Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cohabitation: Maintaining Sanity

With the announcement that Pope Francis intends to marry couples who are publicly living in sin by cohabiting, some Catholics have sunk to a depth of denial and contradiction that I did not think possible. The scandal took place today, according to sources (here and here).

This is not some kind of hype pushed by the secular media. The fact that cohabiting couples will be among those receiving the sacrament comes straight from the press release issued by the Vicariate of Rome, which stated that among those being married by Francis "there are those who are already cohabiting", as reported by CNS. The ceremony will also include couples with children born out of wedlock.

The marriage of people cohabiting is a destructive scandal and offensive to those brave parish priests who over the years have steadfastly refused to marry couples who are living together outside of marriage. These faithful priests - who are usually in the minority and receive very little support from their bishops - understand that a couple cohabiting prior to marriage have no real understanding of the Catholic Church's moral teachings and even less knowledge of the purpose of the sacrament. They also know that marriages where couples cohabit first are much more likely to fail, inasmuch cohabiting couples demonstrate a lack of willingness to sacrifice and engender a disposition towards selfish behavior. Many of us traditional Catholics, or even just conservative Catholics who uphold Christian morality, have applauded these heroic pastors who have the guts to buck the trend and refuse matrimony to cohabiting couples.

But now that Pope Francis is doing this very thing, many of these folks don't know what to do. As is usually the case when this pope scandalizes the faithful, they have generally responded with "I don't see a problem here", "what's the big deal?", "this is really nothing new", and the like. Typical Franciscan-pontificate spin.

"Boniface, the Church has always married people who have previously been living in sin. This is nothing new."

The Church has always married people who had previously been living in sin; she has no custom of marrying people who are currently living in sin. And some of these couples are currently living in unrepentant sin, as the press release says they are "already cohabiting"; i.e., they are living together right now. Obviously, nobody has a problem with the Church offering sacraments to single mothers living chastely or people who were once notorious sinners but have repented; to offer them the sacrament while they are persisting in unrepentant sin is another matter entirely.

"But Boniface, you are being judgmental. How do you know they are unrepentant? You don't know their hearts."

In the Catholic Faith, what we do is extremely important. When the people came to St. John the Baptist asking how they could be saved, he told them "Bear fruits that befit repentance" (Luke 3:8). We demonstrate our repentance by our actions. A true conversion, a metanoia, means actively turning away from a sinful lifestyle and embracing holiness. Hence St. John Vianney withheld absolution from a man who had refused to stop dancing in the local saloon and St. Cyprian withheld distribution of alms from certain people unless they gave up attending the Roman spectacles. Can you imagine the scandal today if a priest refused to absolve somebody unless they stopped going to the bar on Fridays or if he refused to feed the poor if they didn't stop going to see R-rated movies? How Pharisaic! Yet these saints knew that a sincere change of heart would invariably be coupled with a change of lifestyle, and if they did not see the "fruits that befit repentance", they presumed there was no repentance and withheld their ministrations. A person who persists in their sin is not repentant; rather, they are like a fool, according to Proverbs: "A dog that returns to its vomit is like a fool who reverts to his folly" (Prov. 26:11).

I know a thief is unrepentant if he keeps stealing; I know a cohabiting couple is unrepentant if they keep cohabiting. Simple as that.

"There you go judging again. How can you have any knowledge of whether or not the cohabiting couples are still sinning? You don't know what goes on in the bedroom. They could be cohabiting but living chastely. We ought to presume the best."

Let me say this as plainly as possible; in fact, let me be so blunt that I am actually going to resort to using all caps, which I seldom do: COHABITING ITSELF IS SINFUL, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SEXUAL ACTIVITY GOES ON.

The spin-doctors are essentially saying that while a couple may be living together outside of wedlock, they may be living chastely in that situation, and therefore we cannot and should not presume they are fornicating just because they are living under the same roof. We ought to "assume the best."

This position misses several things.

First, how many people do you know who cohabit but do not have sexual relations? In my twelve years as a Catholic, I can think of one. Now, how many people do you know in the world, in your family, in your workplace, in your parish - wherever - how many people do you know who cohabit and do have sexual relations? Yeah. So this mythical "chaste cohabiting couple" is in the same category as the "extraordinary minister", where the adjective is there to make us feel better but in practice has no meaning.

"Boniface, you are talking about non-believers cohabiting - worldly people. The pope is marrying Catholics."

Catholics who cohabit before marriage are being worldly and are, in some sense, non-believers, at least as regards the Church's moral teaching, which they evidently do not believe or they would not cohabit.

Furthermore, regarding "presuming the best about people", we must recall that when people are living together, we actually do not presume chastity; we presume they are sexually active, and the Church always has. This is because an adult man and woman living a common life together is a state proper only to marriage; hence, when we see a man and a woman living together and don't know differently, we default to assuming they are married - which obviously means we assume the relations proper to marriage. If a man and a woman share a house, it is presumed they share a bed; and if they share a bed, well, heh know.

In fact, it is natural for people to assume sexual relations whenever they see any male and female in any close relationship. When I was watching the winter Olympics figure-skating with my extended family this year, my 15 year old nephew remarked, "So, do you think they do it?" Given the great amounts of time the skaters spend rehearsing in each other's company, as well as the skin-tight suits, intimate poses, and emotional intensity of the profession, it was natural for him - as well as for many - to assume sexual relations between figure-skating pairs.

The Church has always presumed a cohabiting couple were having sexual relations. This is why living together outside of marriage has been referred to as "living in sin." It was never engaging in the act of fornication that was primarily known as "living in sin"; rather, it was extramarital cohabitation that constituted "living in sin". Fornication was merely - and quite rationally - assumed. We, also, are not wrong in assuming that cohabiting couples are fornicating.

Third, given that cohabitation is referred to as "living in sin", we need to recall that cohabitation itself is sinful, as I exclaimed in all caps above. There are several reasons for this; as mentioned above, because people presume you are fornicating, it becomes a scandal. This is true even in the unlikely event that no fornication happens. A blind man who walks into an adult bookstore still commits the sin of scandal by merely going in, even if his blindness means he doesn't look at pornography while he is in there. This is because anyone who sees him go in and doesn't know the particulars about his blindness will naturally assume he is looking at porn while in the store.

Besides being scandalous, cohabitation also puts couples in a near occasion of sin on a daily basis, almost perpetually, in fact. This is why we keep our teenage daughters and sons away from compromising situations with members of the opposite sex. Duh. When did this become so complicated? You take a male and a female, let them share a home, and chances are very good that they will share a bed - and if that happens, forget about it.

So, because cohabitation sends a message that sex is happening, and because there is a tremendous likelihood that sex will in fact happen, it is scandalous and sinful. Can you think of any other activity that is scandalous and a near occasion of sin but which apologists would be hesitant condemning?

"Fair enough, Boniface, but this is a pastoral call that the pope has the right to make. He has the jurisdiction to marry whom he chooses and it is not our place to call that judgment into question."

Very well. I will not judge Francis. I appeal to the words of St. John Paul II, who wrote about those who "presume that the true and proper marriage will take place only after a period of cohabitation" in Familiaris Consortio. After summarizing the variety of reasons people cohabit - ranging from economic distress to custom to mere pleasure seeking - the pope stated that each of these situations of cohabitation

presents the Church with arduous pastoral problems, by reason of the serious consequences deriving from them, both religious and moral (the loss of the religious sense of marriage seen in the light of the Covenant of God with His people; deprivation of the grace of the sacrament; grave scandal), and also social consequences (the destruction of the concept of the family; the weakening of the sense of fidelity, also towards society; possible psychological damage to the children; the strengthening of selfishness) [Familiaris Consortio, 81]

By the way, for those who are no longer accustomed to traditional theological vocabulary, the use of the adjective "grave" generally means "mortally sinful."

Also, did you notice that St. John Paul II applies all these consequences to cohabitation as such? He does not seem to envision nor give much credence to the possibility of chaste cohabitation, nor do any of the reasons for extramarital common life negate the consequences he enumerates.

So, the question becomes: If this holy, wise and sainted-pontiff states that cohabitation has serious moral, social and religious consequences, including psychological damage to children, destruction of the family, establishment in selfishness - as well as the guilt of mortally sinful scandal for those engaged in it and the deprivation of the grace of the sacrament of marriage - are these people properly disposed to be married?

If according to St. John Paul II cohabitation before marriage results in the deprivation of the grace of the sacrament, how on earth can one say that cohabiting couples can possibly be properly disposed or in any sense fit for matrimony? Let St. John Paul II judge Francis.

"Well Boniface, you make a good case, but ultimately these marriages are all valid, so this is just your opinion."

Uh...I didn't suggest they weren't valid. Is this really relevant? Dr. Peters has an interesting article looking at the validity of marriages conferred on cohabiting couples. Of course, he states that they are perfectly valid but kind of punks out by sidestepping the question of the pastoral implications of such marriages, only stating that the pastoral problems "might be a bigger deal."

That's an understatement!

I really hope we don't have to go over the whole discussion about validity and propriety again. A Eucharist consecrated on a card table at a poker game is valid if correct matter, form, minister and intent are used. That does not make it proper. It can be valid and still seriously scandalous; in fact, in the case of the Eucharist, such a consecration would be sacrilegious and scandalous precisely because the consecration would be valid.

Similarly, hiding behind the mere validity of a marriage conferred upon a cohabiting couple is no way to get around the huge pastoral implications such a practice would have. Has the world turned upside down that I am now concerned with pastoral implications?!

I would also like to opine, however, that Dr. Peters errs in one point. He says in his article quoted above:

"Canonically, this is a non-issue. No divine, natural, or canon law impedes a wedding between cohabiting persons (cc. 1083-1094) and therefore the fundamental right of the faithful to the sacraments in general (cc. 213, 843) and to marriage particular (c. 1058) should prevail in such cases. Unquestionably, these couples can, and must be allowed to wed."

Dr. Peters suggests that, unless impeded by some canonical impediment, there is absolutely no reason any Catholic couple can ever be legitimately denied access to the sacrament of matrimony. I dispute this point. It is very true that, regarding matrimony, there are no natural, divine, or canonical impediments based on cohabitation. But there is grounds for denial of the sacrament in the canons regarding administration of sacraments in general.

First, canon 843§1 states that "Sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them." Dr. Peters cites this canon in support of his argument that cohabiting couples "can, and must be allowed to wed."

However, he does not delve into what it means for a couple to be "properly disposed." Since being "properly disposed" is a condition for reception of any sacrament, it is understood by implication and practice that any sacrament may be denied to any Catholic who is not properly disposed. This is why pastors do First Communion interviews, Confirmation interviews, etc.

Who decides whether a couple is properly disposed for marriage? Canon 843§2 says, "According to their respective offices in the Church, both pastors of souls and all other members of Christ's faithful have a duty to ensure that those who ask for the sacraments are prepared for their reception. This should be done through proper evangelization and catechetical instruction, in accordance with the norms laid down by the competent authority."

In the case of marriage, pastors are to ensure proper disposition through "personal preparation for entering marriage, so that the spouses are disposed to the holiness and the obligations of their new state" (1062§2), while traditionally the laity participate by making pastors aware of any impediments to marriage; hence the traditional publishing of the banns.

Thus, there does exist a canonical rationale for a pastor to deny the sacrament of matrimony to two Catholics; that is, he can always deny it on the grounds that they are not properly disposed. Does cohabitation before marriage prove a proper disposition is lacking? The purpose of any sacrament is to communicate the grace proper to it. Given that Pope St. John Paul II stated that cohabitation before marriage results in a deprivation of sacramental grace and is a grave scandal, a pastor who refuses to confer marriage on a cohabiting couple would be justified based on Canon 843§2 and Familiaris Consortio 81, which would suggest that such a couple would not be properly disposed.

As a side note, a priest may also refuse to officiate at the marriage of "a person who has notoriously rejected the catholic faith" (1073§4). Traditionally this has been interpreted to refer to outright apostasy, though a person who rejects a certain portion of the Church's teaching could be said to have rejected the faith, insofar as the faith must be kept "whole and undefiled" (Quicumque Vult) and that "whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all" (cf. James 2:10).

Furthermore, canon 1092§2 lists among persons "incapable of contracting marriage...those who suffer from a grave lack of discretionary judgement concerning the essential matrimonial rights and obligations to be mutually given and accepted. I believe this canon is meant to apply to persons who suffer from developmental disabilities. However, since the canon does not explicitly say that, if a person of sound mind is so dense as to either not understand or reject the Church's teaching on the exclusivity of intercourse to within the marital bond itself, one could make a case that they "suffer from a grace lack of discretionary judgment": concerning the nature of matrimony and hence should not be married. These latter two arguments from canons 1073 and 1092 are only speculative; the argument from Canon 843§2 and Familiaris Consortio 81 is much stronger, in my opinion.

So, yes, I take issue with the opinion that cohabiting couples "can, and must be allowed to wed" if they ask for it. Many pastors have presumed such couples are not properly disposed and have denied them on those grounds, as they have every right and duty to based on canon law and tradition.

"Boniface, marriage offers a way for them to regularize their situation. Do you want them to remain in sin?"

Of course not. I want them to turn their union into a sacramental, grace-filled union. To do so, they must be properly disposed to receive the sacrament. Part of that disposition is abstaining from intercourse prior to marriage, which among other things, you do by not living together. If a cohabiting couple is serious about wanting to regularize their situation, let them cease cohabitation at once and make a sacramental confession. Then let them maintain purity for the remainder of the preparatory process, which is a sign that they are serious about "bearing fruit that befits repentance." It's as simple as that.

I want every Catholic to receive communion weekly. That doesn't mean I want to dispense with the regulations surrounding who and when communion can be received; it means I want all Catholics to observe those regulations. Two Catholics certainly have a right to marry - but not on any terms they choose. Everyone understands this principle when it comes to the other sacraments. Why some Catholics are now hemming and hawing when it comes to matrimony is beyond me.

One last thought: It rubs me the wrong way that this is being done for political purposes. Do you think the pope goes out to marry twenty couples and it is a coincidence that they are all either living in sin or come from irregular situations? Of course that is not a coincidence. These people were chosen to send a message, and the fact that this is occurring so close to the opening of the Synod on the Family is very meaningful. It saddens me that these people were chosen not based on their suitability for reception of the sacrament, but in order to send a message about the pope's agenda. It is as if Francis went out and said, "Go dig up some cohabiting people for me to marry so I can make a point", just like when he went to Korea he requested whatever "the smallest car possible" was in order to make sure he looked sufficiently humble. The administration of the sacrament is being co-opted to push the envelope for the progressive attempts to loosen all the disciplines surrounding marriage.

Yes, this is a scandal. Many in the Church hierarchy may have lost their minds on this matter, but at least let us maintain sanity on this issue. Cohabiting before marriage is sinful and those who present themselves for marriage while cohabiting are not properly disposed and should not receive the sacrament until the "bear fruit that befits repentance."

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Appeal for an Oblate of the ICRSS

In the interest of furthering the advance of Catholic Tradition and supporting, I am happy to present the profile and appeal of a wonderful young man who has just been accepted into the oblatehood of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Wausau, Wisconsin. As you probably know, members of traditional priestly fraternities are required to pay the full cost of their tuition. Please read about Kevin Koski - a young man I met last year at the Catholic Identity Conference - and consider supporting his vocation financially. Here is a message from Kevin:

Salvete! My name is Kevin Koski and I am a new candidate for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. I am 27 years of age and was born and raised in Central Maine. A cradle Catholic, I attended a Catholic elementary school in Augusta. In 2010 I graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Kinesiology: Exercise Science. I went on to perform missionary work in Denver and study theology for a year at Franciscan University of Steubenville. At Franciscan, I aided implementation of the Traditional Mass on campus. It was in September 2012 that I began discerning a religious vocation. I am now entering formation due to a fervor to help build the Church back to Her former glory. Moreover, by being formed in the Institute’s charism and spirituality, I hope to be an integral part of the restoration of authentic Catholic culture by promoting the classical Roman Liturgy and the superior beauty and euphony of the compositions found in sacred music.

Checks can be made out to Kevin Koski and sent to 6 Townsend Street,Augusta, ME 04330. If you do choose to donate, please mention that you did so as a result of seeing this post. If he gets a good response, maybe we can feature more seminarian and oblate appeals in the future, as does Rorate and other traditional blogs.

Just to make sure everything is on the up and up, here is a copy of Kevin's letter of acceptance from the Institute:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Then and Now

I have recently been immersed in a book on the history of the Cistercians called Compendium of the History of the Cistercian Order. The book was written in 1944 by an anonymous priest of that Order, who either out of obedience or humility did not reveal his identity.

I know this is kind of apples and oranges here, but when I reflected on the humility of this priest who consented to undertake this massive tome anonymously - thinking what he said more important than who was saying it - my mind could not help leaping to a contrast with something more modern.

In the anonymous Father's book, it's all about what is being said. In our latter production, it's all about MEEEEEEE!

I know things are different for a religious than a lay person...I know a television show is different than a book...I know there could be evangelical benefits to such a show, and I know this woman probably has the best of intentions.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Summer Articles on USC Website

Summer was a very busy time for us here at Unam Sanctam Catholicam; with some of us swamped with professional responsibilities and others welcoming children into the world (congratulations, Maximus!) it is a miracle anyone posted anything at all. Still, it has been a great summer moving into our seventh year of blogging. Please check out the summer articles from the USC website and follow us on Facebook.

Truth About Celibacy and Priestly Continence - Lengthy article examining the history of continence in the priesthood and demonstrating that, while the priesthood was not always celibate, it was always continent.

Archbishop Cordileone Bulletin Insert - PDF bulletin insert summarizing Archbishop Cordileone's arguments against homosexual marriage.

Proselytism and Conversion - Step one: get everyone to agree that proselytism is bad. Step two: redefine proselytism to mean seeking to get people to enter the Church. Result: destroy the Church's efforts at evangelization.

Comparing Roman and Medieval Technology - Repost of one of Ryan Grant's old articles articulating why medieval technology is actually superior to that of the classical world.

Deconstructing the Documentary Hypothesis - Exposing the Hegelian origin of the JEDP theory of the Old Testament and debunking its historical claims.

"It's all about God" -The power the traditional liturgy can have even on the poor and uneducated.

Profit as a Just Recompense - Comparing traditional and modern concepts of "profit".

Gezer Calendar - What a school boy's exercise from 950 B.C. tells us about the Kingdom of Solomon.

Is Liturgy Really a Big Deal? - If liturgy is really not that important, why did God strike so many people dead for liturgical infractions?

The Shrines of Khirbet Qeiyafa - Little shrines found at the 11th century Israelite fortress of Khirbet Qeiyafa attest to an ancient Israelite ban on images.

Defense of the Divine Mercy Devotion: Part 3 in an ongoing series by Kasey Moerbeek defending the devotion against the objections raised by the SSPX.

Movie Reviews

Turbo (2013)
Soul Surfer (2011)
The Help (2011)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Alternatives to Coventional RCIA

As a former DRE, problems and strategies relating to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) have always been close to my heart. In previous posts we have featured RCIA horror stories and thoughts on teaching RCIA. And of course, the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website has been offering free RCIA lesson plans for over two years.

In light of the many issues relating to RCIA, folks have asked me over the years about possible alternatives to RCIA. What sort of leeway do we have in the modern Church to stray outside the current norm when it comes to initiating converts into the Church? What other alternatives are there for receiving people into the Church other than RCIA?

First of all, it must be noted that there is really no legitimate way to "get rid" of RCIA. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is mandated from the highest levels of ecclesiastical authority and there is no Diocese in the West where it is not pushed by the local Ordinary. Attempts to abolish or ignore RCIA will be met with stern resistance from even the most traditional minded bishops.

That being said, there is nothing prohibiting pastors from using their own discretion to bring persons into the Church in unconventional applications of the norms. Thus, we are not talking about something to replace RCIA, but other non-conventional ways of adapting it to parish life that are better or more closer to tradition. These sorts of adaptations and options are allowed in the current legislation - and Lord knows how the modern Church loves options!

The authoritative document, also called Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, lays down a basic framework for how initiation should proceed and what liturgical commemorations are appropriate, but leaves pastors free to adapt the content of this process based on their own pastoral judgments. The document is primarily concerned with liturgical celebrations and makes only the vaguest statements about what the actual instruction is to look like. Look at the incredible leeway the document allows when discussing the actual nature and content of instruction:

"The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful" (4)

All we are told here is that it should be gradual and take place within the "community", which judging by the context of the document, means that the stages of initiation should be celebrated liturgically.

"The second period, which begins with this entrance into the order of catechumens and which may last for several years, includes catechesis and the rites connected with catechesis." (7)

Here we are simply told that there should be "catechesis"; presumably the how, when and why of this is left to the discretion of the pastor.

"During this period, a more intense spiritual preparation... is intended to purify hearts and minds by the examination of conscience and by penance" (25).

What does "more intense spiritual preparation" and the purification of "hearts and minds" look like concretely?

"After this last stage has been completed, the community along with the neophytes grows in perceiving more deeply the paschal mystery and in making it part of their lives" (37)

Again, what does it look like to help the neophyte grow in "perceiving more deeply the paschal mystery"?

"[A] period of postbaptismal catechesis is of utmost importance" (39).

Again, we are simply told that there ought to be catechesis but what it should look like is left up in the air, presumably to be adapted to the needs of each community and even individuals seeking entrance into the Church.

The point is that there is no fixed formula for what RCIA is supposed to look like, and the document itself states that part of the Council's vision was the "adaptation to local traditions" of the process of initiation. Therefore, we are on very solid footing when we suggest that RCIA need not look like the beast we have come to know it as, with weekly classes, RCIA "teams", lame reflections on the readings, service projects, etc. The contemporary experience we have come to know as RCIA is simply the method most parishes, following the USCCB, have adopted for implementing the directives of the RCIA document. But it need not be so, and there are viable alternatives.

Such as?

First, let us look at the Traditional way.

In the pre-Conciliar days, reception into the Church was a very private affair. A candidate would meet with a priest who would examine his motives and remind him of the responsibilities of becoming Catholic. if the candidate had no objections and cleared this first stage, he would begin to "take instruction" as it was called, which consisted of weekly meetings with the priest who would instruct him in the basics of the faith whilst continuing to assess and candidate's spiritual state. After an indeterminate amount of time - maybe six months, maybe two years, depending on the candidate - a small Mass would be said at which the candidate would be received into the Church. It could be at any time of year and was often on a feast day chosen by the candidate. The Mass was usually a daily Mass, small, and attended mainly by family and friends invited by the candidate.

Note the very appropriate union between the intellectual and the spiritual. The candidate is instructed by a priest who is capable of both instructing and assessing spiritual problems - and vested with the authority to take remedial action in either if need be. How different this is from the lay-dominated RCIA program today, where the layman teaches but with no competence or authority to judge the spiritual readiness of a candidate, nor the moral or canonical authority to rebuke the scandalous. For example, in the old days, if a candidate was cohabiting with a female, the priest giving instruction would have full authority to deal with the issue. But now, what happens when the layman RCIA director finds out about some scandalous behavior? He usually does not have the authority to kick the offender out of the program, nor the wisdom to really assess the spiritual state of the individual. At best he can quote Church teaching to the offender and pass the complaint on to the priest, who now must intervene, learn the facts, and make a determination in a situation he has just been briefed on about a person he has probably not had the opportunity to get to know personally. We can see at once that from a pastoral perspective, the pre-Conciliar practice was much sounder.

The great thing is, under the current legislation, this sort of initiation is still permissible, so long as the various liturgical rites are celebrated (the vast majority of these rites are made optional in the adaptations of these norms by the episcopal conferences and many are movable - for example, see #53 in the RCIA document on "pastoral reasons" for transferring presentation of the Creed). A pastor with the willingness can still require this sort of individualized initiation - of course, it takes more of the pastor's time and is much more involved, but the formation would be undoubtedly better.

Another alternative would be to have a regimented reading program with less face to face meetings. Instead of weekly meetings with the priest, a monthly book list assigned by the priest, with only a meeting at the end of each month to confirm the candidate's understanding of the reading material and offer further clarifications. I personally helped some folks come in to the Church in this manner.

At other times, a priest may not need to give much catechetical instruction. This is often the case when a very well-educated person "reads" themselves into the Church. In such cases, it is necessary simply for the pastor to assess his level of knowledge and then to ensure that a sufficient time of spiritual preparation is undertaken before reception. It need not be long. Sometimes the Holy Spirit has done all the work and it is simply the job of the pastor to stand aside and admit the individual. It is presumptuous to think that every person - no matter what they have learned and no matter how the Spirit has prepared them - is in need of a 9 month class. Sometimes a person is ready and the pastor just needs to give them a little bit of spiritual preparation.

One other option is to do the instruction entirely in a liturgical context, in the form of a series of homilies. This was a common practice among the Church Fathers. Instead of saying, "Be here for RCIA class every Thursday night at 7:00pm," tell them, "Be here for Mass at 7:00pm," and then incorporate the RCIA catechesis into the homily every week. This way the catechesis is delivered, the spiritual man is nourished, and the catechumens are trained in going to Mass regularly - which of course they should already be doing.

My point is that we need not feel that 9 months of classes taught by a lay person - or worse, a "team" of them - is the only option under the current legislation. So long as the main liturgical rites are observed, a pastor is free to come up with any sort of arrangements he wishes. And it is the position of this blog that pastors ought to do so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Great Pius X

Today we honor the revered memory of undoubtedly the greatest, saintliest and most visionary pope of the modern age: Giuseppe Sarto, St. Pius X, whose glorious pontificate came (1903-1914) came to a close one hundred years ago today.

When I first set up the current incarnation of this blog back in June of 2007, I really had no clue what sorts of graphics or images would work. In fact, I wasn't even really sure what my vision for this blog was or what I wanted it to grow into; at the time I just wanted a platform to vent my anger about Haugen-Haas music and complain about the lack of Latin in my diocese. I had no idea there was a 'traditionalist' movement out there, had very little knowledge about what the Traditional Latin Mass was, and was certainly not aware of a traditionalist blogging community.

Not knowing what I was trying to express, I defaulted to a powerful symbol - that of Pope St. Pius X. I was not sure what I was feeling or what I wanted this blog to be, but it all seemed to be summed up in the image of the great pontiff, whose picture I found and lovingly placed on the right sidebar with a citation from Lamentabile Sane, the great syllabus of Pius X. And there that image has remained for the last seven years, still a very fitting symbol of everything this blog and its sister site stand for.

There are many things praiseworthy about Pope St. Pius X. Indeed, he is not the patron pope of traditionalists simply because he is pre-Vatican II or because he had some wonderful insights about the dangers of modernism. This pontiff was truly saintly, and not only in his personal life, but in the manner in which he conducted the papacy and wielded the office entrusted to him. In other words, with Pius X we need make no distinction between his "personal holiness" and his conduct as pope. The two are beautifully synthesized in the person of the great pontiff.

It is beyond my skill and available time to present a comprehensive biography of Pope St. Pius X, but I would like to offer a few observations about why he was such a praiseworthy successor of St. Peter.

First I would like to highlight the striking clarity and uncompromising straight-forwardness of Pius X. This is nowhere more evidenced than in Pius' famous 1904 with Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, who came to the pontiff seeking support for the Jewish movement in Palestine. When if he would support Jewish independence in a restored Israel, Pope Pius X responded:

"We cannot give approval to this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem—but we could never sanction it. The soil of Jerusalem, if it was not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church I cannot tell you anything different. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people"

Herzl, recounting the interview in his diary, noted:

At the outset, to be sure, I tried to be conciliatory. I recited my little piece about extraterritorialization, res sacrae extra commercium [holy places removed from business]. It didn't make much of an impression. Gerusalemme, he said, must not get into the hands of the Jews.

"And its present status, Holy Father?"

"I know, it is not pleasant to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. We simply have to put up with that. But to support the Jews in the acquisition of the Holy Places, that we cannot do."

I said that our point of departure had been solely the distress of the Jews and that we desired to avoid the religious issues.

"Yes, but we, and I as the head of the Church, cannot do this. There are two possibilities. Either the Jews will cling to their faith and continue to await the Messiah who, for us, has already appeared. In that case they will be denying the divinity of Jesus and we cannot help them. Or else they will go there without any religion, and then we can be even less favorable to them. The Jewish religion was the foundation of our own; but it was superseded by the teachings of Christ, and we cannot concede it any further validity. The Jews, who ought to have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ, have not done so to this day."

The rest of the interview is available online here.

Can you imagine a modern pontiff speaking with such clarity to the Jews about the necessity of embracing the Messiah and the Church He founded? Can you imagine any modern pontiff speaking such straight forward, lucid terms as "the Jewish religion...was superseded by the teachings of Christ and we cannot concede it any further validity"? Interestingly enough, if you click on the above link and continue to read the reflections of Theodor Herzl, he speaks about the great respect he had for Pius.

Pius X was also master at identifying the root causes of problems within the Church and the world. This is especially evident in his treatment of Modernism in the encyclical Pascendi. It might not seem evident that this is such a difficult task, but remember how varied and far-reaching are the heresies of Modernism. The Modernist heresy encompassed liturgy and history, philosophy and Scripture study, ecclesiology and spirituality, theology and music. A less astute theologian might have been tempted to see these as multiple, heresies, diverse and unrelated. After all, what commonality is there between a liturgist pushing for incorporation of more patristic elements into the Mass and an Old Testament scholar of the historical-critical school? Or what concord hath the progressive Catholic philosopher who rejects Thomism and the cleric laboring in the Pan-Christian movement? It took the particular genius of Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi to identify the common factor that drew these trends together and made them not only a heresy, but the synthesis of all heresies: that factor was what Pius called vital immanence, which essentially means that the objective data of revelation is beyond the capability of man's reason; all man can grasp are the impressions or internal effects of this on man, with the consequent that religious experience trumps religious truth and spirituality becomes a purely subjective reality. This synopsis of the Modernist heresy was so spot-on and so thorough that Modernism throughout the Church went into hibernation to lick its wounds for several decades.

Not only was Pope Pius X astute at identifying problems, but in backing up his words with powerful and decisive action. After condemning the theories of the Modernists, he goes on to  say:

"All these prescriptions and those of Our Predecessor are to be borne in mind whenever there is question of choosing directors and professors for seminaries and Catholic Universities. Anybody who in any way is found to be imbued with Modernism is to be excluded without compunction from these offices, and those who already occupy them are to be withdrawn" (Pascendi, 48).

Can you imagine Paul VI or John Paul II not only speaking out against religious errors in seminaries and universities but actually taking positive steps to ensure that these heretics are systematically removed? This kind of decisiveness can scarcely be imagined today. Regarding the sort of education Pius seeks in candidates for higher studies, he asks for a background in Scholastic theology - but he does not just ask:

"For the future the doctorate of theology and canon law must never be conferred on anybody who has not made the regular course of scholastic philosophy; if conferred it shall be held as null and void" (Pascendi, 49).

He not only expresses his will, but mandates it and threatens to nullify degrees conferred in disobedience of his will! He orders bishops "to do everything in your power to drive out of your dioceses, even by solemn interdiction, any pernicious books that may be in circulation there" (ibid., 51); clearly Pius believes pastoral admonitions are insufficient if not followed up by firm action! He institutes the Oath Against Modernism to root out heretical tendencies from the clergy on pain of sin, and establishes "Councils of Vigilance" within each diocese whose sole purpose is "noting the existence of errors and the devices by which new ones are introduced and propagated" and to make recommendations to the bishop on "the best means for suppressing the evil at its outset" (55). Unlike modern bishops and pontiffs who identify errors in only the most cautious of terms and then throw up their hands when it comes to taking action, Pius took vigorous action, right down to the diocesan level, to make sure that Modernism was rooted out and that life in the Church was made very difficult for Modernists.

Even as a priest and bishop, Pius X was known for his charity and devotion to Christ, especially in the poor. Lest anyone try to contrast our current "humble" Holy Father with some sort of alleged pre-Vatican II triumphalism, see how Pius X loved the poor and least among his flock, from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"In 1867 he was named arch-priest of Salzano, a large borough of the Diocese of Treviso, where he restored the church, and provided for the enlargement and maintenance of the hospital by his own means, consistently with his habitual generosity to the poor."

While Bishop of Mantua he distributed copies of the Summa to poorer seminarians at his own expense and took care to see that all seminarians were formed in Scholastic theology and Gregorian Chant, for which he had a particular love. As Cardinal of Venice, he held a synod in 1898 for the promotion of Gregorian Chant - something he would later mandate in his motu proprio Tra le Sollecetudine - and promoted cooperative rural banks in accord with the social teaching laid down by Leo XIII.

To Pius X we also must attribute the consolidation of the Church's canonical tradition which led to the great 1917 Code of Canon Law.

In every way a model of holiness, clarity, zeal and vigorous action against the enemies of the Church and in promotion of the Kingdom of Christ. St. Pius X, pray for us!

"It is impossible to approve in Catholic publications of a style inspired by unsound novelty which seems to deride the piety of the faithful and dwells on the introduction of a new order of Christian life, on new directions of the Church, on new aspirations of the modern soul, on a new vocation of the clergy, on a new Christian civilisation. Language of this kind is not to be tolerated either in books or from chairs of learning" -Pope St Pius X, Pascendi #55.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do You Know Pride When You See It?


In the past, when I have listened to Venerable Fulton Sheen, he has made me laugh, weep, sit on the edge of my seat, filled my heart with compunction and hope, but on a few occasions he has also made me cringe.  One of those occasions is his jab at St Bernards 12 steps of humility, which he seems to hold out to a brief ridicule for its complexity, or technical nature before he starts to expound upon the simplicity and beauty of St Therese’s Little Way.

Fortunately for us, such a characterization is a straw man, in fact, it is a strawman to the extreme.  Even though St Bernard did write a work called the 12 steps to humility, what the work actually speaks of is the twelve steps to pride, which St Bernard states at the end of the book that he knows more about pride than humility.  He does point out that if one knows how to become proud, then one merely must descend the steps of pride to become humble.  A good point, and one that St Bernard makes eloquently with parables and witty vivid imagery (he likes using animal bladders to describe the proud in this work, among other things.)

If there is anything more cringe-worthy than this straw man of Venerable Fulton Sheen (whom I still love) today, it is hearing people talk of humility.  In a world where pride in sin is held out as the highest of virtue, talk on humility comes across as less than cheap.  If a person gets the wrong idea of what humility is, then he may lose the ability to humble himself before God. Lets look at what St Bernard says.

These are the twelve degrees of pride:
  1. Curiosity
  2. Unseasonable joy or sorrow.
  3. Silliness: excessive merriment and laughter.
  4. Conceit: expressed in too much talking.
  5. Eccentricity: loving ones singular conduct, often trying to attract attention.
  6. Self-assertion: believing  (and seeking to become) more  pious than others.
  7. Presumption: believing oneself to be capable of doing anything.
  8. Defense of oneself in wrongdoing.
  9. Bad Confession: especially lying to avoid punishment.
  10. Rebellion: flat-out refusal to obey the rules.
  11. Liberty to sin: a person who sins freely but is still restrained due to the fear of God or other habits of virtue.
  12. Habitual transgressor: going straight to hell and nothing is slowing you down. 

In addition to St Bernard’s teaching on humility, there is also an article on Unam Sanctam’s core website on humility in your state in life. Knowing the 12 steps are very helpful practically, this article explains how the abandonment of understanding our place in society has greatly injured our ability to make the appropriate acts to grow in humility.

One of the interesting things in St Bernard’s work which you can download or listen here on Audiobook for free is that he does not exhort us to not notice pride in others or explain it away.  If we enable our neighbors pride by praise or puffing him up we only accelerate his downfall.

Upon reflection, I also realized that the Imitation of Christ says something similar:

“Study also to guard against and to overcome the faults which in others very frequently displease you”  chapter 25, Zeal in Amending our Lives

These admonitions are connected with the correction of our own lives.  If we find that excessive speech irritates us, let us resolve to not speak excessively; or if someone is boastful of their good works, let us make all the greater effort to hide the good that we do.  The violence that it takes to overcome these faults will perhaps give us a greater ability to bear with our neighbor;  he suffers these evils because to overcome them is difficult and the world is never short of the pride of life: vulgar displays of conceit, eccentricity, defense of evil-doing, breaking the rules, etc.  Yet, if we look in the memory (in humility) we will find in ourselves these things, and even if we have rooted out every evil in us (who would be so presumptuous to make such a statement?)  we still have our past sins when ascending from pride to humility.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Special Creation and the State of Completion

Some time ago I did an article on the Church's reservations about the theory of evolution pertaining to the concept of immutable substance. In discussions in person and in Catholic forums that followed, the argument came up that evolution simply explains the 'evidence' better than special creation and that affirming special creation would involve too great a divergence between what the science is telling us and what we are affirming as true. To explain the point better, I will reproduce an objection to special creation from one such forum which argues that to affirm special creation involves us in too many conundrums and effectively makes God a liar:

"With evolution, it's much easier to explain that all animals are related to each other, especially when we see the genetic evidence corroborating the degrees of physiological variance from one species to the next. For the critical thinker, accepting special creation as true would require an explanation for the evidence we see that contradicts it. Evolution explains what we are seeing. Special creation contradicts what we are seeing, and on such a grand scale that if it is false evidence, the only thing powerful enough to put it there is God himself. So if special creation is true, one must necessarily come to the conclusion that God has actively placed false evidence in the way to throw us off on the wrong course, presumably as a test to see if we will believe what the Bible says as opposed to what we can objectively measure. But it then begs the question, if God can distort all of reality to test our faith, if He is really willing to lie to us in his creation to get us to have faith, how then can we place any hope in what the Bible says as not being likewise a lie from God? There are just too many logical conundrums for a person to accept that are tied to special creation."

This is a common objection to special creation. In case the argument above is a little obtuse, allow me to provide a concrete example of what I'm talking about:

I was recently debating with friend about this - a good Catholic man who nevertheless has allowed modern ideas to soak in a little too deeply on certain subjects. He was saying that God could not have created the universe by special creation because the light from some of the stars takes billions of years to get to earth, which presumed an evolutionary time-span for the origin and development of the universe. I objected that God could have created the universe instantly with the light en route, such that all the light that was necessary was created exactly where it needed to be without having to actually traverse that distance. My friend countered by saying that this would make God into a "liar" because all our empirical observation suggests that the light has actually traveled that far and that it would be a kind of "false evidence" if the light looked like it traveled millions of light years but in fact was created en route.

Would creating the light "en route" make God into a liar or constitute "false evidence"? It is my contention that it would not. In fact, to say it is begs the question, as we shall see.

As a classic example of this, I always refer back to the creation of Adam and Eve. Tradition and Scripture are unanimous in affirming that Adam and Eve were created as adults; that is, God did not create infants, but a full grown man and woman with all the necessary perfections needed to sustain adult life. I do not know how "old" they were created to be; some Scholastics speculated that Adam was created as a 33 year old man since this was the age of perfection, based on the length of years of our Lord. Who knows. The point is, Adam and Eve were created fully formed, at least according to the Tradition.

However, what would an uninformed spectator assume if he were to encounter Adam? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you were to come walking around a corner and run into Adam only ten minutes after he was created. Having not witnessed his creation, you would look at his stature and presume him to be a man who has been around for several decades. He is tall, he is strong, he has adult teeth and perhaps a full grown beard. Yet in fact he is but ten minutes old.

Furthermore, there is no way to tell the difference. Aside from the accidental fact that the newly created Adam would have not had any imperfections due to years of labor, wrinkles, etc., you would not be able to know one way or another. God created him complete, and that completeness entails every characteristic proper to a full grown man.

Now, my question is this - was God "lying" or providing "false evidence" to you in creating Adam like this? Is the fact that Adam is created full grown a "deception"? Is the fact that when he is one second old he already has adult stature and adult teeth a kind of "distortion of reality"?

Obviously not. It is none of that. Rather, it is simply that God willed to created Adam complete.

The fact that God wills to create him complete means that he looks the same as any other person would who was born of woman. Did God similarly will to create the entire cosmos in some sort of state of completion? Looking at the light in the universe that is constantly bombarding the earth from millions and billions of light years away, can we really tell that it has actually been traveling for billions of years as opposed to being created en route not so long ago? Again, there is no way to tell the difference.

We know that rivers were formed by the cutting away of rock by running water. We know that this can happen slowly over a very long period of time, but we also know that raging waters can carve a gorge over a mile long and 22 feet deep in only a matter of days (don't believe me? See here). If God wanted to create a river in a state of completion, the creative process which brought that river into existence could certainly have been quick and catastrophic, which would leave behind similar physical evidence (carving and erosion) as a slow formed riverbed. We know that God created the universe out of nothing, but we do not know what the act of creation looked like, or the acts of subcreation by which He ordered the raw matter He had brought into existence. Some of these things were created in a state of completion, others not.

Now, we know that the cosmos in totu was not created in a state of total completion; Genesis and Catholic Tradition affirm that there was a sequential creation - certain elements of the world were created first, moving from the more general to the more particular. Water was the primal element of life, and the water creatures came about first, the land creatures following after, and finally, mankind. So the world was not created in a state of total completion. However, the various elements within it were - each created thing was established in a state of completion with its own substance. This was taught definitively at Vatican I:

"If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself; or denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema" (Vatican I, Session 3, Canon 1:5).

When God creates the light en route, or the river already in place, or the elephant whole according to its substance, we are not seeing God creating "false evidence" as much as God creating these things in a state of completion.

Now you may say that this explanation presupposes a special creation - that it is a form of question begging. Perhaps, but not any more so than the question begging implied in the rejection of the concept. To say that light cannot have been created en route presumes the evolutionary time frame, while saying that it was created en route fits with a special creation. Let us acknowledge that neither argument proves anything in the strict sense, though both offer explanations for what we see in the universe.

Jimmy Akin once attempted to rebut this by stating that, while God had a rationale for creating Adam as an adult - the need for him to be able to make rational decisions and take care of himself - there existed no similar rationale for doing this with the rest of creation, and therefore theories like the light being created en route are unreasonable. But again, this begs the question by assuming that God did not will to create the components of creation in a state of completion. If God did in fact will to do so - which Vatican I seems to suggest - then the same rationale exists for God to create other aspects of the material universe in a state of completion just as He did with Adam and Eve.

I know the "state of completion" argument does not solve every difficulty; no doubt many of you will post examples in the com box that do not fit with the state of completion concept. But my point here is not to argue away or explain every question relating to special creation, but merely to argue the more limited point that special creation does not "contradict what we are seeing" and make God the creator of "false evidence." To create things in a completed state is not to create false evidence any more than creating Adam as a mature adult when he is only ten minutes old is "false evidence." In many cases, we need to ask what assumptions we are bringing when we look at the universe, as well as that there may be multiple explanations for any phenomenon.

Other articles on evolution

Monday, August 11, 2014

Steel or Platitudes


It is easy to sit in the comfort of modern society and cast harsh judgements on our forefathers that have come before us.  Not very long ago a somewhat popular priest in pop culture thought he had the right to cast judgement and declare that the holy St Bernard's preaching of the crusades was wrong.  I wish the example was only limited to that but, there are countless examples going back decades of the error of pacifism creeping its unwelcome tentacles into the Church.  Diabolic Utopian sentiments are flung carelessly from our highest pulpits demanding a world without war, a world without violence.  

It was not always so though, there was a time where the Church defended her sheep with steel instead of empty platitudes and fuzzy feelings.  What do you think God is more pleased with?

Lets look at what happened during the preaching of the 2nd crusade by St Bernard:

“In every place on his journey and wrought the most astonishing and instantaneous cures : the blind recovered their sight ; to the deaf and dumb hearing and speech were restored ; the paralytic received the use of their limbs; the possessed, the lunatic, and the demoniac were delivered from the spirits which tormented them. But the greatest of his miracles was the conversion of hardened hearts and the penances to which public sinners submitted.” excerpt from St Bernard the Wonderworker - Free Catholic Audiobook

Every hear of a miracle during the preaching of pacifism? I didn’t think so, because there is not one.  I am almost sure of it, because if there was it surely would be shoved down our throat endlessly.

Yet, we know that the 2nd crusade did not end well.  Haha, our pop culture preacher might say, this is proof that it was not of God.  The facts say otherwise.

"On that on that very day, when the news came of the destruction of the Christian army, God wrought a miracle at the intercession of Saint Bernard. “It came to pass, however, that when the lamentable tidings of the destruction of the Crusaders resounded through France, a father brought his blind boy to the servant of God, to have sight restored to him, and, by many prayers, prevailed on the saint who declined. The saint, placing his hand on the child, prayed to our Lord that He would be pleased to make known, by restoring sight to the child, whether the preaching of the Crusade was from Him, and whether His spirit was with himself. While, after praying, he was waiting its effects, the child said, what am I to do? For I see! Then a great shout was raised by those who were present ; for many were present, not of the monks only, but of people living in the world, who, when they perceived that the boy saw, were greatly comforted, and gave thanks to God.” excerpt from St Bernard the Wonderworker - Free Catholic Audiobook

There is more in the Audiobook even about mystical visions confirming the validity of the crusade as well, be sure to check it out. Despite our forefathers courage in battle against our foe, they at least sent missionaries to convert the Mohammedans;  many of whom were martyred preaching Christ Crucified with bravery.  

Yet, with the passing of time all falsehoods are revealed.  The absolute savage persecutions of the Christians in Iraq has once again shown us the true face of historical and authentic Mohammedanism, not some made up religion of peace which perverts Islam's doctrines (how culturally insensitive!).   I hope Catholic intellectuals will find themselves blushing for shame for their past dismissals of Islamic terror as being  "a valid protest against pluralist secularization and materialism." 

Intellectuals, and professors wearing fuzzy sweaters coming together will not stop war.  Slashing defense budgets and removing standing armies will not end wars.  Treaties, even good ones will never end war.  War is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, sent to afflict mankind when we reject the Gospel.  

War will come, and war will go based on the decrees of our God.  It is absurd to believe that the God who has numbered every hair on our head is not the one actively choosing to send war as a punishment for sin, or to permit wars as a punishment for sin.  

God made the Jews fight their enemies after they left Egypt!  Our sweet savior Jesus Christ ordered his apostles to own a sword, even if they had to sell their cloak!  Our God allowed the angels to fight a war in heaven! Our God is a God of War! There will always be war on earth, until the end of the world!  

Consequently, today (August 11) is the day to begin a Novena to St Bernard of Clairvaux (you can find one here) for his feast day.  He persuaded many nobles and Kings to embrace the crusade, perhaps we can pray that he does the same from heaven to our leaders, that they might bring some military relief for the Christians of Iraq. 

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, ora pro nobis!

SN This article does not attempt to take a position on the origin of the ISIS, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, St. JPII opinions on those wars etc.  It does advocate for  military relief (US or otherwise) for the Christians in Iraq today, it is the opinion of the author  not necessarily the other contributors of Unam Sanctam.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Book Review: "The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy"

For the past three months I have been immersed in The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by the scholarly Jesuit Fr. Christian Cochini (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1981). The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy is the definitive work on the question of priestly celibacy in the Early Church, summarizing all the research done on this question since the Renaissance and adding truly monumental original contributions to this field by his own commentaries on Greek and Latin texts and voluminous compilation of primary sources. Fr. Cochini's magnum opus represents the last word on the question of clerical continence - and the historical sources absolutely vindicate the Tradition of the Church.

The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy aims to settle four points: (1) That there is a difference historically between the discipline of clerical celibacy and the discipline of clerical continence. (2) That the universal expectation in the Early Church was that clerics, married or unmarried, would observe perfect and perpetual continence. (3) That this was not just a pious custom but an actual law or precept, and (4) That the origins of this law go back to precedents set by the Apostles themselves. Every available text by a father, saint, pope, council, and even imperial legislation is brought to bear to prove these four points. And Fr. Cochini proves them beyond any modicum of doubt.

Honestly, until I read this book, I had not given much thought to the distinction between clerical celibacy and clerical continence. The former means the prohibition of clerics entering into marriage or of married men receiving Holy orders; the latter means abstention from sexual relations by all clerics, married or single. It is undeniable that the Early Church had married priests; some Traditionalists want to deny this plain fact of history. Don't bother. We had married priests. Get over it. In fact, Cochini devotes an entire chapter to documenting every single mention of a married bishop, priest or deacon in the Church of the first seven centuries. That we had married clerics is an undeniable fact of history and anyone who says otherwise has simply not read the sources.

However, the argument does not end there, because - and this is where the modern proponents of a married priesthood totally miss the point - while the Early Church admitted clerics to be married, it never, ever condoned clerics engaging in sexual activity. We are introduced to a plethora of texts - most of them previously unknown to me - in support of this position. For example, the Cum in Utum decretal of Pope Siricius, dating from 386:

"Moreover, as it is worthy, chaste, and honest to do so, this is what we advise: let the priests and Levites have no intercourse with their wives, inasmuch as they are absorbed in the daily duties of their ministries. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, said, "Leave yourselves free for prayer" (1 Cor. 7:5). If lay people are asked to be continent so that their prayers are granted, all the more so a priest who should be ready at any moment, thanks to an immaculate purity, and not fearing the obligation of offering the sacrifice or baptizing. Were he soiled by carnal concupiscence, what could he do? Would he excuse himself? With what shame, in what state of mind would he carry out his functions?"

There is much more. Hundreds of citations over hundreds of pages drive the main point home: It has never been the tradition of the Church to condone a sexually active priesthood.

There are many things cleared up by understanding this discipline. For one thing, it handily explains the how the Church once allowed then prohibited married clerics while simultaneously claiming her teaching on this matter has never changed; this is because the teaching was never about whether a cleric could be married, but whether it was fitting for clerics to have sexual intercourse. Understood this way, the teaching (until modern times) has been unanimous.

It also puts the question of marriage in the Eastern Rites into a glaringly new perspective. When we understand the ancient discipline, we see that it is not, as so often asserted, that the Western Church imposed a new discipline onto its clerics while the East, which allows married priests, is preserving a more ancient practice. On the contrary, East and West both insisted on continence from their clerics. In the West, this insistence remained so strong that eventually it became clear that the only way to ensure it was to prohibit the ordination of married men (the discipline of celibacy); in the East, the observance of the ancient canons began to grow lax until after the Quinisext Council of 692, married clerics were finally allowed to use the marital rights. Thus it was the East that changed the discipline, not the West.

I highly recommend Fr. Cochini's book for anyone who wants a solid patristic understanding of this question. You can purchase it here on Amazon.

If you want an in depth but more concise synopsis of the historical arguments presented in Cochini's book, please see my article "The Truth About Priestly Celibacy and Continence in the Early Church" on the USC website, which synthesizes the most important primary sources cited by Cochini and explains their theological and historical significance.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Buying, Selling, And Apostasy

They have no eyes and see not,
They have no ears and hear not.
“And that no man might buy or sell, but he that hath the character, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13:17

“It was almost impossible to procure the necessaries of life, without exposing themselves of committing some act of idolatry. In the public market small images of the gods were placed, and no one was allowed to buy or to sell anything unless he had first burnt incense before them.” The Life and Martyrdom of St Sebastian.

“The Democratic bill, which was supported by the Obama administration, would make it clear that any employer providing health insurance would have to pay for any type of coverage specified by federal law.” From Effort to Override hobby lobby ruling fails.

Personally, I find the idea of threatening strange Gods as something more worthy of fear then the feminist demographic. I am sure that the Romans would have had no problem accepting the Christians worshiping Jesus as long as they did not neglect to worship the other Gods as well. Equality and everything you know! I must say that our pagan opponents have gone backwards from their ancient forefathers, in the past the Romans built great temples to the Gods, performed rituals with Priests, and offered incense. Instead of worshiping a piece of pretty stone, they demand that we have to worship silly pills, and not even by taking the little soul destroyers, but by paying for someone else's coverage to maybe use them.

They failed this time, but our current freedom from such force participation without incurring the wrath of the state may be coming to an end. We should not despair of this fact, rather we need to prepare for it. It is true that humility, a love for contempt, a hatred for human respect, love of simplicity, detachment from kin, land and property should always be things that we are trying to grow in. Are soldiers more diligent in training when they know that they may go into battle soon? Our Faith should always drive us to struggle manfully against the principalities and powers, but when we dull our spiritual vision through sin and neglect seeing a visible threat can perhaps spur us to the amendment of life that we need just to be saved from hell. Perhaps, these threats of future trials may not come to pass from the hands of God, if we all return more to the fear of God and good living.

“Let your Excellency consider, therefore, that your high dignity obliges you to do many things inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity: you have to be present at public shows, which are offensive to modesty, to charity, in a word to good morals, you have to preside at trials, where it is a foregone conclusion that innocent Christians be condemned. Wherefore, permit me to suggest, under the plea of ill health, or of advanced age, it would be proper to ask for a successor.” St Sebastian from The Life and Martyrdom of St Sebastian on Audiobook

Another thing worthy of comment is that in the future, as society goes more and more pagan, certain prevailing attitudes may be expected for certain positions of power and participation in certain evils. If we inoculate ourselves now with true wisdom, we will not have to agonize later. We all know it would be better to not have a Catholic president, than to have one who approved abortion and the resulting scandal arising from it. The same goes at smaller appointments, to the bench, to political offices, to the military and the corporate world. These things are not worth selling our souls for, they are trivial compared to the nobility of the adopted sons of God, they are served by men and deal with the dealings of men. Christians are served by Angels and deal with the divine law.

If we have not meditated on the possibility of losing our job and suffering poverty for righteousness sake, we should. Whether our bellies are filled with dread, or we rejoice for the possibility to suffer with Christ we should ask God to prepare our hearts to suffer for His sake.

My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready: I will Sing, and rehearse a psalm. Psalm 57:7

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Are you an Ultramontanist?

There is a lot of talk these days about a kind of pervasive Ultramontanism in the Neo-Catholic world; not Ultramontanism in the classical sense, for understood classically, Ultramontanism, like the term "Integralism", was just a phrase denoting Catholicism affirming the infallibility of the pope.

In current parlance, we are not talking about fidelity to the Holy Father, but rather a kind of crass, undiscriminating Ultramontanism that is best characterized by the embarrassing spectacle of Neo-Catholic apologists tripping all over themselves to affirm every single prudential decision of the pope as not only good, but the best possible decision. In the judgment of the modern Ultramontanists, every utterance of the pope, no matter how banal or off the cuff, is treated as a profound insight; every administrative act or symbolic gesture he makes are examples of brilliant leadership; every prudential judgment and non-authoritative teaching treated as infallible truth. 

No matter what they might say, there is a very easy test to see if the person you are talking with actually subscribes to the kind of crass Ultramontanism I have described above. Ask them to:

First, cite one prudential action of the pope which you disagree with.

Second, cite one action or statement of the pope that you agree with, though you admit that good Catholics can be in disagreement about.

If you or your interlocutor cannot do either of these two things, they are Ultramontanists, no matter what they might say to the contrary.

When I presented this to one Catholic apologist, he told me, "It might happen that you in fact do agree with everything the pope does, while acknowledging that one is not bound to agree with every prudential decision of the pope." That's why the second question is so important - if you do in fact happen to agree with everything the pope does prudentially, then state one of these instances where you admit that others may disagree and remain in good standing.

Great related article from Rorate. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Brown Scapular: True Wisdom


A wish to speak today of a huge absurdity that exists in the Church today regarding salvation.  That so much effort is made to not even suggest that people are going to hell, while at the same time the snobbish condescension against the Brown Scapular of our Lady of Mt Carmel and the great promise of salvation to those who die wearing it. I pray that I am alone in having seen it, and that your ears have not had to suffer the irritation that mine have when suffering through the often times odious intellectual attacks against it.

I personally know of two priests, one who some might consider traditional and another who among his peers might be considered orthodox who have come far short from offering the esteem that this powerful sacramental deserves.   One likes to think it is superstitious the other likes to refer to it as a "thingy".

I must say that their are seldom found defenders of this great sacramental from the charge of superstition. There are so called “friends” of the scapular who give it only faint praise, who fall over themselves in their effort to downplay the promise of the brown scapular by pointing out that the scapular only works if you are not in mortal sin.  These statements injure the faith and confidence one can have in the brown scapular and injure its propagation. 

Lets us first consider a few things about the brown scapular.
1.  It is a sign of devotion and consecration to the Mother of God.
2.  It is ancient, going back at least 800 years and if you accept the annals of the order of Mt Carmel their devotion to Mary extends back to her even while she still walked the earth.
3.  It has received numerous blessings from the Church.
4.  Many Saints of the Church have worn it and recommended its use.
5.  Many miracles of the brown scapular are historical facts, attested to by numerous witnesses and they have occurred without ceasing sense the institution of the confraternity of the brown scapular. 

These should be reason enough for everyone to want to participate in the devotion to the brown scapular by devoutly wearing it even if it did not have the promise, that anyone who died wearing the brown scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.

What are some of its benefits, excluding the promise of salvation and the special protection of Mary.

1.  It is an act of religion when one wears it for the sake of devotion to the Mother of God.
2.  It is an act of humility to the Church and her Saints that recommended its use to grow in grace. 
3.  It is an outward sign of devotion to the Mother of God.
4.  The Church has decreed that the devout use of a devotional object merits a partial indulgence.
5. Its wearing is a constant reminder of the presence of God and our childlike intimacy with Mary. 

These repeated acts help us grown in virtue, honoring the Virgin Mary in front of men will lead to God honoring us in front of men, the partial indulgences help alleviate the sufferings of the holy soul or pay our debt due to sin and the reminder of Gods presence deters us from committing sin.  Even if people choose to be doubters of the great promise of salvation of the brown scapular, they cannot deny these facts.

However, the promises of the brown scapular are true: that of a good and holy death, and of our Lady’s protection.  How do we know? Because they have been proven many times by miracles.  If you are interested in hearing many historical and semi modern miracles please check out our Audiobook on miracles of the brown scapular.

You will find among the numerous stories of the brown scapular not stories of canonized Saints,  but stories of sinners often times people who lived very evil lives, but through the power of the brown scapular where either saved from unexpected deaths or given the grace of repentance.  

It would be superstitious to believe that the cloth in and of itself will save one from hell.  It would be presumptuous to believe that one will be allowed to die wearing the brown scapular.  But, it is neither superstition or presumption to put ones confidence and hope in Our Lady of the Brown Scapular even when one is in mortal sin, even when one is living a reprobate life.  When we sin against charity we may lose sanctifying grace, but we do not necessarily lose the theological virtue of hope.  Dearest reader, no matter what sin or sins you find yourself committing, never ever take off your brown scapular.  

Every day we wear the brown scapular we renew our plea to Our Lady, “I need your special help to be saved!”. How can such a plea be worthless even when we are in sin!  No one with unrepented mortal sin will enter heaven, but to hope that our lady by wearing her garment will provide the grace for repentance is true wisdom.

The sinner and the saint  who wear the brown scapular only are able to do it through the grace of God, since to wear the brown scapular with devotion is a good work and only God can do good.  And while I do accept that no one must believe in the brown scapular (being a private revelation) or that wearing it is not mandatory, I have sometimes pondered that those who hold it in scorn have not received the grace to wear it because they are currently on their way to hell.

But we do not want them to go to hell, and we do not want for anyone to lose out on the numerous graces that are available by the devout daily wearing of the brown scapular.  Last year Alleluia Audiobooks published an Audiobook devoted to only miracles of the brown scapular from the founding of the confraternity up till the early 20th century. To date it is our second most popular audiobook after the torments of hell, but we have received feedback that it was a great aid in increasing devotion to the brown scapular and people showed greater fidelity in wearing it daily.

In anticipation for the next feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel we are hoping to receive enough user submissions of miraculous stories of the brown scapular from readers in order to put together a new Audiobook of miracles of the Brown Scapular in modern times.  To strengthen peoples confidence in the brown scapular and to confound its enemies. It is a great opportunity to help induce others to love and reverence our Lady of Mt Carmel.  I most earnestly implore you to submit your stories, to share this plea, and if you are a blogger to please also consider sharing this post on your blog so that we are able to collect enough stories to make another Audiobook to the Glory of God and Our Lady of Mt Carmel.

Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Thou has promise St Simon Stock that anyone who died wearing thy brown scapular shall not suffer eternal fire. Grant then me the grace to die wearing it, and protect me at the hour of my death with the last sacraments.  O Mother, pray for me that when I go before the judgement seat of God that your merits might be applied to the penalty due to my sins and that I escape the punishments of purgatory. Amen.