The Battle: Intolerant Versus Civil Discourse
Was Jesus Intolerant? “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil?” Matthew 12:34
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord warns of using uncivil and/or hateful words such as “Raqa” and “fool.” And yet the same Lord Jesus often used very strong language toward some of His opponents, sometimes calling them names such as vipers and hypocrites.
We live in a world that often insists on the use of gentle language and euphemisms. While doing so is not a bad thing, we also tend to manifest a kind of thin-skinned quality and a political correctness that is too fussy about many things, often taking personally what is not meant personally.
What is the overall teaching of Scripture when it comes to this sort of colorful language? Are there some limits and ground rules? Let’s take a look.
The word “civility” dates back to the mid-16th century and has an older meaning that referred to one who possessed the quality of having been schooled in the humanities. In academic settings, debate (at least historically) was governed by a tendency to be nuanced, careful, cautious, formal, and trained in rhetoric. Its rules often included referring to one’s opponents with honorary titles (Doctor, Professor, etc.) and euphemisms such as “my worthy opponent.” Hence as the word has entered into common usage, it has come to mean speech or behavior that is polite, courteous, gentle, and measured.
As one might guess, there are a lot of cultural variances in what is considered to be civil. And this insight is very important when we look at the biblical data on what constituted civil discourse. Frankly, the biblical world was far less dainty about discourse than we have become in 21st-century America. The Scriptures, including the New Testament, are filled with vigorous discourse. Jesus, for example, really mixes it up with His opponents—even calling them names. We shall see more of this in a moment. But the Scriptures also counsel charity and warn of unnecessarily angry speech. In the end, a balance of the scriptural witness to civility must be sought along with an appreciation of the cultural variables at work.
Let’s examine a few of the texts that counsel charity as well as a modern and American notion of civility:
Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips (Eccl 10:12).
The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools (Eccles 9:17).
Anyone who says to his brother, “Raqa” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matt 5:22).
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Eph 4:29).
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Col 3:21).
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (James 3:9-10).
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt (Col 4:6).
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thess 5:11).
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Col 3:8).
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (Rom 14:19).
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother (Gal 6:1).
Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort [the repentant sinner], so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow (2 Cor 2:7).
All these texts counsel a measured, charitable, and edifying discourse. Name-calling and hateful or unnecessary expressions of anger are out of place. And this is a strong biblical tradition, especially in the New Testament.
But there are also strong contrasts to this instruction evident in the Bible. And a lot of it comes from an unlikely source: Jesus. Paul too, who wrote many of the counsels above, often engages in strident denunciations of his opponents and even members of the early Church. Consider some of the passages below, first by Jesus, then by Paul and other Apostles:
Jesus said, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?” (Matthew 12:34)
And Jesus turned on them and said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. “Woe to you, blind guides! … You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. … You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. … And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matt 23 varia)
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. … You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. … He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (John 8:42-47).
Jesus said, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6).
And Jesus answered them, O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long must I tolerate you? (Mark 9:19)
Jesus said to the disciples, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11)
Jesus said to the crowd, “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts” (Jn 5:41-42).
So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables (John 2:15).
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (John 6:70)
Paul: O senseless Galatians, who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth … As for those circumcisers, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves! (Galatians 3, 5)
Paul against the false apostles: And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Cor 11:11-14).
Paul on the Cretans: Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith (Titus 1:12-13).
Peter against dissenters: Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings…these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. … They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. … They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! … Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud” (2 Peter 2, varia).
Jude against dissenters: These dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings….these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; … These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. … These men are grumblers and fault finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage (Jude 1:varia).
Now most of the passages above would violate modern norms about civil discourse. Are they sinful? They are God’s word! And yet they seem rather shocking to modern ears. Imagine getting into your time machine and going to hear Jesus denounce the crowds and calling them children of the devil. It really blows a 21st-century mind!
I want to suggest to you that these sorts of quotes go a long way toward illustrating the cultural dimension of what it means to be civil. The bottom line is that there is a great deal of variability in what people consider civil discourse. In some cultures there is a greater tolerance for anger. In New York and Boston, edgy comments and passionate interruptive debate are common. But in the upper-Midwest and parts of the Deep South, conversation is more gentle and reserved.
At the time of Jesus, angry discourse was apparently more “normal,” for as we see, Jesus Himself engages in a lot of it, even calling people names like “hypocrites,” “brood of vipers,” “liars,” and “wicked.” Yet the same Scriptures that record these facts about Jesus also teach that He never sinned. Hence at that time, the utterance of such terms was not considered sinful.
Careful, now—be careful here. I am not saying it is OK for us to talk like this because Jesus did. We do not live then; we live now; and in our culture such dialogue is almost never acceptable. There ARE cultural norms we have to respect to remain in the realm of Charity. Exactly how to define civility in every instance is not always clear. An old answer to these hard-to-define things is “I know it when I see it.” So perhaps it is more art than science to define civility. But clearly we tend to prefer gentler discourse in this day and age.
On the other hand, as already observed, we also tend to be a little thin-skinned and hyper-sensitive. And the paradoxical result of insisting on greater civility is that we are too easily “outraged” (one of the more overused words in English today). We take offense where none is intended and we presume that the mere act of disagreeing is somehow arrogant, intentionally hurtful, or even hateful. We seem so easily provoked and so quick to be offended. All of this escalates anger further, and charges of hate and intolerance are launched back and forth when there is merely sincere disagreement.
Balance – The Scriptures give us two balanced reminders. First, that we should speak the truth in love, and with compassion and understanding. But it also portrays to us a time when people had thicker skin and were less sensitive and anxious in the presence of disagreement. We can learn from both biblical traditions. The biblical formula seems to be “clarity” with “charity,” the truth with a balance of toughness and tenderness. An old saying comes to mind: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.”
5 Hard Questions for Bishop Schneider
Catholic Vioce Interview:
In this new interview with Catholic Voice, Bishop Athanasius Schneider comments on the Instrumentum Laboris. Latin for “working instrument” it is an enormous and extremely long-winded document for the 2015 Synod. His Excellency warns against trying to find politically correct language and explains the duty of a Catholic bishop when faced with the moral issues of the day. He also offers examples of saints and spiritual writings to which we can turn for consolation and encouragement in this time of confusion and disorientation in the Church.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Your Excellency, the Instrumentum Laboris for the 2015 Synod states that there is a “common accord” [c’è un comune accordo] in favour of a “penitential way” for the divorced and remarried ” under the authority of the Bishop, for the faithful (who have been) divorced and remarried civilly, who find themselves in a situation of irreversible cohabitation.” Is it accurate to suggest there is a “common accord” ?
The affirmation that there is a “common accord” on the “penitential way” is not correct. The only one public document that would permit to determine the effective opinion of the bishops on this topic, is the “Relatio Synodi” of 2014. There it is documented that 40% of the members of the Synod rejected such a “penitential way”. When faced with such a result, one can hardly speak of a “common accord”. Furthermore, there is no specification as to a concrete definition of such a “penitential way”.
In light of this use of the phrase “c’è un comune accordo” is the credibility of the Instrumentum Laboris threatened? One could even conclude there is an attempt to impose communion for the divorced and remarried at the Synod despite opposition. Do you have any comment on this?
In the light of a careful analysis of the facts, one is left with the suspicion that the authors of the Instrumentum Laboris try to push forward the agenda of a certain clerical pressure group in order to change the Divine law of the non-admission the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion.
Commenting on the Synod, Archbishop Forte has said one of the priorities should be a discussion of allowing those who have divorced and remarried outside the Church to become “godfathers or godmothers, catechists, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.” What do you think of this idea?
Firstly, it is necessary to remember the significance of godparents according to the constant teaching and practice of the Church: A sponsor (godfather or godmother) must help the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it. To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must be a Catholic who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on (cf. Canons 872 and 874 § 1, 3). Sponsors and those who take the place of parents are obliged to form the children by word and example in faith and in the practice of Christian life (cf. Canon 774, § 2). When a godfather or a godmother or a catechist conducts a lifestyle that publicly contradicts the Sixth Commandment and the indissolubility of the Christian marriage, then he or she surely cannot be an example of a life of faith. The same is valid for Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The advocacy for the admission of divorced and remarried to the task of godparents and catechists cannot ultimately be for the true spiritual good of the children, but turns out to be an istrumentalization of a specific ideological agenda. This is a dishonesty and a mockery of the institution of godparents and catechists who by means of a public promise took on the task of educators of the faith. In the case of godparents or catechists who are divorced and remarried, their life however, continuously contradicts their words, and so they have to face the admonition of the Holy Spirit through the mouth of the Apostle Saint James: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1: 22).
Excellency, in the ongoing debate over same sex “marriage” some Catholic groups have become open to the notion of recognizing that same sex pairs can have long term loving relationships thus they conclude that it is possible to recognize same sex civil partnerships. It is evident that even a few bishops support this idea but could this ever be an authentic Catholic position?
This can never be an authentic Catholic position because it contradicts directly the words of God, which says that homosexual acts and the homosexual lifestyle are a grievous offense of the will of God (cf. Gen 18:20; Lev 18:22; 20:13; Is 3:9; Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10; Jud 7). Committing evil in a long-term and even loving relationship cannot transform the same evil into good. Only true repentance that includes contrition and the firm intention to avoid the evil cancels with the grace of God the evil. It would be absurd to affirm that alcoholism will gain a positive recognition because of the long-term and loving relationship of two persons who established this relationship on the base of their propensity to alcohol. The same absurdity contains the above-mentioned affirmation about same sex unions.
There also appears to be a push towards a “new language” with some saying that using the phrases “homosexual tendencies” and “intrinsically disordered” should be avoided less offence is caused – what do you make of this drive to use politically correct language?
We have to call things by their real names; otherwise, we will deceive the others and ourselves. To call the things by their names does not mean an intention to create discrimination, provided we speak with respect and pedagogical wisdom. There exist some deficiency symptoms of a bodily or spiritual nature such as fear of heights, claustrophobia, seasickness, shortsightedness etc. No person of common sense will be indignant when we name such phenomena as a deficiency. In fact, the homosexual attraction is in itself a sexual-psychological deficiency symptom, which all civilized human history has considered as a deficiency and called by its name. Under pressure from the new gender ideology, which has its roots in the Marxist ideology, in the 1970s homosexuality was excluded from the International Handbook of Psychological diseases. In such a way, persons who suffer with homosexual attraction were taken hostages of a radical ideology, inasmuch as they are denied the opportunity to receive healing or improvement of their psychologically defective situation. To have a deficiency is not a shame, but it is a fact. Those who effectively encourage deficient persons, in our case persons who are feeling a homosexual attraction, to abuse their deficiency in order to become more deficient and to consequently become addicts, commit a grave injustice towards these persons who need and want to receive help in their spiritual and psychological deficiency.
Archbishop Chaput, “There is no Equivalence”
by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, CatholicPhilly.com:
Here’s a simple exercise in basic reasoning. On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There’s a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act. No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.
This is precisely why Cardinal John O’Connor, Bishop James McHugh and others pressed so hard for the passage of the U.S. bishops’ 1998 pastoral letter, Living the Gospel of Life. As Cardinal Joseph Bernardin once wisely noted, Catholic social teaching is a seamless garment of respect for human life, from conception to natural death. It makes no sense to champion the cause of unborn children if we ignore their basic needs once they’re born.
Thus it’s no surprise that — year in and year out — nearly all Catholic dioceses in the United States, including Philadelphia, devote far more time, personnel and material resources to providing social services to the poor and education to young people than to opposing abortion.
But of course, children need to survive the womb before they can have needs like food, shelter, immigration counseling and good health care. Humanity’s priority right — the one that undergirds all other rights — is the right to life. As the American bishops wrote in 1998:
“Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care … But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ — the living house of God — then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house’s foundation. These directly and immediately violate the human person’s most fundamental right — the right to life. Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand. Such attacks cannot help but lull the social conscience in ways ultimately destructive of other human rights” (22).
A case is sometimes made that abortion is mainly a cultural and moral issue, and politics is a poor solution to the problem. The curious thing is that some of the same voices that argue against political action on the abortion issue seem quite comfortable urging vigorous political engagement on issues like health care, homelessness and the environment.
Christians Can’t Avoid Political Engagement
In practice, politics is the application of moral conviction to public discourse and the process of lawmaking. Law not only constrains and defends; it also teaches and forms.Law not only reflects culture; it shapes and reshapes it. That’s why Christians can’t avoid political engagement. Politics is never the main content of Christian faith. It can never provide perfect solutions. But no Christian can avoid the duty to work for more justice and charity in our life as a nation, a task that inescapably involves politics.
Thus the recent Senate vote to defund Planned Parenthood was not only right and timely, but necessary. And the failure of that measure involves a public failure of character by every Catholic senator who voted against it.
Memory is important: Two years ago Kermit Gosnell was stripped of his medical license and convicted of murdering three infants born alive from abortion procedures. He operated a Philadelphia abortion center that more closely resembled a butcher shop than a medical clinic.
His clinic environment was uglier than the pleasant restaurants and offices captured on recent Center for Medical Progress (CMP) undercover videos. Those videos show a face of Planned Parenthood — senior staffers chatting blithely about the dismemberment and sale of fetal body parts — that can only be called repugnant. But it’s not surprising: If aborted children are simply lumps of potentially useful (and profitable) tissue, what’s the problem?
Again, memory is important: Thirty years ago “pro-choice” groups tried a strategy of using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to shut down certain forms of pro-life witness. The strategy ultimately failed but — maybe it’s God’s sense of irony — the word “racket” very quickly comes to mind in watching Planned Parenthood staff on the CMP videos.
I’ll close with a word of thanks to Ruben Navarette, Jr. Navarette is a veteran “pro-choice” voice, but his August 10 column at the Daily Beast is worth reading and sharing for its honest revulsion at the whole, ugly, system-wide barbarism of Planned Parenthood’s fetal trafficking. And his column’s best lines come in quoting his pro-life wife:
“Those are babies that are being killed. Millions of them. And you need to use your voice to protect them. That’s what a man does. He protects children — his own children, and other children. That’s what it means to be a man.”
By Deacon Keithe Fournier, The Stream:
Bishop Vitus Huonder, Switzerland
In the politically charged language of the present, Bishop Vitus Huonder is a “conservative” if not an “extremist.” In fact, he is simply a faithful Catholic Christian. And for that he’s being threatened with three years in jail. It’s happening in Switzerland, but the conflict epitomizes a wider phenomenon of anti-Christian secularists on both sides of the Atlantic using the courts to target Christians for simply standing up for biblical truth.
In 2011, Huonder, the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Chur in Switzerland, supported parents being able to opt out of having children as young as four subjected to mandatory “sex education” which rejected the truth about the dignity of human sexuality, the gift of sexual differentiation, and marriage. In 2013, he issued a pastoral letter to the faithful under his care exposing unbiblical gender identity theories and defending the Christian vision of the human person, the family and a truly just and human social order. He called upon the faithful of the Catholic Church to “use their social rights” to protect “the dignity of man founded on the order of Creation and of Redemption.” Last February, he called for a Swiss priest who had purportedly “blessed” the union of a lesbian couple to step down from his ministry.
Here is the challenge he faces. In Switzerland, there is a wholesale rebellion against the Christian vision of the human person, and of the family and society founded upon it. Leaders of the rebellion abhor the clear and unchangeable teaching of the Bible and the Catholic Church. Included in the ranks of these dissidents are some Catholic clerics. To say their leaders do not like this Catholic Bishop is an understatement.
Now, this bishop is the subject of a criminal complaint filed against him by a homosexual group called “The Pink Cross” for violating Article 259 0f the Swiss Penal Code entitled “Public incitement to commit a felony or act of violence.” The bishop faces up to three years in jail if convicted.
The bishop had crossed a “red line,” said the head of Pink Cross, in a statement reported by Newsweek. “We believe in freedom of expression, and taking quotes from the bible is fine. But then he said the words should be applied to real life, which is the equivalent of calling for the death penalty for gay people. We were worried about that. He is the leader of a big church, and he was calling for people to follow his words, and we thought this could be dangerous.”
Here is What Really Happened
On Friday, July 31, 2015, the bishop spoke at a symposium in Fulda, Germany, entitled “Marriage: Gift, Sacrament and Commission.” In the context of explaining the background of the Christian moral teaching, he referenced two passages from Leviticus (Lev. 18:22, 20:13). He used them as examples of Scripture’s rejection of same-sex relationships and proof that same-sex marriages were an attack on creation.
“There is no plurality of models for marriage and family,” he told the conference. “To even speak of such is already an attack on the Creator, as well as on the Savior and Sanctifier, that is, on the trinitarian God.”
In the presentation the bishop had also explained that “pastoral care must orient itself according to the divine order. Its mission, undertaken in awareness of the salvation of souls, that is, in pastoral love … is to free mankind from the condition of a fallen nature and raise it to life as children of light.”
Showing pastoral care for those who struggle with same-sex attraction, he said, “The Faith is to everyone, even to those with homophile tendencies, a source of comfort and can lead to a redirection of such an orientation, to a governing of sexual urges, and to an ordering of one’s own life according to the divine command.”
Because the second half of the second passage instructed Israel to put to death people who have sexual relations with someone of their own sex, Pink Cross claimed that Bishop Huonder was sowing hatred and inciting violence against homosexual people. He violated both German and Swiss law, they declared, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.
It should have been obvious to anyone why he quoted those two passages and that he did not endorse the execution of homosexual people. That didn’t matter to Pink Cross, who saw a chance to attack a major Christian figure for his defense of marriage.
The bishop responded to the protests with a statement stressing that he was not endorsing violence against homosexual people. “During the lecture I quoted several uncomfortable passages from the Old Testament to do with marriage, sexuality and family,” he said. “I want to clarify that I would in no way wish to diminish homosexual people.”
The head of Pink Cross rejected the response: “There is no question in this case of what he was talking about — there was no misunderstanding. We don’t need charity or mercy from the Church at all; we don’t accept his apology.”
The Bishop simply expressed the teaching of the Catholic Church he serves. He cited the pertinent sections of the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2357–2359). The actions of the homosexual activists who filed this spurious criminal complaint is one more sign of growing efforts to use the police power to prevent the Church from proclaiming the message of true liberation in Jesus Christ.
The homosexual extremist group bringing this charge misused a passing reference to Leviticus in a scurrilous effort to argue that Bishop Huonder called for the death penalty against self-professing homosexuals. That claim was not only false, it is slanderous and defamatory. Because it has been leveled publicly, it should be exposed, opposed and confronted publicly.
The statute used as the basis of this criminal complaint deals with hate crimes. Pink Cross is essentially charging that the faithful proclamation of the Gospel message about sexuality and marriage is a hate crime. American Christians should watch this case closely. And pray for the brave Bishop Hounder.
.- The sign of peace during Mass is not a time for congratulations or small talk, but a prayerful time to wish peace to those closest to each person, clarified the bishop of Barretos in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Bishop Milton Kenan Junior issued an August 4 decree on the distribution of Communion under both species, the exchange of peace, and the norms for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist at Mass.
The bishop stated that during the exchange of peace, the faithful should avoid moving around too much. He added that it is sufficient to “greet those persons closest to you.” As for the priest celebrating the Mass, he said that “he should not leave the altar” to greet the faithful.
Additionally, the prelate explained that on specific feasts or celebrations such as Easter, Christmas, a Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, or a Funeral Mass, “the rite of peace is not a time for ‘congratulations, Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Easter,’ or any other type of greeting.”
Concerning extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, the bishop reminded that they do not substitute for ordained ministers, “consequently the ordained minister is not permitted to sit down during Communion time and leave the responsibility of distributing Holy Communion to the extraordinary ministers.”
Regarding Communion under the species of bread and wine, the bishop declared that “the communicant is not permitted to dip the host in the chalice, nor can he receive on the hand a host that has been dipped in the chalice.”
The Barretos bishop’s statement was in response to abuses occurring at Masses in the diocese. It was prepared using as a source the June 8, 2014 instruction from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments on the meaning of the gift of peace at Mass
Bishop Morlino’s Strong Plea to His Flock Concerning the SSPX
Bishop Robert Morlino’s Letter to His Diocese:
Discover SSPX’s Official Standing with the Church
The 50 years since the close of the Second Vatican Council have been tumultuous for the Church. Forces both inside and outside of the Church tried to distort and exploit the council and the post-conciliar liturgical reforms to create a new Church after their own image.
Too many of us endured years of sloppy or irreverent liturgy and mushy or even unorthodox preaching and catechesis. Too often when we voiced our concerns we were ignored.
Most of the faithful Catholics who saw this happening fought hard for a “reform of the reform.” Sadly, others decided that the only way forward was to work outside of — and sometimes against — the hierarchical Church and its structures.
This was the choice made by the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a worldwide society of priests best known for its strong opposition to the post-conciliar reform of the Mass. The Masses that they celebrate in their own chapels according to the 1962 Missal have attracted sizeable communities of the lay faithful, even here in the Diocese of Madison.
I want to be cautious and fair about the SSPX. Many of their concerns are legitimate. Many of their values and aspirations are admirable, and their zeal is impressive. Their priests wish to serve the Lord and His people. The people who attend their chapels are fervent.
We should always be cordial, respectful, and welcoming to them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet, their relationship with the Church is complex and developing. Moreover, the situation of SSPX bishops, of SSPX priests, of the faithful who formally align themselves with the SSPX, and of the faithful who occasionally or informally attend Mass with the SSPX, are all different in important ways. It would be inaccurate to call it a schismatic group in a strict sense, and we should all pray that it may someday be fully reconciled with the Church.
Having said that, all is not well with the SSPX, and my advice, my plea to the traditionally-minded faithful of the diocese is to have nothing to do with them. As Pope Benedict XVI made clear, the SSPX “does not possess a canonical status in the Church” and its ministers “do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church” (March 10, 2009, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church).
The priests of the SSPX are validly ordained priests, but because for the most part they were ordained illicitly (i.e., by a bishop who had no jurisdiction over them and no permission to ordain), they are suspended ipso facto from the moment of their ordination (c. 1383); that is to say, even though they are ordained, they have no permission from the Church, which is necessary, to exercise priestly ministry.
Their Masses are valid but are illegitimately celebrated. The same is true, in most cases, with their baptisms, their conferral of the anointing of the sick, and provided it is administered by a bishop, their confirmations. Thus, Catholics should not frequent SSPX chapels or seek sacraments from the priests of the SSPX.
Serious Sacramental Problems
But there are two other, serious, sacramental problems that must be understood by everyone who may wish to attend SSPX chapels. If you take nothing else away from this letter, at least hear this — the SSPX’s marriages and absolutions are invalid because their priests lack the necessary faculties.
The SSPX argues for the validity of their marriages and absolutions based on the canonical principle that the Church supplies the faculty in cases of doubt or common error. In certain rare and exceptional cases that might apply to their situation, especially with regard to confession, but for the most part their arguments are not persuasive.
Part of their argument hinges on the faithful erroneously believing that the SSPX priests have the requisite faculty; well, if you were in error about that up until now, you are not in error anymore.
The SSPX also makes the argument that they have permission because the Church is in a state of “emergency.” However, 1) the Legislator (the Pope) and the bishops with him don’t think there is a state of emergency, and 2) the sacraments offered by the SSPX are already widely available at legitimate parishes and chapels, i.e., no one is being denied the sacraments.
Do You Want to Risk Your Soul?
This is not the place for a discourse on the technical points of canon law, but the point is: do you want to take that kind of a risk with your marriage or even with your soul? Apart from legal and sacramental concerns, there is also the danger that affiliating with the SSPX can gradually cause one to absorb a schismatic mentality.
You might attend your first Mass at an SSPX chapel for good and noble reasons, e.g., such a strong initial desire for a reverently celebrated liturgy that you are willing to tolerate the SSPX’s irregular status. But as you attend more and more, it ceases to become something you tolerate and starts to become a mark of identity, even a badge of pride. You adopt a fixed posture of separation from the Church. That is a perilous position for any soul to be in.
||This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
The larger question is why put yourself in that position in the first place? The Traditional Latin Mass (also called the Tridentine Mass, the Usus Antiquior, or the Extraordinary Form of the Mass) is celebrated regularly in parishes throughout the Diocese of Madison, both on Sundays and on weekdays. These Masses are beautifully and reverently celebrated by vibrant, faithful priests. I myself celebrate it frequently.
As interest in the Traditional Latin Mass grows, these opportunities will increase. Already, there are very few people in the Diocese of Madison who could get to an SSPX chapel on Sunday without passing by a legitimate parish in which the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated. If you’re knowingly doing that, it’s time to take a good hard look at your motives.
In closing, I want to stress that the need for a reform of the reform is real, and it is underway in our diocese. If you see that the Church needs fixing, work with your bishop, your pastors, and your fellow lay faithful to fix it. Share your needs and your concerns. Leaving is the last thing to do; leaving just doesn’t make sense! Communion with the Church is something to be cherished, safeguarded, and nourished.
Always looking at our Blessed Mother’s fidelity to Her Son, let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.
The Art of Creating Beautiful, Biblically Based
Churches That Are Not Ugly
by Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington Blog:
Have you read where Moses laid out the “tent of meeting” exactly according to the pattern God gave him up on the mountain? A millennium later John described a similar scene of the sanctuary in Heaven.
Few Catholics today realize that God actually did indicate a good deal about how He expects our churches to be designed. And while some degree of variation is allowed and has existed, most modern churches have significantly departed from the instructions God gave. We do well to ponder church architecture not merely as an aesthetic question, but also as a question of fidelity to what God expects.
For the Church, the Scriptures are more than just ink spots on a page. The Scriptures are manifest in proclaiming how we live, how we are organized hierarchically, our sacraments, our liturgy, and even the design of our buildings.
Long before most people could read, the Church was preaching the Gospel. And to do so, she used the very structure of her buildings to preach. Many of our older buildings are sermons in stone and stained glass.
The Scriptures come alive in our art, statues, paintings, and in the majestic stained glass windows that soar along the walls of our churches like jewels of light. Even the height and shape of our older churches preach the Word. The height draws our eyes up to Heaven as if to say, Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand (Col 3:1). And the shape of most of our older churches is that of a cross, as if to say, May I never glory in anything save the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ (Gal 6:14).
My own parish church is a sermon in stone, wood, and glass. It is designed around the Book of Revelation (Chapters 4 and 5), in which John is caught up into Heaven and describes it in detail. The fundamental design of the sanctuary drawn from Revelation 4 and 5 includes the throne-like altar (Rev 4:2), seven tall candles around the throne (Rev 4:5), and the four living creatures in the clerestory windows above the altar (Rev 4:6-8). At the center of the altar is the tabernacle, wherein dwells the once-slain Lamb who lives forever, Jesus (Rev 5:6). Around the throne (altar) are seated the 24 elders (Rev. 4:4), symbolized by the 12 wooden pillars on the back sanctuary wall and the 12 stained glass windows of the Apostles in the transept. The multitude of angels surrounding the throne (Rev 5:11) are symbolized by the blue and gold diamonds on the apse wall.
I have assembled pictures of these details along with the texts from Revelation in the following PDF document: Holy Comforter Church in Washington D.C. and the Book of Revelation
In effect, the builders of my church (built in 1939) were saying, when you walk into this church, you have entered Heaven. Indeed, it is a replica of the heavenly vision of John. And when we celebrate the Liturgy it is more than just a replica, for we are taken up to Heaven in every Mass, where we join countless angels and saints around the heavenly altar. There, we worship God with them. We don’t have to wait for some rapture; we go there in every Mass.
But there is more! For what John saw in Heaven is none other than what God prescribed to Moses. God told Moses quite explicitly how to construct the ancient sanctuary, the tent of meeting in the desert. The layout, materials, and elements were all carefully described.
And, having given these details, God said, Now have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you (Exodus 25:8-9). And God later said, See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain (Ex 25:40). And God repeated, Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain (Ex 26:40).
The Book of Hebrews explained why God insisted that the pattern be followed so exactly: They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven (Heb 8:5). In other words, the Ancient Temple was meant to be a replica, or pattern of the heavenly sanctuary.
Most older Catholic churches maintain the basic pattern of what Moses was shown. This diagram compares the layout of the sanctuary in my parish church, Holy Comforter St. Cyprian (HCSC), with the layout of the temple:
In the photo just below, you can see the remarkable similarity more visually. The pattern is even etched on the floor of my church, echoing a detail about the layout of the temple that Ezekiel described:
So there were four tables on one side of the gateway [of the sanctuary] and four on the other—eight tables in all—on which the sacrifices were slaughtered (Ez 40:41).
On the left below is a depiction of the setup of the tent of meeting as it was when the people were still in the desert. Next to it is a photo of my parish church sanctuary. You can see the remarkable similarity.
Note the way the scrollwork on the floor of my parish matches the four tables on either side in the sanctuary where the animals were slaughtered. The fiery square and horned altar in the diagram of the temple are represented by the horned square on the floor of my church. In the diagram of the ancient sanctuary, the holy place, the holy of holies towers in the back, as do the high altar and tabernacle in my parish church.
Simply put, the builders of my parish church remarkably depicted the ancient temple as well as the vision of Heaven from the Book of Revelation. This is what church buildings should do: exemplify the heavenly sanctuary, the plan for which God Himself gave. Sadly, modern architecture has departed from that plan significantly. But in recent years, there has been something of a return to that plan, a trend for which we can only be grateful.
The Catholic Church is surely a biblical Church. My very building shouts the Word! We Catholics preach the Word not only with ink and in speech, but also in stone, wood, glass, liturgy, and the arts—all to the glory of God.
Here is a video of some of the details of my parish.
Bishop Paprocki on Planned Parenthood videos: “We should be shocked and appalled at this moral depravity”
Please watch his video and listen carefully to his words: Email subscribers please click here to watch video.
How anyone can watch what Planned Parenthood does in its clinics and not be disgusted and heart-broken is quite beyond me. Let us join our prayers to those of Bishop Paprocki.