused to wrath by the long-standing abuse of the presumption of men, a presumption not rooted in genuine clemency but rather in sloth, in the negligence of higher things, … I say, to know this was indeed some solace for the men of that age. But only an abstract solace. And who can thrive on an abstract solace? On the formal structure of hope? They needed also a concrete reason to hope.

Year after year of abuse from this Pope wore on their patience and conviction. “Perhaps,” they even doubted, “perhaps it is we ourselves who have strayed from the truth. Perhaps truth is not so steadfast. Perhaps it has settled itself into the views of the day, not to try our modern colleagues any more than they can handle. After all, how is it possible to think of this truth, long held, long past on, long believed in the Church? And after all, is it that central to the faith? Perhaps we must adjust this peripheral truth to the vague weakness of what the modern ear can hear. Why man the battle stations, if there is nothing to defend but a changing truth?”

This thought crept in. It grew in their minds, silently churning: “Perhaps all that we are called to is formal acceptance of whatever the reigning authority proclaims. Perhaps this is our distinctive duty. Our brothers, the Orthodox, reject this subjection to the Pontiff. They have so much of the right material, but they have lost this formal element. If we cling to the materials, are we become like them? Perhaps ours is the task of blindly accepting whatever he proclaims. And in his daily preaching, he is proclaiming this message of his, this opinion. Let us turn off our minds, relent, and accept whatever he preaches.”

But the doubt only grew, “Yet, previous Pontiffs have insisted, with express words on other matters, that their teachings must ever be held the same. It is as though they preached in advance against future Pontiffs who, if that were possible, might – but it is unimaginable! – preach against their explicit condemnations. Paul, too, preached similarly, in his Epistle to the Galatians. What does this all entail? If we embrace the formal authority, shuffling off the skin of substance, what on earth are we embracing at all? The formal authority is for the purpose of putting us in union with the Truth, with our Loving Lord, that we might repent of our sins, embrace his transforming mercy, cooperate with his Law of Love through works, and at last attain to that eternal embrace.”

They reasoned further: “Perhaps, then, this is All a lie. Every last bit. The truth of the Church, the truth of the Gospel. Our very Lord Himself! If, that is, past Pontiffs have explicitly forbidden X, Y, and Z, they clearly upheld material content and not just their formal authority. Yet, this idea that passes through our heads, this idea that we ought blindly accept whatever the current Pontiff proclaims, never even thinking that perhaps he has strayed from the right path, this coping strategy contradicts the way previous pontiffs have understood their actions, actions that yoked our ancestors — and, indeed, us too and our current pontiff — to embrace material content. But perhaps the whole thing is a sham. Perhaps the entire edifice we thought to have been founded by Our Lord, perhaps it is all a lying facade. Perhaps there is no True Church, no True Religion. Perhaps we each must make our own way. O Man, Thou God. Thou Hast Indeed Become Like Unto Him. As Thou Took The Apple, at my request, Now Take the Life of Your Youth and Become the Man of Tomorrow….”

These were dark thoughts, the darkest of thoughts. They did creep in. It is no use us pretending they did not. This is not to say that such thoughts dominated. But they passed through the mind, much as a “floater” passes through the eye of an old man, obscuring clear sight, and only later passes into oblivion, as the clear sun rises to dispel the darkness of the night. They attempted to rouse themselves to hope. But how?

One of them decided that they all ought to heed the power of the telling of history. After all, if God’s providence is the cause of history, then in history may lie an anchor of hope. In history rightly read. “Rightly read” is indeed judged, in its highest standard, according to the dictates of reason illuminated by faith. Two can see the same event, but only one digs down to its truest meaning. Two can witness the fall of a nation, but only one sees the hand of God in it. Indeed, two might diversely claim the hand of God for the fall of a nation, but only one assigns the real cause. At any rate, the details often flee before our eyes. The short-sighted scurry after the details, like boys chasing bits of paper blown about in a storm. But the long-sighted worry themselves not. For history is in a certain sense the art of reason seeing real meaning.

At any rate, perhaps this one prelate got the story wrong. I am not quite certain. But that he saw real meaning in real events—of that I am convinced. And it happened to make all the difference for these anxious priests and theologians, so burdened with the errors of the day. So, he took his seat in the midst of them and opened his mouth and related the following narrative:

<<ONCE UPON A TIME,

there reigned a Pontiff

who caused a great stir.

Your waning time, dear fathers, I shall spare;

all-a-gory detail shall not be shared….

This pope of years long gone signed off on a document that shook the confidence of the devout and rattled the faith of believers. Equally, it won the applause of the ruling elite and of many straying bishops, in the midst of an age of confusion and rebellion, an age that loved the praise of men more than the glory of God.

The remnant faithful had, for some several decades, been defending the teaching of the faith, and doing so under duress and great adversity. These were battle weary, yet they marched forward. Families protected their children from the poisonous fumes of rebellion, fostered and dominant among political rulers and even bishops and priests.

The pope’s document shattered their confidence. (I speak not of the confidence of good clerics. Let me rouse you to hope by this story of a situation direr, and of the victory of fighters littler than you. A fortiori ought you to take hope.) The document seemed on its surface a capitulation of the One True Faith, a capitulation that won the applause precisely of those who rejected or watered down that faith. Upon hearing of the pope’s document, these devout parents were devastated, heartbroken. “What to do? This is our father in the faith; he has spoken. Yet, his document undercuts precisely what the faithful have defended for decades, and what goes back to the very foundations of the Church. It touches the very worship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Sacraments. Sure, it has good elements, but its problematic elements undercut these good elements.”

A devout priest, seeking neither title nor recognition, not hoping for ecclesiastical advancement, longing only for the courts of Our God and for the salvation of souls, the only ultimate pastoral end worthy of a cleric, reassured them. He reminded them of our Lord’s saying,

“The gates of hell cannot prevail against the One True Church, though the gates of hell march to the very door of the Church herself, whispering evils into the hearts of compromised clerics. Now, you seek my counsel, my advice. Of course, do not show your young and impressionable children this document, lest they read it and be led astray. Then, their eternal salvation would be put in peril. Teach them the true faith. As they grow older, you may expose them to the shame of this document in the context of the security of knowledge of the never-changing faith. For that matter, if you have relatives insufficiently formed in the True Faith, do not expose them to this text, lest they take occasion to blaspheme Our Lord. Some of those who are adults in the faith and those who are theologians have the grace and duty to read it and, while doing so, not to let go of our Sacred Tradition. I might add: This document was written under great duress.”

And so these parents did what that wise and loving priest advised. Their domestic church rendered this document another item proscribed on their wisely-constructed “Index of Forbidden Books,” along with false philosophies, degenerate literature, subtle heretical subversions of the faith by Marcion and Valentinus and Mani, confusions and mistakes of earlier theologians whom otherwise they revered greatly. Some of this literature they deemed appropriate for no one; some of it they deemed appropriate only for mature and formed readers.

To be sure, some gainsaid the educational principles of these parents. Some insisted, with pseudo open-mindedness, that even the young and the not yet virtuous could and should read all such literature without harm. Dear fathers, you may agree with me in retorting, “Not so!” To drag unformed minds through difficulties without adequate preparation and guidance is like a big brother beating his younger sister.

Further, the teacher is not the end, so as to delight in the squirming of hungry souls like sheep without a shepherd under the power of a mighty mind; rather, the Truth is the end. And Truth Exists. Truth Reigns. We are all for Truth. Hence, to stir up a young mind to an active frenzy and not to lead it to Truth, when Truth calls and beckons and is ready to feed with Ample Power… – This is no good service. Dear fathers, the purpose of the “Disputed Question” is not to stir up minds to dizzy cluelessness about the faith. Rather, it is to arouse a real pursuit of Truth.

At any rate, fathers, there were others who, discovering the prudent move these parents took, reprimanded them for closing off opportunities for their little ones. “It is not that we condemn your opinions, but you condemn the new document. Can’t we each by right, in a way? The document, moreover, brings us such freedom; it opens so many possibilities. Maybe you are right; maybe we are right. Who can judge? Let us live in the freedom of the children of God, and enjoy the ambiguity of this document. The past teachings were so confining!”

Fathers, I know you will agree with me that Truth sets one free. Freedom of opinion does not lead to truth, but truth to freedom of the heart. I cannot imagine my way to happiness, though my imagination is ever so unshackled. If the Son is Who he said He is, these protective parents did right by their children.

Still deeply troubled, these parents asked each other, “How could the Pope have done this?” Among the faithful, there was massive confusion. The Pope had caused grave scandal. Arguments this way and that. The pope’s name was not John XXII. No, it was Liberius. He reigned in the 4th century, perhaps some of you remember, after the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea and before that of Constantinople.

Eventually, four ‘iterations’ of his creed made their way around. No one knew which was the creed Liberius actually signed. The best of these iterations was a creed so ambiguous that an Arian could say, “Amen” to it, for it was so watered down that one could safely ignore the saving truth infallibly clarified at Nicaea. The worst iteration was a pro-Arian formulation explicitly contradicting Nicaea.

These good parents saved their children from probable ruin by ignoring each of these Liberian creeds in the domestic abode and nurturing their children in the Ancient Faith and Practice of Holy Mother Church, so crisply and authoritatively taught at Nicaea. To this day, many wise parents ignore that sad and unfortunate creed(s) of Liberius. Fathers, if parents not given to a life of prayer and virginity could maintain such fidelity, ought not we do the same? Can we not ignore the errant preaching of our day?

Granted, perhaps such parents could have culled a few good elements from this otherwise lamentable creed, such as belief in God the Father, etc. But the parents about whom I speak saw these good elements as already taught in Nicaea. So, they remained content with their library until, in their old age, Constantinople I added authoritative, important additions, organically reaffirming the entire authoritative past and building thereon, not lopping off life-giving limbs here and there, but remaining true to the same judgment and the same sense as that pronounced in Nicaea: That of the One True Faith.

Other parents were less pessimistic (less realistic?) and did their best to interpret the objectively sad creed in accordance with the Ancient Faith, rejecting any proposed interpretation that contradicted that Faith. These optimists tried to stress the good points, and squeezed, out of the ambiguous statements, the stark dogma of Nicaea. Eyes perplexed, straining and twirling…. They were moved by the “formal authority” of the Pope; so moved, they bent over backwards to read the true faith into the document. Whether they did right or not, I shall leave to your judgment. Concerning the pro-Arian creed, even the optimists simply passed it over in silence, recognizing it as anathema, though they didn’t like to think of this.

But let me be clear: Neither of these sets of parents were renegades. Both sets sought to defend the One True Faith, and both were deeply concerned about the massive confusion among the faithful and the tragic, self-serving ways of pro-Arian bishops who took this creed as license for the very rebellion against the Faith that they had covertly supported for decades. And then there was the sack of good old Athanasius. Liberius had the gall to boast of his ousting. And there was much rejoicing of the world. Dear fathers, remember the poor suffering of good old Athanasius. Remember him, if anything should happen to you.

At length, after many trials, God in his Wisdom vindicated his true children. Those brave parents, in their old age, took great solace that the Nicene Creed was at last reaffirmed and even augmented at Constantinople. Liberius’s raving creeds and his plundering decisions were all relegated to the dustbin of history. These parents needed solace. After all, they had had some apprehension that perhaps they should have turned off all reason, and blindly accepted the creed of Liberius. (Does this speak to your hearts, fathers?) These apprehensions caused them trouble, even anguish. The pain of these apprehensions they offered up for this Vicar of Christ. (How Urgently, dear fathers, does Evil Want you to Abandon this Delicate Stance.) Still, their apprehensions were not so significant as to disturb the deep peace, higher than the imagination can soar, that they retained. After all, God had given them the faculty of reason. Right? Further, God called for its use, right?

Finally, consider this dilemma that crossed their minds: If indeed they thought they should turn off all reason and listen to the latest confusing creed on Day X of year XYZ, ignoring the once authoritative statements of the past contradicted by the latest speech, consider what logically would follow. Why not simply reject altogether the papal authority, given that on Day W of year ZZZ, some future pope could simply reverse the awful confusion of year XYZ? Consider the possible doubt: Is Christ even with his Church any longer? Was He ever? Are all the miracles lies? All the conversions lies? All the peace of heart lies? All the final repentance lies? All the years lies? All the promises lies? All the fidelity, the zeal of our fathers, vain and empty foolishness?

“But no!” those noble parents commandingly spoke, discerning evil spirits. “These thoughts are yet more confusions. The seed of the Devil! Let us simply accept the already defined faith, and offer up our pain for Holy Mother Church and its Chief Shepherd. And, of course, we praise Liberius for his original courage. We obey where obedience is due, even when it amounts to the great imprudence of the deposition of that holy Alexandrian bishop.” When Constantinople reaffirmed what had already been definitively laid out, they drank deeply of the great peace of Christ that comes, not from the declaration of a mere man, not from the world, but only from the Power of God.

Dear fathers, let us drink from the wisdom and courage of these parents. We are, after all, commissioned by Christ to preach the truth, in season and out of season. And of course, do not be so foolish as to neglect to give obedience where obedience is due. One fault does not cancel the rest of the authoritative decisions. Remember, the Holy Father has canonized our great teacher, Thomas.>>

The priest’s words consoled those anxious fathers. They drank deeply from his wisdom and courage. They held fast to the Ancient Faith, which proclaims One God that Changes not because He already is All Life. His Life is not a passing life, that it should change, just as the Gospel itself is not a quaking read, that it should bend this way and that. And indeed, they were vindicated. The pope who preached heresy during his reign recanted on his deathbed. Although it was sufficient, in itself, that the Church already held the true faith day in day out, in the ordinary universal magisterium, it was helpful for all, and of deep consolation for those brave priests, that the succeeding pope, Benedict XII, defined ex cathedra the dogma of the faith in which we now believe: That the souls of those who die in grace, without any purification or punishment weighing on their souls, immediately are brought to that face-to-face vision of God. God vindicated his true children. He always does, though his justice is often patient of man’s abuse.

And so, dear reader, let us pray.

O Heavenly Father of us all, thank you for the courage and far-sightedness of those who trusted that, with your grace, all things are possible, including obedience to the Law that you re-iterated for us in your Divine Son, the Law that gives life to and fattens the bones and which is a way and condition of final salvation. Not only did they obey your Law, but, under great adversity from within the very bosom of the Church, they held fast to your saving Truth. Charity is born of Truth and lives only in Truth. The Truth takes flesh in real life, making right living possible, able to convert those who are sinfully alienated from God into his true lovers and friends. Let us not doubt or deny that Truth can come into the flesh of our circumstances and heal them.

Dear reader: Doubt not that Truth has come in the flesh and still comes into the flesh of our morass, with grace sufficient to generate children of Abraham from stones of death!

Shorten not God’s legislating and judging hand! Quench not the flame of his healing love! Deny not the dignity of the freedom of the children of God!

Can True Life be found by a false imagination? False is the imagination of that leaps from the lying sin of pessimism (“Did God say you can eat of no tree at all?”) to the defiant sin of presumption (“You shall not be judged according to any works but accepted entirely by mere faith though you sin and sin boldly”) to the apostate, anomian denial of Law and Truth (“What is sin? Quid est Veritas?”)?

Cover not, under a bushel, the Light that streams not from a mere man’s face but from Christ’s Divine Face, the Light that is to enlighten the darkness of the human mind! Wear not a false humility, to the deprivation of your fellow man (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”)!

Doubt not that Truth has come in the flesh! Doubt not that Truth still comes into the flesh of our morass, with grace sufficient in power to generate children of Abraham from stones of death! Shorten not the arm of God, lest his patience — meant for our conversion and not for our presumptive indulgence (Rom 2) — be likewise shortened.

Let the Reader understand

Pray for Pope to Correct Current Errors

Three heroic bishops are today calling all the faithful to pray that the pope would rouse himself to the exercise of correcting current errors. The current error is many-headed. But its surface point is this: The idea that one may receive the Eucharist without repenting of an adulterous lifestyle.

SEE THIS ARTICLE.

The FILIAL APPEAL

I thought I’d copy here the text of the Filial Appeal to Defend and Uphold the Unchangeable Teaching of the Church. Of course, these teachings are unchanging. They cannot be overturned. But it helps to have them reaffirmed in times of rebellion and sedition.

The appeal can be linked here with a list of signatories.

The Appeal runs:

“Let marriage be honored among all” (Heb. 13: 4)
Declaration of Fidelity to the Church’s Unchangeable Teaching on Marriage and to Her Uninterrupted Discipline
We live in an age when numerous forces seek to destroy or deform marriage and the family. Indeed, secular ideologies take advantage of and aggravate the family’s crisis, the result of a process of cultural and moral decadence. This process leads Catholics to adapt to our neo-pagan society. Their “conforming to the world” (Rom. 12: 2) is often fostered by a lack of faith—and therefore of supernatural spirit to accept the mystery of the Cross of Christ—and an absence of prayer and penance.
The Second Vatican Council’s diagnosis of the ills affecting the institution of marriage and family is more valid than ever: “Polygamy, the plague of divorce, so-called free love and other disfigurements have an obscuring effect. In addition, married love is too often profaned by excessive self-love, the worship of pleasure and illicit practices against human generation” (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, Dec. 7, 1965, n. 47).
Until recently, the Catholic Church was considered as the stronghold of true marriage and family, but errors about these two divine institutions are widespread today in Catholic circles, particularly after the Extraordinary and Ordinary Synods on the family, held in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and the publication of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
In the face of this offensive, the undersigned feel morally obliged to declare their resolve to remain faithful to the Church’s unchangeable teachings on morals and on the Sacraments of Marriage, Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and to Her timeless and enduring discipline regarding those sacraments.
I. Regarding chastity, marriage and the rights of parents
  1. We firmly reiterate the truth that all forms of cohabitation more uxorio (as man and wife) outside of a valid marriage gravely contradict the will of God in His holy commandments and, consequently, cannot contribute to the moral and spiritual progress of those involved or society.
    “By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. Thus, a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love ‘are no longer two, but one flesh’ (Matt. 19: 6). As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.… Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state” (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, Dec. 7, 1965, n. 48).
  2. We firmly reiterate the truth that marriage and the conjugal act have both procreative and unitive purposes and that each and every conjugal act must be open to the gift of life. Moreover, we affirm that this teaching is definitive and irreformable.
    “Excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (Rom 3: 8)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong” (Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae vitae, July 25, 1968, n. 14).
  3. We firmly reiterate the truth that so-called sex-education is a basic and primary right of parents which must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home, or in educational centers they choose and control.
    “Another very grave danger is that naturalism which nowadays invades the field of education in that most delicate matter of purity of morals. Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex-education, falsely imagining that they can forearm youths against the dangers of sensuality by means purely natural, such as a foolhardy initiation and precautionary instruction for all indiscriminately, even in public; and, worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them, so it is argued, and as it were to harden them against such dangers” (Pius XI, Encyclical Divini Illius Magistri, Dec. 31, 1929, n. 65).
    “It will then be your duty to your daughters, the father’s duty to your sons, carefully and delicately to unveil the truth [of the mysterious and marvelous laws of life] as far as it appears necessary, to give a prudent, true and Christian answer to those questions, and set their minds at rest” (Pius XII, Allocution to Mothers of Italian Families, Oct. 26, 1941).
    “[Education of public opinion is] in this field perverted by propaganda which one does not hesitate to call evil, even if at times it takes its origin from Catholic sources and aims at making headway among Catholics—and even if those who promote it do not seem aware that they are deluded by the spirit of evil. Here We intend to speak of writings, books, and articles regarding sexual initiation.… Even the principles so wisely illustrated by Our Predecessor Pius XI, in the Encyclical Divini Illius Magistri, on sex-education and questions connected whereto are set aside—a sad sign of the times! With a smile of compassion they say: ‘Pius XI wrote these things twenty years ago for his own times! The world has gone a long way since then!’… Fight together, without timidity or human respect, to halt and curtail these movements which authorize and mask themselves under any name or patronage” (Pius XII, Allocution to a Group of French Fathers of Families, Sept. 18, 1951).
    “It is recommended that respect be given to the right of the child or young person to withdraw from any form of sexual instruction imparted outside the home. Neither the children nor other members of their family should ever be penalized or discriminated against for this decision” (Pontifical Council for the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family, Dec. 8, 1995, n. 120).
    “When teaching Catholic doctrine and morality about sexuality, the lasting effects of original sin must be taken into account, that is to say, human weakness and the need for the grace of God to overcome temptations and avoid sin” (Pontifical Council for the Family, Guidelines for Education within the Family, Dec. 8, 1995, n. 123).
    “No material of an erotic nature should be presented to children or young people of any age, individually or in a group. This principle of decency must safeguard the virtue of Christian chastity. Therefore, in passing on sexual information in the context of education for love, the instruction must always be ‘positive and prudent’ and ‘clear and delicate.’ These four words used by the Catholic Church exclude every form of unacceptable content in sexual education” (Pontifical Council for the Family, Guidelines for Education within the Family, Dec. 8, 1995, n. 126).
    “Today parents should be attentive to ways in which an immoral education can be passed on to their children through various methods promoted by groups with positions and interests contrary to Christian morality. It would be impossible to indicate all unacceptable methods. Here are presented only some of the more widely diffused methods that threaten the rights of parents and the moral life of their children. In the first place, parents must reject secularized and anti-natalist sex education, which puts God at the margin of life and regards the birth of a child as a threat. This sex education is spread by large organizations and international associations that promote abortion, sterilization and contraception. These organizations want to impose a false lifestyle against the truth of human sexuality” (Pontifical Council for the Family, Guidelines for Education within the Family, Dec. 8, 1995, nn. 135-6).
  4. We firmly reiterate the truth that the definitive consecration of a person to God through a life of perfect chastity is objectively more excellent than marriage, because it is a kind of spiritual marriage in which the soul is wedded to Christ. Sacred virginity was recommended by our Divine Redeemer and Saint Paul as a state of life that is complementary to, but objectively more perfect than marriage.
    “This doctrine of the excellence of virginity and of celibacy and of their superiority over the married state was, as We have already said, revealed by our Divine Redeemer and by the Apostle of the Gentiles; so too, it was solemnly defined as a dogma of divine faith by the holy council of Trent, (Sess. XXIV, can 10) and explained in the same way by all the holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Finally, We and Our Predecessors have often expounded it and earnestly advocated it whenever occasion offered. But recent attacks on this traditional doctrine of the Church, the danger they constitute, and the harm they do to the souls of the faithful lead Us, in fulfillment of the duties of Our charge, to take up the matter once again in this Encyclical Letter, and to reprove these errors which are so often propounded under a specious appearance of truth” (Pius XII, Encyclical Sacra virginitas, Mar. 25, 1954, n. 32).
    II. Regarding cohabitation, same-sex unions and civil remarriage after divorce
  5. We firmly reiterate the truth that the irregular union of a cohabitating man and woman, or that of two individuals of the same sex, can never be equated to marriage, deemed morally licit, or legally recognized, and that it is false to affirm that these are family forms that can offer a certain stability.
    “Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honourable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life. From this it is clear that legitimately constituted authority has the right and therefore the duty to restrict, to prevent, and to punish those base unions which are opposed to reason and to nature” (Pius XI, Encyclical Casti Connubii, 31 December 1930).

    ,

    “The family cannot be put on the same level as mere associations or unions, and the latter cannot enjoy the particular rights exclusively connected with the protection of the conjugal commitment and the family based on marriage, a stable community of life and love, the result of the total and faithful gift of the spouses, open to life” (John Paul II, Address to the Second Meeting of European Politicians and Lawmakers [organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family], Oct. 23, 1998).
    “It is useful to understand the substantial differences between marriage and de facto unions. This is the root of the difference between the family originating in marriage, and the community that originates in a de facto union. The family community comes from the covenant of the spouses’ union. The marriage that comes from this covenant of conjugal love is not created by any public authority: it is a natural and original institution that is prior to it. In de facto unions, on the other hand, reciprocal affection is put in common but, at the same time, the marriage bond, with its original public dimension that gives the foundation to the family, is absent” (Pontifical Council for the Family, Declaration on Family, Marriage and “de facto” Unions, July 26, 2000).
  6. We firmly reiterate the truth that the irregular unions of cohabitating Catholics who never married in the Church, or divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage, radically contradict and cannot express the good of Christian marriage, neither partially nor analogously, and should be seen as a sinful way of life or as a permanent occasion of grave sin. Furthermore, that it is false to affirm that they can be an occasion made of constructive elements leading to marriage, for in spite of any material similarities they may present, a valid marriage and an irregular union are two wholly different and opposite moral realities: One is according to the will of God, and the other disobeys it, and is therefore sinful.
    “Today there are many who vindicate the right to sexual union before marriage, at least in those cases where a firm intention to marry and an affection which is already in some way conjugal in the psychology of the subjects require this completion, which they judge to be connatural. This is especially the case when the celebration of the marriage is impeded by circumstances or when this intimate relationship seems necessary in order for love to be preserved. This opinion is contrary to Christian doctrine, which states that every genital act must be within the framework of marriage.… Through marriage, in fact, the love of married people is taken up into that love which Christ irrevocably has for the Church (Eph. 5:25-32), while dissolute sexual union (1 Cor. 6:12-20) defiles the temple of the Holy Spirit which the Christian has become” (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Persona Humana: Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, Dec. 29, 1975, n. VII).

    “We can identify and understand the essential difference between a mere de facto union—even though it claims to be based on love—and marriage, in which love is expressed in a commitment that is not only moral but rigorously juridical. The bond reciprocally assumed has a strengthening effect, in turn, on the love from which it arises, fostering its permanence to the advantage of the partners, the children and society itself” (John Paul II, Address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, Jan. 21, 1999).
  7. We firmly reiterate the truth that irregular unions cannot carry out the objective demands of God’s law. They cannot be deemed morally good or be recommended as a prudent and gradual fulfilment of the divine law, even to those who seem not to be in a position to understand, appreciate or fully carry out this law’s demands. The pastoral “law of gradualness” requires a decisive break with sin, together with progress towards the complete acceptance of God’s will and His loving demands.
    “If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain ‘irremediably’ evil acts; per se and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person. ‘As for acts which are themselves sins (cum iam opera ipsa peccata sunt), Saint Augustine writes, like theft, fornication, blasphemy, who would dare affirm that, by doing them for good motives (causis bonis), they would no longer be sins, or, what is even more absurd, that they would be sins that are justified?’ (Contra Mendacium, VII, 18). Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act ‘subjectively’ good or defensible as a choice” (John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 81).
    “At times it appears that concerted efforts are being made to present as ‘normal’ and attractive, and even to glamourize, situations which are in fact ‘irregular’ ” (John Paul II, Letter to families Gratissimam sane, Feb. 2, 1994, n. 5).
    III. Regarding Natural Law and the individual conscience
  8. We firmly reiterate the truth that, in the deeply personal process of making decisions, the natural moral law is not a mere source of objective inspiration but rather God’s eternal law. The conscience is not the source of good and evil, but a reminder of how an action must comply with a requirement that is extrinsic to man, namely the subjective and immediate intimation of a superior law, which we must call natural.
    “The natural law is written and engraved in the heart of each and every man, since it is none other than human reason itself which commands us to do good and enjoins us not to sin….’ The force of law consists in its authority to impose duties, to confer rights and to sanction certain behavior.… ‘The natural law is itself the eternal law, implanted in beings endowed with reason, and inclining them towards their right action and end; it is none other than the eternal reason of the Creator and Ruler of the universe’” (John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 44, quoting Leo XIII, Encyclical Libertas Praestantissimum and St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I-II, q. 91, a. 2).
  9. We firmly reiterate the truth that a well-formed conscience, capable of discerning rightly in complex situations, will never reach the conclusion that, given the person’s limitations, his remaining in a situation which objectively contradicts the Christian understanding of marriage can be his best response to the Gospel. To presume that the weakness of an individual’s conscience is the criterion of moral truth is unacceptable, and incapable of being incorporated into the Church’s praxis.
    “The fundamental obligations of the moral law are based on the essence and the nature of man, and on his essential relationships, and thus they have force wherever we find man. The fundamental obligations of the Christian law, in the degree in which they are superior to those of the natural law, are based on the essence of the supernatural order established by the Divine Redeemer. From the essential relationships between man and God, between man and man, between husband and wife, between parents and children; from the essential community relationships found in the family, in the Church, and in the State, it follows, among other things, that hatred of God, blasphemy, idolatry, abandoning the true faith, denial of the faith, perjury, murder, bearing false witness, calumny, adultery and fornication, the abuse of marriage, the solitary sin, stealing and robbery, taking away the necessities of life, depriving workers of their just wage (James 5:4), monopolizing vital foodstuffs and unjustifiably increasing prices, fraudulent bankruptcy, unjust manoeuvring in speculation—all this is gravely forbidden by the divine Lawmaker. No examination is necessary. No matter what the situation of the individual may be, there is no other course open to him but to obey” (Pius XII, Address On the errors of situational morals, Apr. 18, 1952, n. 10).

    “When on the contrary they disregard the law, or even are merely ignorant of it, whether culpably or not, our acts damage the communion of persons, to the detriment of each” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 51).

    “The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance. It is a matter of prohibitions which forbid a given action semper et pro semper, without exception, because the choice of this kind of behavior is in no case compatible with the goodness of the will of the acting person, with his vocation to life with God and to communion with his neighbor. It is prohibited—to everyone and in every case—to violate these precepts” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 52).
    “Even in the most difficult situations man must respect the norm of morality so that he can be obedient to God’s holy commandment and consistent with his own dignity as a person. Certainly, maintaining a harmony between freedom and truth occasionally demands uncommon sacrifices, and must be won at a high price: it can even involve martyrdom” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 102).
  10. We firmly reiterate the truth that people cannot look at the Sixth Commandment and the indissolubility of marriage as mere ideals to strive after. Rather, these are commands from Christ Our Lord, which help us with His grace to overcome difficulties, through our constancy.
    “It is in the saving Cross of Jesus, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacraments which flow forth from the pierced side of the Redeemer (cf. Jn 19:34), that believers find the grace and the strength always to keep God’s holy law, even amid the gravest of hardships.… Only in the mystery of Christ’s Redemption do we discover the ‘concrete’ possibilities of man. ‘It would be a very serious error to conclude…that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’ which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a ‘balancing of the goods in question.’ But what are the ‘concrete possibilities of man’? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence’ (Address to those taking part in a course on ‘responsible parenthood,’ Mar. 1, 1984).… God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit.” In this context, appropriate allowance is made both for God’s mercy towards the sinner who converts and for the understanding of human weakness. Such understanding never means compromising and falsifying the standard of good and evil in order to adapt it to particular circumstances. It is quite human for the sinner to acknowledge his weakness and to ask mercy for his failings; what is unacceptable is the attitude of one who makes his own weakness the criterion of the truth about the good…. An attitude of this sort corrupts the morality of society as a whole, since it encourages doubt about the objectivity of the moral law in general and a rejection of the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts, and it ends up by confusing all judgments about values” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, nn. 102-4).
  11. We firmly reiterate the truth that the conscience which admits that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the Gospel’s demands for marriage cannot honestly conclude that remaining in such sinful situation is the most generous response one can give to God, nor that this is what God Himself is asking from the soul at this time, since either conclusion would deny grace’s almighty power to bring sinners to the fullness of Christian life.
    “No one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments; no one should use that rash statement, once forbidden by the Fathers under anathema, that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one who is justified. For God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes thee to do what thou canst and to pray for what thou canst not, and aids thee that thou mayest be able (St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 43, 50). His commandments are not heavy (1 John 5:3) and his yoke is sweet and burden light (Matt. 11:30). For they who are the sons of God love Christ, but they who love him, keep His commandments, as He Himself testifies (John 14:23); which, indeed, with the divine help they can do…. For God does not forsake those who have once been justified by His grace, unless He be first forsaken by them. Wherefore, no one ought to flatter himself with faith alone, thinking that by faith alone he is made an heir and will obtain the inheritance” (Council of Trent, Decree on justification, chap. 11).
    “A Christian cannot be unaware of the fact that he must sacrifice everything, even his life, in order to save his soul. Of this we are reminded by all the martyrs. Martyrs are very numerous, even in our time. The mother of the Maccabees, along with her sons; Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, notwithstanding their new-born children; Maria Goretti, and thousands of others, men and women, whom the Church venerates—did they, in the face of the ‘situation’ in which they found themselves, uselessly or even mistakenly incur a bloody death? No, certainly not, and in their blood they are the most explicit witnesses to the truth against the ‘new morality’” (Pius XII, Address Soyez les bienvenues to the Catholic World Federation of Young Women, Apr. 18, 1952, n. 11).
    “Temptations can be overcome, sins can be avoided, because together with the commandments the Lord gives us the possibility of keeping them: ‘His eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every deed of man. He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and he has not given any one permission to sin’ (Sir. 15:19-20). Keeping God’s law in particular situations can be difficult, extremely difficult, but it is never impossible. This is the constant teaching of the Church’s tradition, and was expressed by the Council of Trent” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 102).
  12. We firmly reiterate the truth that, despite the variety of situations, personal and pastoral discernment can never lead divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage to conclude, in good conscience, that their adulterous union can be morally justified by “fidelity” to their new partner, that withdrawing from the adulterous union is impossible, or that, by doing so, they expose themselves to new sins, or lack Christian or natural fidelity to their adulterous partner. We cannot talk of faithfulness in an illicit union that violates God’s Commandment and the indissoluble bond of marriage. The thought of loyalty between adulterers in their mutual sin is blasphemous.
    “Against the ‘ethics of situations’ We set up three considerations, or maxims. The first: We grant that God wants, first and always, a right intention. But this is not enough. He also wants the good work. A second principle is that it is not permitted to do evil in order that good may result (Rom. 3:8). Now this new ethic, perhaps without being aware of it, acts according to the principle that the end justifies the means” (Pius XII, Address Soyez les bienvenues to the Catholic World Federation of Young Women, Apr. 18, 1952, n. 11).
    “Some authors have proposed a kind of double status of moral truth. [They pretend that] beyond the doctrinal and abstract level, one would have to acknowledge the priority of a certain more concrete existential consideration. The latter, by taking account of circumstances and the situation, could legitimately be the basis of certain exceptions to the general rule and thus permit one to do in practice and in good conscience what is qualified as intrinsically evil by the moral law. A separation, or even an opposition, is thus established in some cases between the teaching of the precept, which is valid in general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final decision about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called ‘pastoral’ solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a ‘creative’ hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 56).
  13. We firmly reiterate the truth that divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage and who, for most serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, cannot satisfy the grave obligation to separate, are morally obliged to live as “brother and sister” and to avoid scandal. In particular, this means the exclusion of all displays of intimacy proper to married couples, as these would be sinful per se, and, in addition, would scandalize their own children, who would thus conclude that they are legitimately married, or that Christian marriage is not indissoluble, or that engaging in sexual activity with a person who is not one’s legitimate spouse is not a sin. Given the delicacy of their situation, they must be particularly attentive to the occasions of sin.
    “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’” (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, Nov. 22, 1981, n. 84).
    IV. Regarding discernment, responsibility, state of grace and state of sin
  14. We firmly reiterate the truth that those divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage and who choose their situation with full knowledge and consent of the will are not living members of the Church, as they are in a state of serious sin that prevents them from possessing and growing in charity. Furthermore, we stress that Pope St. Pius V in his Bull Ex omnibus afflictionibus against the errors of Michael du Bay, also known as Baius, condemned the following moral opinion: “Man existing in the state of mortal sin, or under the penalty of eternal damnation can have true charity” (Denz. 1070).
    “According to St. Thomas, in order to live spiritually man must remain in communion with the supreme principle of life, which is God, since God is the ultimate end of man’s being and acting. Now sin is a disorder perpetrated by the human being against this life-principle. And when through sin, ‘the soul commits a disorder that reaches the point of turning away from its ultimate end God to which it is bound by charity, then the sin is mortal; on the other hand, whenever the disorder does not reach the point of a turning away from God, the sin is venial’ (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 72, a. 5). For this reason venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity and therefore eternal happiness, whereas just such a deprivation is precisely the consequence of mortal sin” (John Paul II, Reconciliatio et poenitentia, Dec. 2, 1984, n. 17).
    “Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery. If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another’s husband to herself” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2384).
  15. We firmly reiterate the truth that there is no halfway point between being in the grace of God or being deprived of it by mortal sin. The way of grace and spiritual growth for someone living in an objective state of sin consists in abandoning that situation, and returning to a path of sanctification which gives glory to God. No “pastoral approach” can justify or encourage people to remain in a sinful state, opposed to God’s law.
    “It still remains true that the essential and decisive distinction is between sin which destroys charity and sin which does not kill the supernatural life: There is no middle way between life and death” (John Paul II, Reconciliatio et poenitentia, Dec. 2, 1984, n. 17).
    “ ‘Care will have to be taken not to reduce mortal sin to an act of ‘fundamental option’—as is commonly said today—against God,’ seen either as an explicit and formal rejection of God and neighbor or as an implicit and unconscious rejection of love. ‘For mortal sin exists also when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered…. [T]he person turns away from God and loses charity. Consequently, the fundamental orientation can be radically changed by particular acts. Clearly, situations can occur which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint, and which influence the sinner’s subjective imputability. But from a consideration of the psychological sphere one cannot proceed to create a theological category…understanding it in such a way that it objectively changes or casts doubt upon the traditional concept of mortal sin’” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 70).
  16. We firmly reiterate the truth that, since God is omniscient, revealed and natural law provide for all particular situations, especially when they forbid specific actions in any and all circumstances, branding them as “intrinsically evil” (intrinsece malum).
    “It will be asked, how the moral law, which is universal, can be sufficient, and even have binding force, in an individual case, which, in the concrete, is always unique and ‘happens only once.’ It can be sufficient and binding, and it actually is because precisely by reason of its universality, the moral law includes necessarily and ‘intentionally’ all particular cases in which its meaning is verified. In very many cases it does so with such convincing logic that even the conscience of the simple faithful sees immediately, and with full certitude, the decision to be taken” (Pius XII, Address Soyez les bienvenues to the Catholic World Federation of Young Women, Apr. 18, 1952, n. 9).
    “There exist acts which, per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object. These acts, if carried out with sufficient awareness and freedom, are always gravely sinful” (John Paul II, Reconciliatio et paenitentia, Dec. 2, 1984, n. 17).
    “Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature ‘incapable of being ordered’ to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church’s moral tradition, have been termed ‘intrinsically evil’ (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances.… In teaching the existence of intrinsically evil acts, the Church accepts the teaching of Sacred Scripture. The Apostle Paul emphatically states: ‘Do not be deceived: neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the Kingdom of God’ (1 Cor. 6:9-10)” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 80). <.div>
  17. We firmly reiterate the truth that the complexity of situations and the varying degrees of responsibility among cases (due to factors that may restrict the ability to make a decision) do not allow pastors to conclude that those in irregular unions are not in an objective state of manifest grave sin, and to presume in the external forum that those in such unions who are not ignorant of the marriage rules have not deprived themselves of sanctifying grace.
    “The individual may be conditioned, incited and influenced by numerous and powerful external factors. He may also be subjected to tendencies, defects and habits linked with his personal condition. In not a few cases such external and internal factors may attenuate, to a greater or lesser degree, the person’s freedom and therefore his responsibility and guilt. But it is a truth of faith, also confirmed by our experience and reason, that the human person is free. This truth cannot be disregarded in order to place the blame for individuals’ sins on external factors such as structures, systems or other people. Above all, this would be to deny the person’s dignity and freedom, which are manifested—even though in a negative and disastrous way—also in this responsibility for sin committed. Hence there is nothing so personal and untransferable in each individual as merit for virtue or responsibility for sin” (John Paul II, Reconciliatio et paenitentia, Dec. 2, 1984, n. 16).
    “It is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 52).
  18. We firmly reiterate the truth that, since man is endowed with free will, each knowing and voluntary moral act he does must be imputed to him, its author, and that, absent proof to the contrary, imputability must be presumed. Exterior imputability is not to be confused with the inner state of conscience. Notwithstanding that “de internis neque Ecclesia iudicat” (the Church does not judge what is internal – only God can do this), the Church can nevertheless judge acts that are directly contrary to the Divine Law.
    “Though it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted nor ever have been remitted except gratuitously by divine mercy for Christ’s sake, yet it must not be said that sins are forgiven or have been forgiven to anyone who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins, resting on that alone, though among heretics and schismatics this vain and ungodly confidence may be and in our troubled times indeed is found and preached with untiring fury against the Catholic Church. Moreover, it must not be maintained, that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubt whatever, convince themselves that they are justified” (Council of Trent, Decree on justification, chap. 9).

    “When an external violation has occurred, imputability is presumed unless it is otherwise apparent” (Code of Canon Law, can. 1321, § 3).

    “Every act directly willed is imputable to its author” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1736).
    “The judgment of one’s state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one’s conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ [can. 915] are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion” (John Paul II, Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Apr. 17, 2003, n. 37).
    V. Regarding the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist
  19. We firmly reiterate the truth that, in dealing with penitents, confessors should assist them to examine themselves on the specific duties of the Commandments, help them to reach sufficient repentance and to accuse themselves fully of grave sins, as well as to advise them to embrace the path of holiness. In so doing, the confessor is bound to admonish penitents regarding objectively serious transgressions of God’s Law, and to ensure they truly desire absolution and God’s pardon, and are resolved to re-examine and correct their behavior. Even though frequent relapse into sins is not in itself a motive for denying absolution, it cannot be given without sufficient repentance, or the firm resolution to avoid sin in the future.
    “The truth, which comes from the Word and must lead us to him, explains why sacramental confession must not stem from and be accompanied by a mere psychological impulse, as though the sacrament were a substitute for psychotherapy, but from sorrow based on supernatural motives, because sin violates charity towards God, the Supreme Good, was the reason for the Redeemer’s sufferings and causes us to lose the goods of eternity.… Unfortunately many of the faithful today approach the sacrament of Penance without making a complete accusation of their mortal sins in the sense just mentioned by the Council of Trent. Sometimes they react to the priest confessor, who dutifully questions them about the necessary completeness, as if he were allowing himself an undue intrusion into the sanctuary of conscience. I hope and pray that these unenlightened faithful will be convinced, also by virtue of this present teaching, that the norm requiring completeness in kind and number, insofar as can be known from an honestly examined memory, is not a burden imposed on them arbitrarily, but a means of liberation and serenity. It is also self-evident that the accusation of sins must include the serious intention not to commit them again in the future. If this disposition of soul is lacking, there really is no repentance: this is in fact a question of moral evil as such, and so not taking a stance opposed to a possible moral evil would mean not detesting evil, not repenting. But as this must stem above all from sorrow for having offended God, so the intention of not sinning must be based on divine grace, which the Lord never fails to give anyone who does what he can to act honestly.… It should also be remembered that the existence of sincere repentance is one thing, the judgement of the intellect concerning the future is another: it is indeed possible that, despite the sincere intention of sinning no more, past experience and the awareness of human weakness makes one afraid of falling again; but this does not compromise the authenticity of the intention, when that fear is joined to the will, supported by prayer, of doing what is possible to avoid sin” (John Paul II, Letter to the Apostolic Penitentiary, Mar. 22, 1996, nn. 3-5).
  20. We firmly reiterate the truth that divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage and do not separate, but rather remain in their objective state of adultery, can never be considered by confessors and other pastors of souls as living in an objective state of grace, able to grow in the life of grace and charity and entitled to receive absolution in the Sacrament of Penance, or be admitted to the Holy Eucharist, unless they express contrition for their state of life and firmly resolve to abandon it—even though, subjectively, these divorcees may not feel culpable, or not fully so, for their objectively grave sinful situation, due to conditioning and mitigating factors.
    “I am referring to certain situations, not infrequent today, affecting Christians who wish to continue their sacramental religious practice, but who are prevented from doing so by their personal condition, which is not in harmony with the commitments freely undertaken before God and the church.… Basing herself on these two complementary principles [of compassion and truthfulness], the Church can only invite her children who find themselves in these painful situations to approach the divine mercy by other ways, not however through the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist until such time as they have attained the required dispositions. On this matter, which also deeply torments our pastoral hearts, it seemed my precise duty to say clear words in the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, as regards the case of the divorced and remarried, and likewise the case of Christians living together in an irregular union” (John Paul II, Reconciliatio et paenitentia, Dec. 2, 1984, n. 34).
    “Any practice which restricts confession to a generic accusation of sin or of only one or two sins judged to be more important is to be reproved” (John Paul II, Motu proprio Misericordia Dei, Apr. 7, 2002, n. 3).
    “It is clear that penitents living in a habitual state of serious sin and who do not intend to change their situation cannot validly receive absolution” (John Paul II, Misericordia Dei, Apr. 7, 2002, n. 7 c.).
  21. We firmly reiterate the truth that, as regards divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage and live openly more uxorio (as man and wife), no responsible personal and pastoral discernment can sustain that sacramental absolution or admission to the Eucharist is permitted, under the claim that, due to diminished responsibility, no grave fault exists. The reason for this is because their eventual lack of formal culpability cannot be a matter of public knowledge, while their outward state of life objectively contradicts the indissoluble character of Christian marriage and that union of love between Christ and the Church, which is signified and effected by the Holy Eucharist.
    “The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, Nov. 22, 1981, n. 84).

    “In recent years, in various regions, different pastoral solutions in this area have been suggested according to which, to be sure, a general admission of divorced and remarried to Eucharistic communion would not be possible, but the divorced and remarried members of the faithful could approach Holy Communion in specific cases when they consider themselves authorized according to a judgement of conscience to do so. This would be the case, for example, when they had been abandoned completely unjustly, although they sincerely tried to save the previous marriage, or when they are convinced of the nullity of their previous marriage, although unable to demonstrate it in the external forum or when they have gone through a long period of reflection and penance, or also when for morally valid reasons they cannot satisfy the obligation to separate. In some places, it has also been proposed that in order objectively to examine their actual situation, the divorced and remarried would have to consult a prudent and expert priest. This priest, however, would have to respect their eventual decision to approach Holy Communion, without this implying an official authorization. In these and similar cases it would be a matter of a tolerant and benevolent pastoral solution in order to do justice to the different situations of the divorced and remarried. Even if analogous pastoral solutions have been proposed by a few Fathers of the Church and in some measure were practiced, nevertheless these never attained the consensus of the Fathers and in no way came to constitute the common doctrine of the Church nor to determine her discipline.… In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ, the Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognized as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the reception of Holy Communion by the divorced and remarried members of the faithful, Sept. 14, 1994, nn. 3-4).

    “The reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defense of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration Concerning the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, June 24, 2000, n. 1).
  22. We firmly reiterate the truth that subjective certainty in conscience about the invalidity of a previous marriage by divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage (although the Church still sees their previous marriage as valid) is never sufficient, on its own, to excuse one from the material sin of adultery, or to permit one to disregard the canonical assessment and sacramental consequences of living as a public sinner.
    “The mistaken conviction of a divorced and remarried person that he may receive Holy Communion normally presupposes that personal conscience is considered in the final analysis to be able, on the basis of one’s own convictions (cf. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, 55), to come to a decision about the existence or absence of a previous marriage and the value of the new union. However, such a position is inadmissible (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1085 § 2). Marriage, in fact, because it is both the image of the spousal relationship between Christ and his Church as well as the fundamental core and an important factor in the life of civil society, is essentially a public reality.… Thus the judgment of conscience of one’s own marital situation does not regard only the immediate relationship between man and God, as if one could prescind from the Church’s mediation, that also includes canonical laws binding in conscience. Not to recognize this essential aspect would mean in fact to deny that marriage is a reality of the Church, that is to say, a sacrament” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communion by the divorced and remarried members of the faithful, Sept. 14, 1994, nn. 7-8).
  23. We firmly reiterate the truth that “Baptism and Penance are as purgative medicines, given to take away the fever of sin, whereas this sacrament [the Holy Eucharist] is a medicine given to strengthen, and it ought not to be given except to them who are quit of sin” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, III, q. 80, a.4, ad 2). Those who receive the Holy Eucharist are indeed partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ and must be worthy to do so by being in the state of grace. Divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage, and thus lead an objective and publicly sinful lifestyle, risk committing a sacrilege by receiving Holy Communion. For them, Holy Communion would not be medicine but a spiritual poison. If a celebrant goes along with their unworthy Communion, either he does not believe in the Real Presence of Christ, or in the indissolubility of marriage, or in the sinfulness of living more uxorio (as man and wife) outside a valid marriage.
    “It is to be recalled that the ‘Eucharist is not ordered to the forgiveness of mortal sins—that is proper to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church’” (Sacred Congregation for the Liturgy and the discipline of Sacraments, Circular Letter concerning the integrity of the Sacrament of Penance, Mar. 20, 2000, n. 9).
    “The prohibition [of giving the Eucharist to public sinners] found in the cited canon [can. 915], by its nature, is derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church. The scriptural text on which the ecclesial tradition has always relied is that of St. Paul: ‘This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself’ (1 Cor. 11: 27).… Any interpretation of can. 915 that would set itself against the canon’s substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading. One cannot confuse respect for the wording of the law (cfr. can. 17) with the improper use of the very same wording as an instrument for relativizing the precepts or emptying them of their substance. The phrase ‘and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ is clear and must be understood in a manner that does not distort its sense so as to render the norm inapplicable. The three required conditions are: a) grave sin, understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability; b) obstinate persistence, which means the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation in the Church; c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual sin.
    “Those faithful who are divorced and remarried would not be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin who would not be able, for serious motives—such as, for example, the upbringing of the children—‘to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses’ (Familiaris consortio, n. 84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo…. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that required the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls…. Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. n. 1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, nn. 1-4).
  24. We firmly reiterate the truth that, according to the logic of the Gospel, men who die in the state of mortal sin, unreconciled with God, are condemned to hell forever. In the Gospels, Jesus frequently speaks about the danger of eternal damnation.
    “If [the Catholic faithful] fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged” (Vatican Council II, Lumen gentium, Nov. 21, 1964, n. 14).
    “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1861).
    VI. Regarding the Church’s maternal and pastoral attitude
  25. We firmly reiterate the truth that the clear teaching of the truth is an eminent work of mercy and charity, because the first saving task of the Apostles and their successors is to obey the Savior’s solemn command: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28: 19-20).
    “Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, nor in the theoretical or practical indifference towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged, but in the zeal for their intellectual and moral improvement as well as for their material well-being…. Any other kind of love is sheer illusion, sterile and fleeting” (Pius X, Encyclical Notre charge Apostolique, Aug. 15, 1910).
    “The Church is always the same and she remains immutable according to the will of Christ and the true tradition that perfected her.” (Paul VI, Homily, Oct. 28, 1965).
    “It is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners?” (Paul VI, Enc. Humanae vitae, July 25, 1968, n. 29).
    “The Church’s teaching, and in particular her firmness in defending the universal and permanent validity of the precepts prohibiting intrinsically evil acts, is not infrequently seen as the sign of an intolerable intransigence, particularly with regard to the enormously complex and conflict-filled situations present in the moral life of individuals and of society today; this intransigence is said to be in contrast with the Church’s motherhood. The Church, one hears, is lacking in understanding and compassion. But the Church’s motherhood can never in fact be separated from her teaching mission, which she must always carry out as the faithful Bride of Christ, who is the Truth in person. ‘As Teacher, she never tires of proclaiming the moral norm… The Church is in no way the author or the arbiter of this norm. In obedience to the truth which is Christ, whose image is reflected in the nature and dignity of the human person, the Church interprets the moral norm and proposes it to all people of good will, without concealing its demands of radicalness and perfection.’” (John Paul II, Enc. Veritatis splendor, Aug. 6, 1993, n. 95).
  26. We firmly reiterate the truth that the impossibility of giving absolution and Holy Communion to Catholics living manifestly in an objective state of grave sin, such as those who cohabitate, or the divorcees who have attempted a civil marriage, stems from the Church’s maternal care, since She is not the owner of the Sacraments, but rather the “faithful steward of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4: 1).
    “As teachers and custodians of the salvific truth of the Eucharist, we must always and everywhere preserve this meaning and this dimension of the sacramental encounter and intimacy with Christ.… We must always take care that this great meeting with Christ in the Eucharist does not become a mere habit, and that we do not receive Him unworthily, that is to say, in a state of mortal sin.… We cannot, even for a moment, forget that the Eucharist is a special possession belonging to the whole Church. It is the greatest gift in the order of grace and of sacrament that the divine Spouse has offered and unceasingly offers to His spouse. And precisely because it is such a gift, all of us should in a spirit of profound faith let ourselves be guided by a sense of truly Christian responsibility.… The Eucharist is a common possession of the whole Church as the sacrament of her unity. And thus the Church has the strict duty to specify everything which concerns participation in it and its celebration” (John Paul II, Letter Dominicae Cenae, Feb. 24, 1980, nn. 4-12).
    “This does not mean that the Church does not take to heart the situation of these faithful, who moreover are not excluded from ecclesial communion. She is concerned to accompany them pastorally and invite them to share in the life of the Church in the measure that is compatible with the dispositions of divine law, from which the Church has no power to dispense” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communion by the divorced and remarried, Sept. 14, 1994, n. 6).
    “In pastoral action one must do everything possible to ensure that this is understood not to be a matter of discrimination but only of absolute fidelity to the will of Christ who has restored and entrusted to us anew the indissolubility of marriage as a gift of the Creator. It will be necessary for pastors and the community of the faithful to suffer and to love in solidarity with the persons concerned so that they may recognize in their burden the sweet yoke and the light burden of Jesus. Their burden is not sweet and light in the sense of being small or insignificant, but becomes light because the Lord—and with him the whole Church—shares it. It is the task of pastoral action, which has to be carried out with total dedication, to offer this help, founded in truth and in love together” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communion by the divorced and remarried, Sept. 14, 1994, n. 10).
    “Through the centuries, the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance has developed in different forms, but it has always kept the same basic structure: it necessarily entails not only the action of the minister—only a Bishop or priest, who judges and absolves, tends and heals in the name of Christ—but also the actions of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction” (John Paul II, Misericordia Dei, Apr. 7, 2002, proem).
    VII. Regarding the universal validity of the Church’s constant magisterium
  27. We firmly reiterate the truth that the doctrinal, moral and pastoral questions concerning the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Marriage shall be resolved by interventions of the Magisterium and, by their very nature, preclude contradictory interpretations of that teaching, or the drawing of substantially diverse practical consequences from it on the ground that each country or region can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its tradition and local needs.
    “The underlying principle of these new opinions is that, in order to more easily attract those who differ from her, the Church should shape her teachings more in accord with the spirit of the age and relax some of her ancient severity and make some concessions to new opinions. Many think that these concessions should be made not only in regard to ways of living, but even in regard to doctrines which belong to the deposit of the faith. They contend that it would be opportune, in order to gain those who differ from us, to omit certain points of her teaching which are of lesser importance, and to tone down the meaning which the Church has always attached to them. It does not need many words, beloved son, to prove the falsity of these ideas if the nature and origin of the doctrine which the Church proposes are recalled to mind. The Vatican Council [Constitutio de Fide Catholica, chap. IV] says concerning this point: ‘For the doctrine of faith which God has revealed has not been proposed, like a philosophical invention to be perfected by human ingenuity, but has been delivered as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ to be faithfully kept and infallibly declared. Hence that meaning of the sacred dogmas is perpetually to be retained which our Holy Mother, the Church, has once declared, nor is that meaning ever to be departed from under the pretense or pretext of a deeper comprehension of them.’” (Leo XIII, Encyclical Testem benevolentiae, Jan. 22, 1899).

    “One of the primary duties of the Apostolic Office is to disprove and condemn erroneous doctrines and to oppose civil laws which are in conflict with the Law of God, and so to preserve humanity from bringing about its own destruction” (Pius X, Consistory speech, Nov. 9, 1903).

    “The Church, the ‘pillar and bulwark of the truth,’ ‘has received this solemn command of Christ from the apostles to announce the saving truth.’ ‘To the Church belongs the right always and everywhere to announce moral principles, including those pertaining to the social order, and to make judgments on any human affairs to the extent that they are required by the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2032).
    “It is of the utmost importance that in moral as well as in dogmatic theology all should obey the magisterium of the Church and should speak as with one voice” (Paul VI, Enc. Humanae vitae, July 25, 1968, n. 28).
    “It falls to the universal Magisterium, in fidelity to Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to teach and to interpret authentically the depositum fidei. With respect to the aforementioned new pastoral proposals, this Congregation deems itself obliged therefore to recall the doctrine and discipline of the Church in this matter” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communion by the divorced and remarried, Sept. 14, 1994, n. 4).
VIII. The ever youthful voice of the Fathers of the Church
“It comes to pass that, while [the pastors of souls] delight in being hustled by worldly tumults, they are ignorant of the things that are within, which they ought to have taught to others. And from this cause undoubtedly, the life also of their subjects is benumbed…. For when the head languishes, the members fail to thrive; and it is in vain for an army to follow swiftly in pursuit of enemies if the very leader of the march goes wrong. No exhortation sustains the minds of the subjects, and no reproof chastises their faults…. [T]he subjects are unable to apprehend the light of truth, because, while earthly pursuits occupy the pastor’s mind, dust, driven by the wind of temptation, blinds the Church’s eyes” (St. Gregory the Great, Regula pastoralis, II, 7).
“Even penance itself, when by the law of the Church there is sufficient reason for its being gone through, is frequently evaded through infirmity; for shame is the fear of losing pleasure when the good opinion of men gives more pleasure than the righteousness which leads a man to humble himself in penitence. Wherefore the mercy of God is necessary not only when a man repents, but even to lead him to repent” (St. Augustine, Enchiridion de fide, spe et caritate, 82).
“Repentance is the renewal of baptism. Repentance is a contract with God for a second life. A penitent is a buyer of humility. Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance raises the fallen, mourning knocks at the gate of Heaven, and holy humility opens it” (St. John Climacus, Scala paradisi, 25).
Conclusion

While our neo-pagan world wages a general attack against the divine institution of marriage, and the plagues of divorce and sexual depravity spread everywhere, even within the life of the Church, we, the undersigned bishops, priests and Catholic faithful, consider it our duty and privilege to declare, with one voice, our fidelity to the Church’s unchangeable teachings on marriage and to Her uninterrupted discipline, as received from the Apostles. Indeed, only the clarity of truth will set people free (John 8: 32) and enable them to find the true joy of love, by living a life in accordance with the wise and saving will of God, in other words, avoiding sin, as maternally requested by Our Lady in Fatima, in 1917.

29th August 2016, Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist (martyred for upholding the truth on marriage)

– See more at: http://www.filialappeal.org/full#sthash.KzzyZBVi.dpuf

Newman: Rome Shall Fall to the Justice of Divine Wrath

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote an essay on the Patristic Notion of Antichrist. It is a very fine essay, in four parts.

In this essay, he treats the various prophecies regarding the fall and destruction of the great beast. That great beast is Rome. The Fathers are clear that some day, Rome shall fall. Pope Gregory the Great registered this opinion (Dial 2.15).

Newman notes that whereas in some respects Rome has fallen, in other respects Rome has not fallen. Rome is not simply the old Empire. Rome is, perhaps the rule of law, European civilization, etc. These are still with us. So long as we do not seriously embrace the denial of the Principle of Non-contradiction. So long as we still retain key fragments of the natural law. But these things are crashing down around us.

Why has Rome not yet fallen, Newman asks? Why not yet punished? Newman contends that the only reason Rome has not been annihilated as of yet is that there must still be some who are righteous in it. There must be some preservation of Christ’s ways. But, as Pope Gregory indicated, some day, storms and earthquakes shall, executing Divine Wrath, shake Rome to its foundations.

“If [modern] Rome were as reprobate as heathen Rome itself, what stays the judgment long ago begun? [I.e., the judgment of Divine Wrath through Barbarians.] Why does not the Avenging Arm, which made its first stroke ages since, deal its second and its third, till the city has fallen? Why is not Rome as Sodom and Gomorrah, if there be no righteous men in it?”

Newman says, by implication, when Truth has gone out of Rome, when the natural law is upturned, when the remembrance of things sacred has fled, when the veil once again descends over the eyes of those who tickle their ears, then shall the Divine Wrath descend, offering a chance of repentance for those who, setting the hearts on the ways of the world, refuse to keep their eyes upon the plow, in faith in God’s work and truth. Should these then not accept, should they turn back upon the vomit of their sins, how can they not become as Lot’s wife?

Finally, if it is not simply Rome itself, a city in Italy, that is object of the prophecies, it is then the World Itself in its Worldliness. Perhaps it is both, each in its own way.

Newman closes with this caution to all:

We are warned against sharing in [the whore’s] sins and in her punishment; against being found, when the end comes, mere children of this world and of its great cities; with the tastes, opinions, habits, such as are found in its cities; … with all the low feelings, principles, and aims which the world encourages; with our thoughts wandering (if that be possible then), wandering after vanities; … with a haughty contempt for the Church, her ministers, her lowly people; … [with] an utter ignorance of the number and the heinousness of the sins which lie against us….

Outrageous Catholic Sex Ed Requirement in Nashville

If this story from lifesite news is accurate, this is an absolute outrage. A salacious sex-ed program being rammed down the throats of students, stipulated as a requirement for graduation. When will the outrages cease? Discipline gone, confusion abounding, sex abuse cases coming out still, and yet a diocese thinks it can contradict the very clear teachings of John Paul II, which teachings are an iteration of Natural Law and thus ineradicable and non-changing!

Consider Signing:

https://www.lifesitenews.com/petitions/petition-to-nashville-diocese/signed

Limitations of Liberation Theology – Part II

Observe Gustavo Gutiérrez’s words:

“The prophets announce a kingdom of peace. But peace presupposes the establishment of justice…. It presupposes the defense of the rights of the poor, punishment of the oppressors, a life free from the fear of being enslaved by others, the liberation of the oppressed. Peace, justice, love, and freedom are not private realities; they are not only internal attitudes. They are social realities, implying a historical liberation. A poorly understood spiritualization has often made us forget the human consequences of the eschatological promises and the power to transform unjust social structures which they imply. The elimination of misery and exploitation is a sign of the coming of the Kingdom” (Theology of Liberation, p. 97).

Some comments. First, it is true that if we love God, we must love our neighbor. That we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor. However, love of God is absolutely primary. The reason we love our neighbor is the love of God, or else we are not loving our neighbor properly. Gutiérrez does not retain this balanced hierarchy. His strategy in fact inverts the hierarchy and eliminates balance. (a) He insists, against the hierarchy, that there must be a “both and”, as though implying that the hierarchy is an “either or”. That is the first false move. (b) He isolates the love of neighbor as though that is primary. His very focus on it makes it primary.

Second, to love is to will the good to someone. The chief good we ought to will to our neighbor is the greatest good, that good for which he was born: Union with God. Now, God is spirit, and the union with him is spiritual. Therefore, the chief good we will for our neighbor, if we truly love him, must be spiritual. To be sure, since we are also animal, our good must also be physical. We are rational animals, so our goods must be not merely “animal goods” but rational: music (the rational movement of sound), humor, just relations, natural sex, etc. Gutiérrez, however, employs his bait and switch tactic again. (a) He insists on a “both and,” both spiritual and physical goods. Here, his insistence is that a focus on the spiritual is false; thus, he flattens the hierarchy. (b) Then, he focuses on the physical goods and social “structures,” thereby effectively casting aside the spiritual or subjugating it to the priority of the physical.

Gutiérrez’s moves are highly dangerous for the soul and for the good of man. For human dignity suggests that the rational goods of contemplation and friendship transcend the entire order of physical goods on the level of animal survival and basic comfort. When we have a distorted view of the whole, we will take any strategy to secure the narrow good we have defined. Such strategies, among the liberationists, include those of Marxist revolution, violence, rebellion, subversion, sedition, etc. Thus, they would throw the world into chaos in order to achieve their illusory notions of true peace.

But our Lord speaks of a peace “not that the world gives, but which I give.” Only when we live from that peace which comes down as a gift from the Father of lights, rightly ordering our passions so that each of us is an icon of peace and right order, can we turn to our neighbor without a distorting vision and a violent or unnatural or aggressive of mistaken hand, and give him what he needs, when he needs it, as he needs it. Only when we live by that gift coming down can our internal justice pour forth into social relations that build up a kingdom of God based not on sociological ideologies but on the truth of Christ’s anointing, bringing brothers into one. James indeed rebukes us for claiming we love God while neglecting our brothers. He also tells us that the origin of wars and injustice is sin, that is, personal sin and injustice. The origin is not “structures” except insofar as these are in turn rooted in personal sin.

If we come trumpeting our “social structures” as the cause of all evil, we will also patronize the victims, mislead them into an erroneous vision of the whole, and bring destruction and ruin on civilization. The real “revolution” is in fact a return to the wellsprings of nature and grace, a return to God the giver of all good things. The Marxist revolution against these wellsprings of course gives the nod to all the western decadence of the sexual perversions in which our society is currently awash. For, having abandoned the truth of God and his worship, we are left to our own dim lights. Our creativity, wrested from the moorings of nature and grace, is un-fruitful vs. fruitful, it is unnatural vs. natural, it is not tender, vs. tender, it leads to brokenness vs. union, death vs. life. Let us return to the God who made us, and who made us, male and female, “very good.”

Good Old Garrigou-Lagrange

For the past 60 years, people have loved to hate Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

Largely, this hatred is based on ignorance. The man’s writings are a marvelous exercising in the full ambit of systematic and spiritual theology. Great erudition, a keen mind, prudent judgment, utter orthodoxy. He is clearly one of the greatest of the twentieth century theologians.

I would like to cite from his book Everlasting Life, a passage that speaks his immense charity. The quotation is so appropriate today, when there is no hope at all of the state supporting religion in a good way. (No imminent hope, that is. There is always hope in God that men’s hearts be converted. And it is precisely to this that GL speaks, conversion of hearts.) Notice how great his love of man is. For each man is a universe, he says. A Universe longing for God:

What will reconvert the world today? Only a constellation of saints can lead the masses back to Christ and the Church. Mere democratic aspirations, as conceived by Lamennais and many others, are not sufficient. There is need of the love of a Vincent de Paul if we would reach the depths of the modern soul. Everlasting life must again become, not a mere word, but an experienced reality (Tan, p. 36).

Amen. Highly recommend this book, which is easily read but whose depths are supported by precise and accurate theological judgment, together with great piety.

Amorphis Morality is False

The threats to the Church’s infallible moral teaching — which abound today in erroneous notions of law and justice and judgment and mercy — have precursors in what can only be called classical dissent.

Genuine exercise of Magisterial teaching has its authority not in virtue of the arguments with which it is propounded but simply in virtue of itself. Of course, some teaching is infallible and thus its authority is greater than that which is not infallible. However, even non-infallible teaching calls for religious assent of mind and will. It may be that a sincere expert encounters reasons grounded in the faith or some other certain source not to assent to a non-infallible teaching. This must not be the norm but the exception. Further, one should not limit infallible teachings simply to the extraordinary Magisterium (ex cathedra statements and Ecumenical Councils). The Church teaches infallibly on matters of or pertaining to faith and morals when she teaches the matter “always and everywhere”. This “always and everywhere” is to be taken in the sense of moral unanimity of bishops united with the pope. That intending to have artificially contraceptive intercourse is a grave evil is an example of such a teaching. That the only sexual act that is not a grave evil is that between a married woman and man open to new life — this is another example. These teachings are not up for grabs.

Richard Gula seems to have a different conception of Magisterial authority. He writes:

The great disadvantage of having an institutionalized authority in the church is that, if it does not function well in a cooperative fashion, it can obscure the human character of the process of formulating a moral teaching…. To obscure this process can result in creating an ‘extrinsic’ authority for teachings. ‘Extrinsic’ authority fails to recognize that a teaching is as strong as the thoroughness of the homework which produced it and the cogency of the arguments which support it (Gula, Reason Informed by Faith, p. 154). [Remark: This is an error, not what I propound.]

Note that this is to reduce Magisterial authority to the arguments it propounds in support of its claims. Gula does admit that there is an advantage in having a Magisterium, since it can provide a structure for theological conversation. Further, he claims, the Magisterium can help guide one in the formation of conscience.

Nevertheless, Gula he goes on to describe the way one appropriates magisterial statements on moral issues as follows. So he contends: One should treat the Magisterium as a key conversation partner adding key information, but not as infallible oracle (on those matters presented infallibly in either ordinary or extraordinary ways). However, perhaps one sees that one is not morally capable of adhering to the moral teaching. One is financially strapped and morally weak. If this is the case, one may legitimately, he states, decide not to obey the teaching but to commit what the Magisterium teaches to be sin. He calls this merely prudential judgment (Reason Informed by Faith, pp. 159f). He essentially is grounding the judgment of conscience in the personal estimate of what someone can do. Traditionally, however, conscience was considered the faculty whereby one judges what one must do or not do, in light of God’s Law (natural or revealed) in the concrete.

In particular, Richard Gula reduces moral norms – which the Church teaches apply always and everywhere ­– simply to ideals of the best behavior. That is, he confuses the limitless upward call with the minimal moral demands. He argues that what the Church holds to be the minimal moral demands are in fact the limitless features of the call to perfection. Thus, he exonerates the moral agent who cannot live up to these minimal demands:

“Pastoral moral guidance is the art of the possible. That is to say, it focuses on the person and what that person can do based on his or her capacity of knowledge, freedom, and emotion to appreciate and choose moral values enshrined in moral standards” (Just Ministry [New York: Paulist Press, 2010], p. 231). [Remark: This is an error, not what I propound.]

Gula thus endorses a kind of “gradualism of the law”. Once again, I repeat, Gula does not throw out moral norms all together. However, he changes their character: Instead of being absolute norms that should confront a person’s conscience, if it is well formed, they are simply ideals for which one should strive. So, Gula does not want us to think that a person is guilty simply because he knowingly violates a moral norm. The person is only guilty, Gula contends, if he can obey the norm. It may be, Gula contends, that one cannot obey a moral norm. In such a case, a person who knowingly does the action is not guilty. Gula defends the claim thus:

“This tradition [of the Catholic moral reflection] realizes that ought implies can” (Just Ministry, p. 234). [Remark: This is an error, not what I propound.]

In dogmatic fact, the way that this conditional (if you ought to do X, you can do X) is authoritatively interpreted — and NO ONE MAY BROOK THAT INTERPRETATION, Given that it is infallible and eternal, and thunders anathema against the contradictory — is that because of grace every justified person can obey the moral law. (And every non-justified person is offered grace sufficient for conversion.) Thus, according to Catholic faith, the ought is a given, and the can therefore follows because of grace. Gula reverses this. He claims that the ought will follow only if the can can follow. But he claims that it can happen that the can cannot follow. Further, he suggests that if we are in the situation of being moral guides, we ought to hide the full force of the moral norm from such a person:

“This means that we are not to require a particular obligation in practice, however justifiable it may be theoretically, if the person, for good reason, cannot perform it. While everyone is required to do what he or she can, no one is ever required to do what is beyond his or her reach” (Just Ministry, p. 234). [Remark: This is an error, not what I propound.]

Gula bends conscience around the person’s capacity so that the person will not judge himself guilty when he cannot obey.

Contrast Gula’s stress on “limited possibilities” and “gradualism” and on a conscience adapted to one’s capacities to Paul’s incriminating words in Romans:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God…. Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:19f). [Remark: This is Revealed Truth, which no one may brook.]

On Gula’s analysis, sin is probably not possible. Or very difficult. A Notre Dame prof taught me, “None of us is smart enough to commit mortal sin.” I remember thinking to myself, “What a condescending piece of nonsense!” (At the same time, it’s kind of like getting a back massage after committing mortal sin. You say to yourself, “Not bad. I’ll go sin again.” And this is once again proof that it is the spirit of Antichrist. For the Christ says, “Do not sin again.”)

JPII underscores the severity of the Law. He does not seek to minimize the law, out of a bleeding heart desire to get everyone into heaven through HUMAN efforts. Rather, he points to God’s grace, which enables obedience to the Law of God. JPII in his marevelous Veritatis splendor, art. 102 (citing Trent):

“Even in the most difficult situations man must respect the norm of morality so that he can be obedient to God’s holy commandment and consistent with his own dignity as a person. Certainly, maintaining a harmony between freedom and truth occasionally demands uncommon sacrifices, and must be one at a high price: it can even involve martyrdom…. But temptations can be overcome, sins can be avoided, because together with the commandments the Lord gives us the possibility of keeping them…. Keeping God’s law in particular situations can be difficult, extremely difficult, but it is never impossible. This is the constant teaching of the Church’s tradition, and was expressed by the Council of Trent: “But no one, however much justified, ought to consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments, nor should he employ that rash statement, forbidden by the Fathers under anathema, that the commandments of God are impossible of observance by one who is justified. For God does not command the impossible, but in commanding he admonishes you to do what you can and to pray for what you cannot and he gives his aid to enable you.”

So, we CAN obey all the Law. Under anathema (pronounced on every last human person on the face of the earth, until the end of all time) must we hold this, no matter who we are.

SO, the Law is NOT A MERE “IDEAL” as some are dangerously saying, unto the real perdition of real people. The bleeding heart of humanism will not save anyone. Only the bleeding heart of Christ, who offered perfect obedience and calls us to be perfectly obedient. From VS, art. 103:

“It would be a very serious error to conclude that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an ‘ideal’ which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man, according to a ‘balancing of the goods in question.’ But what are the ‘concrete possibilities of man? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection in Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows form that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit” (citing an address of his own on responsible parenthood, delivered March 1, 1984).