Friday, October 30, 2015

On the Condemnation of Error and the Grace of God

When asked to comment on the paragraphs of the Relatio Finalis which treat the matter of the so-called "divorced and re-married" and permission to Holy Communion, Cardinal George Pell remarked:
There's nothing in the paragraphs as they stand that is heretical or false doctrine or advocating a false practice.
Do you feel comforted? Me neither.

The Chinese have a saying:

不进则退
(bù jìn zé tuì)
To fail to advance is to retreat.

That is to say, if you are not advancing into enemy territory, if you are not capturing his troops, cutting off his supply lines and destroying his infrastructure, if you are not in some way compromising his ability to conduct war, you are losing.

Granted, the heretics and apostates attending the 2015 Synod were held in check insofar as they were prevented from injecting outright heresy into the Relatio Finalis. A great catastrophe was averted, and for that we should be thankful. But merely defending the truth, while absolutely necessary, is not enough to win this battle. The opposing error must be ruthlessly and relentlessly condemned, and those who proffer it obstinately must be excommunicated, anathematized, cursed and damned. Upholding truth and condemning error are two sides of the same coin; to attempt the one without committing equally to the other is to fail in both.

"But," I hear someone whine, "we can't do that, as it will drive people away from the Church. After all, as St. Francis de Sales said, 'You catch more flies with honey than vinegar'."

With all due respect to that great Saint: Offering honey to flies has brought us little more than an infestation of maggots.

Snark aside: If you are genuinely concerned that the condemnation of error could drive people away from the Church, I would like to familiarize you with a Catholic doctrine which has received far too little attention over the last 50 years: the Universality of Grace.

(As it seems full disclosure is all the rage these days: I do not possess a Ph.D. in theology. I'm just a Catholic blogger, and the following is my opinion.)

The doctrine of the Universality of Grace can be summarized in four short statements (all of which can be found, with ample source material, in Ludwig Ott's classic Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pp. 238-242):
  • Despite men's sins, God truly and earnestly desires the salvation of all men.
  • God gives all the just sufficient grace for the observation of the Divine Commandments.
  • God gives all the faithful who are sinners sufficient grace for conversion.
  • God gives all innocent unbelievers sufficient grace to achieve eternal salvation.

We hear much these days regarding God's desire to see all men saved from sin and the damnation it rightly deserves. Pope Francis, for example, brings it up at nearly every opportunity - something which is, in itself, perfectly laudable. But we hear virtually nothing of the corollary of this truth, i.e. that God always and everywhere gives everyone the sufficient grace they require in order to observe His Commandments, repent of their sins and seek out the means for achieving eternal salvation. This means that everything a person needs in the way of grace to eventually attain heaven is given to him in precisely that measure which he requires, and no one on the Day of Judgment will be able to say that God did not provide him with the sufficient grace to attain sainthood. In other words, if people fail to observe God's Commandments, repent of their sins and seek out the means for achieving salvation, they ultimately have no one to blame but themselves. Not me, not you, and certainly not God. (Which casts an entirely different light on the dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, but that's another conversation for another day.)

But, what if someone takes offence at the words or actions of a Catholic?

Well, what of it? Are we to suppose that a layman or prelate who strongly condemns sodomy, adultery, pedophilia or any such sins, and thereby offends the sensibilities of another, could possibly thwart the will of almighty God in ensuring that such a person receives sufficient grace to effect his conversion? Not even the devil himself can accomplish such a feat. How, then, could any effort on our part bring about the same? If God always gives sufficient grace - and He does - then, regardless of whatever circumstances a person may find himself in, failure to attain heaven falls to him and his unwillingness to cooperate with that grace. Having an abusive father, an alcoholic mother, or a perverted uncle - or even, heaven forbid, a pedophile priest - does not grant you a Get Out of Jail Free card. It's on you and you alone to respond to God's gratuitous gift of grace.

But what of scandal? If, by speaking plainly regarding sin and forcefully in the condemnation of error, we drive people away from the Church, are we not effecting evil by our actions and thus guilty of giving scandal?

Hardly. Scandal is an action which is evil in itself and performed with the intent to bring about another's spiritual ruin. If your condemnation of sin occasions another person's either leaving the Church or refusing to enter her, the evil resides not in your having condemned the sin - which is always and everywhere good - but in the person's inordinate love of the same.

So, for heaven's sake, stop worrying about "offending" people by speaking plainly and emphatically in the condemnation of sin and error. To do so is to doubt both the sufficiency of God's grace as well as man's freedom and the moral culpability which results from it.

St. Anthony of Padua, Hammer of Heretics
proving that love of Christ requires hatred of error
since AD 1195

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Emperor Hadrian

Reading N°39 in the History of the Catholic Church

 by
 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138)
Hadrian, grandnephew and adopted son of Trajan, succeeded the latter in AD 117. He ruled the destinies of the Empire for twenty-one years. Hadrian was a cautious politician, more discreet than his predecessor, foregoing any ambition for conquests in Asia, confining himself to the task of being an attentive and diligent administrator, being his own minister of finance, of justice, of war, of the interior, and filling each of these offices with undeniable superiority. But he was also an artist, a traveler fond of every novelty, not fearful of offending the gods of his country by having himself initiated into all the mysteries of the Oriental religions. Viewing his character from these two angles, we would expect that Hadrian would be less a persecutor of Christianity than was Trajan. Would not the statesman resolutely sacrificing every ambitious undertaking for the sake of the Empire's tranquility, the philosopher skeptical of every religious creed, let the Christian religion develop freely at Rome and in the provinces? An important rescript, issued by Hadrian about 124,[1] seemed to justify these anticipations. Licinius Granianus, a proconsul of Asia, complained that popular rage often induced magistrates to pass death sentences upon men whose only crime was the name they bore and the religious sect to which they belonged. If this did not imply a request for the revision of Trajan's rescript, it was at least a complaint about abuses in its application. The reply of the imperial philosopher was hesitant. He forbade "clamorous entreaties and outcries," with which the mobs hostile to the Christians used to besiege the magistrates. But he made no decision as to whether the name of Christian was punishable, or whether, to incur the rigor of the courts, a person must be guilty of some specific crime. He said:
If anyone accuses and proves that the aforesaid men do anything contrary to the laws, you will also determine their punishments in accordance with their offences.[2]
In short, in words less firm than those of Trajan, the Emperor Hadrian took into account only the matter of external order. His decisions seemed more liberal than those of his predecessor; but they were no less fatal for the Christians. In fact, of the jurisprudence which, since Nero, considered the mere name of Christian as an offence against the national institutions, he abolished nothing; he found no fault with the popular frenzy which branded the disciples of Christ with the charge of atheism and immorality; he withdrew nothing of Trajan's regulation which directed magistrates to condemn every Christian who would refuse to sacrifice to the gods of the Empire. The popular charges became less clamorous, but they grew more numerous; though the magistrates appeared somewhat more exacting regarding the genuineness of the accusations, they continued pitilessly to condemn the accused who were denounced as Christians and proven to be so.

Thus Hadrian's reign was no less disastrous for the Christians than that of Trajan. The Acts of St. Faustinus and companions, of SS. Alexander, Hermes, and Quirinus, of St. Getulius, of SS. Sophia, Pistis, Elpis, and Agapius, of SS. Sabina and Seraphia, of SS. Herperus and Zoe (slaves), of St. Mary (a slave), and of St. Symphorosa and her sons all bear witness to the blood that was shed under the rule of this Emperor. To recover the historic truth at the basis of the acts of these martyrs, it is often necessary to sift the many legends with which popular imagination embellished them. Archaeological monuments of unquestionable authenticity, however, leave no room to question their substantial truthfulness and the genuineness of certain characteristic details.[3]

Mary, a slave in the service of a decurion, was accused of being a Christian. The excited mob called for her death, crying out: "Let a terrible fire consume her alive." The judge said to her: "Since you are a slave, why do you not profess the religion of your master?" As remarked by the historian of the persecutions, this was a truly Roman question. Such is the idea which the Romans had of a slave's conscience. It was Seneca who wrote: "A slave never has the right to say: No."[4]

Symphorosa was the widow of the martyr Getulius, who had been put to death at the beginning of Hadrian's reign for having evangelized the Sabine country. To her the Emperor said: "Sacrifice to the all-powerful gods, or I will sacrifice you along with your children." "Whence comes this happiness to me," she replied, "that I am worthy of being offered with my sons as a victim to God?" "Choose, either to sacrifice to our gods, or to die." In answer to this, she said: "I desire only to rest with my husband Getulius, whom you slew for the name of Christ." Hadrian, after having her variously tortured, ordered that she be thrown into the Anio, with a stone fastened to her neck. On the next day, the Emperor had her seven children put to death in various ways.[5]

In one respect, Hadrian seems to have rendered the condition of the Christians better. He tracked them down and had them sentenced to death; but he let them talk. In his reign, the pleas on behalf of the Christian religion increased in number. These pleas, called apologies, were addressed sometimes to the emperor, sometimes to the senate, or to public opinion. Eusebius preserves this fragment from an apology presented to Emperor Hadrian by Quadratus, a disciple of the Apostles in Asia Minor:
The works of our Savior were always present, for they were true, those who were cured, those who rose from the dead, who not merely appeared as cured and risen, but were constantly present, not only while the Savior was living, but even for some time after He had gone, so that some of them survived even till our own time.[6]
A few years later, shortly after AD 135, there appeared another apology, more celebrated among the Fathers, which seems to have served as a basis for the apologetic work of St. Justin. It is the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, by Aristo of Pella. The author personifies in a Jew (Jason) the whole list of objections which the pagans made against the Christian religion; he appears to have planned a complete apologetic. Eusebius, Origen, Celsus, and St. Jerome speak of this important work, of which, unfortunately, neither the original Greek text nor any translation has come down to us.[7]

Bar-Cocheba (Kokhba) silver Shekel, representing the porch of
the Temple and his "star"; reverse: a vase containing the four
species of Sukkot, with the text: "to the freedom of Jerusalem".
The device of placing in the mouth of a Jew all the calumnies passed about by the people against Christianity is comprehensible at that period. The Christians remembered that the fiercest of the persecutions against their faith had been let loose through the denunciations of the Jews. Moreover, the Jews had just made themselves hateful to the Empire; to point to them as the sworn enemies of the Christian name might be good tactics. In AD 132, a deed of desperate fanaticism stirred up Judea. A certain Bar-Coziba ("Son of Deceit"), who changed his inglorious name to Bar-Cocheba ("Son of the Star"), claimed to be the star foretold by Balaam, i. e., the Messias. The eighty-five jubilees of Elias, according to the calculations of the rabbis, were near their close. The most famous of these rabbis, the scholarly Akiba, since then venerated by the Jews as a second Moses, gave royal anointing to Bar-Cocheba and set him upon a horse, the while he himself held the stirrup. The whole Jewish race, save those who acknowledged Jesus as the Messias, bounded with hope. So grave did the danger to the Empire appear, that Hadrian summoned Julius Severus, the ablest of his generals, from the interior of Britain. The revolt was put down without pity. Palestine was subdued and devastated with unfeeling and inexorable rigor. Those who escaped death on the field of battle were sold in the slave markets of Terebinth and Gaza. A man, so it was said, was sold at the price of a horse. Those who were not bought were taken to Egypt as slaves.[8] What was left of Jerusalem was destroyed; the Temple site was plowed up and sowed with salt, as a sign of malediction and sterility. In the place of the hoy city there arose Hadrian's completely pagan city, Aelia Capitolina; on the ground but recently occupied by the Temple was placed a statue of the Emperor beside one of Jupiter.[9]

Footnotes


[1] Modern criticism is unanimous in recognizing the authenticity of this rescript, quoted in full by St. Justin at the end of his First Apology. (See Waddington, Fastes des provinces asiatiques, pp. 197 ff.; Allard, Hist. des pers., I, 242; Renan, L'Eglise chrétienne, p. 32, note.)
[2] St. Justin, First Apology, 68.
[3] For a critical consideration of these Acta, see Allard, op. cit., I, 202-234, 266-280.
[4] "Servus non habet negandi potestatem." Seneca, De beneficiis, III, 19. On the substantial authenticity of the Acts of St. Mary, see Le Blant, Les Actes des martyrs, p. 184.
[5] Ruinart, Acta sincera, pp. 18-20; Leclercq, Les Martyrs, I, 207-209.
[6] Eusebius, H. E. IV, iii, 2; Funk, Patres apostolici, p. 371. Funk (loc. cit.) fixes upon AD 125 or 129 as the date of the writing of this Apology. Evidently the words "until our day" do not refer to the date of the Apology, but to the period of the author's childhood, i.e., the years 80-100. (Cf. Duchesne, Early History of the Christian Church, I, 149.)
[7] On Aristo, see Batiffol, Anciennes littératures chrétiennes, la littérature grecque, pp. 89 f.; Bardenhewer, Patrology, pp. 48 f.
[8] St. Jerome, In Zachariam, II; Origen, Against Celsus, VII.
[9] Champagny, Les Antonins, II, 71-74.

***

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Monday, October 26, 2015

On the Proper Treatment of Ambiguities

If Jesuits made doors....
In moment of refreshing candor, Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ made the following statement on the widely reported differences of opinion - even among Synod Fathers themselves - regarding the meaning of the Synod's Relatio Finalis  for the issue of the Communion of the so-called "divorced and remarried" (emphasis mine):
So what does it mean? A conservative might interpret it as closed to Communion because it was not mentioned in the text. A liberal might interpret it as including Communion since it is not explicitly excluded in the text. I think that the truth is that Communion was not mentioned because that was the only way the paragraphs could get a two-thirds majority. Like the Second Vatican Council, the synod achieved consensus through ambiguity.
If there remain any doubts about the status of the Benedictine Hermeneutic of Continuity, let them be put to rest: The proponents of the Hermeneutic of Rupture have the reigns of power firmly in their grip, and are so assured of their control that they are no longer ashamed to admit how they came to it, i.e. by way of ambiguity.

I suppose I remain somewhat naive insofar as the notion of a Catholic priest approving the use of intentional ambiguity as a tool of subversion never fails to cause in me a certain sadness. I just can't get my head around how a man who has dedicated his life to the One who is Truth shows no qualms in twisting the same to achieve his ends. It seems to be a deeply ingrained characteristic of mine, for I am no stranger to the history of the Catholic Church. But why, then, does the present situation cause in me such consternation, while the tales of the Arian Crisis merely tickle my intellectual curiosity? Perhaps it is because, unlike those heretics of old, who have long since gone on to their eternal reward, these souls still hang in the balance.

Be that as it may, we may nonetheless draw useful lessons from the past. In particular, this talk of synodal ambiguity calls to mind the 1786 Synod of Pistoia and the Apostolic Constitution Auctorem Fidei, written by Pope Pius VI in 1794, which condemned it. The whole document is worth studying, but the following passage seems especially pertinent (emphasis mine):
We have determined, in order to meet this probable calumny, to make use of the wise counsel, duly and cautiously applied, which several of our most holy predecessors along with highly esteemed bishops and even general councils had left attested and recommended with notable examples when they had cause to restrain the rise of dangerous or harmful novelties of this sort. 
They knew the capacity of innovators in the art of deception. In order not to shock the ears of Catholics, they sought to hide the subtleties of their tortuous maneuvers by the use of seemingly innocuous words such as would allow them to insinuate error into souls in the most gentle manner. Once the truth had been compromised, they could, by means of slight changes or additions in phraseology, distort the confession of the faith which is necessary for our salvation, and lead the faithful by subtle errors to their eternal damnation. This manner of dissimulating and lying is vicious, regardless of the circumstances under which it is used. For very good reasons it can never be tolerated in a synod of which the principal glory consists above all in teaching the truth with clarity and excluding all danger of error. 
Moreover, if all this is sinful, it cannot be excused in the way that one sees it being done, under the erroneous pretext that the seemingly shocking affirmations in one place are further developed along orthodox lines in other places, and even in yet other places corrected; as if allowing for the possibility of either affirming or denying the statement, or of leaving it up the personal inclinations of the individual - such has always been the fraudulent and daring method used by innovators to establish error. It allows for both the possibility of promoting error and of excusing it. [...]
In order to expose such snares, something which becomes necessary with a certain frequency in every century, no other method is required than the following: Whenever it becomes necessary to expose statements which disguise some suspected error or danger under the veil of ambiguity, one must denounce the perverse meaning under which the error opposed to Catholic truth is camouflaged.
Indeed, it is as Solomon said:
What is it that hath been? The same thing that shall be. What is it that hath been done? The same that shall be done. Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)

Respect and Love of Parents

Thirty-Fifth in a Series on Catholic Morality

 by
 Fr. John H. Stapleton

We have finished with the three commandments that refer directly to God. The second Table of the Law contains seven precepts that concern themselves with our relations to God, indirectly, through the creature; they treat of our duties and obligations toward the neighbor. As God may be honored, so He may be dishonored, through the works of His hand; one may offend as effectively by disregard for the law that binds us to God's creatures as for that which binds us to the Creator Himself.

Since parents are those of God's creatures that stand nearest to us, the Fourth Commandment immediately orders us to honor them as the authors of our being and the representatives of divine authority, and it prescribes the homage we owe them in their capacity of parents. But that which applies to fathers and mothers, applies in a certain degree to all who have any right or authority to command; consequently, this law also regulates the duties of superiors and inferiors in general to one another.

The honor we owe to our parents consists in four things: respect for their dignity, love for their beneficence, obedience to their authority and assistance in their needs. Whoever fails in one of these requirements, breaks the law, offends God and sins. His sin may be mortal, if the quality of the offense and the malice of the offender be such as to constitute a serious breach of the law.

It is the great fault of our age to underrate parental dignity. In the easy-going world, preference is given to profligate celibacy over honorable wedlock; marriage itself is degraded to the level of a purely natural contract, its bond has lost its character of indissolubility and its obligations are shirked to meet the demands of fashion and convenience. When parents, unworthy ones, do not appreciate their own dignity, how will others, their children, appreciate it? And parenthood will never be esteemed while its true nature and sanctity are ignored and contemned; there is no dignity where the idea of God is excluded.

After God had created man, He left him to work out his destiny in a natural way; and immediately man assumed towards his offspring the relation that God first held towards himself - he assumed the prerogatives of paternity and of authority. All paternity belongs to God, and to Him alone; yet man is delegated to that lofty, quasi-divine function. God alone can create; yet so near does the parental office approach to the power of creation that we call it pro-creation.

It is true that man holds this privilege in common with the rest of animated nature, but with this difference: that the fruit of his loins is a child of God, with an immortal soul, an heir to heaven where its destiny is to glorify the Eternal during all eternity. And thus, man, in his function of parent, is as far differentiated from the rest of animal nature as the act by which God created man is superior to all His other creative acts.

If the tempter, when working out his plan for the fall of our first parents, had simply and unconditionally said: "Ye shall be as gods," his utterance would have in it more truth than he intended, for the mantle of parenthood that was soon to fall upon them made them like unto God. The children that romped around them, looked up to them even, almost, as they were accustomed to look up to the Creator. And little the wonder, since to their parents they owed their very existence.

As depositaries of authority, there is no human station, however exalted, comparable to theirs. Children are not merely subjects; they belong to their parents. Church and State, under God, may see to it that that authority is not abused; but within the bounds of right, they are held to respect it; and their acts that go contrary to the exercise of parental authority are, by the fact of such opposition, null and void. Before the State or Church, the family was; its natural rights transcend theirs, and this bowing, as it were, of all constituted human authority before the dominion of parents is evidence enough of their dignity.

"God could not be everywhere, therefore he made parents - fathers and mothers" - that is how the pagans used to put it. However theologically unsound this proposition may appear, it is a beautiful attempt at a great truth, viz., that parents towards us stand in God's stead. In consequence of this eminent dignity that is theirs, they deserve our respect. They not only deserve it, but God so ordains it.

Worthy of honor are they whom the Lord sees fit to honor. In the exalted station to which they have been called and in the express command made by the Lord to honor them, we see evidence of the dignity of parents; and the honor we owe them for this dignity is the honor of respect. By respect we mean the recognition of their superiority, the reverence, veneration and awe all well-born men instinctively feel for natural worth that transcends their own, the deference in tone, manner and deportment that naturally belongs to such worth.

It is much easier to say in what respect does not consist than to define the term itself. If it really exists in the heart - and there it must exist, to be at all - it will find expression in a thousand different ways, and will never be at a loss to express itself. Books will give you the laws of etiquette and will tell you how to be polite; but the laws that govern respect are graven on the heart, and he whose heart is in the right place never fails to read and interpret them correctly. Towards all, at all times and in all places, he will conform the details of his life with the suggestions of his inner consciousness. This is respect.

Respect has no substitute; neither assistance nor obedience nor love can supply it or take its place. It may happen that children are no longer obliged to help their parents; they may be justified in not obeying them; the circumstances may be such that they no longer have love or affection for them; but respect can never be wanting without serious guilt. The reason is simple: because it is due in justice, because it is founded on natural rights that can never be forfeited, even when parents themselves lose the sense of their own dignity.

Sinful, wicked and scandalous parents there have been, are, and will be. But just as they do not owe the excellence to any deed of their own, but to the free choice of the Almighty, so it depends not on themselves to forfeit it. God made them parents without respect for their personal worth. He is the custodian of their dignity. Good or bad, they are parents and remain parents. Woe unto those who despise the authors of their days!

Respect overlooks an innocent joke at the expense of a parent, when absolutely no malice is intended, when on both sides it is looked upon as a matter of good-natured pleasantry. It brooks humor. Not all familiarity breeds contempt.

But contempt, which is directly opposed to respect, is a sin that is never anything but mortal. It refuses honor, belittles dignity and considers parents beneath esteem. It is contempt to laugh at, to mock, to gibe and insult parents; it is contempt to call them vile, opprobrious names, to tell of their faults; it is contempt, and the height of contempt, to defy them, to curse them or to strike them. It is bad enough when this sort of thing is directed against an equal; but when parents are made the objects of contempt, it acquires a dignity that is infernal.

The malediction of Heaven, the almighty wrath of God follows him or her who despises a parent. We are repeatedly told in Holy Writ that such offenders "shall die the death." Scorn of parents is looked upon as a crime almost on a par with hatred of God. Pagans frequently punished it with death. Among Christians, it is left to the avenging wrath of God, who is pledged to defend the dignity of His delegated paternity.

It is not a rare occurrence to see just retribution visited upon parents who in their day were undutiful, unworthy and unnatural children. The justice of Heaven often permits it to be done unto us as we do unto others. Our children will treat us as we shall have treated our parents; their hands will be raised against us and will smite us on the cheek to avenge the grandsire's dishonor and tears, and to make us atone in shame for our sins against our parents. If we respect others, they will respect us; if we respect our parents, our children will respect us.

He who has a heart, and has it properly located, will not fail to love that which is good. He will have no difficulty in so doing; it will require neither command nor persuasion to make him do so. If he proves refractory to this law of nature, it is because he is not like the rest of mortals, because he is inhuman; and his abnormal condition is due, not to nature's mistakes, but to his own. And no consideration under heaven will be equal to the task of instilling affection into a stone or a chunk of putty.

That is good which is desirable, or which is the source of what is desirable. God alone is absolutely good, that is to say, good in Himself and the cause of all good. Created things are good in the proportion of their furnishing us with things desirable, and are for that reason called relatively good. They confer benefits on one and not perhaps on another. When I say: this or that is good, I mean that it is useful to me, and is productive of comfort, happiness and other desirable things. Because we are naturally selfish, our appreciation of what is good depends on what we get out of it.

Therefore, a child's first, best and strongest love should be for its parents, for the greatest good it enjoys, the thing of all others to be desired, the essential condition of all else - namely its existence - it owes to its parents. Life is the boon we receive from them; not only the giving, but the saving in more than one instance, the fostering and preserving and sustaining during long years of helplessness, and the adorning of it with all the advantages we possess. Nor does this take into account the intimate cost, the sufferings and labors, the cares and anxieties, the trouble and worriment that are the lot of devoted parenthood. It is life spent and given for life. Flesh and blood, substance, health and comfort, strength of body and peace of soul, lavished with unstinted generosity out of the fullness of parental affection - these are things that can never be repaid in kind, they are repaid with the coin of filial piety and love, or they remain dead debts.

Failure to meet these obligations brands one a reprobate. There is not, in all creation, bird or beast, but feels and shows instinctive affection towards those to whom it owes its being. He, therefore, who closes his heart to the promptings of filial love, has the consolation of knowing that, not only he does not belong to the order of human beings, but he places himself outside the pale of animal nature itself, and exists in a world of his own creation, which no human language is able to properly qualify.

The love we owe to our parents is next in quality to that which we owe to God and to ourselves. Love has a way of identifying its object and its subject; the lover and the beloved become one, their interests are common, their purpose alike. The dutiful child, therefore, looks upon its parent as another self, and remains indifferent to nothing that for weal or for woe affects that parent. Love consists in this community of feeling, concern and interest. When the demon of selfishness drives gratitude out of the heart and the ties of natural sympathy become strained, and love begins to wane; when they are snapped asunder, love is dead.

The love of God, of course, primes all other love. "He who loves father or mother more than me," says the Savior, "is not worthy of me." Filial love, therefore, must not conflict with that which we owe to God; it must yield, for it draws its force from the latter and has no meaning without it. In normal conditions, this conflict never occurs; it can occur only in the event of parents overriding the law that governs their station in life. To make divine love wait on the human is criminal.

It may, and no doubt does, happen that parents become unlovable beings through disregard for the moral law. And because love is not a commodity that is made to order, children may be found who justify on these grounds their absence of affection or even their positive hatred for such parents. A drunken parent, one who attacks the life, virtue or reputation of his offspring, a low brute who has neither honor nor affection, and whose office it is to make home a living hell, such a one can hardly be loved.

But pity is a form of love; and just as we may never despise a fallen parent, just so do we owe him or her, even in the depths of his or her degradation, a meed of pity and commiseration. There is no erring soul but may be reclaimed; every soul is worth the price of its redemption, and there is no unfortunate, be he ever so low, but deserves, for the sake of his soul, a tribute of sympathy and a prayer for his betterment. And the child that refuses this, however just the cause of his aversion, offends against the law of nature, of charity and of God.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

In Festo Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Regis


Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui in dilecto Filio tuo, universorum Rege, omnia instaurare voluisti: Concede propitius, ut cunctae familiae Gentium, peccati vulnere disgregatae, eius suavissimo subdantur imperio.

Almighty, everlasting God, who hast willed to restore all things in Thy beloved Son, the King of the universe, mercifully grant that all the nations of mankind who are torn asunder by the wounds of sin may submit to His most sweet rule.

Synod 2015: Initial Media Reactions


Within minutes of the release of the much-anticipated Relazione Finale, as well as a surprise address made by Pope Francis to the Synod Fathers, the media spin went into overdrive. Like most faithful Catholics, I will withhold any detailed comment on the document until an official translation has been provided. Until then, we can poke fun at the huge spectrum of spin being put on the matter. Here are the major headlines published to date. The articles can be accessed by clicking on the link in the titles:


Perhaps nothing captures the spirit of subterfuge and obfuscation permeating certain strains of coverage of this event as does the following tweet from Austen Ivereigh:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Cardinal Schönborn: Continence Is Not Necessary

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn
In an interview published by Vatican Insider today, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the Moderator of the German-language Group attending the Synod on the Family, went on record as standing opposed to the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. When asked to explain his position in light of the magisterial teaching contained in the latter document, which requires that divorced and civilly "remarried" Catholics practice "complete continence" if they desire to receive Holy Communion, the Cardinal - apparently speaking for the entire German delegation - said:
We don't believe that [continence] is the only way.
This is a plain and open rejection of two important teaching documents of the Church, viz. (emphasis added):

Catechism of the Catholic Church §1650: "Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence."

Familiaris Consortio §84: "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' (Homily at the Close of the Sixth Synod of Bishops, §7 [Oct. 25, 1980])."

The same teaching was confirmed verbatim by Cardinal Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1994, and as Pope Benedict XVI in a 2005 address.

To find that Cardinal Schönborn materially rejects the teaching of the Church on this matter is not new. What is new is that, when directly confronted with the authoritative teaching of the Church, confirmed by centuries of traditional practice, the Cardinal explicitly rejects the same, saying "I don't believe that," and then goes on in the same breath to propose the very opposite, i.e. that people living in a mortally sinful condition can continue in their objective sin and nonetheless be admitted to Holy Communion - a formally condemned thesis (Council of Trent, Session 13, Canon 11). His only option to escape this condemnation would be to say that, in some cases, adultery is not a mortal sin. But this would be to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire, for the same stands directly opposed to the 6th Commandment, i.e. "You shall not commit adultery."

As laypeople, it's not our place to condemn the man. But it is our place to condemn his opinion as being directly contrary to the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church. Further, it is our place to inquire as to why this man is being allowed to spread his error without correction from his brother Bishops - including the Holy Father, whose primary task is the preservation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Am I beating a dead horse? Probably. But the only tool I have available to me is my voice, and I wish not be found guilty of having remained silent in the face of such a brazen repudiation of Church teaching, even if that repudiation comes from one claiming the office of Prince of the Church.

The Catholic Family

Last in a Series on Catholic Marriage and Parenthood

 by
 Fr. Thomas J. Gerrard

The Holy Family
Juan Simón Gutiérrez (1634-1718)
The ideal of the Catholic family has been only once fully realized. There have been many good examples, all more or less approaching the ideal. But all except one must be regarded as having failed, at least in some respects, to achieve the perfection of family life. That one, of course, is the Holy Family of Nazareth. Since, therefore, God has given us the ideal fully realized in the concrete, it is to that rather than the more remote symbols that we must go for our lessons as to what the Catholic family should be. The Word was made flesh to reveal to us the mind of the Eternal Father. In order, then, to learn the mind of the Eternal Father concerning the nature and end of the Catholic family life, we cannot do better than turn our thoughts to the little home at Nazareth.

The school of the Apostles was formed by Our Lord during the years of His public ministry. Then, having been organized by Him during His lifetime, it was fully promulgated and endowed with its special gifts after His death, by the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. The purpose of the Incarnation was the salvation of souls. The purpose of the Church was the salvation of souls. The purpose of the first Catholic Family was the salvation of souls. The first and foremost purpose, then, of every Catholic family is to obtain for its members the possession of everlasting life. The family does not exist merely for the sake of the love of husband and wife; nor for the love of parent and children; nor for the acquisition of worldly fortunes; nor for the promotion of the children in business; nor for the material prosperity of nations. All these are lawful and subordinate aims are subordinate to the final aim, which is to help immortal souls to get to heaven. This is the first and, in a sense, the only lesson to be learned from the Holy Family of Nazareth: the purpose of the Catholic family is the undoing of sin, the hindrance of sin, the propagation of those truths and virtues which lead to life eternal.

The child Jesus grew in wisdom and age and grace in the eyes of God and of men. Although possessing the Beatific Vision, and consequently all wisdom, knowledge, and grace, yet Jesus deemed it expedient to acquire an experimental knowledge of things, to learn from Joseph and Mary the great truths about religion, and how to apply them to the development of the spiritual life. Jesus was the foundation of all grace. He was knowledge itself; He was wisdom itself; but He chose that His wisdom and knowledge and grace should be manifested gradually. He chose to undergo that laborious education to set the example to all Christian families, to show them that it was only by constant teaching and learning that Christian character could be formed. The Christian mother, then, assiduously watches for the first dawn of conscience in her child. She knows, or ought to know, that first impressions are the most effective and most lasting. She delights to take her child on her knees and teach it to pray. Her pride is to show her friends how her little one can say the Our Father and the Hail Mary. At length, the time comes when the child must be sent to school. There must be no question about the character of the school, it must be Catholic.

The Catholic school will undoubtedly possess a Catholic atmosphere. The constant or frequent presence of priests or religious, the Catholic prayers, the statues and the fixtures, all tend to keep before the mind of the child the fact that he is a Catholic.

Now the Catholic home ought to be at least as Catholic as the Catholic school. There ought to be prominent signs about the house that it is the abode of a Catholic family. There is a feeling in some families, having pretensions to be up-to-date and fashionable, to regard a religious picture in the drawing-room as out of place. This feeling is generally the fruit of worldliness. It Is also, in a measure, due to the large number of inferior pictures which flood the market, those cheap lithographs of the Pope or the bishop, which are a compliment to neither. A zealous father of a Catholic family will make an endeavor to hang up one or two good and really artistic religious pictures. They give a tone to the house, impressing the faith on the minds of the members of the family, and expressing the faith of the family to visitors.

More important even than Catholic art is Catholic literature. These are days when everybody reads or, at least, is supposed to read. And it is notorious that Catholics do not buy books as they should. Our Holy Father has warned us that, unless we support a good Catholic press, it will be useless for us to build schools and churches. Now, the Catholic Church is not wanting either in excellent writers or in excellent publishers. Our book stores are rich in devotional, scientific, and recreational literature. The crying shame is that so little of this finds its way into the Catholic family. Heads of Catholic families, therefore, ought to see to it at once that there is a shelf for religious literature, that there is a regular subscription to some monthly or quarterly Catholic journal, and, especially among the working classes, a subscription to some Catholic weekly newspaper. It is chiefly through the press that the members of the family learn their relationship to other institutions in the world. The secular press keeps them provided with political news and so constantly reminds them of their civic duties. But the secular press is not an ideal medium for showing the Catholic his duty to the State.

Especially in the matter of education, the Catholic need to know the bearings between the mind of the Church and the mind of the State. And he ought to know this, not only on general principles, but also in the application of those principles to the particular circumstances of his country. He must know what the bishops have said, what the government has done to this or that particular school or college, and what the government proposes to do with schools and colleges in the future. In a word, he must be alive to his duties as a Catholic citizen. The family life is the foundation of true citizenship. Since, therefore, the Catholic press is the means by which the Catholic learns the bearings between the family, the Church, the State, the Catholic press ought to be an institution in every Catholic household.
And Jesus went down with them, and came to Nazareth and was subject unto them.
Order is said to be heaven's first command. If, on the other hand, love be said to be the first and final law of heaven, the statement must be qualified by making the love a well-ordered love. Even sin is only disordered love, the love of something contrary to the Divine Will. So also in the family life, love must be the ruling principle, but it must be a well-ordered love. Our Lord, therefore, in order to teach us this lesson, went down with His parents to Nazareth, and was subject unto them. Nowhere outside the bosom of the Blessed Trinity was a triple love so perfect as that love between Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Yet St. Joseph was the head and ruler of the family. It was St. Joseph who was told to fear not, but take Mary to be his spouse. It was St. Joseph who was told by the angel to arise and take the Child and His mother and flee into Egypt. It was St. Joseph who was divinely commanded to return and take Mary and Jesus to Nazareth. Although Mary was so much spiritually exalted over Joseph, yet Joseph was to be the ruler of the family. And although Jesus was so much spiritually exalted over Joseph and Mary, yet in the family He was to be subject to both.

Here, then, is the rule for the Catholic family. The father is to be supreme ruler, the mother is to rule in her sphere under him, the children are to be subject to both. Moreover, the subjection of the children is not to be a slavish subjection, but a filial subjection. It must be informed by love rather than by fear. There must, of course, be a certain fear present in the children, but a reverential fear, a fear by which one is afraid of offending love, rather than a fear by which one is afraid of punishment. Further, the obedience of children is not unlimited. If parents command anything contrary to divine law the duty of the children is to disobey. In cases of doubt, however, the presumption is in favor of the parents. But wherever there is a question of family interest or domestic arrangements the will of the parents must be obeyed. It is not for children to say which school they shall go to, to say where the family shall take up its abode, to say at what hour the family shall dine, to say what time they shall come in at night. These are points upon which children frequently mistake their place in the family, points in which they are obviously subject to their parents.

There comes a time, too, when children grow up. The relationships between them and their parents then become somewhat modified. Nevertheless, there still remain the duties of reverence and love. The children are free to choose their own states of life. In this they are not bound to follow the wishes of their parents, but they are bound to consult their parents and to weigh the considerations which they put forth. Then, later, when the parents are overtaken with old age, the children are bound in cases of necessity to support them.

From the principles of order and superiority and subjection in the family there arises the duty of the parents, and especially of the father, of providing for the material well-being of the children. There is an impression prevalent that worldly success and Roman Catholicism are not compatible. And it is certainly true that in many Protestant communities the Catholic is at a disadvantage. That is only an extra reason why Catholics should make themselves more proficient in their respective trades and professions. If a Catholic lawyer, or doctor, or engineer excels in his own vocation, then Protestant, Jew, and Infidel will engage him in preference. And if he shines in his Catholicity as he does in his profession, then the cause of Catholicity will benefit in proportion.

The father of the Catholic family, therefore, must provide his children with a good secular education. The school must be Catholic, but it must likewise be efficient in its secular subjects. Piety must come before worldly success, but it need not be allowed to supplant it. We have schools in abundance, schools as efficient as any secular schools in the country. There is no need to go outside the Church, though there may be need to use discrimination within the Church. And this discrimination is the office of the parents of the family.

We may sum up, then, the principles of Catholic family life thus: The family is the foundation of the State, and the strength and purity of the State depend on the strength and purity of the family. The family, however, is not the foundation of the Church, but is rather the child of the Church, taking its instructions from the Church, and existing primarily for the same end as the Church, namely, the salvation of souls. It should, therefore, be Catholic in its faith, Catholic in its hope, and Catholic in its love. The Catholic faith will be fostered by ceaseless attention to the Sacraments, to Catholic education during youth, and Catholic instruction through the press during manhood. From Catholic faith and hope will spring Catholic love. This will be made ever more and more fruitful by being kept in order, the father and mother ruling by love, the children obeying through love. The endeavor must be made to carry these Catholic principles into the world of business and professions, and to show to the non-Catholic world that religion and intellectual efficiency are not incompatible; nay, to show that only by the observance of the law of religion can the family, and consequently the State, achieve the perfection which it desires.

(Photo: Dave Crenshaw)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Silver Lining in the Cloud that is Synod 2015



The good folks over at OnePeterFive were kind enough to publish an article I wrote on the creative potential contained in the fallout of the 2015 Synod. You can read it by clicking on the link below:


Synod 2015: Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk

[Note: The following speech was delivered by Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Russia, to the participants of the 2015 Synod last Tuesday.]
Metropolitan Hilarion
Your Holiness!
Your Beatitudes, Eminences and Excellencies!

On behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus, I extend fraternal greetings to you on the occasion of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on the theme of the family.

In our restless and disturbing world, the human person needs a firm and unshakable foundation upon which he can rest and upon which he can build his life with confidence. At the same time, secular society, aimed primarily at the gratification of individual needs, is incapable of giving the human person clear moral direction. The crisis of traditional values which we see in the consumer society leads to a contradiction between various preferences, including those in the realm of family relationships. Thus, feminism views motherhood as an obstacle to a woman's self-realization, while by contrast having a baby is more often proclaimed as a right to be attained by all means possible. More often the family is viewed as a union of persons irrespective of their gender, and the human person can "choose" his or her gender according to personal taste.

On the other hand, new problems are arising which have a direct impact on traditional family foundations. Armed conflicts in the contemporary world have brought about a mass exodus from areas gripped by war to more prosperous countries. Emigration often leads to a disruption of family ties, creating at the same time a new social environment in which unions of an inter-ethnic and inter-religious nature arise.

These challenges and threats are common to all the Christian Churches which seek out answers to them, proceeding from the mission that Christ has placed upon them: to bring humanity to salvation. Unfortunately, in the Christian milieu, too, we often hear voices calling for the "modernization" of our ecclesial consciousness, for the rejection of the supposedly obsolete doctrine of the family. However, we ought never to forget the words of St. Paul addressed to the Christians of Rome:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
The Church is called to be a luminary and beacon in the darkness of this age, and Christians to be the "salt of the earth" and "light to the world." We all ought to recall the Saviour's warning:
If the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matthew 5:13-14)
The salt which has lost its savor are those Protestant communities which call themselves Christian, but which preach moral ideals incompatible with Christianity. If in this type of community a rite of blessing of same-sex unions is introduced, or a lesbian so-called "bishop" calls for the replacement of crosses from the churches with the Muslim crescent, can we speak of this community as a "church"? We are witnessing the betrayal of Christianity by those who are prepared to accommodate themselves to a secular, godless and churchless world.

The authorities of some European countries and America, in spite of numerous protests, including those by Catholics, continue to advocate policies aimed at the destruction of the very concept of the family. They not only on the legislative level equate of the status of the same-sex unions to that of marriage but also criminally persecute those who out of their Christian convictions refuse to register such unions. Immediately after the departure of Pope Francis from the USA, President Barack Obama openly declared that gay rights are more important than religious freedom. This clearly testifies to the intention of the secular authorities to continue their assault on those healthy forces in society which defend traditional family values. Catholics here are found at the forefront of the struggle, and it is against the Catholic Church that a campaign of discrediting and lies is waged. Therefore courage in vindicating Christian beliefs and fidelity to Church tradition are particularly necessary in our times.

Today, when the world ever more resembles that foolish man "which built his house on the sand" (Matthew 7:26) it is the Church's duty to remind the society of its firm foundation of the family as a union between a man and woman created with the purpose of giving birth to and bringing up children. Only this type of family, as ordained by the Lord when he created the world, can forestall or at least halt temporarily modern-day society’s further descent into the abyss of moral relativism.

The Orthodox Church, like the Catholic Church, has always in her teaching followed Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition in asserting the principle of the sanctity of marriage founded on the Savior's own words (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9). In our time this position should be ever more strengthened and unanimous. We should defend it jointly both within the framework of dialogue with the legislative and executive branches of power of various countries, as well as in the forums of international organizations such as the UN and the Council of Europe. We ought not to confine ourselves to well-intentioned appeals but should by all means possible ensure that the family is legally protected.

Solidarity among the Churches and all people of good will is essential for guarding the family from the challenges of the secular world and thereby protecting our future. I hope that one of the fruits of the Assembly of the Synod will be the further development of Orthodox-Catholic co-operation in this direction.

I wish you peace, God’s blessing and success in your labors.

Cardinal Marx Clarifies the German Position


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Synod 2015: German Bishops Unhappy

Vatican Radio is reporting that the German Group has issued sharp criticism in reaction to the interventions of some of the other Synod Fathers. The Group's Relatio, i.e. the report documenting the work of the Ciculus Germanicus delivered to the plenary session on Tuesday, begins with the words:
The images and comparisons which have been made use of are not only lacking in differentiation and false, but also injurious.
The report went on relate that the Germans felt "great dismay and sadness" upon hearing the statements of certain Synod Fathers regarding the "individuals, content and procedure" of the Synod itself, and wished to clearly distance themselves from what they claimed stood in contradiction to "the Spirit of Accompaniment, the Spirit of the Synod and its fundamental rules."

In other news:

Catholics discover the meaning of Schadenfreude



Popes of Persecution: Evaristus, Alexander I and Sixtus I

Reading N°38 in the History of the Catholic Church

 by
 Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.

St. Evaristus (99-105)
At the time of the Persecution under Trajan, the See of Rome was occupied by St. Alexander, the second successor of St. Clement. His first successor was St. Evaristus. We have no contemporary document concerning these two popes. The Liber Pontificalis, composed in the sixth century,[1] says that St. Evaristus was born of a Jewish father at Bethlehem. It is said this Pope ordained fifteen bishops, seventeen priests, and two deacons, and, for purposes of administration, divided the city of Rome into titles or parishes. These expressions must not make us suppose that St. Clement's successor constructed or consecrated in Rome parish churches properly so called. The reference is probably to private houses, such as the house of the Senator Pudens, which St. Peter is said to have made the meeting-place of the first Christians, or the houses of some other Christians whose names are recorded in Scripture or tradition: Prisca, Aquila, Lucina, Eudoxia, Pammachius, Fasciola.[2] By the fact that a house or a room was consecrated to liturgical worship, it was marked with a sign or title (titulus), similar to the signs or titles by which treasury officials marked property that was reserved to the service of the emperor. Such is the most likely explanation of this term, which passed into the language of the Church and is today reserved for churches having cardinals as titulars.[3]

Façade of the Basilica of Santa Pudenziana,
which stands on the site of the house of Senator Pudens

According to the Liber Pontificalis, we also owe to Pope Evaristus the law that a bishop must be assisted in his preaching by seven deacons, whose duty it is to attest the authentic statement of his words against possible charges of heretics.[4] It is supposed that the preaching here referred to was the recitation of the Preface and Canon. The Prefaces at that time varied with each Mass; into them were sometimes introduced, besides the recalling of the feast, exhortations suited to the circumstances.[5] Evaristus is supposed to have occupied the See of St. Peter for eight years and to have died a martyr; but neither tradition nor history gives us any details of his death.[6]

St. Alexander I (105-115)
His successor, Alexander, is said to have governed the Church for ten years, from 105 to 115. The Liber Pontificalis credits him with the insertion into the liturgy[7] of the words "qui pridie quam pateretur" which precede the words commemorating the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and originating the practice of blessing water, in which salt has been mixed, for use in sprinkling houses.[8] The official note giving him the title of martyr seems to depend upon a Passio Alexandri which is not contemporary with the events and does not merit more than relative confidence. According to this document, Alexander was beheaded and buried in a catacomb on the Via Salaria.[9] This Pope may have witnessed the triumphal festivities given at Rome for twenty-three days in 106 or 107, to celebrate Trajan's victory over the Dacians. Pliny relates that 10,000 wild animals were killed in those festivities, and that 10,000 men fought in honor of him who was called "the most merciful emperor."[10] Probably more than one Christian met his death on that occasion.

In the course of the following years, the head of the Church of Rome might have seen some great works carried out for the adornment of the Eternal City: the enlargement of the baths of Titus; a gigantic aqueduct to bring a new water supply (Aquae trajanae) to Rome; the 260,000 seats of the Circus increased by 5,000; and upon a new forum, ornamented with a triumphal arch and a splendid colonnade, the famous column of Trajan (140 feet high), surmounted by a statue of the Emperor in military uniform with a javelin in his hand. It did not enter Trajan's mind that he was working for Christian Rome, and that one day his statue would be replaced by that of St. Peter, the lowly Galilean fisherman, a greater conqueror than any emperor, since he conquered not bodies, but souls.

Trajan's Column (foreground)

St. Sixtus I (115-124)
The head of the Church chosen to succeed St. Alexander was a Roman called Sixtus. Doubtless, the people and the clergy of the city concurred in his election. If we take Eusebius' words literally, the first four popes after St. Peter were nominated by their predecessor, namely, Linus by St. Peter, Cletus by Linus, Clement by Cletus, and Evaristus by Clement.[11] If this method of appointment really was in use, it seems not to have been long continued. A number of reliable documents establishes the fact that, in the third century, the election of the bishop of Rome, though his primacy was universally recognized, was subject to the same regulations as that of other bishops; the canons of the Council of Arles (in 314) and of the Council of Antioch (in 341) inform us that they are ratifying an ancient custom when they decree that "a bishop may not be appointed otherwise than by a synod, according to the decision of those bishops who, after the death of his predecessor, have the right of choosing a worthy successor."[12] It is also certain that the priests and the people took part in these "synods."[13]

The election of Sixtus I must have occurred at the end of Trajan's reign, because the Liber Pontificalis merely says that he governed the Church in the time of Emperor Hadrian.[14]

Footnotes


[1] The first three centuries are the poorest in documents on the popes. The few lines which the Liber Pontificalis devotes to each of them are not free from criticism. The last persecution of Diocletian systematically destroyed the Christian books, the registers, and the acts of the martyrs; this loss was irreparable. Only fragments of these documents remain. Under such conditions, the field of conjectures and probabilities is necessarily more extensive than that of fully demonstrated truth. Yet these conjectures we gather with care, out of regard for whatever portion of truth they may contain, and if we set them down as such, we shall know that we are not false to historic truth.
[2] Martigny, art. "Titre," in the Dict. des antiq. chrét.
[3] This is the likely sense of the obscure phrase, "propet stylum veritatis" (Liber Pont. I, 126).
[4] Duchesne, Lib. Pont., I, 126.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Jaffé, Regesta pontificum, I, 4 f.
[7] "In praedicatione sacerdotum." (Lib. Pont., I, 127.)
[8] Ibid. On this ceremony, see the Sacramentarium Gelasianum, bk. 3, chaps. 75 ff., in Muratori, Liturgia romana vetus.
[9] See Acta sanctorum, May, I, 371 ff. On the value of this document, see Tillemont, Mémoires, II, 590, and Duchesne, op. cit., I, xci. "It is probable," says Chamard, "that the editor of the Liber Pontificalis confused Pope Alexander with a famous martyr of that name, who was buried on the Via Nomentana. [...] However, it is no less probable that he had another document from which he obtained the more certain notion of the pope's martyrdom." (Chamard, Les Origines de l'Eglise romaine, chap. 7.) It has been noted that most of the popes of the first three centuries are called martyrs. Although this qualification cannot be explained by precise details, it is true in a rather broad sense. (See St. Cyprian, Epistola ad Cornelium; apud Epistolas S. Cornelii, 7; cf. Tillemont, Mémoires, IV, 364; De Rossi, Roma sotterranea, II, pref.; Chamard, loc. cit.)
[10] Pliny, Letters, VIII, 4; Dio Cassius, LXVIII, 15.
[11] Eusebius, H. E., III, xiii, xxxiv.
[12] Council of Antioch, canon 23. Hefele, History of the Councils of the Church, II, 73.
[13] Cf. Canones Hippolyti, canons 7-28, apud Duchesne, Christian Worship, p. 525.
[14] Lib. Pont., I, 128.



***

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Archbishop Coleridge: A New Language Free of Jots and Tittles

Archbishop Mark Coleridge
In yesterday's press briefing, Archbishop Mark Coleridge attempted to pass off as Catholic pastoral theology what can only be described as situational ethics in action:
In the case of the divorced and remarried, we're always dealing with sin. There's no news in saying that, so that's just taken for granted. The Church has traditionally spoken of the second union as adulterous, and I understand why, and I understand the teaching and what lies behind it, including the biblical background. But at the same same time, not every case is the same, and that's where a pastoral approach needs to take account of the difference from situation to situation. For instance, just to say that every second marriage or second union - whatever you want to call it - is adulterous is perhaps too sweeping. For instance, a second marriage that is enduring and stable and loving, and where there are children who are cared for is not the same as a couple skulking off to a hotel room for a wicked weekend. So, the rubrik "audultery" in one sense is important, but in another sense it doesn't say enough. And I think what a pastoral approach requires is that we actually enter into what the Synod is calling a "genuine pastoral dialogue of discernment" with these couples. And the start of that is for people like me to actually listen to their story, and not just swamp them with doctrine or Church teaching. That's crucial, obviously, as the overall framework of any kind of dialoge of discernment.
Just in case anyone stands in need of a refresher, let's review the words of Our Lord:
Whosoever [Latin: Quicumque] shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her. (Mark 10:11)
Could the flat contradiction between the words of Our Lord and those spoken by this successor to the Holy Apostles be any clearer? Quicumque doesn't leave any pharisaical loophole for permitting some objectively adulterous relationships, even if they appear to be enduring, stable, loving, and fruitful. Our Lord was very specific and very clear: whosoever, i.e. irrespective of all other considerations. Adultery is an objective sin of a particularly grave sort, as it violates both the Commandment of God and a Holy Sacrament of His Church. No amount of "pastoral attentiveness" can plaster over that incontrovertible fact.

When asked what the Archbishop hoped would result from the Synod, he said:
My hope is that we will move towards, without actually accomplishing it this Synod, a genuinely new pastoral approach. Now, at the heart of this, I think there has to be a whole new language. And here, I think of what's been said about Vatican II: that it was primarily a language event. That it was, therefore, something that was far from cosmetic. And I have in mind what the Bible says, that words create worlds. In other words, a new language that can open new doors that we might not even see at the moment, and can create new possibilities.
This matter of a "new language" is one which deserves more careful attention - particularly in light of the above comments from Archbishop Coleridge. We have been led to believe that the substance of Church teaching is not under attack at the Synod, and will not be changed; that all that is being sought after is simply a new mode of expression. But that is not at all what the Archbishop is describing here. His comment that "words create worlds" is a clear allusion, not only to the first chapter of Genesis, where God literally speaks the substance of the universe into existence, but also to the Word of God, through whom all was created. He is speaking of changing language in order to bring about a substantial change. He even tells us that the change being sought after is "far from cosmetic". He is talking - quite plainly, in fact - of preaching a new Word.

Accordingly, the faithful Catholics of Twitter gave the Archbishop the internet equivalent of a sound thrashing. I confess that I, too, joined in the fray with a few cutting remarks of my own. And I don't regret it one bit.

Today, Archbishop Coleridge took to the diocesan blog in defense of his comments:
The big surprise for me has been the ferocious reaction in some quarters to what I regard as my quite moderate remarks. Twitter has been frothing with invective, which shows what's out there - by which I mean the fear, even the panic this Synod seems to have provoked in some. That sort of thing doesn't look like the Holy Spirit to me - red-eyed joylessness cannot be of God. The impression is that, if you touch the slightest jot or tittle not so much of what the Church teaches but of what her pastoral practice has been or how her truth has been expressed, then the whole edifice built up over 2000 years will come tumbling down. If I believed that, I’d be panicking too and hurling lemon-lipped diatribes this way and that. But I don’t believe it and therefore find myself trusting in the path that’s opening before us, with the abuse rolling like water off a duck's back. Voices of fear, even panic, have also been heard in the Synod Hall and the small groups, but what's clearer to me now is that those voices within have strong links to similar voices without. It's also clear that those voices, clinging desperately to some imagined or ideologised past, cannot point the way into the future. History will have its way, however much we try to cling to illusions of timelessness.
Jot or tittle. Where have I heard that before?