Thursday, July 31, 2014


We know what many Catholics, both clergy and laity, think of the Anglican Church. We think that there liberalization which has led to schism after schism in this denomination will eventually lead to its complete demise.

But what do some Anglicans think of the Catholic Church. We get an insight from a renowned historian in the Church of England who is also a deacon, Diarmaid MacCulloch who thinks we are heading for a schism.

He thinks this is going to happen because the hierarchy, especially during the reigns of Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict which tried to interpret the Second Vatican Council within continuity with traditional, historic Catholicism. He calls this irrational!

But the Catholic Church faces ridicule from more progressive Christian denominations who have joined the fads and trends of godless secularism in the following areas:

1. Female clergy: The Church is painted by the media and others as women hating, medieval and backwards for not ordaining women although it makes perfect sense when one takes into account the Church's sacramental economy (which is outdated by secular standards that do not take sacraments or faith into account).

2. The other has to do with the Church's position on marriage which is related intrinsically to the Church's teaching on the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Spousal relationships are male and female, not same sex. The Church's fight agains same sex marriage as well as her teachings on chastity and natural law marginalize us today.

3. Because of this, the Catholic Church is being painted as racists of previous generations. We are painted as gay bashing, homosexual hating and transgendered phobic. This is influencing scores of Catholics who are turning away from the Church's traditional teachings in the area of sexuality as they embrace the openness of the culture which has been manipulated by elitists in the entertainment and news media.  

Secular sources for belief are more influential than Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law for many Christians and Catholics today.

I don't see a liberal schism but we could well have a traditionalists' schism if the Catholic Church moves in the direction of the Anglican Communion. I don't think any pope would make that mistake.

But we will see liberal Catholics ultimately becoming nones or joining the Anglican Communion of other feel-good religions that allow for vapid opinions to be elevated to dogma.

Top church historian sees Catholic schism ahead


Is it a fad, a trend or a welcomed return to sanity as it concerns the design of Catholic Churches? Throughout the country Catholic Churches are dumping the iconoclasm of the 1970's as it concerns Church architecture and renovations. 
In the Metro Augusta area two new churches are being built both with extremely classical, traditional looks. The first is St. Teresa's of Avila in Grovetown (a suburb of Augusta) and the other is St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken,  South Carolina about 16 miles from downtown Augusta. Both are neo-Romanesque, very large (in fact the Augusta church will be the largest church in the diocese). 
St. Joseph Church in Macon is restoring its altar railing and has been celebrating the EF Mass for the past seven years. 
Throughout the country these sorts of things are happening. Are they just the result of the magnificent  liturgical leadership of Pope Benedict XVI or just a fad that will pass with His Holiness abdication and eventual passing or will the brilliant liturgical leadership of Pope Benedict have in the future a more influential effect upon local dioceses and parishes? Only time will tell. 
The Deacon's Bench is reporting the Heritage Restoration and Design Studio in Illinois produced the video below, showing the impressive work they did on a small Catholic church in Texas. (The finished product is shown above).
The renovation is exceptional—and so is the process.  Take a look by pressing of clicking on the image below:
YouTube Preview Image

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


When Pope Francis visited his good evangelical friend in Caserta, Italy on Monday and met with about 300 of his parishioners, I thought that it was a very good ecumenical move. We don't need to dwell upon what divides us but what unites us. With evangelicals, we believe in the Most Holy Trinity and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We believe in a common morality and can work together for pro-life causes.

If Pope Francis can work effectively with his evangelical friend, how much more effective would ecumenism be in the Church to avert a true schism and yet another seperation that leads to the hostility and hurts that Catholics in Italy foisted on evangelicals especially during the fascist period?

What if Pope Francis went to see his good friends and brother bishops and parishioners of the SSPX? Certainly the Holy Father has more in common with the SSPX in both faith and morals than with the evangelicals.

The same is true for rank and file ecumenism in our local churches and dioceses. Pope Benedict knew that we are closer to the SSPX than even to the Eastern Orthodox. There is no good reason on God's earth that we cannot reconcile with the SSPX and Pope Benedict certainly understood that and did in a more formal way what Pope Francis did with his evangelical friend in Caserta.

What do rank and file Catholics who prefer the normative liturgy of the Church and much of the authentic spirit of Vatican II fear from the SSPX and traditionalists that are not even a part of the SSPX?

I think of PI who is ecumenically savey with Protestants but has little or no time to reach out to those who are Catholic traditionalists. Why the rigidity? It makes no sense whatsoever.

I want to make something abundantly clear. I appreciate very much Vatican II when properly interpreted as Pope Benedict was striving to do so. Pope Benedict would disagree with the SSPX on the things that they reject from Vatican II but His Holiness was smart enought to know that what the SSPX rejects is not in the same league with what many Protestants reject about the Church in general. And if we can have ecumenical relations with Protestants, create an Anglican Ordinariate and strive for organic unity with Protestants, how much more with the SSPX?

While I appreciate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and would be content in a parish that was exclusivey EF I love the Ordinary Form also, especially the vernacular. That is why I have advocated that some vernacular be allowed for the EF Mass, especially the parts that change. That seems to me to be a no-brainer.

I do believe the Ordinary Form of the Mass needs to recover some elements of the EF's piety and spirituality and yes order. I have come to the conclusion that the loss of Catholic faith, piety, devotion and belief in the real presence can be traced back to the negativity to things liturgically pre-Vatican II, such as hushed piety, kneeling for Holy Communion,scrupulously guarding against any profanation of the Sacrament or its fragments or droplets. There must be continuity in these things so that a rupture in what is called pre-Vatican II and Post Vatican II are not as evident as it is now, a rupture in belief that has helped lead to the collapse of Catholicism in so many parts of the world and a loss of faith in the essentials of the Mass.

When it comes to the SSPX and the Evangelicals and reaching out to both Pope Francis and rank and file bishops, priests, religious and laity have nothing to fear but fear itself!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Evidently some of my commenters desire Pope Francis to be as proselytizing as this Muslim in the video below, but of course using Catholic teaching to say that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation and apart from Jesus Christ there is no salvation. If there ever was an apologetic for Pope Francis' desire that we evangelize not through proselytizing but through attraction, this is the case for it!   I copy this from the Dallas Area Blog:

Dutch orchestra storms out from muslim proselytizing July 28, 2014

Posted by Tantumblogo 
Two quick stories on the “interreligious dialogue” front; first, a Dutch orchestra was giving a performance with Queen Beatrix in attendance. Some musselman had been invited to lead the orchestra, I guess. He proceeded to try to proselytize the audience, including the Queen.  He had apparently been trying to reach the Queen for some time, and took his chance when he got it.
Note the outlandish error: claiming Christ, who constantly worked miracles that gave total proof of His Supernatural Reality, was subordinate to Mohammad, who never once performed a miracle, which even islam claims (a supposed “night flight” to Jerusalem, which no one saw, discounted).   And then we have the difference in the conduct of their lives: Christ, constantly virtuous, the most virtuous Being ever on this planet, Who also never sinned, and Who willed to die for the salvation of mankind, against Mohammad, who spread his religion by violence, cruelty, and barbarity, whose life was incredibly sinful, and who didn’t suffer for anyone, but in fact caused others to suffer.  He also repeatedly changed the beliefs of his false religion based on who he needed to please or entice from one moment to next, while Christians have a 2000 year record of constant belief going back to the Apostles and early Church Fathers.


I am sure there are those out there who hated when Pope Saint John Paul II apologized to many different groups that he felt the Church had offended over the centuries, such as the Jews, the Protestants and others. Saint Pope John Paul II was one who asked for forgiveness of others and for the actions of the institutional Church.

Should not bishops, (including the Bishop of Rome) priests, deacons and religious apologize to those they have offended and sometimes from an institutional corruption, such as the corruption that has fomented the greatest crisis for the Church since the Great Schism and the Protestant Reformation, the abuse of children by clergy and how this was managed by the institutional Church locally and internationally? Yes! Reparation should be made also, especially in the spiritual sense!

So on Monday Pope Francis apologized to Italian Pentecostals and evangelicals for how other Catholics treated them especially during the Fascist period in Italian history of the 20th century.

My Italian mother use to tell us how horrible the Fascists were. She knew first hand in Livorno. In fact to call someone a Fascist was a very derogatory term, a form of name calling. Fascism in Italy had is corollary in Nazism in Germany although the latter more virulent.  

Evidently, as a small minority, Protestant evangelicals and pentecostals were very poorly treated in Italy in this period of fascism. I would suspect Catholics in Italy treated them in a similar fashion as Irish Catholics were treated in the late 1800's and early 1900's here in the USA.

Should not the head of the Catholic Church, the pope, apologize for the bad behavior of Catholics? Yes! Indeed His Holiness should and kudos to him for doing so. Who could find fault in that?


It is well known that Pope Francis does not want the Church to proselytize in order to gain converts. He states that the Church grows not through proselytizing but through attraction. 

I know that a number of people who comment here are converts from other religions or no religion at all or have come into the full communion of the Church from other Christian denominations. 

I wonder how many became Catholic through the proselytizing of others or the attractiveness of the Church, meaning not just the institutional elements, the trappings, the academic qualities of studying theology or doctrine or the attractiveness of our history but through the example and love of other Catholics?

In the pre-Vatican II Church, we were taught not to proselytize. We we told not to wear our religious medals on the outside of our clothes, but hidden underneath (such as crosses, scapulars and the like). I can remember vividly my father telling me when he saw me wearing my rosary that it wasn't jewelry and that one doesn't wear these kinds of things in public less we offend someone. 

In fact my father would not send religious Christmas cards to friends or family. He sent secular ones. This was his formation in the Church in the pre-Vatican II times. He was born in 1910!

We were always told that people should become Catholic because they wanted to be Catholic not because someone talked them into it. 

The same was true of Catholic education especially in the south where protestants, jews and those with no religious affiliation were welcomed. It was made clear that they would have to participate in Mass by attending, would be taught the proper respect shown to Christ in the tabernacle and that they would have to do all the postures of Mass. They could not, though, receive Holy Communion.

But Catholic school personnel would not denigrate a child's faith or lack thereof and would never baptize a child if the parents would not also come into the Church.

I think of Immaculate Conception School in Augusta prior to Vatican II where there usually was a higher percentage of non-Catholics to Catholics in the school. Many of these children as adults joined the Catholic Church even with its all Latin euro-centric Liturgy. They were attracted to the Latin Mass and to their Catholic friends and families and saw something in these Catholics and their way of praying and living that was very attractive. 

So, instead of wearing our religion on our sleeve or on our chest with huge visible crosses and instead of trying to convert people with our words, how do we make the Catholic Church attractive to those who want something deeper in their lives?

1. The best evangelization in the world (workplace or secular venues) is not the words we use but the life we live and our humility. I think humility, true humility is attractive to others and will draw people to the Church, especially the recognition we are sinners in need of God's love and forgiveness. 

2. Beautiful liturgies and devotions are key. The Mass well celebrated with faithful, devoted and pious Catholics is very attractive to others. Catholics taking their Sunday obligation as well as Holy Days of Obligation seriously is attractive to others. And Catholics who go to daily Mass is attractive to others. The sincere devotional life of Catholics is attractive too.

3. Catholics who are faithful to the teachings of the Church or give assent and do not dissent are attractive to others too. It is ugly to dissent from the Church's faith and morals for the simple reason of integrity. If one is a public dissenter why would anyone want to join a Church were her members are so unhappy with their mother? If one is at heart an "Episcopalian" why remain Catholic and try to re-make the Church in the Episcopal image? How attractive is that? Not!

4. Catholics who are joyful, enjoy life and the good things of this life, and use them in moderation, such as food and alcohol, assure others that the Catholic Church isn't puritanical which is attractive to many people. 

5. Catholics who are generous and not materialistic are very attractive to others too. 

So, what do you think? Is the Holy Father pre-Vatican II in his evangelization techniques or should he push the proselytizing that has begun to occur in the Church after Vatican II similar to what Protestants sects have always done? Just wondering.

Monday, July 28, 2014


 On his pastoral visit to Caserta on Sunday where he met with the region's priests, Pope Francis was  asked for suggestions for a pastoral program able to relaunch the primacy of the Gospel without mortifying popular piety. He answered that “true popular piety was born of that Sensus Fidei described in the Encyclical Lumen Gentium and which is guided by devotion to the Saints, to the Virgin, and also by folkloric expressions, in the positive sense of the word”. He added, “the agnosticism that has entered into the Church in groups of intimist piety” are not good, but are instead a form of heresy. … Popular piety is inculturated, it cannot be produced in a laboratory, aseptic … it is always born of life."

What then is an "intimist piety" which the Holy Father describes as heresy?
I found this on the internet:

Anti-Marian Forms of Spirituality

Not all expressions of Marian devotion and "Marian spirituality" are truly and authentically Marian. There are too many well-intentioned Christians for whom the mere mention of Mary’s name serves as a cover for pious exaggerations, theological reductionism, and psycho-spiritual projections. Authentic Christian spirituality, which always has an engrained Marian dimension, proceeds from true faith, as Lumen Gentium reminds us, faith "by which we are led to recognize the excellence of the mother of God."75  Being even more specific, Marialis Cultus speaks of attitudes of piety which are incorrect,76  because they are "not in harmony with the Catholic faith and therefore must have no place in Catholic worship."77  This exhortation seems to be all the more pressing as many devotional practices of the past, some of which gave way to devotional deviations mentioned in Lumen Gentiumand Marialis Cultus, have been retrieved and are being once again practiced by many of the faithful, with spiritual profit. Rather than ostracizing specific Marian devotions, we would like to pinpoint some of the more current anti-Marian attitudes which lead to the misuse or misinterpretation of Marian devotion and spirituality.

1. Apocalypticism

This attitude mobilizes Mary as doomsday prophet and inspirer of fear and trembling. We all have need for some motherly exhortation and sisterly warning in the face of the moral and spiritual challenges of our lives. And, as we know, the fear of God is to be counted among the Christian virtues. By unilaterally and exclusively projecting the image of the Deus tremendus, apocalypticism demeans the Christian notion of love, which is mercy, and negates the reality and challenge of the Incarnation. This approach diminishes the figure of Mary by depriving her of an essential dimension. Mary is the mother of Incarnation, of loving presence to the world, and, therefore, an active agent of its transformation in Christ; that is, she is Mater rerum recreatarum and no doomsday sibyl.

2. Esoterism

Too much of Marian devotion is built on Mary’s role as Dea ex machina, and is linked to para-psychological realities such as special fragrances, weeping statues and rosaries turning golden. This is not a hidden or indirect criticism of apparitions and miraculous phenomena. But, indirectly at least, esoterism suggests an end to faith and the imminent dawn of beatific vision. Mary makes it possible. Instead of being a corollary to messages of conversion, prayer, and, in general, spiritual hardship, Marian esoterism reduces eschatology to the present and promises immediate spiritual satisfaction. Sensationalism, as esoterism is called in secular terms, favors spiritual consumerism and attributes to Mary magical power. Many related examples could be given; one of them deals with the almost magical and superstitious way in which the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is promoted.

3. Spiritualism

There exists a certain tendency in Marian devotion and spirituality toward intimist or "privatistic" expressions of affection for Mary. "Marian spirituality" was never meant to become an "ivory tower" for Mary’s devotees. Although contemporary spirituality puts emphasis on therapeutic concerns for a world in need of healing, Mary is not simply the gatherer, offering her followers the protection and warmth of her maternal womb. An orientation to action and apostolic endeavor are an integral part of "Marian spirituality." Being disciple and associate in Christ’s salvific work, Mary is also a "sender," involving her followers in her mission of being mother of the Church and of all humanity.


This translation is copied from Rorate Caeli:

The Two Reasons for Widespread Silence on Christian Genocide:
Secularism and the Fear of Islam, its Terrors and its Blackmail.

The Indifference that Kills

by Ernesto Galli della Loggia
Main Editorialist for the Italian newspaper of record, Corriere della Sera
July 28, 2014

Let's state the truth: how many here in Europe and in the West will truly care about the umpteenth massacre of Christians, blown up into the air yesterday in Kano, Nigeria, by the explosion of a bomb in a church? And besides how many truly cared at all about the Christians forced last week to abandon Mosul within 24 hours, under pain of death or forced conversion to Islam? No one. Just as no one has ever raised a peep for all Christians who have fled, by the hundreds of thousands throughout these years, Iraq, Syria, the entire Arab world. How many resolutions have Western nations presented at the United Nations regarding their fate? How many millions of dollars have they asked of the United Nations' agencies to allocate on their behalf? The slaughter has been going on for years, almost daily: by dozens and dozens, Christians are burned alive or slain in the churches of India, Pakistan, Egypt, Nigeria. Always in the silence, or anyway in the general inaction: what, for instance, has been truly been concretely done for the 276 Christian girls kidnapped some weeks ago, also in Nigeria, by the Jihadist Boko Haram group, guilty - nothing less! - of wishing to go to school, and therefore sent to a fate that is easy to fathom?

The two main reasons for this vast indifference are obvious. The first is that we find increasingly hard to feel, and even more so call ourselves, Christian. It is not a matter of simple loss of faith, which also clearly counts. It is a question of what is behind it. A couple of centuries of critical secular thought, in particular its massive vulgarization/banalization made possible by the development of the mass media, have taken away from Christianity, to the eyes of most, the social-cultural dignity of the past. For some time now, being and calling onself Christian is not only not admired intellectually, but in many environments it considered almost unacceptable.
[From the time of the Regensburg Address]

Christianity is not at all "elegant", and often lands those who practice it under a kind of tacit but real ban. The dominant cultural atmosphere in Western ociety considers religion in general as something primitive, at most a "placebo" for the weak spirits, as something intimately predisposed to intolerance and violence. Monotheistic religions in a special way. Theoretically all of them, but then, in practice, in the widespread public discourse, almost only Christianity, and above all Catholicism -- therefore, to the exclusion of Judaism and Islam: the first, for obvious historical-moral reasons related (but for how long?) to the Shoah, the second simply out of fear

Yes, we must say it: fear.

Europe is afraid, and this is the second reason for the indifference I mentioned before. It fears Arab Islam, its power of economic blackmail linked not only to oil anymore, but now also to an extraordinary financial liquidity. At the same time, and above all, it fears the ruthless terrorism, the so many guerrillas that claim to be inspired by Islam, their cruel barbarity, as well as the movements of revolt that periodically deeply stir the masses of that world, always permeated by a sensibility that is extremely easy to light up and to break loose in violent xenophobia. But not only that. Islam scares us also because its very presence -- as also that of other large non-benevolent entities that fill the world today, such as China -- indirectly forces us to face up to a great ongoing change in our culture, and therefore in our civilization: the psychological impossibility of having an "enemy", of withstanding a situation of conflict that cannot be settled. An impossibility that, together with the rejection/removal of death -- death that the decline of religion renders now impossible to accept and, therefore, in some way to exorcise -- is on its turn bringing forth in the West a gigantic historic turning point: the virtual impossibility for us to think about and make war. At least that war that is not fought by impersonal and sophisticated machines, but true war, war in which one dies.

But what do the Christians of the extremely ancient communities of Mosul and Aleppo, all the others spread from Africa to India, think about all this? What can they think? At this point, I imagine, they have only understood the truth that counts for them: and that is, to have very few expectations if they are waiting for a help that comes from here. The Europe of today cares each time less for Christians and their religion. One can feel sure that every intervention on their behalf would be considered inadmissible, improperly biased, shamefully infringing any right to the equality of all. So be it. But may God not wish this to be just a beginning: the beginning of something the premonitory signs of which are not absent on these very days. In a Europe pervaded by secularization, in a Europe whose spiritual sources are rapidly running dry on the disdain decreed against every humanism, in fact it cannot but be established a fatally necessary connection between indifference towards Christianity and antisemitism. It is the same indifference for that which cannot be expressed with numbers, for that which comes from the depth of time and hearts, and which stirs in the darkness of the souls: daring to look higher, higher still than what human sight allows.

[Source: Corriere della Sera]


The following is an article written by the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, OFM for the National Catholic Register. Pope Franics, who is scheduled to visit Philadelphia next year, is described by Archbishop Chaput as a conservative.

Pope Francis and Economic Justice 

This address was delivered at the Napa Institute conference July 26. 2014



NAPA, Calif. — I’m a Capuchin Franciscan, and I’ve often found that people think of Francis of Assisi as a kind of 13th-century flower child. St. Francis was certainly “countercultural,” but only in his radical obedience to the Church and his radical insistence on living the Gospel fully — including poverty and all of its other uncomfortable demands. Jesus, speaking to him from the cross of San Damiano, said, “Repair my house.”  I think Pope Francis believes God has called him to do that as pope, as God calls every pope.  And he plans to do it in the way St. Francis did it.

Pope Francis took the name of the saint of Christian simplicity and poverty. As he has said, he wants “a Church that is poor and for the poor.” In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he grounded this goal in Jesus Christ, “who became poor and was always close to the poor and the outcast” (186). That’s a very Franciscan idea.

The Holy Father knows poverty and violence. He knows the plague of corrupt politics and oppressive governments. He has seen the cruelty of human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. He has seen elites who rig the political system in their favor and keep the poor in poverty. When we Americans think about economics, we think in terms of efficiency and production. When Francis thinks about economics, he thinks in terms of human suffering. We’re blessed to live in a rich, free, stable country. We can’t always see what Francis sees.

I think it would be a mistake to describe him as a “liberal” — much less a “Marxist.” As I told the Italian newspaper La Stampa in an interview some weeks ago, words like “liberal” and “conservative” don’t describe Catholic belief. They divide what shouldn’t be divided. We should love the poor and love the unborn child. Service to the oppressed and service to the family; defense of the weak and defense of the unborn child; belief in the value of business and belief in restraints on predatory business practices — all these things spring from the same Catholic commitment to human dignity. There’s nothing “progressive” about killing an unborn human child or allowing it to happen. And there’s nothing “conservative” about ignoring the cries of the poor.=

Before we go on, I should make a couple of obvious points about Francis. The first is that not everyone’s happy with him. G.K. Chesterton said that every age gets the saint it needs. Not the saint people want, but the saint they need; the saint who’s the medicine for their illness. The same may be true of popes.

John Paul II revived the spirit of a Church that felt fractured, and even irrelevant, in the years after the [Second Vatican] Council. Benedict revived the mind of a Church that felt, even after John Paul II’s intellectual leadership, outgunned by the world in the public square. Francis has already started to revive the witness of a Church that, even after John Paul II’s and Benedict’s example, feels as if we can’t get a hearing and that we’re telling a story no one will believe.

Again, not everyone is pleased with Francis. Chesterton said that saints are so often martyrs because they’re the kind of antidote the world mistakes for poison. The website Salon recently ran an article complaining about the good press Francis has gotten. It argued: “The new sexist, nun-hating, poverty-perpetuating, pedophile-protecting homophobe is the same as the old sexist, nun-hating, poverty-perpetuating, pedophile-protecting homophobe. ... It is ludicrous to suggest that a man who denies comprehensive reproductive health care (including all forms of birth control, including condoms and abortion) and comprehensive family planning is a man who cares about the poor of this world.” 

Some on the political right have attacked him in words almost as strong, though for different reasons.
What Francis says about economic justice may be hard for some of us to hear.  So we need to read the Holy Father’s writings for ourselves, without the filter of the mass mediaThen we need to open our hearts to what God is telling us through his words.

Here’s my second point. In matters of economic justice, Francis’ concerns are the same as Benedict’s and John Paul II’s and Pius XI’s and Leo XIII’s. He understands economic matters through the lens of Church teaching in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Like his predecessors, he defends human dignity in a world that consistently threatens it. But Francis stresses more directly than they did that human solidarity is a necessary dimension of human dignity. We need both. Human dignity requires not just the protection of individuals, as in our pro-life work, but an ongoing commitment to the common good.

Solidarity, he says in Evangelii Gaudium, is a relationship of love and reconciliation. It’s a mutual concern for the other’s good (29). He finds this modeled for us in the Mass and in Mary’s great Yes to God. Defined economically, it puts “the community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by the few.” To put it negatively, “what satisfies one at the expense of the other ends up destroying both” (Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words, edited by Francesca Ambrogetti and Sergio Rubin). We need to live in solidarity with one another because we can’t change our social structures if we don’t. Without learning solidarity, any new political or economic structure will become as corrupt as the old (Evangelii Gaudium, 188-189).

Let’s remember what Francis said in his famous America interview. Bearing witness to Jesus Christ in a missionary style, he said, “[should focus] on the essentials, on the necessary things: This is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise, even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. ... The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”

Many people worried that the Holy Father was saying those “moral and religious imperatives” don’t matter anymore. Other people wanted to believe he was saying that. But of course they do matter. Pope Francis believes they matter. What he was saying is that, in the task of bringing the world to Jesus Christ, we witness best when we save the unborn and when we feed their mothers, when we help immigrants, when we serve the poor, when we stand against division and exploitation, when we speak for a more just social order.

When we don’t witness that way, a society as broken as ours won’t pay attention to our moral and religious convictions. And that’s fair enough.  Why should anyone believe that the Gospel is good news when we live as if it weren’t?  When we do witness in the way Francis describes, people more easily listen. And then their hearts may burn for Jesus Christ as the disciples' did on the road to Emmaus.

Human solidarity begins in a shared respect for human dignity. And human dignity expresses itself in shared works of human solidarity. In his encyclical letter Lumen Fidei, Francis notes that our faith teaches us the unique dignity of each person, something the pagan world never saw clearly. If we don’t grasp this reality of God’s personal love for every individual, we have no way to understand what makes human life so precious.  And we have no grounds for believing in human dignity and solidarity.

But if we do grasp this fact of God’s personal love, Francis says in a paper on “social debt,” which he wrote while a cardinal, we’ll see that “man is the subject, beginning and end of all political, economic and social activity — each man, all of man and all men. ... [T]here is something due to man because he is man, by reason of his lofty dignity. This something due is inseparable from the opportunity to survive and participate actively in the common good of humanity” (Encountering Christ: Homilies, Letters and Addresses of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio). For Francis, “every man and woman represents a blessing for me; that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters” (Lumen Fidei, 54).

What concretely does Francis believe about economic justice? He has never offered his systematic thoughts about it or the policies that promote it.  And, frankly, we can sense some ambiguity in his thinking. When he calls for a better distribution of wealth among social classes, he doesn’t say how this should be done and what a proper distribution would look like or who will decide who gets what. But he’d probably say that he’s giving us the principles of a rightly ordered social and economic life as the Catholic Church understands them, and that the Church gives to laypeople, and especially those called to public service, the job of best applying those principles in each nation.

Francis is classically Catholic in his social concerns. He stresses that the social doctrine of the Church “maintains that one can live authentically human relations of friendship and sociability, of solidarity and reciprocity within economic activity” (Encountering Christ, p. 147). Business is a proper activity of man. In Evangelii Gaudium, he calls it “a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life ... striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all” (203). He does place “the social function of property and the universal destination of goods” before private property. We’re given private ownership of goods because they need to be protected and increased, so the goods we have will better serve the common good.

He often speaks about the importance of work for human dignity. The Church, he says, “has always maintained that the key to the social question is work” and that government “should cultivate a culture of work, not charity” (Encountering Christ). Welfare programs are needed to meet urgent social needs.  But they should be temporary responses to those needs (Evangelii Gaudium, 202). To ensure people’s welfare means providing access to education and basic health care, but, “above all, employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives” (109).

Francis rejects the idea that helping the poor is a government duty alone. It’s our job too. And he warns that when Jesus returns, he’ll judge us harshly if we blame the government for poverty rather than doing something about it ourselves (Encountering Christ, p. 130-131).

Francis would also dispute that the market, left to itself, can ever solve most of our problems. He rejects the “neo-liberal” belief, “liberal” in the classic European sense, in “the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation” (Evangelii Gaudium, 202) There is, he says, “no ‘automatic’ mechanism for ensuring fairness and justice. Only an ethical choice transformed into specific practices, with effective means, is capable of preventing man falling prey to man.” Economic life separated from a politics of social responsibility creates “grave inequalities,” and “unbridled capitalism fragments economic and social life” (Encountering Christ).

Government has a necessary role. “Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic,” Francis writes. “It has to be ordered to the attainment of the common good, which is the responsibility above all of the political community.” In Evangelii Gaudium,he calls politics “a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good” (204).

The Catholic faith “teaches us to create just forms of government, in the realization that authority comes from God and is meant for the service of the common good,” he wrote in Lumen Fidei (55).  In Evangelii Gaudium, he added, “The dignity of each individual person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies” (203).

Francis has strong ideas about what this understanding requires of the economy. People must “avoid letting the employment of financial resources be motivated by speculation, giving in to the temptation of seeking only immediate benefits, instead of [seeking] the sustainability of the enterprise in the long run, its proper service to the real economy” (Encountering Christ, p. 148). He warns that a business should not be moved solely because conditions are better somewhere else and that it’s wrong to exploit a community without contributing to the creation of a stable social and economic system. He calls the practice of trying to raise profits by laying off workers “a new poison.” And businesses must provide a just wage.

Wealth, he insists, should “be distributed among each of the people and social classes.” A society must care for the vulnerable. This care must include helping pregnant women and mothers, making sure children have enough to eat and basic health care throughout life. He calls providing children with an inadequate education “a kind of killing” (Encountering Christ).

So these are a few ways Francis believes human solidarity, linked to human dignity, should be expressed in practice. But again, he never lets us off the hook as individuals. He won’t let us point at “them” (big government and big corporations) as the people mainly responsible for creating a just society. Francis is always the pastor, the shepherd of families and individual believers, even in his more theoretical writings.

What he calls “the political project of inclusion” belongs not only to governments and the wealthy, but to everyone. Speaking in Argentina to a congress on the social doctrine of the Church, then-Cardinal Bergoglio asked us to draw near to each other and especially to the poor, as the Father is near to the Son and both are near to us. We discover Jesus, he said, “in the flesh of our poorer brethren: those who are neediest and most unfairly treated. Only when we approach and care for the suffering flesh of Christ can hope shine in our hearts, the hope that our disillusioned world asks of us as Christians” (Encountering Christ, p. 154-155).

The suffering of the world’s poor reminds us of the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of Jesus’ walk with the discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus. “The two situations are similar,” he said:

"First, the pain of the wounded man lying semiconscious with no possibility of escape, giving the impression that nothing effective can be done; second, the self-conscious and reason-filled disappointment of Cleophas. In both lies the same lack of hope. And that is precisely what moves the tender mercy of Jesus, who is on the road leading them, who lowers himself, becomes a companion full of tenderness, hidden in those small gestures of nearness, where the whole world is made flesh: flesh that approaches and embraces, hands that touch and bandage, that anoint with oil and clean the wounds with wine; flesh that approaches and accompanies, listening; hands that break bread" (Encountering Christ, p. 153).

It’s fitting that, for this “man from a far country,” this Latin-American pope, the task of economic justice, the work of incarnating human dignity and solidarity in the structures of our economic life, seems so ultimately and intimately linked to the Eucharist itself. God incarnated himself in a sinful world to redeem it with his love. His Son incarnates himself in our lives at every Liturgy; again, out of love. We now have the task of incarnating that same love in the structures of the world around us through the witness of our lives. 

“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”: We hear those words at the end of every Mass. We serve the Lord best by serving the needs of others.  We love the Lord best by showing his love to others. At the heart of this pope’s thoughts about economic justice is not a theory or an ideology, but the Person of Jesus Christ. And all of us who call ourselves Christians should see in that a reason to hope.

Archbishop Charles Chaput is the shepherd of Philadelphia.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Pope Francis has a good friend who is an Italian evangelical minister. The Holy Father will visit his good friend near Naples on Monday. He will speak to Italian evangelicals as well.

As you can imagine, those Catholics longing for the good old days prior to ecumenical dialogue are alarmed that the pope seems enamoured with evangelicals and Pentecostals.

Fr. Z has a post on this topic at his blog and one of the commenters there, Sid Cundiff of North Carolina, caught my attention as I thought his comment reflection was spot-on. Here it is:

I am unfamiliar with the people with whom Holy Father is visiting, and with their churches. Yet I have lived for 61 years in a region where most Christians are Evangelicals.
The churches with whom Catholics should be talking are, in order of importance, (1) The Eastern Orthodox Church, (2) the Oriental Churches, and (3) Evangelicals.
Far too little time has been devoted to working with Evangelicals; far too much time has been spent “dialoging” with the dying: the “mainline” Protestant Churches, among whom I include Latter-Day Anglicans. These churches are ultra-Liberal; indeed it was with them that Liberalism was born, first the Latitudinarians of the 18th C, then the Liberals of the 19th C – Thomas Arnold, Charles Kingsley, F. D. Maurice, Albert Ritschl, and the man who cost Nietzsche and Feuerbach their faith: David Strauß, and the Lutheran midwife to Modernism: Adolf von HaWith the establishment of the Anglican Ordinariate, Holy Father Benedict stopped “dialoging” and sent out a lifeboat. Mother Church ought to consider if this can be done for Lutherans who have grown weary of Liberalism. Ditto to Low Church Anglicans of the N.T. Wright type. And we should be joining hands with Evangelicals, and for four reasons.
First, many of them have been told lies about us. 30 years ago in a barber’s chair, I was reading a tract on the Rosary. The barber, who attended a Fundamentalist Fortress of a Baptist church in my town, said to me “I’ve always wanted to ask a question of a Catholic.” I asked him what it was. “Can Catholics pray to God?” I strongly assured him that we can and do. He replied “Well, I always heard that Catholics had to go first to their priest, and the priest would pray to God for them.” Clearly someone had told him wrong. And this isn’t an isolated example. These people need to get to know us, and we them.
Second, no other Protestant group is so close to us in moral theology. They don’t think highly of the Sexual Revolution’s issues: Killing children, homosexual marriage (or homosexuality at all), and of the desert of Transgendered-stan.
Third they are with us with religious liberty issues. A former student of mine, now a Baptist minister, led a rally in front of the local Federal Building supporting Christian prayer at the local County Commissioners’ meetings (he invited a Catholic priest to participate in the rally). They oppose the restrictions on religious liberty in Obama Care. They want prayer in schools and have even set up their own parochial schools. (And, Priam1184, they not only have nothing in common with Moslims, but also they are Israel’s strongest supporters. )
Finally, we Catholics need to know Scripture just as well as the Evangelicals know it. Call them in this matter Role Models.
Folks, these are the people with whom we should be talking and with whom we should be marching. So I’m not upset at what Holy Father is doing. He knows we have much common ground with Evangelicals.
Fr. Z, be upset if Holy Father were to have tea with John Shelby Spong.

My question: Bishop John Shelby Spong is a post-Christian Episcopal bishop in New York. 
What do you think of Sid's reflections above?

Friday, July 25, 2014


Including the reading of the Gospel, this video's homily for Corpus Christi lasts mercifully for only 5 minutes.  You can view the video by pressing HERE and it is necessary for my comments to see it first!

The pastor of this parish has an ax to grind against Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict. Thus he uses the Critical/Historical method of deconstructing rank and file Catholic faith in the real presence of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist to make his point.

His point is that all Catholics that were taught as children, like him, were duped. You don't have to be good to receive Holy Communion. The Eucharist is simply food for the journey. I don't recall listening to his homily any mention for the necessity of faith in the person of the Glorious Risen Lord Jesus Christ and the personal relationship that Jesus has once and for all established with us in His Blood in the New Covenant. Based upon the historical/critical analysis of the  three synoptic Gospels that mention the Last Supper and His point that John's Gospel says nothing about the Last Supper or what Jesus said at the Last Supper over the bread and wine, he concludes that traditional Catholic teaching on the Most Holy Eucharist is wrong.

He also goes into why the Catholic Faith has declined so much in Europe and other places. It is because of traditional bishops over the last 50 years appointed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict that this has happened! I would say, though, that it is the type of deconstruction of the Catholic Faith in homilies like this that has undermined the Church, Her Sacraments and Faith in God and the Most Holy Eucharist. Why go to Church if this is all the Eucharist is!

What junk this congregation was subjected to experience on a glorious Corpus Christi. I found the homily ideological, sterile and meaningless. It did not bringer me closer to God, to His most beloved Son Jesus or increase my love for Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. Like normal food, though, the Eucharist is food for the journey, no matter if you are good, bad or indifferent.  But there is no reference to Jesus who is this Food and the price he paid to give us Himself as Food. There is no mention of mortal sin, the Passion of our Lord, His death and resurrection and what classical Catholic dogma says about the Eucharist and the need to be in a state of grace to receive our Lord worthily!

Being forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance doesn't make us good, it makes us forgiven! There is a difference. This sacrament doesn't make us good, it makes us sinners worthy to receive Holy Communion. It is like another baptism, which by the way is necessary for Holy Communion. One cannot receive any other sacraments without first being Baptized. Why? Because we are forgiven in baptism and given the Holy Spirit. We are not made good, we are made holy!

So this aging priest longing for the good old 1970's in 2014 teaches his congregation that what they were taught about the Holy Eucharist is wrong and the Historical/Critical method of interpreting the Bible trumps Church teachings that are dogmas. He simply tells us that the Eucharist is food for the journey and all are invited to this meal no matter what. I think if this is all the Most Holy Eucharist is, I'll stay home too on Sunday and have a real meal!

Yes folks, this is why there has been a decline in the Catholic Church over the past 50 years! It is the loss of Catholic Faith shoved down the laity's throat as food for destruction of who we are a God's adopted people.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


It seems the most progress we have made in ecumenism over the last 50 years is in the area of communion with tea and crumpets. Was this worth all the energy and the expense of workshops west of the Mississippi?

Here is a reality check from the Catholic Herald in Europe concerning the 500th Anniversary of Lutherism.  I suggest it would be more celebratory to celebrate Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's version of reform by nailing the date of his ordination of SSPX bishops to the Catholic Cathedral in Switzerland.

From the Catholic Herald:

Protestants try to calm row ahead of Luther celebration

By  on Thursday, 24 July 2014

Cardinal Walter Kasper (CNS)
Cardinal Walter Kasper (CNS)
A fierce row between Catholics and Protestants in Germany is the result of a misunderstanding, a German theologian has claimed.
Lutheran leaders had invited the Catholic Church to join them in commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther published his 95 theses.
Luther was opposed to the sale of indulgences, to the Bible not being in the vernacular and to the Church’s doctrinal position on justification through faith – all issues which have seen significant changes over the years.
In 1999 the Catholic and Lutheran Churches issued a joint declaration on the doctrine of justification which set out “a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ”. The declaration was widely seen as important in establishing common doctrinal ground between the Churches.
But when the German Evangelical church (EKD) issued a position paper “Justification and Liberty” in May it did not explicitly mention of the declaration.
Cardinal Walter Kasper, former president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said: “I could hardly believe it. That really hurt me”.
He said the EKD should “not forget what we have already formulated together”.
Now the row has escalated. According to the Tablet, Bishop Heinz Josef Algermissen, deputy chairman of the German bishops’ conference’s ecumenical commission, said earlier this month that he was “incensed and disappointed” by the position paper.
“I really cannot actually see a reason for celebrating anything together any longer,” he said, calling the position paper “destructive”. Bishop Algermissen was quoted as saying that the Catholic Church had been given “one slap in the face after the other recently”, and that “the cat has now been let out of the bag”.
Professor Volker Leppin, a member of the group which drafted the EKD paper, told The Catholic Herald that “the EKD takes the protest of Cardinal Kasper very seriously” and that “we are willing to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with our Catholic sisters and brethren”. He said the position paper “expresses exactly this. It ends with the vision of a jubilee celebrated together with Catholics. And it starts with the statement that Protestants are able to find formulations of the doctrine of justification together with the Roman Catholic Church – an evident allusion to the joint declaration on justification of 1999.”
He continued: “The criticisms of Cardinal Kasper and Bishop Algermissen, regrettable as they are, are consequences of a misunderstanding of the text, and the EKD will do all the best to clarify these irritations. The clear will of the EKD is to celebrate the reformation jubilee in a peaceful, ecumenical context.”
On Monday the Bavarian EKD Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm said he was “saddened by the sharpness of the discussion.
“You rub your eyes and ask yourself: what is happening?” he wrote, adding that he hoped “the waves flatten again in this case” and that the 2017 event is celebrated ecumenically as a “great Christ festival … as Luther would have wished, in my opinion”.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Catholic Herald (25/7/14)