Category Archives: Morality

God’s Law is NOT a Mere “Ideal”

The normal meaning of the word “ideal” is simply a goal, an aim. If you tell someone that it would be “ideal” if he did XYZ, he will realize that you really want him to do these things, but that doing all of them is not absolutely necessary.

Now, the Divine Law is necessary. The negative moral precepts bind always and everywhere, such that to violate a negative moral precept is always a grave evil. Period.

Hence, the Divine Law is not a mere “ideal”. It is not a mere goal, to which it is best that we live up to it, but the adequate doing of which is not absolutely necessary for salvation.

To the contrary: The adequate adherence to the Divine Law in the form of doing what one is commanded positively to do when the circumstances allow and avoiding what one is commanded never to do is necessary for salvation.

Therefore, to present the Law of God as an “ideal” is to confuse this very important teaching, which is the faith of the Church. Why would one want to present the Law as but an “ideal”? Because, perhaps, one does not think that God offers sufficient grace to every free actor? But that thought, too, is contrary to the faith of the Church. And if one despairs of this over oneself, one is doing just that despairing.

But we should not be afraid. Not be fearful. Not read our faith in fear that God is not our Shepherd, does not care for us and supply for us. Not us not understand God’s mercy as his “not judging us because he never supplied for us.” That would be doubly desperate and doubly false. He does supply and he does judge. He judges us according to our works.

Let us listen to words that truly are full of hope, words that don’t cast us down in spirit, words that don’t console us with a false understanding of mercy and judgment but that indicate the truth of God’s mercy: God’s mercy enables true obedience.

Let us listen to John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, 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: thereality 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 of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from 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 he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit”.

These are words that bind us, words that bind Catholics magisterially. These are words consonant with Sacred traditions and with the Holy Scriptures.

Sin is Rooted in Intellectual Error

Our Zeitgeist tells us that sin is not rooted in error. More precisely, it tells us that if there is intellectual error there is no culpability. Now, in particular cases, it can be that intellectual error mitigates or erases culpability. But it is universally the case that sin is rooted in intellectual error.

That error can lead to sin is clear from Wisdom. Solomon declares: “Perverse thoughts separate men from God.” This claim alone chafes against our Zeitgeist. Solomon continues: “Ungodly men … reasoned unsoundly.” Their unsound reasoning in fact resembles the materialists of today. See chap. 2 of this lofty book. Their decision to do ungodly deeds is rooted in this error: “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.”

We have here a materialist conception of man: You are but organized dust; though, obviously, you are conscious dust; hence, you can have pleasure, if limbs will allow it; drink, then, your fill of pleasure and count not the cost.

Sound philosophy, too, shows us that intellectual error can lead to moral wrong. Even more, it shows us that all moral wrong is rooted in such error.

But then the question is put to Socrates: So, if only we can educate people, they will see truth? Is this not obviously false?

Yes, the stereotyped Socrates got it wrong. Aristotle is more incisive. I might know the law in a universal way. I know that all thievery is wrong. I know it. Really know it. But on this occasion, I am staring at the gold in my neighbor’s house. I contemplate the lowliness of my physical estate. At the gold’s glittering, greed sends roots into my heart. I seize it and count not the cost.

What happens in sin is that I judge the evil to be good for me on this occasion. I know the law in the universal sense. But in the particular sense, I strike at its heal so as to ignore its wisdom. I plunge into my plan of order, which contradicts the universal and divine sense of order.

In short, I choose to see things in a distorted light. I choose the intellectual error by which I can rejoice in the sin I am about to commit.

Hence, I am culpable for this error: “The ungodly will be punished as their reasoning deserves.”

Hence, if we are to avoid sin, then, as the Greek Catholics preach: “Wisdom! Be attentive.”

Now, if the individual sinner who sins on an occasion must ignore the universal law for the moment, so that he may enjoy his pleasure that contradicts that law, then the committed or hardened sinner must strive to re-write that universal law itself. Though he knows it habitually, he chooses not to think on it. He chooses actually to displace it with another universal law. However, since his mind cannot undo the first principles of reason itself and their immediate implications, he exists in a state of internal self-contradiction.

He declares that fornication is OK. Free sex is OK. Or unnatural sex is OK. Or masturbation is OK. Or pornography is OK.

Yet, his inward mind cannot out the law inscribed within that condemns the damned spot. So, he is at war with himself.

And if your ways contradict his set ways, he no longer tries to evade your presence and sin in secret. Rather, he attempts to write your ways as evil and his ways as good. He re-legislates. He does not flee but rather declares war on God’s eternal law. And anyone who lives in that eternal law and serves as its Icon– such a one he murders: “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions…. The very sight of him is a burden to us.”

Finally, if in history there are examples here and examples there of the individual sinner who evades God’s law; if there are examples here and there of sinners making bold against the Law of God; if there are examples here and there of groups of sinners making bold collectively against the Rule of Law…, then let us know who read the signs of the times that an all-out war is upon us. That the Church of God herself is this righteous person. That the City of Man has had enough of all residue of the universal law within this Church of God. That the City of Man surely plots the death of the Church of God, the way the ungodly plotted the death of the righteous man in Wisdom.

Shall we fear? No. But a head in the sand is in fact fear itself. We must face our future with resolution. Not that of Heidegger but that of Christ. And he promises us: The jaws of death, summoned by its demonic worshippers, shall not prevail.

The Bishops’ Failure to Preach Ruins the Laity’s Role in Mercy

Mercy cannot be understood apart from the poverty and emptiness, especially the sinfulness, of man. Mercy is the free act that sustains a needy thing. We all, as creatures, are needy. God’s creative act is the mercy that sustains us, even before we sin. We are also empty of ourselves, unfulfilled just in existing. God’s wise mercy is committed to bring to fulfillment what he began in creating us. His gentle providence leads us home.

Now that we have sinned, and inherited from Adam that primal sin called original, we require the mercy of forgiveness. But note that forgiveness is given where law is violated. What is called for is a mature reception of forgiveness. Such reception requires the recognition of the evil that one has committed. One must recognize one’s act as evil. One must reject that act. One can reject it either out of love for God above all things, or out of the fear of hell. Only the love of God is a salutary rejection, but the fear of hell ain’t all that bad. In fact, the Church teaches that it is good and not bad. The Church rejects those who condemn the fear of hell as itself evil.

Now, in order to recognize that my sinful action is evil, I must know the Law that it violates. I must recognize the Law of God’s mind as knowable by reason — natural law. And / or I must recognize God’s law given freely to men in the 10 Commandments.

But how can I know the Law unless someone helps me to know it? For fragile and weak, darkened and distorted are our minds unless God’s light shines in the darkness. Yes, yes, natural reason can in principle know the truths of natural law. In principle, but not so easily in practice. Practically speaking, we need help from above. We need the Church to shine the light of God on our minds. Thus, we are elevated above human limitations to a certain knowledge, clearer than the noonday sun, of what the good is that must be done and what the evil is that must be shunned. The paths laid out before us – the paths of life and death – we know which way we must trod in order to reach that blessed abode, where tears no longer fall upon our faces, where shadows are not cast on all our plans, where joints do not ache with age, where limbs are youthful to express the love the heart bears, were brothers dwell in peace. Ah, Lord: The blessed way you have given us in your person and your body, The Church, our true Mother on earth, our dearest homeland in this weary pilgrimage.

And when we know these paths, yet forsake the good one in pursuit of evil, when our own minds then convict us of our sin, we are cut to the heart because we know the truth clearly. We then reach out a hand, for help. And help comes near. A friend sits with us, while we weep for our own sins. A friend consoles us while we fear judgment. A friend leads us back the proper way. Not denying, not lying. Rather, our friend takes us to the channels of mercy, the confessional and the Eucharist, penance and ashes. Only then can we feel at peace, at one with ourselves in the unity restored between our soul and God.

Consider, then, what happens when no one knows the Law. When darkness prevails. When the many call Good evil and Evil good. When perversion abounds. When lies abound. When flattery is the rain, and deception the wind. When the light of the sun is man’s own construction, his aims projected outward with fiery wrath that denies the in-born natural inclinations. How, then, can a man recognize his own fault? How should he ever claim “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” when the Law he knows not?

And why does he not know the law? Because the Bishops are silent. Yes, even Peter fails to offer a clear presentation of the true faith. Because the Priests remain silent. Because all the world that should lead to that vision of the two paths, that should cast a light upon darkening minds, so that they might be elevated towards the participation in the One True Light – because all these have gone astray. They fail to preach because it is not in season.

What, then, of the poor man who sins in ignorance? What must his friend do for him? Instead of greeting him in his own clear recognition of fault, and lifting him up towards the font of life… instead of all the finer elements of mercy, his friend must first preach to him the Law. His friend must do what the priest, the bishop, even Peter have failed to do. His friend must preach the Law so that the real sin might be laid bare. And then the friend must extend the finer elements of mercy. Etc.

But it is notoriously difficult for a sinner to undergo both aspects of his friend’s love. And it is notoriously difficult for a friend to maintain both these aspects in balance. Indeed, if the priests, and the bishops are in fact preaching contrary to the Law and the real teaching of Holy Mother Church, then this friend must in fact correct them. Correct them so as to direct the poor wandering, alienated and forgotten, trampled upon soul of the misled man who thinks that Evil is good and Good evil.

And what confusion is provoked now! The princes of the Church being corrected on the spot by some poor member of the Church for the sake of the salvation of another poor member. While the rich batten on spoil.

O great perversion. Yet, be corrected they must! For those who preach error invite correction.

Speak Truth, Ye Pastors. The Full Truth. And Nothing But the Truth.

For the law of morality is universal and exceptionless. This is the foundation and presupposition of all true Mercy. Mercy does not obstruct the law and cancel it. Now, it enables its fulfillment. Thus, if you strangle the law’s voice with your silence, you eclipse Mercy from drawing a man home. But if a man through your diligent courage knows the full truth, then the laity are free to lead him to the waters of mercy that you are charged to dispense, faithfully and lovingly. Thus, let the laity do their proper role. Let them work on the application of principles. Preach the principles.

Steven Long and the Moral Object – 3

Another interesting outcome of this New Morality approach to the natural law. Criminal legislation!

All Catholics ought to be pro-life. But the pro-life stance involves the will and the effort to achieve legislation protecting the unborn.

Now, on the New Natural Law approach, we supposedly don’t know if an act of in-utero-child-killing really is abortion until we ask the agent what her / his intention is. Only if the agent proposes to himself / herself “I seek the death of the child,” then – on this execrable account of the moral object – the act constitutes abortion.

But if the agent proposes to himself / herself “I seek only the removal of the child,” then – on this execrable account of the moral object – the act does not constitute abortion but simply “removal of the fetus.”

In the latter case, the New Natural Law analysis has one further question: Is there “proportionate reason” to remove the fetus? If not, the act is not justified. If so, the act is justified. The NNL analysis then submits that if the mother were to die unless the fetus is removed, there is proportionate reason. A fortiori, the argument goes, if both mother and fetus were to die unless the fetus is removed.

What is the upshot? The upshot is that on the New Natural Law account, pro-life legislation requires examination of the intention of the agent. Now, it is notoriously difficult for a human tribunal to discover with moral certitude the intentions of an agent. Sometimes these intentions are shown in evidence. Example: Someone plotting a death in writing leaves evidence of First Degree culpability. But just what would be the way in which one might reliably, for the most part, determine the intention of the agent seeking or providing abortion?

In fact, the New Natural Law approach seems on this score very ill suited to practical application. And practical application is one of the leading reasons why those who eschew the theory tolerate it – or donate to its richly endowed foundations. But here, that practical political application seems doomed to a bad fate.

Is this defect not definitional to the NNL approach? For that approach denies the basic point that some actions have per se effects and that for any agent intelligently to propose to commit the action just is to propose to bring about these per se effects. Let the money go to the Traditional Natural Law.

Steve Long and the Moral Object – 2

Let’s follow up on Steve Long’s critique of recent moral thinkers on the moral object.

Basically, some recent thinkers will contend that the object of the act is what I find attractive about my action. Example. What I find attractive in the golf course when I wield a club is the swing, the hitting of the ball by swinging. I don’t do this so as to ruin the turf. But it sometimes (often?) happens I do ruin the turf. That would be a side effect. But I only choose / intend the swing qua hitting the ball.

So far, fine.

Problems come, however, when this notion runs rough-shod over the intrinsic order of cause-effect discernible in nature. Say it is evident that such-and-such a dose of pain killers will kill anyone to whom it is administered. Then, intelligently to administer that dose to anyone must be to kill them. There is no other intelligent description of the act. There is no other intelligent way of committing that act. Granted, some people are out of their minds. They might be sick with horror over their loved one’s pain. Say he is screaming constantly. So, they stick the needle and administer the deadly dose of pain killer. But that person is acting from sick emotion. Out of his mind. Not acting intelligently.

I am focussing and saying: Let’s look at the act intelligently done. My contention – following Long – is that precisely because the act is known to all to be the lethal administration of pain-killer that the one moral object that this act can constitute, the one direct action that this constitutes, is killing. The doctor of course does not will death for death’s sake. But this is the means he chooses, directly, to obtain the further goal, the cessation of pain.

Craniotomy is another one. What mother would possibly disagree that the crushing of the skull is simply the “reshaping of the skull to fit the child through the canal”? To crush the baby’s skull immediately causes death. This is the immediate, per se effect of the physical act. Hence, intelligently to commit the act just is intentionally to kill. One might be out of one’s mind. But that is a different story.

New scenario. Say my son is lodged in a narrow cave. On the far side of him is a nuclear bomb that will totally annihilate the planet. All I have to do is push the ‘off’ button. All I have is a sharp knife. The only possible way to get to the button is to dismember my son. How should I look at this situation?

Well, the new morality says: I can propose to myself “the reshaping of these limbs such that space is opened up for me to get to the bomb and save the planet.”

But the old morality – which is ever ancient and ever new – says that to do so is in fact hideously to murder my son so as to achieve the good end of saving the planet. The old morality says: In this awful case, you can’t do anything harmful to your son. Never harm. The old physician’s adage. So, you must suffer. You must take up your cross and suffer.

But back to the new morality. I suppose they would go further. I suppose they would say: SINCE the ‘object’ is what you find attractive about the act, then the ‘murdering act’ in fact becomes simply the reshaping of the parts and removal of physical matter. And for what end? To save a planet with 10 billion people. Then they would say, “But it is unfortunate your son dies. Is it ‘proportionate’? Heck yes: Because 999,999,999,999 others are saved.”

But the old morality just looks at the act straight in the eye and asks its perp: “You know, don’t you, that you have just committed an evil deed, so that good may come. Can you seriously say that you did not? Is the order in nature so far beneath your intelligence that you can run rough shod over it, shaping as you will, under the narrative description you choose? And where will this stop?”

In fact, how can it stop at the conclusion: “This act is permissible”? It cannot. For the proportion of lives is so drastic that the new morality has to go on and say that dismembering the child is what one ought to do.

The Real Sensus Fidelium Speaks in ITALY

Theologians have stressed the “sense of the faithful” (sensus fidelium) since the Second Vatican Council.

Often, they use this concept to wear away at Tradition, to alter dogmas and venerable liturgical traditions. They use the concept as though it were sociological. “What are the people saying? That’s the ‘sense of the faithful.'” So, surveys are conducted, views examined.

This very approach – taking surveys – handled in this sociological way can be very disturbing. If handled in some other way, it can be wonderful. The Marian definitions in the past two centuries were preceded by a test of the ‘sensus fidelium’ conducted in such a way as not to subject the faith to the opinions of the masses but in such a way as to determine whether it was opportune to define or not. That was wonderful. But the sociologists among ecclesiologists nowadays often use this survey approach to subject the faith to the individual believers, taken collectively. “Should we do away with the perpetual virginity? Should we do away with the ‘prohibition’ on condoms? Should we stop insisting the Holy Spirit proceeds filioque?”

This is disastrous.

But you can’t prevent the true stones of truth from speaking out. You cannot prevent – not forever – the truth of nature from crying out to heaven.

The faithful, and even nature herself in her rational agents, have spoken their voice. The sociologists themselves cannot ignore it. Italy has spoken. The people know that the True Family is the real family. That other forms of family are not “participations” of the family but deviations from it, perversions. It is false to analogize the perversion of the very essence of something with a refracted share in it. As Pius XI taught, false unions are not diminished participations; they are not like red and yellow of the rainbow. They are erasures of color, black spots, blindnesses.

This voice of nature and the voice of the ‘sensus fidelium’ is in harmony with the ancient wisdom – which is Ever New – of the Church. Truth is ever new. Because truth is not an artifact. Truth is Now. It is Being. It is Reality. Make it go away, and you will find yourself aging, on the way to corruption, fading, averse, perverse, in the dark, cast in shadows – miserable! Come to the Truth, all you labor and are weary, blundering in perversions and lies; deceiving and deceived; He shall set your soul to peace, gathering the pieces of shard your moral ruin has caused you.

Italy has spoken; Truth has spoken in Italy; and no one, No One, can hide it under a Bushel: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2016/02/on-family-day-god-of-surprises.html#more

Steve Long and the Moral Object

I have been reading Steven Long of late. His account of the moral object seems urgent to consider.

In a moral act, the first thing we must consider is the “what it is” you are doing. The object of the act. Are you murdering or are you feeding someone? Etc.

Those who know, know that this is one very difficult topic.

One of Long’s crucial points, though, is lost on many, including many good Catholics. It is this: That the natural order of cause and effect in the sub-rational world already indicates certain truths about certain possible actions for our choice. This inherent order in certain natural lines of causality cannot be ‘ignored’ when I choose to act. Indeed, to choose intelligently to act requires adverting to these ordered structures. And these ordered structures determine the character of the actions which a rational agent proposes to commit.

Case in point. Say a given doss of pain-killer is known medically certainly to be lethal. Well, then, to choose to administer this doss is to choose death. Period. Of course, the doctor or relative will say to himself, “I only want the pain-killing side of the act. I don’t want the death-dealing side of it.” Ah, but you know that it does deal death. And you are to act intelligently. This is the kind of action the natural course of which necessarily entails death. (Let necessary = medically known sufficiently to cause, except in rarest of cases or miracles.) Then, for any intelligent agent to choose to administer it just is to choose death. One cannot – in GNOSTIC fashion – then claim that one interiorly (spiritually) only desires a certain aspect of this natural (merely material, he claims) act. If  one were to justify the action by saying that one only chooses the act under its desirability, one would be acting in Gnostic fashion. It would be the “intentionalist” fallacy. That my intention can – in the face of a naturally known telelogical order of a certain action – bypass this order and find some other reason for the appetibility of the act. That my intention finds what is appetible and chooses it only thus. This is what Long calls “intentionalism.”

Its effects are absolutely dire, and contrary to Catholic moral tradition. Another example is craniotomy. This is the crushing of a baby’s skull to save the mother’s life when otherwise both will die.

Remember: We must never do evil that good may come. Even if I only kill one little babe to stop WWIII, nonetheless, I would sin evilly in doing so. All good Catholics grant this basic point.

But those who confuse the moral object can’t see straight on craniotomy. How do they tackle it? They do this: They say that the doctor chooses the “reshaping” of the skull. He doesn’t choose the death. Only the reshaping, so it can fit the birth canal so he can save the mother.

Long’s counter: But crushing the skull necessarily entails death. Hence, to choose this action intelligently just is to choose death. And if the object is rational and innocent, then to choose its death is murder. But if you opt for intentionalism, you can wipe away this very serious, long approved condemnation of craniotomy. You can wipe it away with your good intention. Which now comes to supposedly “specify” the act and – voila! – you turn murder into salvation. This really is a vile consequence of a gnosticizing theory.

The order impressed in nature does not enslave us. It gets us going and serves as the partial determination – in some cases crucial determination – of the kinds of actions that are morally good.

Long’s tome on the subject is The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act. Long is a good friend, a compassionate soul, and a brilliant theologian / philosopher.

I highly recommend this text.

Condoms and Aids

Is there a dilemma here? It would be a dilemma if we had to choose to obey one commandment at the expense of disobeying another. Do we have to choose the 5th commandment, and disobey the 6th? Or vice versa? Must we, in obeying one, disobey the other? That would be the case if there were a moral dilemma?

There is no such thing as a real moral dilemma. Why not? Because by definition a dilemma says both options are wrong. A dilemma says you have to sin, no matter what.

But sin is an act that requires freedom, such that it is able to be avoided. But a dilemma cannot be avoided. Ergo, the notion of a dilemma contradicts the very foundational Catholic belief in sin. But the Catholic faith is from God Almighty, who is True and not Deceived. Therefore, Catholic faith is true. Whatever contradicts it is false. The positing of a dilemma contradicts it. Thus, all dilemmas are chimeras. QED (by Catholic Theology).

Of course, we want an explanation. What can we do in this situation? Or situations that look like dilemmas?

Take the horror of Sophie’s Choice. (Sophie has 2 kids; the Nazi doctor forces her to choose which to take, and he will kill the other.) If you read the situation rightly, she can choose to save one. She most certainly does NOT consign the other to oblivion. The guard does that. Period. End of Story. Of course, she might get so sick thinking of it that she collapses, in which case he would probably kill both.

But what if the guard said, “Choose which one I take!”? Then, if she gave one to him, she would indeed sin. She would have complied with a chain of events that he set up, causing the first domino to fall. So, what should she do if that is the question he poses? She should be silent. She should not act.

The Catholic “out” of any dilemma is this: We do NOT have to act. We can choose not to act. It is not the “result” that is the be and end all here, much as our worldly minds like to think. Ah! Here we have it. Here we put our finger on the source of “Dilemma” thinking. The source is consequentialism. Perhaps not in the strict sense but in a general or vague sense. If our minds are focused on the results only, there indeed are situations in which results are bad, either way. But this does not make our every option a sin.

Yes, both kids might die if she falls silent. But neither would die at her hands. That’s it. End of story. What does God do with innocent victims? He gives them rewards. What does the innocent sufferer do? Grow in holiness. Really cleave to God. This is good. This is the true path. We are not called to a bed of roses or a series of endless pleasures. We are called to union with God.

There is no such thing as a moral dilemma.

What about the condom issue? In the end, simple:

  1. All sex is immoral that is not heterosexual and that does not terminate in the vagina and that is not between husband and wife.
  2. So, all moral sex must terminate in the vagina. But condoms prevent this with heterosexual sex. Ergo, they render heterosexual sex immoral.
  3. If the sex is already immoral because so counter-natural as not to be heterosexual, then I suppose adding a condom does not add immorality. But if it does not add immorality, yet it does some preventative good, it can probably be used. Again, the sex committed is a mortal sin nonetheless. The idea is that the sex is already so egregiously evil, one does not aggravate its evil by this condom.
  4. But to do what is evil so that good may come is evil and not permitted. Hence, to use condoms in heterosexual sex is evil and not permitted, even if they were to prevent disease.
  5. What to do? Well, why don’t we try not having sex? Secondly, keep our soul before God, rather than our body healthy in hell. If we wear a condom and go to hell with a healthy body, what good is that for us? But if we die of a disease and don’t go to hell, although we should have used some self-control for crying out loud, at least we did not go to hell for the reason of wearing a condom.

Lesson from Pius IX on Pastoral Duty

From his marvelous Qui pluribus:

25. When ministers are ignorant or neglectful of their duty, then the morals of the people also immediately decline, Christian discipline grows slack, the practice of religion is dislodged and cast aside, and every vice and corruption is easily introduced into the Church. The word of God, which was uttered for the salvation of souls, is living, efficacious and more piercing than a two-edged sword.[24] So that it may not prove to be unfruitful through the fault of its ministers, never cease, venerable brothers, from encouraging the preachers of this divine word to carry out most religiously the ministry of the Gospel. This should not be carried out by the persuasive words of human wisdom, nor by the profane seductive guise of empty and ambitious eloquence, but rather as a demonstration of the spirit and power.

26. Consequently, by presenting the word of truth properly and by preaching not themselves but Christ crucified, they should clearly proclaim in their preaching the tenets and precepts of our most holy religion in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church and the Fathers. They should explain precisely the particular duties of individuals, frighten them from vice, and inspire them with a love of piety. In this way the faithful will avoid all vices and pursue virtues, and so, will be able to escape eternal punishment and gain heavenly glory.

Our Own Great Bp. Athanasius

Rorate Caeli posted the below essay by Bp Athanasius Schneider, a very holy and astute bishop of keen mind and sound judgment. God bless this courageous bishop, who is defending the Truth of Christ against the wolves that bear themselves in sheep’s clothing. I have been citing Irenaeus for the past week. I was very happy to see the good bishop do so as well.

Why? Because Irenaeus was dealing not only with out-and-out heretics but with occult heretics. What is an “occult heretic”? One who rests in the bosom of Holy Mother Church, but meanwhile prepares the arsenic for her members. One who is a betrayer, treacherous. A Judas.

By contrast, there are those who seek only God and his Kingdom. They vie for no ecclesiastical office but only for the salvation of souls.

And indeed, Bp. Schneider is one such. The voice of the Good Shepherd is clearly heard in this good bishop’s words:

 

A back door to a Neo-Mosaic practice in the Final Report of the Synod

The XIV General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops (October 4 – 25, 2015), which was dedicated to the theme of “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”, issued a Final Report with some pastoral proposals submitted to the discernment of the Pope. The document itself is only of an advisory nature and does not possess a formal magisterial value.

Yet during the Synod, there appeared those real new disciples of Moses and the new Pharisees, who in the numbers 84-86 of the Final Report opened a back door or looming time bombs for the admittance of divorced and remarried to Holy Communion. At the same time those bishops who intrepidly defended “the Church’s own fidelity to Christ and to His truth” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, 84) were in some media reports unjustly labeled as Pharisees.

 

The new disciples of Moses and the new Pharisees during the last two Assemblies of the Synod (2014 and 2015) masked their practical denial of the indissolubility of marriage and of a suspension of the Sixth Commandment on a case-by-case basis under the guise of the concept of mercy, using expressions such as: “way of discernment,” “accompaniment”, “orientations of the bishop,” “dialogue with the priest,” “forum internum,” “a more fuller integration into the life of the Church,” a possible suppression of imputability regarding the cohabitation in irregular unions (cf. Final Report, nn. 84-86).

This text section in the Final Report contains indeed a trace of a Neo-Mosaic practice of divorce, even though the redactors skillfully and, in a cunning manner, avoided any direct change of the doctrine of the Church. Therefore, all parties, both the promotors of the so-called “Kasper agenda” and their opponents, are apparently satisfied stating: “All is OK. The Synod did not change the doctrine.” Yet, such a perception is quite naive, because it ignores the back door and the pending time bombs in the abovementioned text section which becomes manifest by a careful examination of the text by its internal interpretive criteria.

Even when speaking of a “way of discernment” there is talk of “repentance” (Final Report, n. 85), there remains nevertheless a great deal of ambiguity. In fact, according to the reiterated affirmations of Cardinal Kasper and like-minded churchmen, such a repentance concerns the past sins against the spouse of the first valid marriage and the repentance of the divorced indeed may not refer to the acts of their marital cohabitation with the new civilly married partner.

The assurance of the text in the numbers 85 and 86 of the Final Report that such a discernment has to be made according to the teaching of the Church and in a correct judgement remains nevertheless ambiguous. Indeed, Cardinal Kasper and like-minded clerics emphatically and repeatedly assured that the admittance of the divorced and civilly remarried to Holy Communion will not touch the dogma of the indissolubility and of the sacramentality of marriage, and that a judgement in the conscience in that case has to be considered as being correct even when the divorced and remarried continue to cohabitate in a marital manner, and that they should not be required to live in complete continence as brother and sister.

In quoting the famous number 84 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio of Pope John Paul II in number 85 of the Final Report, the redactors censored the text, cutting out the following decisive formulation: “The way to the Eucharist can only be granted to those who take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples”.

This practice of the Church is based on Divine Revelation of the Word of God: Written and transmitted through Tradition. This practice of the Church is an expression of the uninterrupted Tradition since the Apostles and, thus, remains unchangeable for all times. Already Saint Augustine affirmed: “Who dismisses his adulterous wife and marries another woman, whereas his first wife still lives, remains perpetually in the state of adultery. Such a man does not any efficacious penance while he refuses to abandon the new wife. If he is a catechumen, he cannot be admitted to baptism, because his will remains rooted in the evil. If he is a (baptized) penitent, he cannot receive the (ecclesiastical) reconciliation as long as he does not break with his bad attitude” (De adulterinis coniugiis, 2, 16). In fact, the above intentional censorship of the teaching of Familaris Consortio in n. 85 of the Final Report, represents for any sane hermeneutics the very interpretive key for the understanding of the text section on divorced and remarried (numbers 84-86).

In our days exists a permanent and omnipresent ideological pressure on behalf of the mass media, which are compliant with the unique thought imposed by the anti-Christian world powers, with the aim to abolish the truth of the indissolubility of marriage – trivializing the sacred character of this Divine institution by spreading an anti-culture of divorce and concubinage. Already 50 years ago, the Second Vatican Council stated that the modern times are infected with the plague of divorce (cf. Gaudium et spes, 47). The same Council warns that Christian marriage as Christ’s sacrament should “never be profaned by adultery or divorce” (Gaudium et spes, 49).

The profanation of the “great sacrament” (Eph 5, 32) of  marriage by adultery and divorce has assumed massive proportions at an alarming rate not only in civil society but also among Catholics. When Catholics by means of divorce and adultery theoretically and as well as practically repudiate the will of God expressed in the Sixth Commandment, they put themselves in a spiritually serious danger of losing their eternal salvation.

The most merciful act on behalf of the Shepherds of the Church would be to draw attention to this danger by means of a clear – and at the same time loving – admonition about the necessarily full acceptance of the Sixth Commandment of God. They have to call things by their right name exhorting: “divorce is divorce,” “adultery is adultery” and “who commits consciously and freely grave sins against the Commandments of God – and in this case against the Sixth Commandment – and dies unrepentant will receive eternal condemnation being excluded forever from the kingdom of God.”

Such an admonition and exhortation is the very work of the Holy Spirit as Christ taught: “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16: 8). Explaining the work of the Holy Spirit in “convincing sin,” Pope John Paul II said: “Every sin wherever and whenever committed has a reference to the Cross of Christ-and therefore indirectly also to the sin of those who ‘have not believed in him,’ and who condemned Jesus Christ to death on the Cross” (Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, 29). Those who conduct a married life with a partner who is not their legitimate spouse, as it is the case with divorced and civilly remarried, reject the will of God. To convince such persons concerning this sin is a work moved by the Holy Spirit and commanded by Jesus Christ and thus an eminently pastoral and merciful work.

The Final Report of the Synod unfortunately omits to convince the divorced and remarried concerning their concrete sin. On the contrary, under the pretext of mercy and a false pastorality, those Synod Fathers who supported the formulations in the numbers 84-86 of the Report tried to cover up the spiritually dangerous state of the divorced and remarried.

De facto, they say to them that their sin of adultery is not a sin, and is definitely not adultery or at least is not a grave sin and that there is no spiritual danger in their state of life. Such a behavior of these Shepherds is directly contrary to the work of the Holy Spirit and is therefore anti-pastoral and a work of the false prophets to whom one could apply the following words of the Holy Scripture: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Is 5:20) and: “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading” (Lam 2: 14). To such bishops the Apostle Paul without any doubt would say today these words: “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13).

The text of the Final Report of the Synod not only omits to convince unambiguously divorced and civilly remarried persons concerning the adulterous and thus gravely sinful character of their life style. It justifies indirectly such a lifestyle by means of assigning this question ultimately to the area of the individual conscience and by means of an improper applying of the moral principle of imputability to the case of cohabitation of the divorced and remarried. In fact, the applying of the principle of imputability to a stable, permanent and public life in adultery is improper and deceptive.

The diminution of the subjective responsibility is given only in the case when the partners have the firm intention to live in complete continence and make sincere efforts therein. As long as the partners intentionally persist to continue a sinful life, there can be no suspension of imputability. The Final Report gives the impression to intimate that a public life style in adultery – as it is the case of civilly remarried – is not violating the indissoluble sacramental bond of a marriage or that it does not represents a mortal or grave sin and that this issue is furthermore a matter of private conscience. Hereby one can state a closer drift towards the Protestant principle of subjective judgement on matters of faith and discipline and intellectual closeness to the erroneous theory of “fundamental option,” a theory already condemned by the Magisterium (cf. Pope John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, 65-70).

The Shepherds of the Church should not in the slightest manner promote a culture of divorce amongst the faithful. Even the smallest hint of yielding to the practice or to the culture of divorce should be avoided. The Church as a whole should give a convincing and strong witness to the indissolubility of the marriage. Pope John Paul II said that divorce “is an evil that, like the others, is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay” (Familiaris Consortio, 84).

The Church has to help the divorced and remarried with love and patience to recognize their own sinfulness and to help them to convert with one’s whole heart to God and to the obedience to His holy will, which is expressed in the Sixth Commandment. As long as they continue giving a public anti-witness to the indissolubility of marriage and contributing to a culture of divorce, the divorced and remarried cannot exercise those liturgical, catechetical and institutional ministries in the Church, which demand by their own nature a public life in accordance with the Commandments of God.

It is obvious that public violators for instance of the Fifth and Seventh Commandments, such as owners of an abortion clinic or collaborators of a corruption network, not only cannot receive Holy Communion but, evidently, cannot be admitted to public liturgical and catechetical services. In an analogous manner, public violators of the Sixth Commandment, such as divorced and remarried, cannot be admitted to the office of lectors, godparents or catechists. Of course, one must distinguish the gravity of the evil caused by the life style of public promotors of abortion and corruption from the adulterous life of divorced people. One cannot put them on the same footing. The advocacy for the admission of divorced and remarried to the task of godparents and catechists aims ultimately not the true spiritual good of the children, but turns out to be an istrumentalization of a specific ideological agenda. This is a dishonesty and a mockery of the institution of godparents or catechists who by means of a public promise took on the task of educators of the faith.

In the case of godparents or catechists who are divorced and remarried, their life continuously contradicts their words, and so they have to face the admonition of the Holy Spirit through the mouth of the Apostle Saint James: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1: 22).   Unfortunately, the Final Report in n. 84 pleads for an admittance of the divorced and remarried to liturgical, pastoral and educational offices. Such a proposal represents an indirect support to the culture of divorce and a practical denial of an objectively sinful lifestyle. Pope John Paul II on the contrary indicated only the following possibilities of participating in the life of the Church, which for their part aim a true conversion: “They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God’s grace” (Familiaris Consortio, 84).

There should remain a salutary area of exclusion (non-admittance to the Sacraments and to the public liturgical and catechetical offices) in order to remind the divorced their real serious and dangerous spiritual state and, at the same time, to promote in their souls the attitude of humility, obedience and of longing for the authentic conversion. Humility means courage for truth, and only to those who humbly subject themselves to God, will receive His graces.

The faithful, who have not yet the readiness and the will to stop with the adulterous life, should be spiritually helped. Their spiritual state is similar to a kind of “catechumenate” regarding the sacrament of Penance. They can receive the sacrament of Penance, which was called in the Tradition of the Church “the second baptism” or “the second penance,” only if they sincerely break with the habit of the adulterous cohabitation and avoid public scandal in an analogous manner as do the catechumens, the candidates to the Baptism. The Final Report omits to call the divorced and remarried to the humble recognition of their objective sinful state, because it omits to encourage them to accept with the spirit of faith the non-admittance to the Sacraments and to the public liturgical and catechetical offices. Without such a realistic and humble recognition of their own real spiritual state, there is no effective progress towards the authentic Christian conversion, which in the case of the divorced and remarried consists in a life of complete continence, ceasing to sin against the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage and to disobey publicly the Sixth Commandment of God.

The Shepherds of the Church and especially the public texts of the Magisterium have to speak in an utmost clear manner, since this is the essential characteristic of the task of the official teaching. Christ demanded from all His disciples to speak in an extremely clear manner: “Let what you say be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Math 5: 37). This is valid all the more when the Shepherds of the Church preach or when the Magisterium speaks in a document.

In the text section of the numbers 84-86 the Final Report represents, unfortunately, a serious departure from this Divine command. Indeed in the mentioned passages the text does not plead directly in favor for the legitimacy of the admittance of the divorce and remarried to Holy Communion, the text even avoids the expression “Holy Communion” or “Sacraments.” Instead, the text by means of obfuscating tactics, uses ambiguous expressions like “a more full participation in the life of the Church” and “discernment and integration.”

By such obfuscating tactics the Final Report in fact put time bombs and a back door for the admittance of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, causing by this a profanation of the two great sacraments of Marriage and Eucharist, and contributing at least indirectly to the culture of divorce – to the spreading of the “plague of divorce” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 47).

When reading carefully the ambiguous text of the text section “Discernment and integration” in the Final Report, one has the impression of a highly skillful, elaborated ambiguity. One is reminded of the following words of Saint Irenaeus in his “Adversus haereses”: “He who retains unchangeable in his heart the rule of the truth which he received by means of baptism, will doubtless recognize the names, the expressions, and the parables taken from the Scriptures, but will by no means acknowledge the blasphemous use which these men make of them. For, though he will acknowledge the gems, he will certainly not receive the fox instead of the likeness of the king.  But since what may prove a finishing-stroke to this exhibition is wanting, so that any one, on following out their farce to the end, may then at once append an argument which shall overthrow it, we have judged it well to point out, first of all, in what respects the very fathers of this fable differ among themselves, as if they were inspired by different spirits of error. For this very fact forms a proof from the outset that the truth proclaimed by the Church is immoveable, and that the theories of these men are but a tissue of falsehoods.” (I, 9, 4-5).

The Final Report seems to leave the solution of the question of the admittance of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion to local Church authorities: “accompaniment of the priests” and “orientations of the bishop.” Such a matter is however connected essentially with the deposit of faith i.e. with the revealed word of God. The non-admittance of divorced who are living in a public state of adultery belongs to the unchangeable truth of the law of the Catholic faith and consequently also of the law of Catholic liturgical practice.

The Final Report seems to inaugurate a doctrinal and disciplinary cacophony in the Catholic Church, which contradicts the very essence of being Catholic. One has to be reminded of the words of Saint Irenaeus, about the authentic shape of the Catholic Church in all times and in all places: “The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes the points of doctrine just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world (Italy). But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.” (Adversus haereses, I, 10, 2).

The Final Report in the section on the divorced and remarried carefully avoids confessing the unchangeable principle of the entire Catholic tradition, that those who live in an invalid marital union can be admitted to Holy Communion only under the condition that their promise to live in complete continence and avoid public scandal. John Paul II and Benedict XVI confirmed strongly this Catholic principle. The deliberate avoidance of mentioning and reaffirming this principle in the text of the Final Report can be compared with the systematic avoidance of the expression “homoousios” on behalf of the opponents of the dogma of the Council of Nicea in the fourth century – the formal Arians and the so-called Semi-Arians – , who invented continuously other expressions in order not to confess directly the consubstantiality of the Son of God with God the Father.

Such a declination from an open Catholic confession on behalf of the majority of the episcopate in the fourth century caused a feverish ecclesiastical activity with continuous synodal meetings and a proliferation of new doctrinal formula with the common denominator of avoiding terminological clarity i.e. the expression “homoousios.” Likewise, in our days the two last Synods on Family avoided naming and confessing clearly the principle of the entire Catholic tradition, that those who live in an invalid marital union can be admitted to Holy Communion only under the condition that their promise to live in complete continence and avoid public scandal.

This fact is proven also by the immediate unequivocal reaction of the secular media and by the reaction of the main advocators of the new un-Catholic practice to admit divorced and remarried to Holy Communion while maintaining a life of public adultery. Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Nichols and Archbishop Forte, for instance, publicly affirmed that, according to the Final Report, one can assume that a door in some way has been opened to Communion for the divorced and remarried. There exists as well a considerable number of bishops, priests and laity who rejoice because of the so-called “opened door” they found in the Final Report. Instead of guiding the faithful with a clear and an utmost unambiguous teaching, the Final Report caused a situation of obscuration, confusion, subjectivity (the judgement of the conscience of the divorced and forum internum) and an un-Catholic doctrinal and disciplinary particularism in a matter which is essentially connected to the deposit of faith transmitted by the Apostles.

Those who in our days strongly defend the sanctity of the sacraments of Marriage and Eucharist are labeled as Pharisees. Yet, since the logical principle of non-contradiction is valid and common sense still functions, the contrary is true.

The obfuscators of the Divine truth in the Final Report are more like Pharisees. For in order to reconcile a life in adultery with the reception of Holy Communion, they skillfully invented new letters, a new law of “discernment and integration,” introducing new human traditions against the crystalline commandment of God. To the advocators of the so-called “Kasper agenda” are addressed these words of the Incarnated Truth: “You made void the word of God by introducing your own tradition” (Mark 7: 13). Those who during 2,000 years spoke relentlessly and with an utmost clarity about the immutability of the Divine truth, often at the cost of their own life, would be labelled in our days as Pharisees as well; so Saint John the Baptist, Saint Paul, Saint Irenaeus, Saint Athanasius, Saint Basil, Saint Thomas More, Saint John Fisher, Saint Pius X, just to mention the most glowing examples.

The real result of the Synod in the perception of the faithful and of secular public opinion was that there has been practically only one focus on the question of the admittance of the divorced to Holy Communion. One can affirm that the Synod in a certain sense turned out to be in the eyes of public opinion a Synod of adultery, not the Synod of family. Indeed, all the beautiful affirmations of the Final Report on marriage and family are eclipsed by the ambiguous affirmations in the text section on the divorced and remarried, a topic which was already confirmed and decided by the Magisterium of the last Roman Pontiffs in faithful conformity with the bi-millennial teaching and practice of the Church. It is therefore a real shame that Catholic bishops, the successors of the Apostles, used synodal assemblies in order to make an attempt on the constant and unchangeable practice of the Church regarding the indissolubility of the marriage, i.e. the non-admittance of the divorced who live in an adulterous union to the Sacraments.

In his letter to Pope Damasus, Saint Basil drew a realistic picture of the doctrinal confusion caused by those churchmen who sought an empty compromise, and an adaptation to the spirit of the world in his time: “Traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be compassionated, for they do not know of what they have been deprived” (Ep. 90, 2).

In a letter to Pope Damasus and to the Occidental Bishops, Saint Basil describes as follows the confused situation inside the Church: “The laws of the Church are in confusion.  The ambition of men, who have no fear of God, rushes into high posts, and exalted office is now publicly known as the prize of impiety.  The result is, that the worse a man blasphemes, the fitter the people think him to be a bishop.  Clerical dignity is a thing of the past. There is no precise knowledge of canons.  There is complete immunity in sinning; for when men have been placed in office by the favour of men, they are obliged to return the favour by continually showing indulgence to offenders. Just judgment is a thing of the past; and everyone walks according to his heart’s desire. Men in authority are afraid to speak, for those who have reached power by human interest are the slaves of those to whom they owe their advancement. And now the very vindication of orthodoxy is looked upon in some quarters as an opportunity for mutual attack; and men conceal their private ill-will and pretend that their hostility is all for the sake of the truth. All the while unbelievers laugh; men of weak faith are shaken; faith is uncertain; souls are drenched in ignorance, because adulterators of the word imitate the truth. The better ones of the laity shun the churches as schools of impiety and lift their hands in the deserts with sighs and tears to their Lord in heaven. The faith of the Fathers we have received; that faith we know is stamped with the marks of the Apostles; to that faith we assent, as well as to all that in the past was canonically and lawfully promulgated.” (Ep. 92, 2).

Each period of confusion during the history of the Church is at the same time a possibility to receive many graces of strength and courage and a chance to demonstrate one’s love for Christ the Incarnated Truth. To Him each baptized and each priest and bishop promised inviolable fidelity, everyone according to his own state: through the baptismal vows, through the priestly promises, through the solemn promise in the episcopal ordination. Indeed, every candidate to the episcopacy promised: “I will keep pure and integral the deposit of faith according the tradition which was always and everywhere preserved in the Church.” The ambiguity found in the section on divorced and remarried of the Final Report contradicts the above mentioned solemn episcopal vow. Notwithstanding this, everyone in the Church – from the simple faithful to the holders of the Magisterium – should say:

“Non possumus!” I will not accept an obfuscated speech nor a skilfully masked back door to a profanation of the Sacrament of Marriage and Eucharist. Likewise, I will not accept a mockery of the Sixth Commandment of God. I prefer to be ridiculed and persecuted rather than to accept ambiguous texts and insincere methods. I prefer the crystalline “image of Christ the Truth, rather than the image of the fox ornamented with gemstones” (Saint Irenaeus), for “I know whom I have believed”, “Scio, Cui credidi!” (2 Tim 1: 12).

November 2nd, 2015

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