Monday, March 21, 2016


My late parochial vicar at Augusta's Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Father Daniel Munn, bi-ritual but a former Episcopal priest, married with children, grandchildren, etc, had a license plate on the front of his car that read: "PROUD PAPIST!"  So am I and I offer no apologies to anyone about that!

Because of this fact, I am serene, cool, calm and collected about our current Holy Father and I am respectful even if I don't like "this, that or the other" about our current pope's style. I do like, though, that His Holiness is leading the Church in the most authoritative way (like a pre-Vatican II pope) in assisting the clergy and laity with an appropriate "pastoral theology" as it concerns sinners who are a part of our Church. News Flash: that's all of us, some of us more grievously sinful than others!

So, I find myself in agreement with Pope Francis and his pastoral theology and love for sinners and His Holiness' desire to show forth Divine Mercy, which I believe is a dogma of the Church, not just a theology!

I agree with this assessment by John Allen of Crux the most (with my opinion in red):

Based on recent hints dropped by the pope and other top advisers, expert Church-watchers believe Francis will attempt the papal version of skating’s triple-axle: not changing orthodox doctrine on anything, but altering practice and rules enough to give different types of Catholic families new affirmation that they are a legitimate part of the Church. But who of the validly baptized are not a legitimate part of the Church? Even the SSPX who have some canonical issues are still legitimate parts of the Church, no? And isn't anyone who is validly baptized in a Protestant sect also a legimate part of the Church but not in full communion?

I would like to know what Catholic parish doesn't allow divorced and remarried to attend Mass even if they can't receive Holy Communion. I would like to know what Catholic priest or bishop does not allow a person with unforgiven mortal sin to attend Mass although they should not receive Holy Communion! 

I agree with Pope Francis on this point concerning Holy Communion which John Allen explains:

 Pope Francis appeared to tip his hat last month during a plane press conference on the way back from Mexico, when he was asked about divorced and remarried couples. “All doors are open, but we cannot say that these people can take Communion …. integration into the Church does not mean allowing people to take Communion,” he said before citing with disapproval divorced couples who “go to Church once or twice a year and say, ‘I want to receive Communion,’ as if it were some prize.”

Holy Communion isn't a prize and the "end all and be all" of our participation in the Mass or the prayer and spirituality of the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist or the Most Holy Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. We receive abundant graces when we assist at Mass regardless if we receive Holy Communion. The person in a state of mortal sin will find love and the call to seek forgiveness in Confession as they do so personally during the Mass itself. Those who have broken the fast receive graces galore at Mass even if they may not receive Holy Communion. Children prior to their first Holy Communion as well as those in the RCIA process receive graces galore apart from receiving Holy Communion. And need I mention those who pray before the Most Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle or in Solemn Exposition receive graces in abundance in this form of adoration?

I think Pope Francis will give a very good apologetic for the pre-Vatican II custom of the majority of people attending Mass not receiving Holy Communion. In fact prior to Vatican II, 90 % of Catholics attended Mass in the USA each Sunday but maybe 12% to 25% percent would actually receive Holy Communion. 

Today, only 12% to 25% of Catholics attend Mass and upwards to 100% of these Catholics receive Holy Communion at Mass whether they are allowed to do so or not. 

We need an apologetic that is cogent as to why 100% of people attending Mass should not receive Holy Communion. It isn't a prize of some sort as Pope Francis makes clear. His Holiness is the one to give us a good apologetic as to why Holy Communion and its reception isn't a prize!

I think this is good advice from Joseph Shaw at his blog (just press this sentence for his blog):

1. The Pope can't change the teaching of the Church. No, really, he can't, not even a little bit, not even for the needs of the time, not even with the help of the Holy Ghost. He cannot change one jot or tittle, and anyone who tells you to stop believing what the Church has (really) taught up to some moment in the past, is inviting you to depart from the Church by heresy. Your interlocutor may claim the Pope rejects the old teaching, but, on this point, IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE what the Pope says. Having the Pope with you in Hell will be no comfort at all - just ask Dante.

How can you know what the teaching of the Church is? On topics like the ones at issue today, it's really not so hard. The Church's teaching on sexuality and divorce is clearly set out in Scripture, in the Papal Magisterium, and in every half-decent catechism of any century you choose. And here is a key thing about the teaching of the Church: if you fear that it is being distorted in the way it is presented today, just look at how it was presented formerly. Look at Aquinas, look at the Catechism of the Council of Trent, look at St Paul. (You don't have be a scholar: just Google appropriate terms and the answer will pop up like magic.) The truth remains the same; the lies change with the wind.

2. The Pope has a special charism to reaffirm the teaching of the Church, should he wish to do so. He will do this in an ordinary way in his speeches and sermons, and he does so in a way actually guaranteed to contain no error when he sets out to speak in a more formal way. The exercise of the gift of infallibility is not primarily a matter of formal procedure, but it isn't something the Pope does without really thinking about it, either. He must be addressing the whole Church, he must be talking about Faith or Morals, he must be consciously using his authority. We are not going to see an authoritative exercise of this gift in the coming exhortation, because the Pope, Cardinal Kasper, and everyone else has told us repeatedly that 'the teaching on indissolubility remains, BUT ...' It obviously doesn't make sense to suggest that what comes after the 'but' is more an exercise of teaching authority than what comes before it. What comes after it is all about the next point.

3. The Pope can change the discipline of the Church, the rules governing organs of the Church such as Marriage Tribunals, and he can also change public perceptions of Church teaching. The fact that he can't change teaching doesn't mean what he says isn't important. One of the things it can do is to bring out, or obscure, the teaching of the Church. In making such changes the Pope has the graces of his office, should he be open to them, but nothing remotely akin to the gift of infallibility. Even good Popes, canonised Popes, have made disastrous decisions on prudential matters. But the long-standing practises of the Church, on the other hand, contain a kind of wisdom, and reflect the teachings of the Church in a special way. If they have stood the test of time, if they have been used and endorsed by countless saints and doctors, if they have nourished the spiritual lives of the Faithful over centuries, if they bring to us today the spirit of ages not infected with the specific errors of our own time, they are precious, they have authority, they should not lightly be tampered with. The consequences of demolishing long-standing disciplinary practises, rules governing the way the Church functions, and the presentation of teaching so as to change perceptions of the Church, are frequently very bad indeed.

4. What is significant about a document from Rome is what it changes, not what it says. This is an exegetical principle of the late Michael Davies: when reading a new document, ask What does it allow which was not previously allowed? What does it forbid which was not previously forbidden? The rest is padding. The truth of this principle becomes clear with the assistance of hindsight. What is significant about Paul VI's Memoriale Domini is that it allowed Communion in the Hand: it is irrelevant that nine tenths of the thing is hymn of praise for Communion on the Tongue, and that it actually says that the existing rules aren't being changed. That 90% of the document is inert, like the polystyrene padding in a parcel. In exactly the same way, what is significant about Summorum Pontificum is that the Traditional Mass is allowed without permission from bishops. The rhetorical concessions to liberals unhappy about this, slipped in here and there, are of no significance. Getting worked up about them is a complete waste of time.

This is the most important lesson of all. When the document comes out, there will be something for everyone. Neo-conservative bloggers will fill pages with quotations from it about the importance and indissolubility of marriage: guaranteed. Liberal journalists will fill pages of the dead-wood media with quotations from it about the importance of mercy: no question about it. Neither makes any difference. It will all be forgotten within the year. This kind of material can be read in line with any number of different views about what, in practise, should happen to the divorced and remarried. The only thing which is important in the document is what it changes, the bits where the Pope uses his legislative authority to make a concrete difference. There are currently clear rules in Canon Law about the rights and obligations of Catholics living in a public state of sin, and of priests ministering to them. These rules can be changed in a number of different ways. Again, rules and principles of confessional practise can be changed, and rules about who can be a godparent - what it means to be a public sinner - and so on.

In a somewhat different way, a sound-bite summary of Catholic teaching can be set out which will become effectively definitive for Catholics in the pew and media pundits alike, and become a master-principle through which theologians (at least those friendly to it) will interpret everything else. It can become impossible for a dissenting (conservative or liberal) speaker to talk for 30 seconds in the media without having this statement shoved down his throat. It can be used by bishops to silence dissent among the clergy; agreement with it can become a test of orthodoxy more authoritative than the Athanasian Creed. This happened after Vatican II with the notion of 'accordance with the orientation of the Council': an incredibly vague, even meaningless phrase, which was all the better suited to tyrannical use as a sledgehammer against anything liberals didn't like. If there are any legislative changes, I expect some such sound-bite will accompany them to make anyone disagreeing with the changes to look stupid, Pharisaical, and disobedient.

No doubt the real meat of the document in terms of legislative change and key sound-bite will be presented to the public pretty quickly after the media embargo is lifted. It can be fun quoting the other bits of a document, but don't expect it to get you anywhere. What is of supreme importance for every Catholic in the Church is that we do not allow anything, whether it comes from the media, from Cardinals, or from the Pope, whether it be our misreading of these sources or the solemn truth about who has said or thought what, take from us our adherence to the teaching of the Church. The teaching of the Church is the teaching of Christ. It is Christ who saves us, through the Church. Let us cling to them, and let the chips fall where they may.

My final comment: Be happy, not sad!




John Nolan said...

Joseph Shaw is an Oxford don and the chairman of the Latin Mass Society (UK) which was founded in 1965 and is supported by the Catholic hierarchy. Although he is quite a bit younger than I am, it will come as no surprise to readers of this blog to learn that we are well acquainted and sing together on a regular basis.

rcg said...

I do not intend this to be trolling or an attempt to derail. In fact I think it tests the author's theory: why then was Vatican II "quoted" as disallowing altar rails, the use of Latin, etc.?

Mark Thomas said...

"...when reading a new document, ask What does it allow which was not previously allowed? What does it forbid which was not previously forbidden? The rest is padding...90% of the document is inert, like the polystyrene padding in a parcel."

That is why I'm amazed that Popes continue to generate massive, novel-length Encyclicals and Apostolic Exhortations that "nobody", so to speak, reads.

Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, is the length of a novel. "Nobody" has ever read that document. His Encyclical, Ladauto si, is massive and remains all but unread by 99.9 percent of Catholics. Most likely, the only specific from Laudato si that had any traction was Pope Francis' puzzling three-sentence comment about air-conditioning.


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

What is the point of this post? Did something happen? What is all this in reference to?

Mark Thomas said...

"Make homilies short and simple, Pope urges priests"

To return to my previous post...I remain amazed that, of all people, His Holiness Pope Francis, who believes in short, brief communication between priest and congregation, will offer in a few weeks, if reports are correct, a near-200 page Apostolic Exhortation. It is a shame that "nobody" reads lengthy Encyclicals and Apostolic Exhortations.

Lost, for example, in Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato is the very important section #237. In #237, Pope Francis exhorted the Faithful to restore Sunday to its proper and traditional role in the life of the Church. In #241 and #242, Pope Francis exhorts us to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph to obtain wisdom and inspiration.

I would think that it's a given that the massive length of the Pope's pending Apostolic Exhortation will obscure many important points that he will make.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

I am serene as well in regard to Pope Francis' upcoming Apostolic Exhortation. The important question is whether his exhortation will strengthen families. I have serious concerns about that as the overall state of (Latin Church) liturgy is poor. As the Church is centered upon and gains Her strength from the Eucharist and liturgy, I would think that it would prove difficult for a document from the Pope to improve the condition of collapsing Catholic family life.

Sorry. I know that that isn't upbeat. I simply offered realistic (in my opinion) concerns. That said, for Catholics who take the Apostolic Exhortation to heart in all-out fashion, then I believe that they stand a good chance to enhance family life.

However, it is difficult to hold families together and prosper in the spiritual sense when a great many Catholics encounter banal liturgy regularly. All the Papal documents in the world probably won't prove helpful to the life of the Church when we consider the collapsed state of liturgy.

I would think that an Apostolic Exhortation that tackled the issue of liturgy would be the first item on the agenda of any Pope who wished to revive the Church.


Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald, you said that "[E]ven the SSPX who have some canonical issues are still legitimate parts of the Church, no?"

As you mentioned the SSPX, I hope that you will not find the following off-topic:

Here is the transcription of an interview from March 6, 2016 A.D., with Bishop Fellay that the SSPX has just posted to their DICI web site. Bishop Fellay has some interesting things to say in regard to His Holiness Pope Francis' attitude toward the SSPX.

Here are some very important statements from Bishop Fellay in regard to Rome's contacts with the Society:

"These visits have been very interesting. And, in fact, a cardinal, an archbishop and two bishops came to see us, to visit us in different circumstances, some in the seminaries, and also in one priory. The first impressions, the comments made during these discussions, during these meetings and afterward, are very interesting.

"The first thing that they all told us — was it a party line or their personal opinion? I don’t know, but the fact is — they all told us: “These discussions are taking place between Catholics; this has nothing to do with ecumenical discussions; we are among Catholics.”

"Therefore from the start they swept aside all those ideas such as “You are not completely in the Church, you are halfway there, you are outside—God knows where!—schismatics….” No! We are discussing things among Catholics. This is the first point, which is very interesting, very important.

"The second point — which I think is even more important — is that the questions addressed in these discussions are the classic questions that have always been stumbling blocks. Whether it is a question of religious liberty, collegiality, ecumenism, the new Mass, or even the new rites of the sacraments….

"Well, they all told us that these discussions were about open questions. I think that this reflection is of capital importance.

"Until now they always insisted on saying: You have to accept the Council. It is difficult to state exactly the real significance of this expression: “accept the Council.” What does that mean? Because the fact is that the documents of the Council are utterly unequal: they are to be accepted according to a gradated criterion, obligatory to different degrees.

"And now all of a sudden, on these points that have been stumbling blocks, the emissaries from Rome tell us that they are open questions. An open question is a question that you can discuss. And this obligation to adhere to a position is substantially and even perhaps totally mitigated or even removed. I think that this is a crucial point."


Mark Thomas

John Nolan said...

The vast majority of practising Catholics do not read papal encyclicals, exhortations or the rest. Mention 'Familiaris Consortio' to anyone after Mass and you will get a blank look. Bishop's pastoral letters were always regarded as a respite from hearing a sermon (not least since they are shorter) and everybody tuned out even more than normal, and they still do.

Evangelii Gaudium was verbose, diffuse and a colossal bore. It's so vague that it still lacks an official Latin text, since it is probably untranslatable. As for 'Laudato Si', quite apart from its excessive length it is utterly irrelevant to the current parlous state of the Church.

Anonymous said...

No offense, Father, but what you said about Protestants is deeply incorrect and mistaken about Church teaching. In order to be a member of the Church, one must be united in three ways:profession of the same faith, adherence to the same hierarchy, and practice of the same sacraments and worship. This is definitive teaching, as found in mystici corporis.since Protestants do not possess the same faith or hierarchy and in most cases the same sacraments, by definition they are not members within the Church, although they are related or order to it by the sacrament if baptism, which is valid but fruitless in accomplishing their union with the Church,since they lack Catholic Faith and hierarchy (see Sts. Augustine and Fulgentius, as well as Pope Eugene's dogmatic decres). Furthermore, Pope Saont Pius X condemned the idea that Protestants in any way for a part of the Church. These dogmata cannot change and are required to be held by all Catholics.

Mark Thomas said...

Imagine a Papal Encyclical and/or Apostolic Exhortation being, speaking relatively, so brief, yet powerful, that the document could be read during Mass a la Mit Brennender Sorge.


Mark Thomas