Married Couples, Listen up . . .

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, Fr. Z’s Blog:

I’m tired of the whine from certain homosexualists and their agenda, to the detriment of concerns of people to adhere to God’s plan and nature and many other serious concerns which we face as a Church and society.

I was alerted today to a post at the blog of a priest, Fr. David Nix.  He posted an “Open Letter” to priests written by a married couple… a realmarried couple.  I reproduce it here.  My emphases.

Open Letter to our spiritual Fathers

Dear Fr. ___________,

I am so very thankful that you have given your life to be our spiritual father. I am grateful for the gifts you make available to us in the sacraments. We know you work tirelessly to keep everything balanced and running smoothly. For that, we are thankful. But we have to be honest and share our concerns and frustrations: We have heard more about the LGBTQ community and the acceptance of that more than we have ever heard about our own marriage.

Father, we struggle with communication, we struggle with infertility, we struggle with forgiveness over infidelity, we struggle with finances, we struggle with contraception and Natural Family Planning, we struggle with in-laws, we struggle with so much and yet feel so alone.

Please Father, give us some hope and encouragementlet us know what we are supposed to do. Please don’t have your answer be “you can get an annulment.” We don’t want to get out of our marriage; we just need you to let us know that sacrifice and suffering are part of marriage. Most of us have not heard what God’s plan for marriage is, yet we have heard that everyone is arguing about what constitutes a sacramental marriage.

It feels like we have been abandoned and left to figure it out in our own. As we strive to live God’s plan, we are burdened with what the society tells us. The culture screams its message, but the silence of the Church is at times louder than the screams.

Help us Father—for we know not what to do.

Love and blessings,
Your Sons and Daughters

We are entering into a dire stage of spiritual warfare over souls.

War is by nature messy and chaotic.  It is easy for officers to get distracted by tactics on a hill and lose sight of strategy on a front.  We priests and bishops must stay clear-eyed, smart, and faithful for everyone’s sake.

However, we need the support of lay people.  We need you to encourage and to fast and pray for us.  You have to make acts of reparation for our faults and defects.

In this coming battle, we priests will grow weary under the assaults from the agents of Hell and their earthly operatives.  So will you.

In this coming battle, the Church’s perennial teaching and the sacraments will be for us priests like the stone upon which Moses sat during the battle against the Amalekites, while you good lay people must stay on either side of us, like Aaron and Hur, holding up our weary arms so that the sword of Joshua shall prevail.

According to Sr. Lucia, the visionary of Fatima, Our Lady foretold that

“final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Do not be afraid, … because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.”

Married Couples.  Listen up.

It is not possible to squeeze everything into a blog post, or even a book, but here are a few words from my heart and experience.

First, please know that we priests understand that you face problems every day that might make a lot of us priests curl up in ball in a dark room.  However, you have the vocation to face those problems as married Catholics.  Just as we priests must call upon the graces that come from Holy Orders when we are in the thick of it, so to must you call upon the graces that come from matrimony and confirmation.

You have difficulties.  These difficulties are your road to heaven.   Remember always that your primary calling as married Catholics is to help your spouses get to heaven.  Hence, you must chose daily to embrace the life of your spouse with charity, the sacrificial love which seeks, first, the true good of the other.  This is what Christ modeled for his Spouse the Church while enduring His Passion and death.  Embrace the pains and make the choice for sacrificial love. To love is to choose.  Choose to love. You can choose love even when feelings or appetites or temptations push and pull.

Choose, as a couple, to love God more than you love each other.  Only when God is the true king of your two hearts, can your one married heart beat properly.  Only when you love God first, can you love and treat each other and your children properly.

Stay close to the sacraments.  That means that you have to make good and regular examinations of your consciences and then GO TO CONFESSION.  Go together.  Go separately.  GO!  Don’t allow mortal sin to cloud your intellect and weaken your will or give a chink for the Devil to pry at.  Hence, also use sacramentals.  The Devil really hates them.

Make your home, however grand or humble, into your “domestic church”.  Just as a church should be filled with beautiful reminders of heaven and the saints and angels, so too should your home.  Just as a church should be filled with prayer, so too should your dwelling place. Traditionally, church buildings will have over their doors inscriptions like, “House of God and Gate of Heaven”.  This, too, is your ideal. Pray at meals.  Pray when you rise and rest.  Especially say the Rosary together, perhaps holding hands.  The other side of prayer is silence.  

Be humble in consideration of your vocations and your own human abilities.  However, be confident that, as the Father’s adopted chosen children in Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Trinity whose love your lives reflect will give you every grace you need to fulfill your vocations in obedience to His commands and the commandments of the Church.  God’s commands and will are not mere “ideals”, which some today falsely claim cannot be attained by everyone.  They can be and are realized, and have always been attained through the millennia, by people just like you.  God doesn’t impose anything that is impossible.

Finally, some quick points.

We could all avoid a lot of sins and a lot of conflict by keeping our mouths shut more often.  Weigh your words.

Be cheerful.  Joy is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit.  When you cannot detect or show joy, that’s probably a sign that you have spiritual maintenance to do.  This joy is not the blithering gaiety of the foolish: risus abundant in ore stultorum.

Speak well of and kindly to each other.

Read Scripture.  Read especially Ephesians about spouses.  Pay close attention to Paul’s wise admonition, “Let not the sun go down upon your anger.”

Ask your Guardian angels to help you in every conflict.

In charity, you must strive always make the sacrifice needed for the other’s true good.

Thank God – on your knees – for the gift of the vocation of marriage.  Really.  Get down on your kneesand say, “Thank you, God, for giving me my vocation and my spouse.”  Never forget that you two are one flesh now.  You are you and you are also “we”.

Be who are are, and never think again about being anything else until the day you draw your last breath.

Eat meals together, at a table.  Talk.  And then let there be silences.

When you look at your spouse and at your children, consciously remind yourself that each one is a gift.  And if you do not, in sorrow, have children, remind yourself that God knows you better than you know yourselves and that He doesn’t allow burdens without giving the strength to bear them.  You may have another path when it comes to children.

Anything worth doing well in life requires suffering, patience and practice.  You have to practice being married, by living marriage.  You will be under attack, so you must plan your tactics for when you being to suffer, and you will suffer.  Embrace your crosses.

Listen to the good advice of older people.

When real trials come or sudden frustrations strike, say what Job said and say it with a smile: “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Ask Fr. Z – Can Absolution be Granted with No Firm Purpose of Amendment?

The Vital Role of a Firm Purpose of Amendment

Fr. Z’s Blog, by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf:

 Firm Purpose of Amendment - Confession

Have a Firm Purpose of Amendment – Confession

Question: Can absolution be granted where no firm purpose of amendment exists? If granted, with no purpose of amendment, does it even ‘take’?

No. And No.

In normal circumstances, when there isn’t danger or some other odd condition, in order to absolve a penitent who is sui compos (conscious, able to make a confession, etc.) the priest must be reasonably certain that the penitent 1) has actually confessed a sin (even a previously confessed and absolved sin is enough), 2) has, in that moment, at least imperfect sorrow for sin (attrition – fear of punishment), and 3) has a purpose of amendment at that time. If any of these three conditions are lacking, the priest MUST withhold absolution.

Since the Council of Trent, Holy Church has taught that the essence of the Sacrament of Penance includes acts of the penitent, that is, the confession of sins, the expression of sorrow, desire for amendment and atonement.  On the other hand, we have also the action of the priest, that is, the granting of absolution.  The actions of the penitent and of the priest relate to each other as the matter of a sacrament relates to its form.

Most priests do not have psychic powers to read minds and few have the gift from God to read souls. We have to listen to what the penitent says and then discern the truth. A confessor will try prudently and carefully to “tease out”, so to speak, any of the necessary elements that are lacking.  “Do you know an Act of Contrition?  No?  Okay, are you truly sorry for your sins and do you intend not ever to commit them again?  Very good. Now I’ll give you absolution….”

However, if finally a person evinces no firm purpose of amendment – that is, she clearly doesn’t intend to avoid sin(s) again – then the priest cannot, must not, give absolution. His absolution would be, in effect, improperly given and would therefore be sacrilegious. He would abuse the Sacrament, to the offense of Christ, the detriment of the whole Church and his own soul as well as the soul of the poor person on the other side of the grate. He would be, in effect, faking it.

How is that compassion?  How is that “accompaniment”?

How wicked would that be?  To lie to people like that under the guise of compassion.

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This is pertinent to the whole discussion of the objectively ambiguous content of Amoris laetitia, Ch. 8.  Any suggestion that a penitent can be absolved if she isn’t sorry for sins and doesn’t say she’ll change is contrary to what we have always held about the Sacrament of Penance.

Keep in mind that, after confession of at least all mortal sins in kind and number, the saying the classic “Act of Contrition” expresses clearly both sorrow for sin (attrition and contrition) and purpose of amendment.  Contrition consists of three acts of the will which form a unity: grief or sorrow, detestation, intention.

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, [grief] and I detest all my sins [detestation] because of Thy just punishments, [attrition, imperfect, based on fear] but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. [contrition, more perfect, based on love] I firmly resolve, [intention] with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.  VARIATIONS INCLUDE … to sin no more, to do penance, and to amend my life.

Sorrow, detestation, intention.  If one is lacking, then the matter of the Sacrament is lacking.  If the priest knows the matter is lacking, he may not proceed with absolution because he would simulate a sacrament.  If the person is unconscious or there is true reason for “general absolution (that is, without auricular confession), the priest can proceed.  That’s a whole different growler of beer.

“But Father! But Father!”

Some of you lib screwballs and progressivist sapheads now jibber, “She came, didn’t she, to your retrograde torture booth of uptight patriarchal oppression! Didn’t she?  HUH?  That must mean that she’s really sorry even if she doesn’t say she is.  She… right, or whatever non-judgmental gender… ummm….  YOU ARE MEAN! Why does she have to affirm that she’ll stop committing the sinful acts?  What are ‘sins’, anyway!??! What does she… he… umm… have to be ‘sorry’ for anyway? Sin.  HAH! That’s an outdated category and the Council says that’s all gone now.  This is the time of mercy and caring… and… and, oh yes… ACCOMPANIMENT!  The age of hate is OVVVVERRRRRR!  Show some COMPASSION, DAMMIT or … or… ooooh yes yes yes we’re gonna GET you!  Yessiree.  We’ll fix you, you … functionary! You… funeral-faced museum mummy!  Sourpuss! Authoritarian fundamentalist! You gloomy moralistic quibbler!  We’ll write letters, yes, we will, precious.  YOU HATE VATICAN II!”

Firm Purpose of Amendment - Confession

Firm Purpose of Admendment

I respond, with Lumen gentium, saying:

11. Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offence committed against Him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion.

Just showing up is enough, eh?  NO.  That’s sentimental twaddle.

The priest cannot simply assume that the person has the necessary sorrow, detestation and intention by the simple fact that she showed up in the confessional!

I am seeking your conversion and your salvation.  And I am going to apply this bitter but effective medicine until it takes effect.  If you listen or you don’t listen, I’m going to persevere anyway and thus save my own soul.  However, like Augustine, “Nolo salvus esse sine vobis! (s. 17.2).

The confessional is a tribunal of mercy, but it is a tribunal.  The confessional is not a “safe space” where tender snowflakes are given hugs and puppies and crayons and affirming coos.  There is a juridical character to the confession.  The facts of each case must be brought to the Judge, who binds and looses with the power of the keys received in priestly ordination and wielded with the permission of the Church via the faculty granted by proper authority.  The penitent is her own Accusatrix and Prosecutrix.  The fact that the person has come is a sign that grace is at work.  Coming to the confessional is a really good start.  But coming is not, in itself, enough.

So, everyone think about the effect of your heinous black sins on yourselves and on the whole world.  When you sin, you hurt everyone.  Examine your consciences with one eye on the depths of Hell and the other on the gates of Heaven.  Choose.  Be truly sorry for your sins and …

GO TO CONFESSION! Have a Firm Purpose of Amendment – Confession!

Cardinal Burke: SSPX and the Year of Mercy

From Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s Blog:

Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s commentary is in red.

At the Deus Ex Machina Blog there is a video of a presentation given by Card. Burke (bow low here) on the occasion of the publication of his book Divine Love Made Flesh in Polish.

Included at the blog is some Q&A, which the writer says is translated well-enough to be trusted. In any event, Card. Burke’s answers are in Italian, so that’s not a problem.

One of the questions concerns frequenting the SSPX for sacraments during the Year of Mercy and after the close of the Year of Mercy. As you know, Pope Francis – effectively, though I am not sure how – conceded faculties to the suspended priests of the SSPX so that they can validly absolve penitents.


Fourth question. 44:10 Minute Mark

Layman: The SSPX question. I have a question as a faithful Catholic, can we as Catholics, without fear, take advantage of the ministry of the Fraternal Society of St. Pius X? And after the Year of Mercy, the jurisdiction granted by the Apostolic See, will it simply disappear and everything will revert back to a state preceding the Year of Mercy?  [Unless Francis decides otherwise, and makes it known, yes, that’s my take.  The faculty is withdrawn on the day the Year of Mercy ends.]

Answer: (Ed. note: With a very large grin on his face, the Great Cardinal states:) A very beautify [sic] question, a very good question. With regards to the Fraternity of St. Pius X, they find themselves in an irregular situation from a canonical point of view.[Here is the important part…]If there does not exist an absolute necessity to go to the Society of St. Pius X to obtain the Sacraments, then people should not leave their churches and their priests. [Get that?  “Absolute necessity” doesn’t mean “I don’t like the music.”] With respect to the elevation to the jurisdiction for the Sacrament of Penance that the Holy Father offered, granted to the clerics of the Society of St.Pius X during the Year of Mercy, it is hard to clearly define, or describe from a canonical point of view. Bishop Fellay himself, and so the superior of the Society of Pius X recognized that this is an unique gift from the Holy Father. Therefore, this would imply that this (jurisdiction) would have its end with the end of the Year of Mercy. I express my sincere intentions, sincere wish that the Fraternity of St. Pius X could be able to unite with the Church. [Me too.] The Holy Father, Francis gave indications to Cardinal Muller, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with respect to the re-opening of discussions with the Fraternity of St. Pius X, whose aim would be to enter into a “full communion” with the Catholic Church.  [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

Thus, Card. Burke.

Being mad at the priest… not liking the modern building… hating the music… these are not reasons to leave your parish and go to the SSPX.

Card. Burke says, “absolute necessity” which narrows it down quite a bit.


What did Pope Francis grant the Society of St. Pius X during the Year of Mercy?  That’s a good question.

The Holy Father wrote: “A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”


Let’s Get Hell and the Devil Straightened Out

Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s, Are You Watching the Show Lucifer?

From Fr. John Zuhlsdorf’s Blog:

I occasionally turn on a regular network TV station. My gorge rises and I flee back to books, cable news or DVDs.

I understand that there is now a TV series called Lucifer. I won’t be seeing that one.

However, a priest friend sent me an SMS about it:

Have you heard about this horrible new show Lucifer? I watched it last night just because I am sure that many of my parishioners will have done so. It is super new age, with all the stupid notions of the need for the existence of good and evil to create balance, etc.

Lucifer is bored with hell so he incarnates on earth to do good for humanity, and this results in a ‘lack of balance between heaven and hell’ it is basically blasphemous….

Blasphemous and stupid.

My IQ dropped a few points just learning of this show.

Let’s be clear about the Enemy of the soul and fallen angels.

“But Father!  But Father!”, some numb-skulls are whimpering, “We don’t focus on these things any more!  We are now happy in our faith communities and the sharing of fellowship and we all go to heaven together so we can be in fellowship and communities of sharing and be with our pets. Vatican II did away with all this devil talk and nonsense about people going to hell.  That’s all people like you can talk about but you hate Vatican II!  Don’t listen to Fr. Z! Everyone sing! ♫ ♫ My  little pony… my little pony…♫ ♫”

Sure, we must also talk about heaven and goodness and joy and kitties and sunshine and birthday cakes.  Let’s get this Hell and Devil thing straightened out because it’s been neglected for far too long.

Priests and bishops who don’t teach about Hell will probably wind up there.

It is the job of every bishop and priest to keep as many of you as possible out of Hell.

As I have noted before, the greatest accomplishment of the Enemy of our souls is to deceive people that the Enemy doesn’t exist … that there is no Hell … that people can’t go to Hell … that no one is in Hell, … that evil is somehow a necessary component of existence… blah blah blah.

The Devil exists.  Fallen angels re real, personal beings.  There is nothing cute about the Enemy.

Fallen angels hate you with a malice no human can imagine.  They have an intellect that surpasses our mere human faculties in a way that we can’t fathom.   They never tire.  They are relentless.  They are real.  If you don’t believe in the existence of malicious fallen angels, you are in serious risk of joining them in Hell.  This is no joke.

The Devil and the fallen angels hate you.

They have angelic abilities. They never sleep, never tire, are never distracted, have no need to travel from point a to b, and they never miss what you are up to.

Think this through.

Imagine what sort of profile on you some government agency could put together.  I’ve written on this before, but it bears dredging up and repeating.

Imagine that government agencies want to build a psychological profile of you, much as the FBI might when they use clues and evidence to hunt down an unknown serial killer.

These government agents, let’s call it The Agency, teamed up with a newly minted Dem President’s Domestic Security Force, are profiling Catholics.  Real Catholics are, of course, terrorists and dissidents: they refuse to worship Moloch and offer sacrifices of incense to the statue of the POTUS.

Said Agency and DSF plot your movements through your mobile phone and car’s GPS as you move in and out of cells which they monitor to triangulate your location.  They learn something about you through your patterns of travel.  They learn about your tastes and interests through your purchasing history.  They monitor your calls, where you go on the internet, what you write and read in your email and on webpages.  They look at all your online transactions. Through your credit card records they hunt up the actual receipts and examine what you bought at every store…  including those embarrassing things.  After all, you leave amazingly information-rich and detailed trails and clues to who you are with every move and purchase.  The Agency and DSF review all your library checkouts, your magazine subscriptions, your movie going habits, your DVD choices through Netflix or digital downloads through Amazon and iTunes.  They watch your channel selections through your cable or satellite. All this information can be mined.  They watch your every interaction with your friends… and strangers too, for that matter, with listening devices and cameras.  After gathering all this information, the Agency’s profiling experts build a picture of you, get into your head.   They figure out what you are about, who you are, and what you going to do next.

They are merely humans with a lot of bits of information.

How much better can fallen angels, the demons do this?

Angels, the holy angels and the fallen, have never missed anything of your lives since the instant of your conception.  And they never forget. Anything.

Fallen angels, the enemy, the Devil, can’t literally get into our heads or thoughts or touch our will, but they don’t have to in order to know us really well.

And they hate you.   They hate you.  They hate you.

With relentless malice the “prince of this world” works to trick you into letting him have some control in your life.  Demons cleverly and with perfect timing stimulate your appetites and passions based on how well they know your proclivities.   They strive to twist your heart and mind away from God in order to diminish – even by a little – the love everyone will share in heaven as they shine in the magnified glory of the Trinity.

When a soul is lost to Hell, and I think that happens a lot, the Enemy crows, “That’s one more You don’t have!”

The Devil and other demons are always held in check by God.  They cannot simply have their way with us or the material cosmos around us unless God permits it according to His plan.   But they are devious and tireless.

Remember your Guardian Angels.  Call on them to help you.  Remember Our Lady, Queen of Angels.  Remember St. Joseph, whom we invoke in his beautiful litany as the “Terror daemonum… the Terror of demons”.

If you don’t believe in the Enemy and Hell, you will probably wind up there. And if you choose that fate, it would be better for you had you never been born (cf Matthew 26:24).

Excommunication, Abortion and the Pope

By Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, Fr. Z’s Blog:

The distinguished canonist (and commentator here) Ed Peters has a useful post at his fine blog In The Light Of The Law about the distinction of the sin of abortion and the crime of abortion and the sanction/censure that can be incurred when committing the act.

He doesn’t have a combox, so you might post here.  Do visit his blog for this and other good posts.

Pope Francis on reconciliation for abortion
by Dr. Edward Peters
I am sorry to have written a long post on this matter. I did not have time to write a short one.

Excommunication and the Catholic Church

Abortion has long sat in the middle of a three-street ecclesial intersection, namely, those of Sin, Crime, and Sanction. The meeting of any two of these factors would make for a perilous perch but the confluence of all three is fraught with opportunities for confusion. At the risk of serious over-simplification, let me sketch the basic situation and then address Pope Francis’ comments thereon.  [Pope Francis has extended faculties regarding abortion to all priests for the Year of Mercy  HERE]

1. Abortion has always been recognized as a sin and a grave sin at that. Like other grave sins the path to reconciliation is basically by sacramental Confession.

2. Like some (but not all) sins, abortion has long been treated as a crime under canon law. [Get that? Sin and crime.] As is true of other crimes, however, a host of legal factors must be considered in determining whether one who has become involved in the sin of abortion is also guilty of the crime of abortion. Not all persons sinning in this regard are guilty of the crime. [All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.]

3. The canonical sanction levied against those canonically guilty of the crime of abortion has long been excommunication (a surprisingly complex institute), and latae sententiae (or, automatic) excommunication at that (ironically, a complex procedure for incurring and living under certain censures). I have long held that the automatic character of certain sanctions in the Church does more juridic and pastoral harm than good these days, but I won’t debate that matter here. [He doesn’t like that “automatic” censure result.]

This already-complex intersection of sin, crime, and sanction has, I am sorry to say (sorry, because I think the canon law on abortion is too complex to meet some urgent pastoral needs facing us), been further complicated by at least two factors: [NB] first, an easy-to-overlook procedural change in the abortion crime norm itself, namely from 1917 CIC 2350 to 1983 CIC 1398, whereby the former express limitation that only “ordinaries” could lift the excommunication for the crime of abortion was dropped, introducing confusion as to whether and if so how the sin of abortion (which was too casually identified with the crime) could also be absolved by priests; [two step process?  In the older, traditional form of absolution there is such a two step process.] and second, due to another easy-to-overlook change in the abortion canon (matre non excepta), a powerful argument exists (to which I subscribe*) that excommunication for the crime of abortion cannot be automatically incurred by pregnant women (as opposed to abortionists themselves) if the penal law of the Church is applied according to its express terms. Thus, upon noting that there are zero examples of women being formally excommunicated for their abortion, this second factor, if correct (and I think it is) means that no women (again, as distinguished from blood-soaked abortionists) have been excommunicated for abortion at least since the 1983 Code went into effect. [The jury is out on that.]

Now, given the inherent complexity of the law itself in this area, the disputes about that law among qualified experts, and the pervasive ignorance of canon law among rank-and-file faithful brought about by 50 years of ecclesiastical antinomianism, no wonder people are confused about what Pope Francis’ recent statement means. I’m confused, if perhaps less so than some others.

Francis writes: “For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” Canon law is not mentioned and we must parse such implications as best we can.  [I suspect that a juridical document will be issued which spells out what Francis intends.]

A) I think the pope’s statement reflects a mistaken assumption, common among those who were trained under the 1917 Code, that priests with normal faculties for Confession still cannot absolve from the sin (let alone from the crime) of abortion. I and others, however, hold that all priests with faculties can absolve from this sin. [The sin.] The pope’s comments resolve this debate admirably (at least for the period of the Jubilee Year) as I happen to think it should be resolved.

B) The pope’s statement seems to assume that the sin of abortion and the crime of abortion are concomitant realities. I, however, and I’ll wager nearly all other experts, hold sin to be distinguishable from crime, and that this crime is rarely, if ever, committed by women (again, as opposed to abortionists). Now, nothing in the pope’s comments addresses the crime of abortion though maybe he intended to address the crime as well as the sin (I cannot imagine that Francis meant to leave women in peril of excommunication for their abortions—though I stress again that I do not think women are excommunicated for undergoing abortion). But, plainly, the pope’s text itself does not address the crime of abortion or its canonical consequences and so I see no change in canonical discipline in this regard. If, by the way, the pope’s text does address the crime of abortion, then it seems to allow abortionists to have their excommunications—sanctions much more likely to have been incurred under current canon law—addressed as well. Maybe Francis intends that outcome though he speaks exclusively of women suffering in this regard and not of abortion profiteers. Perhaps Rome will clarify this point.

Et poenae latae sententiae delendae sunt. [See above!]

* See my “Canon 1324: exemption from a penalty” and “Canon 1398: Excommunication for procured abortion” in 2010 CLSA Advisory Opinions 169-174 and 178-182 respectively

Thanks for this, Dr. Peters!

For further clarity, folks should have recourse to Dr. Ed Peters’ book, Excommunication and the Catholic Church.  (Support Father and Dr. Peter’s by buying this book.)

Dissent Into Hell

Those Who Knowingly Reject Church Teaching Place Their Souls In Serious Peril!

Father John Zuhlsdorf – Lately there has been a sharp uptick in the media – even “Catholic” media – in open and cavalier dissent from the Church’s teaching and the authority of her duly ordained pastors.  Much of it seems to revolve around the two poles of personal claims of self-determination and autonomy from anything outside one’s own skull or one’s groin.

Many who dissent from the Church’s teachings and authority simply don’t know any better.  They were, perhaps, never taught or they were taught error.  I tremble for those who are responsible for their ignorance.

Some dissenters know full well what they are refusing to accept.  I worry that they are in peril of going to Hell.   Tragically, they are dragging people into confusion with them and putting their souls in peril as well.  Tragically, some of the Church’s pastors are watching it happen.

In so doing we make ourselves slaves of the world, the flesh and the devil and we could wind up in hell as a result.

It is a terrible thing to even think, much less say, but I suspect that in our O-so-sophisticated-age, this time of picking and choosing, not many people are actually going to their judgment in the friendship of God.

St. Teresa of Avila was granted a vision in which she saw souls   falling into hell “like snowflakes”.  If memory serves, the three children of Fatima were given the same vision with the same sight of falling souls so numerous that they were like a snowfall.

Many saints have said this in the past.  Is the situation worse now?  I don’t know.  It might be, because the prevailing attitude today, at least in wealthy regions, seems to be autonomy and self-determination without regard for anything transcendent, even while what is truly transcendent is being replaced by concern for the environment, or chimeric personal “rights”, blah blah blah.

Give the way the dissolution of mores is accelerating and given the weakening of the bonds of society ad intra and ad extra regarding even the Church, I don’t know if we can reverse the trend anymore. Nevertheless, the one important challenge that has never changed for everyone through all ages remains.  In accord with our state in life we must do our best to  get to heaven.  We have to do what small things we can for ourselves and loved ones and those immediately in our  sphere.  We simply must persevere.

The terrible alternative should be a point for daily reflection.

Christ, God, gave us the Catholic Church.  It is the Church He founded.  He gave us the sacraments as the ordinary means of salvation.  He gave His own authority to the Church to teach about faith and morals.  He gave us a visible point of reference for unity and security of knowledge for our membership in His Church: Peter and his successors and the apostles and their successors with Peter.

Knowingly reject the Church – and Peter – and the Church’s teaching and her discipline of Christ’s sacraments, and you place yourself on a path that might just land you in hell for eternity.

If nothing else from this rant gets through to readers, and this is  especially my plea to priests and bishops, I beg you on my knees, I  implore you: make it a habit to think about the Four Last Things at  least once a day.  We are all going to die.  We must all go before our  Judge to give an account of the gift of life and the graces we have been  offered.

Nothing will change this vector we are on within the Church and throughout the world until Catholics engage in a serious renewal of our liturgical worship of Almighty God.  And that might not work either, frankly.   It may, however, save some souls who would otherwise be lost.  That’s not nothing and it is worth our effort.

Originally posted at:  Fr. Z’s Blog

Sudden And Unprovided Death In The Navy Yard!

Death Comes For Us All!

By: Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Pray for the victims of the killer at the Navy Yard.

A sudden unprovided death

My friend this could be you

Friends, this could be you.

Please! Develop the good practice of examining your conscience every day and going to confession regularly.

I implore you! Teach your children to examine their consciences and take them to confession, teaching them what to do and why.

Fathers, these people could be your parishioners.  You will be called to account for the souls entrusted to you.  Preach about sin, about the Four Last Things, about the Sacrament of Penance.

“A subitanea et improvisa morte… From a sudden and unprovided death, spare us O Lord.”

A sudden death can be a blessing.

A sudden and unprovided death – unprovided in the sense of having no recourse to the sacraments when you are not in the state of grace – is a horrifying prospect.

Make plans for, provide for, the needs of both body and soul for yourselves and those in your charge.

You don’t know when your death will come, natural or not.

Originally posted at: Fr. Z’s WDTPRS

Bishops And Priests Who Fail To Preach On Hell Will Probably End Up There!

frzIf You Don’t Believe In Hell, You Are At Serious Risk Of Ending Up There!

Father John Zuhlsdorf – Before anything else, let it be said that, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor 10:13)


The greatest accomplishment of the Enemy of our souls is to deceive people that the Enemy doesn’t exist … that there is no Hell … that people can’t go to Hell … that no one is in Hell, blah blah blah.

Let’s be clear about this.  Catholics are obliged to believe in the existence of the Devil and of Hell.  These are de fide doctrines taught by the Church without the possibility of error.

The Devil exists.  Fallen angels hate you with a malice no human can imagine.  They have an intellect that surpasses our mere human faculties in a way that we can’t fathom.   They never tire.  They are relentless.  They are real.  If you don’t believe in the existence of malicious fallen angels, you are in serious risk of joining them in Hell.  This is no joke.

Hell is real.   In Hell, the damned suffer the pain of sense and the pain of loss (hint: unending pain is a key feature of your eternity in Hell). We can choose to separate ourselves from God and go to Hell by sinning, by resisting grace, by failing to repent, by failing to do what we ought, by presuming that we are automatically saved.  If, when you die – and you will die – you are not in the state of grace, if, when you die – and it is going to happen to you – you are not living the friendship of God, you will go to Hell.  Once you are there, that’s it.  There is no hope of ever changing your lot.  There is no changing your mind.  There is no possibility of leaving even after a million billion years.

If you don’t believe in Hell, you will probably wind up there. And if you chose that fate, it would be better for you had you never been born (cf Matthew 26:24).

STOP.  Spend a moment to examine your conscience.

NOW.  Try to imagine what goes through the mind of the damned soul during his first 30 seconds in Hell.

I remind you of these harsh realities because I don’t want to go to Hell.

Priests and bishops who don’t teach about Hell will probably wind up there.

It is my job to keep as many of you as possible out of Hell.

I will therefore tell you about Hell and then echo St. Augustine, who told his flock “Nolo salvus esse sine vobis! … I don’t want to be saved without you!” (s. 17.2)

We must be clear about the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell.  Sure, we must also talk about heaven and goodness and joy and kitties and sunshine and birthday cakes.  Let’s get this Hell and Devil thing straightened out because it’s been neglected for far too long.

We must also work to revive the Sacrament of Penance, which was instituted by Christ as the ordinary way our sins would be forgiven.

Going to confession, making a sincere confession of all your mortal sins in kind and number, can keep you out of Hell.  Got that?


What a victory for the demons of Hell it has been to run down the Sacrament of Penance until it is barely thought of in some parishes.

Fathers, if you are parish priests and have the obligation to hear confessions, hearing confessions can help to keep you out of Hell.  If you are parish priests and you don’t hear confessions or you won’t teach about confession, you will probably go to Hell.  Just try to deny it.  Just.  Try.

Originally posted at: