Category Archives: Year of Mercy

Repeat: Confession Settlement that could halt the Sacrament of Confession in the Catholic Church

lourdes confessional

One of my most favorite places in the world is the penitent side of a confessional screen. This is where we meet with the goodness and kindness of Jesus ever so personally, which is precisely what brings the great joy experienced by those who go to confession.

There is renewed interest in this post up in the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, USA. I wonder if something is up on whatever side of the issue…

More than 3 1/2 years ago there was a little news story covering the fact that the Diocese of Manchester made a monetary settlement for a complaint that advice alleged to have been given by a Priest-Confessor under the Confessional Seal was inappropriate. The story plays out like it was scripted by Satan himself, what with the Diocese of Manchester just so eager — if, perhaps, unwittingly — to cooperate against the Sacrament of Mercy, against the Holy Spirit, who was sent to us for the forgiveness of sins, not so that we stop the forgiveness of sins.

This story had been simmering for months at the time, but May 17, 2013, Tricia L. Nadolny wrote about it in the tiny newspaper called the Concord Monitor. I commented on this story at the time, and, since the priest involved is still off on the peripheries (as far as I know), and since we now have completed the Year of Mercy, I think it is high time to bring this story back into the light of day in hopes that Bishop Libasci will admit his mistake for the sake of the good of the Church, pro bono ecclesiae. The [comments] are by myself, Father George David Byers, at https://ariseletusbegoing.com/

* * *

Diocese of Manchester settles with parents over sexual comments lawsuit

The Pembroke parents who accused a Concord priest of making inappropriate sexual comments to their son during the sacrament of confession will be paid $2,000 to settle the lawsuit they filed in February, according to a spokesman from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester. The settlement, reached Wednesday, stipulates that the money will go to future educational costs of the 14-year-old boy, who is a student at St. John Regional School. [Sounds nice, that settlement, but let’s see how this plays out, and for what reasons. It couldn’t be more nefarious from the settlement side of things.]

Spokesman [for the Diocese of Manchester] Kevin Donovan said the settlement is not an admission of guilt by the Rev. George Desjardins [Yes, well, Father Desjardins can’t say anything one way or the other. He’s bound by the Seal of Confession. However, no matter what the Diocese says, the Diocese is, to all intents, constructions and purposes, saying that he is guilty by way of the settlement made, which is amazing, since they don’t know what went on during that alleged Confession, since the priest cannot say anything about it. Such a settlement destroys a priest for life. It is disingenuous to say that a settlement does not speak to someone’s guilt. Practically, a dark cloud remains over the head of the priest for life. Since that is the case, there must be very serious reasons that we don’t know about for the Diocese to make such a settlement, right? There are reasons, but, stunningly, they have nothing to do with the priest or the penitent, as we will see later in the article.], who was accused of talking about pornography and rape in a December 2012 confession held during the school day. [Of course, a 14 year-old, a young man, is entirely capable of looking at porn and committing rape, especially statutory rape. Many girls have gotten multiple abortions by the time they are fourteen. Boys are, of course, involved. This is not an unlikely scenario. Confession is about forgiveness of sin, such as pornography and rape, right? At any rate, it’s extremely easy to come up with a scenario that would back Father up. In fact, what I’ll imagine here has plenty of indications that it is the true scenario, truer, it seems, that the inconsistent accusations.]

[Diocesan Spokesman] Donovan called the payment “minimal” [That’s a foolish statement, implying that for other cases, the “payment” could be much bigger. That’s a strange phrase of the reporter: “payment” instead of settlement. If’s she’s accurate, something’s wrong. Anyway, speaking about anything “minimal” is a huge invitation to create bogus cases, the more salacious the better it will be for all the more $$$ dollars $$$.] and a “means to an end, so the community can move on.” [“means to an end” of “the community moving on.” In other words, this has nothing to do with the priest, nothing to do with the penitent, nothing to do with justice. The Diocese admits that they are doing something evil, slitting the throat of a defenseless priest, to achieve what they think is a good end, shoving money down the throat of any accuser, not for the accuser’s sake, who is ignored as he chokes on that money, but for the sake of the community, using what they assume to be the greed of the boy’s parents as bait, all of which — the demonic principle of doing evil to achieve good — is justly condemned by Saint Paul (see Romans 3:8). At any rate, the community will not only not move on, but will be condemned with the weight hanging over them of the dynamic of an accusation that obtains money without any accompanying due process for the accused priest. This is something that cheapens their lives, cheapens their religion. They have been insulted by the Diocese, which has effectively said: Go and choke on your money. That’s not a service to the community. The benefit for the diocese is save money in view of a possibly successful litigated claim.]

The parents, who are not being named to protect the name of their son, maintain that Desjardins’s comments were unacceptable, their lawyer, Peter Hutchins, said. [Peter Hutchins has a long history with the Diocese of Manchester, mocking the Diocese for their nefarious idiocy in handling the sex-abuse cases he brought to the Diocese, saying that he just couldn’t believe that they didn’t care about dates or allegations (and therefore neither did the Diocese care about any possibly real victims), but just wanted to shove as much settlement money down as many throats of alleged victims  as they could in as little time as possible so as to avoid possible litigated claims)].

In the lawsuit filed at Hillsborough County Superior Court, they [the parents] accused Desjardins of asking the boy whether he had “engaged in watching pornographic material and masturbating.” [Scenario: Perhaps the boy confessed to kind of not keeping custody of his eyes in regard to, kind of like, you know, looking at some, like, you know, immodesty, and ended up committing, you know, impure acts, kind of, maybe. Now, if that were the actual confession, there is a risk that the boy would not celebrate an integral confession, but would rather suffer making a sacrilegious confession in that he didn’t confess circumstances so important that they would add more grave sins to what was already confessed. Asking a pertinent question begged by the ambiguity is a favor to the boy. If the priest asked if there was a partner in sin, this would be laudable. Though, it is said, he asks about a lesser interpretation, about porn, perhaps expecting that what the boy is being ambiguous about concerns a partner in sin. Finding out about a partner in sin, especially regarding a young man, brings with it further questions about the age of the other person, as there are then questions about statutory rape. Such questions are also necessitated for a proper penance and for advice to be given, such as to cut any untoward relationship. One should also ask if the other person is vulnerable in any other way. If one finds out that the other person was an adult, well now, that changes things altogether, doesn’t it? It does. If this were all the case, the priest is to be commended. Of course, we won’t know on this earth, as the Seal of Confession is involved.] When the boy said that he hadn’t and that he had a girlfriend [Hah! There we are: there was, in fact, a partner in this sin, adding another sin to what was confessed. Way to go, Father Desjardins! Good work!], Desjardins [allegedly] told the boy to use “rubbers” [Or maybe the boy had actually said that he had a girl-friend, but that it was all O.K. since he was using prophylactics. And maybe the priest then justly reprimanded the boy for trying to make an excuse for having had sex with his girlfriend. Using condoms does not lessen the sin! The boy, perhaps used to doing whatever he damn well pleases, so that no priest is going to stop him, perhaps became angry with the priest and blamed the priest for all this. Right? People can, at times, be very damning of the Church’s morality in confession, which means they are not repentant. People can go to Confession to try to get permission to sin. Some priests will do that. It doesn’t sound as if Father Desjardins is one of them. But now watch what happens:] and warned him to be careful because a girl can “yell ‘rape’ ” during sex [Hah! Is it that Father was reprimanding him for committing statutory rape, which really threw the boy into a rage? The priest wouldn’t counsel condom use and warn the boy that he is committing statutory rape. That’s just ludicrous. PFffffttt!!!], the lawsuit continued. The parents also accused Desjardins, who is an assisting retired priest at Christ the King Parish, of attempting to grab the boy twice as the student tried to avoid him. Donovan has said that physical contact was nothing more than a handshake after Mass. [Hah! “A handshake after Mass”… Really? Ooooo! Nefarious, that! Wow! A handshake after Mass! No one does that anywhere in the world, ever! A handshake! After Mass! Unheard of. What scandal! What horror! The parents of this kid really, really seem to hate all priests and the Catholic Church and have, it seems, tried their best to instill that in their son. Sad, that. So, O.K. Fathers! Hear that? No more shaking hands after Mass. Just pray some thanksgiving prayers alone, kneeling on the steps of the sanctuary. Actually, that’s a good idea. I digress. At any rate, don’t forget that the parents are best friends of Hutchins, zillionaire abuse attorney. And with this, they get some tuition money.]

Yesterday, he [Donovan, the Diocesan Spokesman] said the diocese still believes the lawsuit had no merit. [Great! But…] But in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed last month, the diocese took a different route when it neither denied nor admitted that Desjardins made the comments [nor can they because the Diocese doesn’t know anything about the Confession since the priest is under the Seal of Confession] and instead argued that the suit should have been thrown out because it interfered with the church’s First Amendment rights. [That’s true, but it ignores that the priest cannot defend himself in any way. It’s the priest’s inability to defend himself that will push courts in future cases (and there may well be future cases, right?) to put the priest on the stand and try to force him to break the Seal of Confession, the very thing the State of New Hampshire already tried to do very recently at that time. One has to wonder what will happen when tens, then hundreds, then thousands and tens of thousands of cases pile up. No one ever needs to have gone to Confession to any priest to claim that one did go, and that one got bad advice or worse. It’s all too easy. Just get any bulletin, find out when confessions times are, retaining proof, and see who hears confessions that day. Then make up a story. Easy peasy. It’s really easy to go to hell. Untold $$$ dollars $$$ will be paid to anyone who makes a complaint, no matter how ludicrous. It seems to me that “payments” for this, The Perdition Crisis, risk dwarfing the billions of dollars paid out for The Judas Crisis.]

Gordon MacDonald, the diocese’s lawyer, argued that the topics Desjardins was accused of discussing – including pornography, masturbation, premarital sex [“pre-marital”… really? But that’s just the paraphrase of the reporter.] and rape – all are considered sins under Catholic doctrine. And he said resolving the case would require a judge or jury to examine the appropriateness of those doctrines as well as whether the alleged discussion was in line with tenets of the Catholic faith. [And there it is: The Perdition Crisis. This is a cave-in to Peter Hutchins, the abuse attorney. This is a practical admission that any and all accusations, no matter what, are accepted as the honest truth, no matter how ludicrous, how inconsistent, and that we can just move on now to discussing the faith and being consistent with the faith. That’s giving a win to the attorney just to do it. That priest cannot defend himself. The diocese cannot pretend to argue for the priest, because they cannot know what the priest said.  The diocese is treating itself as the defendant, not the priest, which was the same thing as had happened with The Judas Crisis, where the priest is always guilty no matter what, with no due process, as any innocence would get in the way of making immediate and even blanket settlements in hopes of saving a few bucks. Manchester Diocese has a long history of leading the destruction of the Church by way of throwing due process for priests out the window so as to serve themselves. /// Note that the lawyer also does something just as nefarious. He not only throws judgment of consistency with the faith by the State into the equation, but also the acceptability of the faith before the State in the first place. This is just plain EVIL. This invites the State to say that, for instance, the Catholic Church’s faith in regard to the nefariousness of homosexual marriage is illegal (to take another case that is sure to come about). Sure, the diocesan attorney is saying that these are reasons that the case should be dismissed, but in making the settlement at the very end, he is not only saying, but highlighting, screaming it out, that first amendment issues are vacuous for the defense, and are legitimate avenues for the State to pursue in future cases. The Diocese says that the settlement is just meant to sweep the problem under the carpet. However, there are implications, whether they like it or not.]

“A civil factfinder would become enmeshed in determining whether a Catholic priest [any priest] may discuss pornography, masturbation, sexual intercourse out-of-wedlock [a better phrase], and rape with a penitent during the Sacrament of Penance and whether those subjects are consistent with Catholic doctrine and the Catholic faith’s overall mission,” MacDonald wrote in the motion. [A civil factfinder couldn’t care less. The point would be what was said about these things in view of any civil laws. For instance, if a priest were to say that divorce and the attempt to marry again without a declaration that the first marriage was null from the beginning is wrong might be considered nefarious and illegal by the State. That’s what the State is judging. The State of New Hampshire would gladly shut down the Catholic Church altogether. At any rate, all this immediately goes from Father Doe priest to Father Desjardins, and, again, the priest has no defense, as he cannot break the Seal of Confession. What is most ludicrous is that the Diocese, in saying all this, is acting as if it and the State can reliably act upon the information given by whatever accuser when it all must remain perpetually one-sided because of the Seal of Confession. This simply doesn’t occur to Manchester Diocese, since it seems that they have never given due process to any priest, with the possible exception, in all irony, of convicted felon Monsignor Edward Arsenault. Other priests are non-existent in the actual judgment. This lending of credibility to such accusations, and then offering a monetary settlement for them, means that there will never be a time when any accusations are ever not given credibility and acted upon with settlement money, no matter how inconsistent and ludicrous. This is quite the invitation to anyone and everyone to come to the money-tree by way of making bogus accusations about something imagined to have been said in an imaginary Confession.] He said the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and also the state Constitution “prohibit this type of intrusive inquiry into the doctrinal affairs of the church.” [Hutchins may well win his point that he only wants to discuss if any alleged advice goes against State law. So, the point is this: The priest cannot make a defense, and the Diocese cannot defend him, since the Diocese has no idea what the priest said, or, indeed, if there was ever a Confession to begin with. The Diocese must insist on dismissing the case, and not ever pay any settlement. But they caved on the dismissal by going for the settlement. The effect of mentioning the Constitution only to throw that argument out the window with a settlement is to insist that the Constitution does not matter in such cases. Ironic, no? Or is that what Manchester Diocese wanted. That would be in line with what they’ve always done. The next step for the State will be to repeat their attack on the Seal of Confession. And, if there are tens or hundreds of cases in Manchester Diocese alone, you can bet that one priest will cave and say something to defend himself, which will be then be used as a precedent by the State, at least to continue a cross-examination of the priest. If he refuses to continue, realizing he’s been caught out, he’ll be in jail for contempt of court until he decides otherwise.]

[But then the obfuscations get worse:] The family sued specifically for breach of contract, saying the diocese failed to provide their son with the safe learning environment promised in the school’s handbook. In the motion to dismiss, McDonald also claimed that document isn’t a contract. The handbook – which includes a mission statement and sections on, among other things, school rules and student responsibilities – doesn’t include contractual promises, MacDonald said. He said the family accused the diocese of violating “a series of aspirational policies,” not binding promises.

Hutchins said yesterday that he disagrees that a student handbook doesn’t act as a contract in a private school setting. “It’s our position that absolutely all of those materials that basically promise what the school’s going to do and also gives the responsibility to the students and parents (create a contract),” he said. “It goes both ways. Here are your obligations; here are ours. It’s a contract. Period.” [Contract=Money. Hutchins needs to win this point for any future case from a school, etc. But this is not necessarily what will break any bank. Just the fact of the settlement will more than break the bank, regardless of talk of any contracts being broken or not. This is a purposed distraction, but a welcome one to Hutchins if it hits pay-dirt. It’s a bluff. Just one more way to put pressure on the Diocese to make a settlement. He guessed it right. But it’s more than this. He’s saying that the safe-learning environment is to extend to the Confessional, so that the Confessional is to have an oversight it cannot have because of the Seal of Confession. But this is what he is going after: the Seal of Confession. The State is on side with that. This whole thing seems to fly right over the heads of those in the Diocese. And maybe, just maybe, those in the Diocese have absolutely no idea just how evil they are acting with all of this. Or maybe they just don’t have the faith. Or maybe they just literally don’t give a damn…] He also disputed the diocese’s stance that the lawsuit violated its First Amendment rights, saying the suit focused “on the conduct, not the religion.” [Again, I bet Hutchins could win this argument, but not the war, it being that all of it is always hypothetical, since the priest cannot defend himself. At any rate, Hutchins actually has all he needs, for the Diocese acts like any accusation, no matter how ludicrous and inconsistent, will be accepted immediately as the truth. And this is confirmed with the settlement. Hutchins can take that and run with an unlimited number of cases.] Hutchins, who has been involved in litigating more than 150 child abuse cases against New Hampshire clergy [making himself a zillionaire, because it’s all about the children, of course.], said the church is not immune to being held accountable for violations of secular law, such as state statutes or local ordinances. He said a breach of contract falls into that category. “We do not focus on, criticize or try to change religious beliefs or religious procedures,” he said. [I think that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.] “Those are protected.” [He certainly did laugh all the way to the bank when he respected how the diocese threw procedures of justice and due process out the window for those abuse cases. He mocked the Diocese of Manchester for, in some cases, not even asking about dates or allegations. He can accept the word of the Diocese as an attorney for an out of court settlement that all priests are always guilty, no matter what, but he’s also got to know that something’s just not quite correct there, right?] Hutchins is a longtime friend of the father who filed the lawsuit [Kudos to the Monitor for noting the friendship this time. On the other hand, Hutchins was, in effect, given free advertising to fish for more clients with more accusations with more money to be thrown at them], and yesterday he said he is not collecting attorney’s fees for his involvement [that is, for THIS testing of the waters case, that is, for THIS case with his best friends. This was leaning toward being a test case for the Seal of Confession, but the Diocese caved with the settlement. The settlement does nothing by way of precedent to protect the Seal of Confession all the more. Quite the opposite. For the Diocese, whatever an accusation claims is exactly what happened, even though the priest cannot say anything. This is a mockery of the Seal of Confession, plain and simple.]. He said the family decided to sue the diocese after feeling their concerns, which they raised with school administrators shortly after the confession, weren’t taken seriously. Hutchins said diocese [sic] officials called Desjardins’s conduct “innocuous” [That could be a lie, but, anyway, how would the Diocese know, since the priest cannot say anything? Hutchins knows that better than the Diocese. He wants them to say something like that, perhaps to use it as proof that, in fact, they did get the priest to defend himself privately at the Chancery offices. Then Hutchins could claim that the Seal of Confession means nothing, and therefore the priest can in fact be cross-examined in court. If the Diocese accepts the alleged comments of the priest at face value, they are going in that direction. Even if they don’t say that the priest revealed the confession, they are saying that an accusation in itself makes the accusations true, the way they always said that accusations are always true no matter what in abuse cases. Regardless of what Hutchins says the Diocese says, the Diocese, in making the settlement, does say that they accept all accusations as absolutely true no matter what. Moreover, since the Diocese accepts the alleged comments of the priest saying that the using of condoms is great, and if it also says that these comments are “innocuous”,  well, that actual comment of the Diocese would be against the faith of the Catholic Church. Contraception is a sin, also in a case of statutory rape, however “consensual”. The priest is most likely innocent of all this, but if Hutchins is right and the Diocese did make such statements, then it is the Diocese that is guilty of acting against the faith and morals of the Church, along with acting against the priesthood and the Sacrament of Confession.] and did nothing to put the family at ease [How would they do that? Take them bowling?] or tell Desjardins that the comments were inappropriate. [But they don’t know what the comments are, since, ad nauseam, the priest is under the Seal of Confession.]

“It shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but once it did happen, they should have had a much more pastoral and immediate human response to it,” Hutchins said. [And he’s just the one to say how that’s to be done, right?]

[Diocesan Spokesman] Donovan said the diocese takes all allegations against priests seriously and places them on leave if officials believe the accusation rises to the level of misconduct. That wasn’t the case here [So why did they make the settlement, just out of meanness, to destroy his good name and his life as a priest?], he said, so Desjardins wasn’t removed from his role as chaplain at the school after the parents went to administrators. [Uh huh. I’m not so sure. At any rate, nothing good can come from this except to put people off of confession, and make priests wary of hearing confessions. That’s not what’s needed right now or ever. This sickness of shoving money down everyone’s throat has got to stop, and it’s got to stop now. Hutchins played the Diocese and won, as he does at will. The Diocese will never consider going to court. They will now make settlements without question every time. As in The Judas Crisis, it all seems to be legal, because it’s all out of court. That doesn’t mean that it is moral or acceptable in Church Law. But this will surely go the way of The Judas Crisis, with mountains of money spread about everywhere. Cui bono? To what good?]

He [the Diocesan Spokesman] said Desjardins did decide [Or was that decided for him?] to take a leave of absence from the school after the lawsuit was filed in February. He was unsure whether the priest would be returning next school year. [“Unsure.” Really?] Read the rest there.


Usually, abuse lawyers go in two years cycles of bringing cases for settlements. Now that the Holy Year of Mercy (and confession!) is completed, we’ll see what happens. But, in the meantime, I think Bishop Libasci would do well to admit the mistake for the sake of the good of the Church, you know, pro bono ecclesiae.

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Filed under Confession, Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Priesthood, Year of Mercy

Correcting Pope Francis’ Correctors

pope-francis-cardinal-burke

Respect and joy in the Lord

I love and respect both Pope Francis and Cardinal Burke.

You have heard that it was said by the latter:

“My position is that ‘Amoris laetitia’ is not magisterial because it contains serious ambiguities that confuse people and can lead them into error and grave sin. A document with these defects cannot be part of the Church’s perennial teaching. Because that is the case, the Church needs absolute clarity regarding what Pope Francis is teaching and encouraging.”

This Missionary of Mercy says in response:

  • Amoris laetitia cannot yet be spoken about as if it were a document already published by the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, for it is not.
  • Amoris laetitia, even if published as is, is not an Apostolic Constitution or even an Encyclical, but simply an Apostolic Exhortation, whose author, mind you, goes way, WAY out of his way in articles 3-4 of Amoris laetitia to assert that Amoris laetitia is simply a conglomerate of opinions for the sake of encouraging more dialogue on the matters at hand. Pope Francis completely disowns this having anything whatsoever to do with any kind of Magisterial intervention of the Church whatsoever, whether ordinary or extraordinary. If it’s published as is in the Acta, well, that just doesn’t make any difference, to wit:

“Since ‘time is greater than space’, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does. Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs. […] The various interventions of the Synod Fathers, to which I paid close heed, made up, as it were, a multifaceted gem reflecting many legitimate concerns and honest questions. For this reason, I thought it appropriate to prepare a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation to gather the contributions of the two recent Synods on the family, while adding other considerations as an aid to reflection, dialogue and pastoral practice, and as a help and encouragement to families in their daily commitments and challenges.

  • To say that Amoris laetitia would be part of at least the ordinary Magisterium of the Church (see “perennial teaching”) if anyone might like to agree with its contents but that it cannot be part of at least the ordinary Magisterium of the Church (see “perennial teaching”) if anyone might like to disagree with its contents seems to me to be saying that the Pope has no authority to teach on matters of faith and morals to the universal Church as the Successor of Peter. That, of course, would be quite wrong. Amoris laetitia is not part of any teaching of the Church whatsoever not because of anyone’s opinion, however well founded, but because Pope Francis himself denies that it is part of any teaching of the Church whatsoever, insisting as he does on dialogue, etc.

A question might be asked as to whether Pope Francis has a good understanding of Papal Infallibility. Let’s analyze his extensive statements on the matter, and then compare that with what Scripture has for us. This is from Pope Francis’ speech on October 17, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the Institution of the Synods of Bishops:

On the eve of last year’s Synod I stated: “For the Synod Fathers we ask the Holy Spirit first of all for the gift of listening: to listen to God, so that with him we may hear the cry of his people; to listen to his people until we are in harmony with the will to which God calls us”.(14) The Synod process culminates in listening to the Bishop of Rome, who is called to speak [chiamato a pronunciarsi=called to pronounce (a word used for ex-cathedra statements)] as “pastor and teacher of all Christians”,(15) not on the basis of his personal convictions but as the supreme witness to the fides totius Ecclesiae, “the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church”.(16)

The fact that the Synod always acts cum Petro et sub Petro — indeed, not only cum Petro, but also sub Petro — is not a limitation of freedom, but a guarantee of unity. For the Pope is, by will of the Lord, “the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful”.(17) Closely related to this is the concept of “hierarchica communio” as employed by the Second Vatican Council: the Bishops are linked to the Bishop of Rome by the bond of episcopal communion (cum Petro) while, at the same time, hierarchically subject to him as head of the college (sub Petro).(18)

14) FRANCIS, Address at the Prayer Vigil for the Synod on the Family, 4 October 2014.

15) FIRST VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus (18 July 1870), ch. IV: Denz. 3074. Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 749, § 1.

16) FRANCIS, Address to the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 18 October 2014.

17) SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 23. cf. FIRST VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Prologue: Denz. 3051.

18) Cf. SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 22; Decree Christus Dominus (28 October 1965), 4.

Impressive. This makes us wait for an infallible pronouncement by:

  • The Bishop of Rome precisely as the Successor of Peter
  • pronouncing on a matter or many matters of faith and/or morals
  • especially deciding a matter or many matters of controversy
  • directing the instruction to the entirety of Christ’s faithful.

Just to say the obvious: This has not happened to date (this being written on December 9, 2016), and, just to repeat, Amoris laetitia has been excluded from any consideration of it as any kind of teaching of the Magisterium of the Church by the indications of Pope Francis himself.

Meanwhile, I do believe I understand what Pope Francis is doing in not answering various theologians and Cardinals, to wit, he is trying to emphasize Matthew 18:18 (the voice of some of the laity and some of the Synod members) more than Matthew 16:19 (the lone voice of Peter, the Rock), at least for the moment. He is interested in the richness of dialogue, but we see from that October 17, 2015 speech cited above, he is also interested in what can be provided by infallible Peter. Let’s analyze these passages and see some surprising take aways:

Let’s review Matthew 16:19 in utterly pedantic translation

“Whatever you may bind at any given time (second person singular subjunctive aorist active) upon the earth will (third person singular indicative future middle) already have been made to be perfectly standing in that way (nominative neuter singular participle perfect passive) in the heavens.”

What do the verbs mean in this context?

  • Second person singular subjunctive aorist active – The second person singular refers to Peter alone. The subjunctive here is not so much a kind of conditional or wishfulness, but rather depicts the state of actually choosing an option; from the perspective of the actor, there is freedom to the choice: “Whatever you may bind at any give time.” The aorist time frame, whatever delusion your introductory Greek grammars insist on providing to you, is literally “without borders”, that which can happen in the past, present or even future (as is the case here: see below), though usually something which itself happens in a defined time frame, such as the choice to bind. Active simply refers to something actually being accomplished.
  • Third person singular indicative future middle – The third person singular refers to any given object of the action, its state of being. It will simply be what it is (indicative) at that time (future). The middle voice is here used to indicate the status quo to which the actor is also subject, that is, retroactively to his decision to bind something, the truth of that which is described by the following verb, which this singular indicative future middle (“will”) helps to describe.
  • Nominative neuter singular participle perfect passive: The nominative neuter singular refers to the object which is being bound (passive), that is, in an ongoing fashion (participle) in a perfect manner (perfect); mind you, in Greek, “perfect” never refers to a perfectly accomplished action at one point in time, but rather to an action which is perfectly ongoing in a perfect manner since its inception: it always was and will be this way, perfectly, with no change: “already have been made to be perfectly standing in that way.” This “perfect” action structures the capacity of the actor, Peter, to act subjunctively, preempting all choices of Peter except for the one which is consonant which the truth which has always been this way in the heavens. Whatever he may choose to bind at any given time will already have been the case, is the case, and will always continue to be the case in the heavens. Peter cannot choose anything which is not already perfectly established in the heavens. What is in heaven is not an affirmation of what Peter might pronounce; what is in heaven simply is what it is, absolute truth, so to speak. If Peter is wrong about what he intends to pronounce upon, he simply will not be able to pronounce upon it.

Indeed, the part of this equation that people always forget about when trying to figure out the tenses, is that there is a part of this equation which is utterly expendable: Peter. If he is going to get it wrong, he will either die or be incapacitated, but he will not be able to work against what is in heaven already. Being the Successor of Peter isn’t so much an honor as it is a service that may involve laying down his life, for, after all, what do we know? The Orthodox or any others should never be envious of infallibility.

The bit about loosing is exactly the same, verbatim:

“Whatever you may loose at any given time (second person singular subjunctive aorist active) upon the earth will (third person singular indicative future middle) already have been made to be perfectly standing in that way (nominative neuter singular participle perfect passive) in the heavens.”

Let’s review Matthew 18:18 in utterly pedantic translation

“Whatever ye may bind at any given time (second person plural subjunctive aorist active) upon the earth will (third person singular indicative future middle) already have been made to be things perfectly standing in that way (nominative neuter singular participle perfect passive) in heaven.”

And then:

“Whatever ye may loose at any given time (second person plural subjunctive aorist active) upon the earth will (third person singular indicative future middle) already have been made to be things perfectly standing in that way (nominative neuter singular participle perfect passive) in heaven.”

There are some differences besides the plural heavens and singular heaven. Matthew 18:18 is addressed also to the laity about any number of things that may be under dispute. But the verbs and their meanings are exactly the same. But the context removes any infallibility from this other crowd. Let’s see how:

Firstly, in Matthew 16:19, where Peter alone among the Apostles is addressed, only Peter is given the keys of the Kingdom of the Heavens. There is no reference at all to such keys for anyone else in Matthew 18:18. That they have the same access to the understanding of the faith as does Peter is contingent for them in agreeing with Peter, for, as we see in context, the process of a dispute will bring them right back to the Church, that is, as differentiated from Christ’s faithful in general so as to refer to Peter in particular. They are not infallible, he is.

What if Peter is wrong? He can’t be wrong. That’s the point. But say that it could happen, that wouldn’t mean that we ignore him, correct him, unseat him, burn him at the stake, say that he’s not a nice guy or something like that; that would mean that there is no such thing as the Church at all. It can’t happen. Period. Is “dialogue” among the faithful expected by our Lord? Yes. He explicitly speaks of it. But then there is a process to follow. But there is a richness to be expected among so many. That richness is not to be ignored, calling the faith provided to the faithful useless, thus insulting the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis knows this. He respects it. After Matthew 18:18 we go to Matthew 16:19. We are still in the Matthew 18:18 phase.

Might Pope Francis choose to go to Matthew 16:19, to pronounce in an infallible way on the matter? Sure. That is yet to be seen. He surely has set up a scenario in which it seems he truly wants to pronounce an infallible statement. He surely has prefaced this with a great deal of dialogue. To the degree that he is insisting on dialogue, that is the degree he may be incisive in pronouncing an infallible statement.

Have some perhaps jumped the gun? Perhaps. Can it be said that all involved may well be filled with Apostolic charity, that is, both the four Cardinals and the Holy Father? Yes. Are they merely asking him to move from Matthew 18:18 to Matthew 16:19? Perhaps. Again, I don’t like the statement of one of the Cardinals who said: “My position is that ‘Amoris laetitia’ is not magisterial because it contains serious ambiguities…” His opinion is not why Amoris laetitia is not magisterial. It is not magisterial because Pope Francis said it is not magisterial. Otherwise, how many popes do we have? So…

We pray. That is to be expected and desired by all involved, right? Yes. We pray.

Does my having written this article mean that I don’t have my own concerns which happen to be well stated in the five dubia? No, it doesn’t mean that. Does the present non-answer of Pope Francis mean that he doesn’t agree with the intent of the five dubia? No, it doesn’t mean that. What it all means is that we haven’t yet moved from Matthew 18:18 to Matthew 16:19. That’s all. Might I say to Pope Francis that I sure do hope for the good of the Church that our Lord’s desire that our present dialogue with Matthew 18:18 will move to Matthew 16:19? Sure. But the timing is the judgment call of Vicar of Christ, not mine or anyone else for that matter. Again, might we ask him politely to move to Matthew 16:19? Sure, and I think everyone has been polite, although, again, that bit of one of the Cardinals about why he thinks Amoris laetitia is not magisterial is, I think, out of place. And in view of that, I must defend the fact of the papacy itself. Might that make me lose many friends. I suppose. That saddens me. But I am also filled with fortitude. Hier stehe ich and all that. Amen.

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Amoris laetitia: Prodigal son’s father

PRODIGAL SON

I admit it. Early on in life I was a self-absorbed Promethian neo-Pelagian idiot living a life without salvation (ζῶν ἀσώτως) as Luke 15:13 has it, taking advantage of the gifts given to us by our Heavenly Father and going off with to party with, well, you know, those living a life without salvation just like me. I’ve crucified the Son of the Living God with my sins. That’s what I’ve done. One might fill in the blanks with what that means in all the particularities, but probably, in that case, with all one’s own sins projected onto me, kind of like the elder brother’s mentions of prostitutes – πορνῶν. And, by the way, I don’t care who we are – pope, bishop, priest or laity – we’ve all crucified the Son of the Living God with our sins, original sin and whatever other kind of living life without salvation that we’ve all accomplished. Among other things, I’ve been known to confess impatience, pride, arrogance, being judgmental of others in the sense of putting them down only so as stand on top of them… Not good, that.

In more recent decades of my life, I’ve been coming to know Jesus’ great love, even if just the tiniest smidgen of what His wounds mean, His love for me. And that’s everything. The Promethean neo-Pelagian self-absorbed mind games come to an end with Jesus’ love cutting through those mind games of self-referential, self-congratulation, He grabbing me by both shoulders and shaking me gently, getting me to look up into His eyes, thankful, awestruck that He takes me seriously. I mean, how could He? I’ve sent Him in my callous aloofness to His death. And yet, there He is. Here He is, with me. Now. Strongly. I have nothing to brag about. It’s all Him. It’s all about Him.

PRODIGAL SONI have greatly appreciated the priests who have taken me by the hand with great patience and brought me to Jesus, not condemning me, though judging in confession that what I did was in fact in need of absolution. That’s not the judgement of condemnation; that’s the judgement of salvation. I must say that they (1) accepted my repentance, (2) received my confession of sin, (3) judged my contrition to be appropriate, (4) judged my firm purpose of amendment to be adequate, (5) gave me a penance to do so as to put into action in whatever way the humble thanksgiving into which the grace of the sacrament brings us, (6) pronounced the absolution and (7) sent me off to receive Holy Communion. Did they know that they might see me again with similar sins, despite all my protestations of repentance, contrition and firm purpose of amendment? Yes. That’s still true today. It doesn’t mean that my protestations of repentance, contrition and firm purpose of amendment were insincere. No, not that. But we can sin again. But we trust that Jesus will grab our hearts and souls and minds in such a way that the strength of our own inadequacy will fade into insignificance before the strength of His love for us: just look at those wounds of His… for me… for you… This is an event of love, not a process of a mind-game, that is, even if there is a fall. But, let’s see how this works with the prodigal son. There are two ways of looking at this the conversion of the prodigal.

(1) Repentance minus atrition, contrition, amendment

The prodigal comes back with repentance without out any atrition, contrition, or even purpose of amendment. This comes from copyists’ error in a wide variety of otherwise even very excellent manuscripts throughout the early centuries in which the planed confession of the prodigal while out with the pigs is the confession he gives verbatim before his father. When he “comes to himself”, he does precisely that, for he himself has no wherewithal for conversion, just more selfishness. His plan is to get the bread of his father’s servants by admitting that he sinned before heaven and his father and no longer deserves to be called the father’s son. Even though he is taken in by his father as a son, this doesn’t change the attitude of the prodigal, who is simply happy to have the bread. He has worked his way into his own salvation, worked his own way into heaven, disregarding the love of his father for himself. He doesn’t care. He is utterly unimpressed with the love of his father. It has no effect on him whatsoever. “Just go ahead and treat me like the servants,” he says. This, it seems to me, is what Pope Francis wants to promote among confessors, having them be like the father in this scenario, providing absolution for someone who is repentant without any atrition, contrition or any kind of purpose of amendment. Indeed, in this scenario, the prodigal could easily take off again. See: Torture chamber confessionals nixed. Pope Francis: contrition, amendment? Instead: I think, therefore I am saved. As an example, see: Amoris laetitia 351 Unrepentant, active prostitutes, absolution,Communion?

(2) Repentance with atrition turned contrition & amendment

PRODIGAL SONI have demonstrated at great length elsewhere, that is, with a quite exhaustive treatment of copyists’ behavior with all known manuscripts reporting this section of Luke, that is, also in view of the actual physical copying and location of the words and letters of the planned and then (partially) given confessions in the papyri and codices (a tell-all sine qua non for this exercise)… demonstrated that the confession given before the father does NOT entirely repeat the planned confession of the prodigal when he was out with the pigs: he does NOT say, “Treat me like one of your hired servants.” His attrition when out with the pigs amounts to an analogy to fearing the loss of heaven and gaining the pains of hell when he realizes that he is starving to death but could be eating from the good will of his father. He is not sorry for having hurt his father. He is merely stating the facts of the sin and its consequences. This is good enough for him to go back. It is the judgement of the Church that this is enough for a sinner to go to confession in expectation of receiving an absolution. There is a true respect for the goodness of the father, even if this not up to level of being sorry for having offended the father’s love. The purpose of amendment is evident at least in his wanting to stay with the servants in the desire to eat the bread of his father. That this is different from the scenario above (1), is seen with the fact that he does not have an attitude that will resist the actions of his father which will bring him to full contrition. Unbeknownst to himself, he is open to having a sorrow for having hurt his father such that he will be happy to be once again the son of his father. In this scenario (2), when he goes back, his father demonstrates the love of a father for a son such that the prodigal cannot go on with the coldest part of his planned confession, that is, regarding the request to be treated like the servants. He realizes he is a son and does not want to re-offend against the love of his father. This is where the father finds him, as the father says. The son is overwhelmed with the love of his father. This is consonant with the other two parables in chapter 15 of Luke: the coin and the sheep did nothing to be found. Neither did the prodigal. The love of the father is everything in bringing the son to contrition and purpose of amendment. This is an event, not a mind-game, a provision of grace, not a mind-game, a finding of the son, not a mind game, a drawing one into the love of God, not a mind game.

PRODIGAL SONHere’s the deal. The Holy Father has all along been condemning Promethean neo-Pelagian self-absorbed, self-referential, self-congratulations. All of that came from some copyists’ errors in manuscripts as outlined in (1) above, commentary about which gave rise to Pelagianism. In the wake of all that, Saint Augustine developed a theology of grace taken up by Saint Thomas Aquinas. After Aquinas developed Augustine’s theology of grace, it was in turn taken up in the Council of Trent. The work of the saints and the councils is consonant with the proper transcription of the prodigal son parable (2). Pope Francis has somehow analogously followed the work-your-own-way-into-an-absolution-and-Communion interpretation. The ironies and the epic sweep of history in all this is mind-boggling.

All the same, the Lord Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen. Or are we so hateful of the prodigal’s true conversion that we condemn the father as does the elder brother?

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Torture chamber confessionals nixed. Pope Francis: contrition, amendment? Instead: I think, therefore I am saved.

torture chamber

Torture chambers…

For the umpteenth time, on 30 April in Saint Peter’s Square, the Holy Father has again commanded priests in no uncertain terms not to make their confessionals into torture chambers and interrogation rooms. This was the lead story on 1 May 2016 in l’Osservatore Romano.

interrogation room

Interrogation rooms…

Since this has become one of the most frequent themes of the pontificate of Pope Francis, one would think that he actually thinks that all priests do make their confessionals into torture rooms and interrogation rooms. Since priests who make their confessionals into torture chambers and interrogation rooms belong immediately in the lowest reaches of hell, perhaps one might think in an unthinking way that the Holy Father ought to have mercy before that judgment is brought down upon them, to the effect that a new Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition be set up to discover which priests are so very lacking in mercy (all of them), so they might be brought by means of whatever it takes to understand what mercy is all about, with whatever it takes including torture and vicious interrogation. I mean, heaven and hell are for eternity, right? Whatever it takes is O.K., right? Remember, this bit about torture and interrogation really is a constant theme of Pope Francis. Is his constant attack on the priesthood, his constantly kicking priests in the face justified? Perhaps. In thinking about this not in an unthinking way, I think I’ve figured out what the Holy Father is thinking about this, whether he is doing that in a thinking or unthinking way I do not know. But, let’s think about this…

Methinks that this constant reference to the torture chambers and interrogation rooms of priests right around the world is meant to get priests to think about the quality of the conditions they lay on people prior to their reception of an absolution in confession. I think the Holy Father thinks that confessors right around the world think that any sign of repentance in and of itself brings in its wake also contrition and a purpose of amendment, and I think that that is what the Holy Father thinks is absolutely intolerable, as intolerable as any torture or vicious interrogation. I think that he’s not accusing anyone of wittingly going about torture and interrogation, only that he thinks that all priests have a totally insufficient theology regarding repentance, a theology which must be reformed, a theology which will not be reformed unless he makes all priests so angry that they will actually think about what he has to say. Clever. Again, let’s think about this.

The Holy Father does think, by the way, that a sign of repentance is a necessary condition for absolution in the confessional, enough to deny absolution if it is not there (as he told us Missionaries of Mercy on Shrove Tuesday 2016). This is from 30 May:

“Dio non si rassegna mai alla possibilità che una persona rimanga estranea al suo amore, a condizione però di trovare in lei qualche segno di pentimento per il male compiuto.” “God is never resigned to the possibility that a person remains foreign to His love, on the condition, however, to find in this person some sign of repentance for the evil done.”

I think the Holy Father thinks that this repentance does not at all necessarily have to bring in its wake contrition and a purpose of amendment, at least not right away, as repentance, for the Holy Father, is more about a process, a path, than an event. I think the Holy Father thinks that priests right around the world are oblivious to his understanding, blindly thinking, therefore, in his opinion, that repentance brings in its wake contrition and some purpose of amendment. This take on what Pope Francis thinks would be entirely consonant with Amoris laetitia in every way. Here’s my translation of more of that Saturday audience:

prodigal son

From l’Osservatore Romano

“May no one remain far from God because of obstacles put before them by men! And this goes also — and I say this underlining it — for confessors — it is valid for them –: please, do not put obstacles in front of people who want to reconcile themselves with God. The confessor must be a father! He takes the place of God the Father! The confessor must receive those who come to him to reconcile themselves with God and start them out on the path of this reconciliation that we are making [in other words a path of repentance merely in one’s mind but without the immediate contrition and purpose of amendment which would complete the path, those almost impossible conditions of the love which may perhaps come later (in Pope Francis’ mind)]. It is such a beautiful ministry: it is not a torture chamber nor an interrogation room. No. [Contrition? Amendment? Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Just be beautiful in your own mind, get absolution and to to Communion.]. He is the Father who receives and welcomes this person and pardons. Let us be reconciled with God! All of us! May this Holy Year be the favorable time to rediscover the need of tenderness and of the closeness of the Father [step one, which is what he thinks the prodigal son did when out with the pigs] so as to return to Him wholeheartedly [step two, the reversal of what actually happens in the parable of the prodigal son, who is instead found (but we will get to that in a future post, but note that this is the central mistake of Pope Francis)].” [In other words, this is all a repeat of footnote 351 in Amoris laetitia.]

True repentance without contrition and without some purpose of amendment is simply not possible. That would be a repentance which is not repentant at all. Or better, since repentance = rethinking (metanoia), such repentance without contrition and without some purpose of amendment would be no more than a mind game, that which is Promethean, neo-Pelagian, self-absorbed, self-referential, self-congratulatory. This is totally lacking in love, totally lacking in mercy. I think, therefore I am saved. It makes the sacraments a joke. It makes a joke of Christ’s faithful. It makes a joke of the priests who want to bring people into Christ’s love, not simply into some mind-game. Once entered into, how is it that one can extract someone out of such a mind-game? Is it not the same way that one might present at the very beginning of the “process”? Is it not all about Jesus and His love which is stronger than death? Yes. Repentance comes with contrition, an act of love, and purpose of amendment, an act of love. Repentance without contrition and purpose of amendment is not simply atrition, sorry for the loss of heaven and the pains of hell (which is good in and of itself and sufficient to bring one to confession and receive absolution if there is also a repentance with purpose of amendment). Instead, repentance without contrition and purpose of amendment is, again, simply a mind-game which has no respect for the one who would provide pardon. It makes one into the elder brother of the prodigal. It is self-righteous, loving only of self specifically apart from God.

Holy Father, I love you to pieces, but you are wrong. Why do you torture your priests and Christ’s faithful with that which is less than love? I’m sure you want a more profound theology about all this. I will provide that with a future post on the prodigal son. It will be sure to knock your black shoes off! Stay tuned.

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Amoris laetitia 351: priests’ obligation? Missionary of Mercy wants to know.

ambiguity

Queritur: Are priests obliged to follow the recommendations of Amoris laetitia in any case in the Confessional, footnote 351?

  • The sacraments mentioned in the note cannot be baptism, confirmation, marriage, holy orders or, all things being equal, anointing. The plural is used, so the sacraments mentioned here are both Confession and Holy Communion, the one not meant to be a torture chamber, the other not meant to be a reward.

Answer: No, because no one knows what it means, and multiple attempts to get the Holy Father to give an answer about 351 have failed. The law of the Church hasn’t changed, and yet, the intent of the note is clear. And yet, the law forbids it. And yet… blah blah blah… It’s ambiguous. It being that it is ambiguous, what is it that priests would be obliged to follow? There is no answer to this from the Holy Father. So: IT MEANS NOTHING.

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The monster’s got me by the ankles and is smashing me to the ground

dilbert

I am exhausted. Today, so far, I’ve had 113 email conversations, however many comments, texts, and hours[!] of phone conversations, most of those about canon law, ecclesiology, moral theology, church politics, with a number of priests, canon lawyers, theologians. I am deeply sorrowful at the state of the Church. Deeply. I don’t know how to express that. I agonize. I don’t think it’s negativity. I love the Church. I love those in the Church, even the baddies just like me, and by that I mean those who go on ad hominem attacks, just like me, except I’m worse. I know how bad that is for me. The last thing I want is to see that attitude in them.

ogreI feel like I’m being lifted up upside down by some ogre who’s got me by the ankles, and who has commenced whipping me about in the air and then smashing me down to the ground, only to do it continuously, and somehow I remain conscious through it all. I feel sick. Nauseous. It’s like traumatic stress. The monster is, of course, myself. I’m very bad and very evil with a very black and terribly cynical heart. If I wanted to rant, just laying it all out, proving my cynicism to myself (because cynicism is all about self), I think I would actually frighten the most intense of cynics right into silence, much like when the murder rate in Manhattan went down to zero for quite a while after September 11, 2001. The run of the mill murderers were unfathomably out-murdered, and they were stunned into pacifism. Jesus had to reach really very far into hell to find me, which makes me all the more grateful to Him. And that all means that I hold all those lesser cynics to be much better off than I ever was. You have no idea.

If that seems like unstoppable pride, let me tell you ever so humbly about someone who was more cynical than even I could ever be. A layman, he had the CDF wrapped around his little finger, deposing and setting up bishops at will, forcing documents and policies right and left. The CDF, his pet project, hated him, but Ratzinger did what he said and, I would hazard, respected him and even liked him for the clarity and devotion he had. I’ve never known anyone more intelligent, which includes the greatest Thomists in the world today. He knew how to get things done for the good of the Church. I often helped him. I’ve now and again done a bit of his kind of work myself, asked to do so many times by the Curia, off the record, but whatever gets the job done, right? Sometimes cynics are simply realists said to be cynics by those fearful of reality. And that was him, a saint, really, cynical of the diabolical, but not of Jesus. We both knew, however, that if he reversed that, even for a moment, he could do great damage to the Church. He stayed with Jesus, even though he saw all the diabolical there can be among some members of the Church.

As for myself, if I lost all sanctifying grace, I could rant about pretty much everything, including “and” and “the” and even the nice stuff. I would not only highlight that which boasts of ambiguity, but I would also draw conclusions from that which would make anyone curl up in a ball and die of despair. I excel at that kind of thing, I dare say more than anyone. No comparison. And this has ripened over the last number of years. I know the hell of it; I know of a certainty that that’s who I am if I am without grace. One actual believer in the Roman Curia once said that he feared that my analyses could  [… I had better stop!…] At any rate, I’m sure that I would pervert any time being greater than space dynamic into a Marxist dialectic with all such things. I’m truly bad and evil. But I know it. So I look to Jesus, who creates both time and space. He’s all that’s left for me. He is the Church with His Mystical Body. He’s the One.

And then the monster disappears. Just like that. If I pride myself to think that I’m really good at being evil, my pride is then shattered into humility by Him who was more cynical of evil than I could ever begin to be cynical of that which is good. Jesus bears the wounds of all of hell broken out on His risen body. He smashes all cynicism into that which is laughable. Jesus has conquered. He’s the greatest love of my life and I want everyone to know about Him.

We must keep unity in the Church. No schism! Let’s discuss the ideas, yes. But let’s all of us stick to that. But if anyone wants to be ad hominem with me, say that I’m not a real priest, whatever, go ahead. I take back being offended by any of that. I deserve everything I get. I’ll just beat you to the punch: I’ve absolutely crucified the Son of the Living God with my sins and without Jesus I would absolutely go to hell like the child of hell that I am if I am without grace.

P.S. The undercurrent of this post is terrible pride. I hope you can pick that up. I am the worst of the worst. Somehow that’s pride, right? But Jesus is good and kind. :-)

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Amoris laetitia and Cardinal Burke

cardinal burke lourdes

I took this picture in the Immaculate Conception “Upper” Basilica in Lourdes when I was a permanent chaplain there for a couple of years, when Cardinal Burke was on pilgrimage with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 2009. I suffered terribly in the days of yore, trying to facilitate such Masses.

I’ve had quite a number of extended conversations with Cardinal Burke over the years, one of which was quite recent. I’ll tell you this: he is the utmost gentleman, the most humble parish priest who has no “airs” about him at all, except the brightness of a spirit of unstoppable humble reverence before the Lord Jesus. But there are those who are upset with him, I think, precisely for this reason. It makes them nervous.

Those who are upset with Cardinal Burke the most are the traditional-ism-ists. Don’t they know that they are only proving in this manner whatever it is that Pope Francis is trying to say about charity toward others? I know a number of the pseudonymous crowd, but they literally run away and hide (really) when I ask for them over the phone after they’ve published things without a name. Otherwise, in safer times, they’ll buy me lunch. Or, alternatively, attack me as best they can. I’ve known some for decades, and have suffered terribly for some of them, perhaps unbeknownst to them. But there’s no real talking with them. Very quickly everything turns to: “It’s a conspiracy of the Jews!” and then whatever else makes them breathless for the day, living on the adrenaline of mystery, the whole pen-name thing.

Cardinal Burke has been their hero until now. He’s said something they don’t like. He’s taken away their thunder. He has correctly said that the most recent intervention of Pope Francis is his own personal opinion, which is correct, both because that is what Pope Francis himself said, and because that’s the kind of document it is. That’s it.

I suggest that those who think they know better than Cardinal Burke start to read some history about the Church being, as Saint Robert Bellarmine said, “never closer to dropping into hell than at this time.” That statement is always true, and is always true because of, get this, your sins and mine. And Jesus did descend into hell, the Church in hell, if you will, to preach to the damned spirits. But the Immaculate Bride of Christ is saved from hell always and at every moment, because Christ Jesus is our Savior. Our savior is not our own cleverness, not our ad hominem attacks on mere men. We are at war with the fallen angels. We need to help each other out of respect for Christ crucified. Cardinal Burke had to make this preliminary statement. I’m sure he will have more to say. Give him a chance! But you can see how difficult the battle is. There is mutiny for the sake of mutiny. Attack for the sake of attack. People letting bitterness turn them into cynics.

Do I have questions about, say, I don’t know, casuistry for our Holy Father? Yes, I do. Would I present those questions to him with the utmost respect for his person and with the utmost reverence for his office as the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter? Yes, absolutely. I’ll give some background to those questions in articles to come about the prodigal son and the adulterous woman.

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Don’t think clouds are all cloudy: of penance, merit and sanctifying grace. Divine Mercy Sunday is upon us!

 

cloudy ridge mountains

I love to see clouds hugging the mountains as if they are drawn by some magnetism. Even better, I remember doing ridge walking (not mountain climbing) up near the Matterhorn on the Italian side in another life, watching clouds literally tumble up the valleys and in between the ridges and mountain tops, exploding in size or disappearing as I watched, taken in as I was by the power of nature as created by our good God, almost able to touch them so close were they. Watching those clouds was like sitting on the top rail of rodeo gate with an explosive animal underfoot. These clouds above help define just how many ridges there are vertically going up to the top ridge. This is why trails are either by the river below or on the very tops of ridges if at all possible.

volcano

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano reminds us of the clouds and lightnings and trumpeting thunder and earthquakes of Mount Sinai and then Mount Calvary heralding our redemption. And the images of Hebrew Scriptures of God riding on the clouds of the heavens come to mind. Spectacular.

When I was a kid, I would enjoy reading a book at night solely by sheet-lightning light, with the interior radiance of those clouds being so bright that I could do this with ease with almost no interruption. It was actually better than this compilation of a brilliantly freaky sick editor of lightning videos. Hat’s off to him…

Clouds are not just mist and fluffiness. Clouds are tornadoes, are hurricanes and typhoons. They can bring prosperity or flooding, life or death. They can carry the voice of our dear Heavenly Father at the Transfiguration of Jesus.

But sometimes we feel a storm cloud is over our heads and it’s all bad and evil and dark and we’re doomed. Here’s a note from a reader with my [[comments]].

“One question I have on the just consequences of sin is that it seems like there’s an important sense in which any offense against God (and especially a mortal sin) is an infinite offense simply by the fact that it is AGAINST GOD. So I have the sense that suffering or penance is more of a gesture of love of God and of His justice than it is making any quantifiable headway on what I justly owe [[Yes, any penance, including one given in confession, is to begin and end with friendship with Jesus, so that if one fasts, one complains to Him about how weak one is so as to ask to be killed off figuratively speaking to self so as to only live for Him, with that friendship growing by leaps and bounds in all charity and thus covering a multitude of sins]], though by persevering to death one gives one’s personal “all” [[Don’t be like Simone Weil in doing that! Yikes!]]. Although, about some sins I have fulfilled the recommended penance from the ancient penitential manuals [[a huge accomplishment, but remember the bit about friendship with Jesus]] but whether that is theologically a lot different than “pray an Our Father and a Hail Mary” in the ability to really atone for sin, I do not know. [[There are many variables, but there is an extra help of grace, I would think, when this comes from the sacrament of Confession. Just to say, in my discussions with the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary over in Rome as a new Missionary of Mercy, I was provided a review of the kind of penances they give out, more than an Our Father and Hail Mary!]] And I am not sure exactly how it relates to this if I gain a plenary indulgence, the temporal punishment due to sin is remitted [[from the treasury, as it were, so to speak, of the super-abundant merits of Christ and the saints]], yet the disorder in myself remains which is effects of sin and in justice must be suffered, this is a little bit confusing distinction.[[Ahh… There it is. That’s the mistake of today, confusing our psychological state and our spiritual state. We are always weak in this world because of justice for sin, and the very forgiveness and state of grace enables us to use that weakness for sanctification with the most exhilarating irony ever. Here’s the deal: the closer to Jesus we are, the more honestly we can see how far He had to reach to get us, which is the more honest we can be in thanking Him now for that salvation and then absolutely gloriously in heaven. Don’t dare think that more balanced and nice is holy. It’s in being more at ease in turning to Jesus in humble thanksgiving even while it is revealed to us just how far Jesus had to reach to get us. With this outrageous enthusiasm for love of Jesus, let the clouds blare out their trumpets and show us their lightnings. There is nothing to fear in the storms of Calvary, for it is Jesus who is drawing us to Himself across hell to Himself. If we only knew the benefit of the storms, we wouldn’t want to give them up at all until we, please God, made it into heaven. Go ahead and watch them explode or to vaporize as you make your assent up Mount Carmel. We look not to ourselves but to Him, to whom be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen.]]

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Analogy for Divine Mercy: Waterfalls!

waterfall1

This above picture is utterly deceptive. These falls are about 1/4 mile long. The width of the falls at the bottom is about 150 feet across. I’m sure this would count as a level 6 for serious knuckleheads, if not just an outright portage (good idea). I’m guessing all kayaking is forbidden (good idea). I took this picture the other day on way to the house exorcism.

waterfall2

The picture above is utterly deceptive. You would think cars can’t drive under waterfalls. You would be wrong. That is a roadway. I took this picture the other day on my way to the house exorcism.

waterfall3

The above picture is utterly deceptive. This waterfall is next to the hermitage. You would think it’s only about 5 feet across. It’s more like thirty. I took this picture the other day on my way back from the house exorcism.

san clemente mosaicThis mosaic at San Clemente in Rome isn’t utterly deceptive. It’s an attempt at an analogy about waterfalls, using the psalm line: As the hart years for running streams, so my soul is thirsting for you my God.” I used to pass this daily for years while doing my stint in bella Roma. The waters gushing from the foot of the cross depict the exorcism of all exorcisms. Note the serpent escaping just below the cross. He hates that the Lord Jesus has just died for all of us, thus having the right in His own justice to have mercy on us, the mercy of establishing His own Kingdom to replace the kingdom of the prince of the this world, the ancient dragon, that cunning serpent, the father of lies.

To this day, the one who has best depicted the waterfall of which we must take note is Mel Gibson in his “The Passion of the Christ.” In one of the final scenes on Calvary, you’ll remember the soldier must thrust his sword into the side, into the Heart of Jesus, you know, just to make sure that He’s dead. He does so, and from that we receive the image of the font of the Sacraments and the creation of the Church from the side of Christ just as Adam’s wife was taken from the side of Adam:

side of christ

side of christ 2

side of christ 3

Also His Immaculate Virgin Mother was redeemed at the first moment of her conception so that sin never touched her soul. This vision of this waterfall is not deceptive at all. It speaks of us of the truth of our salvation, the goodness and kindness and truth of Jesus with a love stronger than death, that mocks death, that rises from the dead, taking captivity captive, taking us to our Heavenly Father to give us as a gift to Him. Thank you, Jesus.

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Decorating our refurbished confessional: Ideas, please!

curtainHere’s one of our best all-time go to guys who can help get anything done. He’s holding up a section of curtain that had been hanging from a shower curtain rod attached to the ceiling of the cry-room, our makeshift confessional through the decades. This was a GlenMary parish until recently, as were all of the parishes in Western North Carolina. This was the last one they let go to the diocese, it being inclusive of perhaps the poorest county in all of Appalachia, Graham County. For the years I’ve been here we had an absolute priority: GET RID OF THE MOLD! It was deadly. The previous pastor is still on sick leave. But now it’s time to seriously refurbish the confessional. What we’ve done is to remove the curtains and put up office partitions which we hacked through so as to put in a traditional fixed grill:

confessional screen

What we need to do now is to put up some appropriate art and aids. Thus, on either side of the window, following the example given in the Pontifical Basilicas over in Rome, we would like to hang framed Acts of Contrition, English on the one side and Spanish on the other. I’d like to hang a big crucifix above, slightly to the left of center of the screen, perhaps that of San Damiano, with a framed image of the Guadalupana just slightly below and to the right of center of the screen. Dunno… Any ideas? Anything else? I think we need to add some cushioning to the kneeler. It seems like it’s just a board covered with white vinyl.

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Confession without Confession? Sure!

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Some reactionaries are outraged by Pope Francis saying that absolution can be given to someone who can’t confess his sins. They quote Saint John Paul II in his Reconciliatio et paenitentia, to wit:

Whether as a tribunal of mercy or a place of spiritual healing, under both aspects the sacrament requires a knowledge of the sinner’s heart in order to be able to judge and absolve, to cure and heal. Precisely for this reason the sacrament involves on the part of the penitent a sincere and complete confession of sins. This therefore has a raison d’etre not only inspired by ascetical purposes (as an exercise of humility and mortification), but one that is inherent in the very nature of the sacrament.

Strong words to be sure. I’ve done otherwise 1000 times in my decades long priestly ministry. General absolution given to, say, a group of soldiers heading off to extreme danger, without hearing any of their sins, though reminding them that they must have the intention to go to individual confession, is both possible and recommended. I’ve never had occasion to do that, but I just wanted to insert that into the argument at the get-go. But I do want to say that I’ve granted absolution a 1000 times on, I think, pretty much every continent in the world, and in so many countries, to those who did not make, could not make a confession of sins in any way, that is, of those who were dying, who had suffered whatever form of violence, whatever.

If I’m shot and can’t speak, I hope that there’s a priest around to absolve me regardless of the idiocy of the traditional-ism-ists. Saint John Paul II was not one of those, and I’m sure that he’s done what I’ve done, as every priest I’m guessing pretty much without exception has done or will do in his lifetime of ministry, that is, grant an absolution expeditiously to those who are dying and cannot confess their sins in kind and number and aggravating circumstances with the due care by which this sacrament is honored. This sacrament is also honored when absolution is to be given regardless of oracular confession of sins.

Anecdote from Africa told to me, as I wasn’t there: A group of missionaries were detained by some warlords who had them standing in a big circle so as to interrogate them. They got tired of asking questions and said that they were just going to shoot them all. They were all Catholic and had a priest with them. One of the young men cried out, scared out of his mind, “Father, give the absolution! Give the absolution!” But the priest was so scared the words wouldn’t come out of his mouth. That intense fear seems to have melted the hearts of the warlords enough, or it was so humorous to them, that they just let them all go. The point is, however, that the priest could have given the general absolution.

Having said all that, I can imagine other examples perhaps more to the point, but what’s the use of speaking to those who are not priests, have never heard a confession in their lives, nor will they, but who only want to criticize and make sure that no one goes to confession by mocking pretty much all priests in the world as not being true priests since they were not ordained by this or that bishop of their liking? Just to say, I’ve been publicly mocked by this crowd, with them saying, in fact, that I’m not a real priest. Despite them: Go to Confession!

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Hearing Confessions in the strangest of places: Blizzard’s edge at the impassable chasm

blizzard

Mountains are strange that way. One or two flakes in front of you. An impassable white-out blizzard another 5000 feet away, on the other side of the impassable chasm. I’m exaggerating, but I’m trying to make an analogy, you know, like when hell freezes over, that kind of thing. I love the snow, being from Minnesota and all, but the analogy I’m thinking about involves our Blessed Mother showing the Fatima kids a vision of hell, with souls falling into hell like snowflakes in a blizzard. Snowflakes are so very delicate, beautiful, seeming immaculate in their wispy crystalline designs, but destined, in this analogy, to drop inextricably into an ever more violent eternal vortex of hateful violence and despair. But, just think, before dropping in, if only they had a chance to go to Confession, and then they wouldn’t drop down at all. Having said that: here’s a wild article on mercy and confession that was just published in the Catholic News Herald for the Diocese of Charlotte:

Father George David Byers: A Missionary of Mercy hears confessions in the strangest of places (Catholic News Herald – March 2016) 

This Missionary of Mercy confesses to you that I haven’t always followed to the letter the canon law of the Church, namely Canon 964, which states that “the proper place for hearing sacramental confessions is a church or oratory” and that “except for a just reason, confessions are not to be heard elsewhere than in a confessional.” I have been very broad in my interpretation of a “just reason.”

Scaling particularly deadly mountain walls with friends, or other similarly intense moments, has never been an occasion for me to hear a confession. However, as any priest, I do recall terrible traffic accidents when absolutions were provided. We’ve all heard confessions in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, as well as in nursing homes and assisted living centers. But those are to be taken for granted.

Some venues for confessions might be considered strange by those who just can’t imagine themselves confessing in such circumstances, but others are less inhibited. I’ve frequently heard confessions in the midst of rushing crowds in airport concourses or train stations, outside supermarkets or on street corners. Cars and trucks and parking lots are most favored, but so are walking confessions, which make their way along city sidewalks or country roads.

A house, a barn, a dog kennel, a chicken coop … any place will do. Mercy is available everywhere.

The fact of someone wanting to go to confession is a “just cause” for not using a confessional, even when a confessional is right at hand. Sometimes the sacristy is better for any number of reasons. In some places, women’s confessions were traditionally heard in “the box,” while men’s confessions were heard in the sacristy.

Having said this, though, there are limits. Proximity is necessary for the sacrament. No video conferencing. No phones. No radio talk shows. No email or texting or Facebook or Twitter. Not even Snapchat. No sacrilege.

Permit me, though, to bring you to a place to offer your confession so strange that you may not have considered it – not realizing that you have been confessing in this most unheard of place since your very first confession. You’ll need your imagination for this, but only because it’s so real that it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around.

Imagine that when you go into the confessional, to your shock you see that there is someone already kneeling down just starting to confess. It’s Jesus! You kneel beside Him sheepishly, and see your own priest on the other side of the screen. Jesus then starts to confess all your sins as if they were His own. He’s brief and to the point, includes aggravating circumstances and numbers of times for any serious sins. He just enumerates the sins without ambiguity, without excuse. He then concludes: “I accuse myself of all these sins, Father, and I beg absolution and penance.” Your priest then gives you your penance and absolves you, and you go away filled with wonder at the great love of Jesus who, in order to provide the grace of that absolution, stood in our place, taking on the death we deserve because of our sin.

When we confess, we do so alongside Jesus, who steps in for us. But because He does that on a spiritual level, we must be loyal to Him by ignoring any fear, any humiliation we might feel. Instead of looking to ourselves, we look to see His goodness and kindness. That’s a strange place to confess from, alongside Jesus, is it not? And yet, it is all very familiar, for no matter how strange the place is in which we might confess, we are always right next to Jesus, who loves us so very much.

Father George David Byers is administrator of Holy Redeemer Church in Andrews and one of two “Missionaries of Mercy” commissioned by Pope Francis in the Diocese of Charlotte.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (Salve Regina edition: 700 Missionaries of Mercy sing their hearts out)

img_20160209_172418681.jpgAs 700 of the 1000 some Missionaries of Mercy were waiting for the Holy Father to arrive in the Sala Regia, we decided to break out into praise of the Immaculate Mother of God. After all, why not? I apologize for not getting the opening words, but it was not planned. At the end, you might be able to tell when the Holy Father arrives.

This, I think, is a most appropriate “flower” for the Immaculate Conception.

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Flores for the Immaculate Conception (furnace edition)

image

The grace of the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity makes our souls more resplendently arrayed than even Solomon in all his splendor. But these earthen vessels are more fragile than even the lilies of the field. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Giving flowers to Jesus to give to His Blessed Mother is hard work. Picking, arranging, coordinating, logistics, cost, and… and… the extra effort so many forget in discarding the old withered flowers into the furnace.

To be a flower picked by Jesus to give to the Immaculate Conception is to recognize our own mortality, which many find hard to face. Doing the flower thing is to do the hard work of putting ourselves humbly and in thanksgiving before our Eucharistic King.

Bringing a flower to church today is about as hard as going to confession, right? But both should be done with humble thanksgiving and, in the end, great joy. As is tintinnabulated by all priests: Go to confession! that’s the best flowering flourishing of our souls that we can give to Jesus, to Mary. Our souls are then purified like gold in the ardent furnace of God’s love for us.

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This was my view for a while…

WNC Great Smoky Mountains

I took this picture after Communion calls the other day. I love bringing Jesus round about to the sheep of His tiny flock. I shall miss my parish. I love everyone here and there are many who don’t want me to depart. Hey, it’s only for a couple of weeks to meet up with Pope Francis, right? Well, who knows. What if His Holiness asks: “Et tu?” And I respond: “Adsum!” And he asks: “Irkutsk?” And I say: “Vado!” I mean, after all, I’m used to the cold; the North Woods of Minnesota and southern Irkutsk have more or less the same climate. Time to start packing. For Rome that is. And then?

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VIRTUS® and Porn: No concern? Today…

VIRTUS

When I was teaching up in the Josephinum, I sat through the VIRTUS® course that was obviously tailored to seminarians and priests. I objected to the statement that on a list of questionable and evil behaviors there had to be at least two which presented with an individual before it would be considered enough of a concern to do some reporting. I objected because one of the items listed was showing porn to minors. That, said I, was more than enough on its own to do some reporting. It would be more than enough for me to knock the idiot unconscious, regardless of any laxity in civil law, regardless of any laxity in local diocesan chancery personnel policy. However, for VIRTUS®, it’s Continue reading

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In honor of Saint Paul: Stop the breathless condemnations!

Saint Paul Conversion Damascus Caravaggio

The vicious, murderous Saul, was graced with a vocation by Jesus. But Lord, he said, they will hold my past against me! I am evil and bad. Don’t worry, Jesus replied, I shall be with you. And so it was, Saint Paul would boast of his weakness so as to give Jesus the glory.

There’s a certain breathless rebellion against authority which seeks to discredit the Holy Father and priests and bishops for that matter. It’s all over the internet, the ugly lust of looking about in search of one of the scoops of the century, so that all can say “Ooooo!” and “Ahhhh!” But that is the only reward for being the best at gathering bad news. I mean, if we go before our judgment and Satan would be allowed to accuse us for all we have done, each one of us, and if God would judge us only on those accusations, whether true or false, out of context or not, we would all be going straight to hell. The faith is about mercy, about the Good News, the Evangelium, the Gospel, not about an uncontrollable lust to condemn all to hell with no chance of redemption, with no chance of salvation if they are not already mirror images of ourselves. The faith is Continue reading

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Impossible world? Justice and Mercy as One

chess board robert van der steeg impossible world

The Mercy Team = The Good Guys!
The Justice Team = The Bad Guys!

That’s how the know-nothings do things, an impossible world. They expect to achieve peace by pitting mercy and justice against each other. All that is obtained is frustration, for the upset of doubting God comes to the fore. Cynicism is the result of cutting mercy off from justice, for immediately after asking for “mercy, mercy, mercy,” we see what seems to be a total lack of mercy all around us. Instant cynicism. Left to fester, this turns into a bitterness on the war-path, that sees good in no thing, that is, in nothing, content to let mercy and justice cancel each other out so as seemingingly to have the right to scream out: “I told you so!” (with the “you” in that cry being their god who doesn’t exist, that is, their nihilistic selves). This is the darkest of all dark existential peripheries. Woe to those who fling multitudes of people precipitously into such a vortex of self-referential self-pity.

We want mercy and decry justice and are thus thrown into the most wild vortex of self-pity on the prowl for making always more victims of the division of mercy and justice. But you have to know, this is a personal choice. Jesus nor any Pope ever said that justice was something bad. This was only said by people who are bitter to the core. Think about it. It’s true, no? We should never be eager to follow the path to hell just because we are hurting. Instead of saving ourselves with our own idiocy, why not let the Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception undo the knots into which we have bound ourselves?

Accept that in Jesus (as in God, for He is God), justice and mercy are one.

Look upon the cross. Jesus is there, founding the mercy He provides to us (“Father, forgive them”) on His own justice, taking our place in what we deserve in justice so that we might receive His mercy. This makes His mercy credible, majestic. “For the sake of His sorrowful passion (justice), have mercy on us and on the whole world (mercy).”

There comes a time when, finally, we realize that Jesus has won the battle, that He has a good grip on our souls, on our hearts, on our minds, not a steel grip of ideology, but a grip cemented by the blood of His wounds, a grip of friendship that won’t let go. And then, we walk in His presence. Or, better, it is then that He carries us as little children into the battle with the Evil One, Himself doing the fighting for us, but we with Him. The solidarity of justice and mercy as one. He’s the One.

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Pope Francis’ Jewish Missionary of Mercy writes about his experience with porn

hell is real

This Hell is Real billboard along I-65 in Kentucky is near one of the umpteen zillion Adult Super-Stores making a swamp of despair in America and beyond. I don’t know if it’s still there, but it was when I was travelling back and forth on this highway when I was teaching in the Pontifical College Josephinum. That hell is real is a merciful reminder for those prostituting their souls to pornography. Thanks to whoever put up the sign. Anyway, I put up a longer version of this post a few years ago on the now famous because defunct blog called Holy Souls Hermitage. There had been quite a number of calls for me to write an article on pornography. I’ve been intending to republish this ever since Arise! Let us be going! has been up.

First of all, let me say that Continue reading

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Did you know that Mary’s Baby Boy is the great “I AM”?

finding christ in the temple bloch

Firstly, the painting: This is the Finding of Christ in the Temple by Carl Heinrich Bloch (†1890) of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. “Read,” if you will, about the moment Mary sees Jesus by reading the expression of the already bar-mitzvahed boy sitting on the steps of the temple. That boy sees her anguish, and that she’s the mother of Jesus who’s busy with his own bar-mitzvah. The boy on the steps is already running his own business of selling “a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24). He has rope in hand, ready to tie up the feet of his captives to hand over in a bundle to anyone buying them for the sacrifice. Mary did make such a purchase twelve years earlier when Jesus had been presented in the Temple. Luke recounts Simeon’s words to Mary at that time, words that we are supposed to remember now: Continue reading

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