By Msgr. Charles Pope, Community in Mission:
7 Traits of Merciful Fathers
I. The merciful father loves the mother of his children.
One of the most merciful things a father can do for his children is to love their mother with tender affection and gentle, protective support. Children bond with their mother very closely, especially in their early years. They are reassured by seeing love, tenderness, and support shown to their mother.
In contrast, when children see their mother dishonored or, even worse, abused by their father, they are easily struck with fear and a sense of dread.
How beautiful is this mercy of a father! It also helps his sons understand how to treat women, and helps his daughters understand how men should treat them.
II. The merciful father attends to his own healing and maturity.
All of us have character defects and “issues” that affect others around us. Some have anger issues; others are too fearful and non-assertive. Some have problems with drinking; some with pornography. Still others can be lazy or impatient.
A father can show mercy to his children by working on whatever ails him and thereby avoid inflicting frustration and pain on his children. Scripture says, They made me keeper of vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept (Song 1:6).
It is a work of mercy for a father (and a mother, too) to work through his own issues and thereby spare his children pain. There is an old saying, “If I get better, others get better too.” In doing this, not only are children spared pain, but they are better able to grow in virtue.
III. The merciful father does not allow his career to eclipse his vocation.
Whatever career a man has, his vocation as husband and father is more important. And while the two are not wholly separate (since a father provides for his family), there is far more to being a father than being a breadwinner.
Children need their father in their lives, not merely off in the distance sending money. It is a great work of mercy for a father to cherish his children and to share in their lives. It is a necessary component of their maturity for him to manifest the masculine genius of being human even as their mother manifests the feminine genius.
Children want their father’s support, encouragement, and approval. A young man deeply needs his father’s model. He also needs his father’s affirmation as he grows into manhood. There is perhaps no greater mercy than for a son to hear his father say, “I’m proud of you; you’ve done well.”
A daughter delights in twirling her skirts and in being the apple of her father’s eye. He models for her the love of a man who loves her for her own sake, without lust. This can help her learn to distinguish love from lust and to develop the self-esteem that will help her to navigate the complex years of courtship and to discern a good husband.
A man who is more wedded to his career than to his family is too seldom around to have these crucial effects, which are far more precious than the extra money or additional possessions earned by long hours at the office.
Be careful, fathers. Career can be big on the ego and it can easily ensnare you. Home life may be less glamorous and less immediately rewarding in terms of money, but there is no greater satisfaction than to have raised your children well. The rewards will be enormous for both them and you. And this is a very great mercy.
IV. The merciful father is the spiritual leader of his home.
He establishes the structures of grace. In our culture, too many men leave the spiritual and religious lives of their children to their mother. But Scripture says,Fathers … bring up your children in the training and discipline of the Lord (Eph 6:4). This does not mean that the wife has no role, clearly she does.
A father is to be the spiritual leader in his home, sanctifying his family (see Eph 5:25-27). He should be the first one up on Sunday morning, summoning his children to prepare for Holy Mass. His wife should not have to drag him along to Mass. He should read Bible stories to his children and explain their meaning. He should teach them God’s law. While his wife should share in this, the father ought to lead.
Surveys show that the highest predictor (by far) of children going on to practice the faith in adulthood is whether their father practices the faith.
A father should also seek to establish his household with the structures of grace. He should live under obedience to God and insist that his children do likewise. This makes for a home that, while not free of sin, makes it easier to live the Christian faith rather than more difficult.
All of this is a great mercy that a father extends to his children. Through his leadership, a father molds his family into the beloved community where God’s justice and mercy are esteemed and exemplified. By God’s grace this mercy reaches his children.
V. The merciful father listens and teaches.
It is a beautiful work of mercy for a father to actively listen to his children and to give them his undivided attention whenever possible. It bestows on them a sense of dignity, because they see that what they say and think matters to their father. And it reassures them that he cares for their welfare and what is happening in their lives.
After listening, a father should also respond and teach, giving his children guidance. Too many children today are not being taught by their parents, especially regarding the critical moral issues of our day. If parents do not teach their children, someone else will! And that “someone” is not likely to be an individual with godly views. More often it will be some pop-star, musician, or teen idol. Perhaps it will be a gang leader or a rogue school buddy. Maybe it will be the police officer or a judge in a legal proceeding.
Fathers, it is a great mercy to teach your children. You have their best interests at heart. You want what is truly good (not merely apparently good) for them. Their lives will be much simpler and more productive if you insist that they do what is right from an early age. Otherwise, hardships and painful lessons await them. Show them mercy. Instruct them in the ways of the Lord.
Scripture says, Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). He who raises a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy (Prov 17:21). A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him (Prov 17:25).
When a father brings up his children in the discipline of the Lord, it is mercy not only to them, but to others as well!
VI. The merciful father praises and punishes.
Children are delighted to get their father’s esteem and approval. They love to be praised, especially when they believe they have done well.
A paradoxical form of mercy is for a father to punish his children. The purpose of punishment is to allow the child to experience in a small way the consequences of his transgression so that he does not experience the full and more painful consequences later. Scripture says,
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son … For what children are not disciplined by their father? … We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb 12:5-11).
And thus punishment, properly understood, is a great mercy, because it saves children from great woes later on. Clearly, punishment cannot simply be a father venting his anger or exacting revenge. Punishment is not for the benefit of the father; it is for his children’s sake.
VII. The merciful father uses his authority and has his children’s long term interests in mind.
The cultural revolution of the late 1960s was not just about sexuality, drugs, and feminism; it also ushered in a wide-scale rejection of authority from which we are still reeling. And it is not just that those under authority reject it, but that those who have authority have become reluctant to use it. Too many clergy and too many parents do not make necessary decisions, enforce important policies, or punish when appropriate. Too many who have lawful authority are more concerned with being popular; they do not want to risk being questioned or resisted.
Authority involves a lot of effort and brings with it a great deal of stress. Many seek to avoid all this and thus those who need leadership and guidance often do not get it. Scripture says, And indeed if the trumpet gives an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? (1 Cor 4:18)
Whether they like to admit it or not, children need their father to be strong and to lead. And when he does this it is a great mercy. It may not always be appreciated in the moment, but most children eventually recognize with gratitude the leadership of their parents, of their father.
Every leader needs to know that he will sometimes take some heat for his decisions, and he must be willing and courageous enough to make those decisions anyway. A father must remember that he has to be more concerned with his children’s long-term interests than with their current, short-term happiness. Their anger or discontent in the present moment will usually be replaced gratitude and relief in the future.
A good father will mercifully hold the tension of the moment and keep his children’s best interests at heart. He will serve their true good (not merely their apparent good) through the use of his authority and through his decisions on their behalf. And this is a very great mercy!
Don’t Be Fooled – Defend Yourself and Family Against ISIS
By Fr. George William Rutler, Lifezette.com:
Fr. George William Rutler
After another devastating ISIS attack in France, this time against a priest in his 80s while he was saying Mass, the answer isn’t just, “Do nothing.” As racism distorts race and sexism corrupts sex — so does pacifism affront peace.
Turning the other cheek is the counsel Christ gave in the instance of an individual when morally insulted: Humility conquers pride. It has nothing to do with self-defense.
Christ warned the apostles, as shepherds, to beware of wolves.
Defend Yourself and Your Family
The Catholic Church has always maintained that the defiance of an evil force is not only a right but an obligation. Its Catechism (cf. #2265) cites St. Thomas Aquinas: “Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the State.”
A father is culpable if he does not protect his family. A bishop has the same duty as a spiritual father of his sons and daughters in the church, just as the civil state has as its first responsibility the maintenance of the “tranquility of order” through self-defense.
Christ warned the apostles, as shepherds, to beware of wolves. This requires both the “shrewdness of serpents and the innocence of doves.” To shrink from the moral duty to protect peace by not using force when needed is to be innocent as a serpent and shrewd as a dove.
That is not innocence — it is naiveté.
Saints Leading the Way into Battle
Saint John Capistrano led an army against the Moors in 1456 to protect Belgrade. In 1601, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi did the same in defense of Hungary. As Franciscans, they carried no sword and charged on horseback into battle carrying a crucifix. They inspired the shrewd generals and soldiers, whom they had assembled through artful diplomacy, with their brave innocence.
This is not obscure trivia: Were it not for Charles Martel at Tours in 732 and Jan Sobieski at the gates of Vienna in 1683 — and most certainly had Pope Saint Pius V not enlisted Andrea Doria and Don Juan at Lepanto in 1571 — we would not be here now. No Western nations as we know them — no universities, no modern science, no human rights — would exist.
In the ninth century, the long line of martyrs of Cordoba told the Spanish Umayyad Caliph Abd Ar-Rahman II that his denial of Christ was infernal, and that they would rather die than surrender. Saint Juan de Ribera (d. 1611) and St. Alfonsus Liguori (d. 1787) repeated the admonition that the concept of peace in Islam requires not co-existence but submission.
It’s Our Own Fault
The dormancy of Islam until recent times, however, has obscured the threat that this poses — especially to a Western civilization that has grown flaccid in virtue and ignorant of its own moral foundations.
The shortcut to handling the crisis is to deny that it exists.
On the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, there were over 60 speeches, and yet not one of them mentioned ISIS.
Vice has destroyed countless individual souls, but in the decline of civilizations, weakness has done more harm than vice. “Peace for our time” is as empty now as it was when Chamberlain went to Munich and honor was bartered in Vichy.
Hilaire Belloc, who knew Normandy and all of Europe well, said in 1929: “We shall almost certainly have to reckon with Islam in the near future. Perhaps, if we lose our faith, it will rise. For after this subjugation of the Islamic culture by the nominally Christian had already been achieved, the political conquerors of that culture began to notice two disquieting features about it. The first was that its spiritual foundation proved immovable; the second, that its area of occupation did not recede, but on the contrary slowly expanded.”
The priest in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvrary in Normandy, France, was not the first to die at the altar — and he will not be the last.
In his old age, the priest embodied a civilization that has been betrayed by a generation whose hymn was John Lennon’s “Imagine” — that there was neither heaven nor hell but “above us only sky” and “all the people living for today.” When reality intrudes, they can only leave teddy bears and balloons at the site of a carnage they call “inexplicable.”
Fr. George William Rutler is a Catholic priest and the pastor of the Church of St. Michael in Manhattan.
“But Father, I Only Skip a Sunday Mass Occasionally.”
By Fr. Ryan Erlenbush, The New Theological Movement:
Is it really a mortal sin to skip Sunday Mass?
Pope Innocent XI has condemned the following proposition: “The precept of keeping Holy Days is not obligatory under pain of mortal sin, aside from scandal, if contempt is absent.” (4 March 1679)
Thus, it is the teaching of the Catholic Church, that it is always a mortal sin intentionally to skip Mass on Sunday or on a Holy Day without a serious reason. Catholics are obligated to attend Mass either on Sunday itself, or on the Saturday evening before.
Let us consider the proof of this precept, and show the falsity of the contrary opinion that it is enough usually to go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, and that skipping only one Sunday here or there is merely a venial sin.
The Authority of St Alphonsus on Skipping Sunday Mass
The doctor of moral theology and patron of confessors, St Alphonsus Liguori, states simply (quoting Pope Innocent XI) that the precept of attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days (as well as abstaining from unnecessary servile work) binds under pain of mortal sin.
The reader can find his treatment of this in Theologia Moralis, Tomus Primus, 263ff.
According to the current law of the Church, this obligation is fulfilled by attending Mass any time from the preceding evening until midnight of the day – thus, a Saturday evening Mass (whether for the Sunday or for the Saturday, or a wedding Mass, etc) will fulfill the Sunday obligation.
This is, however, a positive precept, rather than a negative one. This is significant since there can be no exceptions to negative precepts – there is never a case when a man is permitted to commit adultery or to lie, for example. However, a man may be excused from positive precepts for a serious cause.
Therefore, there are certainly circumstances which would excuse a man from attending Sunday Mass – as the obligation is grave, only a grave cause could excuse. However, certain grave circumstances do exist.
In this article, however, we will not consider the various exceptions to the law, but rather the basic obligation of the law.
We only point out that we have used the phrase “skip” Sunday Mass, rather than “miss” – thereby we indicate the difference between missing Mass for a grave reason (e.g. being in the ER at the hospital) and skipping Mass for no good reason (e.g. simply sleeping in).
Skipping Mass, What is the Difference between “Grave Matter” to be a “Mortal Sin”?
A sin is mortal if it is grave matter, and committed freely and knowingly.
Clearly, skipping Sunday Mass is grave matter. However, we will not here discuss when a person may or may not have sufficient knowledge or freedom for the sin to be mortal – that is better done in the confessional with a devout and traditional priest.
It is good here to recall that the Catechism teaches that “anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to Communion.” (CCC 1385)
Why is it a Mortal Sin to Skip Mass on Sunday?
The great St John Paul II states, “The Code of Canon Law of 1917 for the first time gathered this tradition into a universal law. The present Code reiterates this, saying that ‘on Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to attend Mass’. This legislation has normally been understood as entailing a grave obligation: this is the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and it is easy to understand why if we keep in mind how vital Sunday is for the Christian life.” (Dies Domini, 47)
Here, the Saintly Pontiff indicates why it is that the Church obliges the faithful to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days under pain of mortal sin: Mass attendance is truly necessary for the Christian life. Participating in Sunday worship is of such great value and necessity to the soul, that the Church holds the faithful bound to this participation by a grave obligation.
We must admit that the following of this precept is of the greatest advantage to the Christian soul which will quickly perish without the helps of common worship, orthodox preaching, and the grace derived from the Sacrament of the Altar.
Furthermore, we must stress that it is the primary duty of the creature to honor his Creator. If God had commanded that every day should be given wholly to him, he would have been within his rights – for the whole man, together with all his time and energies, belongs entirely to God. However, God is most generous in demanding (through his Church) only Sundays and a very few other days which must be given to divine worship. It is such a small demand in his part, and those who fail to do even this little amount are guilty of an extreme boldness.
The Error in those who say Skipping Sunday Mass is Not a Grave Sin
Note that those who advocate for the opposite opinion (namely, that it is only a venial sin to skip Sunday Mass on occasion) fail to quote a single Church document or even the opinion of any saint to support their impious claim. We can see here the bad will of such persons, who promote their own opinion and the vanity of the world in the place of the true doctrine presented by our Holy Mother the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies that attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is a precept of the Church (cf CCC 2180) which precepts are given to maintain the bare minimum of moral rectitude (cf CCC 2041, “the very necessary minimum”).
Again, “The faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit grave sin.” (CCC 2181)
Again, the Baltimore Catechism: “Holydays of obligation are special feasts of the Church on which we are bound, under pain of mortal sin, to hear Mass and to keep from servile or bodily labors when it can be done without great loss or inconvenience. Whoever, on account of their circumstances, cannot give up work on holydays of obligation should make every effort to hear Mass and should also explain in confession the necessity of working on holydays.” (No 3, q.1244)
Therefore, whosoever should rashly and with such great hubris dare to assert and even to teach others that occasionally skipping Sunday Mass or Holy Days for no grave reason is not a mortal sin, is rightly to be held in contempt by all and should know himself to be guilty of spiritual murder as leading others into sin, himself having certainly committed grave sin by his impious utterance.
This especially holds for priests.
There can be no doubt that those who fail in this most basic duty of man have failed to fulfill even the bare minimum of what is required of any decent human being – therefore, it is good and right that the Church should hold the faithful bound to the observance of Sundays and Holy Days under pain of mortal sin.
For the love of God, please don’t skip Sunday Mass.
Father Jacques Hamel Beheaded by ISIS Militants During Mass
Fr. Jacques Hamel Had a Target on His Back
By Fr. Christopher Pietraszko:
Any priest has a target on his back the moment he is ordained. This target is present for both spiritual and political reasons. We notice that in various cultures one of the first laws decreed by a fascist-like state is to prohibit priests from publically wearing any clerical attire. This is because the priest is a powerful symbol to the people of the conscience that ought to be directed towards faith in God. The visible priest in his own subtle way of witnessing walks the streets reminding people that there is a higher authority than the state, and if it ever contradicts that higher authority, it is worth contradicting. Therefore, fascist states who predicate their ideology of placing themselves above all other authorities naturally enter into a conflict with the priest.
Spiritually, priests are also under attack because if one priest’s pastoral vision and spirituality can be corrupted so can the many that follow him. Therefore Powers and Principalities (fallen angels) seek to attack Christ’s priests in order to mislead masses of people.
With the death of a Father Jacques Hamel in the face of Islamic Terrorism we should call to mind another truth – that priests enter into this ministry with a willingness to be a target. Although we might look at a martyrdom as a tragedy, which it certainly is, we also look at it as a cross that a saint bore victoriously. To be selected for the crown of martyrdom is no easy task, but it is something that every Christian is called to be willing to do, and first amongst them, the Christian-leadership.
Fr. Jacques Hamel laid down his life
With that in mind, we must not look at this 84 year old French-priest as a vulnerable person – although he was – but rather as a man who was selected by God to courageously lay down his life for love of Christ. Not for an ideology, not for politics, but out of reciprocity for the Sacrifice of Christ, and to unite it to the Cross out of love and sacrifice for those whom he served. A priest’s martyrdom is one way in which a priest has in fact fulfilled his own vocation – and therefore, while his death must be mourned, his virtue must be celebrated. How else do we also not rip the rug from under the feet of our persecutors than by triumphing at a saints death with which they just helped make.
Triumph in heaven Priest of God.
God have Mercy on Fr. Jacques Hamel.
The Right to Life is a Fundamental Right
By Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, Statement Regarding Catholics in Public Office
Tim Kaine fully Supports Abortion
The Catholic Church makes its position very clear as it pertains to the protection of human life, social justice initiatives, and the importance of family life. From the very beginning, Catholic teaching informs us that every human life is sacred from conception until natural death. The right to life is a fundamental, human right for the unborn and any law denying the unborn the right to life is unequivocally unjust.
Legislative issues pertaining to these matters are advocated on behalf of myself and Bishop Loverde, of the Diocese of Arlington, before the Virginia General Assembly, U.S. Congress, and with state and federal agencies and administrations through the Virginia Catholic Conference, a public policy advocacy organization. Through this organization, elected officials in Virginia are aware of the Church’s positions on such important issues.
We continue to maintain an open communication with public officials who make on-going decisions impacting critical, moral and social issues. This is a responsibility I take seriously, along with my brother bishops, to reach out to public leaders to explain Catholic principles and encourage them to protect human life and dignity in all decisions they make.
We always pray for our Catholic leaders that they make the right choice, act in the best judgment and in good conscience, knowing the values and teachings of the Catholic Church.
It is the duty of all Catholics, no matter their profession, to decide through an upright and informed conscience as to their worthiness to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
The Supreme Law of the Church
Most Rev. Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland – The Catholic Sentinel:
I hope our readers will pardon a little wading into the Code of Canon Law, the system of law that governs the Catholic Church. I can’t help it — after all, I am a trained canon lawyer! Jesus teaches us in the Gospel that the two greatest commandments are love of God and love of neighbor, for sure.
But what is the greatest love we show for God and neighbor? Is it not to see as many people as possible, including ourselves, come to know the love and mercy of God and be with him one day forever in heaven?
The Church’s Code of Canon Law contains 1,752 laws covering everything from the structural organization of the Church as the people of God, the teaching of the Faith, the sacramental life of the Church, the administration of the material goods of the Church, and even penal and procedural law. But lest any of us (especially canon lawyers) forget the purpose of all of this body of law, the very last law (or “canon”) states that the “salvation of souls”, which must always be the supreme law of the Church, must be kept before our eyes.
The Salvation of Souls.
How often do we hear this language in the Church today? Not very often, I am afraid. And yet that is the very mission of the Church! To emphasize this very point, the Catechsim of the Catholic Church (# 776), quoting the Second Vatican Council, states: “As sacrament, the Church is Christ’s instrument. ‘She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all,’ ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ by which Christ is ‘at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men.’ The Church ‘is the visible plan of God’s love for humanity,’ because God desires ‘that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit.’”
We are in Danger
Why am I emphasizing this point, you may ask? Because I sincerely think that we are in danger of losing our focus in fulfilling the mission that Christ has entrusted to all of us in the Church. Our ultimate mission is to bring as many people as possible into the one People of God, to incorporate them into the one Body of Christ, and be built up as the temple of God, animated by the Holy Spirit. The gift of eternal salvation is the greatest gift God has given to us, a gift that was purchased at a great price, the blood of his only begotten Son.
Jesus began his public ministry by boldly proclaiming, “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” His last words to the Apostles of his Church before his Ascension were, “Go forth and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The message is clear. Repent, believe, go forth and baptize. The essential mission is spiritual, focused on bringing people to life in Christ.
The Danger of Losing the Gift of Salvation
Throughout the Gospels Jesus speaks of the dangers of losing the gift of salvation, missing the moment of his redemption, and risking eternal punishment by rejecting the offer God has given us in the death and resurrection of his Son. One of Jesus’ most startling statements is: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
It seems our current environment cultivates the opposite view. Our culture seems to tell us that the way to life is easy and wide, and most people find it, while to find the road to destruction is narrow and hard, and really very few people end up there. I go by our blessed Lord’s words.
Part of the reason I think that we are in danger of losing the essential and primary message of salvation of souls is based on how I see many people defining what it means to be a good Catholic. Many people have reduced being a good and faithful Catholic to being nice, tolerant and doing good works. They think if we do service projects for the poor and needy, and don’t make any judgments about human behavior and sin, then we are fulfilling the Gospel mandate.
While it is a good and even essential thing that a disciple of Jesus care for the poor and seek justice for the oppressed in this world, there is so much more to the message of redemption in Jesus Christ. We must follow the Ten Commandments, avoid sin, and repent and seek forgiveness when we fail. Our eternal salvation depends on all these things, as Jesus himself taught. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
God’s mercy extends to all of us when we have sinned and repented. There is no limit to this mercy. It is infinite. But we must seek it. If we say we are not sinners and are not in need of God’s mercy, we make God a liar. “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5-10)
True mercy goes beyond justice. But mercy does not oppose justice. Our mission is, only by the grace of God, to seek the salvation of our souls, and to bring as many with us to Heaven as we can, again only as God uses us as his instruments of grace and mercy. The supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls.
“Every Catholic Must Sacramentally Confess All Serious Sins”
By Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, The State Journal Register
An Associated Press story that ran in the State Journal-Register July 7 is misleading in saying that Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput in Philadelphia “is closing the door opened by Pope Francis to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion, saying the faithful in his archdiocese can only do so if they abstain from sex and live ‘as brother and sister.'”
As I explained in my statement about the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis on April 8, the date it was issued, “There are no changes to canon law or church doctrine introduced in this document.” I addressed this conclusion in greater detail in my column in our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Times, on May 1, explaining that in-flight press conferences on an airplane, apostolic exhortations and footnotes “by their very nature are not vehicles for introducing or amending legislative texts or making dogmatic pronouncements.”
The Bible clearly teaches about the proper disposition to receive Holy Communion in the First Letter to the Corinthians, where Saint Paul wrote, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:27-29). This biblical teaching is reflected in canons 915-916 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.
All Serious Sins Must Be Confessed
Thus, the Philadelphia guidelines issued by Archbishop Chaput are certainly correct when they say, “Every Catholic, not only the divorced and civilly-remarried, must sacramentally confess all serious sins of which he or she is aware, with a firm purpose to change, before receiving the Eucharist. . . . With divorced and civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist.”
This applies not only in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but also here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, as it does elsewhere in the Church.
Our Sex-Saturated Culture
Catholics in these circumstances thus have a free choice: if they persist in sexual activity outside of valid marriage, they must refrain from taking Holy Communion; if they wish to receive Holy Communion, they must refrain from sexual activity outside of valid marriage. The latter may seem impossible to those steeped in our sex-saturated culture, but “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki leads the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.
We saw a rare victory in the international battle for truth and religious freedom. You may have heard that Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, archbishop of Valencia in Spain, had been threatened with legal action following a controversial homily he gave some months ago. Check it out here. Cardinal Charged With Hate Crimes!
In the homily, he criticized the extremely aggressive and overreaching “gay empire” that is attacking the family. He called Catholics to vigilance and prayer, calling for a defense of the family.
Attacking the bishop
As if only to prove him right, homosexual activists brought charges against Cardinal Cañizares for giving the homily. He was in a Catholic Church speaking to Catholics, yet he cannot (to listen to these activists) be allowed to defend Church teaching on marriage and challenge those who, well, threaten anyone who dare raise a voice in opposition.
We’re well past the point of “You can’t make this stuff up.” You don’t have to. The sense of entitlement the “gay empire” (to use the cardinal’s term) has to silence all opposition is limitless and is becoming totalitarian. They’ve had too many successes in just such cases, so it is heartening to see a victory for sanity.
Threatened with three years in prison, Cardinal Cañizares prevailed when a Spanish judge threw out the charges, finding truthfully enough that in the controversial homily in question, he was exercising his right to free speech and had no criminal intent or appeal to hatred or violence.
We have discussed many times in Spirit & Life how radical gender ideology has infected many institutions here and around the world, bringing its corrosive anti-reality and anti-God worldview to corners once thought immune to politics. Since the LGBT movement cannot defend its views with reason, it must appeal with raw emotion and project its own hatred onto its opponents and remove their rights to free speech, and increasingly, to any public endeavor whatsoever.
Bishops Standing Together
So to do what Cardinal Cañizares did takes courage and leadership, traits he shares with Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla, who also hails from Valencia but is now bishop of Alcala de Henares, Spain. HLI awarded Bishop Reig Pla the Cardinal von Galen award in 2013 for his courage in defending Christ and His Church. Spain has seen many hardships over the years, but with leaders like this they have greater hope.
Bishops should dedicate themselves to their apostolic office as witness of Christ before all men. They should not only look after those who already follow the Prince of Pastors but should also wholeheartedly devote themselves to those who have strayed in any way from the path of truth or are ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and His saving mercy until finally all men walk “in all goodness and justice and truth (Eph. 5:9)”(Christus Dominus n. 11).
There are many good bishops out there, and we need to acknowledge their courage when we see it. All of our beloved shepherds deserve our love and prayers, and frankly deserve encouragement when they step into the breach and really lead in a difficult time.
Sometimes the attack comes from inside
This is especially true since there is so much to confuse the faithful coming from bishops. Last week we heard a bishop insist that the Church is somehow responsible for attacks on persons who identify as LGBT, repeating a key talking point of those who attack the Church unjustly and are trying to change her teaching on sexuality. This is truly disgraceful and deserves clear condemnation-when the Church is already under attack from powerful sexual radicals it is devastating to have a shepherd of the Church give aid and comfort to the enemy.
Yet, just when some are tempted to despair by such betrayals, we hear from Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez an eloquent defense of the Church’s teaching that life is the most important among many issues that concern Catholics in the public square. He has been a leader on many social justice issues for the Church, particularly on immigration, yet he knows that while some issues admit of a variety of solutions for faithful Catholics, life deserves a complete and unqualified defense in law, which is sorely lacking in the US and around the world today. And it is so for the exact same reason that a poor migrant family deserves our help: because every human person is made in the image of God, and deserves to live the life he already has been given as a gift.
In exercising their duty of teaching — which is conspicuous among the principal duties of bishops — they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to eternal happiness. (Christus Dominus n. 12)
Giving glory to God
Cardinal Cañizares and Archbishop Gomez are two of many within the Church doing the right thing by opposing the threat of gender ideology, and by pointing to the truth in Our Lord. So many in the Church are indifferent, which is almost an understandable tragedy given the many years of poor catechesis and compromise with a culture that is falling apart. We pray for the conversion of these brothers and sisters also, as the choices are made clearer by the hostility of the surrounding culture and a core group of faithful Catholics who remain strong and joyful. We pray every day that they will choose Christ and His Church and leave the untruths behind. We pray this for ourselves as well, since we don’t presume to have every answer. We just strive in love and truth to be faithful in small and large things.
Our shepherds and priests desperately need the prayers of the faithful. We need the strength to give ourselves anew to Christ through His Church every day. We can’t do it without your prayers.
Thank you for praying for me and for all priests and bishops, and for standing strong in the fight for life and family with us.