The “Francis Effect” and “Who am I to judge?”: The “Spirit of Vatican II”?



The “Francis Effect” and “Who am I to judge?”: The “Spirit of Vatican II”?


Since October 2013, I have been collating information and publishing reports on the October 5 to 19, 2014, Extraordinary Synod on the Family, also sometimes referred to as the “Synod of Bishops
on the theme “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

Six months into the pontificate of Pope Francis and more than a year before the synod, the “Francis effect” was already a popular phrase in Catholic and secular journalism. Is that a good thing? Read on and find out.

The Pope’s July 29, 2013, response “Who am I to judge?” in an interview on homosexuality had soon become widely debated… and misused. It was used by him again on March 17, 2014, fomenting more confusion.

The words generated a booming sale in “Who am I to judge?” buttons, bumper stickers, T-shirts, etc.

A reader commented at Fr. Z’s blog

The “who am I to judge” comment … was not an official comment, but it has become a de facto official comment. The media treats it as such, the average Catholic who doesn’t read blogs like this believes it, and now bishops around the world are reassessing previous positions.


There’s plenty about the “Francis effect” and the “Who am I to judge” issue in the blogs of “Fr. Z”.

Many, many of the readers’ responses echo the exact same thoughts and concerns that I and other Catholics have, and so I have reproduced them; for more, please see


In that compilation, I reproduced all of Fr. Z’s Synod/Pope Francis-related blogs of 2014.

I use some of them on the “Francis effect” once again in this present compilation.

It will be very helpful to the reader of this file to first familiarize himself with my introductory comments on pages 1 through 3 of the Zuhlsdorf file.

Fr. Z interjects his blog writings and citations as well as readers’ responses with emphases and comments using bold black as well as red fonts and [parentheses]. When you come across them, you’ll know whose they are.

As with all of my more recent files, my comments are highlighted in green Tahoma font. Also, wherever else you see green/green, the emphasis is mine; I use blue colour for “good guys”, brown for the “bad guys”.

“Must read” items are highlighted
with grey. I have arranged the collated information in chronological order.



In the November 2014 Fr. Z collation, I had written Over the next few weeks, I will make available on our web site similar compilations of posts, articles and YouTube videos by LifeSiteNews, Michael Voris’ ChurchMilitant.TV, etc. on the October 5 to 19, 2014, Extraordinary Synod on the Family and the pivotal role played in it by Pope Francis — and a few other senior Church leaders on the side of the conservatives as well as the ‘progressives’. As well as the secular press. I will also present a compilation of stories put out on the ultra-liberal National Catholic Reporter. Through these compilations, the reader will have an understanding of the opposing powers and forces that were at play not only in the months leading up to the Extraordinary Synod of October 2014 and during its two-week long proceedings which saw the mid-way report controversy, but will also continue to engage one another in the months till the 2015 Ordinary Synod (from October 4 to October 25) is held and the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation
is released.

I apologize. I never got around to doing that having got immersed in writing on various other issues and having met with a motor accident that wiped out around eight weeks of my ministry output.

However, I released some other reports on the Synod on the Family, the complete list of which is available at the end of the present file.

In this collation/report, the reader will observe that many of the authors of the articles and blogs as well as commenters here cannot help but express their concerns about the effects of “The Spirit of Vatican II“, “The Francis Effect“, and the “Who am I to judge” paradigm on the Synod on the Family.


But first:

Kasper, the Xenophobic Synod-Master: “Pope wants opening because he’s got problems in his own family.” “Africans? Nobody listens to them” -Voice of the Family to Racist Cardinal: “Kasper must apologize”

October 15, 2014

The arrogance displayed by Walter Kasper in his interview granted to Edward Pentin (published today in Zenit*) is so astounding that it is by itself a revelation that he is the great Master of the Synod. His words regarding the Bishops of Africa, in particular, are so offensive, unbelievably racist and xenophobic one can hardly understand how such a despicable man could claim to write anything on “mercy”, when his words are filled with heresy and disdain for the great Bishops of Africa, who stand nearly alone in defense of Catholic doctrine (and for this reason are despised). But the future reserves an ironic response to the likes of Kasper and his minions in the Synod, in whose direction Pope Francis did not place one single African representative, not even in the ad hoc 6-men assistant committee: Africa is the demographic champion of the 21st century, and African Catholicism will one day make its true voice of faithfulness heard again.
Interview below:
EDWARD PENTIN: Your Eminence, how is everything going in the Synod?

Cardinal Walter Kasper: Everything is very quiet now. This morning it was on fire a little bit but of course that’s because of you – the newspapers!

EP: Yesterday we were told the “Spirit of Vatican II” was in the synod. Do you agree with this?

WK: This is the spirit of the Council – this is very true…


*IMPORTANT NOTE: Edward Pentin’s Interview with the radically liberal Cardinal Walter Kasper was carried in Zenit on October 15 but it was pulled the same day ostensibly under pressure from some powerful people in the Vatican and after Kasper’s “denial”! Pentin stood by his statements. The Interview can still be read at the web page of Rorate Caeli (above) or at; the latter page has some unflattering comments about Zenit News Agency.


What happened during your interview with Cardinal Kasper? 5:04

October 18, 2014

Edward Pentin from the National Catholic Register explains his controversial interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper.

The above incident shows that there are very powerful progressive forces at work in Rome with all their energies focused on the Synod of the Family. The Church is at war against some of its high-ranking clerics!


The following day it was the turn of Michael Voris/ChurchMilitant.TV; his video was pulled:

The Pope Harming the Church – Breaking news on Church Militant

ChurchMilitant.TV Michael Voris video
October 17, 2014

The roughly around 2 to 3 minutes video was removed by the user of the site on the 19th of October.

In it, Michael Voris quoting Cardinal Burke emphatically said that Pope Francis had tried to influence the Synod to go against the traditional positions of the Church on sexual morality.

It is a shame and tragedy that it was removed. Someone high up in the Church must have influenced him to remove it.

We can see that most certainly the “Spirit of Vatican II” is present in the Synod.





Spirit of Vatican II EXTRACT

By the spirit of Vatican II is meant the teaching and intentions of the Second Vatican Council interpreted in a way that is not limited to a literal reading of its documents, or even interpreted in a way that contradicts the “letter” of the Council  (cf. Saint Paul’s phrase, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” II Corinthians 3:6). This has led to a great diversity of understanding of the phrase.

In the 1985 book The Ratzinger Report, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger distinguishes the true spirit of the Council from false interpretations, blaming the disappointed hopes for renewal on “those who have gone far beyond both the letter and the spirit of Vatican II”, and calling for a “return to the authentic texts of the original Vatican II”.

According to this view of Pope Benedict XVI, the correct view of the Council is that which interprets it “within the context of tradition, not as a rupture with tradition, and the false view is that which “only accepted as authentic the ‘spirit’ or progressive thrust of the documents and so rejected any elements of the older tradition found in the texts, which were regarded as compromises and so not binding”.

According to this view, certain changes made in the name of “the spirit of Vatican II” are contrary not only to canon law and Church tradition but also to the actual teachings of the Council and its official interpretations.


What Went Wrong with Vatican II: The Catholic Crisis Explained

By Ralph M. McInerny (Sophia Institute Press, 1998, paperback, 168 pages)

Reading some of those accounts of the council sessions, especially those written at the time, is not an edifying experience. Even so relatively sober a book as Fr. Ralph Wiltgen’s The Rhine Flows into the Tiber portrays the debates as no nobler than a playground quarrel. Perhaps the saddest description is Fr. Wiltgen’s account of Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani being silenced:

On October 30, the day after his seventy-second birthday, Cardinal Ottaviani addressed the council to protest against the drastic changes which were being suggested in the Mass. “Are we seeking to stir up wonder, or perhaps scandal, among the Christian people, by introducing changes in so venerable a rite, that has been approved for so many centuries and is now so familiar? The rite of Holy Mass should not be treated as if it were a piece of cloth to be refashioned according to the whim of each generation.” Speaking without a text, because of his partial blindness, he exceeded the ten-minute time limit which all had been requested to observe. Cardinal Tisserant, Dean of the Council Presidents, showed his watch to Cardinal Alfrink, who was presiding that morning. When Cardinal Ottaviani reached fifteen minutes, Cardinal Alfrink rang the warning bell. But the speaker was so engrossed in his topic that he did not notice the bell, or purposely ignored it. At a signal from Cardinal Alfrink, a technician switched off the microphone. After confirming the fact by tapping the instrument, Cardinal Ottaviani stumbled back to his seat in humiliation. The most powerful cardinal in the Roman Curia had been silenced, and the Council Fathers clapped with glee.19

Looking back on it from a distance of thirty-five year reader is more likely to be astonished by the reported reaction of the council Fathers than he is likely to share in it. Fr. Wiltgen was writing in 1977, and his account of the sessions was generally praised for its objectivity, but he, too, operates with the simplistic notions of conservative and liberal.

Such accounts as Fr. Wiltgen’s – and let me stress that his is as evenhanded as one is likely to find – seek and find a drama in the proceedings that doubtless characterized the politics outside the hall. There are good guys and bad guys, and in the end the good guys win.

But it is not in histories of the council, contemporary or otherwise, that the council itself should be sought. Nor are the records of the discussions between the bishops the final word. Where, then, is the council itself to be found?


Catholics Cannot Reject the Council

Sixteen official council documents emerged from sessions in which schemata were proposed, altered, replaced, argued, and ultimately voted on. Each of the conciliar documents can be parsed back into a written record of such debates and discussion, but there is no need to characterize such debates in terms of obscurantists and enlightened progressives – not even when, as in the case of the Declaration on Religious Liberty, the debate defines itself in terms of such opponents. For in the end, it is the final document that trumps all earlier arguments and discussion. Once voted on and promulgated by the Pope, a conciliar document is no longer the victory of one side or the triumph of a faction: it becomes part of the Magisterium of the Church.

There is little doubt that, in the minds of many observers, reporters, and even periti, a struggle was going on between the traditionalists and the innovators. Even if this mirrored a struggle among the Fathers of the council, when the dust settled, when the final vote was taken, when a document was approved and promulgated by the Pope, it was the product of the teaching Church. And in Her role as teacher, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. Whatever spirited battles took place in the course of the council, the only spirit that matters is the Holy Spirit, whose influence on the promulgated document is guaranteed.





Studying the record of discussions among the bishops, of drafts of documents, and the proposals for change can, of course, aid us in understanding the final approved results. But it is the final documents as approved by the bishops and promulgated by the Pope that contain the official teaching of the Catholic Church. And Catholics have a duty to accept the teaching of a council.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells out the infallibility of an ecumenical council:

“The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the Faith – he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to Faith or morals…. The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an ecumenical council.20

Consequently, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council are the official teachings of the Church. That is why the more than thirty years that have passed since the close of the council are evaluated by the Church in the light of the council.

That is why Paul VI and John Paul II have regarded their papacies as dedicated to the implementation of what was decided during those fateful three years of the council.

That is why rejecting the council is simply not an option for Catholics.

And that is why Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s schismatic movement involved an internal incoherence. He sought to appeal to earlier councils in order to discredit Vatican II. But that which guarantees the truth of the teaching of one council guarantees the truth of them all. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II exhibited a long patience with Archbishop Lefebvre. Eventually, he undertook to consecrate new bishops in defiance of the Vatican, and no more patience was possible. He was excommunicated. 21

[…] As we will soon see, public and sustained rejection of the Magisterium and of this clear teaching of Vatican II – largely by dissenting theologians – has caused and sustained the crisis in the Church.



19 Ralph W. Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1967), 28-29.

20 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 891.

21 See Kelly, The Battle for the American Church, 411-417.


Vatican Council II and The Deposit of Faith

By Fr. Edwin Gordon, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, 2008

Pope John XXIII, in his inaugural address to the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, said: “This sure unchangeable doctrine, which must be faithfully respected, has to be studied in depth and presented in a way that fits the requirements of our time. For the deposit of the faith, that is, the truths contained in our venerable doctrine, is one thing, and the way in which they are enunciated, while still preserving the same meaning and fullness, is another.”

These words remind us that Vatican II was intended to be a pastoral council rather than a doctrinal one. The deposit of faith remained unchanged. This means that the doctrinal teachings of the Council of Trent remained, and so too the Catechism of the Council of Trent. The definitions of Trent were expressly written to defend the faith against the many Protestant heresies that sprang up in the sixteenth century, and, providentially, they were to deepen the understanding of many of these doctrines. For instance, catechisms based on the Council of Trent defined a sacrament as an outward sign of inward grace ordained by Jesus Christ by which grace is conferred on the soul.

St. Augustine demonstrates the same doctrine in a different way by using the parable of the Good Samaritan, who for him can be seen as our Lord; the man robbed and left wounded by the wayside represents the human race, which has been wounded and robbed of its inheritance by Satan. The bandages and splints used to bind up the wounds represent the sacraments. Thus the doctrine expressed by Trent and St. Augustine is basically the same-the sacraments are efficacious signs of God’s healing love- only the method of presentation is different.

Pope John XXIII spoke about opening the windows of the Church to let in the fresh air. By this, he meant making the perennial truths of the faith living truths rather than simply dry definitions. These truths were to be exemplified in those who are truly trying to follow Christ. The council was also to emphasize that ordinary people living in the world were called to sanctity, and not just priests and religious. The council was also called to make Catholics better instructed in their faith, so as to bring the faith to the modern world. The Catholic Catechism teaches the same truths, often quoting from the Council of Trent and from the writings of many saints and Fathers of the Church. The purpose remains the same, however-presenting “this sure unchangeable doctrine” in a way that is demanded by our times.

There were many liberal theologians who were ready to misinterpret Vatican II according to their own way of thinking. The so-called “spirit of Vatican II” was often used to mean anything and everything except what was actually promulgated by the Council Fathers. The statement that “this sure unchangeable doctrine” had to be explored and presented in a way that was demanded of our times was very often misinterpreted to mean watering down the faith so as to make it palatable to “modern man.” This watering down of the faith took place first of all in the field of catechetics, then in the liturgy, and then in the blurring of the distinction between the sacred and the profane.
For example, it was said that one should not preach so much about the Blessed Virgin Mary, as it would divert people from her Divine Son.





The Ten Commandments were reduced to “love” with the pretext that “all you need is love,” forgetting our Lord’s words, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Similarly, the traditional acts of contrition that contained all the motives for sorrow were often reduced, to the perhaps too brief, “O my God, I am sorry for my sins because you are so good, and by the help of your grace I will not sin again.”

If we compare this with a form of the older, longer version we can see that much has been lost by such a reduction: “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because they offend thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace to do penance, to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.”

Regarding confession, even before the council, Pope Pius XII had said in Mystici Corporis (88): “Let those therefore among the younger clergy who make light of or lessen esteem for frequent confession realize that what they are doing is alien to the Spirit of Christ and disastrous for the mystical body of our Savior.” Above all, it was said you must not give young people a “guilty feeling” that would pull them away from a loving God. Neither should hell be mentioned-it was said that God is a merciful God who would never send anyone to hell, forgetting that those who go to hell go in spite of God and not because of him.

In the liturgical field, it was said that the Mass must be acceptable to modern man, and particularly the young. This often resulted in turning the liturgy into a party and a sing-song. Thankfully, many of these abuses have been addressed in the document on the liturgy issued by the Holy See, Redemptionis Sacramentum.

Priests and religious were also encouraged to make themselves more acceptable to modernity, to abandon clerical dress and habits, and to dress in more casual clothing. For instance, the headline in a certain newspaper regarding a nun who was acting as “chaplainess” at a well-known university was “Mini-skirted nun speaks out.” The reporter quizzed her, “Sister, why do you wear a mini-skirt?” She responded, “In the spirit of Vatican II, I want to make myself more acceptable to the modern student.” Where indeed did Vatican II talk about mini-skirted nuns?

The truths of the faith were so diluted in schools that they became more like a vaccination against authentic Catholic instruction than anything positive and life giving. The principle that “we must bring Christ to the modern world,” which-understood in the right way-is valid, was misinterpreted to mean we must water down the faith to make it more acceptable; it would clearly be better to say we must bring the world to Christ. Vocations dwindled and all this was blamed on the materialistic society, when indeed much of it ought to have been blamed on those who corrupted the faith. Modernism, that is to say a way of thinking that left out God and supernatural realities, was well and truly in the ascendant. The words of Cardinal Gagnon come very much to mind: “Whenever modernism rears its head, vocations dwindle.”

In his letter to all the bishops on the Feast of the Holy Eucharist, 1980, Pope John Paul II spoke about the tendency to blur the distinction between the sacred and the profane. This took place particularly in Church music and architecture. Many churches were vandalized at enormous expense, as altar rails and statues were removed. The removal of altar rails, which was never recommended by Vatican II, was based on the theological error that the congregation was saying Mass with the priest. A certain so-called theologian stated in a lecture that the consecration did not take place until the great “Amen” at the end of the Eucharistic prayer.

The result was that some beautiful churches were desecrated to become multipurpose halls. Even cathedrals were built without a single crucifix, while modern art was often the excuse for designing Stations of the Cross that were incomprehensible to the average person. All this was the blurring of the sacred and profane. Beauty gave way to indescribable ugliness, and was justified because it was said to be in the
spirit of Vatican II.

And yet, Vatican II said the exact opposite: “Holy Mother Church has therefore always been the friend of the fine arts and has ever sought their noble help, with the special aim that all things set apart for use in divine worship should be truly worthy, becoming and beautiful, signs and symbols of the supernatural world, and for this purpose she has trained artists” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 122).

Indeed, one could say that as a result of all these aberrations, it seemed as if a hurricane had struck the Church. However, like Noah’s Ark, the Church would survive the storm, and always will, for the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Pope Paul VI, in the midst of this spiritual tempest in the 60s, had the courage to give clear guidelines on moral issues against the permissiveness of the age in Humanae Vitae, while in the Credo of the People of God he corrected many of the heresies that were once again springing up, as in the sixteenth century. It is perhaps significant that both of these documents were written after his visit to Fatima in 1967, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima. He had already consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the conclusion of Vatican II, following the request of Our Lady.

Pope Paul VI was to suffer much as a result of these two documents from liberal so-called theologians and went through a living martyrdom seeing the harm being done to so many of the faithful throughout the world. The election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to the chair of St. Peter brought new hope to the faithful. Here was a priest who knew what it was to suffer under Communism and Nazism-he would confront the attacks of the liberals as he had the assaults of Communism. His love for Our Blessed Lady and his fortitude in suffering the assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, was to bring hope to the faithful who were confused by the clamor of so many false prophets. The consecration of the world, including Russia, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 1984, the Feast of the Annunciation, was to have a profound effect on the breaking down of Communism.





After the spiritual storms of the 60s and 70s, there now began the first signs of spring, with new movements developing and vitality within the Church becoming apparent. A longing for the reaffirmation of the perennial truths of the faith, which culminated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, also developed. It now remained to bring back the traditional question-and answer form of catechetical instruction, initiated by the Council of Trent and enriched by the catechism, which quotes the saints and the Fathers of the Church.

Furthermore, the teachings of the faith can be learned in a very simple way through praying the Rosary in every home. This was the message given by John Paul II at the beatification of Francisco and Jacinta in 2000: “Tell your parents to put you in the school of Mary.” One could go further and say, “Tell your parents and bishops to put you in the school of Mary.” That “school of Mary” is the Holy Rosary, which, prayed in every home, is the bulwark against the attacks of the devil and the false attractions of the world.

Pope Benedict XVI’s recent encyclical on hope reminds us that amid the storms that launch themselves against the Church, the anchor of the soul is Christian hope. That hope is not unfounded. There are numerous signs of the beginning of a springtime for the Church. This can be seen in the new religious orders and movements that are growing up and that go back to the fundamentals; the restoration of frequent confession; the wearing of habits; and the insistence on sound catechetical teaching. In the liturgy, there has to be a renewed emphasis on reverence, the correction of many abuses, and an insistence on the fundamental distinction between the sacred and the world.

The Church persecuted in so many parts of the world and the martyrdom of so many Christians reminds us that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and ultimately there will be a rich harvest of souls. The young are not attracted by a watered down Christianity, but they are attracted by a faith that demands sacrifice and the complete giving of oneself to Christ.



1. Pope on homosexuals: ‘Who Am I to Judge?

By John L. Allen, Jr., July 29, 2013


One way to tell that a pope is feeling good at the end of a long trip is when he comes back to the press compartment and does precisely what he said at the beginning of the journey he won’t, or can’t, do.

On the way to Rio de Janeiro on July 22, Pope Francis told reporters, “I don’t give interviews.” But at the end of his seven-day tour de force in Brazil, not only did the pope give an interview, he gave a whopper of one.

He took questions from reporters traveling aboard the papal plane for a full hour and 21 minutes with no filters or limits and nothing off the record. Francis stood for the entire time, answering without notes and never refusing to take a question. The final query was an especially delicate one about charges of homosexual conduct against his recently appointed delegate to reform the Vatican bank, and not only did Francis answer, but he actually thanked reporters for the question.

On background, officials said the decision to hold the news conference aboard the 12-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome was a personal decision by Francis and that aides at one point had counseled him against it.

Not since John Paul II, prior to the debilitating effects of his illness, has a pope engaged in such a free-wheeling and spontaneous exchange with the press. Francis spoke in Italian and Spanish, the languages in which his comfort level is the greatest.

Among other points, Pope Francis:

—Replied when asked about the Vatican’s alleged “gay lobby” that while a lobby might be an issue, he doesn’t have any problem with the inclination to homosexuality itself: “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” he said.

—Conceded he doesn’t yet know what to do about the Vatican bank, saying it could become an ethical bank, an assistance fund for good causes, or be closed altogether.

—Argued for the importance of women in the church, yet said John Paul II “definitively … closed the door” to women priests. He called for a deeper “theology of women” beyond disputed questions such as whether they can be lectors at Mass or head Vatican agencies such as Caritas Internationalis.




—Suggested that the Synod of Bishops may be in for a shake-up in the direction of both greater efficiency and greater collegiality.

The following are highlights of that Q&A with the pope; a full transcript has been promised soon.


Resistance to reform

“If there’s resistance [in the Vatican], I haven’t seen it. It’s true that I haven’t done a lot yet, but so far I’ve found helpful, loyal people. I like it when someone says, ‘I don’t agree with you,’ and I have found that. People will say, ‘I’ll say what I think, but you do what you want.’ I’ve found that attitude in the Curia. That’s better than those who say, ‘That’s great, that’s great,’ but then say the opposite later … maybe people like that are there, but I haven’t run into significant resistance.”


The Charismatic Movement

“We talked about the statistics regarding Pentecostals with the bishops on Brazil in a meeting yesterday. I’ll tell you something about the Charismatic Movement … at the end of the ’70s and in the ’80s, I wasn’t a big fan. I used to say they confused the holy liturgy with a school of samba. I was converted when I got to know them better and saw the good they do. In this moment of the life of the church, the movements are necessary. They’re a grace of the Spirit, and in general, they do much good for the church. The charismatic renewal movement isn’t just about winning back a few Pentecostals, but it serves the church and its renewal.”

Women in the church

“A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother.”

“The role of women doesn’t end just with being a mother and with housework … we don’t yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don’t have a deep theology of women in the church.”

“On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed.”


Divorced and remarried Catholics

“This theme always comes up … I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch. It’s a Kairos moment for mercy … In terms of Communion for those who have divorced and remarried, it has to be seen within the larger pastoral context of marriage. When the council of eight cardinals meets Oct. 1-3, one of the things they’ll consider is how to move forward with the pastoral care of marriage. Also, just 15 days ago or so, I met the secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and maybe it will also focus on the pastoral care of marriage. It’s complicated.”

The Jesuits

“The Jesuits have a vow to obey the pope, but if the pope is a Jesuit, maybe he should have a vow to obey the superior general … I feel like I’m still a Jesuit in terms of my spirituality, what I have in my heart. In three days, I’ll go to celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius. Also, I think like a Jesuit.”


Gay lobby

“There’s a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I’ve never seen it on the Vatican ID card.”

“When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.”



2. On Gay Priests, Pope Francis Asks, ‘Who Am I to Judge?

By Rachel Donadio, July 29, 2013

Rome — For generations, homosexuality has largely been a taboo topic for the Vatican, ignored altogether or treated as “an intrinsic moral evil,” in the words of the previous pope.

In that context, brief remarks by Pope Francis suggesting that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation, made aboard the papal airplane on the way back from his first foreign trip, to Brazil, resonated through the church. Never veering from church doctrine opposing homosexuality, Francis did strike a more compassionate tone than that of his predecessors, some of whom had largely avoided even saying the more colloquial “gay.”

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word “gay.”

Francis’s words could not have been more different from those of Benedict XVI, who in 2005 wrote that homosexuality was “a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” and an “objective disorder.” The church document said men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should not become priests.




Vatican experts were quick to point out that Francis was not suggesting that the priests or anyone else should act on their homosexual tendencies, which the church considers a sin. But the fact that he made such comments — and used the word “gay” — was nevertheless revolutionary, and likely to generate significant discussion in local dioceses, where bishops are divided over whether to accept priests who are gay but celibate.

“It’s not a great opening in terms of contents, but the fact that he talked about it that way is a great novelty,” said Paolo Rodari, a Vatican expert at the Italian daily La Repubblica. Francis would probably agree with Benedict’s writings on homosexuality, he added, “but it doesn’t interest him.”

“It interests him to say that the problem in the end isn’t if someone has this tendency, the important thing is to live in the light of God,” Mr. Rodari said. “Said by a pope, it’s enormous.”

Francis also told reporters that while Pope John Paul II had definitively closed the door to female priests, he sought a “theology of women” and a greater role for them in Catholic life, news reports said.

The pope’s comments on homosexuals and women in the church were yet another sign of the different directions from which Benedict and Francis approach doctrine. While Benedict, the shy theologian, focused more on ethics and advocated a purer church, even if it might end up being smaller, Francis was elected for his belief that the Catholic Church must engage in dialogue with the world — even with those it disagrees with — if it wants to stay vibrant and relevant.

“At a certain point, tone becomes substance if it’s seen as revitalizing the prospects of the church,” said John L. Allen, Jr., a Vatican expert at The National Catholic Reporter.

[…] During his papal trips, John Paul II loved to walk to the back of the plane and chat with reporters, while Benedict only responded to a handful of preselected questions. Francis, on the overnight flight back to Rome from Rio de Janeiro, spoke freely to reporters for 80 minutes about everything from the Vatican Bank troubles to his decision not to live in the Apostolic Palace but rather in a Vatican residence.

Francis did not dodge a single question, even thanking the person who prompted his comments on homosexuality, asking about Italian news reports of a “gay lobby” inside the Vatican, with clerics blackmailing one another with information about sexual missteps. “So much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word ‘gay,’ ” Francis said, chuckling. “They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good.” […]


3. Who
am I to judge?‘ marks new tone on homosexuality

By John Thavis, July 29, 2013

It’s amazing how five simple words – “Who am I to judge?” – can change perceptions and open doors.

The words came from Pope Francis to reporters on his plane back to Rome following a weeklong trip to Brazil, and the topic was homosexuality.

The pope’s remarks were telling, both for what he said and what he didn’t say.

I was not on the plane, but my former colleague Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service was on board:

“A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will – well, who am I to judge him?” the pope said. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation – we must be like brothers and sisters.”

Amid the media attention that inevitably followed, it’s important to note that although the pope was responding to a question about an alleged “gay lobby” in the Vatican, his comment was not specifically about gay priests.

Some media have portrayed the pope as saying he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation, which would seem to call into question the Vatican’s 2005 document that ruled out ordination for men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” Based on the pope’s actual words, I think that’s a stretch.

In fact, what the pope said – as he himself pointed out – is essentially affirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that gay men and women “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

What the pope didn’t discuss with journalists was the catechism’s line that the homosexual inclination is itself “disordered.” That was the basis for the Vatican’s ban on gay priests. Francis didn’t disown that particular teaching, he just didn’t mention it.

It’s an important shift in emphasis. And Pope Francis is clearly trying to reach out to those who have been alienated by the church’s statements about homosexuality in recent years.

Although comparison between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict is not always fair, I think in this case it’s instructive. When asked about the church’s teaching on homosexuality in a book-length interview in 2010, Pope Benedict responded that gay men and women deserve respect, but added: “This does not mean that homosexuality thereby becomes morally right. Rather, it remains contrary to the essence of what God originally willed.”

Pope Benedict went on to say that homosexuality among the clergy was “one of the miseries of the church” and that “homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation.”

Who am I to judge?” sends a very different message.

UPDATE: Here’s a translation of the relevant portion of the Q and A aboard the papal flight. The English translation was done by Father Tom Rosica of Salt + Light TV, on the basis of an Italian transcript provided by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi:

The Question to Pope Francis from Ilse, a journalist on the Papal flight:




Ilse: I would like to ask permission to pose a rather delicate question. Another image that went around the world is that of Monsignor Ricca and the news about his personal life. I would like to know, your Holiness, what will be done about this question. How should one deal with this question and how does your Holiness wish to deal with the whole question of the gay lobby?

The Pope’s Answer:

Regarding the matter of Monsignor Ricca, I did what Canon Law required and did the required investigation. And from the investigation, we did not find anything corresponding to the accusations against him. We found none of that. That is the answer. But I would like to add one more thing to this: I see that so many times in the Church, apart from this case and also in this case, one looks for the “sins of youth,” for example, is it not thus? And then these things are published. These things are not crimes. The crimes are something else: child abuse is a crime. But sins, if a person, or secular priest or a nun, has committed a sin and then that person experienced conversion, the Lord forgives and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we go to confession and we truly say “I have sinned in this matter,” the Lord forgets and we do not have the right to not forget because we run the risk that the Lord will not forget our sins, eh? This is a danger. This is what is important: a theology of sin. So many times I think of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins denying Christ. And with this sin they made him Pope. We must think about fact often.

But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing.  That is the first question. Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby. I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay. They say there are some gay people here. I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good.  They are bad.  If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.”

The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter. There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!



4. Pope Francis’s “Mess”

By Raymond Arroyo, August 1, 2013

Pope Francis has lost none of his ability to surprise. On his seven-day journey to Rio he eschewed traditional security protocols (which allowed a crowd to mob his traffic-trapped mini-Popemobile), wandered into Rio’s slums, accepted drinks from strangers on the street, and just for the fun of it added a meeting with young people to an already packed schedule.

At the impromptu July 25 meeting, in the Cathedral of San Sebastian, Francis delivered off-the-cuff remarks that capture not only his wish for the young, but the essence of his papal approach.

“What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day?” Francis said. “I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! . . . I want to see the Church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools, or structures. Because these need to get out!”

Francis’s papal style is so different from the piercing intelligence of Benedict XVI or the philosophical theatricality of John Paul II that it is almost jarring. The new pope is at once blunt and simple — much like those receiving his message. And the “mess” that Francis has encouraged, the unpredictable “mess” that he has incorporated into his papacy, only makes him more attractive to people in and outside of the pews.

A non-Catholic woman who had heard me comment on the pope weeks earlier stopped me at the gym the other day. “I like this pope,” she said. “I’m not one for organized religion, but I believe this Pope Francis lives what he says.”

Truth be told, so did the last two popes. I knew them personally, and I can vouch for that. But the fact is, people perceive that Francis is somehow more authentic because he has made it a point to publicly underscore his message in both word and deed. He has himself become the message.

Kissing babies, shaking hands from the back of a Fiat, sharing gestures of friendship with the poor and disabled — all are meant to convey an openness to people on their own terms. Pope Francis is urging his Church and all her members to go out and reach individuals in their needs. He told his bishops as much in Rio:
“We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel!” Francis said. “It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people! Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away . . . go and look for them in the nooks and crannies of the streets. . . .”

During his return flight to Italy, Pope Francis engaged with those “farthest away” (at least in terms of access): the media. Venturing into the back of the papal plane, he convened a spontaneous press conference, fielding questions from reporters on board for 80 minutes.

After speaking of mercy and Christ’s forgiveness toward the repentant, the pope took a question about the “gay lobby” at the Vatican. Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service reports: Pope Francis said it was important to “distinguish between a person who is gay and someone who makes a gay lobby. A gay lobby isn’t good.”



“A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him?” the pope went on. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this [homosexual] orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby.”

In the aftermath of the in-flight presser, the Huffington Post raved, “Breakthrough: Pope Okay with Gays.” The pope, indeed the Church, has always been “okay” with all sinners (just check out the membership). That does not mean that the Church approves the actions of all her members, straight or gay. Despite the media reports, the pope is in no way altering Church teaching. He is merely quoting the Catechism and, in his laid-back manner, affirming the long-held teaching of the Catholic Church. Having read several transcripts of his comments in context, I think the pope is saying that once a gay person repents and “is seeking God,” presumably in chastity, he is not to be judged or marginalized. How this could be misconstrued as an innovation or a “breakthrough” is bewildering. Though it is a tonal shift, to be sure.

The entire episode reminds us that papal handlers do have their place. As cumbersome as they are, and as much as they distance the pontiff from his people, handlers can protect the pope from this sort of misinterpretation. Vigorous off-the-cuff expressions have their place, but so do unambiguous, vetted statements — especially when dealing with a media unversed in Church teaching.

Pope Francis in the aftermath of World Youth Day may have gotten the “mess” he desired. Such is the cost of a full-throttled engagement with a secular culture. But as long as people are talking, as long as Francis maintains the spotlight on the saving message he is trying to impart, perhaps his “mess” is worth it — and even beneficial.

Raymond Arroyo is news director at EWTN, host of The World Over Live, and a New York Times bestselling author.  He has anchored more papal events than anyone else in broadcasting.



5. ‘Who Am I to Judge?’

By Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Global Leader, Metropolitan Community Churches, August 10, 2013 EXTRACT

Pope Francis asked a stunning question: “Who am I to judge?” This was in response to inquiries about whether or not there are gay priests in the Vatican — the now-renowned “gay lobby.”

In a 90-minute interview returning from his travels in Brazil, an affable, relaxed Pope Francis covered a range of topics, but the “who am I to judge?” response made the world do a double take.


Who am I to judge?

Well, the pope! You are the pope who inherited two millennia of, well, pontificating about what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s moral and what’s immoral.

I am sure the Vatican leaders are wringing their collective hands over a pope who may be viewed as a security and PR nightmare. He may seem out of their control, dispensing mercy and off-the-cuff pastoral kindness that blurs the lines of official church policy and pronouncements. We could almost feel the winds of Vatican II blowing.

My hope is that this is not just the kind of rock-star popularity that masked the sometimes-kind conservatism of John Paul II. He gave “warm fuzzies” to big crowds but became increasingly dogmatic as a corrupt system of financial and sexual exploitation lurked beneath the surface.

Pope Francis’ step toward humility was stunning, but few are naïve enough to think that everything has changed. Gay priests must still be celibate, and Pope Francis declared that “the door is closed” on the ordination of women. But what the pope did in that interview was to begin to live up to the Catholic Church’s own teachings about humankind.

Honestly, if all Christian denominations and traditions lived up to their own teachings about humanity, there would be a great revolution of respect. But that respect must include women as full human beings, worthy of greatness — worthy of ordination — and it must include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.

I sincerely hope this pope really does want to shake up things. Celibacy should be optional. Catholic women need the church to move into the 20th, not to mention the 21st, century and recognize their full eligibility for the priesthood. Sexual assaults on children must be eliminated. Decisions about contraception, reproductive health and choice should be in the hands of women, not by unaffected men who like to dictate policy. The use of condoms to save lives through prevention of HIV/AIDS must be commonplace. A revolution of respect can happen!


Although the pope did not suddenly change the church’s view that LGBTQ people should remain celibate, whether as priests or as lay people, he did tell Christians around the world that it’s time to live up to the highest values of the faith rather than descend to base disrespect for human beings.

Pope Francis modeled a more tolerant approach to LGBTQ people. He is the first pope to use the word “gay.” Tolerance is a humble platform from which people across the world can be speaking out for mutual respect. It is not a perfect platform, but it appears that it might suit a pope who doesn’t think of himself as infallible but as a human being who respects God’s good diversity. How refreshing!

As the head of Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in 40 countries, I know that it is time that Christians step up and strive to fulfill the basic teachings of Jesus: Feed the poor, clothe the naked, visit prisoners — and, like the pope, judge not.


ONE OUTCOME: Friars from Boston’s St. Anthony’s Shrine pose for MassResistance as they put up the banner for their booth at the Boston Gay Pride Festival, June 2014.


6. Pope Francis has single-handedly destroyed Catholicism

By JoAnna Wahlund, September 18, 2013

…or so you’d think if you got all your information about Catholicism from blog comboxes.

Not surprisingly, Pope Francis has been in the news lately. The media jumped on his offhand comments about homosexuals, breathlessly reported on a letter he wrote to an atheist, and made much hay over an interview given by the Vatican’s new Secretary of State (the media was apparently under the impression that Pope Francis is a very clever ventriloquist, and he was the one talking while the new Secretary’s mouth was moving – at least, that’s what they reported).

A common refrain I’m observing in the comboxes of various Catholic bloggers lately, when said blogger discusses one of these media reports, goes something like this:

“The Pope needs to stop making remarks like this! They’re too easily misunderstood! No one should have to write an article after the fact explaining what the Pope actually said/meant. The Pope needs to deliberate for hours on end before so much as opening his mouth! Every word must be crafted with the utmost perfection so that the media doesn’t get the wrong idea!” etc., etc.

And, my favorite:

“This kind of thing never happened when Benedict XVI/John Paul II was Pope!”

To these people, I respond:

Really? That’s some pretty amazing selective memory you have going on there. Granted, I’ve only been Catholic for the last ten years, but I remember:

The Condom Kerfuffle, in which the MSM proclaimed that Pope Benedict said condoms were perfectly okay for everyone to use (when he actually said that in certain situations, the use of a condom could indicate that someone was trying to act in a moral fashion by not spreading disease, and that trying to act morally could be a good first step on the road to repentance).

Pope Benedict’s speech at the University of Regensburg, in which (according to the media) the Pope said that Mohammed was evil incarnate and all Muslims were going to hell. (The Pope later explained that his words had been misunderstood by Muslims.)

The publication of Benedict’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, in which the MSM announced that the Pope attacked capitalism as always evil in any circumstance and wholeheartedly supported the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The motu proprio Summorum Pontificum was, according to the media, Pope Benedict’s last ditch attempt to revive a dying church by resurrecting a dead language.

John Paul II’s release of Dominus Iesus in 2000 spawned dozens of newspaper headlines (one of which I remember seeing in my college newspaper) proclaiming that “the Pope says non-Catholics aren’t really Christians!”

In Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, John Paul II stated unequivocally, “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren […] I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful” (emphasis mine). Seems pretty straightforward, but the MSM headlines in response? “Pope’s words about women’s ordination spark debate” or similar.

I’m sure I could list hundreds of examples dating back decades, if not centuries, about how the media flagrantly and deliberately misrepresents a pope’s statements, leading to a need for the Vatican et al to issue a clarification. This is not a new phenomenon. The media does not exist to tell the truth – it exists to make people rich. Juicy headlines sell newspapers and garner millions of website hits, which generate revenue. “Pope Reiterates 2,000-year-old Teaching of the Church” doesn’t make money; “Pope Declares that All Atheists Go to Heaven” does. Truth has nothing to do with it, and this type of misrepresentation for personal gain is something that’s been happening as long as the papacy has existed.

Indeed, St. Peter himself could have been speaking about the mainstream media when he said, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.



Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Of course, in every combox you find at least one person lamenting that the current Pope is destroying the Catholic Church. One example:

“This is doctrinal immodesty, if I may use the phrase. Rather than clothe the precious doctrine of the Body of Christ in garments of sobriety, modesty and Prudence, the truths of the Church are being sold away [by Pope Francis, presumably] cheaply to the moral perverts and enemies of Christ.”

I’m very curious what the commenter in question would have had to say about some of the Church’s earlier Popes:

Pope Stephen VI (896–897), who had his predecessor Pope Formosus exhumed, tried, de-fingered, briefly reburied, and thrown in the Tiber.

Pope John XII (955–964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.

Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048), who “sold” the Papacy.

Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303), who is lampooned in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Pope Urban VI (1378–1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured.

Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), a Borgia, who was guilty of nepotism and whose unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in a coffin.

Pope Leo X (1513–1521), a spendthrift member of the Medici family who once spent 1/7 of his predecessors’ reserves on a single ceremony.

Pope Clement VII (1523–1534), also a Medici, whose power-politicking with France, Spain, and Germany got Rome sacked.

(The preceding examples are taken from E. Chamberlain’s book “The Bad Popes,” as summarized by Wikipedia.)

We once had a Pope who was murdered while engaging in the act of adultery – and the Church survived! After that, can anyone honestly believe that the Church will be utterly decimated and destroyed simply because the current pope made statements about atheists that were deliberately misconstrued by the media in order to boost ratings?! Perhaps the Holy Spirit is insulted by the implication that His protection of the Truth was considered so weak and ineffective.

So please, fellow Catholics, the proper response when reading a MSM headline about the Pope changing a long-held doctrine of Catholicism is not panic or rage or despair. Rather, it’s a yawn, an eye-roll, and a resigned sigh – as well as a realization that we’re once again called upon to engage in the new evangelization for the sake of the Kingdom in the realm of social media and among our friends and family.

JoAnna was baptized, raised, and married in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America but converted to Catholicism in May 2003, on G.K. Chesterton’s birthday. She has five terrific kids here on earth, three saints in heaven praying for her, and a wonderful husband of 13 years who supports her in all things. By day, she is a content editor for a global information company; by night, she enjoys defending the Catholic faith online (in between her duties as chief cook and bottle washer for La Casa Wahlund). She blogs at and more sporadically at


7. The “Pope Francis Effect:” Everyone’s Loving It…So Far

By Cecilia Rodriguez, November 17, 2013

Most of what he does and says is becoming instant legend. Polls and experts show that he’s one of the most popular figures on the planet, far outdistancing movie stars, politicians, businessmen and athletes.

He’s also a social media star, the most talked-about name on the Internet, and the most-searched term. On Twitter, @Pontifex has 3.3 million followers and climbing. Forbes ranks him fourth on the list of the most powerful people in the world.

Not bad after only eight months on the job.

One outcome so far of his meteoric rise is known as the “Pope Francis Effect.” Among its attributes is a recent boom in tourism in Italy, particularly in Rome, with the corollary impact on the restaurant and food industry, hotels, transportation and the production and sales of souvenirs – all welcomed by an ailing Italian economy.

Latin America is the biggest single source of Catholic pilgrims to Italy, with tourism from the region up by 20% from the same period last year. Unsurprisingly, Argentina – Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s homeland – leads the Latin American charge, with a record 66.5% increase this year. Meanwhile, the total number of foreign visitors to Rome is up almost 8% and the city’s police report that average attendance to papal audiences, held every Wednesday and Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, has more than doubled.

While European and Asian tourists tend to stay in the heart of Rome, the Latin American visitors seem to prefer cheaper hotels and campgrounds on the outskirts of the city, which has helped spark regional upgrades in accommodation and bus travel to the Vatican, with as many as 17,000 tickets sold in a day.

The other important aspect attributed to the “Pope Francis Effect” is a significant global rise in church attendance. It started in Rome, rapidly spread to the rest of the country and then to much of Europe, and now is being reported all around the world “by the hundreds of thousands,” according to the Italian Center for Studies of New Religions.




Italian pollster Opinioni, reported this week that more than four in five Italians had a “positive” or “extremely positive” opinion of the pope.

“What is it about this new Pope that is bringing so many more of the lapsed faithful back to plant themselves into the pews?” wonders a columnist for the daily Christian Today. “And why are many more outside the Church now looking at Roman Christianity with a fondness, respect, and overall appreciation? The central reason appears to be Pope Francis’s Christ-like humility and sincerity. It’s difficult to completely evade the pomp and ceremony of leading the world’s single largest religion…but he very firmly believes in the importance of being a man of his people.”

Another columnist, Jonathan Freedland of The Guardian, has proposed Pope Francis to replace president Obama as “the pin-up on every liberal and leftist wall. He is now the world’s clearest voice for change,” he writes, inviting “even atheists” to pray for him.

The most recent stories about the pope are full of anecdotes that only add to his aura of “superhero” for our time: He’s humble and sincere; he carries his own suitcase; he refused to live in the grandeur of the papal Vatican’s palace; he doesn’t like too much security and travels in an unassuming car – a siren-free, blue Ford Focus; he personally calls parishioners all over the globe who have written to him and offers them help and empathy.

“Some will dismiss these acts as mere gestures, even publicity stunts,” Freedland notes. “But they convey a powerful message, one of almost elemental egalitarianism.”

For experts and observers alike, these signs are encouraging. His most recent and controversial move was to send a survey to the world’s Catholics seeking their opinion on many issues via 38 questions, including the controversial – gay marriage, divorced and cohabitating couples, abortion and contraception.

Some see that move as Francis’s effort to prepare the ground for reform before next year’s ecclesiastic synod, where the heads of the church gather to decide on doctrine.

Meanwhile, there are many who fear for his life. His “revolutionary” approach, frontal attacks against institutional corruption and “unbridled capitalism,” coupled with his indifference to personal security measures prompted an Italian prosecutor to warn that he’s putting himself in the way of the mafia, Italy’s second most powerful institution.

“The pope may have no army, no battalions or divisions, but he has a pulpit – and right now he is using it to be the world’s loudest and clearest voice against the status quo,” Freedland warns.

Imagine if this were a business. You could already start measuring the ROI of the “Pope Francis Effect.”



8. The Holy Father has just fervently declared his support for Benedict XVI’s vision of the Church, and has issued a clear rejection of the so-called ‘Spirit of Vatican II

By William Oddie, November 19, 2013

As attendance at Mass and the confessional ‘soars’, his pastoral strategy is looking clearer; who knows? The ‘Francis effect‘ may even prove durable

An important letter, from Pope Francis to Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, has just been published. It includes the following: “With these lines I wish to be close to you and join myself to the act of presentation of the book ‘Primato pontificio ed episcopato. Dal primo millennio al Concilio ecumenico Vaticano II’ [‘Pontifical primacy and episcopate: from the first millennium to the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.’ The book is a collection of essays, some by Archbishop Marchetto, in his honour]. I beg you to consider myself spiritually present [there]…

“You have made [your love for the Church] manifest in many ways… above all it is manifest in all your purity in the studies made on the Second Vatican Council. I once told you, dear Abp. Marchetto, and I wish to repeat it today, that I consider you to be the best interpreter [ermeneuta] of the Second Vatican Council.”

With that declaration, with his open support for this book, and with the decision to make the text of his letter public, Pope Francis is making an explicit declaration of his own ecclesial position, which he clearly expects to be noted by all: namely, that he supports Benedict XVI’s vision of the Church, and absolutely rejects the so-called “Spirit of Vatican II*. There can now be no question of writing off this Holy Father as a “liberal Pope”: not unless you are one of the weird eccentrics who attempts to do the same for Benedict XVI himself.

The book Pope Francis is so enthusiastically endorsing is described by its publisher, the University of Chicago Press, as an “important study” which “makes a significant contribution to the debate that surrounds the interpretation of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Archbishop Marchetto critiques the Bologna School, which, he suggests, presents the Council as a kind of ‘Copernican revolution’, a transformation to ‘another Catholicism’. Instead Marchetto invites readers to reconsider the Council directly, through its official documents, commentaries, and histories… [Cardinal Koch writes] that [this] interpretation of the Council” has “taken up and deepened the hermeneutic of reform supported by Benedict XVI.”

There’s a good bit to be said about this “Bologna School”, and it can get fairly complicated. Let’s just say that that’s who Benedict XVI was attacking in his famous address of December 2005: The Bologna School it was which invented and propagated the “hermeneutic of rupture“, in the name of “The Spirit of Vatican II*, which it held should supersede the actual texts of the Council. Archbishop Marchetto is its bête noire.

It’s worthwhile at this point to recall (remembering the Bologna School and its teachings) the text of Benedict’s address.





“The question arises”, says Pope Benedict: “Why has the reception of the Council been so difficult for such a great portion of the Church up until now? Well, all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or – as we would say today – on its correct hermeneutic, on the right key to interpretation and application.

“The problems of reception”, he goes on, “have arisen from a struggle between two conflicting forms of interpretation. One of these has caused confusion; the other, in a silent but increasingly visible way, has brought results, and continues to bring them. On one hand, there is an interpretation that I would like to call ‘hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture’ (That’s the Bologna School he’s talking about):

“It was frequently able to find favour among mass media, and also a certain sector of modern theology… Hermeneutics of discontinuity risk leading to a fracture between the pre-Council and post-Council Church. It asserts that the Council texts as such would still not be the true expression of the spirit of the Council. They would be the result of compromises within which, to reach unanimity, many old and ultimately useless things had to be dragged along and reconfirmed. It is, however, not in these compromises that the true spirit of the Council would be revealed, but instead in the drive toward newness that underpin the texts: only this would represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from it and in conformity with it, it would be necessary to go forward. Precisely because the texts would reflect only imperfectly the true spirit of the Council and its novelty, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts, making room for the new, in which the more profound, even though still indistinct, intention of the Council would express itself. In short: it would be necessary to follow not the Council texts, but its spirit.”

It would be difficult to be more enthusiastic than Pope Francis in his endorsement of Archbishop Marchetto’s scholarly development of Benedict XVI’s teachings, and his rejection of the hermeneutic of discontinuity and the notion that it is “necessary to follow not the Council texts, but its spirit”.

“I am grateful to you”, he concludes, “for all the good that you do for us with your testimony of love for the Church, and I ask the Lord that you be abundantly blessed. I beg you please not to forget to pray for me. May Jesus bless you, and may the Virgin protect you.”

The implications of this fervent endorsement, says Father Z**, are “HUGE, with a capital H and capital UGE.”

This declaration will not be noticed by the secular media: and who cares? But it will be noticed by Hans Küng and his crew, and by the Tabletistas. The media will still respond positively to Pope Francis’s pastoral instincts and so should we all. We should also note the enthusiasm of many semi-lapsed Catholics: according to the Daily Mail, “After years of decline, cathedrals in Britain have seen a 20 per cent rise in congregations since the Argentinian Pope was elected as head of the Catholic Church eight months ago. And the ‘Pope Francis Effect is being felt across the world, with new and lapsed Catholics surging back to the confession box ‘by the hundreds or thousands’, according to the Italian Centre for Studies of New Religions. In Italy half of priests have noted a marked rise in support for the Church”. And so on. Even the sourest Francis-sceptic can hardly claim that all that is actually a bad thing: the worst they can say is that maybe it won’t last. But maybe some of it will. That growth in recourse to the confessional is particularly interesting: that looks serious, and potentially durable.

I ended my last post by saying that I was confident that “as the pontificate unfolds, [anxieties about Pope Francis] will become progressively calmer and then fade away. I think the Holy Father will pull it off.” My confidence in that outcome has just been given a major boost, by the Pope’s unambiguous endorsement of Archbishop Marchetto. This pontificate has just passed an important milestone.




8 out of 149 comments:

Could then someone -the Magisterium – give us and give to others the “correct” understanding and interpretation of Vatican II? Why then 50 years later we have not reached any of its goals? -Lucio


Because those of the “spirit of Vatican II” infiltrated the church and did not teach the “correct” understanding of the council. We are starting to see them die out rapidly. You will see it in about 20 more years or so. –Paul


William Oddie is putting words in Francis’s mouth. There is no quotation from Francis denouncing the “Spirit of Vatican II” nor has Francis denounced modernism, the fruit of the “Spirit of V-II. He has praised atheism, homosexuality; and has criticized priests and nuns; and has suppressed the traditional Latin Mass for the Franciscan order. Suppression of the traditional Latin Mass was the main thrust of the “Spirit of Vatican II” and he promotes that modernism, by his actions and words. –Patsy


The spirit of Vatican 2 was essentially one of Aggiornamento. Which means a spirit of dialogue, openness and understanding of the modern world so that the church could more meaningfully and effectively communicate its eternal truths to modern people. The challenge of modernisation was more one of communicating the church’s beliefs in a way that was understandable, relevant and consistent to the modern mind which resists blind faith and the demand of uncritical obedience. Prior to Vatican 2 there seemed to be an unwillingness of the church to listen and understand the modern world
and as a result millions found it irrelevant. Modern psychology tells us that before I listen to you, I need to know that you also will listen and value what I have to say without judging me. This is what pope Francis seems to be doing very well and to that end he truly supports the true spirit of Vatican 2.



Traditionalists and hard core conservatives who are very resistant to change and who fear modernity, have unfortunately interpreted the spirit of Vatican 2 to mean one of changing the fundamentals of our faith and have as such resisted it. Which is why many hard core traditionalists like those in the Society of Pius X, have suggested that Vatican 2 was a heretical
council and that Pope John 23 was a heretical pope. It did not help that some of the extreme progressives on the other end of the spectrum, like the bologna school were clamoring for a “hermeneutics of rupture” or break from the theological baggage of the past. When pope benedict16 spoke of “a hermeneutics of continuity”, he clearly supports a new way of sharing with the world our fundamental catholic truths. YEs he is cautious of not dismissing the body of catholic teaching developed over 2000 years; but clearly he also advocates a more progressive and modern approach in explaining these truths in a way that makes greater sense to modern people. To do this effectively requires openness, dialogue and willingness to understand how people different to us in terms of religion, culture, ideology, etc. think. Only with a deep and profound understanding of this rich diversity, can the church effectively transmit its eternal truths in a way that will enrich modernity. It is very sad that many traditionalists find this desire to understand faiths or perspectives different from us, as repulsive and heretical. Thank God Pope Francis has put the Catholic Church back on track as to the true spirit of Vatican 2. -Gerard


Gerard: “Modern psychology tells us that before I listen to you, I need to know that you also will listen and value what I have to say without judging me.” ## To know that, common sense & courtesy ought to be enough.

“Traditionalists and hard core conservatives who are very resistant to change and who fear modernity, have unfortunately interpreted the spirit of Vatican 2 to mean one of changing the fundamentals of our faith and have as such resisted it.”

“One need not be a hard core conservative…very resistant to change…fearing modernity”, or a sympathiser w/ the SSPX, to notice that V2 has not exactly brought in a “New Pentecost”.

A “New Babel”, possibly, but not a “New Pentecost”. Such works as the Dutch Catechism; the flowering of priestly life that has brought 150,000 priests out of the priesthood; or the silencing of preaching Christ to His own People the Jews, do not exactly suggest that what J23 was hoping for has happened. V2 was an abortion, good as its documents may be. The Bride of Christ has taken the Pill, and badly needs to get it out of her system. It’s no good the bishops protesting against the use of contraceptives, if the Church does not come off them, & become fertile again.

The popes can talk all they want about a “hermeneutic of continuity”, but until they show that there is this, or a, continuity, and of what sort, that has a hermeneutic in the first place, they will be wasting their breath. Only the Popes can authoritatively declare to & for the whole Church on earth what the form, identity, character, nature & qualities of this alleged continuity are. They cannot expect bishops, or theologians, to do so definitively, because only the Pope has been given authority to instruct the entire Church on earth. It is the Popes who have to speak – good teachers don’t tantalize and torment their hearers with hints of a solution to a great difficulty such as this is, but deliver the solution fully and clearly & faithfully. –James


Does this mean that silly former non-Catholic Christians who converted to Catholicism on the “back” as it were of Vatican 2 (and were adult at the time of V2), should now leave the Catholic Church? If the answer is “yes”, can some kind soul please tell me how to go about this? –Guest


No: the “Spirit of Vatican II” isn’t the same thing as Vatican II itself: it’s a distortion of it. Read the article, for heavens’ sake: it’s all explained there, and may be grasped by the meanest intelligence. –William Oddie


No, it’s a mass of Heresy and Dissent, without even a single redeeming feature… The so-called “Spirit of the Council” is a spirit of Heresy and Apostasy from the Faith. -Julian



9. A “Francis Effect” in these USA?

Posted on 26 November 2013 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

There is a lot of buzz about a “Francis Effect“. As I watch Twitter, for example, I see comments such as “I’m not Catholic anymore, but I really like this Pope!” or “I disagree with the Church on a lot of things, but Francis is great!”

There are reports that numbers of penitents making sacramental confessions are up.  GOOD! I hope that is the case.

At the same time… is there a “Francis Effect” and, if so, will it last?  Are people who are in some way impressed with Francis going to change some aspect of their lives?

Liberals will tend to latch on only to what the MSM reports about certain of Francis’ soundbites. This is going to be a huge problem in sorting out the meaning of the new Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Conservatives will also be driven, through herd-mentality, to react to those same soundbites. I predict that a greater polarization is ahead of us. “Francis Effect“? I hope not, but I am not sanguine.  People on both sides don’t seem to be able to read and weigh anymore.

Anyway, I was sent a link to a post at the Pew Research Center:


No clear ‘Pope Francis effect‘ among U.S. Catholics

In the first eight months of his pontificate, Pope Francis has impressed, charmed and inspired many people around the world with his outreach to non-Christians, his statements of concern for the poor and disabled, and his personal humility.




At the same time, other Catholics have expressed dismay over the pope’s statements about homosexuality and his remarks that the church is “obsessed” with some social issues.

Some news accounts contend that the pope’s popularity has created a “Pope Francis effect,” producing a “significant global rise in church attendance,” based on reports by Catholic clergy in Italy, Britain and other countries of a recent rise in Mass attendance.

In the United States, home to the world’s fourth-largest Catholic population, the pope appears to be well-liked by Catholics and non-Catholics alike, rated favorably by 79% of Catholics and 58% of the general public.

[QUAERITUR…] But has the pope’s popularity produced a Catholic resurgence in the U.S., where 10% of adults are former Catholics? Not so far, at least in terms of the share of Americans who identify as such, or the share of those who report attending Mass weekly.

A new analysis of pooled Pew Research surveys conducted between Francis’ election in March and the end of October this year finds that the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholics has remained the same – 22% — as it was during the corresponding seven-month period in 2012. In fact, our polls going back to 2007 show Catholic identification in the U.S. has held stable, fluctuating only between 22% and 23%[Is the Francis Effect just a superficial, ephemeral phenomenon?]

Though Americans may report attending church more frequently than they actually do, our surveys find that self-reported levels of Mass attendance have remained virtually unchanged since the new pope was elected. Since April of this year, 39% of U.S. Catholics report attending Mass at least weekly, similar to the 40% attendance figure last year.


Mass attendance isn’t the only thing to look at.

Can we imagine that as Pres. Obama and crew help to destroy the job-force and blast family budgets to the moon through the “AFFORDABLE” Care Act that people will gives as much?

Will homosexuals be moved to live continent lives?  Will the wymyn priest crowd give up their demands for Holy Orders?

Will the number of young men who respond to priestly vocations rise?  The numbers of men and women to religious vocations?

Will Catholic schools clean up their act and guide their institutions according to Ex corde Ecclesiae?

Will couples in invalid and immoral relationships be moved by the Francis Effect to get their lives straightened out?

What is the Francis Effect?


3 out of 16 responses:

1. I have thought since the first weeks after his election and the first inklings of the ‘Francis effect‘ that his papacy had the potential to be a very tragic one. He has been and is being portrayed by the MSM as ‘liberal’ ideologue when he is in fact nothing of the kind. This has the potential to alienate those who call themselves ‘liberal’ when it finally dawns on them that he is not one of them, as it has already alienated many of those who call themselves ‘conservative.’ A true devil’s brew is in the works I fear. But such is the world we live in; the unfolding of events in the geopolitical arena doesn’t provide me with a whole lot of solace for the near term future of the Church either. Veni Sancte Spiritus!

2. The only reason we hear about the so called “Francis Effect” is the media believes he’s a liberal just as they are. So if the liberal media believes the Pope is a man who shares their political values, then surely Catholics must be flocking back to the pews in huge numbers. It doesn’t even matter the facts don’t agree. The chance to push the story does.

A good example of this is a new article published at, a left leaning political new website. In the article, they write with joy the Pope doesn’t like “trickle-down economics”. The use of that phrase is key because the liberal media uses it as a way to discredit conservative tax and economic policies. Now in all fairness, it doesn’t surprise me Francis dislikes conservative economic views, especially since he comes from South America where Marxism is rampant.

3. The “Francis effect” is the propensity of secular progressives and secularized “catholics,” including but not limited to those in the musical-entertainment complex, to believe that the pope isn’t a Catholic.



10. Pope Francis is the Catholic Church’s Obama – God help us

By Adam Shaw, December 4, 2013

Pope Francis is undergoing a popularity surge comparable to the way Barack Obama was greeted by the world in 2008. And just as President Obama has been a disappointment for America, Pope Francis will prove a disaster for the Catholic Church.

My fellow Catholics should be suspicious when bastions of anti-Catholicism in the left-wing media are in love with him.

Much is being made of his ‘compassion’ and ‘humility,’ but kissing babies and hugging the sick is nothing new. Every pope in recent memory has done the same, yet only now are the media paying attention. Benedict XVI and John Paul II refused to kowtow to the liberal agenda, and so such displays of tenderness were under-covered.

But Francis is beating a retreat for the Catholic Church, and making sure its controversial doctrines are whispered, not yelled – no wonder the New York Times is in love.

Just like President Obama loved apologizing for America, Pope Francis likes to apologize for the Catholic Church, thinking that the Church is at its best when it is passive and not offending anyone’s sensibilities.




In his interviews with those in the left-wing media he seeks to impress, Francis has said that the Church needs to stop being ‘obsessed’ with abortion and gay marriage, and instead of seeking to convert people, “we need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.”

This softly-softly approach of not making a fuss has been tried before, and failed. The Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s aimed to “open the windows” of the Church to the modern world by doing just this.

The result was the Catholic version of New Coke. Across the West where the effects were felt, seminaries and convents emptied, church attendance plummeted, and adherence to Church doctrine diminished.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI worked hard to turn this trend around, but now Pope Francis wants the bad old days to resume.

Proof of this is Francis’ aforementioned statement of the Church being obsessed with controversial issues and the need to rebalance by talking about it less.

That Francis didn’t see that this would be translated into headlines of “Pope tells Catholics to shut up about things that offend Sandra Fluke” by every left-wing media outlet shows a terrifying naivety.

Nor do his comments reflect reality.

For years, the majority of priests didn’t dare cover controversial topics in their homilies in fear of getting angry letters from pick-and-choose Catholics outraged that their pastor dared to say something out of line with the Democratic Party.

Most parishioners therefore haven’t heard the Church’s argument on controversial topics. Consequently, usage of contraception is only slightly lower in Catholics than in the general population, and support of gay marriage is actually higher in Catholics than the general population. Perhaps talking about it even less isn’t the answer?

In trying to please the media and the modern world, Francis mistakes their glee for respect. Just like Obama thought he’d won over Putin by promising a reset, Francis thinks by talking vacuously about the poor, he will be respected. And it is vacuous — the pontiff recently asked why it’s news that the stock market drops but not when an old person dies. When your leader is asking, “Why isn’t the newspaper a laundry list of obituaries?” you know you elected the wrong guy.

What effect is this having? For all we’re being told about how ‘disenfranchised’ Catholics are being brought back by Francis ‘reaching out,’ a recent Pew Research study showed that in America, the number of people who identify as Catholic has actually decreased. Lesson: rubbing the egos of Church-hating left-wingers doesn’t make more Catholics, it just makes the Church less respected.

Francis not only panders to enemies and professional grievance mongers, but also attacks his allies. Just as Obama snubs Britain and Israel, Pope Francis swipes at practicing Catholics.

So not only has he insulted, and severely damaged the work of, pro-life and pro-marriage groups with his comments, he has also gone on the attack, dismissing Catholics who attend the older rites in Latin as ‘ideologizing’ and being guilty of ‘exploitation.’ Apparently “Who am I to judge?” doesn’t apply here.

On world matters, Francis’ statements are embarrassing. About communism, a destructive ideology that slaughtered millions of Catholics, he said:

“Learning about it through a courageous and honest person was helpful. I realized…an aspect of the social, which I then found in the social doctrine of the Church.”

Not such kind words for the free market, however. In his recent apostolic exhortation he slammed unfettered capitalism, calling it ‘a new tyranny.’

Apart from the fact that there is no major nation practicing unfettered capitalism (like Obama, Francis loves attacking straw men) there is more real tyranny in socialist cesspools like Francis’ home of Argentina than in places where capitalism is predominant.

In the document he rejects the free market and calls for governments to overhaul financial systems so they attack inequality. In doing so he shows himself painfully misguided on economics, failing to see that free markets have consistently lifted the poor out of poverty, while socialism merely entrenches them in it, or kills them outright.

Like Obama, Francis is unable to see the problems that are really endangering his people. Like Obama he mistakes the faithful for the enemy, the enemy for his friend, condescension for respect, socialism for justice and capitalism for tyranny.

As a Catholic, I do hope Francis’ papacy is a successful one, but from his first months he seems hell-bent on a path to undo the great work of Benedict XVI and John Paul II, and to repeat critical mistakes of the past.



11. The Francis Effect

Excerpts from Time Magazine selecting Pope Francis as Person of the Year, December 22, 2013
“In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time: about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.” Page 44
“Churches report a Francis effect of lapsed Catholics returning to Mass and confession.” Page 45
“For pulling the papacy out of the palace and into the streets, for committing the world’s largest church to confronting its deepest needs and for balancing judgment with mercy, Pope Francis is Time’s 2013 Person of the Year.”
“…Francis could bring the church into a new relationship with its critics and dissidents—agreeing to disagree about issues that divide them while cooperating in the urgent mission of spreading mercy—he might unleash untold good.  




Argue less, accomplish more, could be a healing motto for our times. We have a glut of problems to tackle. Francis says by example, Stop bickering and roll up your sleeves. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good—an important thing for the world to hear, especially from a man who holds an office deemed infallible.” Page 53
“He expanded on this idea in a 288-section apostolic exhortation called Evangelii Gaudium or The joy of the Gospel. “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” he wrote. He made it clear he does not just want talk—he wants actual transformation.” Page 53


12. 2013: Looking back at the Pope
Francis Effect

Vatican Radio, December 31, 2013

2013 has been a remarkable year for the Vatican, beginning with the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict, which was followed by the election of Francis, the first Pope from Latin America and the first Jesuit one. Since then, the new Pope has won fans among Catholics and non-Catholics alike with his simplicity, his sincerity and his message of mercy and inclusiveness. The impact of his papal ministry has been dubbed “the
Francis effect” with polls showing that the Pope is one of the most popular figures on the planet and the most talked-about name on the Internet. Monsignor John Kennedy is an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and together with Susy Hodges he reviews the past year in the Vatican.
Listen to the full interview with Monsignor Kennedy: 
Monsignor Kennedy agrees that 2013 was a fascinating year in the Vatican and pays tribute to Pope Francis’ ability to “preach the gospel in a new and a very exciting way.” As a result of this, he points to how figures show that the new Pope has helped persuade a lot of Catholics to return to the Church and the celebration of the Sacraments. “He has made a lot of people return to their faith in a new way… there’s a lot more people present at Mass.”
Monsignor Kennedy goes on to describe Pope Francis as “a great leader who seems to be one of us, who’s inviting us to be like him as we strive to follow the gospel more radically and more freely and in a more generous way.”
When asked what he sees as the highlights of the Pope’s words and deeds during 2013, Monsignor Kennedy singles out the “recurring theme of reconciliation” preached by Francis during his many homilies and audiences. He also mentions the Pope’s stated intention of wanting to reform the Church and the Roman Curia, making it “more open, more accountable.”
But has Pope Francis aroused too many unrealistic expectations among the faithful and can they ever be fulfilled? Monsignor Kennedy expresses “optimism” on that score, especially because as he says, “the Pope is a realistic man.” “Pope Francis is setting a new tone now, a fresh standard for people and that’s the standard by which future Popes are going to be measured.” “He is changing lives in an internal and external way.”
Finally, just as Pope Francis “gave us one surprise after another” in 2013, Kennedy predicts there will be plenty more surprises in the coming year: “There will be more courageous gestures, more of his “free-styling”, more of his reaching out.”



13. What the cover of Rolling Stone reveals

Posted on 29 January 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Yes, yes… we know that Rolling Stone, which recently featured on its cover the photo of the Boston Marathon terrorist, has now jumped onto the Pope Francis bandwagon.

The real take away from this is that, while Rolling Stone and other liberal outlets go gaga for The Wonderfullest Pope Ehvur (because they think he has abolished the Church’s teaching on homosexuality), other liberals are not so keen. For example, here is the cover of Der Spiegel right now:


Predictably, it’s about sex.

The editor of Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter), Tom Fox, nearly has an embarrassing moment of ecstasy in his commentary on the cover of the Rolling Stone:


Pope Francis continues to take the world by storm. His latest media triumph, a cover story on, yes, the Rolling Stone this week.



“The Times They Are A-Changin’: ?Inside the Pope’s gentle revolution,” is a 7,700-word profile by contributing editor Mark Binelli, who writes, “In less than a year since his papacy began, Pope Francis has done much to separate himself from past popes and establish himself as a people’s pope.”

In the last few months Francis has appeared on the covers of Time (“Person of the Year”), The New Yorker, The Advocate (“The Person of the Year”), and Vanity Fair (Italian issue), among a dozen or more others — to say nothing about Catholic publications such as America and the National Catholic Reporter (Of course). [Such prestigious journals!]

The real climax of the NSR piece comes when Fox quotes the Stoner‘s bashing of Pope Benedict:

After the disastrous papacy of Benedict, a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares, Francis’ basic mastery of skills like smiling in public seemed a small miracle to the average Catholic.


Smiling in public!  No Pope ever smiled in public before Francis!  Ehvur!

What, however, is the take away from the Rolling Stone thingy?

Yes, yes… we know that Pope Francis is pretty popular with the essentially uncritical MSM and the essentially non-practicing, rank-and-file un-churched Catholic.  Perhaps you have met a few people who say, “Oh, I don’t believe what the Church teaches, but I really like this Pope!”  We will continue to see lots of mainstream praise for Francis.

I am waiting to see whether The Francis Effect™ brings true conversions in its wake.  Time will tell.  I sincerely hope so.

Meanwhile, you won’t see praise for Francis from the feminists.  You won’t see praise for Francis from the LCWR types.

Pope Francis is not about to change the Church’s doctrine and discipline in substantive matters.  He can’t change doctrine, of course.   This has already started to dawn on elements of the ‘c’atholic Left.

He isn’t going to approve of homosexual sex…. ehvur.  He isn’t going to ordain a woman… ehvur.

Eventually the different lefty factions will turn on each other over Francis.  Some on the Left will continue to coo over Pope Fluffy (who – as they imagine – doesn’t demand conversion from their various life-choices).  Others on the Left, will get angrier and angrier that Pope Francis isn’t conforming to their expectations.  They will start demanding that the other, supportive side of the Left, start criticizing the Pope with them.

Francis is dividing the Left.


4 out of 52 responses:

1. “Pope Francis is not about to change the Church’s doctrine and discipline in substantive matters.”

He doesn’t have to with so many bishops doing it instead.

2. Papacy of Benedict XVI “disastrous”? Perhaps it was for liberals. It makes me nervous to see the MSM praising Pope Francis so much.

3. Rolling Stone is trash and has been for years, if not ever when it fails to stick to music and is only marginally much better at other mass media entertainments, but politics and religion is outside of any such

I definitely am… puzzled by some of what Holy Father Francis says, though I’m always wary of the context and translation and plain agenda of most of the agencies (mis)reporting his words. I so very much regret beloved Holy Father Benedict XVI couldn’t maintain his papacy. That said, I could see Pope Francis doing some things that Pope Benedict would not. I can’t see Francis ever embracing the Extraordinary Form unfortunately, for example, but I could see him helping the Church realize the true “spirit of Vatican II” and Sacrosanctum Concilium’s emphasis on a Latin Ordinary of the Mass in the Ordinary Form. Possibly down the road some and not right away. On the secular world’s “controversial” issues, he will continue to be a Son of the Church while emphasizing virtues such more than the rebuking of sin. I would much prefer he balance the two while not neglecting either.

4. I never have read the Rolling Stone and I most likely never will read the Rolling Stone. I did scan through this article because it was easily found on line. It was about as far from the mark as any secular article pertaining to the church ever is. I don’t think its take on the church was much worse than I’ve seen other places. I usually tell my parishioners “If you want to know something about the church, please don’t take the secular media as your source.”

With regard to evaluating a papacy, as we have seen it may well take several decades if not more to fully evaluate the effect of any particular papacy. Scholars who are going to fully examine both the current and previous papacies have not even been born yet. So really as I have done before I would suggest if this article is going to be upsetting to a person, she or he should probably just not read it. Why get upset about thing you have no power to change? (I learned that lesson the hard way during my second assignment.)

With respect to the discussion of style vs. substance I don’t think it can be resolved as easily as saying “nothing has really changed,” because as non-substantial as style is, it certainly is something and it is important. McLuhan demonstrated quite successfully that in many ways the medium IS the message.

My take on the article is that the author’s statement that “for the church, style IS substance,” was intended in the McLuhanesque way. We need to remember that outside of our small circle most people don’t read such statements through the sharp lens of Thomistic criticism. –Fr. Jim



14. Who am I to judge?” thrown in your face? Fr. Z says, “Don’t let them get away with it!”

Posted on 12 February 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf




Mention the Pope’s interview “on the airplane” and we all know immediately what phrase is going to pop up.  The rafters are still rattling.

Who am I to judge?

What did the Pope really say? (Italian HERE)

Remember the context: he was asked about a priest, Msgr. Ricca, who was into some nasty stuff while on diplomatic assignment in Uruguay, and his appointment to I.O.R. (“the Vatican Bank”) and about a “gay lobby” of people who work in the Vatican.  Francis wasn’t talking about all homosexuals everywhere.

There’s a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I’ve never seen it on the Vatican ID card.

When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency is not the problem … they’re our brothers. If they “accept the Lord”, and “have goodwill”… pretty clearly meaning, “If they are trying to live a good Christian life”, which involves continence and chastity, then I can’t point a finger at them and say they are evil, etc. “Who am I to judge?” depends on what went before in the same sentence. It does not mean, “Anyone can do anything and we don’t have a right to make a moral judgement.”

I saw this point addressed another way.  It is good to see this from different angles, because that phrase “Who am I to judge?” is being hijacked by the ignorant and the malicious alike. When you hear it, red flags should wave in your head. When Jesus protected the women taken in adultery from being stoned to death (John 8:1-11), he said, “Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.

From Catholic Insight:

A lesbian couple in Missouri was denied Holy Communion at one of the women’s mother’s funeral when it came to light that the two were in a same-sex relationship. [I wrote about that HERE] The two women had been parishioners at St. Columban Catholic Church for twelve years. Ms. Parker, one of the women, was quoted as saying that she hoped the priest, Fr. Kneib, would “open his eyes and fully receive the LGBT community into the church.” She further added: “We’re all God’s children and we have every right to receive Communion. … Even the Pope has said, ‘Who am I to judge?‘”[There it is.]

If Ms. Carol Parker, and presumably her same-sex partner Ms. Josephine Martin, had thoroughly read what Pope Francis said in the famous interview on the plane home from Rio, she would have realized that he wasn’t condoning her disordered relationship with another woman[Nor did Jesus, in saving the adulterous woman, condone the adultery.] While he wasn’t about to hand down a final judgement on the person, the sin is still a sin. But I suppose she, along with many other people, conveniently ignored that part.

Increasingly, “who am I to judge” and its partner “don’t judge me” have become an over-used defence that validates every sort of behaviour and excuses us from being accountable to moral truths. Too many people wrongly believe that by judging the sinful behaviour, we are judging the person. This isn’t true, of course, and when we are called to charitably speak out against the sin, we are really showing love of our neighbour and a concern for their soul. [Who thinks it is truly charitable to ignore sin?]

The truth is, we all have a moral conscience that enables us to make right judgements. Our conscience “judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1777).

Our moral conscience has been placed in our innermost being by God. Unfortunately, in a world that is loudly booming with distractions it is easy for us to avoid looking within ourselves and therefore we don’t hear the voice of our conscience. It becomes easier to fall under the influence of a secular culture that denies Christ. We need to follow the advice of St. Augustine who tells us to “return to your conscience, question it … Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness.”

Who, then, are we to judge? Well, actually, our moral conscience tells us that we have to judge—but we never judge the person. We do however have to judge the act in light of God’s laws to determine whether or not it is sinful.

The last word on this subject belongs to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: [Remember this?  From his Way of the Cross in 2005 for Good Friday just before his election.]

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves—thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (c. f Ephesians 4, 14). Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching,” looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards

[“Who am I to judge?” improperly understood.] We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an “Adult” means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.



This is one way to parse Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff, non-magisterial, remark made during an interview on an airplane.

If you hear the phrase “Who am I to judge?” and Pope Francis being hijacked in a sly attempt to condone immoral behavior, you must challenge that usage.

Don’t be a self-absorbed promethean neopelagian!  Love the sinner but don’t accept the sin.

Don’t let them get away with it.  Don’t accept their premise.


4 out of 27 responses:

1. Too often, I fear, calling a spade a spade gets confused with “judging”. It’s strange that we never hear that someone was judged when they were praised for doing something good.

I think many of us have always understood and appreciated the context in which the pope spoke those infamous words. His comment must be one of the most misinterpreted ever and seems bound to outlive him. But as to clarifying it, only he can effectively do that. The rest of us can just argue.

While I see no inclination on his part to supply clarity, at least he seems to have tempered his tendency toward verbal recklessness lately, or at least let’s hope so.

This remark should never have been made. It is an indication of the Pope’s lack of experience at that time in dealing with the Press. Sadly, it will be quoted back at us by enemies of the Church a hundred years from now.

The answer to his question, “who am I to Judge?“, is, you are the Pope, the Keeper of the Keys, the Truth, and also you are a priest, and are required in the Sacrament of Confession, acting “in persona Christi”, to judge the confession of the sinner, and on the basis of that judgement, to grant or withhold absolution..

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai
, the leader of Indian Catholicism and one of Pope Francis’ top advisers, last month came out strongly against a decision by the nation’s high court to reinstate a ban on gay sex, which includes penalties of 10 years to life in prison. “The Catholic Church does not want homosexuals to be treated as criminals,” Gracias said, and cited the pope’s words when asked about his approach to gay people. “The church stand is, ‘Who am I to judge them?’ as the Holy Father has said.”


Another perversion of the words of Pope Francis; the Cardinal would have been doing his job if he had added that homosexual acts are morally wrong and sinful. -Michael

Please read




15. The Real “Francis Effect

February 19, 2014

For some time now we have been hearing about the so-called “Francis Effect” whereby the Catholic Church is allegedly on the verge of experiencing that oh-so-elusive “New Springtime.”

In an article written last September, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore put it this way:

“There’s no doubt about it. Pope Francis has captured the attention of the church and the world … by a simplicity and humility that has earned him the nickname, ‘the world’s parish priest,’ but also by taking the church back to the basics.”

He went on to say that the Holy Father’s “unique approach to his ministry has signaled a new tone and given fresh hope to many, including those active in the faith and those no longer participating in the life of the church.”

Francis fever has even taken hold of some in the Roman Curia as well.

In a New Year’s Eve interview with Vatican Radio, Monsignor John Kennedy, an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, suggested that Pope Francis “has made a lot of people return to their faith in a new way… there’s a lot more people present at Mass.”

While this may sound perfectly wonderful, it’s really nothing more than the latest manifestation of the post-conciliar delusion wherein prelates wax optimistic even as the Church marches unabated along the path of self- destruction.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:

“Between Francis’ election in March and the end of October [2013] … the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholics has remained the same …  and self-reported levels of Mass attendance have remained virtually unchanged since the new pope was elected. Since April of this year, 39 percent of US Catholics report attending Mass at least weekly, similar to the 40 percent attendance figure last year.”

Now, that’s not to say that this pontificate is having no impact on Catholic life at all, mind you; it certainly is, it’s just difficult to measure at this point.

So, what is the real Francis Effect?

Anecdotal, I know, but based on conversations I’ve had with clergy and laity alike, this is my take.

Thanks to Francis, certain leftward leaning clerics are:

—Feeling justified in their failure to condemn immorality

—Feeling encouraged not to bother preaching sound doctrine



—Ratcheting-up the focus on social justice

—Emboldened to speak more supportively of the homosexual agenda

—More determined than ever to kick pastoral authority to parish councils

—Dismissing traditional concerns out of hand with increasing hostility

Among more “conservative” hierarchs, who are not properly considered traditional, some are:

—Growing impatient with the confusion coming from Rome

—Weary of having to defend the pope’s questionable statements

—Ignoring the pope as much as possible

—Finding themselves increasingly challenged by liberal laity who now feel emboldened

—Apprehensive about appearing too authoritarian or doctrinally and liturgically “rigid”

Among left leaning laity, some are:

—Strutting about as though their stock has risen considerably relative to the Benedictine days

—More confident in their power to influence parish life

—Even less inclined to acknowledge the deficiencies of Protestantism and non-Christian religions

—Growing ever more hostile to tradition

As for traditional Catholics, well… you can poke around this blog and discover far more than I can relate in a series of bullet points.

While none of what has been mentioned thus far is to be taken lightly, it pales in comparison to the impact a lengthy Franciscan pontificate would likely have on the life of the Church.

In my estimation, should Francis reign for five years or more, we can expect to see:

—That new wave of traditional seminarians almost entirely replaced with a bumper crop of would-be Peace Corp volunteers and social workers

—A Church mired in bureaucratic disarray with no clear voice of authority

—Novus Ordo Masses devolving back into 1970’s style “liturgical performance art” as choreographed according to the demands of committees

—Even fewer males in our parishes

—Interest in tradition increasing in step with hostility toward it

—Something even more disturbing than the Assisi gatherings

Horrifying though all of this may be, if Monsignor Kennedy is correct, we may have reached a point of no return.

According to him, no matter how long Francis reigns, our new Holy Father is already “the standard by which future Popes are going to be measured.”

It’s time to start counting those Rosaries, folks.


8 out of 99 comments:

1. I’ve been counting them for almost a year now…staying close to our Mother. And while your list is probably right, I’m not sure I’d be the same man after another 4+ years like this.

2. As the many in the church are already seeing, and not understanding why the younger generations are attracted to tradition, albeit small, the revolution is underway. We’ve finally seen and tasted the authentic faith, you can keep your kumbaya, touchy religion. Unlike our parents and grandparents, we’re not gonna let you rob us again. Say what you want about pope Benedict, but Summorum Pontificum woke up a sleeping giant.

3. Francis is creating a “one size fits all” Church—-not a truly Catholic Church. He does not believe in the Certitude of Catholic Dogma. He is a very dangerous “nice guy”. He doesn’t have a clue that he is (or supposed it be) the Vicar of Christ. How will the Church recover? Only Our Lady can help us now.

4. I understand where you’re coming from, but I think that the traditionalist movement has much to gain even from this time of confusion. It is becoming ever clearer that the Catholic Faith itself is at stake, and I expect to see a significant growth in the numbers of traditional laity, religious, seminarians, and priests, as well as a growth in their honest, penetrating critiques of the situation and their unanimity in confronting it. That is, sometimes it’s the worst that brings out the best, and while we shouldn’t encourage the worst (it’s far better to have peace and stability), nevertheless in our increasingly chaotic situation, there will be less and less doubt about who the opposed armies are, what they are fighting over, and how high the stakes are.

I am grateful to this pope for one reason. His perse
cution of the FFI prompted me to check out the closest Latin Mass to me which I attend now as often as I can. I attend a respectful N.O. parish, but have started receiving Communion on the tongue.

But I can’t even begin to describe how angry I am at Francis. I am a post-abortive convert to the faith (10 years ago). My husband, an agnostic, says that according to Francis –his good will and adherence to his conscious will get him into heaven–if there is one.

Truly I wonder if Benedict is still pope and Francis uncanonically elected. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

Never felt so lost in my faith.

6. That’s the best of the Francis effect – it’s as if the conciliar eclipse that has been creeping for fifty years is now total, so it’s by Faith we are being led out of this darkness into the Light of the still living One, True Faith.

Last night I (sadly) had an argument with a priest whom I respect greatly but who surprised me by insisting that to be Catholic I must I agree with whatever Pope Francis says.



To do otherwise is to separate myself from God. When I made the point that Pope Pius IX gave his full approbation to The True Infallibility of the Popes by Archbishop Fessler (the Cardinal Secretary of the First Vatican Council) which observes that popes can and have erred in their ordinary teaching the priest told me to “throw the book away”. Further, he insisted that we must give our full assent to whatever Pope Francis says that may contradict what an earlier pope has said.

This from a priest who has a great love for Aristotelian-Thomist philosophy. It seems to me that we are not just going through a crisis of faith but a crisis of reason in which the principle of non-contradiction is being trampled underfoot.

Of course, the admonition to throw away a book that Pius IX praised as accurately interpreting the Catholic doctrine of infallibility suggests that the late Pope was therefore in error to approve the assertion that the popes can and have erred in their ordinary magisterium!

I don’t want to do anything to reveal the identity of the priest, but he is the last person you can imagine breaking his vows. A venerable old man. For me it just shows how even the good priests have been confused by the chaos of the last few decades.

8. Pay no attention to that priest. He is a fake Thomist. Any real disciple of St. Thomas understands that no pope has authority to teach error. And certainly no serious scholar would ever ask you to throw a book, with an imprimatur from Pope Pius IX, into the dust bin.

I would bet this priest of yours is itching to break his vows, and so has hitched the wagon of his desires upon Bergoglio.


16. Card. Burke explains what Pope Francis is up to.

Posted on 24 February 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

In English for L’Osservatore Romano (the Vatican’s “daily”), Raymond Card. Burke writes of The Francis Effect:


American Cardinal on the message of this Pontificate – The Pope’s radical call to the new evangelization

During a recent visit to the United States, I was repeatedly impressed by how deeply Pope Francis has penetrated the national conversation on a whole range of issues. His special gift of expressing direct care for each and all has resonated strongly with many in my homeland.

At the same time, I noted a certain questioning about whether Pope Francis has altered or is about to alter the Church’s teaching on a number of the critical moral issues of our time, [I get a lot of this. A stewardess on a flight the other day gave me that song and dance] for example, the teaching on the inviolable dignity of innocent human life, and the integrity of marriage and the family. Those who questioned me in the matter were surprised to learn that the Holy Father has in fact affirmed the unchanging and unchangeable truths of the Church’s teaching on these very questions. They had developed a quite different impression as a result of the popular presentation [read: mainstream media] of Pope Francis and his views.

Clearly, the words and actions of the Holy Father require, on our part, a fitting tool of interpretation, [read: hermeneutic] if we are to understand correctly what he intends to teach. My friend and colleague at the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, put it this way in a recent article in this newspaper: “The Holy Father instructs with his words, but effectively teaches through his actions. This is his uniqueness and his magnetism” (L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, [ore] 13 December 2013, p. 7) In other words, Pope Francis is exercising strongly his gift for drawing near to all people of good will. It is said that when he manifests his care for a single person, as he does so generously whenever the occasion presents itself, all understand that he has the same care for each of them.

With regard to his manner of addressing the critical issues, the Holy Father himself has described his approach, when he stated: “We cannot insist only [get that?] on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods…. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time” (“The Pope’s Interview” [TBI™], 25 September 2013, p. 14). In other words, the Holy Father wants, first, to convey his love of all people so that his teaching on the critical moral questions may be received in that context[When Francis uttered the infamous “Who am I to judge?” it was in a context. HERE] But his approach cannot change the duty of the Church and her shepherds to teach clearly and insistently about the most fundamental moral questions of our time. I think, for instance, of the Holy Father’s words to the participants in the second annual March for Life in Rome on 12 May of last year, or of his Twitter message to the participants in the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on 22 January.


In a similar way, Pope Francis has reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the indissolubility of marriage[get that?] as well as the practical importance of the Church’s canonical discipline in seeking the truth regarding the claim of the nullity of a marriage. I think in particular of his words to the Plenary Assembly of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura: “It is always necessary to keep in mind the effective connection between the action of the Church which evangelizes and the action of the Church which administers justice. The service of justice is an undertaking of the apostolic life….




I encourage all of you to persevere in the pursuit of a clear and upright exercise of justice in the Church, in response to the legitimate desires that the faithful address to their Pastors, especially when they trustingly request that their own status be authoritatively clarified” (ore, 15 November 2013, p. 8).

[So, Your Eminence, what is Francis doing?] Pope Francis has clearly reaffirmed the Church’s moral teaching, in accord with her unbroken tradition. What, then, does he want us to understand about his pastoral approach in general? It seems to me that he first wishes to have people set aside every obstacle which they imagine to prevent them from responding with faith. He wants, above all, that they see Christ and receive His personal invitation to be one with Him in the Church.

The Holy Father, it seems to me, wishes to pare back every conceivable obstacle people may have invented to prevent themselves from responding to Jesus Christ’s universal call to holiness. We all know individuals who say things like: “Oh, I stopped going to Church because of the Church’s teaching on divorce”, or “I could never be Catholic because of the Church’s teaching on abortion or on homosexuality”. The Holy Father is asking them to put aside these obstacles and to welcome Christ, without any excuse, into their lives. Once they come to understand the immeasurable love of Christ, alive for us in the Church, they will be able to resolve whatever has been troubling them about the Church, His Mystical Body, and her teaching.



Read the rest of Card. Burke’s explanation over there.

Fr. Z kudos to Card Burke, who has also engaged in talking people down of the ledge.


2 out of 21 responses

1. Excellent piece by Cardinal Burke. I hope and pray Pope Francis allows him to carry on his work in the Curia. He is only one of two who has not been given the nod by Pope Francis to stay in his current position. He is still a young, and I hope for such a man to become the future Pope maybe taking the name Athanasius.

Many have accused him of leading a campaign against Pope Francis, but this is smeared in the lies and backstabbing found within the Vatican. He is a loyal servant of the Church.

I also welcomed the exciting news that Cardinal Pell is going to run a department. Some reports said his role would be equal to the secretary of the state.

I think the fact that the good Cardinal Burke believes he needs to assure everyone that the Bishop of Rome has not changed Church teaching speaks for itself.



17. The Francis Effect™: Results Vary

Posted on 6 March 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Along the way when writing about The Francis Effect™ (mostly a rather shallow, “I don’t agree with the Church about a bunch o’ stuff, but I like this new Pope!”, though sometimes a genuine revitalization of Gospel values), I have opined something along the lines of: We shall see.  We shall see if this makes any difference in how people live, whether they change their lives in any way.

It is one thing to say “He’s the most wonderfullest, fluffiest Pope ehvur!  He’s the first Pope who has ever smiled or kissed a baby!” and quite another to say, “Because of his inspiring model I’ll give up using contraception, get my marriage straightened out, and go to confession.”





Pew Research has results of polling about The Francis Effect™ now.

No clear ‘Pope Francis effect‘ among U.S. Catholics

There are all sorts of numbers that show that Francis is popular, that he has a high favorable rating.




But has the pope’s popularity produced a Catholic resurgence in the U.S., where 10% of adults are former Catholics? Not so far, at least in terms of the share of Americans who identify as such, or the share of those who report attending Mass weekly. [It hasn’t been even a year since his election.]

A new analysis of pooled Pew Research surveys conducted between Francis’ election in March and the end of October this year finds that the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholics has remained the same – 22% — as it was during the corresponding seven-month period in 2012. In fact, our polls going back to 2007 show Catholic identification in the U.S. has held stable, fluctuating only between 22% and 23%.

Though Americans may report attending church more frequently than they actually do, our surveys find that self-reported levels of Mass attendance have remained virtually unchanged since the new pope was elected. Since April of this year, 39% of U.S. Catholics report attending Mass at least weekly, similar to the 40% attendance figure last year.



Another Effect might be, however, the use by catholic politicians of off-the-cuff phrases uttered by Pope Francis to justify immoral acts (cf. Illinois and Kentucky).  But people who do that sort of thing are either wicked or dumb or both.  If they didn’t use Francis as a body-shield, they’d find some other way to justify their scandalous actions.



I read here, always in the same study, that there is little or no change in the numbers of people going to confession because of TFE™.


The new survey also finds no evidence that large numbers of Catholics are volunteering more or going to confession more often than in the past. Roughly one-in-eight U.S. Catholics (13%) say they have been volunteering more in their church or community over the past year, but 23% say they have been doing this less often, and 59% say their level of volunteering has not changed. Just one-in-twenty Catholics (5%) say they have been going to confession (also known as the sacrament of penance and reconciliation) more often over the last 12 months, while 22% say they have been going to confession less often, and 65% say their frequency of confession has not changed very much. [That 87% who are not doing so well with this.]


Time will tell.


6 out of 46 responses:

The pope has made a crop of disturbing statements in the past year. While this may, in some ways, endear him to general public opinion, there is no reason to think that it will inculcate a greater sense of Catholic identity among Catholics.

2. Pope Francis is the first Latin American Pope so he has become the left’s default John XXIV fantasy.

Today they shout “Hosanna!” for him tomorrow when he doesn’t give them women priests and gay marriage it will be “Give us Barabbas!” [Yes, that’s what I predict will eventually happen. They will turn on Francis. In fact, I think it has started.]

On the “Who am I to judge?” gay thing Pope Benedict once said a Male Prostitute who starts to use Condoms to prevent the spread of Aids is showing the beginning of a moral conscious and concern for others. [Too true. Lest we forget.]

Naturally he wasn’t condoning or authorizing birth control, homosexuality or prostitution. If Francis had said it then the left would proclaim it an Ex Cathedra decree allowing these things.

But Benedict has been labelled a “Conservative” so they don’t make that leap.

It’s that simple.

3. In all honesty, this papacy has made my life as Catholic more difficult. I do not say the Pope himself. He seems to be a kind and generous man. However, his comments are more easily taken out of context than the two previous popes. Several catholic family members now think that the Church is reconsidering its’ doctrine. A family member used the phrase “the current stance of the Catholic Church”, as if belief was like swings in political thought. I usually attend the EF, and while there’s not a lot of love for things traditional coming from the Pope right now, that’s not the most difficult aspect of this papacy.




It’s the constant fodder for family arguments that stems from some of these off-the-cuff papal statements that is most trying. I have never seen Catholics more at each others’ throats than the first year of Pope Francis’ election. Perhaps that’s just my little corner of the world, but it is all of the forest I can see right now.

The “Francis Effect” has allowed the Bishops to stick their heads out from their bunkers and not be hit my media mortar fire. The majority of bishops are happy about that. The actual effects on evangelization (new or otherwise) have been negligible. Rank and file Catholics (of the authentic variety) are dazed and confused.

5. They are in love with the Francis that they want him to be. Kind of like the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon.” That is not the real Francis of Assisi, nor is the Pope Francis of our secular media. The honeymoon will fade, and it won’t be pretty! We need to pray for our Holy Father daily that God will sustain him in the battle!

6. And there’s the ugly truth. Catholics and non-Catholics alike may love what Francis says but they aren’t being moved to accept the hard teachings of a Church and a God who loves them so much. We already have an example by looking at the smouldering pile of rubble that used to be the Episcopal Church. After the ordination of a homosexual bishop, many predicted a massive influx of new membership as the ECUSA was on the so-called right side of history. Well, as Chris Johnson says, that massive influx is either stuck in traffic or coming to church disguised as empty pews.



18. The Francis Effect

By Nick Miller, March 8, 2014

Pope Francis has won plenty of public support for his progressive views. But not everyone is convinced things will change.
A year ago, a man in a falling-apart pair of plain black shoes stood in the Vatican’s Room of Tears. He had just walked up past Michelangelo’s daunting Last Judgement fresco, through a door to the left of the Sistine Chapel’s High Altar. He found himself in a small room with no art on the walls. It contained a small red couch, an alcove with a little window, a kneeler for prayer and a desk where he sat to sign his new name. Here, in this room, the responsibility to lead a Church in crisis began to settle on him.

Papal vestments in three different sizes hung on a rail and five sizes of red shoes sat in tissue-papered boxes. He removed his cardinal’s robes and put on the papal white cassock with a silk sash. He rejected the traditional red velvet cape trimmed with ermine. “I prefer not to,” he reportedly said. He also declined the papal cufflinks and jewel-studded cross. When he left the Room of Tears, his shoes were the same battered pair he’d worn onto a flight from Buenos Aires two weeks earlier.
He walked out onto the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, below which a throng of people, most of whom had never heard of him, were waiting. “Buona sera,” he said simply. Good evening. And he asked them to pray for him.
In this way, Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Buenos Aires, appeared to the waiting world for the first time as pontiff. It was March 13, 2013 and he was 76 years old.

What has followed since that day is, in the words of one Rome insider, “one of the greatest years in the history of the modern papacy”. Another veteran Vatican analyst, the American journalist John Allen Jr., says Francis “has become the new Nelson Mandela”. He has washed the feet of drug addicts, distributed phone cards and train tickets to the poor, spoken up for asylum seekers and sent a letter to the rich and powerful at Davos scolding them for neglecting the “frail, weak and vulnerable”. He made liberals all over the world do a double-take with his response to a question on gay priests: “Who am I to judge?

In Rome, at least, it’s hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about him. They are dazzled by his charisma, inspired by his humility and charged with his mission to promote “a poor Church, for the poor”, as he told journalists three days after becoming Pope.

But sooner or later, every honeymoon has to end. In February, a scathing report from a UN watchdog denounced the Vatican for continuing to protect sexual predators among the clergy. Within the Vatican, some are starting to mutter behind their hands that a promise of reform has so far just led to an increase in bureaucracy. There are concerns that expectations are out of control, that the Pope portrayed in the media is barely related to the real thing. And a conservative element worries this media-friendly Pope is creating a cult of personality, rather than turning people to God. Which is, after all, supposed to be the point.

It is December 18 in St Peter’s Square. It is packed with people waving little flags and banners that say, “Benvenuto Franco“. Suddenly, it appears from a side entrance – the little golf cart that has replaced the Popemobile. A smiling figure, draped in a white coat, stands in the glassless rear. The crowd erupts. They scream, blow whistles. There is an entire mariachi band. There are Italians, Brazilians and Germans. There are scout groups and a line of newlyweds in their wedding outfits.

Pope Francis steps off the cart to shake hands – and the crowd surges towards him. Framed by a sea of black coats, he glows in the winter sun.

Last year, Pope Francis drew more than 6.6 million people to his Masses, audiences and other events in Vatican City, compared with just 2.3 million for Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. It’s a slightly unfair comparison: the last year of a troubled papacy versus the euphoria and curiosity of a new one, but numbers are numbers.

After 15 minutes of touring the square, shaking hands and kissing babies, he zooms up to a simple chair under a white canopy and the official service begins. There is barely a murmur from the breathless crowd. Flanked by Vatican guards, he takes out his glasses. “Bongiorno,” he says, breaking the tension. “Bongiorno!” replies the crowd. There is applause. A few screams. Beside me, a group of young Argentinians yell “Viva il Papa!” and take selfies. He begins the Catechesis.



Naturally, considering the time of year, it’s about the birth of Jesus. “God is with us and God has confidence in us again,” he says in Italian, repeating the sentence for emphasis. “Do you believe it?” “Si!” yells the crowd.

A little later, he walks towards a row of wheelchairs. For more than an hour, he moves patiently from one to the other, kissing the sick and infirm, blessing them, smiling and chatting as nuns with smartphones take pictures. At a similar audience in November, 53-year-old Italian Vinicio Riva found himself in that same line, his entire body and head disfigured by nightmarish tumours that have left him shunned by his local community in Vicenza. But Francis comforted him and kissed him.

“His hands were so soft,” Riva said later. “His smile was so clear and open. But the thing that struck me most is that [he was not] thinking about whether or not to hug me. I’m not contagious, but he did not know. He just did it: he caressed me all over my face and, as he did, I felt only love. I turned to my aunt and told her, ‘Here I leave my pain’. ”

In his book, Francis: Pope Of A New World, journalist Andrea Tornielli writes that this ability to connect with people, this love of human contact, is one of the keys to Pope Francis’s success. He comes across as “someone who came to serve and not to lord it over them”, she writes. “A man who came to share, not merely to exercise a sacred authority.”

Father Damian Howard, lecturer at Heythrop College, the University of London’s Jesuit college, believes Pope Francis has “a personality very well adapted to the needs of the modern media age. I think that didn’t work with his predecessor. [Pope Benedict XVI] was a very bookish person, a university professor, an introvert. It was a huge effort for him to come out onto the balcony and project. It didn’t have the chemistry about it – though he wasn’t saying very different things to this Pope.”

This personal charm isn’t just for public show. I speak to a senior clergyman, who asks not to be named, of his experience meeting with the new Pope behind closed doors. “It’s a sacred moment,” he says, smiling at the memory. “He is taking you seriously as someone made in the image of God. He is not just being nice. It’s not a political handshake. It’s social. He almost always says ‘Pray for me’ at the end of a conversation. He is so down to earth, so relaxed, it is like sitting down with your favourite uncle. It’s invigorating.”

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in 1936 in Buenos Aires, the son of a factory bookkeeper and the grandson of an Italian immigrant shopkeeper. The first of five children, he grew up in the Flores quarter of Argentina’s capital in a small house with burgundy tiles and a big kitchen. He played cards with his father and helped his mother, an Argentinian of Italian heritage, cook dinner. He listened to opera with her on the radio. His sister Maria Elena, his only living sibling, later said, “We were poor, but with great dignity.”

Catholicism was integral to his early life. His grandmother Rosa taught him to pray and told him stories about the saints. “She left a deep spiritual imprint in me,” he later wrote. One day, aged 17, he was on his way to the annual spring school picnic when, on impulse, he dropped into the family church of San Jose de Flores to say a prayer and make confession.

“A strange thing happened to me in that confession,” he later told interviewers Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti. “It changed my life. It was a surprise, the astonishment of a chance encounter … the astonishment of encountering someone who was waiting for you all along.” In that moment, he said, “I knew I had to become a priest.”

At 21, he entered the Villa Devoto Jesuit seminary in Buenos Aires. Francis is Rome’s first Jesuit Pope. “What you are seeing is a religious Pope – that is, a Pope who comes from a religious order – who comes from a background of a very simple lifestyle,” Father Howard says. “He took a vow of poverty, he has always lived in the community, he famously dines with all sorts of people. There is a kind of normality about his life that hasn’t been seen in the Vatican.” We see this now in many of Francis’s actions – including his decision to stay in a small room in the hostel of Santa Marta inside Vatican City rather than the papal palace.

“The palace is not luxurious and the place he’s living in is not a dump,” says Father Howard. “The difference is that in the hostel he can meet other people. He likes community, he likes to sit down at lunchtime and chat to people who have come into Rome from all over the world. He is a man of community.”

Bergoglio was a star teacher. His pupils told his biographer Paul Vallely that he was firm but enthusiastic, with a great memory for names, acquaintances and interests. He once brought the novelist Jorge Luis Borges into the classroom and persuaded him to write a foreword to a collection of the students’ short stories. Soon, he was so highly regarded that he was made master of novices and then, aged just 36, Provincial Superior, the head of all the Jesuits in Argentina.

But his time among the Jesuits was not without controversy. Last year, Vallely wrote, a senior South American Jesuit wrote in a private email that Bergoglio “left the Society of Jesus in Argentina destroyed, with Jesuits divided and institutions destroyed and financially broken. We have spent two decades trying to fix the chaos that the man left us.” Father Jose Ignacio Gonzalez Faus wrote in El Pais that Bergoglio at the Jesuits was “a man with an amazing ability to charm, but with a passion for power”.

At the time Bergoglio became Provincial, the Jesuits were torn over the Second Vatican Council (or Vatican II), which between 1962 and 1965, under two different popes, reconfigured Catholic doctrine for the modern world. The divisions between progressive and conservative factions were deep. This, tied with a second, political division within Argentinian society, was to lead Bergoglio to what many consider a shameful chapter in his life.

Argentinian politics was defined by Peronism, an alliance between the state, industry, the army and the Church, intended as a “third way” between capitalism and communism. But in the wake of economic stagnation and rising unemployment, it came to mean a right-wing alliance of authorities determined to defend “the nation, private property and Catholicism against the atheist communist hordes”, as Vallely puts it.

Bergoglio was the head of the Jesuit order within a Catholic Church locked in an increasingly unhealthy relationship with secular factions that had set up death squads roaming the streets abducting people in broad daylight.





Up to 30,000 desaparecidos (or “the disappeared”) were tortured and killed in the 1970s and early ’80s during the country’s Dirty War, a period of state terrorism waged against political dissidents and anyone in the community associated with socialism. Theoretically Marxist opponents of the regime, they came to include trade unionists, academics, students, artists and, later, anyone in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At the same time, a religious revolution was underway. Following Vatican II, priests and theologians were subscribing to a “liberation theology”, defined as the interpretation of Christian faith through the suffering of the poor. “Progressive Jesuits,” writes Vallely, “wanted to move to working with the uneducated poor in the shanty towns. The conservatives did not approve and … were afraid that the progressives would make all Jesuits targets for the right-wing anti-communist murder squads.” Bergoglio, fearing dangerous politicisation of the order, found himself increasingly on the side of the conservatives, especially when, in 1975, a congress of Jesuit representatives from around the world put social justice at the heart of its mission.

The case that crystallised this dilemma – and that is said to still haunt him – was that of two Jesuit priests, Francisco Jalics and Orlando Yorio. In May 1976, they were arrested in the Argentinian shanty town where they had been working for six years. They were stripped and tortured with electric cattle prods to try to make them confess that they were in league with left-wing guerrillas. And they were convinced that they had been betrayed by Bergoglio.

As Vallely tells it, Bergoglio – under pressure from Rome to crack down on liberation theology – had ordered them to leave the slums, but they had refused and, consequently, he disowned them. This withdrawal of his favour was interpreted by the military as a green light for their abduction.

Bergoglio attempted to intercede to free those who’d been abducted by the junta, including Jalics and Yorio. In letters, he promised to do everything he could to win their freedom. But Argentinian journalist Horacio Verbitsky has found documents which he claims show that “while he seemed to be helping them, he was also accusing them behind their backs”.

The priests were eventually released. Yorio died still believing that Bergoglio had betrayed him, insisting that his interrogators had asked questions based on information that only his Provincial could have known after hearing his confession. In 1995, Jalics published a book claiming that Bergoglio “had filed a false report with the ministry” that led to his arrest. But in March 2013, Jalics revealed that years after his ordeal, he had reconciled with Bergoglio; the pair had embraced and celebrated Mass together. “I myself was once inclined to believe that we were the victims of a denunciation, but … it became clear to me that [we] were not denounced by Father Bergoglio,” he said in a statement.

In a 2010 interview, Bergoglio said the Church only “came to realise … gradually” the extent of what was happening under the junta. Whether it was Bergoglio’s duty to speak out against the regime is a matter of opinion – others had been murdered for their bravery – but it’s commonly believed that this is the time that Francis is referring to when he repeatedly refers to himself as a sinner. “Today I ask forgiveness for the sins and offences that I did indeed commit,” he later said to journalists.

Bergoglio’s star waned for a while after this, and he spent his time in teaching and study as the new leaders of the Jesuits sought to repair the rifts within the order. Then, in 1992, Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, plucked him from exile to be an auxiliary bishop, one of five assistants to the archbishop. Some years before, “[he] had been impressed by the depth of Bergoglio’s spirituality and his cleverness”, Father Guillermo Marco, Bergoglio’s former press secretary, told Vallely. “He decided to rescue him.”

Jesuits are supposed to avoid high ecclesiastical office, but Bergoglio seized the opportunity and, within a year, he was vicar-general in charge of administration of the diocese. Four years later, Quarracino chose him as his successor and used all his political influence to push the choice through a doubtful Vatican. This was the beginning of Bergoglio’s transformation into the “bishop of the slums”. He lived an austere life, staying in spartan lodgings and living frugally, travelling by bus or subway. The Cold War over, he could embrace the class struggle without dangerous political overtones.

He was a frequent visitor to the villas miserias, the shanty towns, a place of dangling electricity cables and open sewers, and he sent his priests to work there in unprecedented numbers. One of them, Padre Pepe, told Vallely they spoke every week. “He would show up by surprise … he felt comfortable here,” he said. “He was trying to show that the slums were not just important for the people who live here, but for the whole Church.”

These experiences forced Bergoglio to be less dogmatic, to accept that the Church had to reach out in order to embrace. He seized on the symbolism of Christ’s washing of his disciples’ feet. Last year, he broke with tradition on Easter Thursday to go to a youth detention centre in Rome, where he washed the feet of young offenders, including young women and Muslims. “This is a symbol, it is a sign,” he told them. “Washing your feet means I am at your service. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service.”

Some conservatives were aghast at the breach of Church law, which states that only men’s feet may be washed. “The Bishop of Rome setting aside the rubrics is a serious matter, with many consequences, some highly undesirable,” said liturgist Monsignor Andrew Burnham in Vallely’s book.

During his first full day as Pope, Francis took time out to go back to the hotel near the Piazza Navona where he had stayed before moving to Santa Marta, to pick up his luggage and pay the bill.

“Precisely because I am the Pope, I must set an example,” he said at the time. Then he packed his suitcase. Acts such as these, his unassuming dress, his spartan accommodation, his scaled-down Popemobile, his morning Mass in the 50-seat Santa Marta chapel for Vatican staff and his habit of facing his congregation while celebrating Mass – in sharp contrast to Pope Benedict XVI – all tell a story.




“The Church, all of us should divest ourselves of worldliness,” Francis said in Assisi in October. “Worldliness is a murderer because it kills souls, kills people, kills the Church. Without divesting ourselves, we would become pastry-shop Christians, like beautiful cakes and sweet things, but not real Christians.”

His message for Lent in 2014 was an “invitation to evangelical poverty”.

“God does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth, but rather in weakness and poverty,” he said. “We Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.”

The message is not just being heard in Rome. Cathy Corcoran is CEO of Cardinal Hume Centre in London’s Westminster, a safe haven for homeless young people and families in need. As a Catholic organisation, it has been particularly hard to maintain faith and pride in recent years.

“We are used to the fact that the Catholic Church doesn’t have much of a profile except for all the negative issues,” says Corcoran. “To actually have a positive voice emanating from the Catholic Church is incredibly encouraging.”

She believes Francis has given “new life” to Caritas, the global confederation of Catholic social service organisations. In the last year, she has seen an increase in donations and more people wanting to come and volunteer. She can’t prove that it’s purely because of his influence, “but there is a renewed encouragement”, she says.

And she has seen a difference in her staff, too. “They’re beginning to understand that the Church is about more than just the bad stuff,” she says.

In his first teaching document as Pope, Evangelii Gaudium released in November, Francis set out his vision in detail. “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” he wrote. “I do not want a church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”

Here again, says Father Howard, is the difference that a Jesuit Pope makes. He tells me that one of a Jesuit’s key experiences is a 30-day silent retreat, intended to “help you to become free to do whatever is right, free to carry out God’s will regardless of what other people think,” he says. “The word that comes to mind when I see Pope Francis is a free person. He’s not controlled by other people’s expectations.

“[The Jesuits] are about a certain kind of reform, creativity and adaptivity. They have always been trying to take the gospel to the frontiers … He is not abandoning the papacy, he is not rewriting it in its totality, but he is very much adapting it to the modern age. I also see a more creative response to the media than we’ve had before; he gets the message across very effectively.”

Still, not everyone has been receptive to the message. In the US, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Evangelii Gaudium “pure Marxism”. “This Pope makes it very clear he doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to capitalism,” Limbaugh said. “If he wants to eschew the physical trappings of the Vatican, okay, cool, fine. But if it weren’t for capitalism, I don’t know where the Catholic Church would be.”

In an interview soon afterwards with Italian newspaper La Stampa, Francis disarmed the criticism: “The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”

One of the most frustrating features of Francis’s papacy is his being misunderstood, a senior source within the Vatican tells me. Much of the misreading comes from his off-the-cuff comments in July, made on the papal aeroplane on the way back from his first foreign trip to Brazil. To a question on the topic of homosexual priests, he replied, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” The quote was widely contrasted with a 1986 utterance by Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, who called homosexuality an “intrinsic moral evil”.

In the same interview, Francis said that, while there was no room for female priests, he sought a “theology of women” and a greater role for them in Catholic life. Coming straight after his rock-star welcome on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach, where more than one million people gathered for Sunday Mass, it was taken as a sign that this Pope – even though he had not actually said anything contrary to established doctrine – was a liberal in disguise. “At a certain point, tone becomes substance,” commented John Allen jnr.

Francis is progressive on some doctrinal issues. For example, he has always opposed the exclusion of divorcees from communion. However, regarding other matters close to the hearts of liberals, hopes are almost certainly going to be dashed. As one source tells me, “There are different ways of wrapping it up, but ultimately the content is the same.”

In his Valentine’s Day message, Francis’s theme was “the joy of ‘yes forever’, ” linking his dislike of the modern “throwaway culture” with a fear of lifelong commitment. He’d previously used the same phrase, “throwaway culture”, to condemn abortion, saying it was “horrific” to think of children “who will never see the light of day … Unfortunately what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects, but often human beings themselves.”

It has been his consistent position. “Abortion is never a solution,” Francis said as Archbishop in Buenos Aires, after the Argentinian Supreme Court ruled that abortion is legal in the case of rape. As recently as 2010, Bergoglio also opposed a move in Argentina to legalise same-sex marriage – although he did back same-sex civil unions as an alternative. At the time, he wrote of gay marriage in a private letter: “Let us not be naïve … its intention is to destroy God’s plan.” In an interview with America magazine after he’d become Pope, he said Catholics needed to “find a new balance, otherwise even the moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall. We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible.” The message here, then, is not “Things are going to change,” say observers. It’s “Let’s change the subject.”

Diplomatic sources I consult in Rome – who insist on not being named – describe Francis as a man “comfortable with divergent opinions”, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with them or plans to change Church doctrine.



In September, Francis excommunicated Australian priest Father Greg Reynolds “because of his public teaching on the ordination of women”. Reynolds said he felt like an ant hit by a hammer. He told Fairfax’s Barney Zwartz: “The hierarchy have lost such trust and respect … I’ve come to this position because I’ve followed my conscience on women’s ordination and gay marriage.”

Australian cardinal George Pell, one of the new pope’s closest advisers, says in comments forwarded to Good Weekend by his office: “There have been times when nobody is absolutely sure what [Francis] is going to say, but that is part of what makes him interesting. Some people who read him and applaud him have got possibly unrealistic expectations that he is going to change everything. Well, he won’t.” Francis has since appointed Cardinal Pell to one of the highest positions in the Vatican: Prefect for the Economy of the Holy See, responsible for the management and reform of the Vatican’s administration and finances, and reporting directly to the Pope.

There is the fantasy and the reality. Sooner or later, my curial source tells me, the media will realise they should listen to what the Pope actually says.

Reform of another kind is definitely on the Pope’s mind. On May 23, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI’s personal butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and charged with stealing sensitive documents and leaking them to the media. They contained claims that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, whom Benedict had installed to try to reform the Vatican, had been undercut by scheming cardinals. Vigano had written a letter alleging “many situations of corruption and abuse of power” in “so many departments” in the Vatican. He claimed, for example, that favoured contractors were being vastly overpaid for services such as staging the annual Nativity scene in St Peter’s Square.

The Vatican’s Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone – a man the Washington Post described as “the private power broker who runs the Vatican on a daily basis” – was believed to be the target of the leaks. He was accused of resisting reform to the Vatican Bank, a mess of money-laundering and malpractice. A report is said to have sat in Pope Benedict XVI’s personal safe, awaiting his successor.

In August, Francis indicated that Bertone would be replaced by Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s emissary to Venezuela. On the day of his departure, Bertone said he had suffered from the accusations of “crows and vipers”. It was just one example of problems in the departments of the Curia which, Vallely writes, had grown under John Paul II into medieval fiefdoms that Pope Benedict XVI had been powerless to break.

One of Francis’s most visible and significant reforms during his first year in office is the forming of a new body, the C8, to advise on curial reform and the government of the Church. He has described the group as “wise people who share my own feelings. This is the beginning of a Church with an organisation that is not just top-down but also horizontal.”

If Francis’s election has been a game-changer, many of the rules remain unchanged. In February, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a no-holds-barred report on the Roman Catholic clerical abuse scandal. It called on the Church to dismiss all child abusers and report them to police. It said the Vatican must open its archives so that those who had concealed crimes could be held accountable. The Vatican said the report was out of date, but the authors had anticipated this response, saying the Holy See’s current policy included practices that “have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators”.

The Vatican’s reply was defensive, accusing the UN of attempting to interfere with religious freedom. Francis’s history on this issue is mixed: as Cardinal Bergoglio, he insisted on a policy of zero tolerance for abusers. In 2010, he said, “You must never look away. You cannot be in a position of power and use it to destroy the life of another person.” However, his proposed solution to an internal report of abuse was to deal with it internally – not to call in the police. The issue, clearly, is still a live one.

One year on and the “Francis effect” is still a matter of debate. Some parishes have reported worshippers flocking back to the Church; others have reported no change. The media are full of first-hand accounts of “Francis restored my faith,” but it will take some time for the statistics to catch up to the anecdotes.

One of the diplomats I spoke to said the success of Francis so far has been a multiphase mission: “Get people listening, then give them a positive message so they don’t switch off. Make them feel good about engaging with the Church. It’s only then you get receptivity to the news you are trying to preach.”

Right now, the feel-good factor is in full swing. Whether it lasts another year is another question.


19. 12 Prophecies That Indicate Trouble Ahead for Papacy/How to Respond If Pope Francis Is the False Prophet

By Dr. Kelly Bowring, author of the bestseller The Secrets, Chastisement, and Triumph and of The Signs of the Times

Posted on
March 13, 2014 by twohearts
( All emphases theirs -Michael

Since the piece is rather lengthy, I am reproducing here below relevant portion directly concerning the present report (to be clearly understood, the article needs to be read in its entirety):

I think Pope Francis is the Pope who fulfills the apocalyptic prophecy during the period relating to the last Pope of the Malachy prophecy. There simply is no more room for another Pope according to this prophecy before the final events unfold. A year ago, after examining the credible heavenly prophecies of our times and their relation to the election of the new Pope, I wrote an article explaining that it was “plausible” (seems reasonable, but not yet certain) that the prophecies might be true concerning their declaration that Pope Francis is the False Prophet.



Today, a year into his pontificate, mounting evidence of credible heavenly prophecy and of Pope Francis’ own actions, teachings and unfolding agenda that aligns with the prophecy have me now thinking it is not only plausible, but also even “possible” he is the False Prophet… it is quite possible.

As a Catholic theologian, I say this with great trepidation, and I ask the reader to hear me out before drawing your own conclusion. It is apparent to faithful Catholics today, and more and more so as the past year progressed, that some of Pope Francis’ actions and teachings have raised legitimate and serious concerns. This article asks you to look at the disconcerting actions and statements of Pope Francis and the Francis effect in the light of the potentially related prophecies about him. Of course, time will make things clearer as to his plans and agenda, as he moves beyond his now famous rhetoric toward implementation. So for now, I withhold any conclusions, instead giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, always remaining obedient to the Church as a faithful Catholic theologian. But, alert and investigative I shall remain, and I think that if he is a valid Pope, and the prophecies are wrong and his disturbing rhetoric is just for effect, he will be glad for my vigilance on behalf of the Church.

Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon me to present to you the reader some of the reasons that have led me to this current supposition. First, I will present the credible heavenly prophecies about the False Prophet, then what to expect from the False Prophet according to the prophecies, and finally how Catholics should respond to the possibility and growing concern that Pope Francis might be the False Prophet…

Objectively and of significant note, we are on the last Pope of this age according to the famous St. Malachy prophecy. St. Malachy was a twelfth century Saint whose prophecies concerned the final Pope of our time, the Pope who will reign after Pope Benedict XVI… […]

12. The writing is on the wall and the finger of God put it there. If all these prophecies relate to Pope Francis, as is possible, then the prophecies of a martyred pope, as referred to in the famous St. John Bosco dream and in the 3rd Secret of Fatima and Pius X’s prophecy of a pope leaving the Vatican in haste who dies cruelly in exile, could then be referring to Pope Emeritus Benedict. Several recent Popes have prophesied about one of their successors…



20. The Francis Effect,

March 2014

From the moment Pope Francis appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, he won the hearts of the people.  His humility, simplicity and closeness to the poor reveal a man deeply in touch with the Gospel. His profile has soared. He has initiated a fundamental reform of the Roman Curia, challenged a “globalization of indifference,” and become the most talked about person in the world.
The Francis Effect takes a critical and in-depth look at how an ancient institution is rapidly changing under the leadership and vision of Pope Francis, and exclusive interviews with prominent Catholics and non-Catholics reveal that Francis is having a profound effect on the world as well.
A special 58-minute version of the original 75-minute production was edited for television and will broadcast on ABC Affiliates starting Feb 8 2015″ – Click 
here for details 



Francis effect

By Thomas Reese, March 6, 2014

(Reese is a liberal priest; the National Catholic Reporter is a liberal site –Michael)

Pope Francis is the most talked about person in the world. He has been on the cover of almost every magazine, he makes the news almost every week, and he is a Twitter and Facebook sensation. He drew huge crowds in Rio de Janeiro and continues to draw large crowds in Rome.

But what impact is he actually having on the life of the church? In an attempt to answer that question, the Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life surveyed Americans’ views of Pope Francis in February.

People overwhelming like the pope. Eighty-five percent of Catholics and 60 percent of non-Catholics view the pope favorably, numbers that would make politicians green with envy. Among Catholics, Pope Francis’ ratings are up there with those of Pope John Paul II, who had favorable ratings between 91 and 93 percent in 1987, 1990, and 1996.

The favorable ratings are across generations, with the youngest cohort (18-39 years) just slightly less enthusiastic than the oldest cohort (60-plus). One would have expected exactly the opposite, with the more liberal young people more favorable to Francis than their conservative elders. Those who attend church weekly are also more favorable (89 percent) toward Francis than those who attend less often (84 percent). Again, we might have expected the opposite. Perhaps the young and those attending church less are simply paying less attention to Francis.

Whatever the case, since other surveys have found that regular church attendees and the elderly are more conservative than those not attending church and the young, the new study shows that there is no statistical evidence for a pushback from more conservative Catholics — the elderly and regular churchgoers. (Sadly, the study did not ask respondents to self-identify as liberal or conservative).





Many conservative commentators have argued that Francis does not represent significant change in the church. Seventy-one percent of Catholics disagree. The young and the old are more likely (73 percent) to see major change than the middle cohort (40-59 years; 67 percent). And of those Catholics who see major change, 68 percent see it as change for the better.

Catholics also give Pope Francis high marks (81 percent) for “spreading Catholic faith” and “standing for traditional moral values.” Despite all his talk about the poor, the percentage saying he is doing an excellent or good job “addressing needs/concerns of the poor” is five percentage points lower. Once again, conservative worries about him overemphasizing concern for the poor appear to be misplaced.

Fewer, but still a majority, think he is doing an excellent/good job “reforming the Vatican bureaucracy” (62 percent), “addressing the sex abuse crisis” (54 percent), and “addressing the priest shortage” (50 percent).

Although John Paul and Francis excel in the polls, Pope Benedict XVI is no slouch, with favorable ratings between 67 and 83 percent among Catholics. Catholics like their popes! What American politician or celebrity gets these kind of ratings?

But favorable ratings do not necessarily translate into agreement. With John Paul and Benedict, Catholics liked the singer but not the song. Every poll that showed people liked them also showed that people disagreed with some of their teachings, especially on sexuality and gender. On the other hand, Catholics see major change under Pope Francis and they like it. His emphasis on the love, compassion, and mercy of God is playing well.

The Pew study also found overwhelming support among Catholics for the use of birth control (77 percent), allowing priests to marry (72 percent), and allowing women to become priests (68 percent). Francis has urged more compassion for Catholics unable to observe the church’s teachings on marriage; he has noted that celibacy is a matter of law not doctrine; and has ruled out women priests but called for a greater role for women in the church. Catholics want more, but they still like Pope Francis.

Considering Francis’ opposition to women’s ordination, you would expect women to be less enthusiastic about Francis than men, but the opposite is true. Eighty-nine percent of women have favorable views of the pope as opposed to 82 percent of men. Women are also more likely to see Francis as representing major change (74 percent versus 68 percent).

It is clear that Catholics like Pope Francis and see him as representing major change, but has it affected how they live their Catholicism?

According to the Pew study, church attendance has not changed in the past year. This could be interpreted as showing that Francis has had no impact. On the other hand, since church attendance has been declining since the 1950’s, the fact that it did not go down could be considered a victory.

Other questions show some improvement. Although most Catholics report no change, 26 percent of Catholics are more excited about their faith; 40 percent are praying more; and 21 percent are reading the Bible more. On each of these questions, those answering “more” outnumbered those answering “less.”

The results of this survey remind us that the pope is not the Catholic Church, although he plays an essential role. If Tip O’Neil is right that “All politics is local,” then it is also true that “All Catholicism is local.” If people become enthusiastic and return to church because of Pope Francis but find that same old same old, then they will turn around and leave. If rather than hearing the message of Francis, which is the message of the Gospel, they hear from the pulpit rules and condemnations, then they will never return.

Francis cannot save Catholicism all by himself. Bishops and priests have to get with the program. Francis is modeling what it means to be a good bishop, a good priest, a good Christian, but if we don’t follow him, his efforts will fail.

Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church.



22. Pope Francis AGAIN: “Who am I to judge?

Posted on 18 March 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

The Pope used again, on 17 March, the phrase “Who am I to judge?” in an informal, off-the-cuff context: his daily fervorino at his private Mass during which he says nothing that forms a part of his Ordinary Magisterium.

At we find an account of the fervorino. Alas, we never get the whole thing. The Holy See newsies cut it up and make a hash of it, so our ability to consider context is somewhat hobbled.

Remember that the first time he used this unfortunate turn of phrase in front of journalists in an off-the-cuff way during an informal chat, all hell broke loose. Hell was loosened, and is still being loosened, as a predictable result because most newsies and 99.9% of the low-information type out there have no notion of what the Pope was talking about. I explain the situation more HERE. Francis wasn’t talking about all homosexuals everywhere, which is want the newsies and the 99% want you to think. The under-informed from politicians to students have claimed the phrase to mean: “Homosexuality is okay!”

That is not what the Pope was saying.

Remember: He referred to our making judgments about people who sin. That is to say, people commit sin X, and it is a sin. We, however, must be careful about how we view them, talk about them, etc. They may have sinned, but they may be trying now to live in a holy way. We should be ready to be merciful.

Let’s jump to the recent fervorino. My emphases and comments.





In his homily at Holy Mass on Monday, 17 March, Pope Francis preached on mercy. Commenting on the day’s readings from the Prophet Daniel (9:4-10) and the Gospel of Luke (6:36-38), the Pope explained that “Jesus’ invitation to mercy is intended to draw us into a deeper imitation of God our Father: be merciful, as your Father is merciful”. However, he added that “it is not easy to understand this willingness to show mercy, because we are accustomed to presenting the bill to others: you’ve done this, now you have to do this”. In short, he said, “we judge, and we fail … to leave space for understanding and mercy”.  [NB: Mercy is what we give to people who have done something wrong.]

In order to be merciful, “two attitudes are needed”. The first is “self-knowledge”. The Pope noted that in today’s first reading, Daniel recounts the humble prayer of the people before the God and their acknowledgement that they are sinners: “We have sinned and done wrong, but to thee belongs righteousness, and to us shame”. Reflecting on the passage, the Pope said: “In the presence of a repentant people, God’s justice is transformed into mercy and forgiveness”. [Again: mercy is what the sinner asks.  We are sinners.  We ask God’s mercy.  We are asked to show mercy to sinners.]

This challenges us, he continued, by inviting us “to make room for this same inner attitude”. Therefore, “to become merciful, we must first acknowledge that we have done many things wrong: we are sinners! We need to know how to say: Lord, I am ashamed of what I have done in life”.  [All people should be ashamed of sins.  Homosexuals are people.  Homosexuals should be ashamed of sins. Homosexual acts are sins.  Homosexuals should be ashamed of homosexual acts.  We should all be merciful toward the sinner, just as we desire mercy from God and others.]

The Pope continued: “even though none of us has ever killed anyone,” nonetheless “we still have committed many daily sins”. [We are all sinners.] Therefore, “acknowledging that we have sinned against the Lord, and being ashamed in his presence is a grace: the grace of knowing that one is a sinner!” It is easy, he said, and yet “so very difficult” to say: “I am a sinner and I ashamed of it before you and I ask for your forgiveness”.  [This should be the attitude of those who commit sins.]

“Our Father Adam gave us an example of what one should not do,” the Pope added. For he blamed the woman for having eaten the fruit and he justified himself, saying: “I have not sinned; it is she who made me go down this road!” Eve then does the same thing, blaming the serpent. Yet one should acknowledge one’s sin and one’s need to for God’s forgiveness, the Pope said, and not look for excuses and “load the blame onto others”. Perhaps “someone helped me” to sin, “and opened the road: but I did it!” [Take responsibility for your sins.]

“If we act in this way,” he explained, “how many good things will follow: we will truly be men!” [!] Furthermore, “with this attitude of repentance we will be more capable of being merciful, because we will feel God’s mercy for us”. In the Our Father, in fact, we do not only pray: “forgive us our trespasses”. We also pray “forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  [Nothing in here so far about turning a blind eye to sin.  Nothing in here so far about saying that something sinful is really okay.]

The second attitude we need is “an openness to expanding our hearts”. The Pope noted that it is precisely “shame and repentance that expands a small, selfish heart, since they give space to God to forgive us”. [Not only shame about sins but also repentance.] What does it mean to open and expand one’s heart? First, it means acknowledging ourselves to be sinners and not looking to what others have done. And from here, the Pope said, the basic question becomes: “Who am I to judge this? Who am I to gossip about this? Who I am, who have done the same things, or worse?” [The Holy Father is not suggesting that we turn a blind eye to sin.  He is saying that we should be careful how we treat people who are sinners.  He also is not saying that all people commit all sins.  He is not saying that all sins are equal in gravity.  He made a distinction at the top, for example.  We understand ourselves as sinners and, therefore, we treat other sinners with mercy.  It is NOT mercy to say that a sin is not sinful.]

“The Lord says it in the Gospel: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap”. This is the “generosity of heart” that the Lord presents through “the image of those going to collect grain who enlarged their aprons in order to received more”. In fact, Pope Francis said, “you can receive far more if you have a big heart!” And he added: “a big heart doesn’t get entangled in other people’s lives, it doesn’t condemn but forgives and forgets” as “God has forgiven and forgotten my sins”. [I suggest to you that the Pope is not saying that sins should have no consequences. “You did X, but, that’s okay.  All is forgiven.  Sure you can be a kindergarten teacher.” Obviously the Pope is not saying this about, for example, priests who abuse children.  We can forgive, indeed, must forgive priests who do these horrible things. But mercy and forgiveness doesn’t require us to be completely stupid.  We don’t forgive the child abuser and then readmit him to ministry in, for example, a parish with a grade school. That is not what Francis means by “forgive and forget”. When God forgives our sins in the Sacrament of Penance, our sins are forgiven, but we still have to make reparation for our forgiven sins.]

He then noted that in order to be merciful we need to call upon the Lord’s help, since “it is a grace”. And we also need to “recognize our sins and be ashamed of them” and forgive and forget the offences of others[They remain, however, “offenses”.] “Men and women who are merciful have big, big hearts: they always excuse others and think more of their own sins. Were someone to say to them: ‘but do you see what so and so did?’ they respond in mercy saying: ‘but I have enough to be concerned over with all I have done'”. [Again, Pope Francis is not saying that the obviously guilty mass murder is simply to be set free with the cheerful phrase, “Hey!  I’m a sinner too. 



Kill a bunch of people? forgotten. Most of us – think about it – most of need to foster a habit of forgiveness. He is not asking us to become idiots.]

Pope Francis concluded: “If all of us, all peoples, all families, all quarters had this attitude, how much peace there would be in the world, how much peace there would be in our hearts, for mercy brings us peace! [Sure… if all of us were that way. All. But there will be some who are unrepentant sinners that create havoc in society.] Let us always remember: who am I to judge? To be ashamed of oneself and to open and expand one’s heart, may the Lord give us this grace!” [Again… “Who am I to judge?” is not permission for people to do anything they want. It is not approbation of sinful behavior. The Pope is applying an attitude of mercy to SIN.]


So, here we go again.

And remember: None of this was part of the Holy Father’s Ordinary Magisterium.  This was an informal, off-the-cuff fervorino at his private Mass.

YouTube video 1:01


10 out of 27 responses:

1. *sigh* As Daffy Duck would say just as Bugs pulls another one over him, “Not again!”

Father Z, as always I appreciate your comments in red and brackets. I just wish the rest of the Catholic world had gotten the same clarification of comments, from the ruling Pontiff. I love the Holy Father, but this is, again another moment where he has handed the enemies of the Church and the misguided progressive (c)atholics another bludgeon. Words escape me.

… Better yet a prayer to Blessed Fulton Sheen that the Holy Father refrains from off the cuff comments. *sigh*

2. This isn’t going to be good.

3. In this case, the Holy Father is speaking in the context of his homily after reading the Gospel of Luke where Christ says “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged.” At some point he has to preach the Gospel.

I understand what the Holy Father is saying. And I usually do understand what he’s getting at when I read the full context (or in this case as much context as we can get) of his statements. I just really wish he could be a bit more clear and phrase things in a way that are less likely to be misconstrued in the manner that something like, “Who am I to judge?” has been. I realize that people who are looking to affirm themselves in their sin are going to find a way to do it regardless. I just wish their ammo wasn’t coming from the mouth of the Successor of Peter.

5. Remember Benedict at Regensburg? That attack on his words was completely made up, and the reactions driven top down. But Pope Benedict did not sit on his high horse in disdain. He immediately said that he “sincerely regrets that certain passages of his address could have sounded offensive to the sensitivities of the Muslim”.

Rather than all this dancing around “Who am I to judge?” and retrospective hermeneutics, why does Francis not just come out and admit his error {Greek: hamartia}:

“Look. I was speaking to some reporters last year and accidentally used some words “Who am I to judge?” in an inappropriate context. The reaction soon reminded me that those words have an established skeptical meaning [see citations below] which is the opposite of Faith. I did not intend that meaning. I take it back. It was a mistake to use that particular phrase. Please forgive me for any confusion my insufficiently careful speech may have caused. Christ does call us to compassion and forgiveness; but he also calls us to purity and holiness.”

If he would just say “Oops!” he would regain all the respect he lost in that moment and continues to lose in such subterfuges as this contrived cover-up speech.

Hats off to you Father Z for your loyal efforts. But, to me, all this looks like embarrassing stubbornness.

Someone will say, “Who am I to judge?” … Therefore I cannot judge or evaluate whether or not a plan of action or any behavior is right or wrong. [Tom Shepherd, Adventist Theol. 1999]
Hey, maybe she’s into that sort of thing. Who am I to judge? [Tales of Graces, video game, 2009]

We then use the “who am I to judge” language so that we can rationalize our own sins. We move from “who am I to judge?” to “who are you to judge?” This attitude will not help us and others grow into the image of Jesus. [Soulgardeners 2009]

Don’t judge has become America’s favorite Bible verse. It’s short, memorable, and gets the job done. … “Middle class Americans have an almost pathological fear of appearing judgmental, so they have added an 11th commandment. Thou shall not judge. [Wolfe]” [James, Sermons 2013 June 23 {Pope’s slip weeks later on July 28}]

6. There are phrases, particularly this phrase, that are trouble in or out of context. It was sloppy for the Pope to use this phrase, particularly after the dust up over the interview on the plane. It is also sloppy in context regarding the gospel, because Christ certainly didn’t say “Who am I to judge?” This phrase has and is used by so many dissidents either to justify their otherwise sinful actions OR by those who are in leadership to ignore the sinful actions, rather that addressing them and expecting the sinner to own them and to repent (e.g. “Woman, go, and sin no more”).

Considering he is the Pope, and not just some parish priest that the world doesn’t follow every word, may be Pope Francis should refrain from making off the cuff remarks or at least homilies for a time, or at least think through what he is going to say before he says it, so that there is much needed clarity.

One would think, judging from the kuhbillion times it seems like I have heard some variation on the judging theme, that this is the worst sin known to mankind. All the other lousy sins are second to this one. Back in the day, people had more interest, ability, and access to authentic teaching, but they don’t anymore. It has become even more important to for Bishops and priests, most certainly our Holy Father, to be direct, concise, and, heaven help us, frank. But let’s face it, what some of us are waiting to hear, is likely not coming.




8. The trouble is that this shouldn’t be a controversial teaching. It’s straight from Matthew 7:

1Judge not, that ye may not be judged; 2for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you. 3But why lookest thou on the mote that is in the eye of thy brother, but observest not the beam that is in thine eye? 4Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Allow [me], I will cast out the mote from thine eye; and behold, the beam is in thine eye? 5Hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine eye, and then thou wilt see clearly to cast out the mote out of the eye of thy brother.

It is directly related to the Novus Ordo Gospel reading for the 17th, so it is a very valid subject.

Only the historical twisting of Francis’ words makes this extensive fisking necessary. While I wish you didn’t have to waste your time or bandwidth to do so, Father, I appreciate you doing so.

How much more effective would the Holy Father’s words have been if he finished it up by saying something like: “acknowledgement of our own sins is paramount. It is important in this day and age to convict ourselves before God. Take this opportunity to place yourself before God’s mercy. Harden not your heart, and GO TO CONFESSION.”? This sin that is most prevalent right now in this world is a total lack of responsibility and accountability. Most if not all of the major sin committed in this world stems from freedom without the expectation of consequence. Mercy and accountability are coequals. The only time Jesus forgave without accountability was when he forgave those who placed Him on the cross, and this was only because many of them had no concept of what they had actually done (nailed the innocent Son of God to the cross).

I have no control over what the Pope says during interviews, but the “who am I to judge” statement would have been better left alone. Its unfortunate misinterpretation has been used by lawmakers in the United States to justify laws on redefining marriage. I am sad to see it has been recycled. I can hear the words coming out of people’s mouths now, “You are judging! …You are judging!”

That’s a lot of red, Father. I think we should make the “Fr. Z Red-o-meter.” The more red we see from you, the more problematic the topic is.

As for this being the trial balloons to walk down the path of the remarried adulterer being admitted to Communion, we have a logical and moral impossibility. Admitting a class of unrepentant sinners to Communion destroys the Church.

1. It sanctions sacrilege. As horrible as individual acts of sacrilege are, this would openly sanction it.
2. It says to all grave sinners that they are subject to a double standard. If you are an adulterer in a second marriage, your sin is seen with “mercy.” Otherwise, are subject to the Confessional as has always been. What will the next sin to fall by the wayside in needing forgiveness?
3. Scripture is debased, since the Church has said what is in Scripture no longer applies in the way it always has. This makes all moral laws put forth in Scripture, and its inerrancy, questionable.
4. God’s will is rejected, or He is made a liar, since the prohibition of Christ is now made non-binding, and the Truth He proclaimed is now no longer true for those in adultery.
5. The annulment largely becomes irrelevant.
6. Confession is gravely wounded, as are the Keys and the power to bind and loose. Peter has now said a class of sin is loosed without repentance.
7. Firm purpose of amendment is no longer required. Rectifying the wrong is no longer necessary, nor refraining from the sin.
8. If there is a class of sin that doesn’t need to be held to account, you have to question the efficacy of Orders itself, if those in Orders now have a circumstance where they don’t have to defend the Sacred Species and reconciliation of souls in the Confessional.

Fr. Brian Harrison, OS, is utterly correct on this. It is a metaphysical, moral, and canonical impossibility that will destroy the substance of the Church.

It can also be safely said that “pastoralism” should be viewed as a kind of new version of an old heresy, since it is a sort of latter day Manicheanism or Catharism, where we can remain intellectually pure (remaining a ‘Catholic in good standing’) while committing sin in the flesh (adultery, politicians and canon 915, the SSA problem in the clergy, etc).

We see this in the argument make by some in the Church. They posit that, for the sake of pastoral mercy, one can objectively believe in a spiritual purity (Christ’s command that there is no divorce and remarriage) but in practice allow it on account of mercy (adultery and receiving Communion in a state of objective, unrepentant sin).

This era of the Church is rife with “pastoralism” reaching back into the Council itself, where it was proclaimed by consecutive popes that we were having a non-dogmatic, pastoral council, but we now, 50 years hence, are obliged to uphold the Council as an infallible act of the Ordinary Magisterium. This is pastoralism in practice. Let us objectively change things in practice, but declare we aren’t really changing teaching or practice in doing that, because things are done for “pastoral considerations.”

It feels, intellectually, similar to Karl Rahner, SJ’s concept of Fundamental Option. I, a divorced and remarried Catholic, maintain my fundamental option for Christ and marriage, even though I violate His commandment in my personal actions (an adulterous life).

Perhaps we should see the attitude towards divorced and remarried Catholics as a practical application of this “pastoralism” duality, like Manicheanism or the Fundamental Option.



23. Who Is Pope Francis to Judge Not?

By Dr. Leroy Huizenga, March 20, 2014

The modern world cannot comprehend mercy because it cannot comprehend sin.



“Judge not, lest ye be judged,” says Jesus Christ. “Who am I to judge?” says his Vicar on earth, Pope Francis. And the World, standing as it does under Satan’s domination, as the New Testament affirms, tends to twist any words of goodness, beauty, or truth offered it. And so when Pope Francis uttered “Who am I to judge?” in an informal interview on an airplane last summer when asked about a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, the World denuded his words, stripping them of context and finding there (if not outright affirmation of homosexual relations) real daylight between Pope Francis and his predecessor.

It’s clear that Pope Francis was speaking of those with a homosexual orientation, and not approbating any behavior:

A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will—well, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation—we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby.

Now, Pope Francis has done it again, deliberately, in his fervorino on Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, uttering “Who am I to judge?” And the World, once again, is tempted to take these words and twist them, as if Jesus’ words—and Pope Francis’ words—were license for license. For the World does not want to be challenged and converted; it wants to be affirmed. And so it would rather twist the words of Christ and pope than be saved.

If one reads the excerpts of the fervorino provided, Pope Francis’ words are clear enough both for those who are searching or for those of the faithful who would receive them: “Jesus’ invitation to mercy is intended to draw us into a deeper imitation of God our Father: be merciful, as your Father is merciful.” But receiving mercy involves the recognition of the reality of sin, not its dismissal or reinterpretation, and so Pope Francis then teaches that cultivating an attitude of mercy requires the self-knowledge to own and confess our own sin, unlike Adam, who blamed Eve, and Eve, who blamed the serpent: “to become merciful, we must first acknowledge that we have done many things wrong: we are sinners! We need to know how to say: Lord, I am ashamed of what I have done in life.”

Pope Francis, the vicar of Christ, is channeling Christ here perfectly, and so goes on to quote Christ’s words from Matthew 7: “The Lord says it in the Gospel: ‘Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.'”

Many in the modern world find an out in Jesus’—and thus Pope Francis’—words about judgment, a way to get off the hook about sin, wielding them wrongly as a shield to deflect moral claims, as if Jesus were speaking about moral judgments. And the reason for that is modernity’s peculiar preoccupation with ethics and epistemology in its attempts to fill the felt void left by the collapse of the medieval worldview, wherein a robust metaphysics bred confidence that one could know the nature of reality and the nature of humanity and thus what human beings were for and what they were to do. The failure of the modern project—the attempt to root knowledge and ethics in some sort of pure reason—means that most people nowadays don’t think much can be known about anything, especially morals. And thus Jesus’ and Pope Francis’ words are heard as affirmation that “I’m OK, and you’re OK, and everything is OK.”

But no one is “OK.” Neither the Jesus of the Gospels nor the Pope who proclaims Jesus and the gospel under the name of Francis suffers from the skepticism that drives our easygoing relativism. In the Sermon on the Mount, in the Gospel of Matthew, the context in which Jesus gives his famous teaching forbidding judging, Jesus knows precisely what sin is, names it, and calls people from it to righteousness. He does this so that having received mercy instead of the condemnation their sins deserve, they may also turn round and have mercy upon other sinners—”forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”—while also guarding themselves against swine and dogs, who trample holy pearls while on the attack.

Here too we might mention hypocrisy, as many men and women nowadays find moral claims inherently hypocritical, since no one seems capable of living up to his or her own standards. As La Rochefoucauld once said, “Hypocrisy is the homage vice rends to virtue.”

As it happens, the Matthean Jesus had much to say about hypocrisy and hypocrites, railing frequently against them. Those people who harbor the modern disdain for the supposed externals of ritual understand Jesus to be saying that religion is not religion at all, but an internal affair of the heart. And certainly Jesus does stress the importance of internal purity and righteousness, but what moderns miss is that he doesn’t denigrate externals thereby and reduce faith and morals to a private internal matter. For the Jesus of Matthew, “Thou shalt not kill” concerns much more than refraining from literal murder; it concerns anger and harsh words as well. But it still very much concerns literal murder. In a similar way Jesus teaches that the prohibition of adultery also concerns lust, but literal adultery is still forbidden.

For the Jesus of Matthew, then, hypocrisy isn’t a concern for ritualistic externals when faith concerns internal matters of the heart. Rather, hypocrisy is the failure of the internal and external to align. If one’s heart is right, then external things—speech, action, ritual—will align. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart…. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Indeed, Jesus affirms the importance of externals in his severe woes against the scribes and Pharisees. He accuses them of tithing herbs while neglecting the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy, and faithfulness, and then affirms both: “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” And similarly, “You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

In all of this, Jesus isn’t rejecting moral judgments but making them. And he expects his followers to make them as well. Motes and beams are real, and must be removed, not accommodated.




If anything, Jesus is turning up the dial on sin so that God’s mercy might really rain down in torrents, as he teaches his hearers that sin isn’t merely a matter of avoiding the big things—killing, stealing, fornicating—but rather is a cancer constricting the heart. Receiving God’s mercy means healing, a cure then to be extended also to others. But the modern world cannot comprehend mercy because it cannot comprehend sin, and so it often chooses to trample the pearl of mercy. In its endless quest for affirmation, it misses out on mercy.

Many have rightly emphasized the need to see (not manufacture!) the real continuity between Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis, and it seems this is Pope Francis’ own genuine desire. More than reading Francis through Benedict, however, we need also to read Francis through Jesus, in continuity with the Lord, whose vicar he is, whose mercy to sinners he proclaims.


5 out of 10 comments:

1. “It’s clear that Pope Francis was speaking of those with a homosexual orientation” … Not clear to anyone in the media — who have an overt secular mentality — and not clear to anyone who read subsequent comments. Even when The Advocate’s awarding him Man of the Year suggested gross misappropriation, no clarification was forthcoming from the very candid Pope. Rather strange given the crying need for moral straight talk out there on this highly discussed topic.

To think that saying “everyone knows the Church’s teaching” or “I am a son of the Church” is helpfully addressing a topic so many are being led astray on is pretty flooring. Support the Pope, yes, but defend every rhetorical effort as masterful? Not in this case. It was been hard enough to explain Church teaching on this point before: now it seems impossible. I am glad he wanted to make life easier for his appointee-friend, but for the rest of us he has made it much more difficult. The culminating misstep was Dolan’s recent “Bravo!” All quite discouraging.

2. Is a call to repentance judging?

Jesus calls all of us to repentance before GOD visits upon our heads His final judgement.

But apparently, any mention of sin is considered being judgmental.

3. Did Jesus ever excuse people’s sins? That is what Pope Francis say we must do in his fervorino. That attitude is condescending. I recall that Jesus forgave sins, not excused them. Forgiving someone addresses the dignity due every human – excusing does not.

Jesus also never lost an opportunity to teach the truth – even to the devil during Christ’s temptation in the desert. Even then, Our Lord was teaching that devil!

Francis’ train of thought is almost right but …not…quite.

4. If a Father refuses to teach the little child that stealing is a sin, when his child stole somebody goods while the father in his intention maintains the teaching who am I to judge, what will the society teach the child and the Father. Pope Francis is the visible Christ, and Christ is there for his sheep, when he refuses to state it clearly to homosexuals that, Gay is totally against the will of God and offensive to humanity then absolutely he is not getting it. We all know the right thing and the truth remains that a gay cannot seek God while still a gay.

5. You seem to be saying what is commonly understood as a proper disposition toward sin and the practice of mercy and charity. Sometimes it seems that Pope Francis is not quite disseminating all of the nuances associated with Christian charity for the sake of more radical proclamations like this “No One Can Judge”:…

Once again we’re left trying to reconcile this teaching with Jesus and all who come before who preach the faith. Maybe when Francis says ‘judge’ he means ‘judge in a bad or hypocritical way’. Maybe he means ‘judge’ like someone who is compulsive about seeing fault in others and not someone who is simply proclaiming what is evidently true and in a loving way for the instruction of others.

You see Francis warns that the one who judges is objectively wrong because they seek to take God’s place. This characterization seems to disregard the fact that God sent his Son as an example to us, and that we have been given instruction through revelation. If Francis is right then why is there such a thing as revelation?

I just find it frustrating that the Pope will make these kinds of arguments that are not representing the WHOLE truth. Jesus in all of His mercy and tenderness towards sinners very openly discussed the reality of hell and sin and the standard to which we are held to follow in His ways. Yes He had authority to do so, but He also sent us out as evangelizers! He sent us out to gather in his flock of lost sheep.

He did NOT teach that sin is relative and only perceivable by God the Father. He taught objective instances of sin, and it is our hope that the truth of God has been implanted in our hearts through the Word of God and through the influence of the Holy Spirit in our very beings.



24. The pope as a turnaround CEO. The Francis effect

April 19, 2014 

About to take over a crisis-ridden company with a demoralised workforce? Turn to a Roman case study

Business schools regularly teach their students about great “turnaround CEOs” who breathe new life into dying organisations: figures such as IBM’s Lou Gerstner, Fiat’s Sergio Marchionne and Apple’s Steve Jobs. Now Harvard Business School needs to add another case study: Jorge Bergoglio, the man who has rebranded RC Global in barely a year.

When Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter as CEO, just after being appointed, the world’s oldest multinational was in crisis. Pentecostal competitors were stealing market share in the emerging world, including in Latin America, where Francis ran the Argentine office.



In its traditional markets, scandals were scaring off customers and demoralising the salesforce. Recruitment was difficult, despite the offer of lifetime employment in a tough economy. The firm’s finances were also a mess. Leaked documents revealed the Vatican bank as a vortex of corruption and incompetence. The board was divided and weak. Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pope to resign for 600 years, amid dark rumours that the founder and chairman, a rarely seen elderly bearded figure whose portrait adorns the Sistine boardroom, had intervened.


Operating prophet

In just a year, the business has recovered a lot of its self-confidence. The CEO is popular: 85% of American Catholics—a tough audience—approve of him. Footfall in RC Global’s retail outlets is rising again. The salesforce now talks about a “Francis effect“. How has a septuagenarian Argentine succeeded in galvanising one of the world’s stodgiest outfits? Essentially by grasping three management principles.

The first is a classic lesson in core competences. Francis has refocused his organisation on one mission: helping the poor. One of his first decisions was to forsake the papal apartments in favour of a boarding house which he shares with 50 other priests and sundry visitors. He took the name of a saint who is famous for looking after the poor and animals. He washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates of a juvenile-detention centre. He got rid of the fur-trimmed velvet capes that popes have worn since the Renaissance, swapped Benedict’s red shoes for plain black ones and ignored his fully loaded Mercedes in favour of a battered Ford.

This new focus has allowed the company to spend fewer resources on ancillary businesses, such as engaging in doctrinal disputes or staging elaborate ceremonies. The “poor-first strategy” is also aimed squarely at emerging markets, where the potential for growth is greatest but competition fiercest.

Along with the new strategic focus, the pope is employing two management tools to good effect. One is a brand repositioning. He clearly continues to support traditional teaching on abortion and gay marriage, but in a less censorious way than his predecessors (“Who am I to judge?” he asked of homosexuals). The other is a restructuring. He has appointed a group of eight cardinals (“the C8”) to review the church’s organisation and brought in McKinsey and KPMG (“God’s consultants”) to look at the church’s administrative machinery and overhaul the Vatican bank.

Will it work? Established critics, notably the corporate raider Lou Siffer, maintain it is all incense-smoke and mirrors. Others insist that more sweeping change, including a bigger role for women, is needed. The chairman’s attitude is unknown. Some analysts interpret the absence of plagues of boils and frogs as approbation; others point out that He moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.


25. “Who Am I to Judge?” Revisited

By Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
May 27, 2014

On the Internet, Pope Francis’ question “Who am I to judge? – is cited hundreds of times. Almost always, the citation implies some approval of homosexual life-style. Two scriptural passages are close to the same phrase: “Who was I (Peter) that could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17); “Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant?” (Romans 14:4)

Pope Francis’s question occurred in an interview as he was returning from World Youth Day in Rio. The pope referred to a gay person who “is searching for the Lord and has good will.” In that context, one could say: “Who am I to judge?” But what of one who does not “search” or have “good will?”

If the same gay man were actually confessing in the Sacrament, the priest would have to “judge” either to give absolution or not, depending on his assessment of the man’s resolve to “sin no more.” If the man did sin and was repentant, his sins are forgiven. Forgiveness, however, is not license to return to old ways, even though it is difficult to change habits. We can sin again and be forgiven again. Forgiveness of sins is what Christianity is about. It is not about making what is a sin not a sin.

Pope Francis words – “Who am I to judge?” – are usually understood to mean that what is called by the Scripture or the Church a “sin” need not be considered as such. Thus, analogously, practitioners of divorce, contraception, homosexuality, drugs, adultery, abortion, fetal experimentation, and euthanasia are no longer “judged” to be “wrong.”

In this misreading, the Church has “changed.” Not even the pope, by his own admission, can say anything effective about those who engage in such practices.

A whole industry has arisen to show that this pope did not “mean” to change any basic teachings. He was restating the classical doctrine that God was the final judge of each individual soul. He did not mean that God suddenly changed His mind on divorce, fornication, adultery, abortion, homosexuality, gay marriages, euthanasia or other widely practiced issues.

Who am I to judge?” means, basically, that God makes the laws of being. We do not. But He does make them. They are for our good. To violate any one of them will undermine some aspect of our being and good. We can trace what happens when we make what is evil to be good in the lives of human beings and societies.

“Sin,” as such, is evil, but that is not the last word. We can freely repent. The New Testament begins with “repent and believe.” What cannot be “forgiven” are “ideas” that make evil good in such a way that we now advocate what is evil as “our good.” When Pope Francis cited the “Who am I to judge?” passage, he was widely understood to have, in effect, blessed relativism. Many people today simply “assume” that, with Pope Francis, the Church has now accepted “modernity.” Implicitly, she admits that her famous prohibitions were wrong.




The similar passage in Acts concerned the salvation of Gentiles. The immediate issue was eating meat of animals designated as “unclean” by the Old Law. Peter has a vision, guided by the Holy Spirit, no less. He sees that all animals, tame and wild, are clean. All of these are good. (I often cite this passage to my vegetarian friends). Peter had just insisted that he would not violate the Law. He is corrected. He is to distinguish what is essential from what is not. He is not to “withstand” (judge) God.

Peter is thus free to eat, or not eat, whatever he wants. He just cannot say to someone who enjoys quail or pork chops that it is “wrong” to eat them. Such a principle, of course, cannot be used to recommend sugar, a good, to a diabetic. We are still to use our brains.

Peter was not only corrected about food, but also about who can be included in the new community. At first, Peter thought only Jews were to be included. But suddenly he is confronted by Cornelius, a Roman soldier. (Acts 10) He has had a vision. He is to go to Joppa and find Peter. Peter realizes that this man must be accepted.

Peter finally says: “I begin to see how true it is that God shows no partiality. Rather the man of any nation who fears God and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” (11:34-35) Peter does not say that anyone who leads a life that is not “upright” is “acceptable” to God. To “fear” God obviously means that God stands for something, not just anything.

The glorious run of “Who am I to judge?” has often become a tool to reverse the moral order. It can confuse the liberation that comes from acting rationally within metaphysical and moral order with acting “freely,” wherein nothing exists but what “I judge,” whatever I choose.



26. The Francis Effect – Upcoming Documentary Explores Uniqueness of South America’s First Pope–2

Rome, May 28, 2014

A new documentary is taking a closer look at the beloved and often challenging figure of Pope Francis, who, in just one year, has captured the attention of the world.

The Francis Effect, which will premiere on Salt and Light Network on May 31, explores a variety of key issues pertaining to this pontificate, from his historic election, to his impromptu press briefings; from his institutional changes to the curia, to his emphasis on the core teachings of the Gospel. Namely, the documentary explores the unfolding of what has become known has the “Francis effect” through the eyes of clergy, prelates, professors, and journalists, with the aim of understanding the unique ministry of the first South American Pope.

“It was very clear early on in the pontificate of Pope Francis that something was different, and people were paying attention in ways that they hadn’t in the past,” said Sebastian Gomes, the writer and director of the documentary.

“As the months went on, we saw that the ‘Francis effect’ was developing. It wasn’t what some people called just the ‘honeymoon’ period. It seemed to us to be something that was here, and here to stay.”

While significant attention has been paid to some of the superficial changes made to papacy – his new shoes, his relocation to the Santa Marta residence, etc. – the team at Salt and Light saw the opportunity to delve further.

“The main purpose [of the documentary],” Gomes said, “was to go deeper and to bring people into the story in a way that they could see, not only the superficial changes, but also the historic, cultural, bureaucratic, structural changes that he’s implementing as well.”

One of the qualities of Pope Francis which the documentary focusses on is his manner of communication. “There’s an old maxim at the Vatican that you’re never supposed to speak without a prepared text,” Gomes said. “That definitely does not apply to this Pope because he speaks all the time without a script. If he does have a script, he deviates from the script a lot. We just don’t know what he’s going to say, and to whom.”

“He’s surrounded himself with people – that’s a change – and he’s communicating directly, and in simple language that people understand. You don’t have to be an educated person to understand what this Pope is saying. You can be anybody. You don’t have to be a Christian to understand what this Pope is saying. That’s part of his broad appeal around the world, and it’s also something that demands a certain investigation on our part in doing the film: What does this mean?”

The Francis Effect explores some of the more well-known examples of the Pope’s off-the-cuff remarks, such as those delivered during the press briefing on the plane returning from Rio de Janeiro, and in last year’s interview with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro for La Civilta Cattolica.

Many of the comments that have been made by the Pope during these encounters, moreover, have been very personal, he said. “People didn’t really know how to interpret them because we had never heard things like this before [from a Pope]. He was making some very significant comments that we, as a Church, didn’t necessarily know how to apply, to interpret what this meant.”

Another issue explored in The Francis Effect is the internal reform of the Church proposed by Pope Francis. “It’s becoming more and more apparent that this is a Pope not only for the Catholic Church but for the whole world. We’ve seen that in the way he’s called for peace, the way he called for the day of prayer for what was happening in Syria almost a year ago.”

“There are many people in the world who are not Catholic and not Christian who recognize that he is the most authoritative moral voice on the planet today,” he said. “That has significant implications for the Church.”

Finally, the documentary explores whether Pope Francis’ unique approach is merely one of style, or if it is one of substantive change. “People tend to say that it’s just style,” Gomes said. “However, it’s becoming more and more apparent that, in a way, the Pope Francis style is substance. That’s an important thing to consider.”




One of the central qualities of Pope Francis’ pontificate, Gomes said, is the emphasis on the idea that the “entire mission of the Church is not for the Church,” but for the whole world.

“The world needs the Church to be the Church at its best,” he said, “and the Church is at its best when it’s talking about the very fundamental attributes of the Gospel and of Jesus: Love, acceptance, openness, mercy, forgiveness. That’s what the world needs. That’s what the Gospel is about. Francis, incarnating that in the way that he is, is turning a lot of heads, drawing a lot of attention, and opening up a lot of hearts and minds. And that’s a beautiful thing.”



27. Radical Synod Planned for October. Working Document Reveals Revolutionary Aims

By John Vennari, July 26, 2014 (August 2014 issue of Catholic Family News) (Traditionalist)




          On June 26, the Vatican released its Working Document (Instrumentum Laboris) for the upcoming October Synod on the Family, a ponderous text of over 25,000 words.
            It is a thoroughly Conciliar manuscript. There is no mention of any document from the Church’s magisterium prior to Vatican II. Apart from Scriptural citations, all references are from Vatican II and post-Conciliar texts.
            The document contains good points, major deficiencies and frightening proposals. The three most radical proposals are:
            1) A new “pastoral solution” to allow divorce and remarried Catholics to receive Holy Communion;
            2) A new “pastoral approach” that permits the baptism of children from same-sex couples, thus indirectly legitimizing these unions;
            3) A recasting of natural law in “new language”, which threatens to undermine our entire ethical foundation of true morality.
            Indeed the Synod’s Working Document further displays the triumph of the New Theology over today’s Vatican; the same new theology that wrought havoc at Vatican II and continues its destructive path to this day.
Details, Details, Details
            When reading the Synod Working Paper, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the avalanche of details. The document lists countless problems and anomalies presently affecting marriage and family life. It takes on too much – more than can ever be solved by addressing hundreds of particulars within a subjectivist “pastoral” framework.
            The true solution calls for general principles rooted in objective truth, the immutable magisterium of the centuries and the Church’s Scholastic tradition.
Since the New Theology, however, is rooted in Modernist flux, subjectivism and is fundamentally anti-Thomist, these true solutions are likely never to be considered. The result of this Synod will thus be more continuous aggiornamento, more experimentation, more “new language”, more confusion, more revolution.
            As Dominican Father Anthony Lee observed at the time of Vatican II, “The spirit of revolution dies slowly, especially when it can subtly associate itself with genuine reform.”[1]
            The reason for excessive details in the Working Paper is grasped when we look at how the paper was produced.
            In November 2013, the Vatican sent a 39-question survey on Church teaching to the bishops of the world, as well as to various associations, communities and individuals.
            The 39 questions were spread out under nine headings: 1) “Diffusing of Teaching on the Family in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Magisterium” (note, the only two ‘magisterium’ documents mentioned in this section were Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, and John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio); 2) “Marriage According to Natural Law; 3) Pastoral Care of the Family in Evangelization”; 4) “Pastoral Care in Certain Difficult Marital Situations; 5) “On the Union of Persons of the Same Sex”, 6) “The Education of Children in Irregular Marriages”; 7) “The Openness of the Married Couple to Life (with a focus on Humanae Vitae)”, 8) “The Relationship Between the Family and the Person”; 9) “Other Challenges and Proposals”.[2]
            The responses that ensued were predictable regarding the present state of marriage and family life within the post-Conciliar Church: utter confusion, lack of unified vision, overemphasis on trends of the times, rejection of bedrock doctrine. There were also positive responses from Catholics who have a better grasp of the Faith, but the overall picture is fragmentation, indifference, befuddlement and ignorance concerning the Church’s moral teaching.
            The Synod’s Working Paper reflects this cacophony of viewpoints. We read of those who reject Church doctrine on birth control as they see it as an intrusion into their personal lives; they also see the practice of birth control as part of the exercise of “responsible parenthood”. There are indications of widespread cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, many teen mothers, canonical irregularities, the rise of same-sex couples adopting children, the list goes on.
            As Ansa News reported of the document: “Many Catholics have ‘difficulties’ in accepting the Church’s doctrine on ‘birth control, divorce… homosexuality, unmarried couples, faithlessness, sex before marriage and in vitro fertilization’.”[3]
            Ignorance of Catholic moral teaching is displayed in statements from divorced and remarried Catholics who “wonder why others’ sins can be forgiven and not theirs.”[#92][4] An example from one of the document’s good points: It mentions that for most people, what is considered “legal” will be equated with what is “moral”, and thus the upsurge in laws that undermine marriage and the family confuse and disorient the faithful.[5]
            There are troublesome statements, which we will better address later, regarding same-sex unions.
            As noted earlier, it is fatal to descend into the myriad of details of the Working Document. Anyone who has the stamina to read the entire text is free to do so, tedious exercise as it is.[6] I usually don’t see eye-to-eye with liberal Father Thomas Reese of the National Catholic Reporter, but I was amused at his observation, “If married life is as boring and joyless as this document, I am glad I am celibate.”[7]
            We will move to what I consider the three most radical proposals mentioned earlier, starting with a possible new “pastoral solution” for divorce and remarried Catholics.
Marriage and Pastoral Aggiornamento
             The Working Document contains two sections that open the door for a new approach. Speaking of divorced and remarried Catholics, the document states, “…responses and observations from some episcopal conferences emphasize that the Church needs to equip herself with pastoral means which provide the possibility of her more widely exercising mercy, clemency and indulgence towards new unions.” [#93]
            Later, with regard to divorced and remarried Catholics who ask to receive Holy Communion, the document says, “In this regard, some recommend considering the practice of some Orthodox Churches, which, in their opinion, opens the way for a second or third marriage of a penitential character.”[#95]



            Taken on their own, and weighed against the rest of the document’s verbal tonnage, these statements don’t seem to amount to much. It is scandalous to note, however, that Catholic bishops could actually consider adopting a practice of the Orthodox that defies Catholic doctrine and the clear words of Our Lord.
            Nonetheless, the divorce/Communion proposal bears close watching in light of the recent shocking statements at February Consistory when Cardinal Kasper argued the possibility of admitting divorced and remarried to Holy Communion.
            An unspeakable scandal followed the next day when Pope Francis publicly praised Kasper for his toxic proposals in front of all the other Cardinals of the Consistory, 85% percent of which, it is reported, sharply disagreed with Kasper’s recklessness. [8] “I found deep theology and serene thoughts in theology,” rhapsodized Francis over Kasper, “This is what I call doing theology while kneeling. Thank you, thank you.”[9]
            NCR‘s Father Thomas Reese alluded to this episode saying, “The working paper also notes that ‘some recommended considering the practice of some Orthodox churches, which, in their opinion, opens the way for a second or third marriage of a penitential character.’ It does not mention that Pope Francis is among those recommending considerations of the Orthodox practice.”[10]
            In the same vein, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, said in his June 27 Zenit interview, “In regard to the ‘Orthodox model’ it is suggested as a proposal in the Instrumentum Laboris and the Synod Fathers will also discuss this.”

This is tantamount to opening up discussion about whether someone who dies in unrepented mortal sin may go to heaven. It is de fide from the Council of Trent [11] that a sacramental, consummated marriage is indissoluble. Father Ludwig Ott teaches, “From the sacramental contract of marriage emerges the Bond of Marriage, which binds both marriage partners to a lifelong indivisible community of life.”[12]
            Along with the Canons on Marriage, the Council of Trent infallibly proclaims in Canon 2, “If anyone says that it is lawful for Christians to have several wives at the same time, and that it is not forbidden by any divine law [Matt. 19:4 f.]: let him be anathema.”[13]
            Thus there can be no admission to the sacraments of any Catholic who is divorced, remarried and whose original spouse still lives. Such a Catholic has broken his marriage vows and, in the objective order, lives in mortal sin. This is not an open question for Catholics, but a solemnly established truth that goes back to Our Lord Himself, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” (Luke: 16:18). Those living in sin cannot receive Holy Communion. The possibility of a different approach cannot be a matter for discussion, even under the specious rubric of a “new pastoral approach”.
            Why then are Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Baldisseri and Pope Francis considering the heterodox Orthodox model, instead of repeating the solemn teaching of the infallible Council of Trent? Why not save a tremendous amount of time and bother? Why not avoid unspeakable confusion and scandal? Why not publicly reaffirm the defined truths of the Catholic Faith on this point, rather than pretend there can be any other Catholic view?
            As demonstrated by the whirlwind responses to the Vatican questionnaire, there is now massive ignorance of the Faith among today’s Catholics. Yet our leaders seem intent on keeping them ignorant for the sake of enacting new “pastoral solutions” that effectively defy the Faith of all time. Again I quote Father Anthony Lee, “The spirit of revolution dies slowly, especially when it can subtly associate itself with genuine reform.”
            It is probably no accident the Working Document contains no references to the Council of Trent, to Pope Leo XIII’s Arcanum and to Pius XI’s Casti Connubii, all of which repeat the absolute indissolubility of marriage. Are not today’s shepherds ramping up the chaos by refusing to restate these basic truths with all of their consequences? What does this say of our leaders’ quality as shepherds? What does this say of their claim to be truly pastoral?
Vicious “Non-Judgmentals”
             Even before Cardinal Kasper made his reckless proposal, then-Archbishop Baldisseri opened the door for the new approach.
            As Vatican Insider reported this past November 28, Archbishop Baldisseri, newly -appointed Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, said the subject of Communion for the divorced and remarried will be discussed “without taboos”. Baldisseri also hinted that the Synod may find an alleged solution by looking to the practice of the Orthodox which allows remarriage under certain circumstances.[14]
            Baldisseri’s repeated returns to this topic, as well as Pope Francis’ enthusiasm for Kasper’s proposal, guarantees this will be a central point of discussion at the October Synod.
            In fact, we already have a preview of how the new approach to marriage may play itself out.
            The Synod Working Document, as noted, calls for a “More widely exercising mercy, clemency and indulgence towards new unions.” Throughout the document we are urged to a so-called “non-judgmental” approach to various irregular unions.
            It appears, however, that any priest who prefers traditional Catholic doctrine over this new approach will be sledge hammered in a manner that shows no mercy, clemency or indulgence.
            In early July, Vatican journalist Sandro Magister related the case of Father Tarcisio Vicario, a parish priest of the Italian diocese of Novaro, who reiterated traditional Catholic doctrine on the relation of the Eucharist to divorced and remarried Catholics. Vicario’s Bishop went ballistic. Cardinal Baldisseri thrust himself into the subsequent hubbub, denouncing Father Vicario’s words as “crazy”, hardily non-judgmental terminology. [15]
            In his sermon, Father Vicario taught, “For the Church, which acts in the name of the Son of God, marriage between the baptized alone is always a Sacrament. Civil marriage and cohabitation are not a sacrament. There those who place themselves outside the Sacrament by contracting civil marriage are living in continuing adultery. One is not treating of sin committed on one occasion (for example, a murder), nor an infidelity through carelessness of habit, where conscience in any case calls us back to the duty of reforming ourselves by means of sincere repentances and a true and firm purpose of distancing ourselves from sin and from the occasions which lead to it.”



            The Bishop of Novaro reacted with fury, denouncing Father Vicario’s words as “an unacceptable equation, even though introduced as an example between cohabitation and murder. The use of the example, even if written in brackets, proves to be inappropriate and misleading, and therefore wrong.”
            Yet there was nothing inappropriate in Father Vicario’s sermon. He merely pointed out the difference between a passing sin, however serious, that can be resolved by Confession, and by the worse difficulty of actually living in sin within an ongoing relation. Father Vicario effectively answered those divorced and remarried Catholics who, we read in the Working Document, “wonder why others’ sins can be forgiven and not theirs.”
            Cardinal Baldisseri then stepped into the act.
            Even though Novaro is located near the Swiss border and over 400 miles from Rome, even though a Vatican prelate had no business intruding himself into the affair, even though the Vatican constantly turns a blind eye to the countless exploits of heresy, apostasy and scandal by numerous priests throughout Italy, Cardinal Baldisseri made it his business to denounce Father Vicario’s words as “crazy, a strictly personal opinion of a parish priest who does not represent anyone, not even himself.” (“una pazzia, un’opinione strettamente personale di un parroco che non rappresenta nessuno, neanche se stesso.”)
            Father Vicario’s alleged “personal opinion” does not represent even Father Vicario himself? This is nothing short of a rant sputtered in a white-hot surge of emotion.
            Further, Father Vicario’s statements are not merely personal opinions, but the constant voice of the Church. Why then does Baldisseri snarl and hiss at Vicario’s Catholicism like a vampire before a Crucifix?
            Who is the one who is crazy here? Between the two, Baldisseri comes off as the man who needs the padded cell. Yet Baldisseri is the prelate personally chosen by Francis to be the guiding force of the upcoming Synod.
            I think we now have a preview of Francis’ post-Synod Church. If the present trajectory continues unaltered, expect to see faithful priests who defend the full teaching of marriage attacked and humiliated by the new “who am I to judge?” regime.
On Unnatural Unions
             The Working Document’s section on homosexuality does in fact reiterate certain precepts of Catholic moral teaching, but it is also here we see repeated call for a “non-judgmental” approach. We also see the door opened to baptizing children of same-sex couples, thus indirectly legitimizing these unions.
            We read in #113: “Every bishops’ conference voiced opposition to ‘redefining’ marriage between a man and a women through the legislation permitting the union between two people of the same sex. The episcopal conferences amply demonstrate they are trying to find a balance between the Church’s teaching on the family, and a respectful, non-judgmental attitudes towards people living in such unions.”
            Again in #115: “Episcopal conferences supply a variety of information on unions between persons of the same sex. In countries where legislation exists on civil unions, many of the faithful express themselves in favor of a respectful and non-judgmental attitude towards these people and a ministry which seeks to accept them.”[16]
            Unfortunately, the term “non-judgmental” is not explained, and helps fuel the secular superstition that Catholicism is unreasonably “judgmental” regarding homosexuality. Yet the Catholic Church only reiterates the teaching of the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the teaching of the saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church. Homosexual acts are intrinsically evil; no set of circumstances could ever justify these acts, which are a grave sin against nature, grave sin against God, a mortal sin that sends the soul to hell for eternity if not repented, and is one of the four sins that cry to Heaven for vengeance.
            Many modern Catholics, and a great host of modern Jesuits, would shudder in horror at this honest restatement of Catholic moral teaching. Yet truth does not change. As G.K. Chesterton observed, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
            As for “judgment”: Yes, we can indeed judge that homosexual acts are sinful (even the 1992 Catechism mentions the term “grave depravity”) [17] but as to the subjective guilt of the homosexual, that we cannot judge, for such interior movements of the soul are known to God alone.
            Thus, as mentioned previously in CFN, [18] we can judge objective moral actions, whether these actions conform to God’s law or not, but we may not judge a person’s moral motives. [19] This simple but crucial distinction is found nowhere in the Working Document. Further, the term “non-judgmental” is more of a contemporary media term to enflame emotions; it is the language of modern trends, not the time-proven precision of scholastic theology.
            It is worth noting that we should not be unduly harsh on those who struggle with temptations that do not afflict us. The Church has noteworthy apostolates such as the late Father James Harvey’s Courage, [20]
which is directed towards those who suffer same-sex attractions, and helps them overcome these sins and temptations. Courage is a Catholic and compassionate approach. It does not “celebrate” the homosexual lifestyle, as do too many “Gay and Lesbian Catholic Ministries,” (such as found at various US Jesuit and other “Catholic” universities, which host celebratory “coming out” days). There are no Rainbow flags on Courage‘s webpage. The apostolate helps those who recognize homosexuality as a moral disorder, who seek to overcome these sins and live the Catholic life of sanctifying grace.
             Much more can be said on the “same-sex” section of the Working Document, [21] but in the interest of time, we move to the final point: the Working Document’s treatment of baptism of children of same-sex couples.

We read in #120: “The responses are clearly opposed to legislation which would allow the adoption of children by persons in a same-sex union, because they see a risk to the integral good of the child who have a right to a mother and father…



However, when people living in such unions request a child’s baptism, almost all the responses emphasize that the child must be received with the same care, tenderness and concern which is given to other children.”
            This ambiguous section stops short of explicitly encouraging baptism, but the message is clear. The door is open for Baptism of children of “same-sex couples. This is not only a misuse of the sacrament of Baptism, but will further “legitimatize” homosexual unions and the new definition of “family”.
            The purpose of Baptism is not simply to go through the ceremony; it the entrance to the life of Sanctifying Grace and the first step in being raised in the Catholic Faith. This necessarily includes adherence to all the Church’s dogmatic and moral truths, and to not abandon the youngster to a household where immoral lifestyles are lived as if legitimate.
            In his superb four-volume Moral and Pastoral Theology series, Father Henry Davis explains: “It is contrary to the mind of the Church to baptize a child who will not be brought up Catholic. The plea is mistakenly pressed that Baptism will give it grace, give it a right to heaven, and probably lead it to the Catholic Faith.”
            Father Davis continues: “The same rules as given above, apply to the children of heretics, schismatics and Catholics who have become apostates, heretics and schismatics, for these children are seriously exposed to the danger of perversion.”[22]
            These Catholic principles were reflected in Canon Law. As one learned traditional priest told me, “The principles for resolution of this case come from Canon 751 and 750 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law,” which forbids baptism of children to heretics, schismatics and apostates. Thus, applying these immutable principles, such persons [same-sex couples] must be considered as formal apostates since they have openly rejected the Church’s moral teaching on sex and marriage, and this especially applies if they have attempted a so-called same-sex “marriage”. At least, such couples must be regarded as public sinners, since they openly live a lifestyle the Church has always denounced as grave sins. Have not homosexuals (who adopt this lifestyle) regarded the moral law of God and responded, “I will not serve?”
            Granted, the Church sometimes admits the baptism of children from apostates and heretics, etc., if it can be foreseen they will receive a truly Catholic education and upbringing. But it is obvious that homosexual couples live in defiance of the Catholic Faith. Thus, to use the words of Father Davis, “These children [of these unions] are seriously exposed to the danger of perversion.”
            Even Pope John Paul’s “Instruction on Infant Baptism” of October 20, 1980 reiterates this principle: “Assurances must be given that the gift thus granted [Baptism] can grow by an authentic education in the faith and Christian life, in order to fulfill the true meaning of the sacrament. As a rule, these assurances are to be given by the parents or close relatives, although various substitutions are possible within the Christian community. But if these assurances are not really serious there can be grounds for delaying the sacrament; and if they are certainly non-existent the sacrament should even be refused.”[23]
            Yet under the reign of Pope Francis, if the Working Document can be believed, we now have the majority of the world’s bishops open to the baptism of children of same-sex couples.
            How far we have fallen from principles found even in the early Protestant schools of Boston wherein the 1789 law states, “Every town or district within this commonwealth … shall be provided with a School Master or School-Masters of good morals…”[24] Should not our modern churchmen demand from Catholic guardians the same good morals that were exacted by Protestant institutions?
            Finally, as noted, the baptism of children of such “couples” cannot help but be interpreted as a tacit approval of an anti-Catholic lifestyle that is incompatible with any concept of the true Catholic upbringing and education of children.
            The fact that the majority of bishops favor such baptisms reflects the doctrinal destitution of men who are the product of a maimed formation, or who have allowed themselves to be twisted to modern disorientation.
            The warning of Pope Pius VIII immediately springs to mind: “Nothing contributes more to the ruin of souls than impious, weak or uninformed clerics.”[25] How much worse when weak and uniformed clerics become the majority of bishops?
Natural Law and New Language
             The issue of Natural Law is a larger topic than we have time to cover in this issue. For now we will briefly mention one point.
            The Working Document recounts that most Catholics don’t seem to understand Natural Law. It does not, however, address the cause for this ignorance: Catholics do not understand Natural Law because it has not been taught to them.

This deficiency is due to the widespread confusion regarding doctrine and morals that resulted from Vatican II, the countless heterodox “theologians” who now infest “Catholic” colleges, universities and seminaries while remaining priests in good standing, the downplaying of Thomistic Philosophy and Theology, and the resultant disappearance of traditional, organized, systematic scholastic text books on philosophy and theology, particularly in the Science of Ethics and Moral Theology.
            In fact, one cannot properly understand Natural Law without knowledge of Scholastic Ethics and the entire traditional Thomistic framework.
            Rather than call for a return to a reaffirmation of scholastic precision, however, the Working Document’s projected solution will cause even more turmoil.
            The Document proposes, “The language traditionally used in explaining the term ‘Natural Law’ should be improved so that the values of the Gospel can be communicated to people today in a more intelligible manner.” [#30]
            There we have it: more “new language” to speak in a manner intelligible to modern man.
            This was also the promise of Vatican II.
            We all know the alleged “updating” and “improving” of traditional Catholic language has been a principle of subversion since the time of the Council. Vatican II itself refused to employ the precision of scholastic language, and opted for a new and loose “pastoral language”. [26] The Council went on to produce ambiguous documents that admit both a liberal interpretation and a conservative interpretation. An ongoing Churchquake ensued.


            The rejection of Thomism at the Council was due to the triumph of the “New Theology” at Vatican II. A defining mark of the New Theology is repugnance to Thomism, an underlying problem well underway prior to the Council. Pope St. Pius X noted that hatred of scholasticism is a hallmark of Modernism. Speaking of the modernist New Theology, Father Anthony Lee noted at the time of the Council, “By 1946, the destruction of scholastic philosophy and the theology had taken on the proportions of a victorious crusade.”[27]
            Yet the very theologians who waged this crusade against Thomism were the same men whom John XXIII allowed to become theological “experts” at Vatican II, and thus guide the direction of the Council and the Church to this day. The neo-modernist progenies of the Council now prepare the October Synod, which has “continuous aggiornamento” written all over it.
            If today’s purveyors of the new theology are permitted to undermine Natural Law, they destroy everything.
            More on this crucial topic next month. [28]
[1] “Thomism and the Council”, Father Anthony Lee, from the book Vatican II: The Theological Dimension, [Washington: Thomist Press, 1963] p. 743
[2] Preparatory Document: Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization, November, 2013.
[3] “Synod Opens to Rethink Unwed, Divorce,” Ansa News, June 26, 2014
[4] For those who don’t know, to be forgiven in Confession, one must make the firm purpose of amendment against sin. For a divorced and remarried couple, this necessarily entails them separating until (if possible) the marriage can be legitimately regularized, or by separating permanently (or by truly living as brother and sister).
[5] The section on Internet, Social media and its fragmentation of the family was surprisingly well done [#68-69].
[6] The document can be accessed on the Vatican website – (and yes, I’ve read the entire Working Paper – jv).
[7] “Synod Working Paper is Boring and Joyless,” Thomas Reese, National Catholic Reporter June 27, 2014.
[8] “The Secret Consistory: What Happened?”, La Stampa, March 14, 2014.
[9] For summary of Kasper at the Consistory, see Catholic Family News, April 2014 pp. 6 & 7 (articles by Father Brian Harrison and Professor Roberto de Mattei, respectively); and the conclusion of “Traditional Catholics and Noah’s Nakedness,” pp. 16-17 of the same issue.
[10] “Synod Working Paper is Boring and Joyless,” Reese (emphasis added).
[11] On this point, the Council of Trent, Session XXIV (Nov. 11, 1563) teaches infallibly: “The first parent of the human race expressed the perpetual and indissoluble bond of matrimony under the influence of the divine Spirit, when he said: “This now is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother and shall cleave to his wife’ and they shall be two in one flesh” [Gen. 2:23 f.; cf. Eph. 5:31]. But that by this bond two only are united and joined together, Christ the Lord taught more openly, when referring to those last words, as having been uttered by God, He said: “Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh” [Matt. 19:6], and immediately ratified the strength of this same bond, pronounced by Adam so long ago in these words: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” [ Matt. 19:6; Mark10:9.” Denzinger 969
Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Father Ludwig Ott [Rockford: Tan, republished 1974], p. 467 (emphasis added).
[13] Denzinger 972.
[14] “Church Should Take New Approach towards Question of Communion for Remarried Catholics,” Vatican Insider, Nov. 28, 2014.
[15] English report of the Magister write-up appeared on the web at:
[16] Emphasis added in both quotes.
[17] Par. 2357.
[18] “Judge Not”, J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, March 2014.
[19] Unless the motives are told to us openly by the person committing these actions.
[20] “Courage” is for those who suffer same-sex attractions. “EnCourage” is for those who have a friend, loved one, family member, spouse, etc., who is homosexual. The group was founded by Father James Harvey, OSFS, and treats of homosexuality within the tradition of Catholic moral doctrine and practice. Courage can be accessed on line at
[21] If time permits, we will further discuss this section of the Working Document next month.
Moral and Pastoral Theology, Volume III, Father Henry Davis, SJ [New York: Sheed and Ward, 1943], p. 52.
[23] Pastoralis action, “Instruction on Infant Baptism,” Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Oct. 20, 1980, #28, (emphasis added).
[24] Massachusetts School of Law, 1789, quoted from The Story Killers, Dr. Terrence O. More, [Lexington, KY: 2014], p. 19 (emphasis added).
[25] Traditi Humilitati, “On His Program for the Pontificate,” Inaugural Encyclical of Pope Pius VII, May 24, 1829.
[26] The inherent problems of “pastoral language” were foreseen by Archbishop Lefebvre even before the Council opened. In a meeting of the Preparatory Commission, Archbishop Lefebvre propose that Vatican II produced two sets of documents: one set in the precision of scholastic language for the theologians, and the other in more simple (pastoral) language for the average man. The precise scholastic texts would serve as the official interpretation of the pastoral texts. This proposal was immediately shot down. Archbishop Lefebvre saw through this ruse: “Liberals and Progressives like to live in a climate of ambiguity. The idea of clarifying the purpose of the Council annoyed them exceedingly. My proposal was thus rejected.” I Accuse the Council, Marcel Lefebvre, rev. ed. [Kansas City: Angelus Press, 2009], p. 4.
[27] “Thomism and the Council,” p. 465.
[28] Until next month, we give a thumbnail definition of Natural Law (also referred to as the natural moral law): Natural Law is “the universal, practical, obligatory judgments of reason knowable by all men as binding them to do good and avoid evil, and discovered by right reason form the nature of man adequately considered [i.e., adequately understood]”. It is “the sharing in the eternal law by the rational creature; the dictates of right reason concerning the necessary ordering of human nature.” Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy, Bernard Wuellner, S.J. [Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955], pp. 68-69. We hope to cover more about this in the September issue.


Familyoffaith Foundationindia
Sent: Wednesday, August 06, 2014 11:15 AM

Subject: This Week at Catholic World Report – August 4, 2014 Edition

28. Archbishop Kurtz: Synod can be “a catalyst” for renewal

USCCB president Archbishop Joseph Kurtz will represent the US at the upcoming Synod of Bishops. The urgent challenges facing families—and how the Church can serve families better—will be the synod’s top priorities, he says.

By Jim Graves, August 4, 2014





Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, 67, of Louisville, Kentucky, is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). From October 5-19, 2014, he will be in Rome to participate in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

[…] He has been active with the USCCB, serving as its chairman of the Committee on Marriage and Family Life, and has been a prominent defender of Church teaching on traditional marriage and the family. 

He recently spoke with CWR about the upcoming synod.

CWR: What is a synod and why is there a need for this one?

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz: The word “synod” means gathering; in this instance, a gathering of bishops.  Flowing from the Second Vatican Council, every four years or so we have an ordinary synod.  This one is an extraordinary synod, which will include bishops who serve as delegates, heads of religious communities, observers—including non-Catholics and married couples—and periti [Latin for “experts,” theologians who advise bishops].

For this particular synod, the Holy Father did something unique, calling for a synod with two parts.  The first will be an extraordinary synod this October.  The second will be an ordinary synod in October 2015, like the synod on evangelization held in 2012.  Ordinary synods have a larger group of delegates; this one is extraordinary because the format is different and it is made up of presidents of episcopal conferences throughout the world.

The Holy Father called this synod because he sees a special urgency to discuss the challenges to the family.  We will gather for a prayerful conversation and make recommendations to the Holy Father to use in his governance of the Church.

In the past, the pope has issued apostolic exhortations as a result of the synods, prompted by its propositions.  In 2013, for example, Pope Francis issued Evangelii Gaudium, which flowed from the synod on evangelization held in 2012.

CWR: How is a synod’s agenda developed?

Archbishop Kurtz: First off, the synod begins with the Holy Father announcing its theme.  That’s the beginning, and the resulting apostolic exhortation is the end of the formal process.  With its end begins the pastoral work.  A 1990 synod on the formation of priests, for example, led to Pope John Paul II’s 1992 apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (“I give you Shepherds”), which led to a great renewal and reform of our formation of men in the seminary.

Once the Holy Father announces the topic of a synod, a framework has been given for conversation.  Bishops throughout the world are invited to make recommendations for topics of discussion.  In the case of the upcoming synod, a consultation was made in December and early January.  Input was gathered to form an 85-page working document, which was a result of that consultation.

CWR: What topics do you believe should be discussed?

Archbishop Kurtz: First, we need to reflect on the beauty and gift of marriage and family.  We have many pastoral challenges to marriage in our age, including lack of fidelity, lack of proper catechetical formation of married persons, young people who choose to cohabit rather than marry, or those who have experienced a divorce.  We also have those who wish to change the definition of marriage. 

It would be a mistake if we were to gather and not focus on the gift of the family to our Church and society.  As Pope John Paul II observed, humanity passes through the family.  With better catechesis, people will come to a better understanding of this great gift.  The feedback I’ve received on marriage from the faithful tells me of a desire to learn more about the Church’s teaching: what the Church teaches and why.

We also need to discuss how the Church serves the family, and how to care for those who have been wounded in family relationships.  And, we need to consider the great untapped resource of attractive, authentic witnesses to marriage and family we have around us today.  We have many modern day examples of what it means to follow Christ.

I recently gave the keynote address at a pro-life conference.  I asked one man, “What led to your commitment to the pro-life cause?”  He showed me a photo of his wife and children.  That’s the kind of witness of which we need more.

CWR: You also had a positive family experience of your own to draw on.

Archbishop Kurtz: Yes.  Mine wasn’t a perfect family, but a faithful one.  My older brother, George, with Down syndrome, had a wonderful presence and really brought us together.

CWR: How will the topics be selected for the synod?

Archbishop Kurtz: As delegates, we will have complete freedom to decide which areas we believe are important for us to address.  There will be two levels of conversation.  The first will be with everyone present, the second in small groups.  In 2012, we had about 400 delegates and observers, and about 11 or 12 small groups.  In the small groups proposals are made, with the delegates voting on the proposals.

It has been the practice in the past—and I expect this practice to continue—for the pope himself to come to the sessions.  Pope Francis has indicated that he wants greater collaboration and consultation among the bishops.

CWR: When you read mainstream media reports on the synod, what misconceptions or inaccuracies do you see?

Archbishop Kurtz: People tend to gravitate to the sensational.  Reports imply that there will be a change in doctrine.  There is no basis from which to draw this conclusion.  The pope himself has indicated that the focus will be on pastoral care, not a change in doctrine.  The synod is not a vehicle to change Church teaching, but a search for a fresh and creative way pastorally to have an effect on peoples’ lives.

CWR: What will your role be in the synod?

Archbishop Kurtz: I will be one delegate, as head of the episcopal conference in the United States.  There are 120 or 130 episcopal conferences worldwide, the head of which will be invited to participate as a delegate.  There will be 180 delegates in all, about two-thirds of whom will be presidents of episcopal conferences.




CWR: You participated in the 2012 synod.  What was it like?

Archbishop Kurtz: That year, four delegates came from the United States.  Cardinal Donald Wuerl served as recording secretary of the conference; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles also participated.

There was a great richness to the experience, rubbing elbows with people from all over the world.  You really get a snapshot of the worldwide Church in the presence of the Holy Father.

We used headphones and translators when we met in the big group.  The small groups were grouped by language.  You really get a sense of other peoples’ perspectives in the world.

In the small group setting, it gave me the opportunity for my own intervention when I spoke about the Rite for Blessing of the Child in the Womb.  The rite is intended as one way we can defend the child in the womb, a lifting up and promoting the gift of a child.  We will have the opportunity to talk about that again at the upcoming synod when we talk about the gift of children.

CWR: In what ways do perspectives of people in other parts of the world differ from those of us here in the United States?

Archbishop Kurtz: In the United States, people talk about challenges and scandals, and fewer people going to Mass.  In Africa, for example, people are talking about the great growth of the Catholic Church and how to accommodate it.  I also recall there was rapid growth of the Church in Korea.

CWR: What benefits have you seen from the 2012 synod?

Archbishop Kurtz: I believe it renewed our commitment to reach out to people not going to church.  There was a burst of energy flowing from the synod.  I have seen it in Louisville in the outreach efforts of many of our parishes. 

We’ve also seen archdiocesan-wide efforts flourish.  Three years ago we held our first men’s conference, which drew 300.  Last year, we drew 800.  In 2015, we’re starting a women’s conference.

These are not initiatives that started with the archdiocese, but are grassroots efforts to reach out to people.  There is a thirst among many people, a great interest in the Faith.  When I get on an airplane, people are always coming up to me to talk about the Faith, the Church, and Pope Francis.

It was right after the 2012 synod, incidentally, that Pope Benedict stepped down.  Pope Francis put a new face on evangelization.  He became the poster child for the New Evangelization. I call it the Francis Effect. I believe Pope Francis is encouraging people to discover the beauty of an encounter with Christ.

I believe that the upcoming synod, too, can bring renewed interest and appreciation of the gift of marriage of one man and one woman open to life, whose fruitful union typically results in children.  Marriage needs to be restored in our culture, and this synod can be a catalyst to that renewal on the grassroots level.  I’m certainly looking forward to it.


2 out of 17 readers’ comments:

1. This Archbishop Kurtz sounds squared away, and ready to act in good faith, (no pun intended).
However, the description of the “Extraordinary Synod” sounds frightening.
It sounds to me like with all the outsiders ,”theological experts”, and “other” advisors, selected Bishops, etc., and heavy on that word , “Pastoral”, that it could (And I really hope and pray I’m wrong here) turn into a VATICAN III!, kind of hot mess.
I hope my take is wrong, but reading it gives me that bad feeling, the type one feels, right before it really hits the fan.(For those who have experienced those situations, and that feeling, you know what I mean.) –Martin Killeen

2. I share your feeling of foreboding. Regarding strengthening marriage at the outset: The trouble is that teen culture is so pervasive through social media and by the time a couple shows up for marriage they have had intensive brainwashing through that culture. The two big messages in that culture are “it’s all about me!” and “don’t put your opinions on me” the latter affecting attitudes to any form of authority (where kids are taught that there is no truth – it is just opinions). Priests could find themselves caught between wanting to encourage those who come forward for a Church wedding and resisting making this process too onerous. Like it or not, Christians are either strengthened or scattered through the effects of our culture; it seems like we have to wait for the surrounding culture to become so evil and violent that it will drive many people away and into the arms of Christianity once again. I pray I am wrong.



29. The Francis Effect

By Daniel H. Levine, Fall 2014

The election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis aroused enthusiasm—and expectations—in Latin America. As the first pope of non-European origin in nearly 1,300 years, and the first ever from Latin America, he embodies both hopes and concerns for the future of the Catholic Church in this part of the world.

The Catholic Church has long dominated cultural life in Latin America, a region that accounts for 40 percent of the world’s Catholics. But although it remains the single largest church globally, over the last half century, Catholicism in Latin America has steadily lost its unquestioned monopoly to Protestant—and specifically Pentecostal—churches, which have grown at a remarkable pace. According to the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae—the statistical yearbook of the Catholic Church—and the World Christian Database, between 1910 and 2010 the total number of Catholics in the region grew by 700 percent, just behind the population, while in the same period the total number of non-Catholic Christians (a category that includes most Protestants, including Pentecostals) grew by 5,500 percent.





Those who are known as “double affiliated”—baptized Catholics who attend church elsewhere—grew by 17,000 percent. Although the rate of growth of Pentecostal churches has stabilized in recent years, the legacy of this expansion is visible throughout the region. Brazil, which has the largest Catholic population in the world, now has the second largest Pentecostal population globally, after the United States.

The Christianity that presents itself now in Latin America is decidedly plural, with multiple groups and voices competing for resources, members and access to public space in a wide range of arenas, from streets and public squares to radio, television and government offices.

The election of Pope Francis has raised hopes for a renaissance of the Catholic Church in the modern world. In his first year and a half in office, the Pope has projected a new and open public style, and underscored issues long central to the Church in Latin America, including poverty, social justice and human rights. He has also recognized and praised the Pentecostal spirituality that is increasingly visible in Latin America and Africa, and—in contrast to his predecessors and even his own previous views—welcomed its presence within the Catholic Church itself.

Will Pope Francis be able to reverse the long-term erosion of the Catholic Church’s position in the region? How will his distinctive public persona—and the positions he has taken—shape public opinion not only on the matters he has stressed, such as poverty, justice, immigration, and human rights, but also controversial issues now coming to center stage, such as sexuality, including gender identity and same-sex marriage? He has pointedly asked, “Who am I to judge?” and said the Church should not interfere in the spiritual lives of gays and lesbians. How will this affect the public presence and influence of the Catholic Church in a region where many remain distinctly conservative on sexual issues? Will there be a “Francis effect” and, if so, precisely how can we identify it?


More Players, a Different Game

The presence and possible influence of Pope Francis within Latin America has to be understood in the context of what religion looks like now in the region. Contrary to the expectations of generations of social scientists, religion overall in Latin America has not declined, but has instead flourished, and waves of cultural creativity have spurred religious innovation. Greatly expanded literacy and access to mass media among highly mobile, youthful and increasingly urban populations have provided fertile ground for the emergence of new generations of homegrown leadership, especially among Protestants.

Protestant churches have grown exponentially over the past 30 years, creating entirely new organizations, expanding others, and establishing a vital presence in mass media. Before, Protestant churches had to import pastors and materials from the north; today, though, Protestant churches are exporting leaders and expanding their presence elsewhere in the global south. Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), founded in Brazil in 1977, is now active throughout Latin America, Africa, Europe, and the United States.

These new forms of organization have utterly changed the public face of religion. Multiple groups and voices now compete in the public sphere, and the competition is intense, not only among denominations, but also within churches themselves, as numerous groups escape or simply sidestep hierarchical efforts at control.

In this context of increasing heterogeneity within Christianity, the Catholic Church is losing influence.  Although statistics on religious practice and church affiliation are controversial and often not very reliable, there is general agreement on the trends, which show the Catholic Church’s steady decline since the 1970s. Previously believed to account for around 90 percent of the population, it is now down to two-thirds or three-quarters in most countries in the region, and has dropped below half in Central America and Uruguay (long the most secularized nation in Latin America). And although the Catholic Church continues to grow in absolute numbers, it generally lags behind population growth.

While polling regularly shows that the Catholic Church remains one of the most trusted institutions in the region, it no longer stands alone as representative of “religion.” These changes are unlikely to be reversed overnight by anyone, not even the pope.

The pope also faces opposition, or at best foot-dragging, within the Catholic Church. Conservative bishops are pushing to enhance their control before the tide changes further, prioritizing funding for more conservative schools and programs, for example, or removing priests from key positions. There is also disaffection from powerful conservative groups like Opus Dei, whose Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Lima, Peru, has been openly skeptical of the pope’s openness toward liberation theology, calling it “naïve.” All this underscores the dynamic and competitive quality of the religious arena in Latin America today.

But competition isn’t all there is to the story. With increased religious diversity, there has been considerable ecumenical work, including alliances on issues that range from Indigenous rights to the environment, housing, immigration, gangs and violence, the region’s vast and horrific prison system, and, of course, sexuality in all its forms. These alliances predate Francis’ election to the papacy, but have been reinforced by his openness. It is now not uncommon to see alliances between churches and political groups (especially on the left) that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago.


A Pope of the People in Style and Substance

The short answer to whether there is a “Francis effect” in Latin America is that it’s too early to tell.

But it’s possible to make some reasonable projections about the near future. The pope is clearly popular. A March 2014 Gallup poll showed that 70 percent of Latin Americans (and 82 percent of Catholics) believe he will bring positive changes to the Catholic Church. Smaller but still noteworthy numbers affirmed that “Pope Francis has inspired me to feel closer to the Catholic Church” (59 percent of all Latin Americans and 73 percent of Catholics).



Not surprisingly, the numbers are highest in his home country of Argentina (87 percent of all Argentines and 93 percent of Catholics believe he “brings hope to the poor of the world”), trailing off to just over half in Central America, where the Protestant surge has been most notable.

The new pope’s most clear impact has been as a result of his style and public presence—both critical elements in how the Church is received. From the beginning of his papacy, he has adopted a public style of humility, avoiding displays of wealth and power, and stressing openness and acceptance more than adherence to rules, discipline and institutional loyalty. As one Latin American Jesuit told me, “This pope emphasizes important things, like God, mercy and the poor: he doesn’t just talk about the Church.”

In the 18 months since his election, Pope Francis has done much to change the image of the Catholic Church and to reshape how the Vatican presents itself. He has insisted on the right and duty of the Church to be present in core public debates and is notably adept at using the media to mobilize opinion. This is a logical extension of his former role as president of the Argentine Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he worked to refashion the public image of the Catholic Church after the end of military rule, involving it in debates on public policy and emphasizing its identification—both in position and lifestyle—with ordinary people, and particularly with the poor and vulnerable.

This new public presence is reinforced by steps the pope has taken to reform the Vatican itself, specifically to address clerical sexual abuse and ongoing financial scandals. He has reworked Vatican finances to increase transparency and accountability, removed some notable traditionalists from key positions and, last but not least, he has reached out to victims of sexual abuse and promised an end to cover-ups. He may not change formal Vatican positions on homosexual behavior, same-sex marriage, divorce, contraception, abortion, and the like; but unlike many prelates, he appears ready to admit errors and is reluctant to condemn and exclude.

He speaks regularly about mercy and “mercying” as central tasks for the Church, and stresses the importance of being present among those in need. His published statements, including widely publicized interviews and his November 2013 Apostolic Exhortation on “The Joy of the Gospel,” make this point in countless ways. He insists on the role and the duty of the Catholic Church to be an active voice in public debates; not to dictate outcomes, but to view them in the light of mercy, justice and love.

He reminds clergy and the faithful that the confessional is not a “torture chamber,” but rather an encounter with God’s mercy, and rejects efforts to use exclusion from communion as a means of political pressure. “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak,” he said in the November Apostolic Exhortation.

His response to the issue of migrants, and in particular undocumented immigrants in the U.S., resonates strongly in Latin America. He has strongly condemned racist and xenophobic attitudes toward immigrants, and called for unaccompanied children coming into the U.S. from Central America to be “welcomed and protected.” On the island of Lampedusa, Italy, he memorialized the African migrants who drowned attempting to reach Italy by boat. The memorial mass used an overturned dinghy as an altar and an abandoned oar as a staff.

In religious discourse, the term for this kind of presence is pastoral—being present among the faithful and sharing both the good and the bad of their lives. It is expressed above all in the pope’s insistence on simplicity and on striving for a church that does not only work for the poor, but that is itself poor.

Although he does not come out of the liberation theology tradition, he has been more open to it than his predecessors. He welcomed Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez, one of the movement’s major figures, to the Vatican. He has also reached out to other leaders in liberation theology, like the Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff, on issues of the environment. Previously, Boff was formally silenced by then-Cardinal Ratzinger—later Pope Benedict XVI—and ultimately left the priesthood. Most recently he restored Miguel D’Escoto, a priest removed by Pope John Paul II (and former foreign minister of Nicaragua’s Sandinista government) to priestly function. He has also moved to internationalize the Vatican’s government, the Roman Curia, giving greater voice to figures from outside Italy and Europe. In naming a council of prelates (with a majority from the global south) to advise him directly, he presented an alternative to the traditional Roman Curia. These and other initiatives make sense as part of a broad effort to energize the Catholic Church and position it to compete more effectively in Latin America. Taken together, they present a sharp contrast to the Euro-centrism, the stress on discipline and loyalty, and the effort to resist the inroads of globalization on Catholic culture that characterized his immediate predecessor, Benedict XVI.


The “Francis Effect”: An Opportunity

The Catholic Church in Latin America exists in a very different world from the one in which most of its leaders were raised and educated. It is a world where people are mobile and educated, with access to mass media, and possess the confidence to demand rights, make their own religious choices, and create new kinds of spiritual engagement. They are open to global influences of all kinds, from consumer goods and cultural icons to changing norms about behavior, including sexuality and gender.

The question before the Catholic Church now is how best to operate in this environment. The pope’s two predecessors emphasized the need to rebuild church unity and discipline. Benedict in particular centered attention on the damaging effects of globalization and growing secularism.

And while John Paul II gave considerable attention to Latin America, making 25 trips to the region, visiting each country at least once, Benedict visited the region only once. His overall focus was on the need to reinforce church discipline, to resist a culture of “relativism and death,” and to reconquer Europe.




The strategy failed. Efforts to rope in dissident Catholic groups were not successful, numbers continued to drop, and the succession of leaks and scandals in the Vatican continued apace.

The election of Pope Francis demonstrated a recognition of the need for something new. His impact on perceptions of the Catholic Church has been so extensive that at times it’s hard to believe he’s only been in office for a year and a half. His shift in style and positioning on social issues has captured global attention and approval.

But it will take much longer to change the position and operating style of an institution as vast, complex and decentralized as the Catholic Church. He will have to find a way to reform the Vatican’s unwieldy and historically opaque bureaucracy, and to make the reforms—some of which he’s already implemented—stick. Nevertheless, he has made a strong beginning, perhaps the strongest of any pope since John XXIII and his Second Vatican Council.

By changing how the Church presents itself—by being open, welcoming and adaptable, by altering the tone and position on issues ranging from inequality to sexuality, and by fostering organizational flexibility and giving greater weight to voices from the global south—Pope Francis has set in motion a process that gives the Catholic Church an opportunity to enter the currents of change now under way. This is a vision deeply rooted in the Second Vatican Council, which recognized that the Church is not a perfect and unchanging organization.

How that process plays out in his home region, however, will be critical. In order to both meet the competition from increasingly robust Protestant churches and to address the decline in its own adherents, the Catholic Church will have to abandon its defensive attitudes against modernity. The truth is, this is not just a good way to go, it is the only way to go if it wants to stop the bleeding and remain an essential part of changing societies. Changes of this kind do not happen overnight. But they are an indispensable part of any effort to construct an effective and meaningful presence in the twenty-first century and beyond.


30. OBITUARY: Spirit of Vatican II – RIP – 52 years of age

Posted on 3 September 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

The often amusing Eye of the Tiber*
had this:

Cincinnati, Ohio- A Solemn High Requiem Mass was held Thursday at St. Martura Church in downtown Cincinnati for the Spirit of Vatican II, aged 52. After suffering a progressively debilitating illness for the last ten years of its life as a new generation of priests re-examined the Council in light of Sacred Tradition, the Spirit of Vatican II passed away quietly in its sleep last Tuesday.

“The Requiem Mass really brought closure to the community,” said 26-year old Father David Flannigan, FSSP, who celebrated the Mass with Deacon Brady Schwartz, 32, and Subdeacon Anthony LaViera, 23. “While the death of the Spirit of Vatican II was certainly expected, we were glad to offer Mass for its repose.”  [I would like to have been the celebrant for that one.  Perhaps I’ll schedule my own. –Fr. Z]

“What a beautiful Mass!” commented long-time parishioner Gladys O’Neal. “I hadn’t seen black vestments since I was a little girl. And as much as I love the song On Eagle’s Wings, the Dies Irae sequence really got me thinking about the Four Last Things.”

The Spirit of Vatican II is survived by a dwindling number of aging hippies who dropped out of seminary in the ’70’s, some faded felt banners, and tambourines presently gathering dust in storage.

Do I hear an “Amen!”?


7 selected out of 43 responses

1. I am joining the Latin Mass Society, and also attending mass at the nearest SSPX chapel in my area. God bless you father and may the spirit of Vatican II be put to history alongside the praise and blather of the aged hippies who have done their best to destroy the church for the last fifty years.!!

2. Hopefully I’ll live to see the conversion of all Catholic Churches from the “spirit of Vatican II” back to the Extraordinary Form. Right now I have to drive an hour and a half to Mass from Asheville, NC to Greenville, SC on Sunday because the five Churches in metro Asheville are pretty much all “spirit” and “social justice.” It’s worth it though to be in a sanctuary where the Mass is focused on Our Lord and not us or the priest; where the music isn’t distractful, protestant-style and where the people show reverence and socialize OUTSIDE the Church, AFTER Mass.

3. I would like to think the Spirit of VII has died, but I think new life has been breathed into it.

4. The Death of the “Spirit of Vatican II” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Catholics that fall into this category are not those who sustain the church. They are often well-meaning. They are often friendly. They are often nice and pleasant, but they have no moral foundation. When I “woke up” from the Spirit of Vatican II delusion and left the Matrix, I lost many friends who could not understand why I would want to “go back to the old ways”. Well, the answer is obvious from the outside. How well has the Spirit of Vatican II worked out? How many souls have been lost to Cafeteria Catholicism?

5. I pray that this Requiem mass is, at some point in my life time, offered up in every Catholic Church on the planet. St. Patrick’s in NYC is in great need of this Requiem mass for the “Spirit of Vatican II“, the false spirit is alive and well there.

6. Our parish is trying to survive a pastor who does most if not all of the items in Father Joseph’s post above. He is also a HUGE follower of Karl Rahner, someone I had never heard of before the pastor’s arrival two years ago.




Almost every sermon includes some reference to the “spirit of Vatican II.” All catechized parishioners have left. It is so sad! Pray for our priests!

7. Perhaps an Exorcism (that is the proper rite from the Rituale) of the Smoke of Satan before the Requiem Mass, just to be safe, dear reverend Father?


*Eye of the Tiber

Selected readers’ comments:

1. It’s not the men who dropped out of seminary in the 70s we should worry about- but rather those who graduated!

2. Funny, but here’s the rub. The reality is that all the crazy things that happened in the 1970s became institutionalized by the 1980s. They introduced more innovations in the 80s that became the norm by the 90s. The Spirit of Vatican II is not dead. It has successfully disguised itself as conservatism by people with short memories.

3. It’s a shame there are no comments decrying this post as too close to home to be funny.

4. Actually, the author is careful to say “The Spirit of Vatican II” which Pope Benedict called a “virtual council.” It’s a faulty set of interpretations of the council. Hence, the criticism is not of Vatican II the texts (which are inspired) but of the false interpretations of Vatican II made by ideologues in the clergy in the mid-70s & 80s. The Church is infallible, but the clergy are all kinds of fallible. –Fr. Ryan

5. Many innovations and changes that have occurred cannot actually be found in the Documents of Vatican II. Some changes actually go against what is said in the documents. Most people, including many clergy, did not read the documents for themselves. We just trusted those who were supposed to know. Many errors were passed on this way and have grown way beyond their beginnings. For example, did you know that Latin was never supposed to be taken completely out of the Mass?!? 99% of Catholics do NOT know this about the Mass. When I actually read the documents for myself. I was rather shocked. When it is pointed out that these changes are not in the documents, the response was/is often along the lines that it is in keeping with the “Spirit of Vatican II“. This is what is meant by the phrase, the “Spirit of Vatican II“. For those who interpret the documents in a hermeneutic of continuity, the phrase is a bit sarcastic. For those who interpret the documents in a hermeneutic of rupture (from what has gone before in Church Teaching), it is their favorite phrase in all the world and they fully believe in it and fully believe they have got it right. St John Paul II and Benedict (and John XXIII’s opening speech for the Council) says the documents are to be seen in a hermeneutic of continuity (whether this phrase is used or not.) In other words, we are not changing the message that has gone before. We are changing how the message is presented to the world….


36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.

6. Fr. Ryan, you seem to claim that texts from Church Councils are inspired. Is that so? More inspired than scriptural texts? Less? The same?

I’m not crazy about the possible answers to any of those questions, so I don’t like posing them in any manner except rhetorically. That may sound silly, but I want you to realize I’m not being a smart-ass.

A handful of councils have been overturned by later councils. Therefore, if there can be repudiation there must be apparent room for correction, as well. I certainly hope so. There is need for both in the Vatican II documents.

Still, I bow to your expertise as a priest but then must ask you for a reference or citation which not only supports but provides greater clarity and depth to your claim.

7. I’ve honestly never been asked to defend this point. CCC 891 says “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.” Two of the quotations are from Vatican II itself, the other is from Denziger-Schoenmetzer 3074. While I don’t have any of the references from Trent on hand, the teaching was expressed there as well.

As for “overturning” teachings, we have to be careful of homogenizing councils. A lot of people do this and my previous comments lack the nuance that’s apropos for a real theological discussion. Within conciliar texts, you have “Canons”, “Constitutions”, “Decrees” and various names for “commentaries.” Each of those categories of teaching can address either matters “de fide” or matters of practice. When a Canon or Constitution addresses a matter “de fide” – that is of Faith or Morals – it is infallible. Decrees and commentaries are basically always matters of practice. It is true that matters of practice may be changed or even “overturned” through the course of history (c.f. property ownership by the clergy or the holding of political office), matters de fide are not and have not been…





Vatican II is its own can of worms in that it never issued any Canons and that the four Constitutions, Dei Verbum excepted, are more about practice than matters de fide. So it can be argued that while the texts are “inspired” they are not necessarily infallible because the Church only ever speaks infallibly on matters of faith and morals… But that’s a rather heady discussion and one that is likely to raise hackles. –Fr. Ryan

8. If the work of the Holy Spirit at Vatican 2 bothers you, just remember that the Holy Spirit can work negatively as well as positively, in others words at Vatican 2 the Holy Spirit prevented the modernists from spewing outright heresy, and instead merely confounded their words into the ambiguous, amorphous mess that we were left with.

9. To say that a Council has prudential errors is not to question the Holy Spirit–who does not overcome free will to stop prudential errors from happening in council or out–but to question the humility of many of those who attended. We did NOT see a council of deep prayer, in which every word was prayed over…but rather a rush and a gushing of words. Prudential errors at Councils have been quite common in history.

10. Some of the survivors currently run the Vatican.


31. ‘We have to judge acts’: Vatican’s Cardinal Burke dismantles ‘Who am I to judge?

By John Henry-Westen, September 4, 2014

Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court – the Apostolic Signatura – has given a lengthy televised interview in which he decisively rectifies the false notions about Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” quote that has been used frequently to suggest a change in Church teaching on the matter of homosexuality.

Host Thomas McKenna of Catholic Action Insight questioned Cardinal Burke about instances where people must make judgments in light of Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge” phrase. 

“We have to judge acts, we have to,” Cardinal Burke replied. “All day long we make judgments with regards to certain acts; this is what the natural law is: to choose good and to avoid evil.”

The Vatican cardinal added that while we can judge acts as gravely sinful we can’t say that a particular person is in grave sin, since “perhaps you are committing them without even knowing that they are gravely sinful, or perhaps you are committing them without fully consenting, who knows?”

“That kind of judgment is a part, but the acts themselves we have to judge, we couldn’t live a good and moral life otherwise,” he added.

McKenna followed up by noting that it would be wrong to interpret the pope’s phrase to indicate support for homosexual “marriage,” and Burke agreed.

The cardinal then addressed the hot button topic of tolerance and intolerance at the heart of the debate.

“I’m not intolerant of people of same-sex attraction,” he said. “I have great compassion for them and especially in our society today where many young people are led into the same-sex activity where they might not have been in the past because of complete relaxation of morals and a corruption.”

“I have great compassion for them but that compassion means that I want them to know the truth to avoid sinful acts for the sake of their own good for their own salvation and so you try to help the person,” he added. “Now that today isn’t well received by an aggressive homosexual agenda but that doesn’t mean that it’s not the right approach to take.”

Cardinal Burke warned that should we remain silent due to pressure from the aggressive homosexual agenda, we would be “presiding over the destruction of our society.”

For Cardinal Burke the approach is not only theoretical but also practical. He related that after a confirmation Mass a mother approached him angrily accusing him of calling her daughter evil.  When he asked to what she was referring she spoke of columns he wrote in the diocesan paper about the traditional definition of marriage. Her daughter, she said, was “married” to another woman. 

Cardinal Burke relates his response to the angry mother: “‘No’, I said, ‘the acts which your daughter is committing are evil. Your daughter is not evil, but she needs to come to understand the truth about her situation.'”

The head of the Apostolic Signatura said there is much misunderstanding about the matter today “and sadly it leads to a lot of good people not doing what they should do, to help someone who is suffering in this condition.”


3 out of 45 comments:

1. Someone should inform Cardinal Dolan (his failing to speak out on adding Gay groups marching in a parade honoring a holy Catholic saint) that he is furthering sin instead by accepting to be Grand Marshall of the now “Gay” St. Patrick’s Day Parade which condones the sin. This is a total disgrace for a so-called leader of the Church with a laity growing more confused, on what should be a Holy Day honoring the saint. Disgusting.

2. This holy man may get removed from the rest of his offices if he keeps speaking the truth in our neo-Catholic politically correct Church.

3. Unfortunately the Pope does not share his views

Cardinal Burke Sets Record Straight on “Who Am I to Judge
By Susan Brinkmann, September 8, 2014






32. Be wary of news reports about what the Synod is up to

Posted on 13 October 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

We must be wary about the “Synod of the Media”.
There is a Synod of Bishops that takes place and there is the way the MSM and also Catholic (especial catholic) media spins the Synod.
As the bishops split up in to smaller groups, there comes a status report called the Relatio post disceptationem (Latin disceptatio is “a dispute, disputation, debate, discussion, disquisition”).

The Relatio p. d. is getting mixed reviews.  Liberals are experiences frissons of glee, which doesn’t usually bode well for truth.

Nicole Winfield of AP has this piece about the newly released mid-point report, after the first week of everyone yakking in the Synod hall.

Note some of the language in this piece.  Nota bene, this is written for a low-information audience, but the language is still pretty misleading.


Bishops [which?] clearly took into account the views of Pope Francis, [of course they would – he’s the Pope] whose “Who am I to judge?” comment about gays signaled a new tone of welcome for the church. [Is there a clear connection between what the bishops considered and what Francis said on the airplane?  Not really.]
Their report also reflected the views of ordinary Catholics who, in responses to Vatican questionnaires in the run-up to the synod, rejected church teaching on birth control and homosexuality as outdated and irrelevant. [They did, did they?]

The bishops [which?] said gays had “gifts and qualities” to offer and asked rhetorically if the church was ready to provide them a welcoming place, “accepting and valuing their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony.”


Maybe some bishops do hold that.  Others don’t.  But here we have a vague “bishops”, implying greater unanimity than there is. Be careful in your reading of news about the Synod.

For example, if the Synod makes a statement about the “gifts and qualities” of homosexuals, keep in mind that homosexuals do NOT have “gifts and qualities” for the Church simply because they are homosexuals.

Of course homosexuals have “gifts and talents!”  But they have them as human beings, not as homosexuals.  They must not be turned into some subset that can then claim rights as homosexuals.  They are no better or worse than any other human being and each of them have the obligation to respect nature and God’s law.

Homosexuals are not special.

Catholics do not object to homosexuals participating in the life of the Church.  We object to the suggestion that homosexual acts are normal, acceptable, good, proper… take your pick.  They aren’t.  They are objective sinful and gravely disordered.  The people with the inclinations toward them are obliged to struggle against them just ever other person on earth is obliged to struggle against inclinations, to battle against and resist the world, the flesh and the devil.

Vatican Radio‘s coverage is a little more careful, distinguishing between the “Synod Fathers” and “the report”.  But not much.

That said, am I happy with what we are hearing come forth from the Synod?  No.  Then again, we are hardly getting a good picture, are we? The spectacularly bad decision to close off information from the public has only exacerbated the pre-Synod confusion.


5 out of 78 responses:

1. When the bishops “asked rhetorically if the church was ready to provide them a welcoming place, ‘accepting and valuing their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony'”, the rhetorical question of Romans 6:1 came to mind: “What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”

The problem is not how the media is reporting things. The problem isn’t poor translations.
The problem is the liberals and the modernists are on the march at the synod.
And because of the way things have been reported, it doesn’t really matter what the final product says. Liberals, bishops included, will simply go with the “spirit of the synod”.

3. And remember, it’s only been one week! We have another week to go. And then we have to wait a year for the Ordinary Synod and the Pope to write his Apostolic Exhortation. I pray – but am not hopeful – that the A.E. will use clear and precise language NOT the ambiguous statements used in the V2 documents that BOTH sides used to justify their positions. If the language in the A.E. is too loose, the liberal priests and bishops will use it to their advantage. It should be clear and precise in what is permitted with regard to faith and morals and religious practice and what is not.

4. With all due respect, some of the report from the synod is just harmful to the faithful. The suggestions that we can value homosexuality is simply evil. There is nothing to value about an intrinsically evil act. We can value the sinner, but not the sin, but they are suggesting we should value the sin when they say “accepting and valuing their sexual orientation.” I am not a prophet but I am almost certain there will be a major schism in the Church in two years once the final word comes from the Holy Father, regardless of which side he falls on. The schism will be between the hermeneutic of continuity and the hermeneutic of discontinuity, between those that want to be Catholics in light of all of Catholic history, and those who want to call themselves “catholics” rejecting anything before Vatican II, and some of what has come after Vatican II.




The good news is that the massive amount of apostates will have left the Church and we will finally be freed from the dead weight we have been carrying for so long. We can also take comfort in the fact that though the mystical body of Christ is being crucified at this time, she will be resurrected after the crucifixion, like her Lord.

I suspect I am like many who are at best discouraged and at worst on the edge of despair. I have been telling myself that we need to cling ever more tightly to the Lord and remember that the Truth has often been in the minority. I am thinking especially of St. Athanasius and those scary decades. I also remind myself to beware the sin of Denethor (Lord Of The Rings) and to do my duty regardless. We are always in it for the long haul and Christ has triumphed, is triumphing, and will triumph…though that is darn hard to see at times like this.


33. LGBT activists laud ‘new direction’ of Vatican Synod on the Family

By Hilary White, Rome, October 13, 2014

The Vatican’s Synod on the Family is giving homosexualist activists the “crack” they have sought in the Church’s doctrine on sexuality, at least according to Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways Ministry.

New Ways, a group that has been banned by the Vatican and several US bishops, has been in Rome for the past week for their “alternate” synod, a series of meetings by those who want to see the Church accept homosexuality or otherwise change its teaching on sexual issues.

“I think what we’re seeing is a crack in the ice that we have been waiting for, for a very long time,” De Bernardo said. “It’s a sign of a first step.”

Referencing the suggestion, reportedly made by some bishops at the Synod hall, that the Church should cease to use its traditional theological terminology for sexual sin, De Bernardo said he was “euphoric.”

“I think the change in language starts a chain reaction: A change in language will bring a change in pastoral practice which will bring about a change in teaching,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press.

DeBernardo said he could “name scores of people” who have left the Church over the Catholic Church’s teaching that the homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered.” 

Michael Brinkschroeder, co-president of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, cited the “Francis effect,” which he said is making bishops more free to “engage in dialogue” with homosexuals.

“Francis has given signals for bishops to start pastoral work and dialogue,” Brinkschroeder said, citing Pope Francis’s infamous quip, “Who am I to judge?” in response to a question about homosexual priests in 2013.

Meanwhile, one of the UK’s leading homosexualist activists who is working to change Catholic teaching, Terrence Weldon, wrote on his blog “Queering the Church,” that he perceives a “shift in tone” to a more “sensitive” approach to homosexuality.

“At the synod, there have been numerous indications of a coming shift in tone and more sensitive pastoral practice in treating lesbian and gay Catholics and their relationships, including recognition of the harm done by the language of ‘intrinsically disordered’.”

These, he said, included the intervention of Ron and Mavis Pirola, co-directors of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council, who, he said, suggested that same-sex “couples need to be welcomed by their families.”

Some Synod fathers have issued mixed messages, including Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, who said last week that the Church can never “bless” homosexual partnerings but refused to use the traditional language to describe same-sex partnerings.

Instead he said, “It’s something else to say that everyone makes his or her choice, that we don’t judge and that they might be great people even with this condition, but it’s different to say that the union itself is blessed or a good thing.”

For the most part, however, there is little new coming from the Synod. Thus far, the only suggestions of De Bernardo’s “crack” in the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and marriage are coming from unsurprising sources, mainly prelates who have long been more publicly favorable to the homosexualist movement’s goals. Conversely, the bishops and cardinals who have always staunchly defended Catholic teaching continue to do so.

The only difference is the clarity being lent to the positions by the proximity at the Synod, which one observer who works in the Vatican told LifeSiteNews “is starting to look like sides lining up.” While in their public statements most bishops maintain that the atmosphere is cordial and “fraternal,” reports are growing of growing contention on the Synod floor between two irreconcilable theological camps.

“But what we are seeing now, is certainly not a shift of the whole Catholic Church towards a more permissive position on homosexuality or any of the other doctrines or practices regarding sexuality, marriage and family,” the source told LifeSiteNews.

For decades there has been a sharp division inside the Catholic Church between those who see Catholic teaching as “an obstacle to human happiness and those who see it as the only path to the same,” the source said. The fact that the media, representing the secular world, favors the first side should not lead the public to believe that any change is coming soon. The Synod is merely forcing that longstanding argument into the public view.

“This division in the Church has certainly been very visible for over fifty years, at every level. The fact that one side or another is getting more press time right now makes no difference inside the Church, which may be what these activists are responding to.”

“It remains to be seen whether the pope will publicly endorse either or will try to continue to reconcile them.” 




34. Vatican synod: Victory for Pope Francis on gay issues

By David Willey
BBC News, The Vatican,
October 13, 2014

Halfway through the Vatican synod on the family, Pope Francis has scored a first quiet victory.

He has convinced many Catholic Church leaders to moderate their formerly strongly critical language about gay unions, and to admit that homosexuals may have “gifts and qualities to offer”.

The tone of a preliminary position paper drawn up by about 200 bishops after a week of closed-door discussions shows compassion and understanding not only towards people in single-sex unions, but also to heterosexual couples who live together without marrying and divorced couples who enter a second marriage without bothering to obtain a Church annulment.

The bishops made it clear that there can be no change in basic Catholic teaching on the permanence of the marriage bond, and insist that a valid marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

But Pope Francis’s change of emphasis on concentrating upon positive rather than negative aspects of human sexuality seems to have won over many bishops attending the synod.

His predecessor, Pope Benedict, referred to homosexual relationships as “intrinsically disordered” in a Vatican document written in 1986 when Benedict was chief theological adviser to Pope John Paul II.

Pope Francis on the other hand told journalists last year: “If a person seeks God and has goodwill, then who am I to judge?

He is the first pontiff ever to have used the word “gay” in public rather than refer to “homosexuals”.


Breakthrough or betrayal?

First reactions from Roman Catholic gay-rights groups around the world were favourable to the discussion paper issued in Rome.

The London-based Catholic association Quest described it as a “breakthrough” and the leading American Catholic gay-rights group New Ways Ministry called it a “major step forward”.

New Way Ministry praised the document for avoiding the “major gloom and doom” accompanying previous Vatican pronouncements on homosexuality.

Conservative Catholic groups such as Voice Of The Family were strongly critical of the discussion paper and called it “one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history”.

Pope Francis himself has listened attentively to the first week of the synod plenary discussions without making a single major intervention.

At the start of the meeting, he told bishops not to be afraid of speaking their minds honestly and openly, and not to be afraid of saying things which might displease him.



There will be no vote at the end of the Vatican meeting on Sunday. Proposals will be drawn up by a committee of cardinals and bishops chosen personally by Pope Francis.

Most of them support his more merciful and compassionate attitude towards couples who find Church teaching on some aspects of family life, such as artificial contraception, hard to accept.

After a year of discussions in the wider Church, the synod will reconvene in Rome in October 2015 to finalise its recommendations on possible changes in Church discipline. The Pope will remain free to accept or reject them.

The synod is in fact a purely advisory body without legislative powers in the Church. Pope Francis has said he would like it to share more fully in Church governance and has already changed some of its debating rules to enable more cut-and-thrust discussion and less formal speech-making.

The meeting has so far been more of a brainstorming session than any previous such meeting.

The Pope’s encouragement to his cardinals and bishops to speak their minds freely may have been heeded by participants, in the knowledge that direct quotes of what they said would not end up on the front pages of newspapers around the world.



35. Vatican calls for Catholic Church to welcome gays
October 13, 2014 [New Indian Express, Madurai edition, October 16, 2014]

Vatican document states homosexuals have ‘gifts and qualities to offer’ in unprecedented step to ‘welcome’ gay people

Catholic bishops took an unprecedented step on Monday to “welcome” homosexuals and noting they had “gifts and qualities” to offer the church.

As the global synod on the family entered its second week at the Vatican, the bishops released a midterm document summarising the closed-door debate taking place between nearly 200 bishops and lay officials.

While the church reaffirmed its opposition to marriage and same sex unions, the ground-breaking document said homosexuality prompted “serious reflection” and was an “important educative challenge”.




“Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing them a fraternal space in our communities?” the document asked. “Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home.

“Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, told The Telegraph there were no easy answers and stressed that this was a synod about pastoral care.

“I don’t think this document approves of same sex unions or same sex marriage. But it does make a very strong compassionate, heartfelt effort to say we want to talk, we want to engage with you,” he said.

The synod document also signalled a more “constructive” approach to cohabitation and a simpler approach to marriage annulment, “speeding up” the procedure and the possibility of giving local bishops more power to dissolve marriages.

No decisions or doctrinal changes were announced. But the report was described as an “earthquake” by John Thavis, journalist and author of the bestselling The Vatican Diaries”. Other commentators agreed.

“This is a stunning change in the way the Catholic Church speaks of gay people,” said the Rev James Martin, a Jesuit author.

“The synod is clearly listening to the complex, real-life experiences of Catholics around the world and seeking to address them with mercy, as Jesus did.”

While reinforcing matrimony between a man and a woman, the bishops acknowledged that gay partnerships had merit, apparently taking their lead from Pope Francis whose “Who am I to judge?” comment about gays last year signalled a new approach.

“Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions, it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners,” they said.

For a 2,000-year-old institution that officially maintains that gay sex is “intrinsically disordered” the shift in tone surprised Marianne Duddy-Burke, head of DignityUSA, the country’s largest Catholic gay and lesbian organisation.

“The specific language used about lesbian and gay people is astonishingly new,” Ms. Duddy-Burke said. “The recognition that ‘homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community’ is a far different starting point than saying we are ‘disordered’, which has been the mantra for almost 30 years.”

But the new approach provoked a storm of protest from more than a dozen bishops before they left the synod hall, and conservative Catholics elsewhere were outraged with the global pro-life coalition, Voice of the Family, dismissing it as a “betrayal”.

John Smeaton, co-founder of Voice of the Family, which represents 15 organisations in eight countries, said: “Those who are controlling the synod have betrayed Catholic parents worldwide.

“We believe that the synod’s midway report is one of the worst official documents drafted in Church history. Catholic families are clinging to Christ’s teaching on marriage and chastity by their fingertips.”

Asked about the future of the philandering Bishop of Arundel, Kieran Conry, Cardinal Nichols declined to discuss whether he may be unfrocked or even make a return to the church.

“It’s very important, in terms of the synod, that he is able to step back and come to some sort of reflection and a decision about what he wants to do,” Cardinal Nichols said. “I don’t think he will know that at the moment. I certainly don’t.

“Now I can understand the anger and dismay of those who feel they have been betrayed by him. I would ask that he is given time to assess for himself what he has done and its implications in his own life. That should come first.”



36. Did no one know that when the MSM got hold of the ‘Relatio’, people were going to go bananas?

Posted on 14 October 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

We continue to watch the spin and the spinning of the spin after yesterday’s Synod… what can we call it? … debacle.  Yes, debacle.  The release of the Relatio post disceptationem, an unprecedented mid-point summary document, was a debacle.   It has provoked “wonder”, which is old Church code for “shock, scandal provoking confusion”.

It was telling that, during yesterday’s presser, for the presentation of the Relatio, the chair of the Synod, Card. Erdö, tossed a question about the now infamous homosexuality paragraphs over to Archbishop Bruno Forte (whom some suggest might wind up as Prefect of a Franciscan CDF… if it isn’t Archbishop Fernandez), saying: “the one who wrote the passage ought to know what it means”.

The Holy See Press Office spun the Relatio this way:


Declaration of the Director of the Holy See Press Office on behalf of the General Secretariat of the Synod

The General Secretariat of the Synod, in response to reactions and discussions following the publication of the Relatio post disceptationem, and the fact that often a value has been attributed to the document that does not correspond to its nature, [Is that so?]
reiterates that it is a working document, which summarises the interventions and debate of the first week, and is now being offered for discussion by the members of the Synod gathered in the Small Groups, in accordance with the Regulations of the Synod.



The work of the Small Groups will be presented to the Assembly in the General Congregation next Thursday morning.


A good example of spin – and the massive damage inflicted by the release of the Relatio – is found at CNN, which has a few slanted points:


Under conservative assault, Vatican backtracks on gay comments

Rome (CNN) — Under furious assault from conservative Catholics[Furious assault?] the Vatican backtracked Tuesday on its surprisingly positive assessment of gays and same-sex relationships.
In a report Monday, the Vatican had said that gays and lesbians have “gifts to offer” the Christian community and acknowledged that same-sex couples can give “precious support” to one other.
The statement, an interim report from a closely watched meeting of Catholic clergy here, was widely praised by liberals. It is believed to be the first time the Vatican has said anything positive about gay relationships. 
[And yet it isn’t supposed to be an official document, a final document.  It’s just a working document.  Right?]


And that, even with its ominous language about conservatives and their furious assaults, is somewhat more responsible than what you will see at some other outlets, especially the even more openly pro-homosexual sites.

Again, my great worry is not so much what the Synod is talking about, but the expectations that are being raised because of gaffs, errors, bad decisions, weird language and, it must be said, the machinations of some within the Church.

So, let’s accept that the Relatio is just a “working document”.  Fine.

Did nobody in the Synod office or in the Press Office know that when the MSM got hold of it, people were going to go bananas?

Of course they knew that chaos would occur and that certain paragraphs would be read with strong reactions.  Of course they did.

Therefore, someone wanted the chaos.  Someone wanted those now infamous paragraphs to hit the press and then be spun into all sorts of false conclusions and false expectation.  They wanted to bump the needle, move the paradigm in a certain direction.  This seems like a classic exercise in creeping incrementalism.  They know that they are not going to get their way, or get everything that they want…this time.  But they toss things out, create the chaos, and then, even as they back away from it and do some clean up, they have managed to move the paradigm a degree or two toward their goal.  That’s how they work.

Conservatives, by the way, don’t do this well.  They tend not to work together well and they tend to want everything right away.  It would be great were faithful Catholics able to work together better.  Meanwhile, the catholic Left is having a conga line dance, with noisemakers and little hats.


Anyway, a bright spot today occurred during the presser.  Card. Napier of South Africa said that he was surprised that the Relatio was released and that he clearly disagreed with some elements in the document.  He also is worried about the false expectations that are being created.


The moderation queue ON.

Meanwhile, TIME magazine – predictably – and purposely – misrepresented the facts.  HERE


The Bishops Are Catching Up To Pope Francis on Gay Rights [How many things are wrong with that. First, “the bishops” aren’t doing anything. Second, what has Francis really said?  Third, “Gays” don’t have rights, other than basic human rights.]

Mercy must be the way forward for the Catholic Church. [Which means, I think, you can stick anything where ever you want and eventually people will be forced to call it “good”.]

Stunning news came from Rome today where the bishops [some few bishops] gathered for Pope Francis’s Synod on the Family issued a report suggesting that the Church should create a more inclusive space for gay Catholics to participate in the life of the Church. [They already have it.]

In the [unofficial draft] document, the bishops [no… the writer of the draft] said without reservation [is that so?] that gay Catholics have “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.” From that, they ask: “are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?”

This is a stunning language change from the Catholic Church on the question of homosexuality. [Is it? Really?  Did the document say that it’s okay to have homosexual sex?] Since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in 1975 that “homosexual acts [ACTS!] are intrinsically disordered” Rome has been clear on where it stands on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex unions. As recently as January 2013, Pope Benedict — while affirming the dignity of the LGBT community — suggested that gay marriage threatens the world’s “justice and peace.” [And he was right, as we are seeing today more and more.]




The Church’s shift on LGBT issues began shortly after Pope Francis’s election in March 2013. In July of last year, Francis famously said, “[i]f someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” [Hang on!  That comment had a context. HERE]

But today’s document produced by the [tiny number of] bishops [in reality, the ones who wrote it… it wasn’t a collaboration that all the bishop members of the Synod voted to approve] shows that Pope Francis’s personal vision [HUH?  No.] is slowly becoming the vision of the universal Church. [This babble is the personal vision of the writer.  Enough of this rubbish.]



This is the sort of trash that people are going to read about this Synod.


8 out of 77 responses:

1. I have a friend, a very good priest, who says that there will be no return to the True Catholic Faith until all of us believers have been stripped naked, scourged, publicly humiliated and then crucified. His vision of the future of the archdiocese of Boston is Cardinal Sean standing in a field of rubble with a few followers, saying Mass on the hood of a car.

I’d say this Vatican document is a good start.

2. “Therefore, someone wanted the chaos. Someone wanted those now infamous paragraphs to hit the press and then be spun into all sorts of false conclusions and false expectation.”

Someone wanted to make a mess…

3. There are some diamonds in the rough in the document, for sure. However, the amount of vague and misleading language is just rampant. Not to mention basic misunderstandings of sacramental theology (section 48), putting polygamy and arranged marriage in the same species (section 7) and it just goes on and on. This isn’t an official document, but it’s going to do just as much damage to your average poorly informed Catholic through its dissemination. Welcome to Humanae Vitae: Part II. What comes out officially in the end will be fine, but to many it won’t matter.

4. Conservatives, by the way, don’t do this well. They tend not to work together well and they tend to want everything right away. It would be great were faithful Catholics able to work together better.” 
Ain’t it the truth!

5. And many of them seem not to realize how they weaken all of us by keeping us divided. It’s really selfish. It’s why we lose. –Fr. Z

6. It’s even on our measly local news – ‘Pope softens attitudes toward gays.’ Catholic Church ready to embrace homosexuals.’ The most wonderfullest, fluffiest, cuddliest, Pope ehvuuuuur.

Thank you for your words of wisdom Father Z. Helps to keep us clinging to sanity and hope.

7. The Synod has spoken. Let’s hear what the Pope has to say

8. That’s the thing… the Synod has NOT spoken yet. This was a blip. –Fr. Z



37. Burke Confirms He’s Been Ousted! | ChurchMilitant.TV News

Conservative Cardinal Who Clashed With Pope Francis Confirms He Has Been Ousted

October 17, 2014

A top cardinal told BuzzFeed News on Friday that the worldwide meeting of church leaders coming to a close in Rome seemed to have been designed to “weaken the church’s teaching and practice” with the apparent blessing of Pope Francis.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, an American who heads the Vatican’s highest court of canon law, made the remarks in a phone interview from the Vatican, where a two-week Extraordinary Synod on the Family will conclude this weekend. An interim report of the discussions released on Monday, called the Relatio, produced a widespread backlash among conservative bishops who said it suggested a radical change to the church’s teaching on questions like divorce and homosexuality, and Burke has been among the most publicly critical of the bishops picked by Pope Francis to lead the discussion.

If Pope Francis had selected certain cardinals to steer the meeting to advance his personal views on matters like divorce and the treatment of LGBT people, Burke said, he would not be observing his mandate as the leader of the Catholic Church.

“According to my understanding of the church’s teaching and discipline, no, it wouldn’t be correct,” Burke said, saying the pope had “done a lot of harm” by not stating “openly what his position is.” Burke said the Pope had given the impression that he endorses some of the most controversial parts of the Relatio, especially on questions of divorce, because of a German cardinal who gave an important speech suggesting a path to allowing people who had divorced and remarried to receive communion, Cardinal Walter Kasper, to open the synod’s discussion.

“The pope, more than anyone else as the pastor of the universal church, is bound to serve the truth,” Burke said. “The pope is not free to change the church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”

Burke has publicly clashed with the pope since Francis took office in 2013, and he has come to represent the sidelining of culture warriors elevated by Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict and as the top doctrinal official under Pope John Paul II. Burke, who caused controversy while bishop of St. Louis by saying Catholics who voted for politicians supportive of abortion rights should not receive communion, went on Catholic television in 2013 to rebut remarks Pope Francis made to an interviewer that the church had become “obsessed” with abortion and sexuality to the exclusion of other issues, saying,




“We can never talk enough about that as long as in our society innocent and defenseless human life is being attacked in the most savage way,” Burke said. While Francis famously responded to a question about homosexuality in 2013 by asking, “Who am I to judge?” Burke described homosexual “acts” as “always and everywhere wrong [and] evil” during an interview last week.

In the interview with BuzzFeed News, Burke confirmed publicly for the first time the rumors that he had been told Francis intended to demote him from the church’s chief guardian of canon law to a minor post as patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

“I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it,” Burke said, explaining that he hadn’t yet received a formal notice of transfer. “On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust, by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important.”

When the pope first took office, his pivot away from an emphasis on questions of sexuality were more a matter of personal tone rather than changes in church policy or personnel. There were rumors that he was trying to oust the man chosen by Pope Benedict to head the church’s office responsible for doctrine, Gerhard Müller, but last winter he instead elevated him from archbishop to cardinal. When word that Burke was on his way out began circulating last month, it signaled that Francis would take major steps to reshape the church. It coincided with the selection of a new archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich, whom Catholic progressives celebrated for positions like breaking with the American church hierarchy when it withheld its support for President Obama’s health reform law over questions of abortion and contraception.

Internal discontent among conservatives inside church leadership began to simmer over in the weeks leading up to the synod. Just before it began, Burke, Müller, and other senior cardinals published a book in several languages attacking the ideas laid out by Cardinal Walter Kasper on allowing those who had divorced and remarried to receive communion in a speech heartily praised by Pope Francis. It broke into open revolt at the midpoint of the synod, following publication of a document presented as a summary of discussions but that conservatives said misrepresented the debate by including passages on “welcoming homosexual persons” and discussing some of Kasper’s proposal on divorce. The backlash appeared to have been especially strong from the English-speaking world, which includes a large number of African and American bishops; in an apparent attempt to mollify anglophone conservatives, the Vatican released a new translation of the report that changed the phrase “welcoming homosexual persons” to “providing for homosexual persons” and made other small changes, while leaving the versions in all other languages unchanged.

The report is now being revised with feedback from small-group discussions held this week, and a final version is scheduled to be voted on Saturday. Burke said he hoped that the committee writing the new report will produce a “worthy document,” but said his “trust is a little bit shaken” by the language in the interim draft he said lacks “a good foundation either in the sacred scriptures or in the church’s perennial teachings.”

But there seems to be little middle ground between Pope Francis’ worldview and Burke’s. Francis was president of the Argentinian bishops’ conference when that country passed a marriage equality bill in 2010 and reportedly tried to convince his colleagues to support a civil union proposal instead. He lost the internal battle and gave voice to the hardline consensus that the law was “sent by the devil.” The fight over the bill left the church appearing out of step with the beliefs of many in Argentina, a country where 76% identify as Catholic but only 38.2% went to church in 2005, per the most recent data available from the Association of Religious Data Archives. While Francis has shown no sign he supports overhauling the church’s teachings that homosexuality is sinful, he seems to have taken from this experience a desire to downplay conflicts over sexuality in order to broaden the church’s message.

But, Burke said, the church must always call a “person who’s involved in sinful acts … to conversion in a loving way, but obviously, like a father or mother in a family, in a firm way for the person’s own good.” There cannot be “a difference between doctrine and practice” on questions like homosexuality or anything else, Burke said.

“The church doesn’t exclude anyone who’s of goodwill even if the person is suffering from same-sex attraction or even acting on that attraction,” said Burke. “If people don’t accept the church’s teaching on these matters then they’re not thinking with the church and they need to examine themselves on that and correct their thinking or leave the church if they absolutely can’t accept. They’re certainly not free to change the teaching of the church to suit their own ideas.”


At the request of several readers, BuzzFeed News has printed a transcript of the section of the interview wherein Cardinal Burke talks about leaving the Signatura.

BuzzFeed News: I should ask you about the reports that you’re being removed from the Signatura. What message is that sending? Do you think you are being removed in part because of how outspoken you have been on these issues?

Cardinal Burke: The difficulty — I know about all the reports, obviously. I’ve not received an official transfer yet. Obviously, these matters depend on official acts. I mean, I can be told that I’m going to be transferred to a new position but until I have a letter of transfer in my hand it’s difficult for me to speak about it. I’m not free to comment on why I think this may be going to happen.

BFN: Have you been told that you will be transferred?

CB: Yes.

BFN: You’re obviously a very well-respected person. That must be disappointing.

CB: Well, I have to say, the area in which I work is an area for which I’m prepared and I’ve tried to give very good service. I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it.




On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust that by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important. And even though I would have liked to have continued to work in the Apostolic Signatura, I’ll give myself to whatever is the new work that I’m assigned to…

BFN: And that is as the chancellor to the Order of Malta, is that right?

CB: It’s called the patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, that’s right.


Cardinal Raymond Burke is being removed from the position as the chief of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. An earlier version of this post mischaracterized that position in one instance. 

LINK: Interview With Cardinal Raymond Burke: The Full Transcript


Same at:
Conservative Cardinal Who Clashed With Pope Francis Confirms He Has Been Ousted

By J. Lester Feder and Ellie Hall, October 18, 2014

The head of the Catholic Church’s highest court speaks to BuzzFeed News from the Vatican. Update: BuzzFeed News has published the full interview with Cardinal Burke.

A top cardinal told BuzzFeed News Friday that the worldwide meeting of church leaders coming to a close in Rome seemed to have been designed to “weaken the church’s teaching and practice” with the apparent blessing of Pope Francis. […]


38. The True Story of This Synod. Director, Performers, Assistants

New paradigms of divorce and homosexuality are now at home in the highest levels of the Church. Nothing has been decided, but Pope Francis is patient. An American historian confutes the ideas of “La Civiltà Cattolica”

By Sandro Magister, Rome, October 17, 2014

“The spirit of the Council is blowing again,” Filipino Cardinal Luis Antonio G. Tagle has said, a rising star of the worldwide episcopate as well as being a historian of Vatican II. And it is true. At the synod that is about to conclude there are many elements in common with what happened at that great event.

The most visible similarity is the distance between the real synod and the virtual synod driven by the media.

But there is an even more substantial resemblance. Both at Vatican Council II and at this synod the changes of paradigm are the product of careful coordination. A protagonist of Vatican II like Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti – the consummate strategist of the four cardinal moderators who were at the controls of the conciliar machine – asserted this with pride. He said that he had “transformed the fate of the Council” thanks to his capacity to pilot the assembly, which he had learned in his previous political experience as the leader of the foremost Italian party.

The same thing has happened at this synod. Both the openness to communion for the civilly divorced and remarried – and therefore the admission of remarriage on the part of the Church – and the startling change of paradigm on the issue of homosexuality that found its way into the “Relatio post disceptationem” would not have been possible without a series of skillfully calculated steps on the part of those who had and have control of the procedures.

In order to understand this, it is enough to review the stages that led to this result, even if the provisory finale of the synod – as will be seen – has not met the expectations of its directors.

The star of the first act is Pope Francis himself. On July 28, 2013, at the press conference held on board the plane taking him back to Rome after his voyage in Brazil, he issued two signals that had a powerful and lasting impact on public opinion.

The first on the treatment of homosexuals:

“If a person is gay and is seeking the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

The second on the admission of remarriage:

“Also – a parenthesis – the Orthodox have a different practice. They follow the theology of what they call oikonomia, and they give a second chance [of marriage], they allow it. But I believe that this problem – and here I close the parenthesis – must be studied within the context of the pastoral care of marriage.”

There followed in October of 2013 the convening of a synod on the family, the first in a series of two synods on the same issue in the span of a year, with decisions postponed until after the second. As secretary general of this sort of permanent and prolonged synod the pope appointed a new cardinal with no experience in this regard, but very close to him, Lorenzo Baldisseri. Beside whom he placed, as special secretary, the bishop and theologian Bruno Forte, already a leading proponent of the theological and pastoral approach that had its guiding light in the Jesuit cardinal Carlo Maria Martini and its major adversaries first in John Paul II and then in Benedict XVI: an approach explicitly open to a change of Church teaching in the area of sexuality.

The proclamation of the synod was associated with the issuing of a questionnaire throughout the whole world with specific questions on the most controversial questions, including communion for the divorced and homosexual unions.

Thanks in part to this questionnaire – which would be followed by the intentional publication of the answers on the part of some German-speaking episcopates – public opinion would be given the idea that these were questions to be considered “open” not only in theory but also in practice.

Proof of this breaking ahead of the pack came, for example, from the archdiocese of Freiburg in Germany, headed by president of the German episcopal conference Robert Zollitsch, who in a document from one of his pastoral offices encouraged access to communion for the divorced and remarried on the simple basis of “a decision of conscience.”



From Rome, the prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, reacted by republishing on October 23, 2013 in “L’Osservatore Romano” a note he had already issued four months earlier in Germany reconfirming and explaining the ban on communion.

But his call to have the archdiocese of Freiburg withdraw that document came to nothing. On the contrary, both German cardinal Reinhard Marx, and in more blunt terms Honduran cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized Müller for his “presumption” of cutting off discussion on this matter. Both Marx and Maradiaga are part of the council of eight cardinals called by Pope Francis to assist him in the governance of the universal Church. The pope did not speak out in support of Müller.

On February 20 and 21, 2014, the cardinals met in Rome in consistory. Pope Francis asked them to discuss the family and delegated the introductory talk to Cardinal Walter Kasper, already in the early 1990’s a combative supporter of dropping the ban on communion for the remarried, but defeated at the time by John Paul II and by Joseph Ratzinger.

At the consistory, held behind closed doors, Kasper revived all of his ideas. Many cardinals opposed him, but Francis approved him with the highest praise. Afterward, Kasper would say that he had “coordinated” with the pope on his proposals.

Moreover, Kasper gave the pope the privilege of breaking the secrecy on the things he had said at the consistory, unlike all the other cardinals. When his talk came out by surprise on March 1 in the Italian newspaper “Il Foglio,” it was already being prepared for the presses by the publisher Queriniana. The coverage of the publication was immense.

In early spring, to balance the impact of Kasper’s proposals, the congregation for the doctrine of the faith planned the publication in “L’Osservatore Romano” of an opposing presentation by a prominent cardinal. But the pope vetoed the publication of this text.

Kasper’s ideas were nevertheless the object of severe and substantiated criticism on the part of a good number of cardinals, who spoke out repeatedly through various media outlets. On the eve of the synod, five of these cardinals republished their previous statements in a book, accompanied by essays by other scholars and by a leading official of the curia, a Jesuit archbishop expert in the marriage practices of the Eastern Churches. Kasper, with widespread consensus in the media, deplored the publication of the book as an affront aimed at the pope.

On October 5 the synod opened. Unlike in the past, the statements in the assembly were not made public. Cardinal Müller protested against this censorship. But in vain. One more proof, he says, that “I am not one of the directors.”

The operational center of the synod is made up of the general and special secretaries, Baldisseri and Forte. But alongside of them the pope has placed, selected by him personally, those who will attend to the drafting of the message and the final “Relatio,” all of them belonging to the pro-change “party,” led by his trusted ghostwriter Víctor Manuel Fernández, archbishop and rector of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires.

The fact that this is the true cockpit of the synod became overwhelmingly evident on Monday, October 13, when in front of two hundred journalists from all over the world the cardinal delegate who figures as the formal author of the “Relatio post disceptationem,” Hungarian cardinal Péter Erdö, asked about the paragraphs regarding homosexuality, refused to answer and gave the floor to Forte, saying: “The one who drafted the passage, he should know what to say.”

To the request for clarification on whether the paragraphs on homosexuality can be interpreted as a radical change in the church’s teaching on the matter, Cardinal Erdö again responded, “Certainly,” displaying his disagreement here as well.

In effect, these paragraphs reflect not an orientation expressed in the assembly by a substantial number of fathers – as one would expect to read in a “Relatio” – but things said by no more than three out of almost two hundred, in particular by the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica,” appointed a member of the synod by Pope Francis himself.

On Tuesday, October 14, at a press conference, South African cardinal Wilfrid Napier denounced in biting words the effect of the prevarication carried out by Forte by inserting those explosive paragraphs into the “Relatio.” These, he says, have put the Church in an “irredeemable” position, with no way out. Because by now “the message has gone out: This is what the synod is saying, this is what the Catholic Church is saying. No matter how we try correcting that, whatever we say hereafter is going to be as if we’re doing some damage control.”

In reality, in the ten linguistic circles in which the synod fathers carried out the discussion, the “Relatio” was heading for a massacre. Starting with its language, “overblown, rambling, too wordy and therefore boring,” as the official relator of the French-speaking “Gallicus B” group mercilessly blasted it, although this group contained two champions of its language – and of its likewise vague and equivocal contents – in cardinals Christoph Schönborn and Godfried Danneels.

When the assembly resumed its work on Thursday, October 16, secretary general Baldisseri, with the pope beside him, made the announcement that the reports of the ten groups would not be made public. A protest exploded. Australian cardinal George Pell, with the physique and temperament of a rugby player, was the most intransigent in demanding the publication of the texts. Baldisseri gave up. That same day, Pope Francis saw himself forced to expand the group charged with writing the final relation, adding Melbourne archbishop Denis J. Hart and above all the combative South African cardinal Napier.

Who, however, had seen correctly. Because no matter what may be the outcome of this synod, intentionally devoid of any conclusion, the effect desired by its directors has to a large extent been reached.

On homosexuality as on divorce and remarriage, in fact, the new talk of reform inserted into the global media circuit is worth much more than the favor actually gained among the synod fathers by the proposals of Kasper or Spadaro.

The match could go on for a long time. But Pope Francis is patient. In “Evangelii Gaudium” he has written that “time is greater than space.”




In steering the Synod toward the admission to communion of the divorced and remarried, “La Civiltà Cattolica” has shown itself to be particularly enterprising, with the publication of an article according to which the Council of Trent itself had opened a loophole in this direction:

> Second Marriages in Venice for “La Civiltà Cattolica”

“La Civiltà Cattolica” is directed by the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, and each issue is printed after examination and approval by the highest Vatican authorities, in this case it is easy to imagine with the personal “placet” of the pope, with whom Fr. Spadaro has a close and confidential relationship.

But how well-founded, historically, is the notion of the Council of Trent as a forerunner of the “openness” of the pontificate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the matter of marriage and divorce?

The following is a confutation of the article in “La Civiltà Cattolica.” Its author is a professor of moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, in the United States, and has thoroughly studied the proceedings of the Council of Trent with regard to marriage.


DAMNATIO MEMORIAE? By E. Christian Brugger

Jesuit priest Giancarlo Pani, professor of Christian history at the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” recently published an essay in “La Civiltà Cattolica” entitled “Matrimony and ‘Second Marriages’ at the Council of Trent.” In it he defends the Greek matrimonial practice of “oikonomia” by which failed marriages can be dissolved and spouses permitted to remarry, or, what’s more often the case, to have their “new marriages declared valid” by the Church “after penance”. He plainly hopes that this “tolerant tradition” may find its way into the Catholic Church.

For that aspiration, he claims no less an authority than the Council of Trent, which he believes implicitly sanctioned the Greek divorce practice in its “canones de sacramento matrimonii”.

His argument has two flaws. The first and more serious I can only mention here. In his essay, he not only assumes, but states several times that this form of divorce and remarriage is not in conflict with the doctrine of indissolubility without providing an argument to vindicate the claim. The claim was refuted by Germain Grisez, John Finnis and William E. May twenty years ago in their critical response to German Bishops Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann, and Oskar Saier, who had proposed a compromise to allow divorced and remarried Catholics in Germany to return to the Eucharist.

The second problem is with Pani’s interpretation of Trent’s Canon 7 on indissolubility. He follows the popular interpretation of Flemish Jesuit Piet Fransen (1913-1983), whose account, though widely followed, is badly flawed (1). Pani’s article summarizes adequately the events of August 1563 so they need not be repeated here. But the wider story he tells deserves consideration.

Although the Eastern Orthodox Church [– Pani writes –] “rigorously affirmed and recognized the indissolubility of marriage,” nevertheless it permitted divorce and remarriage in some cases. The Fathers and theologians at Trent knew of the East’s ancient “ritus” (“custom”) and respected it. Many council Fathers were doubtful about the “exceptive clause” in Matthew’s Gospel (“except in cases of porneia”). They doubted whether divine revelation absolutely excluded remarriage in cases of adultery. Given the doubt, they resolved to “speak clearly on the indissolubility of marriage, but also to say that the doctrine cannot be regarded as a constituent part of revelation.” Their doubts came to a head in August 1563 with the famous intervention of the Venetian delegation, which urged the council Fathers for the sake of the divorce practices of the Greeks in Catholic lands not to directly condemn divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery. The petition won the day, and in the end the Council published an indirect formulation of Canon 7. This was obviously because a large majority of Council Fathers preferred leaving open the question of the legitimacy of the Greek divorce practices.

Pani laments that this “page” in Trent’s teaching on marriage “seems to have been forgotten by history.” But how can it have been forgotten when Walter Kasper (2), Charles Curran (3), Michael Lawler (4), Kenneth Himes (5), James Coriden (6), Theodore Mackin S.J. (7), Victor J. Pospishil (8), Francis A. Sullivan S.J. (9), Karl Lehmann (10), and Piet Fransen S.J. (to name just a few) have repeated it continuously over the past fifty years? The story actually goes back to the 17th century. The anti-Roman theologian Paolo Sarpi and the Jansenist Jean Launoy (12) argued that the Council meant to leave open the question of whether remarriage after divorce was sometimes legitimate (13).

Pani indicts the secretaries and diarists of the Council for their “eloquent silence” about this story. An alternative interpretation of their silence seems to me more obviously correct: Pani’s story is a post-conciliar creation. Not that the events he cites, especially the Venetian intervention, did not occur. They plainly did. But there is no historical basis for his claim that the Council – by which I mean the vast majority of voting bishops – saw Canon 7 as excluding the divorce practices of the Greeks. Many scholars before the middle of the 20th century argued that Trent intended to define absolute indissolubility as a “de fide” truth, for example, Dominic Palmieri (14) and Giovanni Perrone (15), the eminent author and editor of the French “Dictionnaire De Théologie Catholique” Alfred Vacant (16), and dogmatic theologian George Hayward Joyce, S.J. (17). More recently the same has been defended by future pope, Joseph Ratzinger (18), and moral theologians, Germain Grisez and Peter Ryan, S.J. (19).

To demonstrate conclusively the falsity of the Pani-Fransen interpretation would take a book length treatise. But several things can be said to show that it is questionable. To understand the true intentions of the Fathers at Trent, we must not first look, as Pani does, to the intervention of the Venetian delegation. We must first look at the rock solid consensus of the Fathers and theologians in every discussion of marriage from 1547 till August of 1563.

When Canon 6 (which became Canon 7) was presented to the Fathers on July 20, 1563, after undergoing several iterations, it read as follows:





“If anyone shall say, that on account of the adultery of a spouse the marriage can be dissolved, and that it is licit for both, or at least the innocent spouse who gave no cause for adultery, to remarry, and that he is not an adulterer who dismisses an adulteress and marries another, nor she an adulteress who dismisses an adulterer and marries another: let him be anathema” (20).

There is nothing extraordinary about this formulation, since its content is more or less the same as the content of the very first condemned propositions (numbers 3-5) proposed by Angelo Massarelli, Secretary General, to the Council in April 1547 (21). It directly condemns the propositions that marriage can be dissolved on account of adultery; that it is ever licit for adulterous spouses to remarry; and that a spouse who divorces an adulterous spouse and remarries is not guilty of adultery.

From Trent’s earliest discussions this was the consensus of the Council Fathers. As to authorities, the prelates referenced Our Lord and St. Paul, the Canons of the Apostles, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Chrysostom, Origin, Hillary, Popes Innocent I, Leo I, Alexander III, and the Councils of Mileve, Elvira, Constance, Florence, and Lateran IV, among others. When Catholic thinkers of the 16th century, such as Erasmus and Catarinus, suggested that the doctrine of absolute indissolubility should be watered down, their proposals were condemned by the faculties of theology of the Universities of Cologne, Leuven, and Paris. Augustine’s conclusion that the exceptive clause in Matthew should be read in accordance with the more restrictive teachings found in Luke 16, Mark 10, and Romans 7:1-3 was held by most everyone; “separation of bed, not bond” was the maxim of the day.

Pani mentions the significant doubt against absolute indissolubility posed by the Bishop of Segovia on August 14, 1563, as does every author who follows this interpretation (22). He does not mention that from the earliest discussions of marriage, a consistent and substantial majority affirmed, contra the Segovian view, the Augustinian maxim “bed, not bond,” no exceptions. A few names should suffice to demonstrate this: Council President and Papal Legate, Cardinal Cervinus; Archbishops Materanus, Naxiensis, Aquensis, and Armacanus; Bishops Aciensis, Sibinicensis, Chironensis, Sebastensis, Motulanus, Motonensis, Mylonensis, Feltrensis, Bononiensis, Sibinicensis, Chironensis, Aquensis, Bituntinus, Aquinas, Mylensis, Lavellinus, Mylensis, Caprulanus, Grossetanus, Upsalensis, Salutiarum, Caprulanus, Veronensis, Maioricensis, Camerinensis, Thermularum, Mirapicensis, and Vigorniensis.

In a summary statement recorded in the Acta on September 6, 1547, we read: “The responses of the fathers varied; but the vast majority agreed that adultery cannot dissolve a marriage; that if one marries another when his spouse is still alive, he commits adultery; and that for no reason can they be separated except as far as the bed” (23). To authorities who oppose this view, the majority agreed “that separation should be understood only so far as separation of bed and not bond according to the interpretation of the doctors (and declaration of St. Paul in 1 Cor. 7:10ff and Romans 7:2ff, and Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18 as well as Matthew 5:32 itself).” Finally, the majority agreed “the understanding of scripture should be according to the declaration of the Church” (24).

When presented with the July 20, 1563 draft of Canon 6, more than 200 Council Fathers (Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Abbots, and Generals of Congregations) commented on it. All knew that the end of the debates on marriage was drawing near. If there were widespread doubts or dissatisfaction among the Fathers about the directness of the formulation, the inclusion of the anathema, or its implications for the divorce practices of the Greeks (25), we would expect a significant number of Fathers to register an objection – “non placet” – to the canon. Only 17 register disapproval, mostly on account of the “opinions of the Greeks.” More than 85 percent of the voting prelates were satisfied with a direct formulation of an anathema condemning remarriage after adultery, with a large majority explicitly approving its content (“placet”).

Three weeks later, on August 11, came the Venetian proposal for an indirect formulation. Approximately 136 prelates spoke out in favor of the proposal. What accounts for this change? Was it because the Council Fathers preferred leaving open the question of the legitimacy of the Greek divorce practices, as Pani et alii suggest? This conclusion must be rejected. Is it plausible that within three weeks the vast majority of voting prelates abandoned absolute indissolubility in order to permit some instances of divorce and remarriage? In the final version of Canon 7 the Council adopts four other important changes that contradict this conclusion.

First, it added the phrase “iuxta evangelicam et apostolicam doctrinam” to ensure that the following propositions condemning the denial of indissolubility in cases of adultery are understood to have their origin in divine revelation.

Second, it replaced the normative term “should not… contract” (“non debere… contrahere”) with the substantive term “cannot… contract” (“non posse… contrahere”) making it clear that not only is remarriage after divorce always wrong, but impossible.

Third, to ensure that the canon transparently addresses the indissolubility of the bond of marriage, it adopted the term “vinculum matrimonii” to replace “matrimonium”.

Finally, it adopts for the first time a doctrinal preface to precede its canons on marriage. This is plainly meant establish a doctrinal framework within which to read and interpret the canons. The introduction grounds the truth of indissolubility in the natural law (the created order), the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, and in the will and teaching of Jesus as expressed in the New Testament. And it asserts that not only are the “schismatics” condemned, but also “their errors” (“eorumque errores”), that is, their erroneous propositions about the nature of marriage, including their unquestionable denial of the absolute indissolubility of marriage.

The more plausible explanation for the sudden turn is that the Council Fathers remained convinced that marriage cannot be dissolved on account of adultery, or anything else, and that they should teach this as a truth of faith.




They had been willing to teach it in the form of a direct anathema condemning its denial. But Venice’s intervention had alerted them to a possible consequence of doing so, namely, the disrupting of the delicate balance of relations between Greek Christians and the Roman hierarchy on the Mediterranean Islands.

They believed the proposition asserting the absolute indissolubility of marriage was true and that it pertained to divine revelation, and they intended to teach both of these, but to do so in a way that minimized undesirable consequences. They did not turn to an indirect formulation because of doubts about the interpretation of the “exceptive clause,” for fear of scandal by “anathematizing Ambrose,” or because they wished to leave the Greeks free to follow their ancient divorce customs. The Venetian appeal won the day on the pastoral ground that an indirect formulation was less likely to disrupt Greek-Roman relations in Venetian territories.

Pani’s idea that the Fathers when publishing Canon 7 intended only to condemn Luther and the Reformers but leave uncriticized the divorce practices of the Greeks is inconsistent with the reasoned judgment on the absolute indissolubility of marriage of the vast majority of Council Fathers and theologians from Spring 1547 to the end of Summer 1563. As Ryan and Grisez state: “Although Trent does not [explicitly] anathematize the practice of ‘economia’, canon 7 entails that its application to ‘remarriage’ after divorce is contrary to faith” (26).

Pani’s ironic term “damnatio memoriæ” is indeed fitting. But it is not the Council Acta, secretaries, diarists or commentators who impose a silence on Trent’s true teaching. Rather, it is those who in the name of “evangelical mercy” would replace a “de fide” truth with a “tolerant” fancy.



(1) Fransen’s doctoral thesis on canon 7 (“De indissolubilitate Matrimonii christiani in casu fornicationis. De canone septimo Sessionis XXIV Concilii Tridentini, Jul.-Nov. 1563”) was submitted to the Gregorian in 1947. In the 1950s, Fransen went on to publish six influential essays in the journal “Scholastik” on Trent’s teaching on marriage, which are reprinted in a collection of Fransen’s essays entitled “Hermeneutics of the Councils and Other Studies”, eds. H.E. Mertens and F. de Graeve, Leuven University Press, 1985. He summarized the conclusions of these essays in a widely read English essay entitled “Divorce on the Ground of Adultery – The Council of Tent (1563)”, printed in a special edition of the journal “Concilium”, entitled “The Future of Marriage as Institution”, ed. Franz Böckle, New York, Herder and Herder, 1970, 89-100.

(2) Kasper, “Theology of Christian Marriage”, New York, Crossroad, 1977, note 87, p. 98, also p. 62.

(3) Charles Curran, “Faithful Dissent”, Sheed & Ward, 1986, 269, 272.

(4) Michael Lawler, “Divorce and Remarriage in the Catholic Church: Ten Theses,” New Theology Review, vol. 12, no. 2 (1999), 56.

(5) Kenneth Himes and James Coriden, “The Indissolubility of Marriage: Reasons to Reconsider,” Theological Studies, vol. 65, no. 3 (2004), 463.

(6) Ibid.

(7) Theodore Mackin, “Divorce and Remarriage”, New York, Paulist Press, 1984, 388.

(8) Victor J. Pospishil, “Divorce and Remarriage”, New York, Herder and Herder, 1967, 66-68.

(9) Francis Sullivan, “Creative Fidelity: Weighing and Interpreting Documents of the Magisterium”, New York, Paulist Press, 1996, 131-134.

(10) Karl Lehmann, “Gegenwart des Glaubens”, Mainz, Matthias-Grünwald-Verlag, 1974, 285-286.

(11) Paolo Sarpi (1552 -1623), “Istoria del Concilio Tridentino”, London, 1619; English translation: “History of the Council of Trent” (1676). His “Istoria”, much read by Protestants, has been criticized as slanted against the Roman Curia; see L.F. Bungener, “History of the Council of Trent”, New York, Harper & Brothers, 1855, xix-xx.

(12) Jean de Launoy (1603–1678); see “De regia in matrimonium potestate” (1674), par. III, art. I, cap. 5, no. 78; in “Opera”, Cologne/Geneva, 1731, tom. 1, cap. I, p. 855.

(13) Bossuet wrote of Sarpi: “He was a Protestant under a religious habit, who said Mass without believing in it, and who remained in a Church which he considered idolatrous.” See Bertrand L. Conway, C.S.P., “Original Diaries of the Council of Trent,” The Catholic World, vol. 98 (Oct. 1913-March 1914), 467.

(14) Dominic Palmieri, “Tractatus de Matrimonio Christiano”, Typographia Polyglotta S. C. de Propaganda Fide, Rome, 1880, p. 142.

(15) G. Perrone, SJ., “De Matrimonio Christiano”, vol. 3, Rome, 1861, bk. 3, ch. 4, a. 2, p. 379-380.

(16) A. Vacant, s.v., “Divorce”,”Dictionnaire de théologie catholique”, 1908, vol. XII, cols. 498-505.

(17) George Hayward Joyce, S.J., “Christian Marriage: An Historical and Doctrinal Study”, London: Sheed and Ward, 1933, 395.

(18) In a 1972 essay, “Zur Frage nach der Unauflöslichkeit der Ehe: Bemerkungen zum dogmengeschichtlichen Befund und zu seiner gegenwärtigen Bedeutung” (in Ehe und Ehescheidung: Diskussion Unter Christen, eds. Franz Henrich and Volker Eid, München, Kösel, 1972, 47, 49), Ratzinger says he follows Fransen on Canon 7. By 1986 he shows that he changed his mind: “The Church’s position on the indissolubility of sacramental and consummated marriage… was in fact defined at the Council of Trent and so belongs to the patrimony of the Faith” (see quote in Charles Curran, “Faithful Dissent”, Sheed & Ward, 1986, p 269).

(19) Peter F. Ryan, S.J. and Germain Grisez, “Indissoluble Marriage: A Reply to Kenneth Himes and James Coriden”, Theological Studies 72 (2011), 369-415.

(20) CT, IX, 640.

(21) See CT, VI, 98-99.



(22) CT, XI, 709.

(23) CT, VI, 434.

(24) CT, VI, 434-435.

(25) “Non placet, quia ferit Graecos and Ambrose” (Archbishop Cretensis), CT, IX, 644.

(26) Op. Cit., footnote 180.

The complete text of the important article written in 1994 for the journal of the English Dominicans “New Blackfriars” by Germain Grisez, John Finnis, and William E. May against the ideas of the German bishops Walter Kasper, Karl Lehmann, and Oskar Saier in favor of admitting the divorced and remarried to communion:
> Indissolubility, Divorce and Holy Communion



39. Hell’s Bible’s editorial on the Synod

Posted on 18 October 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

A reader’s comment:

Synod 2014: the Spirit of Vatican II defeated by the Spirit of Vatican I
Synod 2015: the rematch



40. Setback for pope as synod fails to agree on gays, divorcees

By Jean-Louis De La Vaissiere, October 18, 2014

Vatican City (AFP) – Roman Catholic bishops on Saturday failed to reach a consensus on opening the Church’s doors to remarried divorcees and gays after a special synod on the family, in a blow to Pope Francis.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said participants had approved a “re-balanced” final report that took into account the concerns of the most conservative members.

In a final vote after two weeks of fierce debate, three paragraphs touching on the hot-button issues of a more welcome stance towards gays, and allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, did not get the two-thirds majority needed from the 183 bishops present.

The vote closed a synod of bishops from around the world which has seen conservatives clash publicly with liberals over a drive spearheaded by the pope to soften the Church’s approach to sinners.

Addressing the synod, Francis, 77, said he was confident the coming year would allow for ideas to mature and “find concrete solutions” to the many challenges facing the Church.

The full document, including the contentious paragraphs, was published at the pope’s request.

The spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics had earlier called for the Church to take a more merciful approach to unmarried mothers, remarried divorcees and gays, famously saying of homosexuals, “Who am I to judge?

Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn told reporters that the adopted text was “much more reserved” than the draft document, reflecting opposition from bishops from “very different cultural situations”.

A preliminary report on Monday, widely reported in Italian media, made waves around the world by suggesting that the Church should reach out to homosexuals, who have “gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community”, outraging traditionalists who had to be reminded by the Vatican that it was a work in progress.

In the media glare, the synod took on the proportions of a referendum on the pope’s audacious line, and observers said the early reports may have backfired on progressives seeking to steal a march on conservatives.

Another report Thursday summed up the reactions of 10 working groups of bishops, which mixed declarations of respect for homosexuals with fierce insistence that any opening up to sinners would imply the Church condoned their behaviour.

The vote’s outcome reflects the attitude of the top echelons of the Church towards reform — and ultimately towards Francis’s rule, which has been coloured since his election in March 2013 by a determination to show the more humane side of the centuries-old institution.

– ‘Beautiful miracle’ –

The fallout from the ideological clashes has already caused at least one head to roll.

Outspoken American cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, currently head of the Vatican’s top canon law court, confirmed to Buzzfeed late on Friday that he is being removed from the job to be made patron to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an honorary post.

He told the US news website: “The pope is not free to change the Church’s teachings with regard to the immorality of homosexual acts or the insolubility of marriage or any other doctrine of the faith.”

In a message to families earlier on Saturday, the synod said “conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.”

It referred to marital infidelity as a “great challenge”, adding: “There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and to reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another.”

Speaking of the family home, it painted an image of “the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest suburban and village residences, and even in mere shacks (shining) from the encounter between spouses.”



This synod will be followed by a year of consultations, and a follow-up questionnaire will be sent out to dioceses around the world. A second, larger synod will then be held in October 2015.

After that, the results will be handed to the Argentinian pope, who will have the final say in outlining the Church’s stance on family matters.

Adolfo Nicolas, superior general of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits — to which Francis belongs — told the I-Media religious news agency to watch for a possible “revolution” a year from now.



41. Catholic bishops veto gay-friendly statements leaving Pope Francis the loser

Final report of Roman Catholic extraordinary synod on the family removes talk of ‘welcoming’ gay people

By Lizzy Davies, October 19, 2014

Pope Francis appeared on Saturday night to have lost out to powerful conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church after bishops scrapped language that had been hailed as a historic warming of attitudes towards gay people.

In the final report of an extraordinary synod on the family which has exposed deep divides in the church hierarchy, there is no mention – as there had been in a draft version – of the “gifts and qualities” gay people can offer. Nor is there any recognition of the “precious support” same-sex partners can give each other.

A paragraph entitled “pastoral attention to people of homosexual orientation” – itself a distinctly cooler tone than “welcoming homosexual persons” – refers to church teaching, saying there can be “not even a remote” comparison between gay unions and heterosexual marriage.

“Nevertheless,” it adds, “men and women of homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and sensitivity.” They should not suffer from discrimination, it adds. But the shift in tone is clear. And, in a potentially stark sign of the discomfort provoked among many bishop, even this watered-down passage failed to pass the two-thirds majority needed for it to be approved.

One hundred and eighteen bishops voted for the text and 62 against. A Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, said the voting numbers had been released at the behest of Francis, who wanted the process to be transparent.

Because the names of the bishops were not released, however, it was unclear whether the paragraph’s failure to pass was due to a protest vote by progressive bishops who had wanted to keep more of the original wording.

At any rate, in a speech to the bishops which received a four-minute standing ovation, Francis showed no sign of disappointment, insisting that disagreement and debate was an intrinsic part of the synod process. “Personally I would have been very worried and saddened if there hadn’t been these … animated discussions … if everyone had agreed with one another or had kept silent in a false and acquiescent peace,” he said.

It was the synod’s other highly controversial subject – considering whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried should be allowed to take Holy Communion – that included the only other sections to fail to muster the necessary two-thirds majority. Walter Kasper, a German cardinal known in media circles as “the pope’s theologian” because of his closeness to Francis, has been the key backer of a move to allow more people access to the sacraments. But, in an indication of how far his proposal was from gaining a consensus among his global peers, the sections dealing with the thorny issue were guarded and merely noted that there was a clear clash of views. “The question will be further explored,” said the report.

Thomas Rosica, Lombardi’s English language assistant, said the sections without two-thirds majorities had not been “completely rejected”. He stressed that it was “not a magisterial document” but “a work in progress” that provided the basis for another synod next autumn.

The final report will come as a blow to those in and outside the church who had hoped a corner might have been turned in the way Catholic leaders discussed and dealt with homosexuality – even if not even the most optimistic of followers had been expecting a change in doctrine, according to which “homosexual acts” are “intrinsically disordered”.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group in the United States, said it was “very disappointing that the synod’s final report did not retain the gracious welcome to lesbian and gay people that the draft of the report included”.

“Instead, the bishops have taken a narrow view of pastoral care by defining it simply as opposition to marriage for same-gender couples,” he told Reuters.

The draft released last Monday had been hailed by some church observers and gay rights groups as “a stunning change” in how the Catholic hierarchy talked about gay people. It had been written with a voice that seemed to echo closely Francis’s own, pragmatically pastoral phrase: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?

Exploring the idea of extending mercy to people considered to be in “irregular” situations, it asked whether the church was capable of offering gay Catholics “a welcoming home” and “fraternal space”, admitting that despite “moral problems” associated with them, “homosexual unions” provided “precious support” to each other.

No sooner had it been released, however, than leading conservatives began to speak out against the text. One, American cardinal Raymond Burke, criticised a lack of transparency, saying the mid-point report had not reflected the diverse views of the whole synod.

“A great number of the Synod Fathers found it objectionable,” he said in an interview.




Burke, a leading doctrinal rigorist in the church who had vocally opposed any move to ease the ban on remarried divorcees taking communion, is currently prefect of the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court. But he said on Friday he was to be demoted to a lesser post. Asked by the National Catholic Reporter who had made that decision, he reportedly responded: “Who do you think?”

Vatican observers say that, by calling the first extraordinary synod in nearly three decades and encouraging the nearly 200 bishops taking part to speak their minds during the fortnight-long gathering, Francis, 77, has embraced a radically more collegiate style of church governance than has been seen for decades. But although the Argentinian wanted to listen to what the bishops had to say, he may not always have liked what he heard.

Ever since his election last March, he has made clear his belief that the church needs to become more inclusive and understanding of real people’s lives if it is to survive, let alone grow.



42. Did the Synod Endorse “Lifestyle Ecumenism”?

By Tyler Blanski, October 21, 2014

I would like to suggest to you that so-called “lifestyle ecumenism” helps us see ecumenism for what it really is. You see, in my Anglican days, I used to think I was more catholic than the Catholics. I believed that “spiritual unity,” and maybe also a loose agreement on central doctrines, sufficed. As a Catholic, I now believe that all who profess Christian faith are called into a single, visible organization, through union with the holy Roman Catholic Church. I’ve been trying to find ways of sharing the truth of catholicity, and the deception of ecumenism, and John Allen’s article “Lifestyle ecumenism may be the real breakthrough at 2014 synod”  just made it easier. Lifestyle ecumenism helps us see ecumenism afresh.


Lifestyle Ecumenism
What is “lifestyle ecumenism”? To find out, John Allen takes us back to the Second Vatican Council. One of the main achievements of the Council, he says, was to find a “theological logic for the widespread popular desire to break down the walls between the various Christian churches, and to usher in a new era of dialogue and partnership that’s come to be known as ‘ecumenism.'” The Council elaborated a “new theology” that non-Catholics deserve honor and respect. Since then, Catholics have been pouring into Protestant churches, ushering in one of “the most stunningly successful Christian movements of the late twentieth century.”

Something similar, we are told, may be happening at the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family. You see, in the past the Church used the rhetoric of “living in sin” to describe cohabitating couples, gays and lesbians, people who are divorced and remarried outside the Church, and so on. But now, it is suggested, we are in the midst of a Copernican revolution! Now “the synod has clearly rejected that sort of barb,” which may “augur a new era of what might be called ‘lifestyle ecumenism,’ in which the church approaches people living outside its ideal for marriage with friendship rather than condemnation.” Here, “ecumenism” means dialogue and friendship, and “lifestyle” means anything the Church once cruelly called sin. The article ends with a bang:

Lifestyle ecumenism, in other words, may well be the real theological breakthrough at the 2014 Synod of Bishops. If so, it would be a fitting evolution under Pope Francis, the pope whose most famous sound-bite is, “Who am I to judge?

Now, John Allen is an accomplished journalist and author who specializes in coverage of the Vatican and the Catholic Church, so I do not want to misrepresent him. Perhaps I have misunderstood his recent article and phrase “lifestyle ecumenism.” Perhaps he does not mean to suggest that calling sin “sin” is a barb, a nasty rhetoric that should be discontinued. Perhaps he does not mean to suggest that “lifestyles” like cohabiting and homosexuality should be embraced in the spirit of friendship and, at least tacitly, affirmed. Nonetheless, without overdramatizing things, the posturing of this particular article seems to be anything but inspired. Overlook for a moment how this article misrepresents the Second Vatican Council, how it misrepresents the 2014 Synod, and zoom in with me on how it misrepresents the Gospel itself. It joins the chorus of those who sing John 8:10, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” but leave out the final line in 8:11: “Go, and sin no more.” If it weren’t for those nasty Catholic redactors, maybe the exchange between Jesus and the woman caught in adultery would read this way:

Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go and sin no more.”

“Ugh,” the woman said, recoiling. “Can’t you drop all that Catholic rhetoric about ‘irregular’ folks ‘living in sin,’ and be more ‘welcoming home’?”

Jesus paused. “Good point,” he said. “Perhaps I should see the positive value in all relationships.”

“Yes,” she said, brightening. “I knew you weren’t a Pharisee!”

“You know, for the sake of dialogue I probably should not have used the word ‘sin.’ There are, after all, pieces of truth and holiness outside Catholic marriage in all sorts of other relationships. We need to transform the way Catholicism engages the outside world. Besides, there is a widely held hunger at the grassroots for a new way of relating to people in unconventional family situations.”

“Lifestyle ecumenism, if you will” she said.

“Exactly,” Jesus replied.




For God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not feel discriminated against but feel good. Jesus is not so much a “Savior” (it’s not like our carefully groomed sexual identities are one last waltz on the Titanic!) as he is our Friend. What was it that St. Peter said, in Acts 2:37, when the crowd was cut to the heart? “Keep an open mind, every one of you, reject the rhetoric of sin, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” St. James gives us the key to lifestyle ecumenism: “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means friendship with God?” (James 4:4). Sing heavenly muse … that we may justify the ways of man to God!

“Lifestyle ecumenism” is just a fancy way of saying—without having really to say—anything goes. It’s moral pluralism. True, lifestyle ecumenists are not exactly saying that any given “lifestyle” (homosexuality, “re-marriage,” or cohabitation) is not a sin. But neither are they saying that it is. Under the blue skies of “ecumenism,” there is no discrimination.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

Although the Synod does not augur a new era in which the rhetoric of “living in sin” is replaced with openness and dialogue, the new phrase “lifestyle ecumenism” does (unwittingly) expose what ecumenism really is, and the wrongness of ecumenism is the real subject of this essay. For I would like to suggest that ecumenism is no substitute for catholicity, and that there is no catholicity apart from the Pope—but I am jumping ahead.

Lifestyle ecumenism accommodates immorality as ecumenism accommodates heresy. But the lifestyle ecumenists go one step further. Where ecumenists claim that schism is not sin, lifestyle ecumenists claim sin is not sin. This way, everyone’s right, and no one’s wrong. No one’s feelings get hurt.

Ecumenism’s one premise is that talking about why we are not united is to be united. The questions are more important than the answers. Again and again, ecumenists shrug and repeat with Pontius Pilate the defining question of ecumenism: “What is truth?” Taking their cue from the ecumenists, lifestyle ecumenists shrug and ask: “What is right?” For while lifestyle ecumenists are pluralists when it comes to morality, ecumenists are pluralists when it comes to truth.


Quid est Veritas?
Again, I would like to suggest to you that lifestyle ecumenism helps us see ecumenism for what it really is.

Like I said, in my Anglican days, I thought I was more catholic than the Catholics. I was ecumenical. From some great Olympian height I saw the Pope go too far to the right and a Reformer go too far to the left. I surveyed all customs, all pieties, all spiritualities within “the catholica” and I divined the essence. To a Catholic I would say that only the Bible is infallible. To a Baptist I would say that we need more than the Bible, we need Tradition. To a traditionalist I would say we ought to be open to the Holy Spirit doing “a new thing.” With the Vincentian Canon in my back pocket, I was so “catholic” I made Catholics look like Protestants. I was an ecumenist.

If someone pointed out that schism is sin, I replied: “We’re all one in Christ.” By this, I meant that Christ is one. Everyone who is baptized is in Christ. Therefore, even though schism looks like disunity, it’s only a surface illusion. Deep down, we are all one in Christ—regardless of what extra-Church “communion” we are in.

But let’s apply my ecumenism logic to “lifestyle ecumenism.” What if someone were to point out that, say, adultery is sin, and I were to reply: “We’re all righteous in Christ”? By this, I would mean that Christ is righteous. Everyone who is baptized is in Christ. Therefore, even though adultery looks like sin, it’s only a surface illusion. Deep down, we are all righteous in Christ—regardless of what extra-marital “relationship” we are in. After all, we are in the “already/not yet” of the Kingdom. Did you catch that? Not yet.

Can you see how the ecumenical logic of schism and sin misses the point? It takes truths about Christ and Baptism and uses them to justify human behaviors that are anti-Christ. Christ prayed that his Church would be one? I do not need to repent and return to the Church he built on the rock that is Peter because, well, Christ is one! Christ told the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more? I do not need to repent and return to my marriage bed because, well, Christ is righteous! Ecumenical logic misses the point because by the power of the Holy Spirit the Church is called to realize Christ, to give actual physical, personal and social form to the ascended Christ on earth, to be a city on a hill. Here and now, we are meant to imitate Christ. And for Christ, truth is a means to unity.

To the ecumenist, however, truth is an obstacle to unity. For as soon as you claim a to be true, you “discriminate against” b and c—and that closes dialogue and hurts feelings. In turn, for the ecumenist, unity is reduced to an abstraction, and for the lifestyle ecumenist, right and wrong are reduced to abstractions. Morality is reduced to feelings, and feelings are mistaken for truth. In the end, truth is just a fun game of semantics, and the tenured, John 8:10-reciting Scrabble buffs always seem to win.

¤ ¤ ¤ ¤

Where have we seen ecumenism before? It was the sign hung outside Dante’s Limbo, technically the first circle of Hell, that pub where milquetoast intellectuals go to talk and talk and talk, “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Over shouts for “more listening!” and “more dialogue!” one can hear, as if at the Inn of the Prancing Pony, a Sauron-like voice—the only voice that’s really seeking the truth … only to kill it—whispering: “Be open-minded. We don’t need to agree. We only need to work together.”

But where do ships go when there is no captain, no compass, no rules, no protocol, no agreed upon destination, nothing but endless chatter about whether or not everyone feels good? They go the way of the Titanic, as the lifeboats slowly disappear into the horizon, everyman raising his own Holy Spirit-guided interpretation of Scripture like a flag of surrender: “Looks like we’re in the already/not yet of the Kingdom!”





The Truth Will Set You Free
Sin leads to schism, and schism leads to sin. Ubi divisio ibi peccatum. The devil is diabolical; that is, he rips things apart. By accommodating sin, the lifestyle ecumenists will not make more Catholics. They will only make more ecumenists, more ecumenical dialogues, more ecumenical lifestyles, until everyone who is wise in their own eyes has happily signed up for the very polite, very nice conference to be held on the ground level of the building with the infamous sign: “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.” Hans Urs von Balthasar puts it this way:

Of course, there is a difference between schisms within the Church and the ultimate schism that separates people from the unity of the institutional Church. But there can be no doubt that the former were the cause of the latter. Sin in the Church is the origin of the (equally sinful) separation from the Church. The process can last for hundreds of years within the Church—think of the long prelude to the schism with the East and to the Reformation—but it can always be traced back.

What was it Jesus said? “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32). He promised to build his Church on the rock that is Peter, gave him the keys to bind and loose, and assured us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 17:16-19). He guaranteed that the Holy Spirit would lead his Church into all truth (John 16:13), and then he prayed to his Father: “protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11).

Like righteousness, unity is not a theatrical background, a tone, an atmosphere. It is a reality. You are either living it, or you are not. The emotional, subjective, therapeutic clamor of ecumenism is no substitute for the heart-awakening, objective, cruciform call of the holy Roman Catholic Church. In his speech at the conclusion of the Synod, Pope Francis put it this way:

So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock—to nourish the flock—that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome—with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears—the lost sheep … to go out and find them.”

The program of the ecumenists, university degrees coming out of their ears, demands unity without truth, truth without morality, morality without “discrimination.” But the Church Christ founded on the rock that is Peter is, like Christ himself, discriminating. She reminds us that all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of God, and all are in need of a Savior. Like her Husband and Head, she demands unity in truth, truth with morality, and morality that brings glory to the Father in Heaven from whom comes every good and perfect gift.

While every ecumenist is slapping his newspaper and wishing the holy Roman Catholic Church would catch up to whatever it is he’s found in there, the Church is joining Christ in his suffering, his oblation, his proclamation of life brim-full. But it begins with repentance. For a lot of us, it must continue with conversion. The Church’s arms, like Christ’s on the Cross, are wide open. Pope Francis put it this way:

This is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

[S]he is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life.

Tyler Blanski, a Catholic convert, is the author of When Donkeys Talk: Rediscovering the Mystery and Wonder of Christianity (Zondervan, 2012) and Mud & Poetry: Love, Sex, and the Sacred (Upper Room Books, 2010).


4 out of 144 comments:

1. If you agree with this synod, you have already left the church.

2. It is really frustrating that the only way many feel the Church can be relevant in today’s world is to accept whatever the current beliefs are professed. Gay marriage, abortion on demand, co-habitation, free love, etc have all become the current mantra that we are told the Church must embrace in order to survive. If people are flocking to Protestant Churches looking for a truth that better fits their needs or beliefs, let them go! It is time we stood for something more than just the current fad. I feel we have stumbled, but now is the time to rebuild what we have misplaced. The Synod of Bishops has an opportunity to show the world the Truth and the Way. I hope they do so and do not give in to human pride and a desire just for more members.

3. As Pope Benedict said when he was a Cardinal, it is better if we had a smaller church, with people who believed in the teachings.

4. I feel the same way. If you don’t agree with the teachings find a denomination with which you agree. I must have said this 1000 times, but the goal of Vatican II was to bring the church into the modern world, instead of vice-versa. As we can see, the goal continues.






43. A chaotic synod? Not in its results

By Dr. Jeff Mirus, October 21, 2014

Those who read between the lines in both Phil Lawler’s and my own series of commentaries on the recent Synod could probably tell that neither of us was particularly worried in the long run. Phil strove to point out aspects of the synodal process which were counterproductive, and I tried to explain certain unavoidable conditions which made the work of the synod fathers both confusing and difficult. But neither of us expected the 2014 Synod on the Family to fundamentally change the mission of the Church when it comes to marriage and family.

We hoped, of course, that the Synod would mark another step in authentic renewal, effecting a certain intensification of the New Evangelization with the family at its center. And we were definitely curious about how the Kasper Proposal would be handled, since so much play had been given to it in advance. But we did not expect the Synod fathers to find a way to implement any pastoral proposal concerning divorced and remarried Catholics which would, in practice, tend to undermine Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage itself.

In the end, of course, the Synod issued a series of reflections and recommendations that fit snugly within the Catholic tradition. As for the Kasper Proposal, while a majority of the fathers thought it had generated enough disagreement to merit further discussion, that majority was not large enough to make even further discussion a formal recommendation of the Synod. I am prepared to be wrong, but I believe that history will prove the Kasper Proposal is now about as dead as it can be.

But many onlookers were not as sanguine as I was. There was a great deal of alarm over Cardinal Kasper’s odd proposal that, under certain conditions, divorced and remarried Catholics should be readmitted to the Eucharist without annulment of their previous marriages. There was also some lesser but still real alarm over the question of whether homosexual behavior, including gay marriage, would somehow gain a sort of sub-doctrinal practical approval through pastoral initiatives recommended by the Synod.

Quite a few Catholics seem not to realize that the line between the Church and the world, which was so blurred by the rapid secularization of the hierarchy in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s has been hardening again for a quarter century or more. I will go on record here as saying that this synod was at least very close to the last gasp of bishops advocating faulty pastoral care for those embroiled in our culture’s sexual issues. The bulk of the world’s bishops have gradually escaped the terror of secular non-conformity which so plagued their immediate predecessors. This is one danger that, speaking from the perspective of the Church’s leadership, is rapidly subsiding.

So why, the reader may well wonder, were we treated to such a spectacle on the question of divorce and remarriage in the long months leading up to the Synod on the Family? Why did this spectacle even persist in some measure throughout the Synod itself? I believe the answer lies in the clear priorities and intentions of Pope Francis.


The Papal Difference

Insofar as the terms liberal and conservative mean anything as doctrinal and pastoral positions within the Catholic Church (and I can assure you that the terms are not very useful among Catholics who accept all that the Church teaches), Pope Francis seems to conceive of himself as a “liberal”. (So did Paul VI, by the way, and he gave us Humanae Vitae.) This emerges from time to time by the Pope’s own admission, as when he responded to the following question in a recent interview:

When journalist Joaquín Morales Solá asked him whether he was concerned about the recently published books in which a number of cardinals have criticized the “Kasper proposal,” the Pope replied: “No.” He continued: “Everyone has something to contribute. I personally enjoy debating very conservative bishops, especially those who are intellectually well formed.”

So clearly Pope Francis does not regard himself as “very conservative”, and probably not “conservative” at all, but there is no question of his orthodoxy. As he said in his late 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro, SJ, when asked about sensitive sexual issues: “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church.” And as he said to encourage discussion among the Synod fathers at the outset, “Do so with tranquility and peace, for the Synod always takes cum Petro et sub Petro [with Peter and under Peter] and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee for all and the safeguard of the faith.”

The question for Francis is always how best to approach those in need of Christ’s mercy. The tendency of the orthodox “liberal” Catholic, if you will, is to emphasize Christ’s love and mercy, whereas the tendency of the orthodox “conservative” Catholic is to emphasize Christ’s conceptual accuracy and spiritual discipline. Again, I hate these terms. But for sincere Catholics who possess the one Faith, the dichotomy is largely a question of personality and experience. And in approaching others, this difference gives rise to a pastoral, not a doctrinal, question.

In the West at least, the question of divorce and remarriage is a huge problem, and the Church has not over the past few generations made much if any headway. It seems clear that the Pope wished to explore whether there was a way in which the Church could minister to couples in such situations more mercifully, including greater access to the sacraments. This is hardly an ignoble question. He seems to have seized upon Cardinal Kasper as the theologian with the most highly-developed view of this possibility, and encouraged him to stir the waters to see if anything pastorally useful would emerge from the ensuing discussion.




The Outcome

It seems unquestionable that this was a studied initiative on the Pope’s part, one which he gave every opportunity to bear fruit through various appointments he made during the course of the Synod. But it also seems clear that Francis was not looking for any particular result. If my reading is correct, he wanted the question explored thoroughly, as it now has been in several books and, most recently, at the Synod itself. The upshot is that no way was found to go down this sacramental path that would not undermine the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

At the same time, some of the books stirred into being by the Kasper Proposal (as I will explain later this week in a review) and many of the comments on the Synod floor offered suggestions for a more fruitful approach which would place marriage and the family at the heart of the Church’s authentic conception of pastoral ministry.

Meanwhile, the Synod has drawn to a close, and there is no reason to assume that the Pope has not achieved his objective—which was certainly not his only objective—of finding out if there were anything along the lines of the Kasper Proposal which the Church could use effectively to draw entrapped couples more fully into the life of Christ. Another kind of pope might have proceeded in a different manner, perhaps by exploring this question largely on his own in a new encyclical. Francis preferred to rely on the diversity of bishops around the world to reveal whatever potential such ideas might have.

Most of us, by now long accustomed to great teaching popes, grow uneasy when the bishops are widely involved in critical decisions. We have been burned too often, perhaps, by individual bishops. But the bishops operating with the Pope in a major synod in Rome—”cum et sub Petro” as Francis said—are not to be feared, and there is much to be said for encouraging them in this way to take their own responsibilities seriously. Episcopal leadership is, in fact, an essential constitutional feature of the Church.

Church renewal in our day may have a long way to go. In fact, it always does. But this result, without any panic whatsoever, is what everyone ought to have expected from the 2014 Synod on the Family. Some confusion in the process, yes, but very little in the outcome. What we now have are bishops heading home, mostly a little better informed and a little stronger, and certainly more conscious of what it means to belong to the universal Church. There are no contradictions in doctrine, obviously, which is impossible; nor even in pastoral practice, which in some ways is possible. But in terms of both understanding and zeal, I am quite sure we are witnessing another small step forward for most participants.

This is what major synods in our time are supposed to do. No bishop is merely an isolated leader pressing his own cultural viewpoint in a particular time and place. All bishops need to experience that they are servants of a universal and even a transcendent Church.


3 out of 8 comments:

1. Your take is more sanguine than mine. The pope, I think, tipped his hand at this Synod. Just as Marx and Kasper have said repeatedly, their views are the pope’s; no one could miss this reading Francis’ fulsome praise for Kasper’s most recent book. As I see it, the pope pulled out all the stops to favor the Kasper Project, but lacking sufficient numbers, contented himself with letting the secular press carry the heavy water. As the Jesuit Superior Gen indicated, the revolution can wait till 2015.

2. Why take a trip to the precipice just to pull away with what we already know to be true? Why is Cardinal Burke in an unenviable place? Why is Pat Buchanan writing the following conclusion: “Pope Francis is hugely popular. But his worldly popularity has not come without cost to the church he leads and the truths he is sworn to uphold.
‘Who am I to judge?’
says the pope. But wasn’t that always part of the job description? And if not thee, Your Holiness, who?” Why must we no longer know?

3. Let’s see if Pope Francis apologizes for all the Jesuits who taught so much confusion, minimalism, and skepticism in years past. Unfortunately, I witnessed this first hand.



44. De Mattei: Heading towards the 2015 Synod – Numerical defeats never before witnessed by any Pope

October 22, 2014

Rorate Note: The heterodox and their compliant media are trying hard, but there is no way to spin the Synod: it was a huge defeat for Pope Francis.

We had already mentioned it, and Roberto de Mattei explains with more detail below, but it suffices to say the following: in a structure such as the Catholic Church, in which the Pope has such an overwhelming presence (in which he can name, remove, eject, shame, promote, demote, humiliate, praise, suppress, almost at whim), and in which he has a duty and a position that is almost unrivaled in any other organization, an uprising such as that of the past week in extremely debilitating to him.

Let us try to explain it in three different aspects, using the triple approach favored by His Holiness.

First, as several commentators have explained (including Yves Daoudal, here in French), the most controversial paragraphs were not even that controversial. The first (52), on communion for “remarried” divorced is a mere statement of fact: “many fathers” spoke against it, “other fathers” in favor, and that is it. But not even this managed to reach the 2/3 level.




The same can be said of paragraph 55 on homosexuality, which in a sense just repeats what had already been written in a CDF document — but its rejection shows that even this language was too much for many bishops (and indicate that even Joseph Ratzinger’s CDF did not take into full consideration the sentiment of bishops in orthodox regions, including Africa). The new spin for the mainstream media is that “the fact that they discussed previous taboos at all means Pope Francis scored a victory” — which would in other terms mean that Trent was a huge victory for Lutheranism considering the fact that Lutheran theology was fiercely debated in that Council… Absolutely nonsensical.

Second, precisely because of the overwhelming presence of the Pope in the ecclesial structure, when the majority of bishops are aware of the pope’s position, they rarely vote and act against him. The comparison with Vatican II is inevitable: as de Mattei explains below, even in those most controversial final votes of the Council, the mere fact that Pope Paul VI wanted them was persuasive enough to hand him two enormous victories: 2,308 votes in favor and 70 against (3.03%), in Dignitatis Humanae; 2,221 in favor and 88 against (3.96%), in Nostra Aetate.

If the non placet votes in those conciliar votes had reached the levels of the rejected paragraphs in the Synod, it would have been a matter of between 850 and 1,000 votes against the Pope’s position! This would have been understood then as a complete and utter rejection of the papal project, and a clear blockage of the conciliar project at least regarding those items. And remember that in the Council Popes John XXIII and Paul VI did not choose the Fathers at will: other than some minor criteria the composition was formed of almost all bishops and superiors of religious orders. Meanwhile, the Synod is a much smaller body whose composition is picked by the Pope almost at will (the national Conference choose many, but the Pope can pack the numbers in his favor as much as he wants, which he may presumably try to do more strongly in 2015).

A change of a 2,000-year-old unchangeable teaching coming from Scripture and the clear words of Our Lord Jesus Christ himself and Saint Paul the Apostle demands much more than fewer than 2/3 of the handpicked members of a Synod… It was therefore an unprecedented defeat also in numbers. A Odon Vallet said, the risk of a schism is too great – or, at very least, of a complete and enduring estrangement between faithful and pope that is simply unbearable for the very structure of Catholicism. Yes, the structure of the Church has Divine origin, but it also depends, on human terms (as every association of men and women), on mutual identification and respect, and at this moment the Pope is about to lose all support from those Catholics most dedicated to the Church as an organizational structure. The Pope, as any other pope, by the very fact that he is Pope will have the simple majority, but the fact that he does not have an overwhelming majority in those specific questions that were dear to his heart weakened him immensely.

Third, one cannot but remark once again (and be sure that the Synod Fathers themselves noticed it even more) the absolute ungracious attitude of the Pope in having not just published but kept in the final Relatio the paragraphs that were indeed rejected. So the paragraphs that we got were those written by his 6-liberal commission (including Tucho Fernández, with the addition in extremis, after Kasper’s anti-African interview and Pell’s Thursday intervention, of one African and one Australian), regardless of what the consensual Synodal position was. It was an act of brutality — of course it was in his power to do so, but so is in his power not to have a Synod at all. Once he asks for their advice, he should “listen” (isn’t that one of his favored words?) to what is not consensual, not impose his will. Then we are not speaking of a Synod or a Council, but of a Party Congress – the papal version of the Supreme Soviet. Will he force his will down the throats of bishops and faithful? Possibly, but once again the division he will sow will certainly end tragically for everyone and for the very special claims that the Church makes for herself and for the papacy itself.

So we must understand the great and unprecedented defeat: the numbers don’t lie. It is not a matter of getting a simple majority, it is the fact that an absence of an almost unanimous consensual will in a matter that is deeply in the interest of the Pope by a body picked by him is a motion of non-confidence in him and in his views. The great division has just begun, what Le Figaro religious correspondent Jean-Marie Guénois calls (here, in French) the “silent schism” is ready to take hold in vast portions of the Church – and the claims of the papacy are at stake. A large portion of the faithful, the most active and influential, will just dig in. They can wait very patiently, under the mantle of the Virgin.


Heading Towards the 2015 Synod

Roberto de Mattei

Corrispondenza Romana

October 22, 2014

«Das Drama geht weiter!» (The show will go on) said Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich, Bavaria in an interview to “La Repubblica” of October 20th 2014. The show is the Bishops’ Synod that witnessed an unexpected turn of events take place in the Hall.  The Relatio post disceptationem presented on the 13th October, despite the rehashing it underwent, didn’t obtain the expected majority of two-thirds on two crucial points: the admittance of the divorced and remarried to Communion and the opening up to homosexual couples, attesting 104 in favour, 74 not in favour on the first point and 118 for, 62 against, on the second.    In spite of the evident débâcle, Cardinal Marx, one of the most passionate exponents on the progressive wing, said he was satisfied, since revolutionary processes are done in successive stages.  On some themes, he explained, “we took two steps forwards and then one backwards”. The retreat, nonetheless, was forced by a much wider resistance from the Synod Fathers than what had been envisaged. In order to understand the significance of the event, we may recall, that at the Second Vatican Council, regardless of the bitter debate in the Hall, the most contested documents, like Dignitatis Humanae and Nostra Aetate, were approved by 2,308 votes against 70 in the first, and 2,221 against 88 in the second.  If then it was a majority consensus, today the split is evident.

The Church today is a battlefield, as it has been many times since Nicaea to Vatican II, where there have always been clashes, not between conservatives and progressives, but between Catholics who don’t want to touch an iota of the Divine deposit and those who want to introduce novelties to this deposit.  



Pope Francis’ sentence “God is not afraid of novelty” should be understood in a different sense than what the Pontiff intended: it may simply mean that God is not afraid of the “innovators”; he destroys their works and assigns the task of defeating them to the defenders of the unchangeable Magisterium of the Church.

In the field of faith and morality, every exception introduces a rule and every new rule opens the door to a normative system that overturns the old one.  Novelty has a revolutionary importance which should be caught at the embryonic stage. In an interview to “Catholic News Service” Cardinal George Pell, defined the request for Communion to the divorced and remarried as a Trojan horse which opens the way for the recognition of homosexual unions. The number of divorced and remarried who ask to receive Communion is, in reality, irrelevant. What is at stake is something else: it is the acceptance of homosexuality on the part of the Church – considered not as sin or disordered tendency, but as a positive “tension” towards the good, worthy of  pastoral care and juridical protection.

Cardinals Marx and Schönborn have been very clear regarding this and the assistant secretary of the Synod, Monsignor Bruno Forte, student of the Tubingen heretical school, carried out their wishes, revealing himself as the author of the most indecent passages in the first Relatio.  The great majority of the Synod Fathers rejected the scandalous paragraphs, but what doctrine does not admit is admitted in praxis, waiting for sanction at the next Synod. For many lay, priests and bishops, homosexuality may be practiced, even if not accepted by law, because it does not signify grave sin.  This is linked to the question of extra-marital cohabitation. If sexuality outside of marriage is not a grave sin, but a positive value provided that it is expressed in a stable and sincere way, it deserves a blessing from the priest and legalization by the State. If it is a value, it is also a right, and if sexuality exists as a right, the step from cohabitation of the divorced to homosexual marriage is inevitable.

The doctrinal Magisterium of the Church, which has never varied in the span of two thousand years, teaches that the practice of homosexuality is to be considered a vice against nature, which causes not only the eternal damnation of individuals, but the moral ruin of society as well.  Saint Augustine in “The Confessions” sums up the thought of the Fathers: “Sins against nature, therefore, like the sin of Sodom, are abominable and deserve punishment whenever and wherever they are committed. If all nations committed them, all alike would be held guilty of the same charge in God’s law”. (The Confessions, c. III, p. 8).

Over the centuries the Pastors of the Church have gathered and passed on this perennial teaching. So Christian morality has, without reserve, always condemned homosexuality and established that this vice cannot expect at all to be legalized by juridical order, nor promoted by political power.  When the European Parliament voted its first resolution in favour of pseudo-homosexual–marriage in 1994, in his address of February 20th John Paul II reiterated that:  “the juridical approval of homosexual practice is not morally admissible […] With this resolution the European Parliament was asked to legitimize a moral disorder. Parliament wrongfully conferred an institutional value to deviant behavior which is not in conformity with the plan of God. […] Forgetting the words of Christ – ‘The truth shall set you free’ (John, 8,32) – they have attempted to suggest to the inhabitants of our continent, that  moral evil, deviation and a type of slavery are a way to freedom, falsifying the essence of the family itself.”

A crack in this doctrinal edifice opened on the 28th July 2013, when, on his return flight from Brazil, Pope Francis pronounced the explosive words: “Who am I to judge!and from then on they were destined to justify any transgression.  Judgment, with its resulting definition of truths and condemnation of errors, is the jurisdiction par excellence of the Vicar of Christ, supreme guardian and judge [in matters] of faith and morality. Citing Francis’ words, some bishops and cardinals, inside and outside the Synod Hall, asked for the recognition of the positive aspects of unnatural unions.

However, if one of the gravest of sins ceases to be such, the concept of sin itself fails and the Lutheran idea of mercy which had been anathematized by the Council of Trent reappears. In the Justification Canons promulgated on January 13th 1547, we find: “If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy (Canon 12); “that Christ Jesus was given of God to men, as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey” (Canon
21); “that there is no mortal sin but that of infidelity” (Canon27); “let him be anathema”.

We are dealing here with theological themes that have social repercussions which even lay people have the right and duty to face, as it is not only the Synod of 2015 that approaches, but also the year 2017, the fifth centenary of Luther’s Revolution and the first centenary of the Fatima Apparitions.  

What is now underway is not the playful show that Cardinal Marx implied, but an arduous battle which involves both Heaven and earth.  The last acts will be dramatic, but the epilogue will certainly be triumphant, according to the Divine promise confirmed by Our Lady at the Cova da Iria in 1917.

May the Immaculate, deign to bestow continuous purity of thought and action to all those in the heat of the battle and who defend the integrity of the Catholic Faith with courage.  



45. Father’s job is to say “No.”

Posted on 25 October 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

I have been saying for a very long time now that the Pope’s first job is to say “No.”

The job of bishops, priests, fathers in general, is to say “No.”

Whether your children are plotting to make a go-cart that should be able to sail off the roof or your children are plotting to confuse the people of God with aberrant notions about the two natures of Christ (or Communion for the… well…), Father’s job is to say “No.”  And as the erring children insist more loudly, Father’s response becomes more firm.

Sometimes I have been in situations wherein I have been challenged to perform liturgical abuses.  At first, I give short answers: “No.”  As the ex-nun liturgy co-ordinatrix continues to insist that that’s-how-they-do-it-here, I lengthen my explanation to “Noooooooo!”




And so I turn to Fr. Hunwicke (whose prose is delightful). He has a great piece today wherein he riffs on Pope Francis’s now famous “Who am I to judge?”  HERE

Here is a sample:


I have no problem with the idea of a pope who keeps anathemas under his camauro. A pontiff who issues a Syllabus of Errors seems to me a pontiff who is earning his paycheck.

When Pio Nono, with the assent of Vatican I, issued his admirable negative, “The Holy Spirit was not promised to the Successors of Peter so that by his revelation they should reveal new teaching”, I would have applauded. Three cheers for the author of Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Cardinal Ratzinger’s insistence that the Pope is but the humble servant of Tradition had me raising my glass to drink his toast. (Indeed, during his Pontificate I was rarely sober.)


really wanted to post the whole thing, but I also want to force you over to his place to read the rest.


3 out of 25 responses:

1. Bravo, Fr. Z. We need to hear this more often when the currently faddish buzzword is that we should be “making our parishes more welcoming.” (i.e. not saying ‘no’).

I’m with you. Sometimes, when it comes to requested liturgical abuses or oddities, I lengthen my response from ‘No’ to ‘Nooooo’ and (if circumstances warrant) the *really long* ‘No, because the liturgy belongs to Christ’s Church, not the 10 families at (XYZ) Parish who want it their way.’ –Cincinnati priest

2. At last someone has spoken the words that came to my mind the moment I read those unfortunate words of Fr. Bergoglio, as he calls himself. Who are you to judge??! You’re the POPE!!!

3. Indeed. And when Francis alleged that God is not afraid of new things, that was a very scary moment in modern Church history. There is nothing new under the sun, yet this Pontiff says that!?

If Francis, by saying “Who am I to judge“, meant the sinner, then okay, as we are to love the sinner, but hate the sin. But he left that hanging; I think now deliberately. Then last week the “God is not afraid of new things” line.

No wonder Benedict retired, there are forces at work behind the scenes that are terrifying. The smoke of Satan.

I shudder at the Synod v.2015 and where that will end up



46. The Pope is not the problem

By Phil Lawler, October 23, 2014

Thoroughly rattled by the stories that emerged from the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, many faithful Catholics are now worried that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a dangerous direction—and perhaps even doing so intentionally. Their fears are understandable, in light of some confusing messages from Rome. But like my colleague Jeff Mirus, I am confident that those fears are misplaced.

Believe me: I understand the concerns. Regular readers will recall that while the Synod meetings were taking place, I produced a four-part series on “What’s Wrong with this Synod.” I voiced my own concerns about the bishops’ apparent unwillingness to address fundamental questions about the meaning of marriage; the censorship that produced a badly skewed public understanding of the Synod’s workthe fixation on issues of interest to the affluent secularized nations, where faith is on the wane;
and the massive failure of marriage-preparation programs.

Some commentators have sought to reassure worried Catholics that nothing untoward happened at the Synod—that the Barque of Peter is sailing on smooth seas, under favorable winds. I disagree. With this Synod the Church ran into a serious squall.

The efforts to manipulate the October sessions were blatant and unrelenting. Under new rules, adopted for this meeting (and cynically justified by the claim that they would encourage open debate), the speeches of the Synod fathers were not made public. The world heard only driblets of the bishops’ conversations, filtered through the Vatican press office. A preliminary report on the discussions—which, in the opinion of many prelates, was not an accurate summary—was released to the public without formal approval. When the Synod fathers voted not to approve several paragraphs in a final report, those controversial paragraphs were included anyway, with the negative vote noted, so that they could remain under discussion.

Predictably that preliminary report, with its controversial language, has received far more public attention than the final Synod document. It is virtually impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Synod’s main organizers wanted this result. Consider this: the preliminary report, the Relatio post disceptationem, was released immediately in several languages; the Synod’s final report is still not available in an official English translation.

So naturally the secular media fastened on the Relatio as the main story of the Synod, to the exclusion of what the Synod fathers actually said. “No Consensus at Vatican as Synod Ends,” read the New York Times headline. Of course there was plenty of consensus: on an entire document, with most of its passages approved by lopsided majorities. But that message—the message of the full Synod assembly, rather than a handful of organizers—has not reached the general public.




Russell Shaw, an acute analyst of Catholic affairs, observed that the tumultuous proceedings of the Synod could be attributed to one of two possibilities. Either the organizers did not realize the strength of the forces they were unleashing, or they were attempting to present the full assembly with a fait accompli. Shaw concluded: “In charity, I favor the first explanation—culpable naïveté—but others will see it differently.”

In a strained effort to make the argument that the Synod was not manipulated, the Jesuit columnist Father James Martin, writing in the Jesuit magazine America, said that the assembly benefited from “a rather ‘Jesuit’ model of decision-making.” There is considerable irony in that claim, since the most controversial passage of the Relatio, on the acceptance of homosexuals, was evidently written by Archbishop Bruno Forte with a substantial assist from another Jesuit journalist, Father Antonio Spadaro. My friend Robert Royal reported from the scene that Archbishop Forte and Father Spadaro exchanged a very visible thumbs-up sign when that passage was read aloud.

Yes, there were unquestionably some serious machinations at the Synod. But then, as Jeff Mirus has also observed, there are always machinations at any assembly in which strong-minded people try to advance their own ideas. Far more troubling, to faithful Catholics, is the abundant evidence that Pope Francis was a party to the manipulation.

It was the Holy Father, after all, who gave Cardinal Walter Kasper an opportunity to present his own favorite proposal to a consistory of cardinals in February. The Pope praised the German cardinal’s presentation, and then remained silent as Cardinal Kasper repeatedly hinted that he was speaking for the Pontiff. The Pope appointed the committee of prelates who drafted the Relatio, and anyone familiar with the Catholic hierarchy, looking down the list of names, could have guessed what was in store. Pope Francis reportedly saw that final report before it was made public, and made no move—then or later—to block its release or distance himself from it.

Any one of those papal moves—all of them, really—could be explained. But Catholics of a conservative or traditionalist bent were not inclined to listen to explanations. They had already seen what they interpreted as clear indications of the Pope’s own views, ranging from his damaging “who am I to judge” comment to his shocking demotion of Cardinal Raymond Burke. When Pope Francis told an Argentine reporter that he enjoyed debating conservative bishops, that seemed to clinch the point. Insofar as such labels are useful in Catholic affairs, the Pope thinks of himself as a liberal.

Fair enough. Pope Francis will often make statements—has often made statements—that unsettle those of us who are ordinarily classified as “conservative” Catholics. He will urge us to take a different perspective. He will criticize us for refusing to accept new ideas. Criticism is often difficult to accept, especially for those who have been fighting intellectual battles for decades. But if we cannot accept correction from a pastor, we are treading down a very dangerous spiritual path.

In the past week I have been dismayed to see some “conservative” commentators write about Pope Francis with the same sort of vitriolic disdain that Father Richard McBrien showed for St. John Paul II in the 1980s and 1990s. If that contempt for the Vicar of Christ was wrong then—and it was—it is wrong now.

Outside the tight circle of opinionated Catholics, and in spite of the confusion caused by the Synod, Pope Francis retains his phenomenal popularity with the general public. It is significant, I think, that his fiercest critics use this popularity as part of their indictment against him. Yes, I realize that our society has trouble distinguishing good from evil. Yes, I agree that playing to the crowd—demagoguery—is dishonorable. But popularity in itself is not a bad thing! If he is encouraging the world to look upon the Catholic Church with fresh and even sympathetic eyes, Pope Francis is doing an immeasurable service.

The Synod fathers—including, I assume, those who were angry about the attempted manipulation of the meeting—reportedly gave Pope Francis a long and loud ovation after the address with which he closed the session. I strongly recommend a careful and dispassionate reading of that remarkable speech. In it, the Holy Father helps us all to understand why this Synod meeting was so contentious, and why we should not be overly troubled by the turmoil.

In that speech Pope Francis warns against some of the temptations that afflict Catholic prelates—and, I would add, by extension, Catholic commentators. He warns that some Catholics concentrate on the letter of the law, to the exclusion of the spirit, while others extol a “a deceptive mercy that binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them;” some want to turn stones into bread, and others want to come down off the Cross. All of these warnings echo the words of Jesus.

If there is one clear theme in the teaching of Pope Francis, it is the demand for Catholics to go out to the “peripheries,” to draw people closer to Christ. Unfortunately we are lazy creatures, and we give ourselves excuses for avoiding this evangelical duty. As I read the Pope’s closing address, and especially that section on the particular temptation that different sorts of Catholics face, I saw him attacking those excuses, prodding us to recognize how we are failing, even sometimes when we think we are doing our best.

Some Catholics—call them conservatives if you like—have a healthy desire to fight against the destructive ideas that are steadily gaining ground in our society. But we (and I put myself squarely in this group) may not take into account that when we attack the ideas, those who hold them recoil, take a defensive posture, and draw further away from the truth. Other Catholics– call them liberals—profess more sympathy toward the people who follow destructive ideas. But by failing to correct them, they allow those poor people to continue injuring themselves.

To put it a bit differently, conservative Catholics tend to slip into the belief that we can convert people by arguing with them, while liberals believe they can convert people by agreeing with them. Both are wrong. To bring people into the Church we need to meet them, befriend them, listen to them, accompany them, evangelize them. That is the fundamental message of Pope Francis, and to drive home that message he is willing to tolerate—perhaps even to encourage—a raucous Synod meeting.



Yes, the October session of the Synod was messy, confusing, and contentious. But lively debates can be healthy, especially when there are real disagreements to be aired and resolved. The history of the Church is dotted with heated disputes. Often—as with the Council of Jerusalem, the earliest such episode—they are preludes to new bursts of evangelical activity.

To be sure, the October session of the Synod left important arguments unresolved. During the coming year those arguments will be hashed out, thoroughly but not always decorously. Inevitably there will be more attempts to manipulate the media, more inaccurate reports, more charges and countercharges. The process will be frustrating for those who believe that the life of the Church should always be placid and quiet. But the Church is more interested in seeking the truth and presenting it in new ways to a new generation than in maintaining a smooth public façade.

The coming months and the continuing debate will also be frustrating for those who, like myself, want to see every argument resolved, every intellectual enemy defeated. We may need to remind ourselves frequently that the work of the Church is not to win arguments, but to win souls.


5 out of 20 comments:

1. To quote Cardinal Burke the Pope had done harm siding with those whose agenda would weaken the Church’s teaching and marriage/homosexuality. Sure we must befriend, listen, accompany them to a point. But the Gospel demands a willingness to change and conform one’s life to the truth. Metanoia. Popes can be wrong.

2. If the synod was manipulated, then, it was manipulated with the pope’s approval. There is no getting around that fact. This is no way for a pope to behave.

3. I’ve talked recently with many faithful Catholics (i.e. the kind who still go to Mass, Confession regularly, have their kids baptized, and try to live by the Church’s teachings passed on to them by their parents, etc.). They are not happy with the shenanigans of this pope, his many outrageous and careless comments to secular papers, and the constant belittling they perceive from him and those he associates with. Catholics have to love him because he is the pope, but we don’t have to like him.

4. St. JPII was criticized for defending the faith. Francis is being criticized for undermining it. Quite a difference, no?

5. I grow weary of constantly having to explain (to myself and others) what Pope Francis says and does. And candidly, the explanations are beginning to seem a little strained.



47. “There was the Council of the Fathers – the real Council – but there was also the Council of the media.”

Posted on 6 November 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

I was recently sent a link to a video (Pope Benedict XVI speaks about the false Vatican II 5:29) of one of the last appearances of Benedict XVI during his pontificate*. This is the famous audience during which he spoke about the “Council of the media”. wp_youtube]CfTWC5lPshM[/wp_youtube

I think it is interesting to compare Benedict’s words to what happened during the recent Synod of Bishops, and what is likely to happen at the next Synod, next year.

Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with the parish priests and the clergy of Rome, February 14, 2013


2 out of 15 responses:

1. A great and holy man expressing his unparalleled insight into how the Council was high jacked by secular forces. A convert at age 19, I was so turned off by the banalization of the liturgy, that I dropped out for 20 years after the council. I wish I had the insight and fortitude to stick with Church in its hour of need.

The Liturgy is vastly important to the Body of Christ on many planes. If the Evil One can disrupt the Liturgy, how many souls he can separate from their Master!

2. First of all, I really miss Pope Benedict, not only because of his orthodoxy, but because I think I just took it for granted that the Pope would always be someone brilliant, clear-thinking and precise and careful in his speech. I never had to wonder what Pope Benedict “really” meant.

I think he’s right about the Council – of 50 years ago. The media, to a great extent, was able to impose their vision of what was happening, which they saw and expressed in political terms. However, I don’t think even that Council was exempt from participants who also saw it in political terms and in many ways picked up the media interpretation and ran with it, giving us the “Spirit of Vatican II.” It wasn’t the media that destroyed the liturgy, brought immorality into the seminaries, and turned sisters into feminist harridans; obviously, journalists approved of and praised all this, but they didn’t do it themselves. However, I think the Spirit of Vatican II would have been nowhere near as effective if the journalistic “magnification” hadn’t made it seem bigger than it was and made it look like resistance was futile.

I think it’s slightly different this time around, however, because the same forces (and even some of the same people, alas!) who found that their way of thinking and acting happily coincided with that of the secular journalists 50 years ago now realize that they can use this force strategically.



The peculiar and controlled timing of materials released during the Synod, the documents that seemed to come from nowhere and exist just long enough to get out into the public sphere, and the supposedly “leaked” observations of participants indicate to me that at least some of the people involved in the Synod understood the power of secular journalism to shape the agenda or at least define the terms in the mind of the rest of the world outside of Rome. I’m not sure what can be done to prevent this in the future.



48. Top Vatican jobs: The ‘Francis
effect‘ on the Roman Curia

By Andrea Gagliarducci,
November 10, 2014

Rome, Italy (CNA/EWTN News) The latest round of major appointments to top positions in the Vatican hierarchy shows that change is afoot as Pope Francis puts his stamp on the Roman Curia.

But the transitions are clearly designed to bring about a change of mentality more than a simple restructuring of Vatican departments. On Nov. 8, Pope Francis carried out a series of appointments that look to be a prelude to the complete reshaping of the curia.

The Pope has named British Archbishop Paul Gallagher at the Vatican’s secretary for Relations with States, replacing French Moroccan Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

Archbishop Mamberti, in turn, moves to the Church’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, where American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is outgoing to the Order of Malta.

Each move reveals more about Pope Francis’ vision for the Church.


A change in diplomacy

Archbishop Gallagher’s appointment as “Secretary for Relations with States” signals that a new diplomatic course is underway with Pope Francis.

Gallagher is a long-standing diplomat, who has served in the nunciature of the Council of Europe and as the papal ambassador, or nuncio, to Burundi and Guatemala. Most recently he was serving as nuncio to Australia. He is considered an astute, open-minded and humble worker.

He has also been chosen because of his ability to fulfill the new diplomatic criteria: Church diplomats under Pope Francis are being urged to reduce the distance between themselves and mainstream society, engaging the secular world more in conversation.

A member of the Pope’s diplomatic corps told CNA Nov. 9 that they have been asked “to seek to understand situations and try to adapt to them in order to bring the light of the Gospel to them.”

Sources say Archbishop Gallagher was the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s first choice for the position as his second-in-command.

His appointment comes at a crucial moment in the Vatican, as the new Cardinal George Pell-led Secretariat for the Economy and the Secretariat of State are defining their reciprocal competencies.

By the end of this month, a meeting of the heads of Vatican departments with Pope Francis will likely give a final shape to the Curia reform that, among other things, led to the creation of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Sources maintain that the agenda of the meeting does not include an open discussion. They expect the unveiling of the plan for streamlining the Roman Curia, which would go into effect after the next meeting of the Council of Cardinals, scheduled for Dec. 9-11.


A change in court

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti was moved from his post as the Secretary for the Relations with States to the Apostolic Signatura, often called the Church’s “supreme court.”

Archbishop Mamberti was appointed as “foreign minister” post in 2006. He was one of the first picks of the Secretariat led by former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The archbishop was widely expected to be transferred to a new post under Cardinal Parolin’s leadership. The Apostolic Signatura is a soft exit.

Mamberti arrives to the position as the Vatican reexamines the steps that lead to decisions on marriage annulments. In August of this year, Pope Francis established a commission to propose procedural simplifications, while also safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of matrimony.

In a Nov. 5 meeting with canon lawyers, Pope Francis said some procedures are currently so long and financially burdensome that people “give up.”

In his new position, Archbishop Mamberti will be in charge – among other competencies – of final appeals for cases of marriage annulments as well as cases of conflict of competencies among Vatican dicasteries.

Sources say that appeals for nullity have increased in recent years and that Pope Francis wanted a prefect of his own appointment to decide them.

The position at the head of the highest of the Vatican’s courts traditionally merits the “berretta rossa,” the red hat of the cardinal. Archbishop Mamberti will be expected to made cardinal in the next consistory.




Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, 66, has been made the patron of the Order of Malta, an honorific charge which is usually assigned to cardinals who are at the end of their ecclesiastical career.

Over the course of the first year-and-a-half of this pontificate, Cardinal Burke has voiced his concern with some of the choices being made in Church governance. Nevertheless, as an active cardinal living in Rome, his capacity to opine will remain the same if not greater – since no significant office will be attached to him.

Right after the conclusion of October’s Synod of Bishops, he granted an interview to the Spanish Catholic weekly “Vida Nueva,” saying that during the synod “many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a rudder.”

Cardinal Burke responded that Vida Nueva, a left-of-center media outlet, had “gravely distorted” his statements.

His appointment to the Order of Malta is not a surprise. The cardinal himself publicly stated he had been informed of it. His appointment to the Order of Malta is the latest in a gradual distancing from the life of the curia.

Pope Francis is looking for a softer approach to applying Church law from the Apostolic Signatura, and he thinks he’s found that in Archbishop Mamberti.

Another round of appointments are expected soon in the Vatican, all intended to reshape the Church’s ‘top management’ to fit with Pope Francis’ vision for a mission to the world with more emphasis on attraction to the Gospel.



49. Latest Vatican Reshuffle Reinforces the ‘Francis Effect

By Andrea Gagliarducci,
CNA/EWTN NEWS, November 11, 2014

The Pope made key changes last weekend, intended to help bring about a change of mentality in the Vatican hierarchy.
Vatican City — The latest round of major appointments to top positions in the Vatican hierarchy shows that change is afoot as Pope Francis puts his stamp on the Roman Curia.

But the transitions are clearly designed to bring about a change of mentality more than a simple restructuring of Vatican departments.

On November 8, Pope Francis carried out a series of appointments that look to be a prelude to the complete reshaping of the Curia.

The Pope has named British Archbishop Paul Gallagher as the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, replacing French Moroccan Archbishop Dominique Mamberti.

Archbishop Mamberti, in turn, moves to the Church’s highest court, the Apostolic Signatura, where American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is outgoing to the Order of Malta.

Each move reveals more about Pope Francis’ vision for the Church.


A Change in Diplomacy

Archbishop Gallagher’s appointment signals that a new diplomatic course is under way with Pope Francis.

Gallagher is a long-standing diplomat, who has served in the Nunciature of the Council of Europe and as the papal ambassador, or nuncio, to Burundi and Guatemala. Most recently, he was serving as nuncio to Australia. He is considered an astute, open-minded and humble worker.

He has also been chosen because of his ability to fulfill the new diplomatic criteria: Church diplomats under Pope Francis are being urged to reduce the distance between themselves and mainstream society, engaging the secular world more in conversation.

A member of the Pope’s diplomatic corps told CNA Nov. 9 that they have been asked “to seek to understand situations and try to adapt to them in order to bring the light of the Gospel to them.”

Sources say Archbishop Gallagher was the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s first choice for the position as his second in command.

His appointment comes at a crucial moment in the Vatican, as the new Cardinal George Pell-led Secretariat for the Economy and the Secretariat of State are defining their reciprocal responsibilities.

By the end of this month, a meeting of the heads of Vatican departments with Pope Francis will likely give a final shape to the Curia reform that, among other things, has led to the creation of the Secretariat for the Economy.

Sources maintain that the agenda of the meeting does not include an open discussion. They expect the unveiling of the plan for streamlining the Roman Curia, which would go into effect after the next meeting of the Council of Cardinals, scheduled for Dec. 9-11.


A Change in Court

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti was moved from his post as the secretary for the relations with states to the Apostolic Signatura, often called the Church’s “supreme court.”

Archbishop Mamberti was appointed as a “foreign minister” post in 2006. He was one of the first picks of the Secretariat led by former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The archbishop was widely expected to be transferred to a new post under Cardinal Parolin’s leadership. The Apostolic Signatura is a soft exit.





Mamberti arrives to the position as the Vatican re-examines the steps that lead to decisions on marriage annulments. In August of this year, Pope Francis established a commission to propose procedural simplifications, while also safeguarding the principle of the indissolubility of matrimony.

In a Nov. 5 meeting with canon lawyers, Pope Francis said some procedures are currently so long and financially burdensome that people “give up.”

In his new position, Archbishop Mamberti will be in charge — among other responsibilities — of final appeals for cases of marriage annulments as well as cases of conflict of competencies among Vatican dicasteries.

Sources say that appeals for nullity have increased in recent years and that Pope Francis wanted a prefect of his own appointment to decide them.

The position at the head of the highest of the Vatican’s courts traditionally merits the “berretta rossa,” the red hat of the cardinal. Archbishop Mamberti will be expected to made cardinal in the next consistory.  


Cardinal Burke

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, 66, has been made the patron of the Order of Malta, an honorific charge which is usually assigned to cardinals who are at the end of their ecclesiastical careers.

Cardinal Burke has voiced his concern with some of the choices being made in Church governance. Nevertheless, as an active cardinal living in Rome, his capacity to communicate his opinions will remain the same if not greater — since no significant office will be attached to him.

Right after the conclusion of October’s Synod of Bishops, he granted an interview to the Spanish Catholic weekly Vida Nueva, reportedly saying that during the synod “many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a rudder.”

Cardinal Burke responded that Vida Nueva, a left-of-center media outlet, had “gravely distorted” his statements.

His appointment to the Order of Malta is not a surprise. The cardinal himself publicly stated he had been informed of it. His appointment to the Order of Malta is the latest in a gradual distancing from the life of the Curia.

Pope Francis is looking for a softer approach to applying Church law from the Apostolic Signatura, and he thinks he’s found that in Archbishop Mamberti.

Another round of appointments are expected soon in the Vatican, all intended to reshape the Church’s “top management” to fit with Pope Francis’ vision for a mission to the world with more emphasis on attraction to the Gospel.

10 selected comments:

1. Does anyone really know what the Francis effect is?

I am all for engaging secular society.  It is the way of the apostles.  I just find myself wondering if the engagement we’re talking about today is a bold and brave one that is to be built on core Church truths or one that seeks to obtain new truths from the secular world.  If we find ourselves being accepted by the world we’ll know, paradoxically, that our approach is not in keeping with the mission of the Church.  For the world is not aligned with God’s ways and, in many ways, seeks to destroy the Church, primarily by refashioning Her in the world’s image. 

So I say engage and do so aggressively and with great enthusiasm.  But do so with great caution and with both eyes aimed on the Cross.

2. Pope Francis’ restructuring of the Curia is a bit scary.  It sounds like the Church is conforming to the World, rather than seeking the World to conform to the teachings of our Lord and God, Jesus.  Lord have mercy on us all!

3. My criticism is that while Francis chases the lost sheep he leaves the ones not lost without a shepherd, due to a lack of a clear teaching and leading.

4. It is encouraging to hear that although Cardinal Burke is being transferred to another position, his opinions will still be very publicized.  All Catholic communications organizations, radio and TV programs, newspapers, and other forms of 
media should strive to insure that his views are not ignored.

5. Unfortunately, based on what we have been seeing of late “engaging the secular world” sounds too much like compromising with the secular world.  I would be happy to be wrong.  Conforming to the world would mean the Church would have little to offer a society separated from God, causing it to become as irrelevant as mainline Protestantism.

6. If the Catholic Church weren’t the one, true church with full deposit of faith, I would certainly leave it.  Where I live, it is filled to the brim with Democrat socialists who believe everything the mainstream media tells them and hardly anything that the green catechism tells them.  In all their “love” for the poor, they are totally blind to their short-sighted policies that create so many more poor.  Seems like our pope wants to dialogue with everybody except those who believe what the Catholic Church actually teaches!

7. Just one question. Is the pope, the pope?  I doubt it.  There have been 37 anti-popes in the past. Why would this generation be immune? Everyone knows there is something wrong with Pope Francis. He has no respect for Tradition, for the Faith or for the dignity of Cardinals or Bishops or priests who hold fast to the Tradition handed on to us for thousands of generations. I do not believe he is the Pope. What does that make me? 

8. When I first read about “the Francis effect,” it was in the context of a hypothesis that the Pope’s personality was increasing interest in the Catholic Church among lapsed and non-Catholics. I don’t remember who first propagated that notion, but I subsequently read that it didn’t materialize into concrete awakenings of faith.
I have no idea what “the Francis effect” is supposed to mean in this article, but it seems to have a completely different meaning here.





If you read “Jesuits” by Malachi Martin you will understand this pope very well. He is a typical Jesuit Modernist. The Catholic Church is just one path of many. We need “inculturation”, maybe a rain dance at the consecration. May God have mercy on His Holy Church.

10. I’m tired of Pope Francis. He’s making mockery of the Church left in his care. Surely, he will pay the repercussion. I don’t think I see him as a pope any longer, but as antichrist. “If you love me keep my commandment”, says Christ. Pope Francis hates Christ; that’s why he’s devising means for people to follow Satan, and those he’s working for. All the ways he can devise and deprive souls from Christ is all in his agenda. I pray the faithful read the handwriting on the wall and stick to their gun of keeping the Lord’s commandments. Woe unto him that leads souls astray. Catholic is the faith, that’s why we must defend her. Luckily, in my country Nigeria, the teachings of Christ still remains the same. We’re being reminded at every Mass that God is Unchangeable God, who cannot change His standards because of us. Rather, for our own good and salvation, we must meet up with His standard to make heaven. Don’t blame Pope Francis for causing your missing heaven. Because he too will be busy answering his query of leading the flock astray. You have the Bible and Catechism to guard you. But you decided to drop your cross (required by Christ) to follow Pope Francis’ easy way out. Determine where you want to spend your eternity: heaven or hell. Your will is your will! It’s in your hand!!



50. Who am I to judge?

November, 2014

Cardinal Francis George said he’d like to ask Pope Francis if he fully grasps that in some quarters, he’s created the impression Catholic doctrine is up for grabs.

Does Pope Francis realize, for example, “what has happened just by that phrase, ‘Who am I to judge?’?”

Francis’ signature sound-bite, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago said, “has been very misused … because he was talking about someone who has already asked for mercy and been given absolution, whom he knows well.”

(Francis uttered the line in 2013, in response to a question about a Vatican cleric accused of gay relationships earlier in his career.)

“That’s entirely different than talking to somebody who demands acceptance rather than asking for forgiveness,” he said.

“Does he not realize the repercussions? Perhaps he doesn’t,” George said. “I don’t know whether he’s conscious of all the consequences of some of the things he’s said and done that raise doubts in people’s minds.”

“The question is why he doesn’t he clarify” these ambiguous statements, George said. “Why is it necessary that apologists have to bear the burden of trying to put the best possible face on it?”

He said he also wonders if Francis realizes how his rhetoric has created expectations “he can’t possibly meet.”

“That’s what worries me,” George said. “At a certain moment, people who have painted him as a player in their own scenarios about changes in the Church will discover that’s not who he is.”

At that stage, George warned, “He’ll get not only disillusionment, but opposition, which could be harmful to his effectiveness.”

Second, George said he’d like to ask Francis who is providing him advice — which, he said, has become the “big question” about this pope.

“Obviously he’s getting input from somewhere,” George said. “Much of it he collects himself, but I’d love to know who’s truly shaping his thinking.”

Third, George noted that Francis often makes references to the Devil and the biblical notion of the end-times, but said it’s not clear how that shapes his vision and agenda.

Among other things, George recalled that one of Francis’ favorite books is “The Lord of the World” by Robert Hugh Benson, a converted Catholic priest and son of a former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s an apocalyptic fantasy, written in 1907, culminating in a showdown between the Church and a charismatic anti-Christ figure.

George said he’d like to ask Francis a simple question: “Do you really believe that?”

“I hope before I die I’ll have the chance to ask him how you want us to understand what you’re doing, when you put [the end-times] before us as a key to it all,” he said.

Perhaps, George said, the sense that the end is near explains why Francis “seems to be in a hurry.”

So far, George said, he hasn’t been able to talk these things out with the new boss.

“I didn’t know him well before he was elected, and since then I haven’t had a chance to go over [to Rome] for any meetings because I’ve been in treatment,” he said.

Getting some quality time, as George describes it, wouldn’t be just about indulging his personal curiosity, but also being a good bishop.

“You’re supposed to govern in communion with the successor of Peter, so it’s important to have some meeting of minds,” he said. “I certainly respect [Francis] as pope, but I don’t yet really have an understanding of, ‘What are we doing here?’ ”

Interview with Cardinal Francis George
by John L. Allen, Jr., November 16, 2014:


51. Francis Effect: dissenting priest says “I’m officially outside the Church but very much in line with Pope Francis” (Traditionalist)

By Remnant Clergy, November 12, 2014, Excerpts from Life Site News*

A Minnesota parish priest has openly defied an order from his archbishop to cancel a talk at his church by the Irish renegade Redemptorist Tony Flannery.

Father Michael Tegeder has defied Archbishop John Nienstedt of Minneapolis-St. Paul before, and even “prayerfully” urged him to resign his episcopate rather than persist in his opposition to a pro-marriage law. Now he’s hosted a priest [the suspended Tony Flannery] who dissents from the Magisterium on married priests, women priests, openness to homosexual relationships, and contraception.

… Flannery and Tegeder both invoke the name of Pope Francis in defence of their dissent. “I’m officially outside the Church,” Flannery told LifeSiteNews, “but very much in line with Pope Francis.”

*Minnesota pastor defies archbishop, hosts talk by suspended priest who opposes Catholic teaching

By Steve Weatherbe, November 10, 2014


2 out of 3 comments:

-Father Michael Tegeder needs to be excommunicated. Heretics that openly defy their superior lack the obedience to serve as a priest. -Doreen

-The way things are going Father Tegeder will be made a Cardinal. -Stephen



52. Francis. He puzzles me sometimes.

Posted on 13 November 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

A reader’s comment:

I thought when Cardinal Bergoglio was elevated to Pope Francis, taking some of his first public remarks as a sign of things to come, that his main focus would be on a) cleaning up the Curia and b) setting an example for present and future bishops on living a life closer to Christ (as opposed to being too wrapped up in things of this world). My initial impressions was that he would set an example of humility (one pundit observed the press stressing this so much that the pundit referred to Francis as Francis the Humble), simple living, and simple evangelization.

Pope Francis was in his late 70s when elected, and his time to would be limited. Pope Benedict, being a theologian, spent his time shoring up Catholic Doctrine; Pope John Paul II, being much younger than most Popes, had the luxury of time. My assumption was that because of Pope Francis’ age, his stress would be on a return simple evangelization, and a reform of the Curia. In light of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, I am now not so sure. In his short time at the Vatican, nothing but confusion and division have come about. If anything, he seems intent on finishing up what the “Spirit of Vatican II” began. Many priests and theologians of his generation never got over the disappointment of Humanae Vitae. I think one way or another we will come to know Pope Francis better after the completion of the Ordinary Synod of the Family.



53. Days after 2014 Synod closes, CDF responds to question on absolution for civilly remarried

Posted on 14 November 2014 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Updated 14 November, original published on November 13, 2014 (Comments in parentheses are by Fr. Z.)

At the French language site L’Homme Nouveau there is an interesting post about a question a priest posed to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  He asked the Congregation:

«Can a confessor 
(a priest with faculties to receive sacramental confessions) give absolution to a penitent who, having married in a religious manner, has contracted a second union after divorce?»

The CDF responded with a letter date 22 October 2014! Think about that in light of the dates of the recent Synod of Bishops, 5-19 October.

The CDF gave a standard reply, underscoring that it is possible to absolve such a person, provided that she has a firm purpose of amendment. In other words, yes, but under the same conditions as any other sinner: they must confess sin, express resolution not to sin again, and emendation of life. If civilly married couples cannot separate, or even reconcile with the true spouse, or if they must remain together for the sake of child-rearing, then they must resolve to live as “brother and sister”.

The CDF cites Familiaris Consortio, which some, on the opposite side of the issue and response, deem to be outdated, even though it is only 33 years old. Apparently the CDF does not consider the Magisterium of St. John Paul II to be outdated.

In no way does the Congregation suggest that absolution can be given without surety on the part of the confessor that there a firm purpose of amendment.

This, of course, has implications for Holy Communion. We must not receive Communion if we know we are not in the state of grace. If you cannot be absolved (or can be), then there are implications for admission to Communion.




Here is the translation from the French (see

To the question of a French priest: “May a confessor grant absolution to a penitent who, having been married in a religious manner, has contracted a second union after divorce?”

October 22, 2014, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith answered:

One cannot exclude a priori divorced and remarried of the faithful from a penitential approach which would lead to sacramental Reconciliation with God and therefore also Eucharistic communion. Pope John Paul II in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (n.84) , contemplated just such a possibility and stipulated its conditions : “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.” (cf. also Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, #29).

The penitential approach to be undertaken must take into account the following elements:
1. Confirm the validity of the religious marriage in respect to the truth , carefully avoiding the conveying of any impression [whatsoever] of a form of “catholic divorce”.
2- Determine eventually if the persons, with the help of grace, can separate themselves from their new partner and be reconciled with those from whom they have [originally] separated.
3- Invite the divorced remarried persons, who for serious reasons (for example the children) cannot separate themselves from their spouse, to live as “brother and sister”.

In all respects, absolution can only be granted on the condition of being assured of a genuine contrition, namely “a sorrow of mind and a detestation for sin committed with the purpose of not sinning in the future.” (Council of Trent, Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance, C. 4). Along these lines, one cannot validly absolve a divorced remarried person who has not made the firm resolution to “not sin again” in the future and thus abstain from acts proper to married persons, and to this end doing everything which is within their power.

Luis F. Ladaria, sj, archevêque titulaire de Thibica, Secrétaire.


The CDF’s response upholds the integrity of all the sacraments involved, Matrimony, Penance, and, of course, Eucharist.

Update 14 November:

Canonist Ed Peters, at his excellent blog, has a note:

[T]he English-language reports on the CDF letter need clarification in one important respect.

The CDF, in its original French text, notes that first in the sequence of steps to address the status of persons in irregular unions, it is necessary “Vérifier la validité du mariage religieux dans le respect de la vérité, tout en évitant de donner l’impression d’une forme de ‘divorce catholique’.” Everyone seem to be translating that line as “Verify the validity of the religious marriage in the respect of truth, all the while avoiding giving the impression of a kind of ‘Catholic divorce’.”

That’s not what it means.

The French verb “verifier” does not mean “to verify”, it’s obvious but misleading English cognate, but rather, means “inquire about” or “investigate” or “test”. Ecclesiastical authority is, therefore, being reminded by the CDF of the importance of ascertaining the true matrimonial status of the persons, and not simply “verifying” their status as ifand I have cautioned others about beforethe validity of marriage can itself ever be “verified”.

In directing ecclesiastical authority to examine first the validity of the (presumptively) valid marriage before it, CDF is reminding Church leadership to do exactly what its tribunals and canon law are designed to do in these cases, namely, test the presumption of matrimonial validity.

In Italian we use verificare in the context of affirming or double-checking or discerning, for example, a vocation to the priesthood.


2 out of 24 responses:

-Merci, comme toujours, mon Pere. –Canonist Ed Peters

-A few posts ago Father, you suggested that Cardinal Pell is the next victim of the Francis Effect, whether that means this very authoritarian Pope, or those around him. I would propose to you that Müller is a bit ahead of Pell for the axe of demotion. If one recalls, Rorate Caeli posted an article in the run-up to the Synod that Francis was upset about the 5 cardinals’ book. I wrote it off as hearsay, as when you read the article it was someone “close” to Francis, that said Francis “would” be angry about it. I changed that reaction, however, within two days of that article when Müller made an apology for “attacking” Cardinal Kasper, even though that was patently false. Who could make Müller apologize, except the Pope himself? I would submit that we see Müller on his way out shortly after the New Year. -Athanasius 

[I think that, for now, Card. Müller will remain at CDF. However, that doesn’t mean that the terrain isn’t shifting. –Fr. Z]



54. The Great Division – U.S. cardinal: Pope Francis, “What are you doing here?”

November 17, 2014 



Francis Cardinal George, OMI, the retiring archbishop of Chicago, is certainly not considered a traditionalist, although he is to be praised for restoring some sanity there over the last 17 years after his predecessor became a hero to the heterodox.

His Eminence is the latest prelate to express concern with Pope Francis, as exhibited in a new interview of the cardinal by John Allen. Near the end, Cardinal George says, of Pope Francis, “I certainly respect him as pope, but there isn’t yet an understanding of, ‘What are you doing here?'”
As with the 
President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, George’s focus is on true/false rather than “left”/”right”… Unlike Abp. Gadecki, however, Cardinal George was actually present at the 2013 Conclave…

For the record of current events, here are the excerpts from the interview dealing with the current Bishop of Rome:

Let’s talk about Pope Francis. Recently veteran Italian writer Sandro Magister said many American bishops seem “uncomfortable” with Francis, and hinted that the American bishops may have to become the defenders of tradition rather than the Vatican under this pope. What do you make of that?

I hope he’s wrong! It’s not because I don’t trust the American bishops, I do, but that’s a very broad statement about the pope and the Vatican.

Are you concerned that there’s a wholesale abandonment of tradition?

I don’t think there’s a wholesale abandonment of tradition. The pope has said he wants every question to be raised and it has been, so he’s gotten what he wants, and now he has to sort it out. He himself has said that the pope has the charism of unity, and he knows very well that it’s unity around Christ, not around him. Therefore, the tradition that unites us to Christ has to be the norm. How he interprets that, and how somebody else might interpret that, is where you get into conversations that shape a government.

I can see why some people might be anxious. If you don’t push it, he does seem to bring into question well-received doctrinal teaching. But when you look at it again, especially when you listen to his homilies in particular, you see that’s not it. Very often when he says those things, he’s putting it into a pastoral context of someone who’s caught in a kind of trap. Maybe the sympathy is expressed in a way that leaves people wondering if he still holds the doctrine. I have no reason to believe that he doesn’t.

Until the Synod of Bishops in October, most mainstream folks in what we might loosely call the ‘conservative’ camp seemed inclined to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. Afterwards that seems less the case, with some people now seeing the pope in a more critical light. Is that your sense as well?

I think that’s probably true. The question is raised, why doesn’t he himself clarify these things? Why is it necessary that apologists have to bear that burden of trying to put the best possible face on it? Does he not realize the consequences of some of his statements, or even some of his actions? Does he not realize the repercussions? Perhaps he doesn’t. I don’t know whether he’s conscious of all the consequences of some of the things he’s said and done that raise these doubts in people’s minds.

That’s one of the things I’d like to have the chance to ask him, if I ever get over there. Do you realize what has happened, just by that very phrase ‘Who am I to judge?‘ How it’s been used and misused? It’s very misused, because he was talking about someone who has already asked for mercy and been given absolution whom he knows well. That’s entirely different than talking to somebody who demands acceptance rather than asking for forgiveness. It’s constantly misused.

It’s created expectations around him that he can’t possibly meet. That’s what worries me. At a certain moment, people who have painted him as a bit player in their scenarios about changes in the Church will discover that’s not who he is. He’s not going in that direction. Then he’ll perhaps get not only disillusionment, but opposition that could be harmful to the effectiveness of his magisterium.

Is there a role for American bishops to provide that feedback, to help him understand how these things are playing out?

I think there is a role for bishops to do it. I don’t think it would be good to do it as a national thing. We’re never a national Church, not in this country or anywhere else. It wouldn’t be good to say, ‘American bishops versus the Vatican.’ Individual bishops should take their responsibility and do what they have to do. If it’s something that affects us collectively, then perhaps we should talk collectively. But on something like this, namely the impressions left because of the unexplained statements of the pope, I don’t think a conference as whole should take it on itself to ‘correct’ the pope or to decide what they’re going to do about it. We can talk, and people do, and then decide individually whether we should find some means of getting to the pope.

I think a number of bishops have tried to do just that. Whether they’ve been successful, I don’t know, nor how he himself receives that news. That’s the great unknown, isn’t it? I’m told that sometimes when you went to Pope Benedict with news he didn’t like to hear, he didn’t always hear it very well.

There was the famous interview with Cardinal [Joachim] Meisner, who said that in 2009 he went to Benedict on behalf of a number of cardinals to suggest some personnel moves in the Vatican, and Benedict didn’t want to hear it.

Yes … Der mensch bleibt. [Note: A German phrase loosely meaning that an office doesn’t take away someone’s human personality.] I don’t know how this pope reacts to that. Before one would go and try to do that, it would be wise to talk to people very close to him who would have some sense of whether this would be helpful or harmful.

You don’t want to encourage any tendency to see the American bishops as a counterweight to the Vatican under Francis?

We have no mandate from Jesus to be a counterweight to the Holy See!

Right now your focus is on your health. If things turn around and you get some additional time, do you have a next act in mind?




I have a book coming out on the Catholic intellectual tradition, from Catholic University Press. … You know, there were a lot of big topics I was very interested in at one time or another. Some of them have to do with epistemology, because I’ve always been fascinated by what we can know and what we can’t know, and why we think we can. In theology, I’ve always been interested in eschatology.

It’s interesting to me that this pope talks about that novel, “Lord of the World.” That’s one thing I want to ask him. How do you put together what you’re doing with what you say is the hermeneutical interpretation of your ministry, which is this eschatological vision that the anti-Christ is with us? Do you believe that? I would love to ask the Holy Father. What does that mean? In a sense, maybe it explains why he seems to be in a hurry. Nobody seems interested in that but I find it fascinating, because I found the book fascinating.

I read it quite by chance when I was in high school. It was written in 1907, and he has air travel, he has everything modern. It’s really eerie because it seems as if he was looking at our time, meaning right now. Does the pope believe that? Now, that’s much more interesting than my thing about my successor will die in prison. What does the pope believe about the end-times?

Eschatology might be one project I’d like to continue. Ratzinger, as you know, wrote a book on eschatology and probably would have pursued that if he hadn’t been elected pope. I’ve read his book, and like all things it’s helpful and it’s not depending on what your own interests are.

In relationship to the pope, I hope before I die I’ll have the chance to ask him: How do you want us to understand your ministry, when you put that before us as a key?

You’ve now mentioned twice things you’d like to ask the pope. It sounds to me as if you’d really like to have some face time with him.

I would. First of all, I didn’t know him well before he was elected. I knew him through the Brazilian bishops, who knew him well, and I asked them a lot of questions. Since the election, I haven’t had a chance to go over for any of the meetings or the consistories because I’ve been in treatment and they don’t want you to travel. I haven’t been to see him since he was elected.

I’d just like to talk to him. It’s less important now, because I won’t be in governance, but you’re supposed to govern in communion with and under the successor of Peter, so it’s important to have some meeting of minds, some understanding. Obviously, I think we’re very different people. I always felt a natural sympathy with Cardinal Wojtyla, with John Paul II … a very deep sympathy, on my part anyway. He had that capacity to do that with thousands of people. With Cardinal Ratzinger, there was a distance but also a deep respect. I don’t know Pope Francis well enough. I certainly respect him as pope, but there isn’t yet an understanding of, ‘What are you doing here?’



55. The Bishops’ Priorities, the Media’s “Agenda”, and the “Francis Effect

November 18, 2014

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and is the newly elected Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Communications. He received his doctorate from the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy at St. Anselmo in Rome, and is a former Professor of Sacred Liturgy and Preaching at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, MA. Bishop Coyne is a former director of the Office for Worship for the Archdiocese of Boston and was also the media spokesperson and Cabinet Secretary for Communications of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Bishop Coyne recently corresponded with CWR’s editor, Carl E. Olson, about the recent USCCB General Assembly, held last week in Baltimore, and shared his thoughts about that meeting, specific challenges facing the U.S. bishops, and the “Francis effect“.

CWR: As you noted in a post you wrote during the recent USCCB General Assembly in Baltimore, there have been competing, even contradictory, media accounts of that meeting and its agenda. How would you, as an actual participant in that meeting, describe the proceedings? What were the main points of discussion, concern, and focus?

Bishop Coyne: The general meetings of the USCCB are driven by a list of priorities established by the bishops for four-year planning and action purposes. Our work in session is intended to assist each Ordinary in his Archdiocese or Diocese in fulfilling his mission as its chief Shepherd. A lot of what we do in the general meetings is routine and often unglamorous: we receive reports from the various regular or ad hoc committees on the present state of the work of the Conference as regards the present “priorities.”

So, for example, two of the priorities of the Conference at the present time are the defense of religious liberty and the traditional understanding of marriage. As such, we had a report both in public session and executive session from each ad hoc committee which deal with these issues. As someone who has been attending these meetings for the last four years, at times they are very informative and helpful, at other times they can be tedious and routine. It’s the nature of assembles like ours.

CWR: You’ve noted that the top points of discussion were established even before the election of Francis. Yet many seem intent on reading the so-called “Francis effect” into everything. First, how would you describe the “Francis effect“? And how do you think it actually affected, shaped, or challenged how the U.S. bishops are approaching this meeting and their efforts in the coming year?





Bishop Coyne: Well the “Francis effect” plays itself out in a number of ways. First is the increased positive attention that the Catholic Church is encountering now internationally. Pope Francis in his words and actions has captured the attention of Catholics, other Christians, non-Christians, agnostics, even humanists precisely because he has changed the conversation about who we are as Catholics. He has intentionally, I think, chosen to speak about what and whom we are “for” rather than what we are “not for” or even against. 
This is not to say that Saint John Paul or Pope Benedict did not do this as well. On the contrary, if you read their writings or listen to their preaching, they too were men who spoke of the joy of the Gospel, of the gift of salvation, of our care “for” the poor, the unborn, the marginalized, the immigrant. Pope Francis is not saying anything different from his predecessors in terms of the content of the Faith. What he is doing differently is the manner in which that content is being expressed. He is a master of the small gesture that seems to capture people’s attention and their hearts.

Second the “Francis effect” plays itself out in a kind of nebulous free-for-all of interpretation. Because he is a man who has shown great spontaneity in actions and words, his gestures and actions are open to different levels of interpretation. To use an analogy form Christ’s life: Jesus often spoke to the crowds in parables, parables that many did not understand and us such were understood in different ways by different people—the Pharisees, the scribes, the curious, even his disciples. They would ask, “What does this mean?” Some would say this, some would say that. Later on, Jesus’ disciples could catch a moment aside with him and say, “Teacher, what does this story mean?” and he would explain, “The sower is the Son of man and the seed is the Word of God …”

A lot of what Pope Francis does is like that. He speaks from his heart. At times, his words are open to various interpretations that he could easily clarify. For example, if one could have gotten Pope Francis aside and asked him to clarify what he meant by, “Who am I to judge?” he would have clarified what he meant by his words. Now, whether it would have made any difference in how it was played out in the end is another story. But he was not changing the rules or the Church’s teaching. Some would argue that as Pope he should be more careful precisely to avoid these confusions or misinterpretations. The Pope’s opinion is not just one among many: he is the Pope. 
For me, I think Pope Francis is first and foremost a pastor with a pastor’s heart. He wants to encourage, invite, challenge, and walk with his flock so that they may come to know the fullness of the Catholic Faith and live it. If it is messy at times, so be it. That’s the life of a good pastor. He “knows the smell of his flock” because it is often his smell as well.

CWR: You are very media-savvy and have been employing various forms of newer communication for a number of years [Bishop Coyne uses Twitter and Facebook on a regular basis]. As the newly elected head of the USCCB’s Communications Committee, how would you rate the bishops’ use of media, both more traditional and newer? What are some specific improvements or adjustments that should be made or considered?

Bishop Coyne: I think the staff at the USCCB is making every effort to spread the “Good News” in all that they do. This is at the heart of what I and my fellow bishops try to do every day. Having been a member of the Communications Committee of the USCCB over the past two years I have come to see first-hand how hard the staff works and how much of the resources of the Conference are devoted to this endeavor. My hope is to continue to build upon all of the good things that are already being done.

That having been said, I think there has been over the past few years a recognition that the Conference needs to be more proactive in terms of public and media relations. At one point, the Conference hired a director of public relations to work closely with the President of the Conference and the administrative staff to respond in a much quicker and immediate manner to news stories as they broke. This is obviously a response to the digital culture in which we find ourselves today. With the present speed of the “news cycle” being so much faster than where it was even five years ago, it is important for us to be “out in front” of stories like the Pope’s coming to the US, or some incident, good or bad, that is attracting media and internet attention.

But—and it’s a big but—it is also important to remember that the Conference and its spokespersons do not speak for the bishops either collectively or individually except for those responses that would fall under the heading of general opinion or Church teaching. So, for example, the Conference could issue a statement saying that the Church is very concerned about the needs and rights of immigrants to the United States, both legal and illegal, and urges our elected officials to find ways to protect these people. That is a general statement. The Conference however could not issue a statement calling for the passage of a particular bill in Congress (unless some kind of vote was held and all the bishops agreed to this) because a bishop in his own diocese might have serious concerns about the bill, such as a bishop of a diocese on the Mexican border who does not feel the bill goes far enough in protecting the rights of immigrants. So I think the best way for us bishops and the Conference to use digital media is as a means to promote and communicate Church teaching, but more than anything else, to proclaim the Good News that Jesus Christ is the Lord of heaven and earth and the Savior of us all.

May I just take a moment to speak to the relationship between the Conference and the bishops and the “media” as it has become such an issue for us over the past few weeks? It is easy for us to complain about the media as “not even trying to get it right” or having some kind of an “agenda” against the bishops or the Church or having their own agenda. Media stories often don’t get it right when it comes to who we are as a Church or what we are about or why we teach what we do and, yes, there are some folks in the media who have a bias against the Church and its teachings for any number of reasons. But there are folks and outlets in the media and digital culture that are trying to “get it right” and be fair. When I worked with the media back in Boston during the height of the abuse crisis and the years that followed, it became clear to me that the starting point had to be that the media “is what it is,” some good, some not so good and how was I going to respond to this given. A lot of what I had to deal with was just a plain lack of knowledge about the Church.





If a reporter got the facts of a story wrong or misinterpreted something it was almost always because they didn’t have the knowledge to understand why the diocese or the Church was doing or saying what it was. A major part of my job back then was to work with the media to educate them about the Church and to clarify as much as possible for them who and what we are. So, if I issued a statement I also tried to craft it to an audience that was really “pre-catechumenate”—unchurched—and then made myself available to answer any questions they had.

I think the wrong way for us to respond to the media is to blame them. For me, the media does what the media does. This is a given that we can’t change. We need to acknowledge this and then develop strategies that deal with the limitations of the present media and digital culture to help get our message out in a clear and true manner.

CWR: The headlines about the recent extraordinary Synod were dominated by stories about remarriage and Communion and how to be more welcoming to those who identify as homosexual. But a huge concern for many Catholic families is the stark fact that many young Catholics are either walking away from the Church, or think they its fine to be Catholic without much concern for Church teaching and practice. What was said at the bishops’ meeting about this issue? And what can be done by the bishops to help families address this major problem?

Bishop Coyne: I’ve talked about the four “priorities” that direct the work of the Conference over a four-year term. One of them is “Faith Formation and Sacramental Practice” of which an effort to increase attendance at Sunday Mass is a major part. Most of this work is being carried out at the Committee level. For example, I serve on the Evangelization and Catechesis Committee and a significant part of our work has been focused precisely around this question of how to catechize and evangelize our young people. 
The bishops are very concerned about the salvation of souls and so many are turning away from the Faith and it’s not just the young. Still, they seem to be doing so in ever growing numbers. I think the major shift for us a Conference has to be the move from “maintenance” to “mission” if I may borrow the phrase from Robert Rivers’ book. What is meant by this is the movement from being a Church that is one of the established culture to one that is missionary. Here in the US, the Church is now in missionary territory. More people are unbelievers than believers. Yet people are still searching for meaning and direction in their lives. That is something we have to offer: the Good News of Christ! What we have to do is “reboot” the system from a program that is mainly concerned with who is in the church to one that is more concerned about who is not.

Getting back to the whole issue of how do we help our young people that are presently in the Church to stay and how do we attract those that are not in the Church I think the answer is by being authentic witnesses. There has been an on-going study out of Notre Dame of young people who have been raised in active Catholic families and where they are in the Church as they progress from being teens to young adults. It’s published by Oxford Press and is titled, Young Catholic America: Emerging Adults In, Out of, and Gone from the Church [2014]. Anyway, the numbers are quite stark. By the times these children who were raised in active Catholic families—they went Mass, the kids were Confirmed, etc.—enter their mid-twenties, more than 80% are no longer active Catholics. The study asks all kinds of questions as to why this is and the reasons are sobering and worth pursuing. 
But the study also interviewed a number of the young people who are still active Catholics and why and the number one reason was that their parents were not only “active” Catholics, they were disciples. They lived their faith authentically. Personal witness and authenticity matter to young people.

CWR: It has become commonplace for many observers (including many Catholics) to label certain issues—especially sexuality, contraceptions, abortion—as “political”, while insisting that other issues—especially poverty and immigration—are truly “moral” in character. What do think of that dichotomy? And is it “political” for the bishops to address highly contentious issues such as abortion, “same-sex marriage,” and the HHS mandate?

Bishop Coyne: I think the dichotomy is a false one. These are all moral issues in that they involve questions of right and wrong, good and evil, loving God and loving ones neighbor. Morality is about right behavior vs. wrong behavior, what draws us towards God and others vs. what draws us into selfishness. Presently, the most important determinant of what is moral or not moral is that of fairness and tolerance based on a skewed reading of the Golden Rule as the measure of what is right and what is wrong. People want to be tolerant. People measure behavior as good or bad based on “fairness,” on how they would want to be treated or judged. All this is very nice but not necessarily moral.

We just had a very important presentation by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami at the last USCCB meeting on the political and moral attitudes of the people in the pews. The study was broken down by age groups and dealt with just these questions. My read on this is that for most of us the specific questions that are judged to be “political”—abortion, contraception, the HHS mandate, gay marriage, etc.—are ones that affect the folks in the pew personally. They are close to home, in the family. The other category, what is called “moral” are those issues that are not, for most of the folks in the pews, personal. Yes, we have poor in our pews, yes, we have immigrants. But the ones who are making these distinctions between the political and the moral are for the most part educated, middle class, and citizens. The immigrant and the poor person is not them. By labeling certain issues as “political” one moves them out of the realm of behavior and thus there is no claim on my personal behavior since it is private or my “choice.” I think this is true across our society.

I think our response, once again, must be one of authentic witness: I am a Catholic and this is how I live my life because I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and in His Church. And my life is so fulfilled and complete in Him and in my Faith.





4 out of 40 comments:

1. I think that the pope himself is very eager to be portrayed as the most liberal pope of all time, even if he disdains labels. Just like he likes being seen as the good cop, to the ‘conservative’ bad cops. He is not as much the victim as some apologists want him to be. 

2. I agree. What other pope wore a clown nose in a photo op? Or invited Patti Smith to sing at a Vatican Christmas concert? (One of her songs has the opening line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.”) These actions telegraph who he is. It’s daisy banner time all over again.

3. The lyric is ambiguous. It could be the cry of someone who’s lost hope–and Francis might be reaching out to her for that reason. But the lyric might also be a crass attempt to slam a major doctrine of Christian faith. And the Pope may be ignoring this for his own reasons. No wonder Cardinal George admits he’s confused about the direction of much of what the Pope does, asking, “Why doesn’t he clarify?”

I suppose we have to wait and see. Just as we’ll have to see what happens at the 2015 Synod. I’m personally not too optimistic.

4.“They just refuse to report it when the Pope is orthodox. They use the Pope as a weapon against their enemies and use him to batter their opponents in arguments.”

The Pope allows himself to be used. He made that “private” phone call to the woman in Argentina who had written to him about her situation. She claimed he gave her the go-ahead to receive Communion although she was married outside the Church to a divorced Catholic. The Vatican refused to comment on the truth or falsity of the woman’s claim, insisting the phone call was private.

Analyze that response for a second. First, the Pope took the initiative to personally respond to a letter by phoning an ordinary laywoman. The press learned about this somehow–either from the woman or from the Vatican–and so was intensely interested in the exchange. Of course they would question her afterwards–and of course the Pope knew they would question her afterwards–and of course the woman was going to talk about it afterwards. All this had to have been anticipated.

And notice what DIDN’T happen. The Vatican dogs didn’t bark. That is to say, they never said the woman was wrong in what she claimed about getting the go-ahead to receive Communion–just to set the record straight to avoid scandal. They never claimed she was confused or had misinterpreted what was said or had distorted something.

And think about it from the woman’s perspective for a minute. What motive would she have to lie about a conversation with the Pope? I would think, on the contrary, she would be very straight-forward about what she reported rather than get tangled up in a dispute with the Bishop of Rome.

In any case it appears to me the initial impetus that started the whole ruckus came from the Vatican, not the media.

What the motive was is open to question. I personally believe the Vatican wanted the message to get out through this woman that divorced and remarried Catholics might indeed receive Communion–despite what the Church has said for two thousand years.



56. Yes, Catholics Can Judge!

By JoAnna Wahlund, December 10, 2014

The mainstream media made much hay over Pope Francis’ July 2013 remarks in which he said, in response to a reporter’s question about an alleged “gay lobby” within the Vatican, “Who am I to judge?

The MSM misinterpreted his comment as blanket approval for homosexual acts, and their headlines reflected their misunderstanding. Even now, whenever there’s a news story about the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality, reporters are quick to mention that Pope Francis said, “Who am I to judge?” about homosexuals.

However, as is often the case, the media didn’t bother to look at the Pope’s words in context.

Pope Francis said, in full,

A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will — well, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn’t this (homosexual) orientation — we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby.

A catechized Catholic who reads these words knows that they are perfectly in line with Church teaching. Pope Francis essentially just restated paragraph 2358 of the Catechism, which says,

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

When Pope Francis said “Who am I to judge him?” he was referring to paragraph 1861:

Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offensewe must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God. (Emphasis mine)




Pope Francis was referring to the judgment of persons with his “Who am I to judge?” comment. He was not saying that a person’s moral acts can’t be judged, because (as he knows) the Catechism says otherwise:

Human acts, that is, acts that are freely chosen in consequence of a judgment of conscience, can be morally evaluated. They are either good or evil. (CCC 1749)

Scripture is also very clear on the fact that not only can we judge, we are actually called to judge.

“Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!” (1 Cor. 6:2-3).

When Jesus said “Judge not, lest you be judged,” he wasn’t condemning all judgment. Rather, He was condemning rash or unjust judgment. He was not telling Christians that they could not evaluate acts and behavior of others according to the moral law – because if that was what He meant, He would have been violating his own dictate. To quote blogger and apologist Jimmy Akin, “If it is wrong to make moral judgments regarding the behavior of others then it would be wrong to judge others for judging!”

Many who quote those words from the Sermon on the Mount in order to condemn someone who is judging fail to read the rest of the passage:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Notice that Jesus says that one can take the speck out his brother’s eye! However, he cautions that the person doing the judging has to make sure that their judgments are just, because God will judge hold that person to their own standards.

In the same vein, the Church cautions against rash judgment, a form of unjust judgment, which is defined in the Catechism as “assum[ing] as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor.” To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

“Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.”

Another Scripture passage that is often brought up in defense of the argument that “judging is wrong” is the woman caught in adultery from John 8:

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”

Notice that Jesus asks the woman if anyone has condemned her, not if anyone has judged her. There is a distinction between judgment and condemnation, and Jesus clearly differentiates between the two. He does not say that her adultery was right, or justified, or worthy of praise. Nor did Pope Francis, in his comments about homosexual individuals, say that homosexual acts were right, or justified, or worthy of praise. The full context of his remarks shows that he was careful to make a distinction between judging based on a homosexual’s orientation, which is unjust, and judging a homosexual’s acts (or politicizing in order to advocate in favor of those acts), which is just.

As Catholics, we can judge and we are called to judge. We can’t practice the spiritual works of mercy, one of which is admonishing the sinner, without judging. Pope Francis knows this, and those who try to use his words to justify their own support of sin only display their own ignorance of Scripture and Catholic teaching by doing so.


57. The Francis Effect and the new Catholic Climate: “Democratic Tyranny” against dissenters

December 15, 2014

From Sandro Magister’s Italian-only personal blog:
“The Francis Effect: ‘Democratic Tyranny’ against dissenters”: I received it and I publish it: the author is Professor Emeritus of Sociology of Religion in the University of Florence and in the Theological Faculty of Central Italy

The climate of a Pontificate and new eagerness for the stick

By Pietro di Marco, December 12, 2014

I have been told about a recent case indicative of the Catholic climate that is growing. A few months ago some members accused of criticizing Pope Bergoglio were expelled from a historic Florentine volunteer association.

It appears that the proof was obtained from the social network where they had voiced their dissent – perhaps too loudly; an expulsion without a process nor confrontation, invoking statutory articles inaccessible to the accused.





Also from other Tuscan settings, signals are arriving of an eagerness to act with sanctions against “traditional” tendencies; acts in the past, never directed against ideas and behavior truly anti-institutional, when not subversive of rite and dogma. On the contrary, those who have been in the Church, remember the hostility, for decades, from precise environments and people, against Pope Wojtyla or Pope Ratzinger and all of it tolerated by Catholic authority (it involved bishops and leaders of lay associations) formally aligned with Rome. Remarkable that such alignment, at that time helpless, exercises itself now in a pugnacious defense of the reigning Pope only to hit out at orthodox environments and individualities.

Naturally, as in all “respected” repression, nobody is “expelled.” The accused, it is said, put themselves on the outside. It doesn’t matter, (if it did– how aggravating!) that in their polemics they were opposed to the “liquefying” religiosity that pervades predication, pastoral care and Catholic ethics. Similarly to how one is disgraced in public life with the epithet “enemies of the Constitution”, a use of lethal formulas like “enemies of the Council” or “hostile to Francis” is now affirmed in the Church.

It is enough as an example the vicissitude, still bleeding, of the commissioning of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, where the law of the Church is being used like a stick, i.e. in an anti-juridical manner, by “commissioners” who react to criticism with intimidating language [reminiscent] of political processes from other times. This serious matter, not less than the smaller depurations of which I spoke of, are legitimized by referring to the words and facts of Pope Francis. This is the well-known phenomenon of the abuse of the leader’s words so that vendettas can be put into act.

However, it should be said, there is something more here than the motivation to please a Pope and his entourage and which is already fertile ground for this unprecedented pro-papal front. With the end of Benedict XVI’s pontificate, lay faithful and the clergy seem no longer to have any anti-bodies (they had few before anyway) when confronted with that post-modern Christian rubbish, which consists of admittance of errors and contrition, in self-criticism of our Catholic past “in light of the Gospel” and in all kinds of inclusiveness, as long as they are on the media’s agenda.

Widespread Catholic culture has ended up being dominated by an up-to-date anti-clerical syndrome – from the crusades to the inquisition and pedophilia – induced also by an avalanche of best-sellers and costly cinematographic falsifications. Moreover: for the “Catholic critics” a Church so besmirched would coincide with the authoritarian “Church of no” – to be rid of. Further, the reigning Pontiff certainly does not represent a barrier in respect to this auto-lesion.

So I was not surprised that the clergy, religious and lay in order to stay with the Church and in Tuscany, have recently applauded a cinematographic product (1) financed with public money, where the director, unfailingly Catholic, follows the life of seminarians in the 1950s, inventing things against the Catholic formation of the great Church of Pius XII, with such nonsense that it should have induced some Catholics with a little rigor and common sense to react to it.

The indifferentism of “Who am I to judge?” therefore has gained a retinue, apart from when it is about the Church’s past. Besides, it exonerates one from the obligation of evaluation, discernment and opposition to the world; in short, it exonerates, one from that oh so distinctive Catholic witness. A “liberation” which, with no more braking from Rome, imposes even the moderates to say compulsively – yes, yes –, to ideas, behavior, laws presented as finally “human” and to unite themselves to the chorus of ritual public deprecations against poverty, war, the mafia – all of which – to the average Catholic costs nothing, not even a reflection.

Thus – forgetting that it is only nihilism that always has a benevolent “human face”, which doesn’t judge and is solicitous of public happiness, like the Antichrist of a famous Russian writer – many qualified Catholic, clergy and lay, are lacking in their essential duty: i.e. to remind the West, and the world, of Christian anthropology which is their foundation; that it is about souls and bodies, life or death, generation or gender identity. Hardly any gifted Catholic voice of official authority has been raised yet against the unfounded (both philosophically and scientifically) and neurotic leveling manipulation of the masculine and the feminine with which there is the attempt to bend widespread culture by operating through parliament and the school system.

Along with the mixture of fear and attraction towards the Pope, to bewilder lay and clergy, there is the sleepiness of Catholic reason, a self-conscience at an all-time low, a subjection to other people’s public ethics, which – it is thought – under Pope Bergoglio, no longer need to be concealed. Furthermore, they are dependent on public opinion which simulates operating for values, thinking they are legitimized by a Pope who is mediated by the same “opinion-maker”, so, some lay and ecclesiastics with responsibilities to people and organizations, have turned into (according to a constant of political sociology) “democratic tyrants” toward the dissenters.

Some will say that there is nothing new here. But in the past the sanctions were motivated for the protection of the integrity of the Faith and thence the Institution necessary to it. Today, by contrast, the stick is being shaken under the influence of imposed formulas by a secular falsification of Christianity, such as “love” and “mercy” against responsibility and right judgment, such as “life” against reason, such as “nature” and “happiness” against sin and salvation, such as “Council” against Christian Tradition. This is along the lines of too many homilies, where it seems we are re-hearing, watered-down and out of time, the worst of the post-conciliar seasons.

So then, is it from the Great Inquisitor to the Anti-Christ? No, neither of them are adequate indicators of the Church’s reality. But the question is a good one to ponder.



(1) The film “The Seminarian”, created and directed by Gabriele Cecconi, was awarded a prize, at the Gallio Film Festival 2014 with the important award from the jury “Emidio Greco”, and also presented in September at the Italian Embassy in the United States and at the University of Washington.

[Source, in Italian. Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana]





58. The “Francis Effect“: Why is it taking so long to reach us?

January 2015

Since the election of Pope Francis, a wave of renewal, known as the “Francis effect,” has hit many within the Church, and even those outside of it. However, the “effect” does not seem to be reaching those areas, particularly missionary institutes, where zeal and renewal are needed the most. Only with a deeper appreciation, and not a mere superficial understanding, of the Pope’s pronouncements can Catholics truly reap the benefits of this “Francis effect.”

The election of Pope Francis, the pope coming from far away, with a missionary vision and attitude, had an immediate effect on the Church, which observers began calling the “Francis effect.” People and public opinion were positively surprised by this pope. In Italy and in some other European countries, there were studies on this effect, the reaction and response of people to the election, to the style and the teachings of Pope Francis.

There was talk about the increase in the number of people in parishes and dioceses who returned to the Church and the Sacraments, who have adopted a positive attitude towards the Church coming out of a difficult period of problems and scandals, on top of the unexpected “flooding of pilgrims” at St. Peter’s Square during papal events. The new communities and movements also experienced a flowering of initiatives with an increase in the involvement of young people and adults. Although no studies have been cited for this, it was enough just to read the news from different agencies to record this increase.


Stir the waters

In missionary institutes, particularly in Europe and the Americas, however, the “Francis effect” is being experienced rather slowly. Although the Pope’s documents have been picked up, to be read and cited with greater or lesser fidelity and opportunity, the same interest cannot be said for initiatives. At the level of initiatives and the ability to call adults and young people, nothing special happened: neither renewed initiatives nor an increase in the number of young people on the journey of vocational discernment, “to go forth” in the perspective of a missionary option as it has been lived in missionary institutes. Indeed, Pope Francis stirs the waters; but the waters he moves are affecting other areas and groups in the Church. Missionary institutes should have been the first beneficiaries of this “agitated waters” that happened during the first phase of the pontificate of this pope. They were the obvious places to reap the fruits of this breath of fresh air and renewed missionary initiative that are characteristics of the pontificate of Pope Francis. But it doesn’t seem to be happening. Why?


Pleasant surprise

Reading the first documents of Pope Francis, we got a pleasant surprise: he often used, with renewed and original meaning, the words “mission” and “missionary.” It rekindled within us a fire that seemed to have been burning under the ashes. This impression was deepened in us with the reading and re-reading of his exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (EG). In this text, the Pope uses those terms and proposes a renewed missionary vision of the Church, a vision that goes back to basics (the encounter with Christ and His Gospel) and suggests the profile and attitudes of “evangelizers with Spirit” for the Church and for the world of our time.

I sincerely believe that reading the EG has touched us individually. The question that remains unanswered is: why has it not caused renewed initiatives? The obvious answer is that it takes time for these new guidelines to enter into the souls of people and change the dynamics of structures.

But another question arises: why do people, especially the youth whom Pope Francis asks “to go forth” in, not flow into, a missionary attitude, do not seek within the missionary institutes the way to live that new impulse?! So far, based on the record of some communities and movements, no institute has yet registered a “wave of demand” as a result of the “Francis effect.”


Innovate charismatically

I do not think that the missionary institutes, in their current configuration, are outdated and that the missionary future is in the new movements and new communities. No. I say this despite having been personally surprised that Pope Francis, in EG, has used, with sure originality, the terms “mission” and “missionary,” but has made no mention of missionary institutes, which have been central in the Church’s missionary initiatives of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially in Africa and Asia. Missionary institutes have a major role in shaping the Church’s future, by giving form to new initiatives, in fidelity to their charism, along with the spirit and the perspectives that Pope Francis proposes. It is not enough to go on quoting the words of the Magisterium, of this pope and, in particular, texts from the EG. Changes are called for, starting with the sensitivities and methodologies encased in the lives of missionary institutes for many decades.

The language, sensitivity, vision and proposals of Pope Francis capture the expectations of change in the Church and may help us to best attune ourselves to the ecclesial time in which we live. But they will not spare us the effort to deepen our identity and charism and express them in new initiatives, able to attract and capture the spiritual dynamics that Pope Francis has been trying to awaken in people, starting with the youth.

It is not enough just repeating and echoing the beautiful words of the Pope; it is necessary for the missionary institutes to translate them into new initiatives at the level of missionary animation, vocational promotion and formation, and evangelization. We must “innovate” charismatically.





This means showing the novelty and timeliness of one’s own charism in action, bringing together the ecclesial dynamism that Pope Francis is causing, (not just an embodiment of stereotypes like “let’s make missionary all things!”), hoping for a change of language to leave things as they are. It takes time for initiatives to materialize in a community. And, for new missionary methodologies, in tune with the guidelines proposed by Pope Francis to make waves. I use the word guidelines because the Pope himself is aware that it cannot offer concrete solutions, allowing each church and each community to find them according to its charism (EG 16-17).


Ecclesial dynamism

The “Francis effect” is an ecclesial fact, as a personal gift of the Pope. I mean it is understandable within the church, what benefits her first, prior to benefitting this or that institute or movement. To enter into and take part in the “Francis effect” is, therefore, necessary to be attuned to the dynamics of the ecclesial time coexistent with the sensibilities and values that Pope Francis is appealing for.

The missionary institutes, in recent decades, sought to assert themselves for their (alleged) prophecy, disassociating themselves from the sensibilities of both the local churches of origin and the local churches where they were sent. In order to be part of the new dynamics created by the “Francis effect,” we need to review this situation and synchronize ourselves more with the local churches, their spiritual experiences, their evangelizing initiatives.

Pope Francis appeals for a popular religiosity, for an attitude of openness (highlighting understanding and compassion), for an integrated personal spirituality (with emphasis on the sacramental life and personal prayer) – the things that many, in missionary institutes, have long abandoned and with which they are now hardly in tune. The daily Eucharist, Eucharistic adoration, rosary prayer, personal prayer, and spiritual reading which are cardinal dimensions of a missionary spirituality, have long been in question, leaving us in a situation far from that of the proposal of the Pope in EG.


New Syntheses

Another surprising aspect of the “Francis effect” is the personal and original way in which the Pope combines and integrates what we call “the various dimensions of mission,” namely, the “proclamation of the Gospel” and the “social dimension of evangelization” (third and fourth parts of EG, respectively).

Among us, the reception of this synthesis has been distorted and partial: we identify ourselves, in good faith, with what the Pope says and does, both in EG and other interventions and gestures in relation to “social dimension” but we are silent on what he says about the proclamation (including the service to the Word of God in the homily) or about what he says concerning the “evangelizers with Spirit” and about the profile of the evangelizer that he proposes for the Church today.

Therefore, in order to be part of the “Francis effect,” we need to revise the syntheses, emphasis and exclusiveness we give to this or that dimension, to try new visions, at the spiritual level, formation programs, missionary vision and methodology. We need to put some order in our community and in our program syntheses, with the determination and clarity that Pope Francis exemplifies (when he speaks of mercy, “zero tolerance” for abuses, and aberrations in ministry), an attitude which can help us face and overcome the “abuses” of charism and irresponsible actions in religious life. Only after doing our homework, can we eventually be in tune, not only with what Pope Francis proposes but, above all, with an answer to what people are looking for.

People, in general, and youth, in particular, respond to what Pope Francis proposes because his words and proposals resonate in them. He is the response to what they are looking for. To be a part of the “Francis effect” requires more evangelical consistency and attention to the feelings and expectations of people and more distancing from ideological clichés that we have inherited from the past.


Joy and beauty

In EG and in other interventions, Pope Francis uses two terms that had almost disappeared from our vocabulary: joy and beauty. And these are important words to be rediscovered if we want to be a part of the renewing effect of his pontificate. EG opens with a symphony of joy (Numbers 1-11) and ends with a eulogy of the encounter with Christ: “Its beauty will amaze and constantly excite us” (Number 264). Joy and beauty, however, are not cosmetics we can put on our faces. As the Pope reminds us, they are the result of an integrated and accomplished life, as a person, as a Christian and as a missionary. Let the “Francis effect” be a challenge to us to radiate joy and beauty in our lives.

Our founder spoke of the spiritual beauty in the contemplation of the Heart of Christ who strengthens the missionary amid the trials of his mission (RV 3). Our Rule of Life calls this encounter with Christ, the “focal” and “decisive” moment (RV 46 and 21.1) of our being and doing. In the mystical and traditional Comboni missionary vision, we emphasize the sufferings of peoples and the hardships of missionary life, oftentimes demanding heroism. The “Francis effect” awakens us to a mystic and missionary praxis that integrates and witnesses the joy and the beauty of a life transformed by Christ and, in turn, transforming the social situations we encounter and live in as a missionary. “There is humble joy at the foot of the Cross” (Pope Benedict XVI); “There is beauty in the faces of all men and women, especially those excluded” (St. Daniel Comboni). This is the kind of beauty that God wants to see shining in the face of the Church, in the face of the Comboni Institute, and other missionary institutions of our time.



59. Passages from Vatican II that Every Catholic Should Know

By Jared M. Silvey, February 10, 2015

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). While all agree that the council was a milestone in the history of the Church, the meaning and application of Vatican II and its sixteen official documents has been a source of contention right down to the present day. Numerous acts of dissent from the Church’s official doctrine and discipline have been undertaken in the name of the “spirit of Vatican II.” Because of this, it is good for Catholics to familiarize themselves with what the council actually said in its official promulgations. While not everyone has the leisure to read through the hundreds of pages of conciliar material, there are certain passages which should be highlighted, in part because they counter attempts by those who try to ground their dissent in the council and it’s supposed “spirit.” The following are seven such passages that every Catholic should know.

1) “Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop…. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority” (Sacrosanctum Concilium,#22).

After the council, “uniformity” became the chief vice and “creativity” became the chief virtue. The large scale liturgical changes proposed by the council fueled the thirst for further experimentation on the part of priests and liturgists, leading to everything from minor changes in the prescribed liturgical texts to liturgical dancing and puppet masses. However, these individuals have missed the main criterion for judging the right kind and proper extent of liturgical change clearly enunciated in the passage above. They are condemned by the very council they invoke to legitimize their acts.

2) “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #36).

A friend of mine once had an encounter with an elderly Church-goer who expressed her gratitude that Vatican II had abolished Latin from the liturgy. My friend asked her if she had read the council’s document on the liturgy, and the answer, not surprisingly, was “no.”

While Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy does make provision for a much wider use of the vernacular, it also mandates a retention of Latin, even going so far as to say that “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (#54).

3) “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as especially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #116).

There are few examples of how directly contrary to the explicit desire of Vatican II many in the post-conciliar Church went than this. The last fifty or so years have seen liturgists act as if Vatican II considered Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony (also endorsed by the council) as the least suitable music for the mass. Their solution has been to replace it with a wave of what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger called “utility music,” undermining the council’s attempt to make the liturgy a true encounter between man and the radical beauty of God.

4) “But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff” (Lumen Gentium, #22).

Collegiality was one of the hot topics at Vatican II. Many in the Church wanted to move away from what they considered an excessive focus on, and concentration of power in, the person of the pope. Vatican II did indeed do much to deepen our understanding of the importance and role of both individual bishops as well as the college of bishops considered as a whole. Some, however, took this collegial emphasis to the point of undermining the power and prerogatives of the supreme pontiff as defined by the First Vatican Council in the late nineteenth century. For example, in his book The Changing Church: Reflections on the progress of the Second Vatican Council, dissident theologian Hans Küng states that the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the importance and power of the college of bishops was “a decisive counterpoint to the First Vatican Council’s one-sided definition of papal supremacy” (‘complementarity’ would have been a better word than ‘counterpoint’). The council, in fact, sets clear boundaries to the power of the episcopal college and emphatically reaffirms the ultimate primacy of the Vicar of Christ over the entire Church.

5) “But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ” (Dei Verbum, #10).

Vatican II gave a great impetus to Scripture studies, especially among the laity. So as to not give free reign to individualistic hermeneutics, the ecclesiological and especially magisterial context for Scriptural interpretation is again stated.





6) “Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ” (Lumen Gentium, #10).

The post-conciliar Church has suffered from a major crisis of identity within her different states of life. Laymen and women now stampede into the sanctuary to perform those rituals once prescribed to the priest alone. Clergy have adopted a lay persona by casting off the collar, cassock, and habit in favor of the T-shirt and shorts, and – in the case of some religious—of abandoning secluded monasteries and instead populating city apartments.

This is, in part, a response to Vatican II’s new focus on the common priesthood shared by all the faithful. This focus seems to many to call into question the former radical distinction between priest and layman. In fact, many see Vatican II as helping to break down all of the walls formerly dividing the two (e.g. this blog post from the National Catholic Reporter).

Far less attention is paid to the first sentence of the passage quoted above, which states that the difference between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of all the faithful is not merely one of “degree,” but of “essence.” In other words, the two priesthoods are not on different levels of the same priestly spectrum, but, in fact, each is a very different way of sharing in Christ’s one priesthood. Whereas all of the Church’s faithful share in Christ’s priesthood by offering spiritual sacrifices, participating in the sacraments, virtuous living, and by proclaiming the Gospel to the world (LG, 11), the ministerial priesthood entails a mysterious identification with the Person of Christ Himself (acting “in persona Christi“), and so enables the ordained minister to effect the miracle of transubstantiation and the forgiveness of sins via the sacramental grace received at ordination. So, while Vatican II was indeed strongly opposed to excessive clericalism, it at the same time re-emphasized the radical distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the faithful.

7) “Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, [this Council] teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism, as through a door, men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved” (Lumen Gentium, #14).

Vatican II admitted to the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics (Lumen Gentium, #14-16). This created a firestorm both within and without the Church, as it seemed to reverse the Church’s perennial teaching of “outside the Church there is no salvation.” The result was that many questioned the necessity of the missionary endeavors of the Church, because if non-Catholics could be saved, why bother trying to convert them? And one hardly need to mention the fact that now practically every funeral is a mini-canonization ceremony.

There are two important things to note about this passage. One is that it clearly states that those who know of the necessity of the Church for salvation cannot remain outside of it and hope to be saved. The other is that, notwithstanding an acknowledgement of the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics, it also clearly states that the Church is necessary for salvation and that Christ is “the unique way of salvation.” This is important to mention because some interpret Vatican II’s acknowledgment of the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics as saying that there are other paths of salvation outside the Church. But this, in fact, is not what either the council or the Church teaches. As a 2000 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes clear, God’s “salvific grace … is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church.” The point is that those who may happen to be saved outside the visible confines of the Church are not saved in spite of the Church or Christ, but arrive at salvation some way through the Church and Christ. The council is, in fact, reaffirming the exclusive claim of Christ and His Church as the one path to salvation.

Many other passages from the council could be quoted, but this selection reveals just how far from the conciliar documents many in the Church have strayed.

As we prepare to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of council’s closing, we would do well as a Church to reflect critically on the past fifty years to see just how well Vatican II has been so far implemented, and to consider how we can be truer to the council’s teaching as we move forward into the future.


What Vatican II did, and didn’t, teach about conscience

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver, undated

Elections and voting booths are never `faith-free’ zones

Vatican II must be the most widely praised and rarely followed council in Catholic history at least when it comes to candidates and voters.

Catholics who appeal to the “spirit of Vatican II” and claim to be following their consciences when they ignore Catholic teaching on issues of vital public importance would be wise to revisit what the council actually said.

What did Vatican II teach about conscience?

The council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) defines conscience “as man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths. By conscience, in a wonderful way, that law is made known which is fulfilled in the love of God and one’s neighbor” (16).




The council added that, “Through loyalty to conscience, Christians are joined to other men in the search for truth and for the right solution to so many moral problems that arise both in the life of individuals and from social relationships. Hence, the more a correct conscience (emphasis added) prevails, the more do persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and try to be guided by the objective standards of moral conduct” (16).

In its Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), the council went on to say that, “It is through his conscience that man sees and recognizes the demands of the divine law. He is bound to follow this conscience faithfully in all his activity, so that he may come to God, who is his last end. Therefore he must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters” (3). So far, so good. We’re always obligated to follow our consciences. But, if we’re serious in our Catholic faith, we also need to acknowledge that conscience does not “invent” truth. Rather, conscience must seek truth out, and conform itself to the truth once discovered no matter how inconvenient. Conscience is never just a matter of personal opinion or private preference. It never exists in a vacuum of individual sovereignty. It is not a pious alibi for doing what we want, or what might get us elected.

Here’s the key to understanding conscience:

Just as John the Baptist demanded conversion, repentance, humility and honesty from ancient Israel, so a right conscience speaks to the individual heart. And always, as Vatican II noted in its Declaration on Religious Liberty, “. . . (I)n forming their consciences, the faithful must pay careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of truth. It is her duty to proclaim and teach with authority (emphasis added) the truth which is Christ and, at the same time, to declare and confirm by her authority the principles of the moral order which spring from human nature” (14).

Vatican II can never be invoked as an alibi for Catholics ignoring grave public evil or failing to act on their faith in the political sphere. That’s a distortion of the council’s message. It also misreads the U.S. Constitution. America’s Founding Fathers did not say, and never intended, that religious faith should be excluded from civic debate. They intended one thing only: to prevent the establishment of an official state church. A purely secular interpretation of the “separation of church and state” would actually result in the “separation of state and morality.” And that would be a catastrophe for real pluralism and the democratic process.

If we’re sincere about our faith, “conscience” can never be used as an excuse for dismissing what the Church teaches by pointing to her theological critics, voter surveys or public opinion polls, and then doing what we find more convenient. That’s dishonest. And God made us for something better than that.



Off The Rails: Was Vatican II Hijacked?

By James Hitchcock, undated

James Hitchcock examines the aftermath of Vatican II and questions whether or not the goals of Pope John XXIII for renewal of the spirit of the Gospel have been realized or supplanted by something called the spirit” of Vatican II.

Most Catholics in 1959 probably didn’t even know what an ecumenical council was. And yet, here it was. Pope John XXIII announced that the goals of the Second Vatican Council would be “the renewal of the spirit of the Gospel in the hearts of people everywhere and the adjustment of Christian discipline to modern-day living”—a proclamation that was on the face of it ambiguous. How was authentic renewal to be achieved? How should essential discipline be adjusted to modern culture?

John was a relentless optimist, inclined always to look for good in the world, disinclined to scold, and deeply convinced that he had been called to help bring about a new Pentecost in the Church. He further believed that the Counter-Reformation era, characterized both by defensiveness inside the Church and aggressiveness toward those on the outside, was over. The council made only an oblique reference to the fact that the 20th century had already seen a persecution of Christians more severe than any in the entire history of Catholicism.

The Church was apparently flourishing during John’s pontificate. By contrast with what would come later, its members were unusually serious, devout, and moral. But such a Church could be criticized as fostering formalism, a neglect of social justice, and an overly narrow piety, and it’s likely that John XXIII thought that a new Pentecost could build on this foundation to reach still higher levels.

In his opening address to the council, John affirmed the infallibility of the Church but called on it to take account of the “errors, requirements, and opportunities” of the age. He regretted that some Catholics (“prophets of gloom”) seemed unable to see any good in the modern world and regarded it as the worst of all historical periods. The dogmas of the Church were settled and “known to all,” so the conciliar task was to explore new ways of presenting them to the modern world.

The preparatory commissions for the council were dominated by members of the Curia, who were inclined toward precisely such a pessimistic view. When the council opened, there were objections to those commissions, with the result that the council fathers were allowed to approve new schema prepared by some of their own. In some ways this procedural squabble was the most decisive event of the entire council, and it represented a crucial victory for what was now called the “liberal” or “optimistic” party, guaranteeing that the council as a whole would look on its work as more than a mere restatement of accepted truths. There was an officially endorsed spirit of optimism in which even legitimate questions about the wisdom of certain ideas were treated as evidence of lack of faith.




The intellectual leadership of the council came mainly from Western Europe, the most influential prelates being Bernard Alfrink of the Netherlands, Leo Jozef Suenens of Belgium, Achille Lienart of France, Julius Doepfner and Joseph Frings of Germany, and Franz Koenig of Austria. Those five countries, along with the rest of Europe, possessed an ancient tradition of Catholicism, and they had nourished a vigorous and sophisticated Catholic intellectual life.

As theological questions arose, the council fathers almost automatically deferred to the opinions of these European prelates, who were in turn influenced by men recognized as the most accomplished theologians of the age—Henri DeLubac, Jean Danielou, and Yves Congar in France; Edward Schillebeeckx in the Netherlands; Karl Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger in Germany.

But in many respects the Church in those five nations—with the possible exception of the Netherlands—appeared less than robust (judging, for example, by rates of church attendance and religious vocations). Indeed, the vigorous intellectual life of those countries was colored by a certain sense of crisis—the need to make the Faith credible to modern men. By contrast, the Church in the British Isles, Southern Europe, and the United States, to say nothing of the Third World, lacked dazzling intellectual achievements but appeared to be relatively hearty.

Most council fathers therefore seemed to have felt little urgency about most of the questions that came before them. For many, the discussions involved issues that, before now, hadn’t even been considered, such as making the liturgy and religious life more “relevant.” But an unquestioned faith that the Church would always be preserved from error, along with the leadership of John XXIII and Paul VI, led most of the delegates to support the schema that were finally forged from the debate. No decree of the council provoked more than a small number of dissenting votes. Ironically, in view of the later claim that the council brought about the democratization of the Church, deference to authority was a major factor in determining how most of the fathers voted.


Creating Radicals

John XXIII announced Vatican II as a “pastoral” assembly, but there were growing differences of opinion as to what exactly that meant. Pious, instinctively conservative prelates might think of encouraging Marian devotions or kindling zeal for the foreign missions. The dominant group, however, moved the council toward dialogue with the modern world, translating the Church’s message into a language modern men understood.

The council fathers always strove to remain balanced (see George Sim Johnston’s “Was Vatican II a Mistake?” March 2004). To take what are now the most fiercely debated issues, they imagined no revisions in Catholic moral teaching about sexuality, referring instead to “the plague of divorce” and to the “abominable crime” of abortion. Deliberately childless marriages were deemed a tragedy, and the faithful were reminded of the Church’s condemnation of artificial birth control.

At the same time, the fact that practically every aspect of Catholic belief seemed to be under discussion had results that John XXIII probably didn’t intend. Famously, at one point he removed the subject of contraception from the floor of the council and announced that he was appointing a special commission to study the issue—an action that naturally led some to believe the teaching would indeed be revised. When Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae in 1968, liberals were outraged that he rejected the commission’s recommendation to permit some forms of birth control and accused him of betraying the council.

The council fathers each had periti, or advisers, on matters of theology and canon law, and some of them were very influential, both in shaping the thought of the prelates whom they advised and in working behind the scenes with like-minded delegates and other periti. In explaining the theological revolution that occurred almost immediately after the council, some orthodox Catholics speculate that a well-organized minority intended from the beginning to sabotage the council and that they successfully planted theological time bombs in the conciliar decrees—doctrinal statements whose implications were deliberately left vague, to be activated later. But there’s little evidence of this.

It’s characteristic of revolutions that they are rarely planned ahead of time. Rather, they arise from the sudden acceleration of historical change, caused by the flow of events and the way in which people relate to those events. There is no evidence that anyone came to the council with a radical agenda, in part because such an agenda would have been considered hopelessly unrealistic. (Some liberals actually feared that the council would prove to be a retrogressive gathering.)

A major factor in the postconciliar dynamic was the reformers’ own heady experience of swift and unexpected change. For example, in 1960 no one would have predicted—and few would have advocated—the virtual abandonment of the Latin liturgy. But once reformers realized that the council fathers supported change, it became an irresistible temptation to continue pushing farther and faster. What had been thought of as stone walls of resistance turned out to be papier-mâché.

The council itself proved to be a “radicalizing” experience, during which men who had never met before, and who in some cases had probably given little thought to the questions now set before them, began quickly to change their minds on major issues. (For example, Archbishop—later Cardinal—John F. Dearden of Detroit, who was considered quite rigid before the council, returned home as an uncritical advocate of every kind of change.) When the council was over, some of those present—both periti and bishops—were prepared to go beyond what the council had in fact intended or authorized, using the conciliar texts as justification when possible, ignoring them when not (as recounted, for example, by Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who was in charge of liturgical reform after the council, in his book The Reform of the Liturgy). Aware that the council didn’t support their agenda, they quickly got into the habit of speaking of the “spirit” of the council, which was said to transcend its actual statements and even in some cases to contradict them.





The Role of the Media

While the council was still in session, it occurred to some that it was less important what that body actually said and did than what people thought it said and did. Thus as early as the first session, in 1962, there was an orchestrated propaganda campaign to present the deliberations and define the issues in particular ways and to enlist the sympathies of the public on behalf of a particular agenda. Certain key journalists became “participant-observers,” meaning that they reported the events and at the same time sought to influence them—the chief practitioners being “Xavier Rynne” (the pen name of the Redemptorist historian Francis X. Murphy), who wrote “Letter from Vatican City” for the New Yorker magazine, and Robert Blair Kaiser, who reported for Time. Such reports were written for a largely non-Catholic audience, many of whom were unsympathetic to the Faith, and the thrust of the reporting was to assure such readers that the Church was at long last admitting its many errors and coming to terms with secular culture. Most Catholics probably relied on these same sources for their understanding of the council and so received the same message.

The key reason why postconciliar “renewal” often went wrong is the almost incredible fact that the hierarchy in the early 1960s made almost no systematic effort to catechize the faithful (including priests and religious) on the meaning of the council—something about which many bishops themselves seemed confused. “Renewal experts” sprang up everywhere, and the most contradictory explanations of the council were offered to Catholics thirsting for guidance. Bishops rarely offered their flocks authoritative teaching and instead fell into the habit of simply trusting certified “experts” in every area of Church life. Indeed, before the council was even over, several fallacious interpretations were planted that still flourish today.

Even the best journalistic accounts were forced to simplify the often subtle and complex deliberations of the council fathers. But there was also deliberate oversimplification for the purpose of creating a particular public impression. The media thus divided the council fathers into heroes and villains—otherwise known as liberals and conservatives. In this way, the conciliar battles were presented as morality plays in which open-minded, warm-hearted, highly intelligent innovators (Cardinal Alfrink, for example) were able repeatedly to thwart plots by Machiavellian reactionaries (Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani of the Holy Office). It was a morality play that appealed to the prejudices of many Westerners of the mid-20th century. It also had a real if immeasurable influence on many bishops, who soon discovered that being viewed as “progressive” would gain them a favorable press, while the opposite would make them into public villains.

For understandable reasons, vastly disproportionate attention was lavished by the media on such things as the vernacular liturgy and the end of mandatory Friday abstinence, since concrete practices could be easily dealt with journalistically and such practices had long helped to define the differences between Catholics and others. Catholics who understood almost nothing of the theological issues of the council came to understand that its “real” purpose was repealing rules that had become burdensome and old-fashioned.

But in another sense the attention lavished on such things was not disproportionate, because in a sacramental Church “externals” are the doorways to the spirit. In theory it perhaps ought not to have mattered whether nuns wore habits, but in practice the modification, then the total abandonment, of those habits marked the beginning of the end of religious life as it had existed for centuries. For many people the distinction between essentials and nonessentials was almost meaningless. If Catholics were no longer forbidden to eat meat on Fridays, why could they not get divorced,
especially given the widespread conviction that the purpose of the council and of “Good Pope John” was to make people comfortable with their faith?

Many of the council fathers, after they returned to their dioceses, seemed themselves to be in a state of confusion over what they’d done. Only a relatively few—some orthodox, others less so—had a clear and consistent understanding. For most, the postconciliar period proved to be a time of rudderless experimentation, as Catholics groped to understand what the council had mandated. For many people the one sure thing, amid all the postconciliar uncertainty, was the fact of change itself; in an odd way it seemed safest to do or believe almost the opposite of what Catholics had previously been taught.


The Scars of Renewal

Underlying the council were two different approaches to reform—approaches that were not contradictory but that required serious intellectual effort to reconcile. One was ressourcement (“back to the sources”), a program of renewing the Church by returning to its scriptural and patristic roots (DeLubac, Danielou, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar all held to this). The other was aggiornamento (“updating”), by which the supposed demands of contemporary culture were the chief concern (Hans Küng, Schillebeeckx, and to some extent Rahner, were all proponents). Kept in balance during the council itself, these two movements increasingly pulled apart afterward and resulted in the deep conflicts that continue to the present.

A prime example of the postconciliar dynamic at work was the “renewal” of religious life. Cardinal Suenens wrote the influential book The Nun in the World, enjoining sisters to come out of their cloisters and accept the challenges of modern life. Whatever might be thought about them as theological principles, such recipes for “renewal” also promised that those who adopted them would experience phenomenal revitalization, including dramatic numerical growth, and for a few years after the council the official spirit of naive optimism won out over the “prophets of gloom.”

The most famous instance of such renewal in the United States was that of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Los Angeles. Their program of aggiornamento had all the ingredients required at the time—intense publicity from an overwhelmingly favorable media, a prestigious secular “expert” (the psychologist Carl Rogers
– a New Ager -Michael), picturesque experiments with nontraditional behavior (encounter groups), and a reactionary villain (James Cardinal McIntyre) portrayed as the only obstacle to progress. Not until it was too late did anyone ask whether the IHM Sisters, along with countless others, were simply abandoning their vocations completely.



A tragic dimension of the conciliar period was precisely the irrelevance and ultimate failure of the exciting intellectual programs that emanated from what were then the five most influential Catholic nations. For a very brief period, Dutch Catholicism made a bid to give the universal Church a working model of renewal, before “the Dutch Church” imploded and sank into oblivion. Rates of church attendance and religious vocations may have been worrisomely low in Belgium, France, and Germany in 1960, but the bishops of those countries probably couldn’t imagine how much lower they would fall. In ways not recognized 40 years ago, it’s now clear that the strategy of countering secularism by moving closer to the secular culture just doesn’t work.

The partisans of aggiornamento became the first theologians in the history of the Church to make systematic use of the mass media, entering into a working alliance with journalists who could scarcely even understand the concept of ressourcement but eagerly promoted an agenda that required the Church to accommodate itself to the secular culture. Strangely enough, some theologians, along with their propagandist allies, actually denied the Church the right to remain faithful to its authentic identity and announced a moral obligation to repudiate as much of that identity as possible. “Renewal” came to be identified with dissent and infidelity, and Catholics who remained faithful to the Church were denounced as enemies of Vatican II.

This occurred at the most fundamental level, so that the authority of the council itself was soon relativized. The notion that a council would claim for itself final authority in matters of belief came to be viewed by liberals as reactionary. Vatican II was thus treated as merely a major historical epiphany—a moment in the unfolding history of the Church and of human consciousness when profound new insights were discovered. According to this view, the council’s function was not to make authoritative pronouncements but merely to facilitate the movement of the Church into the next stage of its historical development. (For example, the Jesuit historian John W. O’Malley in 1971 proposed that certain conciliar texts could be legitimately ignored as merely reflective of intellectual immaturity, timidity, and confusion on the part of the council fathers.)

After the council, the concept of “the People of God” was reduced to a crude form of democracy—doctrine as determined by opinion polls. The liturgy ceased to be a divine action and became a communal celebration, and the supernatural vocations of priests and religious were deemed to be obstacles to their service to the world.

Nothing had a more devastating effect on postconciliar Catholic life than the sexual revolution, as believers began to engage in behavior not measurably different from that of non-believers. Priests and religious repudiated their vows in order to marry, and many of those who remained in religious life ceased to regard celibacy as desirable. Catholics divorced almost as frequently as non-Catholics. Church teachings about contraception, homosexuality, and even abortion were widely disregarded, with every moral absolute treated as merely another wall needing to be breached.


Off the Rails

Ultimately the single best explanation of what happened to deflect the council’s decrees from their intended direction is the fact that as soon as the assembly ended, the worldwide cultural phenomenon known as the “the Sixties” began. It was nothing less than a frontal assault on all forms of authority.

Bereft of catechesis, confused by the conciliar changes, and unable to grasp the subtle theology of the conciliar decrees, many Catholics simply translated the conciliar reforms into the terms of the counterculture, which was essentially the demand for “liberation” from all restraint on personal freedom. Even as late as 1965 almost no one anticipated this great cultural upheaval. The measured judgments of Gaudium et Spes, the council’s highly influential decree on the Church and the modern world, shows not a hint of it.

Had the council met a decade earlier, during the relatively stable 1950s, it’s possible that there could have been an orderly and untroubled transition. But after 1965 the spirit of the age was quite different, and by then many Catholics were eager to break out of what they considered their religious prison. Given the deliberately fostered popular impression that the Church was surrendering in its perennial struggle with the world, it was inevitable that the prevailing understanding of reform would be filtered through the glass of a hedonistic popular culture. Under such conditions it would require remarkable steadfastness of purpose to adhere to an authentic program of renewal.

The postconciliar crisis has moved far beyond issues like the language of the liturgy or nuns’ habits—even beyond sexual morality or gender identities. Today the theological frontier is nothing less than the stark question of whether there is indeed only one God and Jesus is His only-begotten Son. It is a question that the council fathers didn’t foresee as imminent and, predictably, the council’s dicta about non-Christian religions are now cited to justify various kinds of religious syncretism. The resources for resolving this issue are present in the conciliar decrees themselves, but it’s by no means certain that Church leaders have the will to interpret them in final and authoritative ways. Forty years after the council, serious Catholics have good reason to think they’ve been left to wander the theological wilderness.



62. The
Francis Effect‘: A Historic LGBT Pilgrimage to Rome

By Stevie St. John, February 18, 2015

LGBT Catholics on a pilgrimage to Rome were for the first time given VIP seats near Pope Francis himself for the pontiff’s weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.




In what New Ways Ministry‘s executive director, Francis DeBernardo, called a “singular honor,” a group of LGBT Catholics on a pilgrimage to Rome were today, for the first time of any LGBT group, given VIP seats near Pope Francis himself for the pontiff’s weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

DeBernardo is visiting Rome in the company of about 50 LGBT Catholics — about twice the number that have embarked on the journey in years past. DeBernardo helms New Ways, an LGBT Catholic group that was cofounded by Sister Jeannine Gramick, the leader of the pilgrimage.

Gramick, who has a “This Pope Gives Me Hope!” decal on her computer, chalked up the unprecedented VIP treatment to “the Francis effect,” according to a Reuters story. In an email to The Advocate, DeBernardo lauded the pope for “[raising] the level of discourse on LGBT issues in the Church.” Hence the larger number of travelers than have joined for the past 15 years, he said: “Pope Francis is a big draw for them!”

Though Gramick’s appeal to the pope for a meeting with the LGBT travelers hasn’t been fulfilled, this year still represents marked change; the New Ways leaders told Reuters their group was ignored under the leadership of previous popes. Gramick told the Associated Press that “to me, this is an example of the kind of willingness [Pope Francis] has to welcome those on the fringes of the church back to the center of the church.”

Pope Francis has walked an apparent fine line on LGBT issues — perhaps well-symbolized by the fact that the Vatican’s own list of attendees for the audience dubbed the New Ways folks a “group of lay people” without identifying them as coming with an LGBT organization.

Lauded for his Who am I to judge?” remark (about gay priests) and other seeming overtures on LGBT issues (such as a private meeting with a transgender man and his fiancée), the pope has also been criticized for a lack of policy changes (which most observers grant are unlikely) and critical statements about same-sex marriage and nontraditional families

Some conservative forces view Pope Francis as having attempted to push through a more welcoming approach to LGBT Catholics at last year’s Synod of Bishops on family issues. The synod’s final report used more cautious language than an interim one, disappointing many LGBT activists. Now those on both sides of various family-related issues are looking ahead to synod this October that will continue the discussion.



63. Who am I to judge?

By Ronald Mann, February 26, 2015

I am sick and tired of this who am I to judge?” silliness. Only God can judge the state of the human soul. But it is pure humbug to suggest we cannot and should not judge human behavior. Reluctance to judge moral behavior is the inevitable consequence of moral relativism and moral subjectivism that has eroded confidence in the ability to determine objective moral truth on which sound judgment is based.

Judgment is an essential component of the exercise of authority. If you do not have the courage to judge, then you should avoid positions of authority. Not being judgmental is a curse of our age. When I cautioned my teenagers not to hang out with so and so, the standard response was “Oh, Dad, you are so judgmental!” Not to judge is a dereliction of duty that afflicts so much of the Church’s hierarchy. It obscures our Lord’s message, sows confusion among the faithful, and undermines lay efforts to fight against the perversions of the day.

Absence of judgment or inept judgment in regard to the pederasty scandal elevated the deviant behavior of a relatively small number of miscreant priests into an international scandal that subjected the papacy to scorn and crippled the Church for several decades. A recent example of the “who am I to judge?” question involved homosexuality and was uttered by Cardinal Dolan in a very public venue.

Cardinal Dolan said the Bible tells us not to judge people. In response to a question on Meet the Press last year about the announcement that football player Michael Sam was a homosexual, Cardinal Dolan replied: “I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya. I don’t think, look, the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say ‘bravo’.”

So, the Bible tells us not to judge people?

Consider: “thus says the Lord: you, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me if I tell the wicked, ‘oh, wicked one, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked one from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself” (Ezekiel 33: 7 – 9).

Neither Peter nor Paul were squeamish about judging others:

Peter said to Simon the magician “Your heart is not upright before God. Repent of this wickedness of yours … for I see that you are filled with bitter gall, and you are in the bonds of iniquity” (Acts 8: 20 – 23).

Paul said to Elymas, “you son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13: 9 – 10).

Here are some excerpts from the epistles that illustrate judgment:

“[W]hen Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he clearly was wrong” (Gal 2:11).

“[B]rothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit…” (Gal 6:1).




“[T]ake no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them…” (Gal 5: 11).

“[R]eprimand publicly those [presbyters] who do sin, so that the rest will also be afraid” (Tim 5:20).

“[T]herefore, admonish them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith…” (Titus 1:13 – 14).

“[E]xhort and correct with all authority…” (Titus 2:15).

“I am convinced about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another” (Rom 15:14).

“[I]t is widely reported that there is immorality among you… A man living with his father’s wife.… The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst. I … have already, as if present, pronounced judgment on the one who committed this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus…. You are to deliver this man to Satan for the distraction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:1 – 5).

So it is clear that the Bible often encourages judgment of the behavior of others. But those who disdain judgment often cite (Mt 7:1 – 2): “Stop judging that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged…..” This is not an injunction against judgment, but a warning that the judgment should be rendered with a good heart free from hypocrisy, arrogance, meanness of spirit, or hate. Thus “remove the beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5). The principal purpose of a judgment is to help my brother and others avoid debilitating actions and improve. The awesome burden of judging is the realization that we will be “judged as we have judged.” Some cite the incident of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus by those who would stone her as evidence that we should not judge others. Nothing could be further from the truth. The incident manifests God’s mercy and loathing of hypocrisy, but he did judge her behavior as evidenced by his admonition: Go and sin no more.

We honor those men and women throughout the ages, who have had the courage to judge the sinful behavior of others and publicly testify against it. Despite the cost, Sir Thomas More admonished King Henry VIII not to be acclaimed as the supreme head of the Church of England since that would deny papal authority, and he also warned the king that it would be bigamous for him to marry Anne Boleyn. Did not John the Baptist judge when he publicly accused Herod of adultery because he took Herodias for his wife despite her still being married to Herod’s brother Philip? Juries judge defendants all the time.

The quality of a judgment usually depends on the information available to the judge and the impartiality of that judge. A judgment may be positive, negative, or neutral. Once a judgment has been rendered, the question becomes what should we do when asked about it? There are several options. We could say nothing or “no comment” and let the matter drop. We could say nothing publicly and rebuke, admonish, or praise in private. We could announce our judgment in an appropriate forum. Finally, we could use the public forum that posed the question to instruct viewers on precisely what the Catholic position on the subject is and emphasize that we love the sinner but hate the sin.

It is love that sometimes prompts us to speak out when the stakes are high. “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6: 9 – 10). Cardinal Dolan squandered an opportunity to instruct not only the sinner, but also the confused and ignorant about what the beautiful teaching of the Catholic Church is. How could Cardinal Dolan add “bravo” to the end of his response? This poor homosexual must choose either a lifetime of celibate self-denial or risk eternal damnation for indulging in sexual sin.

Most priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes are good men dedicated to the service of God. But they are subject to error, bias, and vanity like everyone else. Sycophancy is an ever present danger. The Peter Principle that states that people tend to be promoted one level beyond their level of competence clearly applies at times to members of the Church hierarchy. Over recent years, we have seen sound judgment too often impaired by cowardice that masquerades as prudence and by capitulation to the zeitgeist that camouflages itself as pastoral concern.

In the modern world, instant widespread communication in many different kinds of media exposes mercilessly the shortcomings that may occur in public conversations and events. Loquacious people like Cardinal Dolan are especially vulnerable. Transparency and candor are welcome characteristics, but the Church hierarchy must learn to control the narrative.

So let us pray that God will give us the courage to make sound judgments and the wisdom to use those judgments for the benefit of his children. Judges would do well to remember Paul’s advice to Timothy: “Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, and that they may return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will” (2 Timothy 2: 23 – 26).




64. How to really measure the ‘Francis effect

By Daniel Burke, CNN, March 13, 2015

— In some ways, the “Pope Francis effect” doesn’t seem very effective at all.




Despite the immense popularity the aged Argentine has won since his election last year, not a jot of doctrine has changed, nor has the Catholic Church swelled with American converts.

But there’s more than one way to measure a pontiff’s influence on his far-flung flock.

Start asking around — here in Boston and beyond, Catholics and atheists alike — and it’s easy to find people eager to share how one man, in just one year, has changed their lives.

There’s the gay man who finally feels welcome in his church.

The woman who weeps when headlines deliver good news at last.

The former priest who no longer clenches his fist during Mass.

The Latinos who waited forever for a Pope who speaks their language.

“I’m telling you, brother, if you focus on the numbers, you’re missing the story,” says the Rev. John Unni, a Boston pastor with an accent as thick as clam chowda.

“There’s an energy, a feeling, a spirit here. It’s like a healing balm.”

If anyplace needed healing, it’s Boston — the country’s most Catholic city.

Nearly half the residents here have roots in the church. It’s home to a top Catholic college, one of just two Jesuit seminaries in the United States and a cardinal who has the ear of the Pope himself.

But Boston is also a city scarred by a church sex abuse scandal that harmed hundreds of children, demoralized dozens of innocent priests and broke the bonds of trust between clergy and congregants.

To say that Pope Francis has smiled and salved those wounds is a stretch longer than the Boston Marathon, people here say. There are plenty of ex-Catholics who’ll never give the church a second look. But there are many others who say they just might.

In other words, this the perfect city to take a measure of the “Francis effect” — to visit churches, classrooms, coffee shops and bars and learn how this Pope is shaping the lives of rank-and-file Catholics.

“He’s sent us an invitation,” says Mark Mullaney, president of Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based reform group born in the wake of the sex abuse scandal.

“And now many of us are deciding whether to come to the party.”


A few surprises

Jesus called Peter, the first pope, the church’s foundation stone, its rock. In case you’ve been living under one, here’s what Francis has done since his election on March 13, 2013.

He blasted bishops who spend money like they’re auditioning for “MTV Cribs” and chastised priests who forget they’re servants, not princes.

He called for a truce in the culture wars, refused to judge gay people and reached out to atheists.

He hugged a man covered with tumors, washed the feet of Muslim prisoners and wore a clown nose — just for giggles.

He hired a group of cardinals — including Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston — to reform the curia, the Vatican bureaucracy that has a reputation for more shady deals than Tammany Hall.

He cold-called nuns, refused to live in the Apostolic Palace and ditched the regal trappings of papal life.

He called unfettered capitalism a false idol and trickle-down economics a sham.

He made the cover of Time, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and The Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine that makes no secret of its problems with previous Popes.

He said it’s immoral when the media reports every move of the market but ignores the death of a homeless person.

He told his church to be big-hearted and bruised, open and merciful; to forget its finery and make a mess in the streets; to be a field hospital for this sin-sick world.

For all this and more, people love him.

A whopping 85% of American Catholics view him favorably, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday. More than 71% say he’s a change for the better.

Those kinds of numbers haven’t been seen since the prime of Pope John Paul II.

At the same time, the Pew study found no increase in the number of Americans who call themselves Catholic, attend Mass regularly, or perform charity, leading some to doubt the “Francis effect.” Others argue that those may not be the best measures of a Pope’s influence.

The 77-year-old Francis may be an unlikely maverick in Rome, but he’s been following the same playbook for decades in Buenos Aires, says the Rev. Gustavo Morello, an expert on Argentina’s Catholic history.

Morello is a tall man who looks a bit like St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, at least by the light of a Boston barroom.

He and the man he knows as Jorge Bergoglio go way back.

The future Pope gave Morello his entrance interview 30 years ago when he sought to join the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits’ official name.

“He’s always been pastoral, close to the people,” says Morello, now a sociologist at Boston College. “The simplicity in his daily life, that’s real.”

In his first days as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio gave his priests a vacation, a luxury many hadn’t enjoyed for five years. He paid for their travel and subbed in at their parishes.

But conservatives didn’t like Bergoglio much, Morello says.




The future Pope once knelt before Pentecostal pastors and asked for a blessing. He argued that the state should recognize same-sex civil unions. He had no use for high-church liturgy or fancy vestments.

Like many Latin American priests, he was a street-wise pastor with a populist touch who made up his own mind, Morello says.

In other words, he was Pope Francis on a smaller stage — with one big difference.

“I wasn’t aware of his commitment to reforming the church and the curia,” says Morello.

“That’s new, and surprising.”


Clenched fists and tears of joy

Michelle Sterk Barrett says she’s not the type to shed a lot of tears — but she confesses to crying four times during Pope Francis’ first year in office.

They were tears of joy.

“He’s made me proud to be Catholic,” she says, “instead of always having to apologize for staying in the church.”

The first drops rolled while she watched a respectful discussion about Catholicism on “Meet the Press” last March, a few days after the Pope’s election.

She wept again seeing crowds flock to Francis during World Youth Day in Brazil last June. And her eyes misted over when Time named the Pope its Person of the Year and Rolling Stone gave him the full rock-star treatment in a glowing cover story.

“For years, all of the media coverage of Catholicism has been so negative. We’ve been ridiculed as out of touch and judgmental,” says Barrett. “Just to see my church respected in public again — it’s incredible.”

The 42-year-old comes from a devout family and leads the community learning program at the College of the Holy Cross, a Catholic school in nearby Worcester.

Barrett belongs to St. Ignatius Parish, a Jesuit church tucked into a corner of the Boston College campus in Chestnut Hill.

On a bitterly cold day last month, pastor Rev. Robert VerEecke admitted that many in his parish have caught Francis fever.

Even long-lapsed Catholics are creeping back to the pews. VerEecke said he recently heard from a woman who left the church 40 years ago but wanted to learn more about Jesuit spirituality because of Francis.

Comb through the homilies delivered by St. Ignatius’ priests and you’ll find dozens of references to the new Pope. The adult initiation class is filled with converts inspired by Francis.

“For those of us who are preachers or teachers,” he says, “Francis has made our lives much easier.”

St. Ignatius leans liberal, but Barrett is no basher of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. She respects their erudite, if sometimes esoteric writings.

But Francis has a unique gift for reaching people on a gut level, Barrett says. He uses simple language and earthy metaphors, telling priests, for example, to be shepherds who “smell like their sheep.”

Her mother, Maureen Sterk, keeps quotes like that on her family fridge in San Diego and reads the Pope’s homilies online every day.

“He’s putting the message in terms that people can understand,” says Sterk.

What her daughter says she likes most about Francis, though, is the way he’s changed the church’s tone from Thou Shalt Not to Thou Shall.

“He’s the best thing to happen in the Catholic Church in my lifetime. And part of that is because he’s followed so closely on the worst thing to ever happen. He’s given hope to a city that desperately needed it.”

Catholics here say it’s hard for outsiders to understand how bad things were in Boston, the epicenter of the sexual abuse scandal in the United States.

In just the first four months of 2002, the Boston Globe, which broke the story, ran nearly 300 articles divulging the painful details.

Priests had preyed on kids. Bishops shuffled pedophiles from parish to parish. Hush-hush settlements led to loud accusations.

The archbishop resigned in 2002; discouraged priests quit; friends and family questioned Catholics who remained loyal to the church.

“You’d walk out onto the altar and just feel the fury in people,” says Bob Bowers, a former parish priest in Boston.

As the espresso machine hisses in a Cambridge coffee shop, Bowers, a friendly guy with ruddy cheeks and a gray buzz cut, says he was a Pope Francis kind of priest.

He worked in one of the poorest parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, where hypodermic needles littered the church parking lot each morning.

Still, he loved it there, especially working with kids.

Boston College gave him an honorary degree in 2002, noting that he was known for holding “the best children’s Mass ever.” College classmates had voted him Most Likely to Be a Priest.

After the sex abuse scandal broke, the archdiocese ended most of its youth ministries, Bowers says, pulling its priests from any situation with even the least chance for trouble.

Despite his vow of obedience to the bishop, the priest began challenging the Boston hierarchy. After the sex abuse scandal, he no longer trusted his bosses in the Archdiocese. “They lied to our faces,” he says.

He signed a letter asking Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston’s former archbishop, to resign, which he eventually did.




Bowers later refused to read statements from the pulpit denouncing same-sex marriage, instead passing out fliers that said “Love your enemies.”

The archdiocese closed his former parish, merging it with a more affluent church. Bowers, who fiercely fought the closure, moved on to the Paulist Center in downtown Boston.

The center, which is run by a Catholic order of priests, focuses on serving the poor and counseling Catholics disillusioned with the church: gays and lesbians, women who want greater leadership roles.

Bowers says he asked for another parish post, but the archdiocese tried to ship him out of town, assigning him to a faraway church on the New Hampshire border. He quit instead.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said Cardinal Sean O’Malley “appreciates the work of all his priests, including Bob Bowers.”

“Revenge and punishment are not in the Cardinal’s playbook,” Donilon added. “That’s not who he is or how he operates.”

For the past eight years, Bowers has been on what he calls an “open-ended leave” from the priesthood. He misses it like hell.

For a time, Bowers slept in friends’ extra rooms with his dog Ralph, a Labrador-Spaniel mix, for company. Bowers and Ralph now live in nearby Quincy, where they take cold walks on the beach in the morning.

Eventually, Bowers, 53, landed a job as state director of volunteer services for the Red Cross, where he watched the Pope’s election last March.

He likes a lot of what he sees in Francis. The washing of Muslim inmate’s feet, the “Who am I to judge” comment about gays, the embrace of the severely disfigured man.

“There’s an excitement people feel that’s pretty contagious,” Bowers says. “But part of me doesn’t want to take part because I’m afraid of getting hurt again by this church.”

After trying out a few Protestant churches, he attends Mass again.

He’s noticed that he no longer sits in the pews with fists clenched in anger. He thinks that’s due to Francis’ influence on the church, but he’s not quite sure.

Bowers says he’ll really believe in the Pope when the head of the Catholic Church listens to the stories of victims of sexual abuse, of women who want to be entrusted to lead the church, of gays and lesbians who want to be seen as people, not problems.

Then Bowers wants to see that same spirit of openness trickle down to American parishes.

Until then, he’s withholding judgment.


Welcome home

One of out every 10 Americans is a former Catholic, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center study. If they formed their own church, they’d be the country’s second-largest denomination, after the Catholic Church itself.

Many Catholics hope that Pope Francis can at least slow the exodus, and there are small signs across the country that some may be returning to the fold.

Brian Stevens was raised Catholic in Huber Heights, Ohio, but his passion for the church wasn’t fired until he met the priests and nuns at the University of Dayton.

A campus ministry mission to Haiti set him on the path to serving the poor through Catholic programs. He worked his way up the ranks, joining the U.S. Catholic bishops’ top anti-poverty program in 2007.

At the same time, though, Stevens, who is gay, had begun feeling alienated in his own church.

As the bishops launched a fierce fight against same-sex marriage, their rhetoric towards gays and lesbians became more charged and polarizing, says Stevens.

He grants that the bishops have every right to express their political views — but he couldn’t help feeling increasingly unwelcome.

In 2010, Stevens quit the bishops’ conference, moved to south Florida and stopped going to Mass. It was an act of self-preservation, he says.

“Imagine that someone is constantly poking you in the eye. Suddenly, when it stops, it feels a whole lot better.”

Still, Stevens stayed active in charity circles and has been watching Pope Francis closely. He says he’s noticed a change of tone towards gays and lesbians.

“He speaks with a new generosity of spirit that’s truly welcoming,” Stevens says.

“There’s no nuance, no couching it in broader terms. It’s just: I’m here to bring people closer to God, not judge them. With Pope Benedict, God bless him, that just didn’t come through.”

One night recently, St. Rose of Lima Parish in Miami Shores, Florida, asked social justice activists to talk about how Pope Francis has affected their personal and professional lives. Their stories inspired Stevens to join the parish.

If there’s a “Francis effect,” he says, it’s not just about welcoming gays and lesbians into the fold, although that is big part of it.

It’s also the Pope’s insistence on putting poor people first and asking deep questions about Catholics’ mission in the world.

“This is a moment of grace for the church,” Stevens says.


Making noise in the streets

Back in Boston, the Rev. John Unni is energized, though it’s tough to think of him as anything less than fully charged.




He wears a blue flannel shirt and work boots instead of priestly black. He’s 52 but looks 35 — the kind of guy you might see on one those TV reality shows about home remodeling.

A clerical collar is nowhere in sight. His cellphone buzzes like a drunk bumblebee.

Several years ago, Unni’s parish, St. Cecilia in Boston’s Back Bay, merged with a predominantly gay church nearby as part of the archdiocese’s plan to deal with a lack of funds and priests.

Unni made a point of welcoming gays and lesbians to St. Cecilia, even scheduling a special service during Gay Pride month.

Conservative Catholic bloggers went ballistic, accusing him of watering down church teachings.

“They crucified me!” Unni says.

It was a different time in the church, Unni says, when doctrinal conformity was the order of the day. People who stepped out of line could expect to get smacked down.

The Archdiocese of Boston forced him to cancel the LGBT service, but Unni preached about homosexuality anyway, telling the congregants he doesn’t know anything about the “gay agenda,” all he knows is Jesus’ agenda — a. k. a. the Gospel.

Unni’s been known to take that love-your-neighbor vibe to extremes.

Stories abound about him arriving late to dinner dates with parishioners because he was buying homeless men meals. He cut short a recent interview to dash into an immigration center.

A book sits on a table at Unni’s office in St. Cecilia, a redbrick church overshadowed by hotels and office buildings. It’s called “Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way he leads.”

As he thumbs through it, Unni looks like a kid who’s got his hands on “Harry Potter.”

Unni quotes liberally from the pontiff’s speeches and sermons in his own homilies, mentioning the trickle-down criticism, for example, during a recent Mass.

A satirical cartoon in which Francis is criticized for making the same “crazy impractical mistakes” as Jesus greets visitors from a table in St. Cecilia’s vestibule.

“I almost feel vindicated in a way,” Unni says, “that someone, namely the Pope, has the same approach to the complexities of life and relationships and the church and the poor as I do.”

The priest is quick to add he’s not putting himself on the same plane as the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.

But it’s nice to know they’re on the same path.

The young Jesuits-in-training at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry are on the Pope’s path as well.

Francis was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1969 and led the society’s Argentine branch from 1973 to 1979. He says he joined the Jesuits for three reasons: their missionary spirit, their community and their discipline.

Because of the Pope’s popularity, inquiries to join the Society of Jesus have doubled in the last year, to five or six each week, says the Rev. Chuck Frederico, vocations director for the Jesuit provinces on the East Coast. “I can barely keep up.”

Many of these men who want to join the Jesuits say they heard about the society through Francis. Some haven’t even been to church in years, Frederico says.

That’s not the case with the Jesuits-in-training at Boston College, who are deeply immersed in studying theology and philosophy.

Jesuit formation typical takes 10-12 years, requiring the men to combine spiritual exercises, book learning and hands-on mission work.

Four young men met in a classroom on a recent day to talk about Pope Francis. Three are deacons who will be ordained priests later this year and continue their Jesuit formation. The fourth, a Jesuit from Spain, was ordained last year.

As they sit behind a row of desks, they look like typical graduate students, save for the all-black outfits and clerical collars.

I sit in the middle and fire questions at them. It’s like the Inquisition in reverse, with the secular scribe asking churchmen pesky questions about the Pope.

I ask them to sum up Pope Francis in one word. They answer: Joy. Mercy. Improv. His own man.

OK, maybe math isn’t part of Jesuit training. But I accept the three-word answer from Sam Sawyer because he’s a fellow wordsmith, a writer with the online Jesuit Post.

The 35-year-old is from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and, like the other Jesuits, he’s got a story about seeing the “Francis effect” up close.

For Sawyer, it was watching a friend who’s left the church and become an atheist grow increasingly fascinated by the Pope.

“It’s not bringing him back to the church,” Sawyer says, “But he does find it encouraging that the same kind of pastoral presence he’s seen and respected at local levels is being given a more universal stage and more attention.”

Mario Powell, a bespectacled 32-year-old from Los Angeles, had a similar story.

A few years ago, he led a spiritual retreat for the trustees of a big Boston school.

One man, an ex-Catholic, was still pained by the sexual abuse scandal and annoyed by the mandatory retreat.

When Powell saw the guy again this year, he got a big pat on the back. “I don’t think he’s there yet. He’s not going to Mass,” Powell says, “but he’s coming around.”

Ryan Duns, a 34-year-old from Cleveland saw the “Francis effect” while hanging out with older Irish musicians during his weekly gig at The Green Briar, a Boston bar.

They had just watched the Pope pick up a child with cerebral palsy on TV. “Even they were touched by this man’s compassion and tenderness.”

An accordion player, Duns can’t help describing the difference between Francis and previous popes in musical terms.

“He’s got his own sense of the beats of the church. He’s more merengue than Mozart.”




Francis’ Latin flavor energizes the parish of St. Mary of the Angels in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury, which has a large Dominican community, says the Rev. Javier Montes.

Montes, the Jesuit from Spain, says some women at St. Mary’s have remarried after previous spouses abandoned them.

They’d like to receive Holy Communion, the church’s highest sacrament, but they can’t because of Catholic law. Pope Francis says church leaders will discuss the ban at a synod in October.

“They have heard that the Pope is insisting on welcoming and being merciful and that there is something going on in Rome,” Montes says, “so they keep asking if they will be able to receive Communion.”

A week ago, Montes led a parish retreat based on “The Joy of the Gospel,” the apostolic exhortation Pope Francis published in November.

For the first time in their lives, the abuelas and their children and grandchildren were able to read a papal document written in their native tongue, with recognizably Latino turns of phrases.

Hispanic Catholics are picking up the Pope’s books across the country, from Anchorage, Alaska, to Savannah, Georgia, says Marina Pastrana.

The Boston College graduate now directs the Hispanic Lay Leadership Initiative at Catholic Extension, which brings the faith to isolated communities.

To say that previous papal documents didn’t exactly light the youth on fire is not a slam on Benedict or John Paul II, she says.

Those Popes just spoke a different language, wrote for a different crowd.

“For a lot of young people the church’s public rhetoric wasn’t making sense to them,” says Pastrana, 27. “It wasn’t relevant.”

But they perked up and paid attention when Pope Francis told the million Catholics gathered in Brazil for World Youth Day to go home and “make some noise in the streets.”

For the anniversary of the Pope’s election, Catholic Extension collected videos from young Catholics to send to Francis.

In one of the videos, a young man from California takes the Pope’s advice literally, walking with other Catholics through gang-infested streets of Salinas to give neighbors a sense of peace and safety.

“I don’t know if he would have done that five years ago,” says Pastrana, her eyes tearing up. “I don’t know if he would have done that one year ago.”

Like the woman who weeps for joy, the gay man who feels welcome, the parish priest imbued with new life, the ex-priest who unclenches his fist, it’s a sign of the influence of just one man, in just one year.

Call it the “Francis effect,” live and in the flesh.


65. Who Am I to Judge?

By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, March 22, 2015

Who Am I to Judge?” will probably go down in history as Pope Francis’ most quotable quote.

The context of his quip is well known. On the plane back from World Youth Day in Brazil he was asked about the so called “gay lobby” in the church. He replied, “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem … they’re our brothers.”

Putting the gay question on one side, I am increasingly interested in the question of judgement.

Most non-Catholics will take up the fashionable cry, “Who are you to judge?!” whenever anyone disapproves of anything these days. If the prevailing philosophy in our society is relativism, then “Who are you to judge?!” is the logical response to make. If there is no such thing as truth then there is no such thing as right or wrong. If there is no such thing as right or wrong, then we may do as we like and you are not to judge me and I am not to judge you. Live and let live.

Yes, but.

Catholics insist that we can make judgements. We make an objective judgement about an action but we do not make a judgement on the person or on the eternal destiny of their soul.

This is the distinction that many secularists and Protestants fail to make. They think that if you judge an action to be wrong, that you must therefore judge the person, condemn the person, isolate and finally eliminate the person.

Catholics should be able, however to step back from judging the person and separate out the action from the individual. It is not only possible to do this, but vital to do it, and here’s why:

Within Catholic moral theology any particular action can be judged as intrinsically right or wrong according to two criteria–natural law and divine revelation. We judge an action purely on the action itself without considering circumstances or motivation.

So, for example, telling a lie is wrong.  It is always wrong. It is never right. A lie is a lie is a lie. It is always wrong to lie.

It is wrong by virtue of natural law because natural law tells all human beings that there is such a thing as truth and falsehood. We know, simply by the nature of language itself, that one statement can be true and another false. We know by the nature of communication itself that communication relies on telling the truth and that a lie breaks that essential trust upon which the very nature of language itself relies. We also know from divine revelation that a lie is wrong. ” You shall not bear false witness.” says the Lord.

We therefore conclude that a lie is wrong.




In saying that we have made an objective judgement: This action is wrong.

However, judging whether an action is wrong is not the same thing as determine the guilt of the person. The guilt of culpability of a person is a different matter, and that judgement is much more difficult, and very often both impossible and unnecessary.

To continue with the example of a lie, we can say that a lie is always wrong. However, if Mrs. Florsheim (who I know has self-esteem problems) comes along wearing the most hideous hat I have ever seen and she says brightly, “Do you like my new hat?” I might say, “I love it! What a beautiful chapeau!”

I have told a lie. It is wrong. However, the circumstances and motivation of that wrong action mean that my culpability is very low–so low as to be non-existent perhaps. The circumstances (woman with low self-esteem) and motivation (I lied so as not to hurt her feelings) do not make the lie right. It is still a lie. It is wrong. However, the bad effect of the lie and my guilt remain insignificant.

Still with me?

It still would have been better not to have lied. I might have said, “Mrs. Florsheim, I have never seen a hat like that one!” or “”My dear, only you could wear that hat!”

Consequently, Catholics are able to make judgements about much more thorny moral issues with objectivity and a shrug of the shoulders because while we judge an action we do not judge the person’s guilt. We do not make a definitive judgement on the person’s guilt because we do not know all the circumstances and motivation.

Most non-Catholics do not understand these distinctions and therefore misunderstand Catholic judgements in two destructive and opposite ways.

Firstly, when they hear us make a judgment about the objective right-ness or wrong-ness of an action they think we are making a judgement on the culpability of the person, and not just the person’s culpability, but also their worth as a person, whether they are a nice person or not or whether we like them or not. So if I say, “Living together before marriage is wrong.” All they hear is a personal judgement and rejection of the person. No matter how much I make the statement objective and non-judgmental they hear otherwise.

Secondly, when we do not make a judgement of the person they accept it as condoning the action–which we might very well wish to condemn. So when Pope Francis rightly said he did not judge the gay person the world heard him saying that he did not condemn homosexual actions. Wrong response. He was simply being Catholic in not judging the gay person’s culpability, but if anyone had said, “So Hoy Father does that mean you approve of gay sex?” He would have immediately corrected them.

So can we judge? Yes. We can judge whether an action is objectively right or wrong. We do so not out of our own personal opinion, but based on natural law and divine revelation.

Do we judge the guilt of the person, rejecting or accepting them because of their decision? No. That’s not for us to do either in this world or in the next.

God’s the judge. Because he knows everything he knows all the intricacies of all the circumstance and motivations. He is therefore the only one who can judge one’s guilt or innocence.



66. The ‘Pope Francis effect‘? Some early data suggest it could be real

By David Gibson, March 25, 2015

Pope Francis appears more popular than ever among American Catholics, and he hasn’t even visited the United States yet, a trip that is planned for September and could well boost his visibility — and appeal — even further.

But will Francis find American Catholics filling the pews? Or just loving the pope from afar? That’s one of the big — and so far unanswered — questions about his remarkable papacy.

Now, one researcher may have found some signs, albeit tentative, of an incipient “Francis effect.”

Mark Gray of Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate crunched the Catholic numbers from the 2014 General Social Survey, the go-to resource for sociologists. The GSS began in 1972 and is conducted every two years using face-to-face interviews with a national random sample of adults. Gray noted that when asked to characterize the strength of their religious affiliation, 34 percent of Catholics said it was “strong,” up from 27 percent in 2012, the year before Francis was elected. That 7-point rise was a “significant bounce,” Gray said.

There was also a decline in the percentage saying their affiliation with the Catholic Church was “not very strong,” down 6 points, to 56 percent. “Again, this is not a massive shift by any means, but it breaks a trend of consistently declining numbers of Catholics saying their affiliation is ‘strong’ in the last decade,” Gray wrote in a post on CARA’s blog.

Another marker of the strength of Catholicism, and any religion, is the retention rate — that is, the percentage of those raised in a faith who remain as adults.

Gray noted that the retention rate for Catholicism has been steadily declining since the early 1970s, from a high in the mid-80s to a low of 65 percent in 2012. But the 2014 GSS showed that the rate remained steady for the first time. “Given recent history, even holding steady is an interesting result,” Gray said.

The endurance of Catholicism is also in contrast to the affiliation rates for Protestants and other Christians, which continue to decline sharply, dipping below 50 percent in 2014 for the first time.

The numbers on Catholic identity and enthusiasm track those found in other public opinion surveys, such as a Pew Research Center poll conducted a year ago, in February 2014.



Even so, neither the Pew survey nor the GSS data show any bump in Mass attendance, which is viewed as the surest benchmark of success for a pope who sees evangelization and outreach as the priority for the Church, and his pontificate.

Yet the Pew survey showed that those who already go to church regularly were the most energized by the new pope.

“This suggests that if there was a ‘Francis effect,’ in the first year of his papacy, it was most pronounced among Catholics who were already highly committed to the practice of their faith,” Jessica Martinez of the Pew Research Center told reporters earlier this month.

The upshot: “The best news from the GSS for the church in 2014 is that some worrisome trends have halted,” Gray wrote.

But, he continued, “It will take another survey wave or two of consistent results to discern a real course ‘correction’ in the data,” he said. “This survey could be an outlier.”



67. Vatican standoff with France tests the pope’s ‘Who am I to judge?‘ stance

By Elizabeth Bryant, April 25, 2015

Paris — Pope Francis has been hailed for his forward thinking, but — at least according to French news reports — the pontiff has put on the brakes when it comes to a gay French ambassador at the Vatican.

In January, French President Francois Hollande nominated his protocol chief Laurent Stefanini as Vatican envoy to replace outgoing ambassador Bruno Joubert. The pick seemed ideal: 55-year-old Stefanini is described as brilliant and a devout Roman Catholic who secured support for his candidacy from Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris. He is also a known quantity at the Vatican, having served as a top official at the French embassy to the Holy See a decade ago.

But so far, his nomination has gone nowhere. Last week, France’s investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported that Pope Francis met with Stefanini last weekend. The message: The pontiff did not appreciate France’s 2013 same-sex marriage law, nor being pressured into accepting Stefanini’s candidacy.

The pope supposedly told Stefanini that France’s legalization of same-sex marriage in meant he could not allow him to serve at the Vatican. Reuters speculated that the pope worried that Stefanini could decide to marry while at the Vatican.

The pope’s reaction, as reported in the media, appears to contrast starkly with his remarks two years ago in which he said, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?

Another French media report said that the unusual meeting between Stefanini and Francis — a pope rarely gets directly involved in the appointment of an ambassador — was friendly and lasted 40 minutes, and ended with the two men praying together.

The French government has said little about the matter, except to confirm the meeting between the pope and the Vatican nominee took place. “Nothing has changed,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters. “France has proposed a candidate, and for the time being, we are waiting for the Vatican’s reply, after the usual discussions and review of his candidacy.”

Bernard Kouchner, France’s former foreign minister, has been more outspoken. “The Vatican seems badly placed to refuse homosexuals,” Kouchner told RTL Radio this week, adding, “but apart from that, I adore Pope Francis.”



68. The Francis Effect Discussed in Rome Itself: The Catholic Church is Waking Up

Michael Matt | Editor, May 14, 2015

As Pope Francis continues his revolution against all things traditional, it is becoming clearer every day that faithful Catholics are beginning to wake up to what is really going on. 
Please watch and share this video post. (YouTube 31:32) Father Linus Clovis fearlessly addresses the issue of Pope Francis’s compromise, the need to resist, the need to stay in the Church, the need to be ready to accept martyrdom rather than back down. 
Father Clovis is a priest of the Archdiocese of Castries, St. Lucia in the West Indies.  He studied for the priesthood at the Angelicum in Rome and was ordained in 1983 (by Pope John Paul II). He holds a doctorate in Mathematics and degrees in Theology, Canon Law and Latin Literature. 
He is the archdiocesan spiritual director of the Legion of Mary in St. Lucia, through which he promotes devotion to Our Lady, especially that of the Rosary, the Perpetual Help novena, and the First Friday and First Saturday devotions. He’s also spiritual director of the Population Research Institute and Family Life.

Please keep in mind that Father Clovis is not addressing a Traditional Catholic conference. Rather he’s addressing a group of pro-lifers who had gathered together, practically in the shadow of St. Peter’s on May 8, 2015, to discuss the crisis in the Church–a crisis, they argued, that starts at the very top and that now threatens to ‘come out of the closet’ at the upcoming Synod on the Family.

Thank God for faithful priests such as Father Clovis for having the courage to stand up and speak the truth. Thank God for the men and women who organized this much-needed conference. 

It goes without saying that our friends at Gloria.TV are doing monumental work in defense of our beloved Church under siege.  




69. Leading Pro-Life Priest Laments “The Francis Effect

By Steve Skojec, May 14, 2015

“The Synod of the Family last year, set off alarm bells for most Catholics and we saw bishops against bishops and episcopal conferences fighting other episcopal conferences, and, in all of this, we…we know that heaven has given us a warning. And in 1973, at Akita, the prophecy was made that ‘The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops” and “the priests who venerate me will be persecuted.’ Of course, this is part and parcel of our experience.”

So began a talk given last week by Fr. Linus Clovis at a gathering of pro-life leaders in Rome. Fr. Clovis is a very well-credentialed, if not widely known, leader of the international pro-life movement. From his bio on the Board of Directors page of the Population Research Institute:

Fr. Linus F Clovis is a priest of the Archdiocese of Castries, St. Lucia in the West Indies.  He studied for the priesthood at the Angelicum in Rome and was ordained in 1983 by Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Fr. Clovis is a qualified teacher and holds a doctorate in Mathematics and degrees in Theology, Canon Law and Latin Literature. He has served as dean of the Arts, Science and General Studies Faculty of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and for seven years was principal of St. Mary’s College, St. Lucia.

He is the archdiocesan spiritual director of the Legion of Mary in St. Lucia, through which he promotes devotion to Our Lady, especially that of the Rosary, the Perpetual Help novena, and the First Friday and First Saturday devotions.  

Additionally, he has led outreaches to the neighbouring islands, and annual pilgrimages to Marian shrines in over fourteen different countries.

He is also the spiritual director of the Population Research Institute and Family Life International and a versatile speaker on pro-life issues, Scripture, Mariology and on Catholic teaching in general.  Not only has he many talks and homilies on CD to his credit but he has made literary contributions to newspapers and international magazines and has published a book entitled “A Biblical Search for the Church Christ Founded.”

He is currently the Director of the Secretariat for Family and Life in the Archdiocese of Castries, which works towards reestablishing family and family life on solid Christian principles in St. Lucia. In 2003, Fr. Clovis led the resistance to the St Lucia Government’s surreptitious legalization of abortion in his Catholic island and even refused Holy Communion to the head of state for having signed abortion into law.

In his carefully-articulated talk, Fr. Clovis outlines what he sees as a prophesied crisis in the Church, one he ascribes in no small part by the Holy Father, Pope Francis himself. I’ll post the full video at the bottom, but first, I wanted to share with you some points that I transcribed. (Together, these quotes comprise a nearly complete transcript of the middle section of his talk, but some ancillary points have been left out, and the text has been broken into bullet points to accentuate those arguments of greatest emphasis.)

You will note that his criticisms of this pontificate are almost all based in Scripture and the teachings of the Church. There is nothing angry or condemnatory in his tone or manner. He speaks with confidence and concern.

  • “When a bishop — a Catholic bishop — can applaud sin publicly, it causes us to tremble. But this is essentially the ‘Francis Effect.’ It’s disarming bishops and priests, especially after the Holy Father said, Who am I to judge? I as a priest say Mass, preaching, and I make a judgment about a sin, one breaking the Ten Commandments, I would be condemned for judging. I would be accused of being ‘more Catholic than the pope’. There used to be a saying — rhetorical — ‘is the pope Catholic?’ That’s no longer funny.”
  • “Obedience is owed to the pope, but the pope owes obedience to the word and the apostolic tradition. We have to obey the pope, but the pope himself must obey the written word. He must obey the tradition. He must respond to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Obedience is owed to the pope, but it is the duty of the pope to give the character of possibility to this obedience. The pope has to facilitate our obeying him, by himself being obedient to the Word of God. Pope Felix III told us, ‘an error that is not resisted is approved. A truth that is not defended is suppressed.’ So we have an obligation to resist error, and we must do everything that we can to promote the truth.”
  • “Once, we have had concerns about other popes, even St. John Paul, with the things he’s done which we felt uncomfortable about, I don’t think that…Pope Francis has done anything other than disconcert us. He has literally pulled the rug from under our feet. And so, he is the, the reason, the many reasons why we are concerned. Our Lord tells us in John’s Gospel, 15th chapter, ‘If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, and I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.’ The popes are hated, and I don’t think we had a problem with that per se. We didn’t like it. But I think that I’ll be correct in saying that we prefer our popes to be hated by the world than loved by the world. Because if he’s loved by the world, it indicates that he’s speaking the language of the world. And we know that there can be no relationship, no fellowship, between light and darkness. St. Paul tells us this.”
  • “The Church’s traditional enemies — and this is vocalized, articulated in Time MagazineRolling StoneThe Advocate, and so on — approve of him, he appeared on their front cover many times over the past two years. I came across a quote from someone who knew him in Argentina. ‘Apparently, he loves to be loved by all and please everyone, so one day he could make a speech on TV against abortion, and the next day, on the same television show, bless the pro-abortion feminists in the Plaza de Mayo; He can give a wonderful speech against the Masons and, a few hours later, be dining and drinking with them in the Rotary Club.’




  • “So, how can you make a decision about a man like this, who is everybody’s friend? Our Lord tells us, ‘Nevertheless,’ this is 12th chapter of St. John’s Gospel, ‘Nevertheless, many of the authorities believed in him, [that’s in our Lord] but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it lest they should be put out of they synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.’ Am I making judgment? I don’t think so. I’m quoting scripture. Where the die falls, let it rest.”
  • “The Holy Father has done many controversial things, and we are concerned with the major ones, not the aberrations which come up. And the one that will go down, I suppose, to the Second Judgment, is ‘Who am I to judge.’ One of the…effects that the Holy Father does is that he takes common prejudice against Catholics, and he uses it against us. So in other words, he’s accepting what is perceived, our position to be, as if it were true. The Church does not judge persons. The Church judges actions and teachings. Even the heretics. Luther wasn’t condemned for his personal moral life. He was condemned for his teaching. His doctrine. And so with all the other heretics. Arius. It was his teaching that the Church judged. And has the authority to judge. But when the pope says, ‘Who am I to judge?‘ he is giving the impression that the Church judges individuals because of who they are and…what they’re doing in their personal lives. That is for the confession.”
  • “Scripture tells us very clearly in First Corinthians chapter five St. Paul is writing to the Church of Corinth because they had accepted a man among them who was guilty of immorality. And the apostle writes, ‘But rather I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders?’ Aha! What have I to do with judging outsiders? ‘Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you.’ So, how can the successor of Peter say, ‘Who am I to judge?‘ without contradicting Scripture?”
  • “He complains we talk too much about abortion and contraception. Well…Do we? Again, the apostle tells us ‘convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.’ So, we have an obligation to speak about those sins for which the punishment is eternal damnation in Hell. We’re talking about the salvation of souls. The Code of Canon Law ends, ‘the highest good is the salvation of souls.’ And this is why Christ founded His Church: for the salvation of souls.”
  • The ‘rabbit-gate’ affair was an insult to all Catholic mothers. Those who have…risked their lives, offered their lives, and given their lives for their children, and above all, for the Gospel.”
  • “Our concern is of course for the upcoming synod and what appears to be favored to bring remarried divorcees to communion. This is going to be a serious blow to the Church and to the faithful. Because already it has caused a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. Even in my pastoral experience I’ve encountered women who’ve said…a mother, her son’s divorced, remarried, and says, ‘Well the Holy Father allows him to communion, doesn’t he? I don’t think it’s right, father, but the pope…’ We have that problem already. And we see the pattern, is done for Humane Vitae. It’s up there in the air, and of course it’s going to…become the law. You can do it. So, we really do need to have eyes firmly fixed on heaven, beseeching heaven, to guide our bishops.”
  • “There are rumors of the pastoral relaxation of Humanae Vitae….it’s not going to be contradicted, it’s not going to be deleted, it’s going to be extended. Which is so much more deadly. Because we have presented something that is evil as if it were good. And we are building this evil thing on a good foundation.”
  • “We love the pope! He is our father. He is our sweet Christ on Earth. There is concern among Catholics who are confused and fearful. And we and they do not wish to criticize, or worse still, to judge the pope. But, again, we are judging not his person or his office but the results of his actions. And we’re not doing this out of indignation. Because what he is doing is the cause of our indignation. And it is a threat to our faith. And it’s a threat to the Church. And it’s a danger to the salvation of souls.”
  • “So, can we judge the pope’s actions? Yes we can. We have no less a person than the apostle to the gentiles, St. Paul, writing to the Galatians. And he says, ‘But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” And this is what we are facing today. We have prominent cardinals taking an anti-Catholic stance on moral issues. Which we thought were settled! We have the Holy Father himself seeming to support them. To give his blessing to them. And what does Saint Paul say? Barnabas! St. Paul’s right-hand man was carried away by their insincerity.  So many bishops — and please, God, we have many good bishops still — when they see this, they also going to be carried away, and that’s why I think the suggestion made, that we should circulate our material to the bishops, and to priests — especially to priests — is so very, very important.”
  • “We have the example of history, John XXII, who taught that the blessed do not see God until after general judgment. He was opposed by the theologians of the University of Paris. By cardinals and bishops and even by kings. So these were…we have the learned, the intellectuals, the theologians, who knew what was going on and were able to oppose the pope. And of course we have those in authority, the bishops. And we have lay people as well, the kings.”




  • “The Code of Canon Law also tells us that we have a right to express our opinion, in Canon 212, section 3, ‘According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess,’ — and I think in this gathering…we’re showing our knowledge, the fact that we are heads of various organizations – our competence, and our prestige — we ‘have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful…’ And this is very important. We have, in other words, to go public on this.”
  • “‘Now it can be said…’ — this is written by…Melchior Cano, a famous theologian in the 16th century — ‘Now it can be said briefly that those who defend blindly and indiscriminately any judgment whatsoever of the Supreme Pontiff concerning every matter weaken the authority of the Apostolic See; they do not support it; they subvert it; they do not fortify it…. Peter has no need of our lies; he has no need of our adulation.’ In other words, we must be vigilant. We must be objective in our approach to the present crisis in the Church.”

There is a great deal more in Fr. Clovis’ presentation. I urge you to watch it and come to your own conclusions:
or 31:32 It seems more and more obvious that as we approach the second half of the Synod — now just five months away — that we’re left with no more room for indecision. We must choose where to stand. It is not a question — and never could be — of choosing whether to stand with or against the pope. It is a question of ensuring that we stand as close as possible to Christ, no matter who chooses to move further away from Him than we would like. Even Peter. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” – Matthew 12:30 Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. Steve has been writing on Catholic topics for over a decade. His work has appeared in Crisis Magazine, Catholic Vote, Catholicity, Catholic Exchange, and The Washington Times. Steve lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Jamie and their six children.


7 out of 92 readers’ comments:

It seems safe to say that Fr. Clovis knew that making this kind of unambiguous statement is bound to have negative consequences for him personally. He has essentially placed his neck directly over the chopping block; at the very least, I can’t imagine him being allowed to speak like this again without losing his faculties. Or does Archbishop Rivas have his back? Either way, he felt compelled to speak up, and my hat is off to him.

If this is to amount to something, it must reach as many diocesan priests as possible, as Fr. Clovis himself mentions. I’d be interested in knowing what “material” he is referring to specifically. If he has material to share, there are a dozen or more blogs willing to help him get the word out.

2. I cannot tell you how often I have heard Catholics say when I say gay sex is against Catholic morality…”who are you to judge?” and use Pope Francis’ words “Who am I to judge?” to solidify their argument. Nothing now can be said by Catholics against anything immoral without coming across that one-liner shut up comment. It is really hurting the Church. 3. Various Marian prophesies compel us to believe that the Church will have people in leadership who will do much to harm it. We have previous popes as examples. Can it not be the case that we must criticize the pope like St. Paul, St. Catherine of Sienna, and St. Athanasius did? It hurts the church greatly to not speak the truth. 4. The “who am I to judge” statement has led some astray. I’m a seminarian and I’ve had to hear multiple people use it as a defense of all sorts of evil. Every person is fit to judge good and evil actions because the law is written on their hearts. 5. Pope Francis needs to speak more clearly, or take a firm stand in what he believes in. The news media has gone crazy over him, and many believe Pope Francis now condones the actions of homo-and transsexuals. I acknowledge that Pope Francis might not be for any of these things and that he may very well be against things such as abortion and the like as a true Catholic should be, but with the way he has spoken previously, it might as well be interpreted that he is for such things if he doesn’t keep a firmer grip on his words. I believe Father Clovis is right, quite frankly, maybe there could have been a way to promote his beliefs in a way that’s not upsetting to others? I do not know, but, he does not deserve the title ‘Pope-basher’ when he is indeed preaching Church doctrine in from what the article says. 6. Fr. Clovis–a saint for our times! Great article Steve. This is the most uplifting article I have read in months or is it years. Fr. Clovis leaves little doubt that Pope Francis is doing much more harm than good. His very popularity condemns him. May God bless Fr. Clovis and help Pope Francis to see the error of his ways. 7. Pope condemn heresies? No, more like initiate them. It appears the only ideas our dear Pope considers corrupt are those beliefs held by orthodox Catholics.

The Francis Effect and what has gone wrong – Father Linus Clovis

May 14, 2015

Father Linus F. Clovis spoke last week at a forum for Pro-Life leaders in Rome.

It can be found on Gloria TV and Steve Skojec has transcribed some of the main points. Please visit OnePeterFive for the rest of the transcript.

(The referred OnePeterFive article is immediately above this one –Michael)


4 out of 5 readers’ comments:




1. Pope Felix III told us, “An error that is not resisted is approved. A truth that is not defended is suppressed.” There would be no ‘Francis
Effect‘ if we all followed the sound teachings of Pope Felix III.

2. Wow! An amazing commentary for its candour and accuracy. Let’s hope that certain cardinals who need to hear Fr. Clovis’ testimony are listening!

3. “…A truth that is not defended is suppressed…”

I like that statement. A widespread form of this suppression, is the refusal by clergy and laity to talk about heresy and schism. How can you clearly teach the truth without identifying the error? When the bishops of Rome refuse to talk about this then the suppression becomes all the more serious. An essential characteristic of the Neo-Modernist understanding of truth, is the correspondence of mind with one’s lifestyle (adaequatio intellectus et vitae). This understanding of truth, worthy of the hippies, at Haight and Ashbury, in the 1967 summer of love, has saturated our Church. It has crippled our ability to defend our faith and morals. Fr. Clovis’ understanding of truth looks sound and traditional; the correspondence of the mind with reality (adaequatio intellectus et rei).

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, had a quote that really caught my attention: “What was Holy yesterday is Holy today.” Equally true, of course, is: “What was heresy yesterday is heresy today.”

I like this Fr. Clovis. He has some Athanasius and Borromeo in him.

4. 1Peter5 also has it. You should hop over there just to read the combox. There are some that are calling the good Fr. anything but Catholic for ‘bashing’ the ‘Holy Father’, and saying he should be immediately sacked. Also those who agree with Father Clovis need to go to confession, they are in grave sin!

I wonder who these people really are. Interesting. I think just the opposite, if you listen to those surrounding Francis and even Francis himself and buy into their ‘theology’ I would think that would put you in danger of losing your very soul. Fr Linus was careful to state that in no way was he ‘bashing’ Francis himself, but disagreeing with his statements and actions that are in error. Fr. Linus is a very learned theologian so I’m confident he knows how to present his ‘argument’.

You have to know that the good Fr. will pay dearly for his faithfulness in presenting the truth. Pray for him.


71. PopeWatch: Francis Effect

By Donald R. McClarey, May 18, 2015 

(This post refers to the OnePeterFive article further above –Michael)


5 out of 13 readers’ comments:

1. Why do I see here so many of the very concerns and questions that I have been forced to deal with because my conscience keeps prodding me past the level of mere knee-jerk feelings?

Thank God for the truth tellers–no matter how uncomfortable they prod us to be.

2. If we ever get a black Pope, let it be this man!

3. I see a “transfer” in this holy priest’s future to some outback place. Wonderful video of his whole talk. God bless and protect him.

4. Everything points to the conclusion that we are at a tipping point with a bias towards chaos.

5. The pope continues to appoint and applaud heretics and unsavory people. I cannot trust him to uphold the faith or do the right thing.



72. From The Francis Effect Department: The Pope Openly Affirms Dissenters

May 16, 2015

With yesterday’s post by Father Clovis fresh in our minds, we must consider even more manifestations of the progressive rot that is within the Vatican, regrettably validated by the Holy Father himself. Today came the news that the pope appointed Father Timothy Radcliffe to the post of Consulter for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace*.  

Father Radcliffe was a former Master General of the International Order of Dominican Preachers. He came under fire for his advocacy of gay sexual relations and women’s ordination. Below I’ll post a Vortex video from some years back that details the many problems of Father Radcliffe. I suppose his appointment is not too surprising, given what the typical Jesuit these days considers the concepts of “justice and peace” to be.
In the United States we see the “
Francis Effect” emboldening more progressive bishops to act out in their disobedience. A few days ago we learned that Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St Petersburg (FL) has effectively 
stopped the offering of Mass in the Extraordinary Form in two of the three parishes in which they were offered. Essentially he is acting in disregard to the Summorum Pontificum enacted by Pope Benedict in 2007. I’ve written before about Bishop Lynch’s many derelictions and lapses of judgment – including his enabling of the murder of Terri Schindler Schiavo in his diocese. Why that man still sits as bishop is beyond me.
The Vatican’s embrace of envirowhackoism – and population control – on which I reported copiously last week, is costing the Church credibility in the eyes of reasonable people. We see in Western Journalism how Cliff Kinkaid wonder if “
The Catholic Church Has Gone Socialist“. Mr. Kinkaid’s concerns are quite understandable. While the Church in her Tradition roundly condemns socialism, the recent actions of this pontiff betray a seeming sympathy, if not allegiance, towards that anti-Christian mindset.



Sadly, I’m sure this won’t be the last such post. We must pray and speak out. Now the video regarding this new “Consulter for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace”: YouTube video 8:00



A reader’s comment:

Yes, the pope is appointing dissenters one after the other. Even when MANY faithful ask him to relent (that pedophile supporting new bishop in Argentina for only one example), he will not listen one bit. Does he care for the salvation of souls? Does he even love the faithful? I do not know.


73. The ‘Francis effect‘ is silencing Catholic bishops, priests, and laity

By Fr. Linus Clovis, May 22, 2015



Editor’s note: Father Linus Clovis of Saint Lucia gave the following address at the Rome Life Forum on May 9, 2015.

YouTube video: 32:13;

Catholic priest speaks up against “The Francis effect”

(Also at, – A crisis is a time of intense difficulty or danger. Medically, it is the turning point of a disease when an important change takes place, indicating either recovery or death.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider has identified four great crises in the Church: Arianism, the Western Schism, the Reformation and Modernism. This last, which the Church has been fighting for well over a century, has managed to get a stranglehold on the Church ever since the close of the Second Vatican Council. St. Pius X called it the synthesis of all heresies.

For the last half century, the majority of Catholics, entrusting themselves to the vigilance of their pastors, have been fitfully sleeping up until now, when they were rudely awakened by the alarm bells set off by the 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family.  A future Jerome may well lament that “on awaking, they groan to find themselves modernist.” The drama of the Synod played out in the media with cardinal opposed to cardinal, bishop against bishop, and national conferences of bishops resisting other national conferences, thus appearing as a literal fulfilment of the prophecy made by Our Lady at Akita on October 13, 1973: “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres… the Church will be full of those who accept compromises.”

Then suddenly, some shepherds began to speak with a strange voice.  With stupefying temerity, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, commenting on the “coming out” of a “gay” college football star, told NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “Good for him… I would have no sense of judgment on him…. God bless ya. I don’t think, look, the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say ‘Bravo’.”

With such statements and actions by prominent and powerful prelates, crowned with the pontifical saw “who am I to judge,” traditional minded bishops, priests and even laity are disarmed and hamstrung. After all, in holding to the traditional Catholic moral teaching and order they would soon be accused of being more Catholic than the pope.  This disarming of the clergy and hierarchy constitutes the Francis Effect.


The Pope

Catholics love the pope. Whoever he is, wherever he hails from, he always represents for them an evident and effectual sign of the presence of Christ in the world. Even before Our Lady asked the children at Fatima to pray for the Holy Father, repeating this request at Akita on 13 October, 1973, saying “pray very much for the pope, bishops and priests,” Catholics have prayed for him daily and not only look to him for leadership but also regard him as that firm and sure foundation on which the Church’s teaching authority is built.  For Catholics the purity of teaching is so important that it is easier for them to accept the possibility that the ‘pope’ may not, in fact, be the pope than it is for them to believe that a pope could be a teacher of error.



The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that the “Gospel is handed on in two ways: orally (Sacred Tradition) and in writing (Sacred Scripture) and is continually proclaimed through the apostolic succession (Magisterium).” It goes on to define Sacred Scripture as “the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit,” and consequently, being inspired by God, it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” In paragraph 81, the Catechism affirms that “Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit” and that it is transmitted to the bishops, “the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching.”

Throughout his letters, St. Paul insisted that he had not invented any new doctrine, nor had he deviated from what he himself had received. Regarding the Eucharist, in particular, he stated: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread …” (1 Cor. 11:23), and he went on to warn in verse 29 that “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” Even more forcefully, he told the Galatians there are some who want to pervert the gospel of Christ, and so “even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal.1:8).

In regard to the Magisterium or Church’s Teaching Office, the Catechism in paragraph 85 declares that “the task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone.” Since the Church exercises its authority in the name of Jesus Christ, it follows that “the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.” Moreover, the Catechism in §86 goes on to point out that the “Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.” 

The Magisterium has the authority to bind definitively the consciences of the faithful in regard to matters of faith or morals and does so with dogmatic definitions, as CCC §88 makes clear: “The Church’s Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.”

The Papal Magisterium, according to the teaching of Vatican I (D. 3070), was not established to reveal new doctrine but rather to guard and transmit faithfully the truths of faith entrusted by Christ to His Apostles: “The Holy Spirit has not been promised to the successors of Peter to reveal, by His inspiration, a new doctrine, but to scrupulously guard and make known with fidelity, by His assistance, the revelation transmitted by the Apostles, that is, the deposit of faith.”

Whilst the faithful owe obedience to the pope as the Vicar of Christ, the pope himself owes obedience to the Word and Apostolic Tradition and, in so doing, facilitates the faithful in their obedience to him. In a world not dissimilar to that when “for a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law” (2 Chr. 15:3), it is necessary that the pope be wise and clear in his teaching so that those hearing him may avoid the snares of death: “Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).  Pope Felix III, living in a world inimical to the Gospel message, saw the necessity of correcting error and reinforcing truth, saying that an error which is not resisted is approved; a truth which is not defended is suppressed.


Pope Francis

Within the first year of his pontificate, Pope Francis had managed to unsettle even the most uncritical of Catholics, who tried desperately to explain away the ambiguity of his words and actions.

The fact that the Church’s traditional enemies approve highly of him raises concerns, not least because of the Lord’s warning that “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also” (Jn. 15:18-20).

Catholic concerns increased in proportion to the density of the fog covering the pope’s true position on key issues. It is reported that as archbishop in Buenos Aires, apparently wishing to be loved by all and to please everyone, he would send out mixed signals, “so one day he could make a speech on TV against abortion, and the next day, on the same TV show, bless the pro-abortion feminists in the Plaza de Mayo; can give a wonderful speech against the Masons and, a few hours later, be dining and drinking with them in the Rotary Club.” St. John records that some of Christ’s followers were Pharisees: “many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (Jn. 12:42-43).

To the consternation of Catholics and the satisfaction of the world, Pope Francis, by word and action, has provoked many major controversies, the most egregious of them being the “Who am I to judge?” comment. This pontifical question instantly disarmed all those resisting the incursions of the gay lobby. The Holy Father failed to make the required distinctions, namely, that the Church does not judge persons but that she has the right and duty to judge their actions and teachings. The Church has passed no judgement of the personal morals of even arch-heretics, though she has certainly warned the faithful of the perniciousness of their teachings. 





In writing to the Corinthians, St. Paul himself sanctions this position: “But rather I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1 Cor. 5:11-13).

Catholics became even more concerned when the papal utterances seemed to attack the flock, such as the claim that a “supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism” and the complaint that there was too much talk about contraception and abortion. Who, apart from pro-lifers, could this be directed against?  Vittorio Messori in his book “The Defense of Every Life” quoted St. John Paul II as saying “It is difficult to imagine a more unjust situation (abortion), and it is very difficult to speak of obsession in a matter such as this, where we are dealing with a fundamental imperative of every good conscience – the defence of the right to life of an innocent and defenceless human being.” The vast majority of Catholics can testify that the generality of the preachers of the Gospel never broach the issue of contraception or abortion. Yet, about these things St. Paul instructs preachers to “be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).

The Rabbitgate affair was particularly hard on Catholic mothers worldwide, especially those who, at great personal sacrifice, had given birth to their children. The pope who had said “who am I to judge” now says, “I rebuked a woman some months ago in a parish who was pregnant eight times, with seven C-sections (cesareans). ‘But do you want to leave seven orphans?’ This is to tempt God! He [Paul VI] speaks of responsible parenthood.” 

Not content with rebuking this particular woman, he extends it worldwide: “God gives you methods to be responsible. Some think that, excuse me if I use that word, that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood! This is clear and that is why in the church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can seek and I know so many, many ways out that are licit and that have helped this.”

In the present climate of the pastoral imperative, his position on Humanae vitae, the touchstone of Catholic sexual ethics, is uncertain, especially as there is talk of going beyond what it teaches. Equally alarming is his apparent openness to ‘gay marriage’ in the form of ‘civil unions’. 

Most troubling of all is his open support for Cardinal (Walter) Kasper who, at the 2014 Synod, called for admitting remarried divorcees to the Eucharist without them changing their marital status.  This cut Catholics to the bone and provoked concerns about the pope’s orthodoxy.

These ambiguous papal utterances cause not only concern but also confusion among Catholics who, for the most part, are fearful of criticising or judging the pope. But here, as above, a distinction needs to be made. It is not the person of the pope that is being judged but rather his actions. It must also be stated that the judgement of his actions is not being done with the intention to cause indignation but on the contrary is being done because his actions are the cause of indignation among the faithful and a threat to their faith.

This judgement on the pontiff can be made on the authority of St. Paul who told the Galatians that “when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. But when I saw that they were not straight-forward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?'” (Gal. 2:11-14).

There is also historical precedent for such judgement on papal actions. The theologians of the University of Paris, cardinals, bishops, and kings opposed John XXII (1316-1334) when, in his Sunday sermons, he incorrectly taught that the Blessed do not see God until after the General Judgement. In the sixteenth century, Melchior Cano, a Spanish theologian at the Council of Trent, warned against obsequiousness regarding the pope: “Now it can be said briefly that those who defend blindly and indiscriminately any judgment whatsoever of the Supreme Pontiff concerning every matter weaken the authority of the Apostolic See; they do not support it; they subvert it;