Friday, March 28, 2014


Vatican City, 28 March 2014 (VIS) – This morning in the Hall of Blessings Pope Francis received in audience the six hundred participants in the annual course of the internal forum of the Apostolic Penitentiary. For a quarter of a century this dicastery has offered the course, especially to recently ordained priests and deacons, to contribute to the formation of good confessors.

In his address, the Holy Father encouraged those present to “treasure the experience acquired with wise creativity, to further help the Church and confessors to perform their ministry of mercy, which is so important”, and reflected on three key points related to confession.

“Firstly, the agent of the ministry of Reconciliation is the Holy Spirit”, he said. “The forgiveness that the Sacrament confers is the new life transmitted by the Risen Lord by means of His Spirit. … Therefore, you are required always to be “men of the Holy Spirit”, witnesses and proclaimers, joyful and strong, of the resurrection of the Lord”. The Bishop of Rome encouraged them to welcome penitents “not with the attitude of a judge or even that of a mere friend, but with God's charity. … A priest's heart is a heart that is able to be touched. … If it is true that tradition suggests the dual role of doctor and judge for confessors, we must never forget that the doctor cures and the judge absolves”.

Moving on to the second aspect, he explained, “If Reconciliation transmits the new life of the Risen Lord and renews baptismal grace, then your task is to give this generously to your brethren. A priest who does not take care of this part of his ministry … is like a shepherd who does not take care of his lost sheep. … But mercy is at the heart of the Gospel! It is the good news that God loves us, that He always loves man the sinner, and with this love he draws man towards Him and invites him to convert. We must not forget that the faithful often struggle to receive this Sacrament, both for practical reasons and for the natural difficulty of confessing one's own sins to another man. Therefore, it is necessary to work hard upon ourselves, on our humanity, so as never to be an obstacle to but rather to facilitate an approach to mercy and forgiveness. … Confession is not a sentencing court, but rather an experience of forgiveness and mercy!”.

Finally, Pope Francis referred to the difficulties that may frequently be encountered in confession. “There are many reasons, both historical and spiritual. However, we know that the Lord wished to offer this immense gift to the Church, offering the baptised the security of the Father's forgiveness. For this reason, it is very important that particular care is taken in the celebration of this Sacrament of forgiveness and salvation in all dioceses and parish communities. It is essential that in every parish the faithful know when they can find available priests: when there is trust, the fruits can be seen”.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Statement of the Holy See on the visit of President Obama with Pope Francis

This morning, 27 March 2014, the Hon. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States of America, was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis, after which he met with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial meetings, views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.

In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cardinal Caffarra: From Bologna with Love: Hold On a Moment!

Cardinal Caffarra Expresses Serious Concerns About Family Synod Debates Astonished that John Paul II's Extensive Catecheses on Marriage and Family Are Being Ignored Reflecting on the Feb. 21-22 consistory on the family, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, the archbishop of Bologna, discusses the themes of next October’s Extraordinary Synod and 2015’s Ordinary Synod: marriage, the family, the teachings of Humanae Vitae, the sacrament of Confession This interview appeared in Il Foglio 14 March 2014 under the headline: "From Bologna with Love: Hold on a Moment!". 
John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio is at the centre of a heated controversy. Some claiming it is the foundation stone of the Gospel of the Family, others claim it is simply out of date. Is it possible to update the Church’s teaching in this area?
If we are talking about gender issues and so called homosexual marriage, then it is true that at the time of Familiaris Consortio‘s publication these things were not in discussion. But the document does speak about all the other problems. In particular it speaks a great length about the problem of the divorced and remarried. I can testify to this personally because I was one of the consultors for the 1980 Synod. It is simply not true to say that Familiaris Consortio comes out of a historical context that is completely alien to ours today. That said, I think, above all, Familiaris Consortio taught us an approach to the questions of marriage and the family. Using this approach we arrive at a teaching that, even today, remains a reference point that cannot be disregarded. What is this approach? When Jesus was asked in what circumstances divorce might be allowed – a theme that was not discussed at that time- he did not enter into the casuistic issues which gave rise to this question, instead he indicated in which direction we should look in order to understand what marriage is and consequently why marriage is indissoluble. It is as if Jesus is saying “Look, you’ve got to get out of this casuistic logic and look in another direction altogether, you’ve got to look at how it was ‘in the beginning’. You’ve got to look at that moment when man and woman coming into existence and in the full truth of their identity as man and woman are called to become ‘one flesh.’” In one of his Wednesday audiences, Blessed John Paul II said, “ When man is placed in front of woman for the first time, the human person in its dimension of mutual self-giving, comes into being, The expression of this self-giving (which is also the expression of human personhood) is the human body in the whole original truth of its masculinity and femininity.” That is the approach of Familiaris Consortio.   
What in your opinion is the most fundamental meaning ofFamiliaris Consortio? And what is its message for us today?
In order to see realities from the perspective of ‘In the beginning’ Familiaris Consortioaffirms the Church’s supernatural sense of the faith, which “does not consist solely or necessarily in the consensus of the faithful. Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion. She listens to conscience and not to power, and in this way she defends the poor and the downtrodden. The Church values sociological and statistical research, when it proves helpful in understanding the historical context in which pastoral action has to be developed and when it leads to a better understanding of the truth. Such research alone, however, is not to be considered in itself an expression of the sense of faith.” (FC 5) When I speak of the truth of marriage I do not mean some sort of normative ideal. I mean, rather, the truth that God in his creative act has inscribed upon the person of every man and woman. Christ teaches us that before considering particular cases, we must know what it is we are talking about. Here we are not talking simply about a norm that may or may not admit of exceptions, nor of an ideal after which we strive. We are talking about the very essence of marriage and the family. Through this approach Familiaris Consortio focuses on and talks about what marriage and the family are, what is – to use the words of the famous sociologist Donati - their genome. This is not a natural genome; it is a social and communal genome. From this perspective the Apostolic Exhortation is able to pick out the deepest meaning of the indissolubility of marriage (cf FC 20). Familiaris Consortio, therefore, marks a great advance in the development of the Church’s doctrine that was made possible by John Paul II’s series of Catecheses on human love. In the first of these catecheses (3 September 1979) the Holy Father said that he wanted to accompany, albeit at a distance, the preparatory work for the following year’s synod. He did not do this by directly tackling the subject matter of the Synod but rather by directing his attention to its fundamental roots. It is as if he had said. “I, John Paul II, want to help the Synod fathers. How can I help them?  By focusing their attention on the root causes of the matter in hand. “ And it is from precisely this returning to the roots thatFamiliaris Consortio brings forth its magnificent teachings on marriage and the family. And it did not ignore concrete situations. It spoke about divorce, living together outside of marriage and the problem of divorced and remarried people receiving communion. To sayFamiliaris Consortio belongs to the past and has nothing more to say to us today amounts either to a caricature of the document, or reveals that the person making such an affirmation hasn’t read the document.
Many Episcopal Conferences have stressed that it has emerged from the consultation process thatHumanae Vitaecauses nothing but confusion. Is this true, or was this a prophetic document?  
On the 28th June 1978, a little more than a month before he died Paul VI said, “You will thank God and me for Humanae Vitae.” Now after 46 years, we see what has happened to the institution of marriage and we realize how prophetic that document truly was. Loosing the unbreakable bond between conjugal sexuality and procreation, which denies the core teaching of Humanae Vitae, has paved the way for its reverse, that is, separating procreation from conjugal sexuality: from sex without babies to babies without sex. We have lost sight of the fact that human procreation is rooted in conjugal love, and have gradually constructed an ideology according to which anyone can have a child: single men or women, homosexuals often using surrogate mothers. In this way we have passed from and attitude that waited upon a child as a gift to an attitude that plans or programs a child as if that child were a right. One thinks of the recent court ruling in Milan that affirmed the “right” to parenthood, that is, it affirmed the right of one human person to possess another! This is incredible. I have the right to possess things, but not persons. We are moving towards some sort of framework be it ethical or juridical that relegates marriage and the family to a sphere of purely private emotions, entirely divorced from civic and social life. No one today would dispute that, at the time it was published, Humanae Vitae rested on the foundations of a fragile anthropology, and that there was a certain “biologism” in its argumentation. But John Paul II’s Magisterium had the great merit of constructing an anthropology adequate to support Humanae Vitae. The question we must face today is not whether, or in what measure, Humanae Vitae is applicable, or if it is rather a source of confusion. We face another question.
Which question?    
Does Humanae Vitae teach the truth about that good which is inherent in conjugal relationships? Does it teach the truth about the union of two persons, two spouses in the sexual act? In fact the essence of a moral or legal norm, is to be found in the good, the value, which it encapsulates and seeks to protect. If we do not take this into consideration, we fall into that same casuistry of which the Pharisees were guilty. You cannot escape this blind alley you have entered. In the end it will force you to choose between persons or moral norms. And you can only save one at the expense of the other. This, then, is the real pastoral question: how can I help spouse to live their conjugal love in truth? The question is not whether the couple in is a situation that effectively exempts them from the moral norm, but rather what is the good, the value, of their conjugal relationship? What is its inner truth? It leaves me perplexed that someone could say Humanae Vitae causes confusion. What do they mean? Do they know anything of the foundations laid by John Paul II for that document? Just one more consideration: I am flabbergasted that in this debate, even eminent cardinals do not bear in mind those 134 Catecheses of John Paul II. In the history of the papacy no Pope has ever spoken so much about this theme, and yet this teaching is ignored as if it did not exist. It creates confusion? Do the people who say this know anything about what contemporary science is saying about the effectiveness of natural family planning? Are they even remotely aware of the innumerable couples in the world today who joyfully live the truth of Humanae Vitae?
Cardinal Kasper has stressed that the upcoming synod has raised expectations in the Church and there is a risk of great disappointment if these expectations are not fulfilled. Is this in your opinion a real danger?
Well I’m not a prophet but this is an extraordinary thing that is going on. When the pastors of the Church, instead of preaching their own opinions or those of the secular world, preach the Gospel of marriage, their words are heard by the ears of those listening, but it is the Holy Spirit who acts upon the hearts of the listeners opening them the pastor’s words. I ask myself, then, what expectations are we talking about? One of the big television broadcasters in the U.S.A recently conducted a world-wide survey of the Catholic faithful and it revealed a global situation that was markedly different to that found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. To give just one example: 75% of most countries in Africa are against allowing the divorced and remarried to receive communion. And so I ask again: which expectations are we talking about? Those of Africa or Europe? Does the Western world have the monopoly on what the Church should preach? Are we still stuck in that paradigm or have we started to listen, even just a little bit, to the poor? I am left perplexed when it is said we must go in a certain direction or there is no point in having the synod. Which direction? The direction desired by middle Europe? Well, why not the direction desired by the African community?
Cardinal Müller has lamented that many Catholics do not know the teachings of the Church, but he also argues that this ignorance does not justify watering down the Catholic teaching to spirit of the times. Does the Church need a pastoral approach to families?
This has been lacking. And we pastors bear heavy burden of responsibility for having allowed this to dwindled to no more than marriage preparation courses. And as to the emotional and affective guidance of our young people: how many pastors now talk about chastity? As far as I can see, in this area we have been as good as silent for years. We need to look at how we support young couples and ask ourselves if we have really announced the gospel of marriage, if we have announced this Gospel as Christ asked us to. And then we have to ask ourselves why our young people no longer get married. It is not always because of economic reasons, as many say. I’m speaking about the situation here in the West. If you make a comparison between the situation today and that of thirty or forty years ago, there weren’t fewer problems back then. But back then they committed themselves and they had hope. Nowadays they are afraid, afraid of the future. But if there is any decision that requires hope in the future it is the decision to marry. These are today’s fundamental issues. I have the impression that if Jesus were present today at a meeting of the clergy and they asked him just as the Pharisees did, “Master, is marriage indissoluble or not? Or are there cases, after the necessary penance has been completed…?” How would Jesus reply? The same response that he gave to the Pharisees comes to mind “But in the beginning…” The truth is that today we want to cure the symptoms without looking at the underlying illness. The Synod cannot avoid taking a stance on these issues. The way in which the family and marriage seem to be evolving and changing: is this good for individuals and their relationships and for society, or is it rather bad for individuals and their relationships and potentially ruinous for society? The Synod cannot avoid this question. The Church must not think that these facts (the young no longer marry, the rate of couples living together is rising exponentially, and amongst other things the legal recognition of homosexual marriage) are somehow inevitable historic trends to which the Church must accommodate herself. No! John Paul II in The Jeweller’s Shop wrote that “to create something that reflects both existence and absolute love is perhaps the most extraordinary thing there is. But people live this way without even noticing it”. God forbid that the Church should cease to discern the traces of eternity within human love.
The possibility of allowing the divorced and remarried to receive communion is spoken about. One of Cardinal Kasper’s suggestions was that they should undergo a period of penance that would bring them into a full readmission to Communion. Is this now an inevitable necessity, or is it the accommodation of Christian teaching to contemporary circumstances?
Those who make these suggestions have not, at least up until now, answered one simple question: what happens to the first valid and consummated marriage? If the Church admits them to the Eucharist, she must render a judgment on the legitimacy of the second marriage. It’s logical. But, as I said, what about the first marriage? The second marriage, if we can call it that, cannot be a true second marriage because bigamy is against the teaching of Christ. So the first marriage, is it dissolved? But all the popes have always taught that the Pope has no authority over this. The Pope does not have the power to dissolve a valid and consummated marriage. The proposed solution seems to imply that although the first marriage continues, the Church can somehow legitimate a second relationship. But in doing this, the proposal demolishes the foundations of the Church’s  teaching on sexuality. At this point we have to ask: why, then, can we not approve of unmarried couples living together ? Or why not homosexual unions? The question is simple: what about the first marriage? No one has yet answered that question. In 2000, John Paul II speaking to the Roman Rota said: “It is clear that the Roman Pontiff’s power does not extend to valid and consummated marriages and this is taught by the Magisterium of the Church as a doctrine to be definitively held even if it has not been solemnly declared through a definitive act.” It is a technical formula, “a doctrine to be definitively held”, and it means that on this point there is no further discussion to be had among theologians nor doubts among the faithful.  
Therefore, it is not just a question of praxis but also of doctrine?
Yes, this touches upon doctrine. Inevitably. You can try to say it doesn’t, but it does. And not only this. You would introduce a way of thinking that in the long run would touch not only Catholics but everyone. You would suggest that there is no such thing as an indissoluble marriage. This, certainly, is against the Lord’s will. Of that there can be no doubt.
Is there not a risk that in this way Communion becomes a kind of disciplinary measure and ceases to be a means of healing?
It is true that the grace of the sacrament has a healing effect, but we have to understand in what sense. The grace of the sacrament of matrimony heals by freeing a man and woman from their inability to love each other for ever with the whole of their being. This is the medicinal quality of marriage: the ability to love one another forever. This is what healing means. Healing is just making someone feel a little better but leaving them still fundamentally ill, that is unable in their being to do something definitively. The indissolubility of marriage is a gift that is given by Christ to a man and a woman of that marriage in him. Above all it is a gift, not a norm that is imposed. It is not an ideal after which they have to strive. It is a gift from God who never reneges on his gifts. It is not by accident that Jesus founds his revolutionary response to the Pharisees Jesus on a divine act: “That which God has united”, he says. It is God who unites, otherwise the definitively binding nature of the act would rest upon a desire that is yes, natural, but also impossible to achieve. God himself gives the completion of the act. Man is free to decide not to use this capacity to love definitively and totally. Catholic theology articulates this vision of the Faith through the concept of the conjugal bond. Marriage, the sacramental sign of marriage, brings about immediately between the spouses a bond that no longer depends upon their wills because now it is a gift God has given to them. We don’t teach these things to young people who marry today. And then we wonder why things so often turn out as they do.  
An intense debate is taking place over the meaning of the term “mercy.” What value does this term have?
Let’s take the episode of Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery. For a woman caught in the very act, the demands of the Mosaic Law were clear: she should be stoned to death. In fact the Pharisees asked Jesus what he thought precisely in order to draw him into their perspective. If he had said “stone her” they would have replied: “Look, He preaches mercy and eats with sinners but when it comes to it even he says “stone her”. If he had said “don’t stone her” they would have replied: “And this is where mercy leads us: it destroys the Law abnd every legal and moral bond.” This is the typical view of casuistic morality which takes you into a blind alley where you have to choose between the person and upholding the norm. The Pharisees try to trap Jesus in this blind alley. But Jesus doesn’t accept their perspective at all, he says that adultery is a great evil and that it destroys humanity, also of the person who commits this act. Jesus, in order to overcome this evil, doesn’t condemn the person who has committed this act; rather he cures the person of this great evil and commands her not to enter into this evil again. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and do not sin again.” This is the mercy of which only the Lord is capable. This is the mercy which the Church, from one generation to the next, announces. The Church has to call evil that which is evil. She has received from Jesus the power to heal, but this carries with it the same conditions. It is absolutely true that forgiveness is always possible: murder can be forgiven, and adultery. This is a difficulty that the Church even at the time of St. Augustine faced. Murder is forgiven but the victim does not rise to new life. Why not then pardon divorce, this state of life the new marriage even if a “resurrection” of the first marriage is no longer possible? These are totally different cases. In the case of murder, you forgive someone for the hatred they have nursed towards another and repentance from this hatred is necessary. At a deep level, the Church is troubled not primarily because a physical life has been ended, but rather because hatred has been nurtured in the human heart to such an extent that it has led in the end to the taking of another’s life. This, the Church says, is the true evil. Of this you must repent and for this you will find forgiveness. In the case of the divorced and remarried, the Church says: “This is the evil, the denial of the gift of God, the desire to break the bond that the Lord himself has brought about.” The Church forgives but the condition of this forgiveness is repentance. But repentance in this case involves returning to the first marriage. It isn’t sincere to say: “Although I repent, I choose to maintain that state which in itself constitutes the breaking of the bond, of whose breaking I repent.” Often, it is said: “But this is impossible, there are so many circumstances ….” And this may certainly be true, but in this case the person finds themselves in a state of life that is objectively contrary to the God’s gift. Familiaris Consortio says this explicitly. The reason why the Church doesn’t allow the divorced and remarried to receive Communion is not because she automatically presumes that they are all in a state of mortal sin. The Lord, who knows the heart, knows the subjective consciences of these people. St. Paul himself says “do not judge rashly” but because, and this is written in Familiaris Consortio, “their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist” (FC 84). The Church’s mercy is Christ’s mercy, which says that the dignity of the spouses has been undermined in the denial of God’s gift. Mercy doesn’t say: “Be patient and we will try to sort things out as best we can.” That is a form of toleration that is essentially different to true mercy. Tolerance leaves things be because of ulterior motives. Mercy is the power of God which overcomes the state of injustice.
We are not, therefore, talking about compromise?        
Far from it! Compromise would be unworthy of the Lord. Man on his own can come to compromises. Rather we are talking of the regeneration of a human person and only God is capable of that, and in His name the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the justification of a sinner is a more marvelous work than the creation of the universe. When a sinner is justified, something greater than the whole universe happens, and this act comes about through a poor, humble priest in the confessional. Right there occurs an act greater than the creation of the whole universe. We must not reduce mercy to compromise nor to tolerance. This would be to undervalue, to be unjust to, the Lord’s work.
One of the insights most appealed to, and which might offer grounds for hope to those living in what might be considered irregular situations, is that although the faith is one, it is applied to particular circumstances and times in different ways. This is something the Church has always done. Would you like to comment on this?
The Church should limit itself to following historical trends? Is this truly proclaiming the Gospel? I certainly don’t believe that, because otherwise I would have to ask myself how can the Church hope to save mankind? Let me give you an example from my experience. A wife, still young, abandoned by her husband, said to me that she lived the virtue of chastity but she found it very difficult because as she said: “I’m not a nun, I’m a normal woman.” But then she added she couldn’t live without the Eucharist. And so the burden of chastity became light because she remembered the Eucharist. Or another example: A wife and mother of four who was abandoned by her husband after twenty years of marriage, this woman said to me she had come to realize that although this was a crucifixion, she had to continue loving her husband “just like Jesus had continued loving me.” Why do we never speak of these marvelous works of God’s grace? These two women haven’t given into the spirit of the times. Certainly not. During this time of discussion, it is, I assure you, very wrong to remain silent about those husbands and wives who, although abandoned themselves, still remain faithful.  Professor Grygiel is right when he says that Jesus was very interested in what the crowds said about him. He wanted to know what the apostles thought. How many parish priests and bishops can tell similar stories about heroic witnesses to fidelity! A few years after I arrived here in Bologna I wanted to have a meeting with a group of the divorced and remarried. There were about thirty couples and we were together all afternoon one Sunday. In the end, more than one of these couples approached me to say that they understood that the Church in not admitting them to Holy Communion was truly acting as a mother.  In not being able to receive Communion they came to understand the greatness of Christian marriage and the beauty of the Gospel of marriage.     
Frequently nowadays the relationship between the penitent and confessor is being put forward as a possible avenue of resolution for those whose projects and life aspirations have gone astray. What is your opinion?
The tradition of the Church has always distinguished – distinguished not separated - her teaching competency from the role of the confessor. Expanding this image, you might say the Church distinguishes between the pulpit and the confessional. This distinction does not imply duplicity. Rather it means that when the she teaches about marriage from the pulpit, the Church gives witness to a truth that is not primarily a norm or ideal to be strived after. At this moment a confessor can say with great tenderness to a penitent “what you have heard from the pulpit is the truth, that touches upon your freedom, wounded and fragile as it is.” The confessor guides the penitent on this path that leads to his highest good. Neither is the relationship between pulpit and confessional that which obtains between the particular and the universal.  This is what the Casuists thought, above all in the seventeenth century. The role of a confessor, faced with the drama of a human life, is not to employ a logic that allows him to pass from universal norms to particular cases. This is not where the drama of a human life resides. This drama, in truth, is to be found in the relationship between a person and his freedom. The heart of the human drama is that I can affirm one thing with my reason, but at the same time negate it by my free choices. I see what is good and I affirm it, and then I choose to do what is evil. This is the drama. And a confessor must place himself within this drama, not in some sort of mechanistic process that passes from the universal norms to particular cases. If he were to do the latter he would inevitably fall into a kind of hypocrisy, saying: “Well OK this is the universal norm, but given your circumstances, it is not binding for you.” Inevitably one would end up creating cases that allowed exceptions. Hypocritically, the confessor would end up approving of one thing in the confessional while preaching quite a different set of norms from the pulpit. This is hypocrisy. Woe to that confessor who does not ever remind his penitents that we are engaged in a journey… He would risk, precisely in the name of the Gospel of mercy, eradicating mercy from the Gospel.  On this point Pascal in his Provincial Letters was right (though I might add he was wrong on many other things).  In the end a man can convince himself he is not ill, and, therefore, he has no need of Jesus Christ. One of my teachers, Fr. Cappello, Servant of God and a learned canonist, used to say that when you enter the confessional, it is not so much the teaching of theologians you follow. It is, rather, the example of the saints.
Carlo Caffara was made Archbishop of Bologna on 15 February 2004, where he succeeded Cardinal Giacomo Biffi who retired upon reaching 80 years of age. Two years later Benedict XVI made him a Cardinal. He has a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Gregorian University and wrote his thesis on the ends of matrimony. He subsequently obtained a diploma in Moral theology from the Pontifical Alphonsian Academy. In 1980 John Paul II nominated him as a peritus for the Synod of Bishops on marriage and the family, and the following year commissioned him to found the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for studies in Marriage and Family. In 1995 he was appointed bishop of Ferrarra-Comacchio where he remained for 8 years. Last June Pope Francis confirmed him as Archbishop of Bologna until 2015. He participated in last year’s conclave.
This interview has been translated from the original Italian and published by kind permission of Il Foglio.

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pope Francis on clericalism, "one of the ills in the Church"

The Holy Father spoke to the lay association "Corallo" in Rome yesterday. He spoke about clericalism, saying it is "one of the ills of the Church, but a complex problem, because the temptation to clericalize the laity is pleasing for priests; but many laity on bended knee ask to be clericalized because it is more comfortable, more comfortable! And this is a sin on the part of both.

"We need to overcome this temptation: the laity need to be lay, baptized; they have the power that comes from their Baptism: servants, but with their lay vocation" and this "is not negotiable" because contrary to their identity.

"Many times", he continued, "I have experienced this in my country. But me, in my parish, you know? was a very good layman: this man knew how to organize... 'Your Eminence, why don't we make him a deacon?' And the proposal of the priest, instantly, clericalize".

"Why is the deacon, the priest, more important than the laity? No! This is wrong! Ah, a good layman? Continue this way, grow this way. Because this forms part of the Christian identity. For me, and I emphasize this, clericalism impedes the growth of the lay faithful."

Italian original text courtesy of Vatican Radio follows:

Poi ha parlato del clericalismo: “è uno dei mali della Chiesa, ma è un male complice, perché ai preti piace la tentazione di clericalizzare i laici; ma tanti laici in ginocchio chiedono di essere clericalizzati, perché è più comodo! È più comodo! E questo è un peccato a due mani. Dobbiamo vincere questa tentazione: il laico deve essere laico, battezzato; ha la forza che viene dal suo Battesimo: servitore, ma con la sua vocazione laicale” e questa “non si negozia” perché conta l’identità. “Tante volte – ha proseguito - ho sentito questo nella mia terra: ‘Ma, io, nella mia parrocchia, sa?, ho un laico bravissimo: quest’uomo sa organizzare … Eminenza, perché non lo facciamo diacono?’. E’ la proposta del prete, subito: clericalizzare”. “Perché è più importante il diacono, il prete, del laico? No! E’ questo lo sbaglio! Ah, è un buon laico? Che continui così e che cresca così. Perché è l’identità dell’appartenenza cristiana, lì. Per me – ha sottolineato - il clericalismo impedisce la crescita del laico”.

del sito Radio Vaticana 

Friday, March 21, 2014

God Invented the Internet: radical availability and vulnerability

If you are like me the idea of the internet fascinates you: start from anywhere, go anywhere, see almost anything at anytime. If the internet means radical availability, such that one is always able to be reached but also vulnerable to being ignored, then God invented the internet.

It all started 2,000 years ago on a small hill outside of the city of Jerusalem, when a man was put to a most shameful and bloody death on a tree with perhaps two or three of his friends present, at the most. You see, it turns out that the man on the Cross was not only a man. He rose from the dead the same but different: he had a body but it was "glorified", capable of heavenly as well as earthly things: he could move and reappear very rapidly from one location to another, he could walk through walls, he showed the wounds of his suffering but they no longer had power over him.

That man was Jesus and He invented the internet. If the internet means having the capacity of being in more than one place at a time, enabling communication between distant points, then Jesus invented the internet.

How do we find this internet today?  Go to a Catholic church and locate a candle burning all alone in the darkness. Search around the area near that candle for a secure box decorated with beautiful images and perhaps shrouded with a violet or white cloth. There: you have it, the internet. You have found the contact in one place that brings the ability to touch another place at the same time. It is an "internet" in the most real sense, for the living presence there brings living contact with a distant place, and not just any distant place, but the one farther away from you than can possibly be imagined. What you have before you, then, is not an image only of that place, but actual contact. You are here and there, both at once. If anything can be the "internet" then this must truly be the one.

The presence of Jesus in that tabernacle brings living contact with Him, because He is truly present, and because He is Divine, then living contact with Him brings you into direct contact with eternity, with God. This is the real "internet" because there is no greater distance that a human being could possibly travel: from earth to heaven, from man to God, from time to eternity.

We can also turn the internet off, and we very often should, because we need time for the real: real relationships, real people, real events, in order to live a real life.  Unfortunately, sometimes, we also try to turn God "off" but He is not an internet in that sense: we should never turn Him "off" like a computer, cell phone or tablet, because although He is in the tabernacle in any church, He is there so that we can visit Him outside of Mass for prayer and presence, also so that through grace we have contact with Him throughout the day and throughout life.

Start at the tabernacle, visit and worship Him there, but then go forth to remain in the contact of loving worship, through intellect and will, through the day and through all things, by grace and love. This "internet" one need never and must never turn "off".

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Like a tree planted near flowing waters": the Spring equinox and the seasons of the life of grace

Today the day and night are roughly equal in length, thus "equinox." Science forbids any notion that night and day are equal in power, though, and that one is battling the other for an as yet unknown victory. We serenely observe the passing of seasons, asking for the grace of contentment with the splendor and show of God's nature.

Also, in the spiritual life, we ask to be like that tree, "planted beside running waters, whose leaves never fade." If our lives are founded upon and rooted in Jesus Christ our Eucharist, the seasons of our lives will continue to give us growth, that the waters of our Baptism may flow all our days, like a fountain welling up unto Eternal Life.

A blessed Spring equinox to you and yours, one roadmark along our Lenten, lifegiving journey!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ite ad Ioseph: "a faithful and wise servant, whom the Lord appointed to be the comfort of His own Mother, the keeper of His own Body, and the only and entrusted helper in the Eternal Counsels."

From the Sermons of St Bernard, Abbat of Clairvaux.
2nd on Luke i. 26.
What and what manner of man the blessed Joseph was, we may gather from that title wherewith, albeit only as a deputy, God deemed him fit to be honoured he was both called, and supposed to be the Father of God. We may gather it from his very name, which, being interpreted, signifieth Increase. Remember likewise that great Patriarch who was sold into Egypt, and know that the Husband of Mary not only received his name, but inherited his purity, and was likened to him in innocence and in grace.

If then, that Joseph that was sold by his brethren through envy, and was brought down to Egypt, was a type of Christ sold by a disciple, and handed over to the Gentiles, the other Joseph flying from the envy of Herod carried Christ into Egypt. That first Joseph kept loyal to his master, and would not carnally know his master's wife; that second Joseph knew that the Lady, the Mother of his Lord, was a virgin, and he himself remained faithfully virgin toward her. To that first Joseph it was given to know dark things in interpreting of dreams; to the second Joseph it was given in sleep to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

The first Joseph laid by bread, not for himself, but for all people; the second Joseph received into his keeping that Living Bread Which came down from heaven, not for him only, but for the whole world. We cannot doubt but that that Joseph was good and faithful to whom was espoused the Mother of the Saviour. Yea, I say, he was a faithful and wise servant, whom the Lord appointed to be the comfort of His own Mother, the keeper of His own Body, and the only and trusty helper in the Eternal Counsels.

"Was their ever a man kinder and gentler than the Lord?"

Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
Matt 23:1-12
In that time Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, Saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not. And so on.

Homily by St Jerome, Priest at Bethlehem.
Bk. iv. Comm. on Matth. xxiii.
Was there ever man gentler and kinder than the Lord? The Pharisees tempted Him; their craft was confounded, and, in the words of the Psalmist, The arrows of babes have pierced them, Ps. lxiii. 8, and nevertheless, because of the dignity of their priesthood and name, He exhorteth the people to be subject to them, by doing according to their words, though not according to their works. By the words Moses' seat we are to understand the teaching of the law. Thus also must we mystically take, Sitteth in the seat of the scornful, Ps. i. 1, and likewise, overthrew the seats of them that sold doves, Matth. xxi. 12, to describe doctrine.

How they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. This is generally directed against all teachers who command things hard, and themselves do not even things easy. But it is to be remarked that the shoulders, the fingers, and the binding of the burdens, have a spiritual interpretation. But all their works they do for to be seen of men. Whosoever therefore doth anything for to be seen of men, the same is, so far, a Scribe and a Pharisee.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Blessed Saint Patrick's Day: "I Arise Today"

Saint Patrick's Breastplate

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Iesus transfiguratus est

Assumpsit Iesus et transfiguratus est. "Dominum, bonum est nos hic esse: faciamus tabernaculum tibi unum.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"En ego, o bone et dulcissime Iesu" Prayer before Jesus Crucified after Communion: plenary indulgence for the Fridays of Lent

Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus,
while before Your face I humbly kneel and,
with burning soul,
pray and beseech You
to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments
of faith, hope and charity;
true contrition for my sins,
and a firm purpose of amendment.
While I contemplate,
with great love and tender pity,
Your five most precious wounds,
pondering over them within me
and calling to mind the words which David,
Your prophet, said of You, my Jesus:
“They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones.”
Alternate Version
Behold, O good and sweetest Jesus,
I cast myself upon my knees in Thy sight,
and with the most fervent desire of my soul
I pray and beseech Thee to impress upon my heart
lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity,
with true repentance for my sins
and a most firm desire of amendment.
Whilst with deep affection and grief of soul
I consider within myself and mentally contemplate
Thy five most precious wounds,
having before mine eyes that which David,
the prophet, long ago spoke concerning Thee,
“They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones.” (Ps 22, 17-18)
From the Enchiridion of Indulgences: A plenary indulgence is granted on each Friday of Lent and Passiontide to the faithful, who after Communion piously recite the above prayer before an image of Christ crucified; on other days of the year the indulgence is partial.
L'Enchiridion indulgentiarum postconciliare (ediz. 1999) ricorda che:

8 § 1. Plenaria indulgentia conceditur christifideli qui ...
... qualibet feria sexta temporis Quadragesimae, orationem
En ego, o bone et dulcissime Iesu, coram Iesu Christi Crucifixi imagine post communionem pie recitaverit;

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Archbishop Nienstedt exonerated

Archbishop Nienstedt has been the subject of a non-stop crusade orchestrated by ex-Catholics, and Catholics in rebellion against the Church, simply because he stands for everything they are not: he is a loyal son of the Catholic Church.
"Now—out of the blue—comes an unidentified male who claims he was touched on his buttocks in 2009 by the archbishop while posing for a group photo. Nienstedt denies the charge, adding that he has never inappropriately touched anyone. Moreover, he has not been told the identity of his accuser."
The police identified and interviewed everyone who was in the photograph when the archbishop allegedly touched the boy's buttocks. No one at the Confirmation ceremony reported seeing anything like this happening. The photo shows Nienstedt standing behind the boy, one step up, meaning that he would have had to bend down to touch the boy's behind. To top things off, the photo shows Nienstedt with one hand on his crozier and the other on the boy's left shoulder. The police asked if anyone recalled a touching episode meant as a joke, or saw any touching between people, or remembered if someone was startled during the photo session. The answer to all three was unanimous: No.
What happened to Archbishop Nienstedt was not a mistake. It reflects a deeper problem: We are living in a culture of hate—hatred of all matters Catholic—led by those whose goal it is to take down a bishop. Every bishop is a potential target, but none more than those who are seen as being inimical to the "progressive" agenda.

Source: Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Thomas Aquinas: "the law of love does not require indiscriminate affirmation of everything about other persons"

"It might seem to follow that love must accept everyone, even enemies, just as they are, and to affirm them even in the error or sin which is present in them. But the law of love does not require indiscriminate affirmation of everything about other persons (cf St. Thomas Aquinas, S.t., 2-2, q.34, a.3).

One's love must be like Jesus's. He loves sinners and brings them into communion with Himself in order to overcome their error and sin. When the scribes and pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, He not only saves her from being stoned to death but warns her not to sin again (see John 8:3-11).

In a true sense, Jesus is not judgmental, He sets aside the legalistic mentality, readily forgives sinners, does not condemn the world, and points out that those who refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness are self-condemned by the truth they violate (see John 3:16-21). But He realistically recognizes sinners as sinners and never accepts error as truth...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ask Father Cusick: "Should I attend a Catholic Wedding for a cohabiting couple?"

Dear Father,

What is your opinion on attending a co-habiting couple's catholic wedding? Refusing to attend a wedding must be a well-considered decision, as there will be hurt feelings, anger, and permanent estrangement among family members.I am involved in a situation where the soon to be married couple lives together.  I have a member(s) of my family who say they do not intend to attend the wedding because they disapprove of the living arrangements and don't wish to sanction what they view as a mockery of the sacrament of marriage. I realize that the couple are both completely lapsed Catholics, who lack repentance or shame, and that a church wedding is strictly for show.

It has always been my opinion that if a priest doesn't know of the couple's living arrangements, it 's because he doesn't want to know., I believe it is presumptuous and sanctimonious for anyone to refuse to attend the wedding of this couple. If the priest is willing to marry them, who are they to question the priest's decision to marry the couple by boycotting the wedding?  Furthermore, if the boycotters remain true to these guidelines, the sad truth is very few marriages ought to be attended, as it is my firm belief that almost all young couples today are engaging in relations before marriage (many, publicly) . 

I will be attending the wedding, and am angry and disappointed with those who have elected to not attend, as I feel their actions are extreme, and will accomplish nothing but damaged familial relations. I agree with your advice regarding non-attendance in the situations you mentioned in your column, but would be interested in your thoughts on this very common scenario of co-habitation before marriage.

Hello A.,
We do not know if the couple went to confession before the ceremony. The marriage is a graced opportunity for them to grow in conversion and your participation as an example of Catholic Faith can be a help in that direction.

I do agree with you that if someone thinks they have knowledge the couple is living together it is a judgment to make the leap that this means they are fornicating.
You may want to find a good solid prayerbook for married couples and a Bible with special pages for recording childrens' births and sacraments for wedding gifts as gentle reminders to practice the Faith.

Have a wonderful time at the celebration and thank you for supporting Catholic sacramental  marriage.


Have a Catholic question? For an answer send yours to Father Cusick to mcitl DOT blogspot DOT com AT gmail DOT come

Pope to Clergy of Rome: "Do you cry?"

Vatican City, 6 March 2014 (VIS) – This morning, in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis met with the clergy of the diocese of Rome. The central theme of the meeting, inspired by the Gospel of St. Matthew, was mercy. The Holy Father recalled how Jesus walked through towns and villages, feeling compassion for those he encountered; people who were “tired and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd”. “We are not here to perform a spiritual exercise for the beginning of Lent, but rather to listen to the voice of the Spirit that speaks to everyone in the Church in this, our time, which is indeed the time of mercy”.

This “time of mercy” was Pope Francis' first point of reflection. “Today, we forget everything too easily, including the teaching of the Church! This is in part inevitable, but we must not forget the important content, the great intuitions and that which has been consigned to the People of God. And divine mercy is among these. … It is up to us, as ministers of the Church, to keep this message alive, above all in preaching and in our gestures, in signs and in pastoral choices, such as the decision to restore priority to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and at the same time to works of mercy”.

Secondly, the Pope asked, “What does it mean to be a priest?”. He explained that “priests are moved by their sheep, like Jesus when he saw the people, tired and exhausted, like sheep without a shepherd”. He commented that the priest, following the example of the Good Shepherd, is a man of mercy and compassion, close to his people and the servant of all. “In particular, the priest demonstrates the depths of his mercy in administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation; he shows this in all his attitude, in his way of welcoming, listening, advising and absolving. … But this derives from how he lives this Sacrament himself. … If a person lives this himself, in his own heart, he is also able to give it to others in his ministry”.

The Holy Father added that the heart of a priest must be susceptible to being moved, as “sterile priests do not help the Church. … We can think of today's Church as a kind of 'field hospital', where we need to tend to injuries. … There are many people who are wounded by material problems, by scandals, even in the Church. … People wounded by the illusions of the world. … We priests must be there, close to these people. Mercy means, above all, taking care of wounds. When a person is injured, this is the immediate help they need, not analyses; the special care can follow, but first we need to tend to the open wounds. Do you know what your parishioners' wounds are? Are you close to them?”

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, mercy means “neither undue laxity nor excessive rigour”. “Often, as priests, we hear of the experience of the faithful who say they have encountered in Confession a very 'rigid' or a very 'flexible' priest, lax or rigorous. That there may be differences in style is normal, but these differences must not relate to the substance, that is the healthy moral doctrine and mercy. Neither the lax nor the rigorous bear witness to Jesus, because neither of them truly take on the people they meet. … True mercy truly takes the person on board … and acts like the Good Samaritan. … Neither laxity nor rigour make holiness flourish”.

“Instead, mercy accompanies the path of holiness, and helps growth. But how? Through pastoral suffering, which is a form of mercy. What does pastoral suffering mean? It means suffering with the people, like a father and a mother suffer for their children, and I would say also with anxiety”.
Pope Francis shared with the clergy some questions that helped him when a priest comes to him for advice. “Do you cry? How many of us cry when faced with the suffering of a child, the destruction of a family, before the many people who cannot find their path? The tears of a priest … Do you cry, or is this a clergy that has lost its tears? Do you cry for your people? Do you battle with the Lord for your people, like Abraham fought?”

The Bishop of Rome concluded by commenting that in the end, “we will be judged for how we have been able to be close to 'every flesh', to our neighbours, to the flesh of our brothers. … At the end of time, only those who have not been ashamed before the flesh of his injured and excluded brother will be admitted to the contemplation of Christ's glorified flesh”.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pope Francis in Corriere della Sera: "Matrimony is between a man and a woman."

News media are reporting that Pope Francis has "approved" or "recognized" civil unions in his just-published interview in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. I don't see that approval here in his comments, do you?

Corriere della Sera: Many countries regulate civil unions. Is it a path that the Church is able to understand? But to what end point?

Pope Francis: Matrimony is between a man and a woman. The lay states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of living together, pushed by the need to regulate economic aspects among persons, for example to assure healthcare. They treat arrangements (pacts) of living together of various kinds, of which they did not know to direct in their diverse forms. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety."


Molti Paesi regolano le unioni civili. È una strada che la Chiesa può comprendere? Ma fino a che punto?
«Il matrimonio è fra un uomo e una donna. Gli Stati laici vogliono giustificare le unioni civili per regolare diverse situazioni di convivenza, spinti dall’esigenza di regolare aspetti economici fra le persone, come ad esempio assicurare l’assistenza sanitaria. Si tratta di patti di convivenza di varia natura, di cui non saprei elencare le diverse forme. Bisogna vedere i diversi casi e valutarli nella loro varietà».

Pope Francis states his view, which is the Church's view, on the matter of defining "marriage" or matrimony very clearly: it is between a man and a woman, at the beginning of his answer to the question. His answer is formulated in such a way as to exclude other definitions of marriage, such as between two people of the same sex.

He then goes on to discuss the solutions of the "lay state", or civil government, and "their" solutions to arrangements of living together in order to provide secure health care, among other things. The pope simply states that these living arrangements exist, which are not marriages, and that the civil governments, the "lay state", must find some way to regulate them because of needs like health care.

The Church does not evaluate human relationships in their variety in order to change the definition of marriage but at the same time does not oppose the provision of health care to human persons; this would be absurd. His comments about civil regulation of relationships outside of marriage does not amount to approval or support for civil unions.

A clever bit of writing makes a sensational headline with the use of the words "recognize or "accept". It all hinges on what you mean by the words "accept" or "recognize". That the Holy Father recognizesand accepts that civil unions exist, like the rest of us, is not news. Factual acceptance of civil unions and moral approbation of civil unions, which the media imply, are two very different things. 

More media spin.

Link to English translation of the Pope's interview at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Canon Law Center on "banning" of TLM at Fisher-More College: "unlawfully restricting the rights of the faithful"

With the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, the diocesan bishop no longer has the discretion either to permit or restrict the celebration of Mass according to the usus antiquor, a prerogative he previously enjoyed. Thus, no bishop has the authority to arbitrarily restrict the celebration of Mass according to the traditional Roman Rite. While the diocesan bishop has “all ordinary, proper, and immediate power which is required for the exercise of his pastoral function” (CIC/83, c. 381, §1), his authority is not absolute.
The faithful have a right, enshrined in ecclesiastical law, to have access to the Mass and sacraments celebrated according to the usus antiquior.Celebration of the traditional Roman liturgy is no longer a privilege extended to the faithful on an individual basis but rather a right that can be properly vindicated if requests for such celebrations are not satisfied (cf. SP, art. 7).
For several years following the promulgation of Summorum, the legal mechanisms for the vindication of rights relative to the proper implementation of the motu proprioleft much to be desired. With the promulgation of the InstructionUniversae Ecclesiae of April 30, 2011, the universal law of Summorum was effectively given teeth: the process of hierarchical recourse may now be utilized by faithful who believe their rights have been violated by a decision of an Ordinary which appears to be contrary to the motu proprio. (cf. UE, 10 § 1)
The recent letter of Bishop Olson to Fisher-More College certainly appears to represent such a decision. Insofar as it has unlawfully restricted the rights of the faithful, the bishop’s administrative act can and ought to be challenged. 

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