Reverence Matters – With Illustrations

Proper Postures During Mass

By Father Richard Frank:

From time to time it is a good idea to be reminded of the proper postures we should have when we celebrate Holy Mass.

During one of the Penitential Rites at the beginning of Mass (“I confess to Almighty God . . .”) we are supposed to strike our breast three times when we say: “Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” Simply follow the example of the celebrant.

There are a couple of times when we should bow from the waist and not just a nod of the head. One is during the Profession of Faith, as indicated in the missalette, at the words “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”  There are two times in the year when we genuflect instead of bow – Christmas & Annunciation March 25. The other bow is before we receive Holy Communion either on the tongue or in the hand before we respond “Amen.” Some try to say “Amen” when the Host is already in their mouths.

Receiving the Eucharist Correctly

If you receive Holy Communion in the hand, the hand you use to put the Host into your mouth is the hand underneath. You are not supposed to switch the Host from one hand to the other. Nor are we to receive Holy Communion with only one hand. We are not supposed to palm the Holy Eucharist.

I have been following the practice of giving Holy Communion on the tongue when someone is holding a baby, using a cane or walker, or has an arm in a sling since it is more dignified that way and keeps a person from having to make twists and gyrations in order to hold the hands properly.

Some Catholics have adopted the practice of the “orans” position of the hands during the Our Father, holding the arms outstretched with palms upward, similar to the priest celebrant. Also, some like to hold hands with those around them during the Lord’s Prayer. These practices have probably developed at the encouragement of some priests or religious educators in the past, but they are not prescribed postures in the liturgy for congregations. (Learn more here and here.) As far as I know, they are not forbidden either. I do not promote these postures myself because the Church’s liturgy does not promote them, but I do not say anything one way or the other if people have been assuming those postures and like to do it. However, when I am asked, I do tell people that they should not feel obligated to hold hands or to hold their hands up like the priest if they choose not to do so.

Reverence Incorrect Palms


Reverence Mom with Baby


Reverence Hand


Reverence Tongue


Reverence One Handed



A Catholic Solution to Replacing Obama Care

Subsidiarity and Health Care

By Bishop Robert Finn: In August of 2009, Archbishop Joseph Naumann, of Kansas City, Kansas, and I co-authored a joint pastoral statement, “Principles of Catholic Social Teaching and Health Care Reform.” The full text can be found on the Catholic Key Blog, and other places.

A Catholic Solution to Replacing Obamacare

The United States Bishops had issued several statements about what would eventually become “Obama Care,” or the Affordable Care Act. As neighbor bishops serving Missouri and Kansas, we took a slightly different approach, appealing, first, to the Catholic understanding of subsidiarity. I cite a section of the Letter:

“This notion that health care ought to be determined at the lowest level rather than at the higher strata of society, has been promoted by the Church as “subsidiarity.” Subsidiarity is that principle by which we respect the inherent dignity and freedom of the individual by never doing for others what they can do for themselves and thus enabling individuals to have the most possible discretion in the affairs of their lives. (See: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, ## 185ff.; Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1883) The writings of recent Popes have warned that the neglect of subsidiarity can lead to an excessive centralization of human services, which in turn leads to excessive costs, and loss of personal responsibility and quality of care.

Pope John Paul II wrote, “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.” (Centesimus Annus #48)

And Pope Benedict XVI, “The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. … In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.” (Deus Caritas Est #28)

The Federal Government is clearly required to lead in areas such as national defense, international diplomacy and trade. Initiatives such as health care, education, business and commerce, the distribution of charitable assistance, and some other areas, are most meaningfully executed at appropriate lower levels of responsibility.

As the New Administration and Congress proceeds, necessarily, with the repeal and replacement of this program of national health care, the study of time tested Catholic social principles such as subsidiarity, solidarity, and the inviolable value of human life, will be worthy guides to the formulation of a meaningful model.

 Bishop Scharfenberger: Warning to Politicians, Material Cooperation in Abortion is a Mortal Sin

Bishop Scharfenberger Abortion Is NOT Health Care

The following is a statement by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger:

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger

The public policy issue of defunding Planned Parenthood was the subject of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations across the country this weekend, including here in the Capital Region. Without question, Planned Parenthood provides some morally unobjectionable health services to women. However, this statement is not unlike saying that a man who beats his wife sometimes gives her flowers. Planned Parenthood is the unquestioned number one provider of abortions in our country. This is the primary “product” for which it is known. Abortion is not health care; it is the intentional killing of a unique human person in his or her mother’s womb. This is a scientific fact that has nothing at all to do with religion or religious belief.

Consistent with this scientific fact, the Catholic Church clearly teaches the objective truth that abortion is a grave moral evil, and that material cooperation in abortion is a mortal sin.

Politicians: Let This Be Your Warning

When individuals, particularly those in political office, gloss over or ignore the core issue of whether or not taxpayers should be funding the world’s largest abortion business by citing Planned Parenthood’s other services, they are engaging in obfuscation that is, at best, confused and, at worst, dishonest.  And when such individuals publicly hold themselves out to be Catholic, their local bishop has a responsibility to offer correction, both for the well-being of the individuals’ souls and to avoid scandal among the Catholic faithful.

Catholic Politicians: Renounce Their Public Support for Planned Parenthood

Such is the unfortunate case that I, as the Bishop of Albany, find myself in today. In a local protest over the weekend advocating for the continued public funding of Planned Parenthood, three Catholic politicians – one federal, one state, and one local – not only participated but spoke passionately on behalf of maintaining such funding. And while any judgment of these individuals’ hearts or souls is left only to God, I am entrusted with the solemn duty of reminding them of the unambiguous teaching of our faith on the matter of abortion, informing them that it is inappropriate and confusing to the faithful to hold yourself out publicly as a Catholic while also promoting abortion, and challenging them to embrace the Gospel of Life and to renounce their public support for Planned Parenthood.

My prayer is that these and other elected officials will come to see the truth that abortion harms women and babies, and that they courageously fight to defend the right to life of every human person from the moment of conception until natural death.

When Can Catholics Disagree on Social Teachings?

Conscience and Disagreements on Social Teachings 

Such positions are often referred to as part of the Church’s social teaching, which can be very misleading. Some confessors, myself included, increasingly encounter devout Catholics who ask if they are guilty of sin because they disagree with bishops or the pope on issues such as U.S. immigration policy, Obamacare, the death penalty, etc. My response is to assure them that they are not guilty of sin for such disagreements. But they have a duty to be informed on such issues and to respect the opinions and persons of those with whom they disagree, including Church leaders.

In Catholic social teaching, fundamental moral and social principles are binding. They then have to be applied to complex practical problems. In concrete cases, the principles are more remote than the first principles of the natural law. And when it comes to their application, we are generally not dealing with the same kind of certitude that we find when primary moral principles are applied to personal moral acts.

To suggest that political positions taken by a bishops’ conference – based upon their reading of practical situations related to economic policies, the environment, immigration policies and such things – are equivalent to doctrinal pronouncements binding on Catholic conscience is quite misleading.

For instance, if a Bishops’ Conference says that building a wall is a bad idea, or – as a couple of individual bishops have written – is an irrational or useless policy, these are political positions plain and simple. They are not doctrinal pronouncements, and they definitely do not bind in conscience. They simply represent the political opinion of this or that bishop or this or that conference on a particular social, political, or economic issue. Catholics are totally free to reject them if, after careful consideration, they find them lacking.
Judge Gorsuch with President Trump and Mrs. Gorsuch

John L. Allen Jr., a respected journalist who generally writes for a couple of liberal Catholic publications, wrote about Judge Neil Gorsuch, newly nominated by President Trump for the Supreme Court: “Considered a reliable conservative on most issues, Gorsuch seems likely to align with the Catholic Church’s positions [my italics] on many matters but create possible heartburn on others.” Allen is referring here to what he calls social teaching issues, and he lumps together abortion and religious freedom on the positive side, and the death penalty and immigration on the “heartburn” side. The assumption here, unfortunately, is that all these positions are morally grounded in ways that have the same moral weight and degree of certitude in their application. That’s a mistaken assumption.

Allen would probably not say that the bishops’ positions on matters like immigration, healthcare, and the death penalty are as equally grounded in magisterial teachings as are the bishops’ positions on abortion and religious freedom. The latter positions are clearly based upon magisterial teaching that is irreformable and exceptionless in application. The former are, at most, based on their specific understanding of how certain social principle should be applied in a particular and very complex situation. In short, these are political positions, like being for or against some criminal sentencing policy, or for or against government control over heath care.

When Allen says that Judge Gorsuch’s previous immigration and death penalty decisions disagree “with both the Vatican’s and the U.S. bishops’” views, and identifies these positions as “the Catholic Church’s positions,” what can he possibly mean? These positions are not magisterial positions as such, and do not claim to be doctrinal or necessary applications of Catholic social teaching – that is, positions of the whole Catholic Church, which is what is implied.

The fact is that Allen can only be speaking about the political positions of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference (and not even of each and every bishop), and the political position of Pope Francis and some of his Curia, but hardly the position of the universal Church. To speak of “the Catholic Church’s positions,” then, is totally misleading since it excludes from “the Catholic Church” all those Catholics who have their own political position on an issue where they are not bound in conscience.

You can, for instance, support the death penalty, if you judge that there is no effectively practical way of safeguarding the common good. Even St. John Paul II’s proposed development in the Magisterium – that the death penalty be used as rarely as possible – allows for such prudential judgments.

Moreover, the moral duty of judges, including Catholic judges, assuming they are not dealing with an issue that is governed by an absolute, exceptionless moral principle, is to interpret and apply the law accurately and fairly according to the intention of the legislature that created the law. Their job is not to agree with some political positions, not even their own, but to be faithful to the law itself. If the law cannot be faithfully applied without violating the judge’s conscience, then the only moral recourse is resignation.

So the “positions” of the loosely defined “Catholic Church,” which really amount to some leaders in the Catholic Church, are not necessarily relevant and are non-binding on the Catholic faithful. Such positions should be considered – as should other positions and a broad range of factors – in forming our consciences. But to suggest that they are in fact binding on Catholics who have come to informed disagreement is not theologically sustainable.

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing ( Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.”

Discover God’s Mercy with Marriage

Marital Fidelity and God’s Fidelity 

In this light, Paul was able to declare that the creation of the human race as male and female, husband and wife, was patterned on the union of Christ and the Church. The reality of marriage thus inseparably joins the distinct divine works of creation and salvation. Because God created humanity both in the image of the Trinity and in the image of Christ and the Church, the meaning of the cosmos can be found only in the transformation of the children of Adam and Eve into the adopted children of God, united forever with him in that new creation which is the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and his bride, the Church.

This exalted vision of marriage is the exact opposite of a mere “ideal.” It is the nitty-gritty reality and foundation of our existence as human beings. Our physical bodies, differentiated as male and female and united in the procreative union of husband and wife have been fashioned to reflect the fruitful union of Christ and the Church. Our emotional life and its coordination with our spiritual capacities for knowledge and love are the very basis by which we are enabled to give ourselves and receive one another in the totality of our person, body and soul, within the relations of family, friendship, and marriage.

We would not have this particular physical, emotional, and spiritual structure unless God created us to be capable of personal union with others and, by grace, of union with himself. For this reason, every person is a living witness to the mystery hidden in our body-soul existence, and in the conjugal union of marriage. As individuals and married couples we are embodiments of God’s nuptial plan revealed in Jesus. It is encoded in our DNA.


In Genesis, the union of Adam and Eve is ordered to their sharing of life and labor as cooperators in God’s works of creation and salvation. Similarly, in the New Testament the union of Christ and the Church makes his disciples sharers in his life and saving work as members of his body and bride. When Jesus returns, this participation in the divine life will unite redeemed humanity to the Trinity in eternal joy.

The beauty of this nuptial plan would be shattered were God to be unfaithful to his purpose declared in creation and in Christ. Having fashioned us for union with himself, were God now to alter his will, our existence and that of the whole cosmos would be frustrated to an unimaginable degree. It would, quite simply, make existence Hell because we would never be united to him who is our origin and our goal, our love and our hope, our life and our all.

These marital realities form the foundation of covenant theology in the Scriptures. God is unfailingly faithful in his generous, wise, and loving work of drawing humanity to himself. Neither Israel nor the Church has any claim on him rooted in their own actions, certainly not in the face of sin. He is the faithful spouse; we are the adulterers.

Yet his fidelity expresses an infinite mercy that calls us to conversion and to sharing his life through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit by which he comes to dwell in us and we in him. For that purpose, the Word took flesh and returned to the Father by way of the Cross. He is the faithful spouse who purifies his bride and brings her home. This unwavering fidelity led Paul to assert: “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim 2:13)

Only on the basis of Christ’s fidelity, poured into our heart by the indwelling of the Trinity, can we hope to remain faithful. Humanly speaking this is impossible, but “with God all things are possible.” (Mt 19:26)

In the present crisis regarding marriage, those who say it is sometimes impossible for Christians to remain faithful to the vow made to a spouse and to God (such as when the marriage is irreparably broken or has been replaced by a second union) have forgotten the meaning of Christ, the human person, marriage, and the cosmos, which all declare the glory of God and his fidelity. This is no development of doctrine or relaxing of Church discipline. It is the complete overthrow of the Christian vision of God and human existence.

Were there a single case in which fidelity to a spouse or to God was impossible for a Christian, this would mean that God’s fidelity had failed. Perversely, infidelity in that instance would be rooted in God’s infidelity of withdrawing his grace and/or misleading us through Jesus and the Church’s false teaching regarding the obligations of the Gospel.

Far from being realistic and merciful, the suggestions being made are heartless and cruel abstractions that imply that Jesus’ fidelity is not always available to us. This makes a mockery of those who have lived chastely, after a broken marriage, in fidelity to their earthly and heavenly spouses. The proponents of these theories must name a case in which God and Christ are unfaithful before they presume to permit a Christian to be unfaithful in the slightest matter. That is the concrete, real, personal truth of the Gospel.

Mercy will not be found in exchanging the beauty of marriage for a lifeless illusion. It will be found, as it ever has been, by allowing Jesus to draw us to himself on the Cross and learning that with him we can be faithful even unto death.


“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing ( Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.”

Those Ambiguous Parts of Amoris Laetitia

By Fr. Robert Fromageot, FSSP:

As you know, thanks to the interpretive flexibility in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, some dioceses are adopting the novel policy of allowing the civilly divorced and remarried faithful full access to the sacramental life of the Church, while other dioceses are holding fast to the perennial practice of the Church. Last September, as a result of the harm such contradictory approaches are causing, four cardinals (Carlo Caffarra, archbishop emeritus of Bologna; Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta; Walter Brandmüller, president

Amoris Laetitia and the Dubia

emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences; and Joachim Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne) submitted five questions (known as dubia) to the Holy Father and to Cardinal Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Such questions are called dubia because their purpose is to seek clarification from the Holy See about some matter about which there exists some doubt. In this case, the five dubia are designed to elicit clarification from the Vatican regarding precisely those ambiguous parts of Amoris Laetitia which are being used as the basis for the above mentioned novel pastoral approach.

For example, in paragraph 301 of AL, we read that the “Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.” Later, it concludes: “hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.” Accordingly, the third dubium asks: “After Amoris Laetitia (301), is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God’s law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (Matthew 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, ‘Declaration’, June 24, 2000)?” Canon 915 declares that those who “obstinately persev[ere] in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy Communion.” The “Declaration” argues that this canon is applicable to faithful who are divorced and civilly remarried. Moreover, it declares that, since the minister of the Eucharist has no means of judging another person’s subjective imputability, “grave sin” is to be understood objectively. Therefore, the judgment implicit in Canon 915 (i.e., the judgment the minister of the Eucharist is expected to make) concerns a person’s objective life situation, not whether he is in a state of mortal sin. The latter determination belongs to the subjective realm, where mitigating factors may very well reduce, even eliminate culpability.


No Answer

So far neither Pope Francis nor the prefect of the CDF have answered the five dubia. This choice to remain silent is not without precedent. In the 7th century Pope Honorius I preferred to withhold judgment so as not to offend those who adhered to the heresy known as monothelitism (the idea that Christ possessed only one natural will). In a private letter he wrote to Sergius I, Patriarch of Constantinople — and a monothelite — he writes: “That our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son and Word of God, by whom all things were made, is Himself one, operating divine and human things, the sacred writings plainly show. Whether, however, on account of the works of the Humanity and Divinity, one or two operations ought to be proclaimed and understood, these things do not belong to us; let us leave them to the grammarians, who are accustomed to display to the young their choice derivations of words.

It was left to a subsequent Council and Pope to condemn monothelitism and censure Pope Honorius for leaving the meaning of terms to grammarians and thereby failing to exercise his Petrine authority and “illumine this Apostolic Church with the doctrine of the Apostolic tradition,” preferring instead to let it (while immaculate) “be stained by profane betrayal.” Similarly, it may be left to Pope Francis’ successor to answer these dubia and bring Amoris Laetitia out of the shadows of ambiguity into the light of clear magisterial teaching so that it can no longer be used as a basis to oppose the constant pastoral policy of the Church regarding civilly remarried divorcés.

For those who have imbibed the antinomian zeitgeist, laws like Canon 915 represent a serious inconvenience. And anyone who appeals to law in defense of the perennial teaching of the Church is likely to be accused of being no better than a self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagian, a rigid Pharisee who trusts only in his own powers and feels superior to others because he observes certain rules and remains intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. Let us be willing to endure such epithets and refuse to join the ranks of those who, in their zeal to include adulterers in the sacramental life of the Church, craftily ignore the law and denigrate what it means to be a living member of the Body of Christ. In the words of Scripture, let us not be “led away with various and strange doctrines” (Heb. 13:9). On the contrary, let us “stand fast and hold the traditions which [we] have learned” (2 Thes. 2:14). And let us pray for our shepherds, especially Pope Francis.

News Flash! Clarifying the Clericalism Confusion by St. Josemaría Escrivá

“Clericalism, the True Priestly Mission Gone Wrong” St. Josemaría Escrivá

Today, there is much confusion about who and what is Clericalism.  So we submit to you St. Josemaría Escrivá’s teaching on the difference of being a good priest and evils of clericalism.

St. Josemaría Escrivá

St. Josemaría Escrivá

By St. Josemaría Escrivá, Excerpt from In Love with the Church:

“A priest who says the Mass in this way — adoring, atoning, pleading, giving thanks, identifying himself with Christ and who teaches others to make the Sacrifice of the altar the center and root of the Christian life really will show the incomparable value of his vocation, the value of that character with which he has been stamped and which he will never lose.

I know that you will understand what I mean when I say that, compared with a priest like that, those who behave as if they wanted to apologies for being ministers of God are nothing less than a failure — a human and Christian failure. It is most unfortunate because it leads them to give up the ministry, to ape lay people and to look for a second job which gradually takes over from the task which is proper to their vocation and their mission. Often when they flee from giving spiritual attention to souls, they tend to replace this with another occupation (moving into those areas which belong to lay people — social action and politics) and we get the phenomenon of clericalism, the true priestly mission gone wrong.

I do not wish to conclude on a somber note which might sound pessimistic. The genuine Christian priesthood has not disappeared from God’s Church. The teaching which we have received from the divine lips of Jesus has not changed. There are many thousands of priests throughout the world who really do respond to their vocation, quietly, undramatically. They have not fallen into the temptation to throw overboard a treasure of holiness and grace which has existed in the Church from the very beginning.”

St. Josemaría Escrivá

Bishop Paprocki Sets The Record Straight

The Truth about Receiving Holy Communion for Divorced and Remarried Catholics

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki’s Editorial to the State Journal Register

It is important to set the record straight about some incorrect statements made by John Freml in his letter to the editor (December 21, 2015). He notes that Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago has said that people in “irregular” situations, such as those who are divorced and civilly remarried and those who are in same-sex government marriages, should work with a spiritual director to come to a decision “in good conscience” about receiving Holy Communion.

 Of course, those who are in “irregular situations” should talk to a qualified spiritual director or a priest in the context of sacramental confession, but forming a “good conscience” means that they will recognize and repent of their sins, resolve to reform their lives in accord with Christ’s teachings and receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving Holy Communion.

According to the canon law of the Catholic Church, Canon 916 directs those “conscious of grave sin” to refrain from receiving Holy Communion. Individuals must form their consciences in accord with Church teaching. Conscience assesses how a person’s concrete action in a given situation accords with Church teaching — not to determine whether one agrees with or accepts Church teaching in the first place.

Canon 915, however, in contrast with Canon 916, directs ministers of Holy Communion to withhold the Sacrament, not from “sinners” per se (since no one can read the state of another person’s soul), but rather, from those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin.” In Catholic tradition, attempting marriage following a civil divorce without a declaration of nullity and entering a “same-sex marriage” are examples of the kind of gravely wrong public action that require ministers not to admit to Holy Communion those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” under Canon 915.

When withholding holy Communion from those whose conduct is described in Canon 915, a minister is not assessing personal “worthiness,” but rather, is acting in accord with an age-old sacramental discipline designed to protect both the Sacrament from the risk of possible sacrilege and the faith community from the harm of scandal caused by someone’s public conduct that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Thus, when Mr. Freml says that people may receive Holy Communion in such cases “even when the church hierarchy says that they should not,” this is simply not true. It is true that Jesus welcomes everyone. But as Jesus said at the last supper, so we say in the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, Jesus poured out his blood “for you and for many,” since not everyone accepts what Christ offers, just as Judas did not accept what Christ offered him.

— The Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki is bishop of Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.