Whose Bourgeois Morality?


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A Tweet last evening guided me to an important story – here it is.

Some of you are quite familiar with Professor Charmley, as I am, I consider him a close friend, but in any case, he is exactly correct. This is required reading for any of us who wonders what in the world the Catholic Church is thinking these days. Here is the link again, and here is a snippet.

[I]n the latest round of debate over Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, a fervent defender of the document sniffed at some of its critics that “the Magisterium doesn’t bow to middle-class lobbies” and cited Humanae Vitae as an example of papal tough-mindedness in the face of bourgeois cultural pressures. It was a clever move, rhetorically, and we may hope that it’s right about the magisterial kowtow. But I fear it also misses the point—or, better, several points.

At the Synods of 2014 and 2015, to which Amoris Laetitia is a response, the most intense lobbying for a change in the Church’s traditional practice in the matter of holy communion for the divorced and civilly remarried—a proposal the great majority of Synod fathers thought an unwarranted break with truths taught by divine revelation—came from the German-speaking bishops: prelates who represent perhaps the most thoroughly bourgeois countries on the planet. Thus, one does not strain against veracity or charity by describing the German-speaking bishops as something of a lobby for middle-class preoccupations. Passionate defenders of Amoris Laetitia might thus be a bit more careful when dismissing as a middle-class lobby those who raise legitimate concerns about the ambiguities in the document; what goes around, comes around.

There was, of course, far more going on in the 2014-2015 German campaign to permit holy communion for the divorced and civilly remarried than lobbying on behalf of the bourgeois morality of secular, middle-class societies. There was, for example, the ongoing, two-front German war against Humanae Vitae (Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on the morally appropriate means of family planning) and Veritatis Splendor (St. John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical on the reform of Catholic moral theology). We are told, now, that a commission is examining the full range of documentation involved in the preparation of Humanae Vitae. One hopes that that study will bring to the fore what Paul VI realized when he rejected the counsel of many and reaffirmed the Church’s commitment to natural family planning as the humanly and morally appropriate means of regulating fertility.

Do read it all, and think about the implications. I’m no Catholic as you all know, but Rome has provided the best leadership on this since the Second World War, and we will all lose if they lose their voice, and even more, will the children who will never be born lose much more than their voice.


Prayers for an aspiring Traditional Latin priest

20799775_1595883757152707_3458761859725340534_n.jpgI have a young friend that I have known from my parish church since he was little more than a baby. As a child he was diagnosed with Asperger’s which is a high functioning subtype of Autism. This young man showed from a very early age a love for the faith and was profoundly interested in learning all he could about the faith. He subsequently developed a love for the Traditional Latin Liturgy and is fully dedicated to keeping to the 2000 year deposit of the faith. He stood out as an exemplary example of what a good server at Mass looks like: engaged, solemn, reverent and ever cognizant of doing his duties according the book.

He has largely overcome or been able to control the difficulties that accompany Asperger’s Syndrome and went to France on his own to attend college, major in French and minor in Latin. He is very good at both. So good, in fact, that he taught in France after finishing his studies. When he returned to the US he was hired this past summer for a project that required his skills in French to translate some academic texts.

After he finished this assignment, it became clear that he never lost sight of the feeling that he was being called to the priesthood. He surprised his mother when he told her that he was going to visit the Institute of Christ the King to see if that might be the place for him to study and then attend their seminary.

As is the case with many who are called to the priesthood, satan usually attacks their decision to become a priest or else erects roadblocks (stumbling blocks) to their Godly vocations. A few notables come to mind such as the Venerable Solanus Casey and Saint John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, to name but a few. This is what just occurred to my young friend who had been accepted to their pre-seminary training and then dismissed. The reason for this is unknown at this time although I believe that it is because he revealed that he had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child, although he seemed to be getting well adjusted to the routine and was sailing through the courses presented without any problems at all. The person responsible for the dismissal was the one that was informed of his condition. My suspicion, as is his mother’s to his release from the program, had to do with this fact and not to how he performed or his abilities to become a good and faithful priest which our Church is so desperate for during this present Crisis of faith that we see throughout the world in Catholicism, Christian ethics and morality.

I am thinking that this may be a test and that satan has dealt him a blow which, due to his condition, will be harder than it would be to most young men. I plan on meeting him tonight for dinner, God willing, if that becomes possible. I want to inform him of the FSSP to let him know that there are other Traditional Latin Mass Societies available.

But the thing I think he needs at this point more than anything else, is our prayer, our novenas, our rosaries and our support for this young man of exceptional holiness and faith. I pray that God will put him to work in His Vineyard. God knows we need all the willing laborers we can find at the moment. So please pour your hearts out to God for this young man, Daniel and keep him in your prayers. I thank you in advance for those willing to do this.

Intermission: Luther v Zwingli on the Eucharist


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Phillip mentioned yesterday that Lutherans have a very clear doctrine of the Eucharist, which is certainly true, and that the controversy between Luther and Zwingli highlighted the differences. That too is true. I didn’t want to go into it on his post, it is a bit far off topic. It is interesting, though, and last night I found a concise summary of the differences by Trevin Wax. It also highlights how it differed from Luther’s contemporary Catholic experience.

Luther’s view

In the medieval period before the Reformation, the mass formed the centerpiece of Christian worship and devotion. Three centuries before Luther began teaching in Wittenberg, the fourth Lateran council of 1215 established the doctrine of transubstantiation, which holds that upon the priest’s consecration of the bread and wine, the accidents (according to the senses) remain the same, but the substance (the internal “essence”) is miraculously transformed into the physical body and blood of Christ.

The implications of this doctrine were widespread. Laypeople began to adore the bread and wine from afar or superstitiously carry pieces of bread back home to plant in the garden for good crops or to give to an ailing animal for good health. To avoid an accidental spilling of the wine, the priests began giving only the bread to parishioners, keeping the cup for themselves. By the 1500’s, even the bread was withheld in most churches.

The mass had turned into a show instead of a sacrament. Some parishioners feverishly hurried from church to church to obtain the blessing of seeing more than one host in a given day.

Luther objected to the extreme practices brought by medieval superstition, but he continued to regard the “images, bells, Eucharistic vestments, church ornaments, altar lights and the like” as “indifferent.”

Two things in particular bothered Luther about the Roman Catholic view of the Lord’s Supper. First, he disagreed sharply with the practice of withholding the cup from the laity. So strongly did Luther believe in the laity’s participation in the mass that he condemned the Roman Catholic practice as one way that “Babylon” holds the church “captive.” (It should be noted however that Luther did not believe that withholding the cup necessarily invalidated the sacrament or that the Christians who were denied the cup during the previous centuries had not received sacramental benefits.)

Secondly, Luther believed that the Roman Catholic understanding of the sacrament as a “good work and a sacrifice” was the “most wicked abuse of all.” Luther argued forcefully that the mass must be seen as a testament – something to receive, not a good work to perform. The only sacrifice at the Lord’s Table is the sacrifice of ourselves. The idea that a priest could sacrifice the body and blood of the Lord was especially appalling to Luther and he considered this belief the most abominable of Roman errors.  […]

Another area in which Luther remained close to Roman doctrine is in the doctrine of the “real presence.” Up until 1519, it appears Luther agreed with the official doctrine of transubstantiation. In 1520, he criticized the idea quite forcefully, painting it as needless speculation based on Aristotelian thought.

A popular misconception among Reformation students is that Luther affirmed and promoted “consubstantiation,” but neither Luther nor the Lutheran church ever accepted that term. Luther simply refused to speculate on how Christ is present and instead settled for affirming that he is there. The presence of Christ in the Supper is miraculous and thus defies explanation.

Roman Catholic theologians strongly emphasized the moment of consecration, when the priest would lift the bread and say “Hoc est corpus meum.” At that moment, bells would be rung and all eyes would be on the elevated host, which had magically been transformed into Christ’s body.

Luther similarly emphasized the words of institution, but only because Christ’s command leads to the change, not because the priest has made a special utterance. In this and other practices, Luther was content to alter the understanding behind Roman Catholic practice without feeling the need to actually change the tradition itself.

Luther believed that the fruit of the Lord’s Supper is the forgiveness of sins. Roman doctrine held that Communion was for the righteous, those who have confessed their sins to the priest. Luther believed Communion was for sinners, those who needed Christ’s incarnation the most.


Zwingli’s view


Zwingli did not see the need for a “sacramental union” in the Lord’s Supper because of his modified understanding of sacraments.

According to Zwingli, the sacraments serve as a public testimony of a previous grace. Therefore, the sacrament is “a sign of a sacred thing, i.e. of a grace that has been given.” For Zwingli, the idea that the sacraments carry any salvific efficacy in themselves is a return to Judaism’s ceremonial washings that lead to the purchase of salvation.

Whereas Luther sought to prune the bad branches off the tree of Roman Catholic sacramentalism, Zwingli believed the problem to be rooted at least partly in sacramentalism itself. […]

What Zwingli could not accept was a “real presence” that claimed Christ was present in his physical body with no visible bodily boundaries.

“I have no use for that notion of a real and true body that does not exist physically, definitely and distinctly in some place, and that sort of nonsense got up by word triflers.”

Zwingli’s theology of the Lord’s Supper should not be viewed as an innovation without precedent in church history. Zwingli claimed that his doubts about transubstantiation were shared by many of his day, leading him to claim that priests did not ever believe such a thing, even though “most all have taught this or at least pretended to believe it.”

Had Zwingli’s modified doctrine of the “real presence” been an innovation, it would probably not have been so eagerly accepted by his parishioners. The symbolic view spread rapidly because Zwingli had given voice and legitimacy to an opinion that was already widespread.

In Zurich, the mass was abolished in 1525. The Lord’s Supper was celebrated with a new liturgy that replaced the altar with a table and tablecloth.

The striking feature of the Zwinglian observance of the sacrament was its simplicity. Because the bread and wine were not physically transformed into Christ’s body and blood, there was no need for spurious ceremonies and pompous rituals. The occasion was marked by simplicity and reverence, with an emphasis on its nature as a memorial.

Zwingli’s denial of the “real presence” did not result in the neglecting of the sacrament that would characterize many of his followers in centuries to come. He saw seven virtues in the Lord’s Supper that proved its importance for the Christian life.

Do read the articles linked above. While what he says on Lutheran doctrine is in accordance with what I know and believe, and what I know of how it was derived, and I am sort of assuming that as an Evangelical he knows a fair amount about Zwingli, I don’t know enough to comment intelligently about it. My original church had a fair amount of Reformed in it, but it was long ago, and I’ve long since come to believe in The Real Presence myself, actually before I became a Lutheran. It is just more consonant with the Lord’s words and the disciples’ reaction to them.

Ps, the short form

Pope Francis, The Lack of Marriage Instruction, What it Means for Sin.


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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The best way to reply to everyone’s comment’s after some thought I believe is in post format. I have been perusing through George Weigel’s new book on Pope St. John Paul II Lessons in Hope in which I was struck by a particular passage written Weigel about understanding the man and philosopher Wojtyla. Weigel writes, “There are theologians who write as if they never studied philosophy at all—and it shows, usually in confusion…philosophy is essential prerequistite to doing theology seriously…for there is no way to understand John Paul II’s magisterium—his teaching as pope—without understanding the rudiments of his philosophical position.”[1] In light of Weigel’s point, I am really struck by his words to the point that in regards to our own discussions here, I am moved to reexamine my own life and education to understand why I have arrived to this particular conclusion. I am not a relativist, I believe the truth to be the truth; however, I do fully understand that our perceptions shaped by our environmental factors guide the manner in which we interpret the truth.

Prior to my degree in history, I was a Classics major, so I do have a background in basic classical philosophy, although I have read briefly the points of more modern philosophers—unimpressed. I am reminded in my early years as a student of the famous Plato Allegory of “the Cave.” Slaves being chained to a rock; their perception of reality dictated by the darkness and the small ray of light producing shadows on the rock, and the slave that breaks free rises to the top and see the world and everything that causes the reality of the cave below.

At this point, I must reject Cartesian philosophy that our experience could be nothing more than a dream state and our existence is the only sure thing we can possibly know. Dreamlike states do not follow any laws of nature and therefore do not possess the vital logical elements to come to any proper conclusion of the truth. For example, Descartes would say experience could be imagined; however, experience dictates that in we cannot dream of things or imagine them without any sort of priori knowledge of them, they must be revealed to us for ourselves to grasp them. Naturally, Classical philosophy makes clear that if one can imagine some attributes they have been observed to be true.

So, the Cave example illustrates also that no matter the difference of experience—there are truths that both the slave from above and the ones in the cave can both understand. The slave that escapes understands the origin of the shadows and the cause from the sun; nonetheless, the slaves in the cave can have no such experience. However, through our human reason, the slave from above could still possess the methods to explain the concept of light by having the cave slaves manipulate the shadows with their own environment. The slave from above can also block the sun entirely during the day to exhibit that the source of light, which causes the shadows, exists somewhere outside the cave, and possibly can explain it must be its own celestial body. It may be true that the slave from above cannot explain other facets of the outside world such as the nature and essence of trees, but it is possible to explain the source of light the absence of it is darkness.

Although the experiences of the cave slaves and the one from above are different—through reason—the conclusion of the truth of a source of light and darkness can still be reached by both parties.

So, what is the effect of this allegory on my own theology? I ask, “If I believe two people to be good Catholics or Christians and they’ve come to two different conclusions, what is the possible cause of their experiences that have led to these conclusions?” And, “What truths can be reached by both parties with their common experiences?”

Therefore, in regards to theology, I began to reflect on Christ, other parts of the Gospels, and St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

In many ways, in the Gospels, Christ asks us to become poor or like the poor. Naturally, the reason for this is because, like the outside the cave, those of us who have experienced being poor—I should preface destitute—can have absolutely no understanding of those who live these experiences everyday.

Let’s take a look:

Matthew 19:21

21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” [2]

21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” [3]

42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” [4]

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free, [5]

“When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. 13 Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”[6]

Of course, these are just the passages that I’ve found briefly, but naturally, what they tell you is to either be the poor by giving up your possessions or to be around the poor by making them your guests, and thus, by doing so, you remove yourself from the cave.

I will tell you that it wasn’t from sitting in class that gave me this understanding of Plato’s allegory, it was twofold, first with my new job, it forced me out into the poorest of poor neighborhoods in my community, I saw first hand what it was like to be poor in my community. All of my previous conceived ideas that I held in my ivory tower were washed away. The second is when I started a ministry for studying early church history at my parish and studied how the early Church Fathers used the philosophy of the pagans to better their own Christian philosophy by understanding that any can possess truth. So, it wasn’t until I left my cave that I began to put all of these things together.

So, let us bring out the lessons of Christ in the Gospel and St. Paul in marriage while examining Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia to see if we find a common understanding of the truth that has been revealed to us by experiences.

In regards to divorce let’s get straight to it with Christ’s words in Matthew Chapter 19:

Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” 4 b He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” 7 d They said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss [her]?” He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” 10 [His] disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. 12 Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.” [7]

A fairly straightforward text, one that I’ve used time and time again to illustrate that all Christians must accept Christ’s definition of marriage and any of those who advocate for same-sex marriage is guilty of espousing heresy. I also agree with my orthodox Catholic brothers and sisters that Christ is very clear on his teaching on divorce. It’s impossible. I believe it to be prudent to reflect on the ending of this particular passage:

He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to whom that is granted. 12 Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”

 Now, I’ve grown up Catholic, I can tell you that honestly the only time in my diocese a Catholic is instructed on Christian marriage is during Pre-Cana. I will state this to be a grave mistake, in Christ words here, he instructs that there are those who are incapable of marriage—I have never heard this lesson taught in a homily or any other Catholic resource to best honest, but it’s lesson that must be stressed early on within our Catholic families. I would surmise that withholding a proper discourse on such a lesson many are married, even if they go through pre-Cana, who are not fit for marriage. Therefore, naturally, annulments, divorces, second marriages, and children divided up among all these situations are victims of the failure of the Church to teach the proper understanding of marriage early on in every Catholics’ life. As such, we shall address the experience of those children in the frameworks of the cave allegory and those who completely ignore it by the lack of mercy in their legalism. In fact, by illuminating such a glaring misinstruction by the Church with Christ’s teaching on marriage, it gives some credence to Pope Francis’ words:

“It’s provisional, and because of this the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null. Because they say ‘yes, for the rest of my life!’ but they don’t know what they are saying. Because they have a different culture. They say it, they have good will, but they don’t know.”[8]

It should not be a large leap of reason to understand that if no one is taught that there are those incapable of marriage, then there are many of us Catholics without the proper understanding for discernment in such a Christian vocation. I do not doubt by living among my own peers there are many who say forever without any concept of what that possible means. Of course, this is Pope Francis’ understanding “They don’t know that it’s indissoluble, they don’t know that it’s for your entire life. It’s hard,” [9]

Now, what is St. Paul’s understanding of marriage?

Advice to the Married. Now in regard to the matters about which you wrote: “It is a good thing for a man not to touch a woman,” but because of cases of immorality every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and likewise the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife. Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

8 b Now to the unmarried and to widows I say: it is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire. 10 To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): A wife should not separate from her husband 11 —and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband—and a husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (not the Lord): if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she is willing to go on living with him, he should not divorce her; 13 and if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is willing to go on living with her, she should not divorce her husband. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother. Otherwise your children would be unclean, whereas in fact they are holy.

15 If the unbeliever separates, however, let him separate. The brother or sister is not bound in such cases; God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband; or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? [10]

 Again, I agree, it is pretty straightforward, but again, remove yourself from the cave. Imagine, if your wife or husband in a valid marriage leaves you, and you are one of those who cannot possibly control your desires in which St. Paul speaks. You may have corrupted view of marriage, you may be living a life of sin by adultery or adultery through a second marriage, but it would be prudent to examine whether in this particular situation when reflecting on St. Paul’s teaching by your habits, by your knowledge, etc. whether you’re fully culpable of mortal sin in such situation. I believe to dismiss such examples, which could be very common, would be merely looking at the shadows of the cave; not listening to the explanation of light by the surface slave.

Again, let’s examine St. Paul in Ephesians 5:

Wives and Husbands. 21 Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. 24 As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her 26 to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, 27 that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

31 “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother

and be joined to his wife,

and the two shall become one flesh.”

32 This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church. 33 In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband. [11]

This particular passage was the source of sermon message at my wedding. Do our husbands have a proper understanding that our marriage must be a true representation of Christ’s love for the Church? Many get caught up on the submission of the wife in the text; however, no one bats an eye when St. Paul says the Husband must willingly die for his wife. Again, I agree the teaching is straightforward, but the first time I heard a proper teaching on this text was when I was 27 years old, I was already well into my years of discerning marriage without the proper instruction from the Church and culture. These situations must all be considered when examining a step by step resolution when solving the Church’s marriage crisis.

Of course, let me explain, none of this is contradicted by the Catechism’s understanding on sin, the teachings of the magisterium and it is a full reflection footnote 351 in Amoris Laetitia:

“ In certain cases [emphasis added], this can include the help of the sacraments. Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy.” … I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

 Of course, let us examine this under the other controversial footnote 329:

In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters,” which the Church offers them, [emphasis added] point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, “it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers.”

So what about those children? Should their parents to submit to legalism? Perhaps, but it’s apparent that their parents from an early age, and I would surmise the children themselves will be, have been in a dark damp cave without the proper Christian teachings on marriage, which should have occurred throughout their entire life. And without the proper teachings, they cannot have the proper knowledge of the gravity of their actions and they certainly may not be in full possession of their will under the habit of which they should have been warned and discussed by St. Paul. Therefore, to deny these individuals of communion, is a lack of mercy to receive one who none are worthy to receive, one who may give them a proper understanding through the grace of His sacraments.

Phillip Augustine
“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

[1] George Weigel, Lessons in Hope (Basic Books: New York, 2017), 11.

[2] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 19:21.

[3] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mk 10:21.

[4] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mk 12:42–44.

[5] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Lk 4:18.

[6] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Lk 14:12–14.

[7] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Mt 19:3–12.

[8] https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/most-marriages-today-are-invalid-pope-francis-suggests-51752

[9] Ibid.

[10] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), 1 Co 7:1–16.

[11] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Eph 5:21–33.

Amoris Laetitia: a Lutheran View


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I admire tremendously the thought process that Philip Augustine described in his post Support the Pope. It is one of the most reasoned comments I have seen on the matter.

I’m not going to opine on it, it is something for Roman Catholics to settle, except to say that I too think the Pope should answer for the reasons Philip points out. But it does have ramifications for all of us. We Lutherans and Anglicans as well, as well as others, do indeed subscribe to the creed as the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, some who profess Rome are not Christian, and quite a few who do not are, which is something to keep in mind.

I also note that, long ago, although not as long as it seems, our resident Baptist, Geoffrey, wrote about this phenomenon, as well. You’ll find that post here.

This month we will commemorate an Augustinian monk’s posting of ninety-five theses for discussion on reforming the Church, on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, 500 years ago. Most of the reforms he called for, eventually happened in my Lutheran Church, but also in the Catholic Church. The Church, founded by the sinner St. Peter, like all organizations of men, is not sinless, and never will be. For all that, it is an institution that we all, Catholic and Protestant, look to often for leadership, not least because it has done better than most of us at preserving the things that we have always done, everywhere.

An observation, one thing that many of us have observed is that sometimes the Church appears, especially to outsiders as a bureaucratic, legalistic maze. It may or may not be, but sometimes it appears so to the rest of us. QVO yesterday said, “Amoris laetitia, in so far as it encourages a perversion of discipline re admission of unrepentant adulterers to Communion has a bearing on the external forum.” He’s  not wrong, but it begs the question of “How does he know whether said sinner is repentant or not? Surely that is for him and his priest to discern, not a legal document that applies to millions around the world. Guidelines, absolutely there need to be, but in the last analysis it is up to him and his God to resolve. Finally it is a matter of the communicant’s free will. I think we should give St. Paul the last word in  the matter.

“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an
unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of
the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread
and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing
the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
I Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

The other thing I want you to consider is this.  Like Philip, I urge you to read Amoris laetitia thoughtfully and prayerfully. I suspect you will find it says something very different from what you have seen reported. Again like Philip, I try to eschew terms like ‘liberal/conservative’ or ‘Modernist/traditionalist’ although sometimes we all end up using them, they do not help us to understand, this, after all, is not politics, this is about eternal souls. But for that very reason one cannot trust the media, many of whom are demonstrably Godless people, and as such do not have your, or my, best interests at heart. To take them at their word is neither prudent nor provident. On the other hand, it would be well if the Pope were to refrain from making off the cuff comments to people who may, or may not, have the best interest of the Church at heart. It is considerably more pernicious than President Trump’s Twitter feed,

I’ll leave you with a few words from William Tyndale, whose first translation of the Bible from  Greek into English is the basis of our favorite version. From his “To the reder” of his 1526 rendering of the New Testament.

Note the difference of the lawe/and of the gospell. The one axeth and requyreth/the wother perdoneth and forgeveth. The one threateneth/the wother promyseth all good thynges/to them thatt sett their trust in Christ only. The gospell signifieth gladde tydynges/and is nothynge butt the promyses off good thynges. All is not gospell that is written in the gospell boke: For if the lawe were a waye/thou couldest not know what the gospell meante. Even as thou couldest not se person/favour/and grace/excepte the lawe rebuked the/and declared vnto the thy sinne/mysdede/and treaspase.

Repent and beleve the gospell as sayth Christ in the fyrst of Marke. Applyee all waye the lawe to thy dedes/whether thou finde luste in the bottom of thyne herte to the lawe warde: and soo shalt thou no dout repent/and feale in the silfe a certayne sorowe/payne/and grefe to thyne herte: be cause thou canst nott with full luste do the dedes of the lawe. Apllye the gospell/that is to saye the promyses/vnto the deservynge off Christ/and to the mercye of god and his trouth/and soo shalt thou nott despeare: butt shalt feale god as a kynde and a merciful father. And his sprete shall dwell in the/and shall be stronge in the: and the promises shalbe geven the at the last (though not by and by/lest thou shuldest forgett thy sylfe/and be negligent) and all threatenynges shalbe forgeven the for Christis blouddis sake/to whom commit thy silfe all togedder/with out respect/other of thy good dedes or of thy badde.

And finally, I join  Francis and all people of good will in welcoming theinfiniterally as he joins us on our journey, to the Cross, and beyond.

Support the Pope


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My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write today, after some thought as a testimony of my position, I still support the Pontificate of Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ. There are many opinions in regards to his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, and sadly not enough clarity on the matter, but I believe there to be good reasons to give him still the benefit of the doubt.

As noted by the National Catholic Register:

None of the passages of Amoris Laetitia cited by the correction explicitly denies that a person who knowingly and willingly commits grave evil cuts himself or herself off from God’s grace.

Amoris Laetitia does explore the possibility that a person who commits grave evil may in some cases not have full knowledge or deliberate consent when doing so, but precisely insofar as they lack full knowledge and/or deliberate consent, such a person is not necessarily committing mortal sin.

 The position is consistent with the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”131

1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.

1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

The fact is that it is true that there are possibilities for someone to be in a relationship that from the outside may appear to be gravely sinful; however if that particular person does not meet the three requirements for a mortal sin then they are less culpable. Pope Francis should not be criticized for attempting to bend—not break– understanding as an example of God’s mercy. The National Catholic Register also reminds Catholics to recognize the authority of the Catechism of the Catechism by citing Fidei Depositum 3. As of now, faithful Catholics should understand the exhortation under the precepts of the established teachings of the Catholic Church. Of course, this is the understanding also of Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:

“Archbishop Chaput, on July 1, issued pastoral guidelines for his archdiocese on the Pope’s exhortation. He said the document is best understood when read “within the tradition of the Church’s teaching and life.”[1]

My own Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, a known orthodox Catholic bishop–who has brought back the Latin mass to the diocese, restored the St. Michael Prayer to all masses, withheld communion from Senator Dick Durbin, performed an exorcism on the Illinois House—has written in support of Amoris Laetitia:

There are no changes to canon law or church doctrine introduced in this document, as Pope Francis explains, “If we consider the immense variety of con­crete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases” (n. 300). Rather, the Holy Father says, “In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur” (n. 307).

 Pope Francis himself notes that it is a lengthy document. “Consequently,” the Holy Father writes, “I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text. The greatest benefit, for families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully, or if at­tention is paid to the parts dealing with their spe­cific needs. It is likely, for example, that married couples will be more concerned with Chapters Four and Five, and pastoral ministers with Chap­ter Six, while everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight. It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for ‘families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity’” (n. 7).

 Following the Holy Father’s request, I encourage Catholics and all people interested in strengthening marriage and family life to read the entire Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis “patiently and carefully.” As Pope Francis so frequently requests, please pray for him and for all those called to the vocation of marriage and family life as well as those who minister to them.

So I ask that for those among us not to misconstrue my words. I still believe it to be prudent and the duty of the Pope to still clarify his teachings on the matter of his exhortation, but I refuse to frame the Church in a myopic political language of left vs. right or Traditional Catholics vs. Vatican II Catholics—these are the seeds of division. There is only the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church. I believe Pope Francis should also answer the scholars who have attached their name to the Filial Correction.

I believe it prudent for the Pope to give a proper answer within the context of the deposit of our faith because I believe that the author of the Filial Correction, Professor Claudio Pierantoni,  makes a fair point of the ramifications of no such answer:

It’s very difficult to say, but I believe they haven’t issued it yet because they fear a schism. But I think the opposite is true: that if they don’t do it, there will be a schism. To not speak of the true doctrine, to not correct errors, for fear of schism is a contradiction. Only truth can unite. If error spreads it will cause a split, from parish church to parish church, from bishop to bishop, from country to country. It would be a practical schism, which in fact already exists, but if the correction doesn’t take place, it will get much worse.

I fully believe that some squabbles between Catholics are completely silly. I would almost surmise that some Catholics have been wanting to leave the Church for some time, only waiting for some excuse to do so because of so-called heresy. In many ways, we’ve forgotten to love our brothers and sisters in the Church. Naturally, I think to myself, if we cannot get our own house in order, how can we convince our fellow protestant Brothers and Sisters in Christ to come to the Church? In the wake of these “scandals” and “heresy,” I cannot stop but think of Christ priestly prayer:
20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.[2] 


Philip Augustine

“Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

[1] http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/bishop-paprocki-archbishop-chaputs-amoris-laetitia-guidelines-are-certainly

[2] Jn 17:20

Is the Pope Catholic?


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Time for me to post something here, I reckon, and I think might do. The other day a document called “Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagatis“ (if your Latin is as bad as mine that translates as “A filial correction concerning the propagation of heresies”) was served on the Pope. What that document does is accuse him of teaching seven heresies. Not the kind of stuff that usually happens in the Catholic Church. In fact, the last time it happened was in 1333 to Pope John XXII. He later recanted his errors. I can’t really say that I see Francis doing that. I’m rather glad I’m not the recipient of that 25-page letter though.

Gene Veith over at Cranach spells out some of it, no doubt some of you know more than I do. He talks about the charges (for lack of a better description) and there is a link to the English translation of the document, I’ve only read the summary, so far. It’s copyrighted so I can’t give you much, but it concerns mostly this,  “It lists the passages of Amoris laetitia in which heretical positions are insinuated or encouraged, and then it lists words, deeds, and omissions of Pope Francis which make it clear beyond reasonable doubt that he wishes Catholics to interpret these passages in a way that is, in fact, heretical.”

[Emphasis in the original]

Lots of this has to do, I gather, with giving communion to the divorced and remarried, and beyond that I’m not prepared to go. We’ve discussed this at great length. Search for COMMUNION FOR THE REMARRIED in the search box above if you don’t already know what most of us think. It always leads to much heat and some hurt feelings, so let’s not overly rehash it still again.

The one count that Dr. Veith and I both found a bit amusing is that they are accusing him of being Lutheran, or at least under Luther’s influence. Part of the reason I find that a bit amusing is that so few Lutherans could actually be convicted of that. Dr. Veith adds this,

I tend to have sympathy with the conservative side of theological controversies, though not on this issue.  The sacrament is given specifically to sinners for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 26:28), and is not to be reserved only for those in a state of moral perfection. But that is one of the “Lutheran” teachings that Pope Francis has approximated and which the signers consider heretical.

But I still have sympathy for those who wrote and signed this letter.  Conservative Catholics, almost by definition, revere and obey the papacy.  To come to the conviction that the Pope is teaching heresy must be agonizing.

To believe that the Pope has violated the teachings of the Church Universal, that the papacy is not the protector of orthodoxy as has been assumed but a means of introducing innovative and problematic doctrines into the Church, can be a traumatic realization.  And to take a stand on this conviction shows great integrity and courage.

The signers may consider Luther to be a heretic.  But at least they know now how he felt.

Good thing it’s mostly bishops and academics signing this though. Henry VIII burned a few folks for that very thing, before he married one, of course. It was far from the longest marriage of his.

Indeed it must be a horrendous nightmare for any churchman to come to that feeling about any of his bishops, but the Pope! I don’t envy them, but I too admire them greatly. It must take great courage to put your name on that document.

They (whoever they may be) say that “May you live in interesting times” is a Chinese curse. I suspect we all understand why.


Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.

-Matthew 24:29 (KJV)

See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.  And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

-Hebrews 12:25-27 (KJV)

When Christ came, the world was shaken. It continues to be shaken to this day. When the process is over, all the darkness will be removed from this world, and only the good will remain. Imagine a kingdom where people think only good thoughts and do only good deeds. Imagine a world where people are truly content, where their creativity is not frustrated, where their efforts are not wasted.

Before we get to this world, the powers of evil must be removed. The Sons of God and their servants who conspire against the LORD will die the death of mortals.

I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.

-Psalm 82:6-7 (KJV)

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

-Revelation 20:15 (KJV)

The shaking of this world is happening in the spiritual places, not just the earth. God’s human children are making war on the powers of darkness by their prayers, by their righteous living, by their worship, and by their sacrifice to the name of Jesus.


Requiescat in pace Nabeel Qureshi

Today I would like to honour a great Christian apologist, Dr Nabeel Qureshi, who this weekend went to be with the Lord. After a long period of conversation with his friend, David Wood, he converted from Islam to Christianity, dedicating his life to defending the faith and engaging with Muslims in grace and truth. The Lord blessed him by reconciling him to his Muslim parents before his death, and it is my prayer that they will know the comfort and love of God in this time of grieving. He also leaves behind a wife and children.

The Lord is doing great things in the Muslim world at this time, and Dr Qureshi leaves behind a legacy that, I pray, will continue to bear fruit to salvation in the lives of earnest seekers. This man had credibility with his audience because he had seen both sides of the divide:  he knew what it was like to live as “an average Muslim”, and he could also testify to the changed life he had as a consequence of entering into a relationship with Jesus. He spoke to the sincere questions that many Muslims have in response to doctrines like the Incarnation and the Trinity, but he also addressed ethics: how we live our daily lives in a way that honours God and our fellow human beings.

Now is a time when such men are needed. The challenge of this age is to show the love of Jesus to our enemies and to recognise the work of His Spirit in the unlikeliest of places. Those who have a true conception of love, those who live it in all sincerity, day in, day out – these people honour God. But we all need Jesus.

What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”

-Roman 3:9-11


Terrorism and The Exhausted West.


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Yesterday, I wrote at NEO about the terrorist attack in London. If you read me, you will know that I am becoming increasingly frustrated by Europe’s (including the UK in this instance) complete unwillingness to face the truth. 90% + of all terrorists are some variant of Islamic, even if only in their mind. We do our citizenry a major disservice when we fail to acknowledge that, and act to secure the rule of law. In my article, I quoted the great Russian writer Alexander Solzenitsyn’s famous commencement address at Harvard in 1978.

It struck a chord with me, and it did my astute readers as well. They dug around in my archives and found what I half-remembered. We had spoken of that address before, in a post of Jessica’s from 2013 while I was off for Christmas. It was an amazing post then, and it still is, and so I’ll share it with you today. Here’s Jessica, in one of her best.

The Exhausted West?

The title is not mine and it is not new. It was the title used by one of the last century’s greatest writers and spirits, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, for his 1978 Commencement speech at Harvard. This came as a shock to the West at the time. Here was a man whom it had lauded as a hero of the Cold War, a moral giant who had exposed and condemned the Stalinist regime and its successors; in the face of his writing, the Left which liked to appease Communism fell silent, and the Right which loved to excoriate it celebrated him. But after his Harvard speech, his admirers were puzzled. Instead of thanking them and saying how wonderful the West was, Solzhenitsyn could not have made it clearer that he did not think that the best alternative to Communism was individualistic, humanistic capitalism. Any system which saw man as instrumental in a materialistic sense missed the point of human life: we are not here to be parts of the economic utopia or to consume, we are not an economic animal whose main point is to accumulate as much wealth as we can, or to consume as much as we can; there is nothing wrong with creating wealth, or even accumulating it – unless it is an end in itself. After all, the Good Samaritan could not (as Lady Thatcher once reminded us) have done any good had he not had the money with which to do it. Jesus did not condemn wealth, he feared its effects on the rich man, and he wanted it, like all of God’s good things, to be used rightly. A society which pursued wealth for its own sake and which makes money (or celebrity) an end in itself is not a good one.

America was founded on noble ideals, including the pursuit of happiness. Our wealth has become such that many citizens can get an unimaginable amount of material wealth, but, as he noted:

the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life, and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. 

He saw a society in which:

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil. 

It is hard to see that nearly forty years later, things are any better; here, as elsewhere, Solzhenitsyn  prophesied aright. He identified the reasons for this very well:

Without any censorship, in the West, fashionable trends of thought are carefully separated from those that are not fashionable. Nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally, your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day 

The West was, he said, ‘spiritually exhausted’. The ‘human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.’

The origin of this decadence lay, Solzhenitsyn suggested, in the anthropocentric views of man’s destiny which came in with the secular thinking of the Enlightenment. Man was at the centre of all things, and the ends for which he was meant were material ones:

Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our day there is a free and constant flow. Mere freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones. 

But these are not the ends for which man is made, and so even if he reaches them, he is dissatisfied and his spirit unsatisfied. So it is that even in the richest society the world has ever known, even the rich lack what is needed to heal what ails them?  We can reject God and make gods of ourselves. But Solzhenitsyn did not see that as bringing us what we needed; and forty-five years on, we can see, even more clearly, that like Jeremiah, he was a prophet to whom few wanted to listen.