Tag Archives: Mercy

A Pope Francis style dialogue: Getting Stoned in the West Bank

bus stoned jerusalem

When I was going to Hebrew University in the West Bank, my fellow priests and sisters of the Pontifical Biblical Institute would take the bus, scared to death.

They frequently returned with shards of glass in their hair and on their clothes, while I, meanwhile, calmly walked to school and back like I always did as a Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Interreligious dialogue, Mercy, Pope Francis, Terrorism

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


Filed under Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Synod on the Family, Year of Mercy

To (Arch)Bishops: Pope Francis’ Missionary of Mercy’s invitation to Victims of Abuse and to Treatment Centers for Priests

pope francis

The parameters within which the Missionaries of Mercy work are defined more or less by the national boundaries and territories of the episcopal conference of the Missionary’s domicile. The bishops will eventually be sent the entire list from which they can request a Missionary if they don’t already have one or they need more help. In the U.S.A., the ratio is about one Missionary for every two (arch)dioceses.

A Missionary doesn’t always wait. I would like to push those who think they may be ineligible to ask how it is that mercy works its effects to go ahead and push their bishops or other ecclesiastical superiors for such an event during this Year of Mercy. I’m asking (arch)bishops and religious superiors not to wait for those who may feel ineligible to ask to just make it happen for them.

So, I’m asking (arch)bishops and religious superiors to schedule events in their Cathedrals and in Treatment Centers for Priests with Pope Francis’ Missionaries of Mercy, events which offer such encouragement about mercy, specifically for those who have been abused, and specifically for those who have been the abusers. I’m available for either kind of event. It is imperative that all know the goodness and kindness, the peace and joy our Lord Jesus, who loves us all so very much.

Just to say: this blog is followed by many in Silver Spring, MD, in Albuquerque, NM, and in Dittmer, MO, et al. There is an interest.

Just to say: This is what Pope Francis wants. Do what you need to do to help bring healing to all.

Contact me at an old but still active email address, which is holy souls hermitage [one word] at gmail dot com.

— Father George David Byers

1 Comment

Filed under Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Year of Mercy

Mirthful reaction against Pope Francis’ Jewish Missionary of Mercy

Mary Guadalupe

Just above where I write in the new rectory in Andrews. The red drapery is from iconographic praxis. Star of David is found all over the early first century synagogue where Jesus preached in Capernaum. The face of the Guadalupana, an exact replica-detail of the tilma, given to me in the sacristy after having said Mass facing the tilma in Guadalupe with a good friend from the Congregation for the Clergy concelebrating.

A merciless attack on the Pope Francis’ Jewish Missionary of Mercy!

A Catholic priest friend with a great sense of humor put up my recent post on Pope Francis appointing me, Jewish Scripture scholar that I am, to be one of his Missionaries of Mercy, putting this up, that is, on his FaceBook with this introduction:

I know Pope Francis has an ecumenical bent, and I know he likes to push the envelope, but a Jewish Missionary of Mercy? Really?

I laughed and laughed when he told me this, knowing the reaction that it would bring, a perfect teaching moment. And that’s what he wanted, of course. I still laugh. Pope Francis doesn’t want non-joyful Missionaries of Mercy. Here’s some of the reaction on his FaceBook:

1st comment: I’m soooooooo confused, and I’m a cradle Catholic.
2nd comment: Read the article and you won’t be.
3rd comment: I read the article & I’m even more confused now! Why do Catholics in need of mercy benefit from a “missionary of mercy” who doesn’t even accept Jesus as the Messiah, much less belong to the Church He founded????

Here’s the original article, just previous to this one on Arise! Let us be going!: Pope Francis’ Jewish Missionary of Mercy. Please, read it carefully. This points to the clear need for some dialogue.

Teaching this teachable moment

Lest anyone be scandalized by all this mirth (for the above FB comments were surely made with equal jest, especially the third comment, for she is a friend), let me use this all as a teachable moment. Here’s the truth of it:

I am a Catholic Priest who happily takes Pope Saint Pius X’s oath against modernism. But, what if I was a rabbi instead of being a priest? Let me tell you that one of the most profound instructions on the reclaiming of space and time for our heavenly Father by way of His Eternal Word Incarnate – “Instaurare omnia in Christo” (Ephesians 1:10 and the motto of Saint Pius X) – came to me by way of a Jewish rabbi. His instructing the ignorant, me, was an exercise of the spiritual work of work of mercy on my behalf. It would do us well to listen to each other. Let’s start with a rabbi turned priest, just to help you along:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today” (Acts 22:3 nab).

That’s Saint Paul, by the way, who goes on to say this:

“I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:1-5 nab).

Need we add that the Apostles are Jewish? That Immaculate Mary is Jewish? That Jesus is Jewish? Speaking of the Divine Son of God, Jesus said of Himself (John 4:22):

Saint Matthew tax collector Caravaggio

Caravaggio: Election of Saint Matthew

“Salvation is from the Jews.”

Still don’t get it? Here are some Jewish Catholics you might know:

  • The Catholic Archbishop of Paris, Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger (✝ 5 August 2007)
  • The Catholic auxiliary of Jerusalem, the Most Reverend Jean-Baptiste Gourion

Miserando atque eligendo, right?

Since I sojourned for a time above the cave of Elijah on Mount Carmel, and on so very many occasions wandered among the caves along the wadi where the ancient Carmelite monastery was destroyed by the Islamic crowd in bygone centuries, I hasten to add that all the big Spanish names among canonized Catholic Discalced Carmelites also declared to be Catholic Doctors of the Catholic Church have Jewish roots. And then there is, of course, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), a Discalced Carmelite nun. Did I mention she is a Jewess, and Catholic? Perhaps you know how she died.

If we had to mention literature, I’m sure you’ve all read Michael O’Brien’s Father Elijah: An Apocalypse. The main character is Jewish and a Catholic priest.

There are, of course, countless others. And we could go on to mention the Jewish saints in the traditional Roman Canon of the Sacrifice of the Mass, etc., but, I think, the point should be clear:

One can be Jewish and Catholic at the same time.

But just to be crystal clear: I am indeed a Catholic priest, belong to a Catholic pontifical right clerical religious congregation, and am taking care of a Catholic parish of the Catholic diocese of Charlotte, on behalf of the Catholic bishop of this Catholic diocese. All Catholic. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be a Jewish Scripture scholar appointed by Pope Francis to be one of his Jewish Missionaries of Mercy, it being that I am 100% Jewish, what with my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all speaking Yiddish from their native Poland.

I laugh with great belly laughs of Jewish mirth and… and… I really should grow pe’ot also for the sake of creating teachable moments like this. Having said all that, don’t be angry with me. Laugh with me for the joy of being instructed in the faith of our fathers.


Filed under Jewish-Catholic dialogue, Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Year of Mercy

Pope Francis’ Jewish Missionary of Mercy



The Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, truly a gentleman and scholar and pastor of souls [pictured here with Pope Francis], met me late at night near the Iranian Embassy in Rome, on 3 November 2005, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. I had wanted to express solidarity with my fathers in the faith. Rabbi di Segni’s first words to me were: “Sia laudato Gesù Cristo!”

A Missionary of Mercy of Pope Francis is a Jew?

  • Catholics: “No surprise there!” hopefully said pleasantly.
  • Jews: “?באמת” followed by “!מצוין” I hope.

Here’s all I know:

  • Yes, I’m a 100% Jew according to Knesset accepted halakhic requirements
  • Yes, my mom is a 100% Jewess and spoke a bit of Yiddish
  • Yes, her mother and grandmother spoke fluent Yiddish and both had common Jewish names
  • Yes, she gave me the name David (though my dad imposed George in front of that)
  • Yes, she gave me a Jewish nickname anyway: Jordan (when she wasn’t using Yiddish knicknames with me when I was being a troublemaker!)
  • Yes, my parents funded my education at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus
  • Yes, I did live on the other side of the wall from Hebrew Union College across from Jerusalem’s King David Hotel
  • Yes, I speak a bit of modern Hebrew and know enough Biblical Hebrew to correct specialist historical philological studies
  • Yes, I’ve written things which discredit hundreds of years of anti-Semitic idiocy, destroying even the foundations of anti-semitism that have been stupidly proffered at the very highest of academic levels.
  • Yes, I would like to write more, if only the Pontifical Household would release a certain document from the mid-1940s, and they know of what I speak, since a bishop and a number of Cardinals were involved in the request (look it up, guys…)
  • Yes, I’m trying to kick-start what has been called by the chief rabbi for dialogue between Israel and the Holy See that which goes far beyond what any such dialogue countenanced by the Holy See has offered to date, bringing things to a different level altogether
  • Yes, I’ve walked a huge portion of the greater Israel, until my legs were about to fall off, and have otherwise visited here and there quite exhaustively, feeling myself to be at home
  • Yes, I am circumcised!
  • Yes, I’ve sung Israeli folk songs in Hebrew by heart
  • Yes, I’ve said Mass in Hebrew entirely by heart
  • Yes, I do like to “talk about Saturday” ;-) [Not taking it seriously is the reason for the Exile, a mockery of the Most High, but, mind you, Jesus’ critics were not taking it seriously]
  • Yes, I did feel more at home walking through the Jewish “Ghetto” in Rome over the decades of my sojourn in Rome than in many of the churches I visited and passed by, mentioning this to good friends over the years, and this for reasons which they could provide even if they didn’t know me (and yes, I do have comments to make about the fact of the ghetto and “the” church at its peripheries)
  • Yes, I do have friends who have my back; after all: תשועה ברוב יועץ
  • Yes, I do want dual Israeli-USA citizenship (possible for me?)
  • Yes, I admit it: I do need to grow pe’ot (You’ll have to see if I do!)

Why do I bring this up on Arise! Let us be going! ?

Because a disclaimer (or warning) of sorts is appropriate before I launch into some articles on Jewish-Catholic dialogue. I am intrigued by a deepening of the dialogue presented by Cardinal Koch at the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of the Year of Mercy, all the more so as commentators left and right present their utter ignorance of the issues and what is at stake. I look forward to this with an eye to provide mercy, a heart wide open to receive that mercy, the aim being to be drawn together by the Most High to the accomplishment of His Holy Will. Is this not part of what being a Missionary of Mercy is all about?

Arise! Let us be going!

— Father George David Byers


Filed under Jewish-Catholic dialogue, Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Year of Mercy

Immaculate Conception – Year of Mercy


Father George David Byers: PDF of conference on the Immaculate Conception and Genesis 3:15 (2,4a–3,24) at the Institute of the Incarnate Word in Chillum, MD (Washington, D.C) – 7 Feburary 2013

Here’s the full PDF version of the thesis: Father George David Byers: Genesis 2,4a-3,24 – Two Generations in one day

  • Yes, the Immaculate Conception is to be found in Genesis 3:15
  • Yes, there is original sin by propagation, not imitation
  • Yes, there is a promise of a Redeemer, the how and the why.

I don’t know how else to say it, but it needs to be said:

  • This is what Blessed Pope Pius IX was looking for from his exegetes in the early 1850s before declaring that Mary was immaculately conceived… and didn’t get it.
  • This is what the Venerable Pope Pius XII was looking for from his exegetes in the 1940s before declaring that Mary was assumed soul and body into heaven… and didn’t get it.

After my Licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute (Jerusalem and Rome), I stayed on in the library to write an STD, though at another University for political reasons. Six pontifical universities were following the progress of the thesis. I gave it to enemies of the conclusions so that they might attack the logic, the method, whatever. Nothing, they couldn’t do it. This was a massive undertaking of historical philology, a truly brutal, unrelenting, historical critical work. In honor of Mary. It’s her gift to me to give back to her.

On this occasion of the opening of the Year of Mercy, 8 December, 2015, the best thing I can do as a Missionary of Mercy is to offer this research to the Church. I hope this will be a long and detailed series. This is biggest thank you I can give to Pope Francis for his act of governance on my behalf on 24 June 2015.

Why open the Holy Year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception?

  • Is it because it’s the 50th anniversary of the close of Vatican II? Yes.
  • Is it because it’s the feast of the Immaculate Conception? Yes.

Don’t forget, the most emotional moment for the entire assembly of bishops was about Mary, Mother of the Church, a title pronounced by Venerable Pope Paul VI. The applause went for something like 10 to 12 minutes. It’s really hard to clap for two full minutes. This was 10 to 12.

Mary is also Mother of Mercy

In her immaculate conception she has clarity of vision, that is, purity of heart and agility of soul, transformed in grace from the first moment of her conception. In looking at her Divine Son tortured to death on the Cross, she can perfectly see the need of every man from Adam until the last man is conceived. Just for being in solidarity with her Son, she can perfectly intercede for us for what we need. She is mediatrix of all graces, co-redemptrix as one of us who asks for what we need from God, from Jesus. These are her labor pains for us. This is where she becomes our Mother of Mercy.


Filed under Genesis 2-4 to 3-24, Mercy, Year of Mercy

Pope Francis gets it right about Absolute Truth

Update: An email came in from a former member of the Roman Curia. Some in the Curia  would fear to hear his name mentioned here. Mind you, he respects the Pontifical Secret perfectly. He has benevolent words…

p.s. I loved your post on Pope Francis gets the truth right. You are correct – difficult as it is for people to see. You do him a great service. I hope that the Holy See is looking at the post…

It’s bad manners to publish such stats, but I sometimes do it. ;¬)

Original post below:

You have heard that it was said: Pope Francis denies Absolute Truth, that it’s the end of the world. That he is the anti-Christ. Let’s investigate.


Firstly, let’s define our terms with the help of Saint John Paul II, reviewing a few passages from Veritatis splendor:

  • No darkness of error or of sin can totally take away from man the light of God the Creator. In the depths of his heart there always remains a yearning for absolute truth and a thirst to attain full knowledge of it.

  • “Then someone came to him…“. In the young man, whom Matthew’s Gospel does not name, we can recognize every person who, consciously or not, approaches Christ the Redeemer of man and questions him about morality. For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life. This is in fact the aspiration at the heart of every human decision and action, the quiet searching and interior prompting which sets freedom in motion. This question is ultimately an appeal to the absolute Good which attracts us and beckons us; it is the echo of a call from God who is the origin and goal of man’s life. Precisely in this perspective the Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of moral theology, so that its teaching would display the lofty vocation which the faithful have received in Christ, the only response fully capable of satisfying the desire of the human heart.

  • The statement that “There is only one who is good” thus brings us back to the “first tablet” of the commandments, which calls us to acknowledge God as the one Lord of all and to worship him alone for his infinite holiness (cf. Ex 20:2-11). The good is belonging to God, obeying him, walking humbly with him in doing justice and in loving kindness (cf.Mic 6:8). Acknowledging the Lord as God is the very core, the heart of the Law, from which the particular precepts flow and towards which they are ordered. In the morality of the commandments the fact that the people of Israel belongs to the Lord is made evident, because God alone is the One who is good. Such is the witness of Sacred Scripture, imbued in every one of its pages with a lively perception of God’s absolute holiness: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Is 6:3).

  • The origin and the foundation of the duty of absolute respect for human life are to be found in the dignity proper to the person.

You get the idea. There are many such examples in Veritatis splendor.

Now let’s review some passages from Pope Francis. Let’s begin with a couple of paragraphs from his speech on 17 October 2015, the 50th anniversary of the Institution of the Synod of Bishops. Also take a look at the provenance of the notes. Most impressive. All technical vocabulary.


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.

I don’t know if he’s going to say something definitive on 8 December 2015, or on Ash Wednesday 2016, or whenever, but he sure does seem to have alerted us to that possibility. This is the Supreme Pontiff pronouncing himself on a matter of controversy to the universal Church on a grave matter of faith and morality.

Also, remember, that to calm people down about any number of topics, about the Synod, about the Roman Universities, about whatever, he stated again and again that it would all be O.K., because of the shepherding of the Bishop of Rome. It’s not that the Holy Father doesn’t believe in absolute truth. Quite the opposite as we see above. But some of his statements do need to be examined more closely. This is from Pope Francis’ in-flight interview from Africa to Rome:

philippine de Saint-PierrePhilippine De Saint-Pierre, KTO (France): Holiness, good afternoon, you paid homage to the platform created by the archbishop, the imam and the pastor of Bangui. Today more than ever, we know that fundamentalism threatens the entire planet. We also saw this in Paris. Before this danger, do you think that religious leaders should intervene more in the political field? (Pope Francis asks for clarification) …the religious “dignitaries,” bishops and imams?

POPE FRANCIS PLANEPope Francis: “To intervene in the political field.” If that means to make politics, no. Whoever is a priest, pastor, imam, rabbi, this is his vocation, but they make a “live politics” by preaching values. True values. And one of the greatest values is the fraternity among us. We are all children of God. We have the same father. In this sense, we have to make politics of unity, reconciliation. A word that I don’t like, but I have to use it is “tolerance.” But, not only tolerance, co-existence, friendship. That’s how it is. Fundamentalism is a sickness that exists in all religions. We Catholics have some, not just some, so many, who believe they have the absolute truth [credono di avere la verità assoluta] and they move forward with calumnies, with defamation and they hurt, they hurt. And, I say this because it’s my Church, also us, all of us. It must be combated. Religious fundamentalism isn’t religious. Why? Because God is lacking. It’s idolatrous, as money is idolatrous. Making politics in the sense of convincing these people who have this tendency is a politics that we religious leaders must make, but fundamentalism that ends up always in tragedy or in crime, in a bad thing comes about in all religions a little bit.

Honestly, in light of what he’s said further above, do you really think that the Holy Father does not believe in absolute truth? Isn’t he here rightly going after those who are self-righteous, self-referential, Promethian  and utterly Pelagian self-congratulators who think that they themselves are the Truth inasmuch as they “have” it, that is, control it, manipulate to their own ends as a gift to mankind, that is, which smashes everyone else to the ground except themselves?

But one might object that he nevertheless does seem to be promoting a relativism of the truth, the equality of religions. One might object that he doesn’t seem to understand the our Heavenly Father, eternally expressing Himself in the Eternal Word, does not utter falsehood, but absolute Truth. But, there is more. Let’s go back to 2013.


Points from a letter of Pope Francis to Eugenio Scalfari, 7 August 2013


  • Christian faith believes in this: that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give his life to open the way to love for everyone.

  • I would say that the originality lies in the fact that faith allows us to participate, in Jesus, in the relationship that He has with God who is Abbà and, because of this, in the relationship that He has with all other men, including enemies, in the sign of love. In other words, the children of Jesus, as Christian faith presents us, are not revealed to mark an insuperable separation between Jesus and all the others: but to tell us that, in Him, we are all called to be the children of the only Father and brothers with each other. The uniqueness of Jesus is for communication not for exclusion. [That’s a great working definition, full of life and reality, for absolute truth.]

  • Second of all, you ask if the thought, according to which no absolute exists and therefore there is no absolute truth, but only a series of relative and subjective truths is a mistake or a sin. To start, I would not speak about, not even for those who believe, an “absolute” truth, in the sense that absolute is something detached, something lacking any relationship. Now, the truth is a relationship! This is so true that each of us sees the truth and expresses it, starting from oneself: from one’s history and culture, from the situation in which one lives, etc. This does not mean that the truth is variable and subjective. It means that it is given to us only as a way and a life. Was it not Jesus himself who said: “I am the way, the truth, the life”? In other words, the truth is one with love, it requires humbleness and the willingness to be sought, listened to and expressed. Therefore we must understand the terms well and perhaps, in order to avoid the oversimplification of absolute counter-position, reformulate the question. I think that today this is absolutely necessary in order to have a serene and constructive dialogue which I hoped for from the beginning.

So, he is absolutely not denying absolute truth, but rather, in trying rephrase this with words that are not so inadequate for that which is greater than the universe, he demonstrates he is more than upholding the truth about absolute truth. This really is very lovely, as the Brits say. Altogether lovely. I love it.

Might we find an inkling of this in the Scriptures? Well, yes. Let’s take a look at Matthew 16 and 18 and see what we find there.

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

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

In other words, what is in heaven is already that way; 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. 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 expendible: 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 a privilege as it is a service that may involve laying down his life. 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.

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

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

In other words, this is repeated verbatim, just in the plural for the people involved and the things they pronounce upon. There is no special insight for Peter. Others have the same faith as he has and can live as the children of God in a good relationship with Him in the same way he can.

With a difference. These others are not Peter, to whom alone among all others, to whom alone among the apostles, was given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, we read in the precise context of Matthew 18, if there is a dispute (because they are NOT infallible), they are to go to the Church, that is, Peter. Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia.


A note on the humility of Pope Francis:

Francis is overwhelmed that the Eternal Word of Truth who became incarnate to show the love of His heavenly Father to us all, having the right in His own justice to do so by standing in our place, taking on what we deserve, I, you, all of us, for original sin and our own personal sin. He has obtained the right in His own justice to have mercy on us.

No where has Pope Francis said that all religions are the same, just that God loves all of us. We’re all redeemed if not all saved, right? No one ever said, including himself, that he was the best theologian on the face of the earth, and he might personally get some things wrong. I can forgive him for that. Can you? He will not be able to make a mistake if he ever in his pontificate invokes the language I cited above from his speech on 17 October 2015.

At any rate, I am proud of his humility, so to speak, proud to be precisely one of Pope Francis’ Missionaries of Mercy. I wish I were as overwhelmed about the mercy of God as is he.


Filed under Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Synod on the Family, Year of Mercy

Analyzing the attack on Archbishop Fisichella and Pope Francis: Epistemology of the New Evangelization in Mercy

A really obnoxious student of mercy not yet sure how to learn about mercy, who needs the mercy of the possibility of conversion.

Diane Montagna, reporting at Aleteia on the reserved matters that the Missionaries of Mercy will have faculties to resolve, provides this:

Regarding what constitutes “physical violence” against the Pope, Archbishop Fisichella told journalists at Friday’s briefing: “I would say that we need to understand well ‘physical violence,’ because sometimes words, too, are rocks and stones, and therefore I believe some of these sins, too, are far more widespread than we might think.”

And that quip was enough to send people into a rage of sarcasm directed both at Archbishop Fisichella and our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

The lack of a spirit of dialogue was evident with people giving others a platform to whine by speaking of what they called a lack of purity in the usage of metaphors in the Archbishop’s statement. Without citing a long diatribe of one of the Fathers of the Church against those who spend all their time on the purity of language so as not to see the point of what is being presented by an interlocutor (such as the Scriptures themselves), I must say that all of this places into evidence the need for what Francis calls a Synodal Church, precisely what I think is going to be Step Two in Pope Francis’ plan for the Church. We need to understand some things:

  • Fraternal correction, direct, incisive, public, against even one’s own ecclesiastical superiors, is something which the Common Doctor deems to be especially obnoxious, though, he admits that this is sometimes necessary in order, for instance, to combat great scandal.
  • Fraternal correction of one’s superiors, however ferocious, may also be the very greatest sign of filial devotion and loyalty and, indeed, obedience, not wanting their superiors to be without any counsel just because they hold a certain office. I call this “the very greatest sign” of mercy because it often places one in a position of being marginalized without mercy into the existential peripheries.
  • There is, however, needless sniping, which breeds real contempt for priests and bishops and, indeed, the Holy Father. This is a very great evil which has been combated throughout the centuries by so very many saints, even if it is not slander, but “merely” detraction. If it is not necessary to say something to protect the faith and well being of the flock, it really needs to remain in silence.

This last point needs some explanation, and regards mercy. Let’s use a common example some younger priests encounter when trying to clean up the clericalism instilled in some parishes by some of their predecessors. Parishioners might well damn such a priest to hell with terrible bitterness while they watch their long-entrenched support of clericalism and all their self-referential structures of power groups which enable clericalism go down the tubes. However gracious and welcoming the priest is in setting about to do this, if the reaction is bitterness and gossip and putting down the priest needlessly, just how many such people, I ask you, do you think are going to be lining up piously for confession in that parish or any parish? To strike out in such manner against the Lord’s anointed, whether priest or bishop or, indeed, bishop of Rome, can, in fact, sometimes be a sin as Archbishop Fisichella pointed out to us, and that sin can do untold damage to the cura animarum, to the care of souls, even more serious than a physical attack on the person of the Holy Father could ever be. Archbishop Fisichella’s point is well taken by those willing to listen.

And yet, there seems to be an almost demonic glee in needless criticism.

And now we arrive at the point of this article, a note on the epistemology of the new evangelization of mercy.

I think Pope Francis has a great deal to offer the Church. I think that, finally, I understand him, what makes him tick, what he wants for the Church and the world. I have learned much from him about surging out to the peripheries, especially in this last number of weeks. I am thankful. But this has been a painful journey for me. And it took me a while to get to this point, precisely for the reason that Pope Francis really does have a great deal to offer the Church. More on that in future articles.

True learning is painful, since it manifests to oneself that which one would rather remain in the darkness. True learning wrenches opens one’s heart and soul. The greatest saints, says the Angelic doctor, are the ones who knew this pain most often. This is an agonizing process, during which one might offer some loyal criticism, and during which some might fall into rebellious criticism. Just as I think the first should be received with thanksgiving, so the rest should be received with patience in anticipation of the day of understanding. Thus, for example:

There were some exaggerations in the liturgy by certain priests and bishops after Vatican II, especially in the early 1970s, you know, sacrileges such as pouring unused carafes of the Precious Blood down the sacristy work-sink (not even the sacrarium) after Mass because such people did not believe in the Eucharist. I saw it. Others saw similar things. Many rebelled, becoming sede-vacantists, or sede-privationists. Some became extremely bitter, but would still come to the “indult” Mass or now the “Extraordinary Form” Mass. Some of these would let their bitterness fly with no provocation and with the most horrific language concerning their truly bad experiences. Of course, some unjust judgments were also made by some of them about those who had nothing to do with such things, but my reaction was to have no reaction, except to be welcoming. This was disarming and won many friends. So much so that even this or that mistake of whatever Bishop of Rome is also seen with an eye to mercy. One might look hard at this image and at oneself:

pope francis confession

We eagerly encourage that those who now criticize Pope Francis needlessly and with such vehemence will take up the words of Amedeo Minghi about himself when confronted with the Francis-like evangelization of mercy of Saint JPII: “Che Caino sono pure io…” “What a Cain I am myself…” That says it all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mercy, Missionaries of Mercy, Pope Francis, Rino Fisichella, Year of Mercy

033 Prodigal Mercy: Found in an unexpected “revolution in tenderness” – Mercy based on Justice, for a Post-Synodal Year of Mercy


My most favorite monochrome watercolor. The dog clinches it.

The heart of the Gospels is the mercy presented as the mandate of Jesus’ mission in the parable of the merciful father in Luke 15:11-32, a parable usually entitled by the one receiving that mercy, the prodigal son, though the one most in need of mercy, to whom mercy is also offered, is the elder son, who, in his own heart, insists on living in the darkest of existential peripheries to which Jesus is especially sent. So, just where is it that one is to find this prodigal mercy in the Year of Mercy? If you don’t know why it is that that’s the wrong question, then know that you’re a self-absorbed Promethean neo-Pelagian who is more in need of a revolution in tender mercy than ever. :-)

PIB Jerusalem

Biblicum in Jerusalem. There’s my room!

Decades into my own lifelong search for mercy, not knowing that the very search was, in itself, keeping me away from the profoundest of mercies, pretending to myself that I, with merely my own cleverness, could somehow find mercy, I used my years at the Pontifical Biblical Institute to put Lk 15:11-32 to a relentless scientific analysis. I discovered logistical anomalies in the papyri and codices written in whatever language and century and location, with those copyists’ versions predating and influencing some important Patristic commentary that could only confirm Pelagius in his Promethian perspective, but which also was the occasion for Saint Augustine, in answer to such dark self-absorption, to come up with a theology of grace that was to inspire Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Council of Trent and so many who have since been declared to be the Doctors of the Church because of their commentary on the spiritual life to be put into action for all those still trapped in the darkest of existential peripheries. It all comes down to mercy, which we would do well to appreciate with all due justice.

ecole biblique

École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem. So often a library rat here.

Discovering this birthing of theological development in the days of yore, I was entrenched all the more into thinking I could find mercy. I then subjecting the inspired words of the Holy Spirit to more philological, linguistic and literary analyses, more forays into historically and archeologically verified Sitz im Leben, more of all that is… more. Only after all that personal work, I then read pretty much all there is to read in whatever language or century or location of whatsoever author about Lk 15:11-32 in all of its various contexts and levels thereof, whether in commentaries, studies, articles, Festschriften, theses, archived class prep notes of famous professors, et alia, whatever was available in the best Scripture libraries throughout Rome, Jerusalem, New York, and so many monastic libraries, I was set to put all this to the test with independent courses and seminars and exam research papers for various professors, and did, so that Maurice Gilbert, SJ. – past rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in both Rome and Jerusalem, and who consulted for Saint John Paul II’s encyclical on mercy, Dives in misericordia – said that I knew more than anyone alive today about Lk 15:11-32, which statement, after having also done the licentiate thesis with the then rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, Klemens Stock, SJ – who was later to become Secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission – I might agree, unfortunately entrenching myself all the more into the idiocy of thinking that I myself under my own power and with my own cleverness might find mercy.



There I was, living a life like the prodigal son, ζῶν ἀσώτως (without salvation: Lk 15:13), hotly desiring to shove the carob pods of the pigs down my throat but not being able to ask for the same, enslaved to the world to which I had sold myself. I had made my clever plan to eat my cake and have it as well, thinking I was back with our Heavenly Father but still staying away like those not in the family, remaining ‘in control.’ I went through all the motions to come back, but did not find any mercy. Jesus points out the disconnect:

“You analyze the Scriptures, because it seems to you that you have eternal life in them, and they are bearing witness to me, but you do not want to come to me so that you may have life” (Jn 5:39-40).

pope francis confession

All of us!

But then, despite myself being a self-absorbed Promethian Neo-Pelagian, there it was, a “revolution in tenderness,” a turning of the tables wrought by our Lord, I not finding His mercy, but He finding me by His mercy, His misericordia, His misery of heart by which He takes my need into His own Heart and fulfills that need as if it were His own, sacrificing His Heart in this way for me. The word used for Jesus’ mercy here and reserved elsewhere in the Gospels only for Jesus is ἐσπλαγχνίσθη (His Heart was sacrificed).


My Lord and my God!

Overwhelmed by His love, His invitation, the embrace of a loving Father for his son, I was unable to continue with my planned confession, with my being in control. I simply let myself be loved by Him. No more trusting in my own strength which I don’t have anyway. It is to be immersed in the joy of the Holy Spirit to take note of the Lord’s ironic use of our weakness for our sanctification. This joy has us be totally at ease, not at all getting nervous with the effects, the weaknesses brought about by original sin, by our own stupidity, weakness of mind, weakness of will, emotions all over the place, sickness, death, those things being merely the cross used to follow our Lord, seeing clearly just how far He had to reach to get us, and humbly thanking Him for this, rejoicing in this being brought back to life from a life without salvation, a living death now thrown aside not by us but by Him. Do I still sin? Daily. Do I still go to Confession? Frequently. Is our Lord good and kind? Very much so.

PIB Rome

Biblicum in Rome. Years with the angels, my colleagues.

But entering into the celebration, over which the angels themselves rejoice, I cannot but pray to the Father in anguish that he go out to the darkest of existential peripheries once again, to invite my “elder brother” back into the celebration. I follow Him out to the field hospital, to my brother, well within a stone’s throw, then right there, at the ready with gauze and bandages and splints and blood and a bit of whiskey for pain… We’ve all crucified the Son of the Living God. He’s redeemed all of us. We must be in anguish until the many are brought into the celebration of salvation. But it’s a bit of a fright: “This, your son.” “This, your brother.” Ferocious.

P.S. Did I convert from being a lifelong entrenched conservative to being a new-born liberal? No. Yuck. Conservatives can sin you know. And not just with impatience and arrogance and judging oneself to be better than others. Conservative or liberal? One is as good as the other. See Romans 7. More on that later. And more on Mercy based on Justice later. It’s O.K. to be thankful for Jesus’ mercy. Take note: this is about being invited by Jesus to know His Life, His Truth, His Goodness, His Kindness, His Mercy, His Joy, His celebrating of mercy received. It’s all about Him. Jesus is the One. Only Jesus.

THE UPSHOT: Mercy in the year of mercy after the Synod on the Family is all about showing the kind of mercy to others that will let them know that they are the loved sons and daughters of God, bringing them by this invitation to joy right into the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father, right into the Family of Faith. It’s not about people finding mercy. It’s about finding them with mercy, with the love of Jesus, the joy of Jesus. Only the Mercy of Jesus.

UPDATE: See Father Gordon J MacRae’s article entitled: “Pope Francis Has a Challenge for the Prodigal Son’s Older Brother.” Also, witness the incredible story of mercy of Pornchai Maximilian Moontri at Mercy to the Max.

– Father George David Byers


Filed under IL 130